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House of Commons Hansard #68 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was hrdc.

Topics

Division No. 1169Government Orders

6:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Division No. 1169Government Orders

6:35 p.m.

The Speaker

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Division No. 1170Government Orders

6:40 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion lost.

It being 6.45 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business, as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from December 13, 1999 consideration of the motion that Bill C-244, an act to provide for the taking of samples of blood for the benefit of persons administering and enforcing the law and good Samaritans and to amend the criminal code, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Blood Samples ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the Chamber in support of the hon. member and his Bill C-244 with respect to the taking of blood samples. The bill reads:

An act to provide for the taking of samples of blood for the benefit of persons administering and enforcing the law and good Samaritans and to amend the Criminal Code.

This is a very important and very timely piece of legislation that has been brought forward. The hon. member deserves a great deal of credit for taking the initiative.

Currently police officers, firefighters, ambulance attendants, nurses and many others involved in similar professions can accidentally or deliberately be contaminated by another person's bodily fluids while performing their professional duties, emergency first aid or other lifesaving procedures; that is to say, what is expected of them. The very nature of their jobs puts them very much potentially in harm's way.

It could also happen to a good Samaritan, an example being in the performance of CPR or in the performance of attending to an individual who has been injured and where blood and bodily fluids might be transferred accidentally. This is about encouraging the humanitarian aid of both those in the profession where they do so in the normal course of business and those who, as good Samaritans, might choose to lend assistance or help to a person in need.

We do not have to imagine in any great detail how commonplace this has become across the country. We can all envision an accident scene where individuals, sadly, because of the fear of contact with disease or the fear of somehow putting their own health at risk, might be reluctant to become involved and be reluctant to aid an individual who is in dire straits.

This bill is a very practical approach that would, at the very least, protect individuals who, by virtue of their good and humanitarian acts of assistance, may have made contact with a victim. The bill would give them the ability to find out whether the individual who is harmed, the victim, has contracted or is suffering from an illness that could be spread.

This is a piece of legislation that is worthy of support in the House. It was brought forward, I am sure, with the very best intentions and it is one that the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada will support.

I mentioned the timeliness of this motion based on the fact that members of the Canadian Police Association were on the Hill today meeting with members of parliament. Their lobby efforts on behalf of the police and community have become very fruitful and positive. They met individually with members of parliament to raise awareness of issues that affect them. By virtue of affecting them, it has widespread implications right across the country.

This motion, therefore, is timely in the sense that members of the police association are very much in support of this because of how it affects their operations and their day to day interactions with the general public. They are in favour of this and other very important motions that affect not only their profession but Canadians in general.

In the performance of their duty, police officers and people in other professions could, either accidentally or deliberately, become infected as a result of the actions of an unintended victim. Sadly, there are instances where individuals, who have knowledge of their infection, deliberately try to spread it by biting a police officer or by using a syringe that might have been contaminated with HIV or another such illness.

Obviously, police officers, firefighters and those in the medical profession, such as practitioners and nurses, are particularly susceptible to exposure and are in high risk positions by virtue of their day to day practise.

With that said, it is incumbent on us, as members of parliament, particularly in areas of justice where we can draft legislation and change the existing provisions of the criminal code and other statutes, to protect and support those brave souls who are putting themselves in harm's way on behalf of the public. Legislation such as this would do just that and would help to achieve that end.

As well, a high risk person is well within his or her right to refuse, for example, to supply a sample of blood. However, this legislation would prevent that refusal. Obviously, there are considerations as to privacy which certainly warrants protection under the law.

Let us draw a similar analogy. As it currently stands with respect to the need to protect the public, there is the ability to take a breath sample because of the carnage that results from impaired driving. There is the ability to get a warrant, for example, to take a blood sample in the pursuit of a criminal investigation. Similarly, there is the ability to demand a blood sample with respect to impaired driving. There are provisions that override an individual's right to protection for refusing to give a sample.

Blood analysis or a similar type of sample has to be given where there is a risk to an individual who has, by virtue of his or her profession or by virtue of simple humanitarian altruistic efforts, potentially been exposed. Why should we not do everything in our power to ensure that person is encouraged and supported in the effort that he or she has made?

Without the consent, the victim must undergo a series of chemical cocktails within the first six hours of the incident in an attempt to stop the spread of an undisclosed disease by a person who may have transferred this either intentionally or unintentionally. Again, it puts a much higher and onerous burden on the person who has put himself or herself on the line in an attempt to do his or her job or to help a struggling person.

So that everyone understands, these types of chemical cocktails are very powerful drugs that often have serious side effects. If it can be known at the earliest possible instance whether there is a need to undergo this process or no need at all and that could be determined quite quickly through a blood a sample, this would assist in the protection of the person who has rendered that assistance and undertaken that task.

