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House of Commons Hansard #197 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was crime.

Topics

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1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Liberal Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Mississauga South.

I am pleased to enter this debate today on behalf of the people of my riding of Waterloo—Wellington who feel strongly about our criminal justice system. Certainly as the former chairman of the Waterloo regional police, I too have a strong and keen interest in justice matters as they relate to Canada.

I note with great dismay that the opposition motion is proposing to criticize the government for, among other things, failing to deliver youth justice programs and legislation that reflect the concern of Canadians.

Let me remind the House that our government launched a strategy for the renewal of youth justice on May 12, 1998 that will be effective in dealing with the complex problem of youth crime. I point out that it is complex and not a simplistic matter as the Reform Party would paint it.

Moreover, last week this government tabled a bill that is a key component of the youth justice strategy, the youth criminal justice act. The recent federal budget included $206 million over the next three years to ensure that programs are put in place to help achieve the objectives of the legislation. This is but a recent example of a long list of initiatives we as a government have undertaken over the years to protect Canadians wherever they may live in this great land of ours.

The government's strategy for the renewal of youth justice recognizes the foremost objectives of public protection. It distinguishes between legislation and programs appropriate for the small group of violent young offenders and those appropriate for the vast majority of non-violent young offenders. It takes a much broader, more integrated approach and emphasizes prevention and rehabilitation. This is precisely what Canadians want us to do.

The issue facing us and those interested in the youth justice system is not whether the system should be tough or lenient but whether to be made to deal with crime in a sensible way. The proposals as outlined indicate clearly that youth crime should be met with meaningful consequences. What is meaningful depends in large part on what the young offender has done.

For example, most of us believe that youths who commit minor thefts or who are found to be in possession of stolen property should be held accountable for their actions. Last year we sent 4,355 of them into custody where the most serious offence was one of minor property offences. Another 4,332 youths were put in custody for the offence of failure to comply with a disposition, typically violating a term of probation order.

These are both offences and those who are found to have committed these offences should be held accountable. We know that and we think that is appropriate. These two groups of offences constitute over one-third of the custodial sentences handed down to youth last year. Being the lead jailer of children in the western world is surely not a preferred answer to our problems with youth crime.

The median custodial sentence for youth is 45 days. This will cost us as taxpayers as much as $9,000. Let me be clear here. No one is saying these youths should not be held accountable for their actions. They should and they will. Their offences should result in meaningful consequences. We must ask ourselves whether taking these youths to court and sending them to prison is invariably the best way to accomplish this. We need to ask ourselves whether it makes more sense to spend $9,000 locking up a minor thief or someone who has violated curfew or if there are other ways to spend that money.

The choice is not one of doing nothing or putting a young person in prison. There are programs in all parts of Canada for holding young people accountable for what they have done so they do not involve courts and jails but which do involve the victims.

The youth criminal justice act recognizes extrajudicial non-court measures as being important and the most effective way to deal with less serious youth crime. The act supports the use of such measures wherever they would be capable of holding the young person accountable, and this we must do.

The act clearly provides that these measures should encourage the repair of harm caused to the victim and to the community. They should also promote the involvement of families, victims and the community in ensuring an appropriate meaningful consequence for that young person. In order to encourage the use of creative and effective consequences for our young people, the act supports the appropriate exercise of discretion by police officers and prosecutors. The act recognizes a range of approaches that can provide meaningful consequences, including police warnings, formal cautions, referrals to community programs, cautions by prosecutors and other sanctions.

When the formal court process is required many sentences other than custody can provide meaningful consequences for youth crime. Community based alternatives are often more effective than custody and they are encouraged by this new legislation, particularly for low risk, non-violent offenders. Alternatives that require young people to repay victims and society for the harm done teach responsibility and respect for others and reinforce our shared social values. When these front end measures and non-custodial sentences are used effectively the provinces can reinvest the money that is saved into crime prevention strategies that will address the legitimate concerns Canadians have about crime.

As part of its strategy for the renewal of youth justice, the federal government has committed itself to a wide range of prevention programs, which is important.

