House of Commons Hansard #84 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was billion.


Budget Implementation Act, 2000Government Orders

5:25 p.m.


Lorne Nystrom NDP Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, the member wants more free enterprise, more competition and more private sector activity. I assume he was referring to health care. My answer is no, that is not what Canadian people want.

They have told us time and time again that they want a public health care system adequately funded by the federal government and the provinces to serve the people. That is the age of the dinosaur and that is not the way we are going.

Budget Implementation Act, 2000Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

It being 5.30 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 March 15 consideration of the motion that Bill C-223, an act to amend the Witness Protection Program Act and to make a related and consequential amendment to another act (protection of spouses whose life is in danger), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Witness Protection Program ActPrivate Members' Business

April 12th, 2000 / 5:30 p.m.


Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank all parties in the House for agreeing to defer the vote, which would normally have taken place at the end of the 45 minutes of debate this evening, to May 2. I appreciate that.

I would also seek the consent of the House to have five minutes at the end of the debate tonight to wrap up or have the right of reply.

Witness Protection Program ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent of the House?

Witness Protection Program ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


Witness Protection Program ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, as the solicitor general critic for the Canadian Alliance, I will speak in favour of Bill C-223, particularly from the perspective of what we can learn from the existing RCMP source and witness protection program, which has been in effect since 1984.

I note from a news release by the former solicitor general dated March 23, 1995 that they wanted to upgrade and strengthen the existing program by the following criteria: clearly defining admission criteria for witnesses; ensuring that cases are dealt with in a consistent manner across the country; setting out the responsibilities and obligations of both the administrators of the program and individuals entering the program; clarifying the management structure within the RCMP for the day to day operation of the program, thereby increasing accountability; and finally, providing for a complaints procedure and requiring the commissioner of the RCMP to submit to the solicitor general an annual report on the operation of the program.

I am sure these were good intentions on the part of the solicitor general of the day back in 1995, but I have to report that it unfortunately has not been completely successful. I have had interviews with people who have been under the witness protection program and I am aware that there are some distinct problems with the program.

In another document from the former solicitor general, we have the criteria for the admission to the RCMP witness protection program: the potential contribution the witness source can make toward a particular police investigation; the nature of the offence under investigation; the nature of the risk to the individual; alternative methods of protection that are available; danger to the community if the individual is admitted to the program; potential effects on any family relationships; the likelihood of an individual being able to adjust to the program; the cost of maintaining the individual in the program; and, any other fact that the commissioner of the RCMP may deem relevant.

These are all worthy goals and objectives. After talking to some of the people who are currently in the program, I know that the issue of the nature of risk to the individual is one which unfortunately is highly suspect.

Relative to the existing program, not to the proposed program, let us be clear that at the time the people become involved in the witness protection program, probably the majority of them, they are not people at that stage in their lives who we would be happy to invite home for a cup of coffee. These are people who, typically at that time in their lives, either have been compromised by a given situation they have been involved in with the other people involved in criminal activity, or are perhaps tied up with drugs, alcohol or other problems of that type.

However, these people perform an exceptionally valuable service to the law enforcement agencies in Canada. What typically is happening, in my judgment, is that they are being left hanging out to dry by those same law enforcement agencies. Some do become involved in the program but, more frequently, they actually end up signing agreements with the enforcement authority under duress, to the point where an officer may say “If you do not get on side with me, I will blow your cover. I will reveal your identity”.

A very important case for jurisprudence recently took place in the case of Mr. Francs. After he had made an agreement in good faith with the law enforcement people he was spirited quickly out of Vancouver to a motel in Chilliwack along with his family who were absolutely petrified. He was told “I am sorry, it really did not work out. We will have to get something else organized”. The judge rightfully came down like a tonne of bricks on the enforcement authorities.

The final thing I would say on this particular case is that there is further confusion. The justice department then goes to these people, who are trying to get their day in the sun in a court of law, and says “You must reveal evidence”, which is evidence that if revealed would not only compromise themselves but would also compromise the RCMP investigations or the police investigations.

The reason I am in favour of this bill being voted on and going to committee is so that we can look at the entire picture. We can look at spousal protection and at the whole witness protection program because it is in a sad state of disrepair and desperately needs work. Above all, this is not only for the protection of society but also so those people who have been drawn into the program can receive proper protection for themselves, for their loved ones and for their families.