There is also the timeliness. There are six hours in which to make the decision of whether or not it is necessary to provide the chemical cocktail. It is not necessarily an antidote or it is not necessarily going to do the job, but at the very least it provides hope that it might somehow stave off the side effects and the long term effects of contracting one of the serious communicable diseases.

This has caused concern not only in the professional world but obviously it is something that subconsciously now is very much in the public's mind when it comes to acting in good faith and rendering assistance to those in need who have been injured, particularly where there has been bloodshed. The most telling and obvious example is in performing mouth to mouth resuscitation, when CPR is administered. There is the potential to contract a communicable disease just by virtue of rendering that breath of life. The altruistic effort to safe a person might result in potential long term suffering or loss of life for the good Samaritan.

Bill C-244 would at least allow the protection and give that person the knowledge as to whether they have paid that terrible price. It would allow them to react appropriately and try to prevent or to minimize the effects of what disease they may have contracted.

This has caused concern across the country. We have received numerous letters in support of the legislation. For example, the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires Nova Scotia division has spoken in favour of the bill. The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime has written in support, as have the Canadian ski patrol system and paramedics. The list goes on and on. There is very broad support for the bill brought forward by the hon. member. We in the Conservative Party are in complete support of it. I mentioned previously the support of the Canadian Police Association and others.

No qualified medical practitioner or qualified technician is guilty of an offence only by reason of a refusal to take a blood sample from a person for the purpose of the act. There is no criminal or civil liability for anything necessarily done with reasonable care and skill in the taking of blood samples. There are protections.

Individuals should have confidence that the system is there to support them. Integrity and safeguards are in place. Bill C-244 is not an infringement of a person's human rights. I have already referred to current sections of the criminal code that compel a person to submit blood samples. For those reasons, and I am sure more that will be sussed out in the course of this debate, we will be in support of the bill.

Blood Samples ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Reform

Gurmant Grewal Reform Surrey Central, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on behalf of the people of Surrey Central to strongly support Bill C-244, the blood samples act.

I particularly commend the House leader of the official opposition for introducing the bill. It is very timely and effective. I highly appreciate that the bill has been introduced and I am sure all members in the House will support it.

The purpose of the blood samples act is to protect good Samaritans, health professionals and the front line emergency service providers should they be accidentally or deliberately exposed to another person's bodily fluids while performing their professional duties, emergency first aid or other lifesaving procedures.

This is a very timely bill because those front line officers and people who are there to protect other citizens need protection themselves. The blood samples will help them. They will not have to go through the unnecessary hardship of having to take medicine and having to experience the side effects until a virus and antibodies show that the person was affected by a disease such as HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B.

It is very important that the blood samples which will be ordered by a judge of the court will be taken and not used for any purpose other than for the intended purpose. It would not infringe on the Privacy Act or the confidentiality of the person because under this bill the blood sample would be used for the intended purpose.

In the absence of that knowledge, not only would the person suffer from very serious side effects, it would also put emotional stress on the frontline emergency personnel, the police officers and people in other agencies. They would encounter shock. They would have to deal with the families, the wives, the children and the co-workers.

Police officers, firefighters, emergency response personnel and good Samaritans are at risk and should be entitled to reasonable information, protection and peace of mind in order that they can make informed decisions with respect to precaution and treatment to protect themselves and their loved ones.

This legislation could be tailored to meet the concerns of good Samaritans and emergency personnel, while respecting and balancing the legitimate privacy and security issues of the source person.

I strongly support this legislation and I look forward to seeing it become a permanent fixture in our criminal code and the judicial system.

Blood Samples ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Jordan Liberal Leeds—Grenville, ON

Madam Speaker, one of the joys of sitting on the private members' subcommittee is that I get to hear detailed pitches for virtually every private member's bill that comes to the House. I probably heard the hon. member speak in favour of the bill long before it was brought to the attention of the House. At the time I think he made extremely valid arguments as to why this piece of legislation was required.

If we give it a bit of thought, I think in the last 15 or 20 years blood related and blood transmitted diseases have appeared that were not around when the criminal code was crafted or amended the last time. I think it is a very timely piece of legislation.

We have to be a bit careful in terms of describing this as a panacea. There are cases where, let us say, someone may have contracted HIV who was involved in one of these scuffles, but if they are still in the incubation period it may not show up in their tests. Issues need to be hammered out. However, absolutely those concerns are very minor compared to the thrust of this bill.

I congratulate the member for Fraser Valley. I believe that the bill belongs in the committee. From what I have heard from some of the previous speakers who are members of the justice committee, I think they are in a good position to come to terms with what needs to be done.

I will be supporting the bill. I would encourage the member to let the debate collapse, because if he waits for his third hour we will be into May and I think it is important that we get the bill before the committee as soon as possible.

Blood Samples ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, if there are no other speakers I would like a minute or two to summarize the debate.