In this context I was not surprised to learn recently that public opinion polls show that over 85% of Ontario residents would prefer money to be invested in crime prevention, which is much more than would want additional prisons for youth. This reflects the thinking of the residents of Waterloo—Wellington. Almost as many people, 79%, would prefer us to invest in alternatives to prison for youth rather than in prison construction. That is very telling and underscores the commitment of Canadians in this very important area.

The other side of the coin is that by dealing sensibly with minor crime we can refocus the system on the serious crime Canadians have legitimate concerns about. The new act's sentencing principles make it very clear that youth sentences should reflect the seriousness of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the young person. Custody will be targeted to youth who commit violent and serious repeat offences.

In the new legislation judges will be required to impose a period of supervision in the community following custody that is equal to half the period of the custody. This will allow authorities to closely monitor and control the young person and to ensure he or she receives the necessary treatment and programs to return successfully to the community. The period of supervision administered by the provinces will include stringent mandatory and optional conditions tailored to the individual.

If a youth's sentence is not adequate to hold the young person accountable, the court may impose an adult sentence. The new legislation will make it easier to impose adult sentences for the most serious violent offenders. We are expanding both the list of offences and lowering the age at which youth can receive an adult sentence. When the legislation is passed, youth 14 and older who are convicted of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, aggravated sexual assault, et cetera, will receive an adult sentence unless a judge can be persuaded otherwise.

We are creating a fifth presumptive category for repeat violent offenders where young offenders 14 and older who demonstrate a pattern of violent behaviour will receive an adult sentence unless a judge can be persuaded otherwise. This repeat offender presumption is in addition to the fact that even one serious offence can result in an adult sentence if the prosecutor requests it and the court is satisfied it is appropriate.

The proposed legislation provides for a new sentencing option for the most violent high risk young offenders. The intensive rehabilitative custody and supervision order provides greater control and guaranteed treatment to address the causes of the young person's violent behaviour. An individualized plan of treatment and intensive supervision must be approved by the court. Additional federal resources have been allocated for the costs of this new sentencing option.

Accomplishing the objectives of the new legislation will not be easy. Clearly much of the work needs to be done by the provinces which administer Canada's criminal law. We know that.

Thus it is important that there be adequate time for discussion and implementation planning with the provinces and others involved in the administration of our youth justice system in order to ensure that we have the best possible youth justice system that can respond appropriately to the wide range of problems brought to it.

Youth crime cannot be legislated away. We can, however, deal with it more appropriately than we are doing at the moment. We can set up effective programs outside the youth justice system and custodial and non-custodial rehabilitation programs within it that will reduce crime. I think it is important that we move in that manner.

The government has and will continue to deliver on criminal justice programs. The youth criminal justice act is the most recent example of our ability to deal effectively and compassionately with these kinds of very complex issues. As a result we have enhanced the safety and security of Canadians no matter where they live in this great country. All Canadians are well served by the actions of our government when it comes to these kinds of matters.

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1:40 p.m.

Reform

Jack Ramsay Reform Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his speech. It was a very statesman-like speech and he addressed the issues, I thought, in a commendable way.

He mentioned there are too many young offenders who are incarcerated and who ought not to be, non-violent offenders. It is his government that has been here for six years and it is his government that has the power to change that.

At least a year and a half ago I introduced a private member's bill that would address that very issue as well as a number of others. The contents of that private member's bill which is still sitting to be drawn yet, flow directly from the testimony placed before the standing committee as we went about this country on the 10 year review of the Young Offenders Act.

I wonder if the member has read that private member's bill. I am sure he must have, showing his interest as he has today on that topic, as the majority of his speech was based on the young offenders situation, which I find commendable. If he has, he can see there is support for those principles, certainly within the official opposition.

It is quite clear the hon. member has no greater power than we in moving the government forward in a timely fashion to rectify some of the weaknesses within the justice system that he has recognized place young people in custody who ought not to be there. There are better ways of dealing with them.

I wonder if the hon. member would comment as to whether he is aware of the expression of support for those very principles by the official opposition as contained within my private member's bill still sitting to be drawn. I wonder if he recognizes that awareness, that there is support for these kinds of initiatives. Yet it is his government that has taken six years and we still have not seen the type of legislative initiative that would correct these matters.

It is an anomaly I would certainly like the hon. member to touch on because, as I said earlier, he seems to have a sincere interest in this area.