Witness Protection Program ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak to Bill C-223, an act to amend the Witness Protection Program Act.

I want to thank the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River for introducing the bill. This matter involves the issue of improving safety and security for spouses whose lives are in danger. It is obvious to me that improving safety and security for victims of spousal violence has or should have the support of the members of the House. It definitely has my support.

When the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River introduced the bill he noted that this was a non-partisan matter. I agree, it is a non-partisan matter. I want to provide my input to this debate in a way that respects its non-partisan matter.

I do not think that there is any real debate that measures ought to be in place to protect victims of life-threatening relationships. I believe that the only questions are what form these measures should take and how we can improve upon what is currently in place. These are important questions that deserve careful review by experts who work in the field of family violence.

In Canada we already have numerous measures against family violence in place. Let us look at some of them. First, we have laws that prohibit and punish the physical violence that is frequently a tragic part of abusive relationships. As we are all aware, however, these laws have not always worked. In the past our society has been far too accepting of family violence. Law enforcement and justice officials themselves have not always been sensitive, and still today are not necessarily as sensitive as they should be to the issue when it was, in the past, brought to them and when, still today, it is brought to them.

However, we have recently made some progress in this area. Through education and prosecution guidelines, we have sought to ensure that the appropriate criminal charges are brought against persons who commit these acts. We have also had success in this regard, although I must agree, as many in the House would state, there is room for improvement. While such measures are not the whole answer, they obviously play an important role in deterrence and in providing sanctions against perpetrators of family violence.

In addition to the standard criminal justice measures against violence, we also have measures which are more specifically relevant to spousal violence situations. An important measure of this type is the prohibition against criminal harassment found at section 264 of the criminal code.

We must remember that criminal harassment, such as stalking, is frequently a prelude to spousal violence. Further, beyond the direct physical violence that it can lead to, stalking can also cause significant harm in and of itself as the constant fear of violence takes it toll on that victim.

The Minister of Justice recently announced that she would recommend that parliament lengthen the maximum penalty for criminal harassment from five to ten years. In appropriate cases, those who carry out criminal harassment would then be subject to dangerous offender provisions, allowing for the imposition of indefinite sentences. That is a move forward.

Criminal code measures providing deterrents and sanctions must work in conjunction with other measures. Shelters and transition houses have played an important part in addressing safety and other needs of family violence victims.

I am sure a lot of members, if not all members in the House, have shelters within their own riding. I have one in my riding and it performs a real service to victims of family violence and to the children of the spouses who are victims of family violence.

I also wish to acknowledge, as was pointed out earlier in the debate, that there was a tragic incident in a Montreal shelter where this safety, which this bill wishes to address, was breached and a woman was killed by her spouse. Such an incident, however tragic, should not take away from the important and positive role played by shelters and the dedicated people who staff them.

The responses to family violence that I have mentioned are not sufficient in and of themselves. Broader prevention initiatives are vital to making a long term difference.

Historically, family violence has been hidden in silence and denial. We have already done much to bring it out into the open but more has to be done. Notably, governments at all levels, the federal, the provincial, the territorial and the municipal, have supported counselling and education to help encourage recognition and reporting of the problem.

In addition, victims receive counselling for immediate trauma and long term psychological harm. It is important to remember, as well, that counselling is not restricted to the victims alone. Prevention can be and has successfully been addressed to those who engage in abusive behaviour. In fact, I have been told that there are over 100 treatment programs in Canada for perpetrators of spousal abuse.

As I have said, such counselling and treatment programs, both for victims and abusers, are supported by governments at all levels. Non-governmental organizations often play a key role in delivering the services.

At the federal level our support is provided through such means as the Family Violence Prevention Initiative and the National Strategy on Community Safety and Crime Prevention. These initiatives, and those I mentioned earlier, have made Canada a leader in efforts to put a halt to family violence. Nevertheless, we must still recognize that even these initiatives are not always enough.

This brings me back to Bill C-223. The bill identifies an additional type of assistance that can sometimes be offered. It involves such measures as the relocation of the victims and the continuation of their lives under new identities, away and safe from their abusers. It is a form of assistance similar to that currently offered under a process called New Identities For Victims of Life-Threatening Relationships. Human Resources Development Canada co-ordinates this joint federal, provincial and territorial ad hoc initiative.

As was recognized by members from both sides of the House earlier in the debate on this bill, providing a new identity to victims of spousal violence is a measure of last resort.