Blood Samples ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Is that agreed?

Blood Samples ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Blood Samples ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, it appears as a bit of a surprise to me in many ways that the debate is likely to collapse at this time. Therefore, I wish to thank the many speakers who have taken part in the debate for their encouraging words. I recognize and all along I have said that there are other issues which need to be hammered out in committee. I do not pretend that perfection ever comes to a bill in its first reading. However, I thank members for their general support for the drift of the bill, for the idea behind it.

I wish to mention two cases in particular. One is the young gentleman in my riding, whom I named Tim, who actually spurred me on to get this bill on the order paper. He was a young guy, 17 years old, who went through six months of intensive cocktail chemical treatment as a precaution against becoming infected. He was a good Samaritan who had just done his job as a good citizen. He had helped the police in an arrest and in so doing was covered with blood. Because of the current laws he had no way of knowing whether the blood was contaminated. It is his story as the first one that spurred me on to bring this bill into the House.

The other example is someone who is with us tonight, a police officer by the name of Isobel Anderson. She has been brave beyond belief, in my opinion, to bring this issue forward and to use the story of her personal tragedy. She went through trauma as an individual police officer not knowing whether or not the blood on a needle which she had come in contact with was infected. Her story, her bravery and her consistency in getting this message out has been a good part of why the bill has received such wide support. I want to thank her tonight. She is up in the gallery.

I do hope that all parties will see fit to support the bill and send it to committee. It is there where we can all do our work to make this an even better bill for the protection of our front line workers, our police officers, our firefighters, our people on the front line and the good Samaritans who help them in the commission of their good work for society.

Blood Samples ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Is the House ready for the question?

Blood Samples ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Blood Samples ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Blood Samples ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Blood Samples ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Bernier Bloc Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-De-La-Madeleine—Pabok, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I may not be very familiar with the procedure when debates come to an end that way, but I would have liked the record to read it was agreed to but on division. I am not too sure what happened because it went so fast I had trouble with the translation. I would like the record to—

Blood Samples ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

To proceed that way, I would have had to hear one nay. I heard no objection, therefore I declared the motion carried.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Blood Samples ActAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Madam Speaker, I recently rose in this House to ask a question to the Speaker about the fact that in 1986 the auditor general recommended that the unemployment insurance account be integrated with the government's general funds.

My question was the following:

Last Tuesday, the auditor general criticized the size of the surplus in the employment insurance fund and indicated that it should not exceed a maximum of $15 billion, instead of the current $25 billion.

It is now about $28 billion.

I asked:

Will the government listen to the auditor general, as it did in 1986, and reduce the size of the surplus by increasing the number of unemployed who can qualify?

I was disappointed by the reply of the Secretary of State for International Financial Institutions, who said:

Mr. Speaker, since the beginning we have continually lowered employment insurance contributions. In 1993, these contributions were at $3.07, while today they are at $2.40. This is progress and we will continue.

That is what the government said.

I find it regrettable, because the question had to do with the increase in the number of unemployed. In Canada, only 30% of women qualify for employment insurance.

Only 15% of young people qualify for employment insurance, and the government says this is to encourage them to find jobs.

Do you know what this means? It means that in my region, the Atlantic region, for example, in our fishing communities, the Liberal government is telling young people that they do cannot remain in Atlantic Canada and should move somewhere else in Canada. We are losing all our young people because of discrimination in the EI system. A young person who is a newcomer on the labour market must accumulate 910 hours of work to qualify, while someone who is already on the labour market only has to accumulate 420 hours.

The auditor general said that too much money already, or $15 billion, has been transferred from the employment insurance account to the general funds. I saw no one in Canada take to the streets because employment insurance contributions were too high. Thousands took to the streets, however, because they no longer qualified for EI.

Saturday evening, the Prime Minister of Canada admitted that he had gone too far with his cuts to employment insurance and that this was why he had lost the election in the Atlantic region.

I hope my colleague does not answer the same way his colleague did during question period.

Even the Liberal caucus of the Atlantic region made a proposal, during the Liberal convention held in Ottawa last week-end, to change employment insurance.

Does the government not recognize that it has hurt many Canadians throughout the country with the changes it has brought to employment insurance? The issue is not contributions to employment insurance, but rather the cuts to employment insurance that have hurt Canadians and, Canadian women in particular, with only 30% of women and 15% of young people qualifying for employment insurance. Those people contribute to the EI fund. They pay contributions, yet they are not eligible to benefits.

I would like to have the opinion of the government on that. I hope not to hear the same things I have been hearing for the past few months.

Blood Samples ActAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Etobicoke North Ontario

Liberal

Roy Cullen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, in the Economic and Fiscal Update of last fall, the government announced it had agreed to set the employment insurance premium at $2.40 for the year 2000, as the employment insurance commissioners had unanimously agreed to.