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1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Liberal Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question.

Certainly in terms of young offenders and the fact that we have a number of people in jail right now, there are other ways to treat them and deal with them in a more effective manner. I think it is certainly a strong point and one that needs to be recognized.

I am aware of the private member's bill to which the hon. member refers. We as a government with our recent legislation have acted in a very meaningful way in this whole area with the youth criminal justice act.

It underscores the ability of the government to recognize a strong movement in this area. It underscores the commitment of the government to move in a way that is consistent with the thinking of Canadians in this all important youth justice area. It underscores our commitment on this side of the House to do something that we know is in the best interest of Canadians wherever they live.

The government has moved in very meaningful and very purposeful ways that will in fact correct these problems and will assist in making communities safe and secure for all Canadians and by extension for the country as a whole.

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1:45 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Cadman Reform Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I commend the member on his speech and his thoughtful consideration.

I have a short question on the presumptive transfer aspects. Could the member provide some rationale as to why we have a presumptive transfer for murder, manslaughter, aggravated sexual assault and attempted murder, and yet nowhere do we see anything on the presumptive transfer side for sexual assault with a weapon or any firearms related offences which are very serious crimes? Would the member care to comment on the rationale for not including those more serious offences?

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1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Liberal Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is fair to say that we on the government side gave careful consideration to all those factors. At the end of the day it was determined that we should proceed in the manner that has been outlined, knowing that it is the best way in which to proceed in the interest of safety and security for all Canadians.

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1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, today the House is considering an opposition motion to the effect that the government has failed to deliver criminal justice programs and laws which reflect the will and concerns of the majority of Canadians and as a consequence has put individual safety and in some case cases national security in jeopardy.

This is a useful and constructive motion to put before the House. It provides an opportunity for all sides to comment on various aspects of the criminal justice system. Some referred to specific cases where they felt the laws had allowed certain judgments to occur which were not in the best interest of Canadians, and others highlighted some of the initiatives taken on behalf of the Government of Canada and on behalf of the Parliament of Canada to continue to be vigilant with regard to issues related to criminal justice and to strengthening it over time.

Many issues have been raised by members. I want to concentrate my comments on the issue of child pornography which seized the House not so long ago with regard to a B.C. court decision. The case against the defendant involving the possession of child pornography was not successful and the judge ruled in favour of the defendant.

That issue is one of the reasons we continue to hear statements or phrases like judge-made law. Members will know that decision affected the laws of Canada as they apply in B.C. It is a decision, however, that the House unanimously concurs was a bad decision. The possession of child pornography and child pornography in its essence are wrong because they must involve child abuse to exist. There was no disagreement in this place.

The debate had to do with how the Government of Canada approaches situations like this one. The opposition put forth a motion in which it suggested that the government should initiate legislation which would reinstate the law. In essence that is what Canadians want. They wanted that decision to be reversed and for the law to be in place and unaffected by that decision.

One critical issue has to do with the mechanisms or the means by which reinstating the law would be effected. The opposition motion suggested a legislative process including enacting section 33(1) of the charter, the so-called notwithstanding clause.

I am not a lawyer. I am not on the justice committee. Therefore I have to rely on others for briefings on information relevant to issues before the House. I had a specific question with regard to the notwithstanding clause which was very important to me in terms of the way I dealt with the issue with my constituents and how I voted in the House.

The media had spun the story that the government basically voted not to do anything. It was alarming to Canadians that somehow the government would not take action when in fact the government did do something.

The options available to the government certainly were to invoke the notwithstanding clause, and there is a debate on when it should be invoked. There was also the option of appealing it directly to the Supreme Court of Canada. Another option was that the government could appeal it to the appeal court of B.C.

When I asked about some of these options it became very clear to me that the notwithstanding clause was not available to be applied retroactively. That was very important for me. If we invoked the notwithstanding clause it would mean that the case which gave rise to the debate in the first place would be unaffected by the decision of parliament. I was concerned that we had this powerful tool but it would not deal with that case, and I assume other cases that were before the courts, and therefore people would slip through the cracks.

The issue of going to the Supreme Court of Canada was another option, which is generally the approach that the Government of Canada through the Parliament of Canada would take.