The reasons for this are clear. Restarting lives in such a manner can involve considerable challenges and hardship. Therefore, it must be a measure of last resort. We must be careful that the use of such processes does not place additional burdens on persons who are already victims.

This brings me back to the issue of Bill C-223. The witness protection program offers protection to persons who assist law enforcement. It is very much a program with a specific law enforcement purpose. It is typically used in matters of organized crime.

I have been informed that the issue of spousal protection under the witness protection program is one of the options the current new identities working group which the government has set up will be examining. However it is only one among a number of options. In fact, preliminary consultations with victims groups and those who work in the field indicate it might not be the best option. Other options, such as a separate more fully developed new identities initiative, are also being considered.

It is for this reason I ask the House today in a non-partisan manner not to support Bill C-223. During the time that this matter is being examined by a federal, provincial and territorial working group in consultation with victims representatives, we should not go forward with a bill that predetermines and imposes a single option. We should allow for the possibility of a multitude of options. This is especially the case if preliminary consultations have indicated that the option provided under this private member's bill is not necessarily the best option. Instead, we should let those involved in the working group devote their energies to considering the best way to build upon that which we already have in place.

Spousal abuse is a serious issue. Governments at all levels are addressing this issue and are looking for the best options to provide protection to those spouses.

Witness Protection Program ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Gordon Earle NDP Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today on behalf of my NDP colleagues to indicate that we support the referral of Bill C-223 to a committee. I commend the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River for bringing forth a bill on a very important and vital subject for the well-being of our communities.

Domestic violence and spousal abuse is a very serious problem. My wife and I have taken in a number of foster children. I can recall a situation involving one young girl we were looking after. She was around 15 years old at that time. I recall her talking about when she was younger that her parents would engage in domestic violence. Her father had an alcohol problem. He would come home and beat his wife and sometimes the children if they were around. She talked about having to gather together her siblings and flee into the woods in the darkness of the night to keep them safe while her father raged with violence against her mother. It was a very sad situation.

We know that the whole issue of domestic violence affects not only the spouses but also the family members. We see children often being forced to take on adult responsibilities and share a kind of guilt which they should not have to in their young lives.

I would like to provide some background with respect to the bill. This bill was introduced during the first session of the 36th parliament as Bill C-494 and died on the order paper as a result of prorogation in the fall of 1999. The bill was subsequently reintroduced as Bill C-223.

This enactment would amend the Witness Protection Program Act to extend the scope of the witness protection program to include persons whose lives are in danger because of acts committed by their spouse, former spouse, common law spouse or former common law spouse.

The Witness Protection Program Act was passed by parliament in 1996. Under the current act, spouses are only addressed in their role as witnesses against criminals. There are no references to the possible need to protect persons who are victims of the violent actions of their own spouse or former spouse. They are not covered under the definition of witness in the current act.

The Witness Protection Program Act provided a legislative base and a structure for decision making for the RCMP witness protection program. Although it had been in existence since 1984 as an administrative program, it did not have clear criteria or rules or an accountability structure. Accountability is very important.

The act introduced a list of factors to be considered in deciding whether a person should be admitted to the program. It defined protection as including relocation, accommodation and change of identity, as well as counselling and financial support. It provided for protection agreements to be entered into and specified their requirements. The act established a criteria and process for terminating protection. It also provided for agreements to be entered into with provinces and municipalities for which the RCMP provides policing so they could be a part of the national program.

Although they are not covered by the RCMP program, spouses who are in such danger that they must flee their surroundings and change their identities are not completely unprotected at the present time. Two federal government departments, Human Resources Development Canada and Revenue Canada, administer a little known ad hoc process called new identities.

With the help of information from police, women's shelters and victims groups, the program helps desperate women in life threatening situations gain a new identity and relocate by providing them with a new social insurance number and ensuring continuity of federal social benefits. The program has no specific mandate and no separate funding so the assistance it can provide is not comprehensive. Bill C-223 would improve upon that situation.

While there have been some concerns raised that more resources should be committed to women's shelters and front line policing rather than the type of initiative under Bill C-223, the NDP strongly believes that both are needed. It is not one or the other. We feel that both are needed and that every effort must be made to ensure the safety and security of the vulnerable in our communities. As I indicated earlier, families are very vulnerable when it comes to domestic violence.