It was the sixth consecutive year that employment insurance premiums had been reduced, from $3.07 to $2.40, for a total reduction of 67 cents since 1994, or a $260 annual saving for the average worker.

We recognize that we must return to the point where EI premiums cover only ongoing EI program costs, and that is what is happening.

The government's commitment to maintaining the EI program as a critical element of the social safety net is clear. The EI reforms were intended to help Canadians get back to work, and they are doing just that.

The unemployment rate has fallen from 11.3% in October 1993 to 6.8% this past December, January and February. This is the lowest rate since April 1976. Furthermore, over 1.8 million jobs have been created since 1993, with 427,000 in 1999 alone.

The government has put great emphasis on active measures co-ordinated with provincial programs to help Canadians return to work as quickly as possible. These active measures are also offered to previous recipients who have been unemployed for a long period.

Blood Samples ActAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom NDP Qu'Appelle, SK

Madam Speaker, I rise to say a few words about a question I had asked in the House back on December 2 of the last millennium to do with the banks. In 1999 the banks in this country made $9 billion in profits. I am concerned about what the government will do to protect jobs in the banking industry and ensure branches are not needlessly closed in many communities around this country. Banks are announcing the closure of branches in various parts of Canada and many people are being thrown out of work.

I was also concerned that despite these huge profits, we are seeing closures and a lot of the profits are going to the highly paid chief executive officers of the banks. The 24 top CEOs of the banks in this country received remuneration in excess last year of $250 million. That is 24 people and $250 million, equivalent to the salaries of some 12,000 bank tellers. This tells us the priorities of the banks.

The Secretary of State for International Financial Institutions responded to a question, but I thought his answer could have been a bit more forthcoming in terms of what he said. The main issue is to protect the jobs of the people who are working in our banks and to protect the communities that are served by some of these banks.

I am fairly pleased with the Bank of Montreal in my province of Saskatchewan and in the province of Alberta. The Bank of Montreal announced a month ago that it was going to close over 30 branches. This was going to be done by selling the branches to the local credit union.

In Saskatchewan some 17 Bank of Montreal branches in small towns and villages in the main park have been sold to 15 credit unions. These credit unions will expand by using some of the customer base of the Bank of Montreal. In two of these communities a Bank of Montreal building will be renovated and changed into a credit union. In the other case two of them will be amalgamated into one. The people in these communities will have service available to the community.

There are 63 people working in these 17 branches of the Bank of Montreal. As part of the agreement for buying this business, the credit union will offer employment to each and every one of these 63 people. They will now be working for a credit union or in some cases taking early retirement.

Some of these branches are very small. One only has one employee. But the fact that it is small does not mean it is not an important institution to a lot of people in a small rural town. This is a move in the right direction.

I would like to see leadership from the government to make sure that when the other banks decide to close branches, there will be some service to the people in those communities. Maybe we should look at what the United States has done. It has a community reinvestment act which gives some power to direct some of the funds which banks raise in communities right back into the communities and indeed in some places, there is some power given to the community to try to prevent the closure of a bank which is serving people in a particular area. This is very important.

Also important is the protection of jobs of the people who work in the financial services industry. This is also very important.

The banks can afford to be more generous and more flexible. They can afford to concentrate more on service. They made $9 billion in profits last year and those profits are still coming in very nicely. The CIBC just announced that in its first quarter the results are anticipated to be about 25% to 30% better than it had expected. The TD bank has said that its earnings are up by 42% from last year.

Blood Samples ActAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Etobicoke North Ontario

Liberal

Roy Cullen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, my hon. friend has expressed his concern regarding the fact that several of Canada's large banks have decided to reduce their workforce even though their combined profits reached $9 billion last year. He calls upon the government to prevent job losses and branch closures.

The best way to create and to protect jobs is to have efficient and competitive businesses. This goes also for financial institutions such as banks. A strong, efficient and profitable financial sector is essential to our economic well-being.

That is why the government announced a new policy framework for the financial services sector last June. This is a comprehensive, balanced and fair package of reforms that promotes efficiency, growth and job creation in the sector. It also fosters domestic competition and empowers consumers to ensure that the sector remains responsive to the needs of Canadians. This new framework includes measures to ensure that banks have the flexibility they need to compete at home and abroad.

We expect banks to make their own business decisions, but at the same time we also expect them to take responsibility for them. That is why we intend to introduce a branch closure process for banks and public accountability statements for all large financial institutions. The branch closure process will give communities time to react and adjust to the closure of a bank branch in their area. It provides a minimum of four months notice of a closure, extended to six months for the last branch in that community.

In its annual public accountability statements, large financial institutions will be called upon to describe their contributions to communities, including their levels of employment and their branch openings and closings.

This represents a fair balance between the banks' need to compete and the needs of consumers and communities.

Blood Samples ActAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7.20 p.m.)