From discussions I had with the Minister of Justice I understood the supreme court docket had been filled up for some six months and that it would take more than six months at a minimum before the matter could even be considered by that court. To me that would not be swift and strong action on the part of the government.

One thing I asked about, which ultimately came to pass, was the Attorney General of B.C. appealing that decision. The Government of Canada, in a very rare show of support and I guess action, actually announced that it would join in that appeal. Not only was it to join in that appeal in B.C. It was to co-operate in terms of seeking adjournments of any other cases before the courts. It was to continue to support the police in terms of continuing their investigations and the laying of charges as if that decision had not taken place. It was also to support the request that the appeal with regard to the Sharpe case would be heard on a very timely basis.

Canadians should know, if they have not read about it, that the appeal is being heard on April 26 and April 27. It is my view that because of the swiftness in the judicial system it will be dealt with in an appropriate fashion.

With regard to the decision that was made, it concerned me a bit that the defendant went before the trial division and represented himself without a lawyer and won the case against the Attorney General of B.C. I inquired of the people who were in a position to know about how such a thing could happen how the force of the laws of Canada and the strength of our laws with regard to protecting the rights of children could fail when someone is simply defending his right to possess child pornography. It just did not make sense.

It was quite clear to me that somehow or other the case provided on behalf of the office of the attorney general was clearly flawed in some way. The judgment of the court has to be based on the evidence provided to the judge. Although there was some latitude, it would appear that the case was not well argued. For that reason alone it is extremely important to go right back to the appeal of that original case.

As a result of this process I believe the outcome will be that the ruling will be overturned, that Sharpe will be found guilty of possession of child pornography, and that not one case will have slipped through the cracks.

I wanted to raise that case because from the information I got from my constituents and the media reports on what actually happened in the House of Commons in the debate and in the government actions did not fairly reflect the reality that the notwithstanding clause is not retroactively applied and could not have dealt with the situation.

I also want to touch very briefly on two other issues. The first issue concerning impaired driving has been raised by many members. I have long worked with Mothers Against Drunk Driving. It has done an excellent job on behalf of Canadians in terms of raising awareness of this very serious situation in Canada. I fully support its changes with regard to initiatives such as lowering the blood alcohol threshold.

The other issue concerns consecutive sentencing. My colleague and neighbour in Mississauga, the member for Mississauga East, has worked very diligently on a file to do with consecutive sentencing. It is a very controversial issue for some, but when looking at the cases and the circumstances it becomes very clear that the issue about whether or not Canada should be considering something like consecutive sentencing as opposed to concurrent sentencing becomes a very relevant and valid debate for this place. I hope this place will have the opportunity to fully deal with the issue. It is an issue Canadians would like to see dealt with in this place.

I have had many conversations with constituents on the Young Offenders Act. I am very pleased that the justice minister brought forward, after extensive consultation with Canadians, more information and proposals for this place to consider. It is an important area for us to deal with. I am very confident that parliament through the House and its committees, et cetera, will ensure that we make the necessary changes to that law to ensure it is an appropriate law for all Canadians.

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1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

Ordinarily we would go into questions and comments, but seeing that it is almost 2 o'clock the hon. member will be recognized at 3 o'clock for five minutes to receive questions and comments.

TaxationStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Reform

Gerry Ritz Reform Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, much to the government's embarrassment in the last few days, the issue of unfair taxation has risen in the public consciousness to push over the Liberal's weak agenda and give a voice to 17 million frustrated Canadian taxpayers.

While the parties in the House put forward their competing visions and arm themselves with reams of stats, a curious phenomenon appeared. It seems that no one can be completely wrong on this issue. The fact is that the tax system has become so convoluted, archaic, out of touch and incomprehensible that it has become the Liberal government's model for its new firearms registry.

Let us be clear. The best tax system for the country is one that seeks to lighten the burden of all citizens and businesses. That system must be understandable, accountable and neutral, allowing Canadians to make their own choices by keeping the greater part of their earnings.

It is time to reject the Liberal obsession with growing revenues to pay for bigger governments and refocus the government to fit its revenues.