We in the NDP support strengthening provisions of the Witness Protection Program Act to allow for greater protection of spouses. We in the NDP support this legislation but at the same time we must make it clear that this is only a measure of last resort and that a substantial increase in resources for women's shelters and protective measures for victims and their families must remain the priority.

Witness Protection Program ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to register my support for the private member's bill that has been introduced by my colleague from Prince George—Peace River. I commend him on his care for Canadian society in bringing forward this important piece of legislation.

The legislation would allow protection under the same sort of provisions as those in the witness protection program for people whose lives or whose children's lives are threatened by a spouse or former spouse. This is a very important piece of legislation because we know there are an increasing number of individuals in our society who have nowhere to turn for protection from the violence of a former spouse or intimate partner. This is a sad commentary on our society but it would be an even sadder commentary if we as legislators turned a blind eye to the distress of these individuals, most of whom are women.

It is important that we as a society offer real and meaningful protection, protection with teeth, to people in these very difficult circumstances. This bill would do that. It sets out a common sense framework without a lot of red tape but with some clear criteria and some clear resources that would offer real and meaningful protection to Canadians in this kind of distress.

Sadly all of us in our circle of acquaintances through business or by being members of parliament have had people come to us or have talked to people who are in absolute terror and distress because they do not know how to protect themselves from a violent former partner. There is nothing more tragic than that kind of distress and situation where people literally are vulnerable and have nowhere to turn.

I do not want to take up too much time in order to allow two other individuals to speak in support of the bill. I did want the opportunity to put on record my own strong support for the bill. It will be administered partly through Human Resources Development Canada and will build on the new identities program in that department. This is a very positive step for Canadian society. I urge all members of the House to support the bill.

Witness Protection Program ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to follow the lead of previous members who have spoken to this very practical and useful piece of legislation that is before the House.

Bill C-223 in essence broadens the mandate of the witness protection program to include abused spouses. This is a very worthy and worthwhile endeavour. The sad thing is that it would not be necessary if the government were approaching this in a proper way with respect to some of the existing programs and legislation. Increased spending on policing, for example, to better protect spouses from domestic abuse coupled with tougher sanctions that might be handed down by judges would also accomplish much of what the hon. member is attempting to achieve.

There is certainly a need for greater funding and greater resources with respect to counselling programs for the abusive spouse as well as the victim. There are programs such as New Leaf in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, where individuals like Bob Whitman and Ron Kelly work extremely closely to address the actual problems of individuals who have involved themselves in this violent behaviour. That type of proactive intervention is what is needed and what the government and all governments should be encouraged to do.

The Liberal government however has not made a concrete commitment to allocate money to deal with and protect society from violent predators. Although it has proudly stated its record with respect to the $810 million for policing and protection which sounds like a great deal of money, the reality is that money will be spread over three years. Sixty-two per cent of those dollars allocated will not be available until 2001-02. Therefore the bulk of the money is committed outside the government's current mandate. This is a very arrogant and I would suggest deceptive tactic that breeds further cynicism.

Under a responsible government, Bill C-223 would not be needed. Yet the government's sketchy record of protecting the public especially those most vulnerable in society has made legislation like this necessary. The slow reaction time of the Department of Justice unfortunately is legendary. The minister herself once described her department as the world's worst law firm. That is a damning condemnation of her own department which she administers.

Currently abused spouses, most often women, endure a living hell as they try to protect themselves and their children from the wrath of an abusive spouse. There are many safe houses set up across the country. Bryony House in Halifax and Tearmann House in New Glasgow perform an incredible service on shoestring budgets.

Victims who move to these shelters do so to escape a very dangerous and volatile situation and relationship. The problem is they cannot remain anonymous and eventually they may be found by their abusive spouse and face violence or even death. The government has not addressed this and I would suggest that Bill C-223 is very much a necessary and laudable piece of legislation.

The Progressive Conservative Party of Canada supports the family and the protection afforded by this type of bill. It is consistent with our support of law and order and the protection of society and of victim's rights.

I was speaking with the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester about another very worthwhile program that is alive and well in the country, Crime Stoppers. Once again it is something that fosters greater participation between members of the community and police in an effort to address a very volatile society at this time.

We feel that the amendments brought forth by this type of legislation to the witness protection program are very worthy. We agree that the hon. member has brought forward the legislation in a timely fashion. It would broaden the mandate.