Gratien GélinasStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval West, QC

Mr. Speaker, all of Quebec is saddened by the death of Gratien Gélinas, an actor, author and composer, who gave theatre in Quebec a momentum it has never lost.

Gratien Gélinas had the talent of being a writer and an actor simultaneously. He was particularly careful in anything he wrote or said to maintain a certain standard of French. He leaves behind a legacy we will treasure forever.

We will remember Gratien Gélinas as an energetic man who brought enthusiasm to his artistic endeavours and who was a pillar of theatre in Quebec.

As an author, he will be remembered for Ti-Coq and Bousille et les Justes , two epic descriptions of Quebec as it was after the war and on the eve of the Quiet Revolution.

We extend our deepest condolences to Mr. Gélinas' family.

National Aboriginal Achievement AwardsStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Bonin Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to pay tribute today to the recipients of the 1999 National Aboriginal Achievement Awards. The awards program was founded by John Kim Bell in 1993 to recognize extraordinary career achievements by Canadians of first nations, Inuit and Métis ancestry.

The 14 outstanding achievers of 1999 come from all walks of life and have chosen a variety of different career paths. They are leaders, innovators, educators, scholars, scientists and artisans. The awards recognize them for their ingenuity, creativity and tenacity, and provide positive role models for all Canadians.

These awards serve to remind us of the important contributions that aboriginal people have made to the country.

As John Kim Bell once said, build a bridge of understanding between aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities.

This year's winners received their awards last Friday at a gala ceremony in Regina at the Saskatchewan Centre of the Arts. The event will be televised on a CBC network special later this month. I encourage all the members of this House and all Canadians—

National Aboriginal Achievement AwardsStatements By Members

2 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Charleswood St. James—Assiniboia.

Canadian Curling ChampionshipStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

John Harvard Liberal Charleswood—Assiniboine, MB

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of all Manitobans, I take this opportunity to extend sincere congratulations to Manitoba's very own Jeff Stoughton rink on winning the 1999 Canadian Curling Championship on Sunday. They were crowned Canadian champs after defeating Quebec by a score of 9 to 5 at the Labatt Brier in Edmonton.

The Manitoba rink hails from the Charleswood Curling Club in my riding of Charleswood St. James—Assiniboia. It is composed of skip Jeff Stoughton, third Jonathon Mead, second Gerry Van Den Berghe, lead Doug Armstrong and fifth member Steve Gould.

Not only was this the second Brier victory for Jeff Stoughton, it was also the 26th time that a Manitoba rink has won this prestigious event, far more than any other province. The Stoughton victory again shows that Manitoba is the curling capital of Canada.

All Manitobans are very proud of the accomplishments of Jeff Stoughton and his teammates and wish them the very best in their quest for the world crown in Scotland next month.

HealthStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Ovid Jackson Liberal Bruce—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, today is an important day for women's health research in Canada. At a ceremony on Parliament Hill this morning, the first professional clinical research chairs in women's health were announced.

These research chairs, which will be among the most significant clinical research chairs in Canada, will be funded by Wyeth-Ayerst, Canadian universities and the Medical Research Council. A total of $4.4 million will be invested in women's health over the next five years.

The four researchers chosen by their peers to fill these chairs will be conducting research in such important areas as cardiovascular health, endocrinology and mental health.

On behalf of all members of the House, I extend my congratulations to these successful researchers who truly are at the top of their fields.

This is another tremendous example of this government's commitment to women's health research and working in partnership with the medical research community to improve the health of Canadians.

Canadian Police Information CentreStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Reform

Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Police Information Centre, CPIC, is operated through the national police service. This system allows police forces across the country to access criminal records. The Canadian Police Association says this priceless tool is in desperate need of resources to update the system. CPIC is 20 year old technology and it is on the verge of collapse.

Sharing information is vital to ensure accurate and complete reports on criminal activity and organized crime.

A revitalized and restored CPIC system would ensure tracking of offenders. An updated national system could include vehicle identification numbers to track stolen vehicles, escaped convicts and parolees gone AWOL.

Last week the Canadian Police Association estimated the cost to upgrade CPIC would be about $200 million. This government can easily find those dollars with one stroke of a pen.

Cancel the firearms registration program that tracks law-abiding citizens. Transfer the funds saved over to CPIC that will track criminals.