We also agree that Canada's anti-stalking laws can further be expanded as well. I know that Senator Oliver in the other place continues to do extraordinary work to strengthen the laws related to stalking, section 264 of the criminal code, which is a very serious situation as well. Other members have alluded to it.

Still stronger laws to protect people and bring about a way to protect their individuality and identity when they are fleeing an abusive situation can be further buttressed by a commitment of resources from the government. We must be wary of those who might attempt to use this program in an unlawful manner, for example to change identity to escape creditors.

Bill C-223 protects us against this as well because it has a very detailed list of criteria and factors that the witness protection program would have to consider before admitting a person into its umbrella of protection. They have to display the need, that life is in danger, that there is danger of a psychological or physical injury, and that the situation is such that it would warrant the protection afforded.

A current example is the new identities for humanitarian reasons type of legislation, an unofficial program that began in 1992 and works under the HRDC department. Revenue Canada will not reveal the names of persons who conduct the program, but it ensures that their income tax history, child tax benefits of the victim, et cetera, follow them into their new lives without linking them to their past names.

There are programs that promote this type of protection. The problem is that the criminal code cannot force an individual to testify against a spouse and eliminates potentially very incriminating and damning information that police and prosecutors need to obtain a conviction of a spousal abuser. There is often a great deal of intimidation and threatening behaviour that follows. A new and improved witness protection program could be mandated to protect crown witnesses and help with the furtherance of justice in this regard.

I commend the member for Prince George—Peace River for bringing forward the bill. It very much furthers the interests of justice. Forwarding the bill to the committee is a very worthwhile venture. I applaud the efforts that he has made and those of members who have spoken in favour of it. It is a very sound, common sense initiative. It furthers the protection of victims in most severe cases of spousal abuse.

It is necessary. At the very least this debate has brought government attention to the lack of funding that has been afforded this problem and at best will bring about further debate that will address the problem. The Progressive Conservative Party of Canada wholeheartedly supports this initiative.

Witness Protection Program ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Price George—Peace River for bringing forward the bill. He brought forward not simply the initiative he has proposed to the House through his bill but generally the issue of domestic violence, which I am sure is of concern to all Canadians.

I did write a monograph on the subject of domestic violence called “The Tragic Tolerance of Domestic Violence”. I want to share with the House a couple of the facts I found in my research in doing that.

First, members will know that the cycle of violence includes three phases: the tension building phase, the explosive incident and the honeymoon phase. Without getting into too much detail there is a cycle. It starts when things begin to deteriorate and then there is an incident, a battering or some other incident, qualifying as domestic assault. Then there is the denial and then there is the make-up. Then we have a cooling off period. Then it comes around.

In my research I found that the experts agree that the cycle of violence continues, a week later, a month later, a year later. It will continue to the point where its velocity increases. The intensity increases. In fact, the certainty of serious bodily harm and maybe even death becomes a reality.

There are other consequences of domestic violence which I think are worth noting. About 40% to 80% of children witness domestic violence, which is a very significant number of our children. In 52% of violent relationships in which children witness the violence, women feared for their lives, and in 61% of abusive relationships where a child is a witness, the violence was serious enough to result in the woman being injured.

Children witnessing violence against their mothers experience similar emotional, health and behavioural problems as children who themselves are directly abused, which basically says that witnessing abuse is as bad as being abused. It amplifies the fact again that it is not only the partners who are affected, it affects entire families, and it affects children.

In a Canada-wide study of abused women, women reported that their partners had abused their children physically 26% of the time, psychologically 48% of the time and sexually 7% of the time. An estimated 30% to 40% of children who witness violence against their mother by a partner are also abused directly by the partner, whether or not he is the father. Children who witness the violence are at risk of further violence, either as a perpetrator or as a victim.

Violence in the home is experienced by children, and in adulthood those children are more likely to become perpetrators of violence. That is even more reason for us to take very seriously the need for attention to this important issue.

Members might ask what the experts say about the reasons a woman might not leave an abusive relationship. Here are some of the more common responses. They hope that the relationship will get better. They do not want to break up the family. Her partner's abuse isolates her from her family and friends. She fears for her own and her children's safety. She depends on her partner's income. She has lost her self-esteem because of her partner's abuse. She has nowhere to go. Her partner has threatened to harm her if she leaves.

These are some of the more common reasons someone would give for not wanting to leave a domestic situation of violence.