Sommet De La FrancophonieStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Paradis Liberal Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, this being the Semaine de la Francophonie, I would like to remind the House about the Sommet de la Francophonie, an important meeting held every two years and attended by leaders of French speaking countries.

Every two years, they meet for three days of discussions on topical issues.

Canada plays a key role in the Francophonie. This role underscores its commitment to promoting the French fact both at home and abroad.

As there are over 8.5 million French speaking Canadians, Canada's membership in this organization provides it with an international forum for its national views and an opportunity to promote the French language and culture worldwide.

Long live the Francophonie and long live Canada.

Gratien GélinasStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Bloc Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, today Quebec lost a great artist, with the death from Alzheimer's disease of Gratien Gélinas, at the age of 89. With his passing, Quebec has lost a great pioneer of Quebec theater.

The Bloc Quebecois wishes to extend its most sincere sympathies to Huguette Oligny, and the rest of his family.

This man of great generosity, and an even greater sense of humour, earned a deserved reputation as a master of his craft. He was the first to gain full recognition for Quebec theatre by creating truly Quebecois characters speaking Quebec French.

Many Quebec artists owe their careers to him to this day. His critical view of society was an integral part of all of his work. His characters, Fridolin, Ti-Coq and the like, have left an indelible mark on the history of Quebec.

Yesterday, he made us laugh. Today, his passing makes us weep. We shall never forget him.

Thank you, Mr. Gélinas.

Bell United WayStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate three students from my riding of Parkdale—High Park who have been chosen to participate as allocation and advisory panellists for the 1998-99 Bell United Way program.

Aidan Black-Allen, a grade 8 student at Runnymede Junior/Senior Public School, Kit Fairgrieve, a grade 12 student at Humberside Collegiate, and Ailen Pavumo, an OAC student at Parkdale Collegiate, have been selected to serve as advisers on program operations, reviews and the allocating of funds for project applications as well as assisting with program promotion and public relations.

These three students serve as role models for their peers as they give their time to worthy causes and agencies. Their involvement with the United Way has enabled them to gain solid experience in teamwork, decision making, leadership, organizational and communication skills.

The devotion, support and participation demonstrated by Aidan, Kit and Ailen are very much appreciated by both the United Way and our community. Congratulations and keep up the good work.

Standing Committee On TransportStatements By Members

March 16th, 1999 / 2:05 p.m.

Reform

Lee Morrison Reform Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, everyone knows that under our system standing committees have no power and only limited influence. Some of them, especially the Standing Committee on Transport, are becoming totally irrelevant.

The transport committee has not done anything significant since completing it passenger rail study in June. On December 1 it rubber stamped amendments to the Railway Safety Act. Since then it has met five times and done absolutely nothing.

Twice the committee has winnowed through a long wish list to come up with study topics acceptable to a majority of members. Twice that same majority has voted to reverse the previous decisions.

The first change in direction was due to blatant ministerial interference. Opposition members suspect that committee inactivity reflects the minister's wish that nothing controversial ever be addressed. The committee has not met, not even in camera, since March 2.

Ginette RenoStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to add my congratulations, and those of all Canadians, to Ginette Reno, who is to be honoured this afternoon at the Rendez-vous de la Francophonie, with a reception hosted by the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

Ginette Reno's career is a good illustration of Canadian cultural richness and diversity. Her success has gone far beyond the borders of Quebec, to English Canada, Europe and the United States. Her recently released album in English has earned her a nomination for the 1999 Juno Awards in the Best Female Vocalist category.

Canada has a number of good reasons to be proud of the exceptional accomplishments of Ginette Reno, and to pay her homage at the Rendez-vous de la Francophonie, this week.

Thank you, Madame Reno.

Olympic Advocates Together HonourablyStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Liberal Broadview—Greenwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, today in Lausanne, Switzerland, OATH, an organization which stands for Olympic Advocates Together Honourably, was established.

OATH is a global coalition of Olympic athletes and advocates initiated by Canadians committed to restoring and maintaining the Olympic spirit. The coalition was formed in the context of allegations of questionable practices involving the IOC. As trustees of the Olympic spirit, they believe there is a pressing need for systemic reforms.

The basic principles of OATH are that it be an ethical, accountable, transparent, inclusive and democratic organization.

We extend congratulations to Belinda Stronach, Keith Stein, Mark Tweksbury and all the other Olympic athletes and their associates. As Canadians we are proud of them and we salute their initiative.

PovertyStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Norman E. Doyle Progressive Conservative St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, it gives me no pleasure to note that over 5 million of our fellow Canadians, 1.5 million of them children, are living in poverty.

That means one in six people in the nation is faced daily with circumstances that generally include insufficient nourishment, substandard or non-existent housing and an increased vulnerability to illness.

The PC party of Canada has set up a task force on poverty co-chaired by my colleague from Shefford. Our first set of public hearings will be held in Saint John, New Brunswick on Friday coming. We will be in St. John's, Newfoundland on April 19 as part of a cross-country tour.

There are no easy solutions to this difficult problem. However, it is necessary to tackle the issue and so I encourage individuals and groups to attend our meetings. Together we can make recommendations to government in the hope that policies will be implemented to close the growing gap between the rich and poor.

Employment InsuranceStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, today the steelworkers and aluminum workers union presented its official response to the federal government's defence in its dispute over discrimination against youth and women under the Employment Insurance Act.

What was the government's response? It avoided them saying that the applicants have no public interest in contesting the law.

It said that the surplus in the employment insurance fund does not belong to contributors.

It mocks pregnant women saying that its actions are not discriminatory, because pregnancy is a fact of nature, a contention contrary to the supreme court's decision in 1989. It continues to discriminate against young people.

The opposition to the changes to employment insurance comes from Force Jeunesse, la Coalition action-chômage, the CSN, the Quebec federation of labour, the Canadian Labour Congress and the thousands of workers that I met in my tour across Canada.

The consensus is clear. It is time the government assumed its responsibilities and changed employment insurance.

Gérald LaroseStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, Gérald Larose has announced that he will not be seeking another term as the head of the CSN.

After 25 years of involvement in and devotion to the cause of Quebec workers, including 16 as the president of the CSN, he is and will remain an outstanding figure in Quebec's labour history.

During his long career, he was a part of every struggle for social progress: those of workers, of course, but those too of women, the disadvantaged and society's rejects.

An open and direct man, he always communicated with feeling the faults of a free market society and the need for a more equitable distribution of the collective wealth.

He is also an ardent defender of the idea of a sovereign Quebec, which, for him represents as much the normal democratic and national course of the people of Quebec as social justice.

The Bloc Quebecois salutes this great man and wishes him good luck in his next undertaking.

Impaired DrivingStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Reform

Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, impaired drivers kill over 1,400 Canadians every year and injure over 60,000. The cost to our health care system each year runs in the billions of dollars. Millions of Canadians are crying out for us to put a stop to this senseless and 100% preventable crime.

Members of the House unanimously called on the government to put an end to impaired driving by instructing the justice committee to review and amend the Criminal Code to enhance deterrence and ensure the penalties reflect the seriousness of this 100% preventable crime.

For the first time in over a decade we have the opportunity to toughen up impaired driving laws and help stop the carnage on our highways. I urge my colleagues on the justice committee to demonstrate leadership and represent the wishes of millions of Canadians through amendments to the Criminal Code that will truly reflect Canada's zero tolerance attitude to this senseless and 100% preventable crime.

Canadian Broadcasting CorporationStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Aileen Carroll Liberal Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians have to speak up and decide if our public broadcaster has a future. Considering the billion dollar expenditure and the historical prominence of this institution, it does not reflect well on us to stand by and watch which limb of the pejoratively named corpse will succumb first.

Lawrence Martin in the Montreal Gazette asks why we are ready to go to the wall with Canadian magazines yet falter at supporting the CBC that tells more Canadian stories in a week than magazines do in a year.

Susan Riley in the Ottawa Citizen points out the debasement of American television news with its persistent scandal coverage and warns Canadians to beware privatizing the CBC or it too will fall victim to ratings and dollars. Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson wrote that CBC management failed to reshape the corporation after the cuts.

I concur with the Calgary Herald that the CBC must stay independent of whatever party happens to be running the government. The CBC is glue to this country.