In my research I found that only 5% to 15% of cases of domestic violence are actually reported. That is very significant. If violence starts small and grows over time, the earlier it is dealt with the better. I concluded that the most important thing would be to encourage the reporting of cases of domestic violence, because the people themselves, the partners, cannot solve the problem. Both of them need help.

The thought of laying a charge against an intimate partner is a very serious step, with potentially enormous consequences. It could end the relationship or it could lead to more serious violence. The evidence shows that the intensity of domestic violence increases after the breakup, not before. That is when all is lost. It is over. That is when people really lose it.

I wanted to raise these points simply to say that I think this is an issue that should be talked about much more by the House. This is one opportunity. I hope it inspires other members to raise initiatives which will bring to this House a matter which affects not only men and women, but children and society as a whole. We are all affected by this and we should all be part of the solution.

The tragedy of violence against spouses is a complex problem which has no simple solution. It will take a comprehensive strategy of both preventive and remedial approaches, and it needs the active support of all concerned, both men and women.

I thank the member for bringing forward the bill. I believe he has some support. I am sure we can work out how to do this. Again, I thank all members for their support.

Witness Protection Program ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It is my duty to advise the House that if the hon member for Prince George—Peace River speaks now he will close the debate.

Witness Protection Program ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, at the outset of my closing remarks I thank colleagues from all the parties that participated in the debate throughout the three hours which began on November 26, 1999. This is the last 45 minutes of debate.

I especially appreciate the comments made by my colleagues from the other opposition parties who indicated their support. They will be encouraging colleagues within their parties to support Bill C-223, recognizing that Private Members' Business votes are free votes.

I am deeply saddened that government members who have spoken, with the exception of the hon. member for Mississauga South, have indicated that they will not be supporting this private member's bill. The hon. member for Mississauga South said it all just a minute ago, in the sense that this is an incredibly complex and horrendous issue. To only suggest to Canadians that it warrants some two hours and 45 minutes of debate in the Chamber is appalling.

I would have hoped that all members in a very non-partisan and constructive way would have seen fit, when it comes to the vote on May 2, to support the legislation and send it to the justice committee. Then we could hear directly from experts, victims and people who have worked in the industry of protecting people from domestic violence and spousal abuse and come up with a concrete plan of action on how to address the issue.

I am not suggesting for a minute that Bill C-223 is the be-all and end-all. It is far from it. When I designed this piece of legislation it was with the understanding that if it were sent to committee it could be amended. It could be improved upon by members of that committee following suggestions from witnesses. It was with the recognition that this is only one tool.

Some of my colleagues from other parties and from my own party, the Canadian Alliance, spoke about the need for increased resources for law enforcement, the need for increased counselling and rehabilitation efforts, and the need for tougher deterrents for those who would ignore restraining orders and continue to stalk their former spouses.

Although the Liberal member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine spoke in support of the general thrust of the bill, she concluded her remarks by saying that she would not be supporting the legislation because of the existing ad hoc program that we have all recognized in our comments and that they are pursuing a multitude of options. Somehow she thought that by supporting Bill C-223 it would limit the options.

I would suggest just the opposite. By sending this bill to committee we could open up a whole range of options. Therefore, in the final minute of debate, I am calling on all members of the House over the course of the two week Easter break, an appropriate time of year, to go back to their ridings, consult with their supporters, and come back in a non-partisan way and consider supporting the legislation on May 2.

I am sure that tragically they will find, as I have found in my own riding, there are dozens and perhaps hundreds of people living in fear for their lives. It does not just affect spouses. It does not just affect adults. It affects children of all ages who live every day in fear for their lives.

What a tragedy it would be if members just turned their backs and said that we had to study it more and let the bureaucrats do what they could, without the support of members of parliament working together in a non-partisan way to help these people.

Witness Protection Program ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. It being 6.15 p.m., the time provided for debate has expired.

Pursuant to order made earlier today, all questions necessary to dispose of the motion are deemed to have been put and a recorded division deemed demanded and deferred until Tuesday, May 2, 2000, at expiry of the time provided for Government Orders.

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

Witness Protection Program ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.


Gordon Earle NDP Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise to pursue the issue of Canadian soldiers wrongfully sent to Buchenwald concentration camp during the second world war. In my question to the minister just before Christmas I asked that the minister:

—ensure that those brave Canadian soldiers wrongfully sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp will finally receive a just settlement beyond the insulting pittance given a year ago. Will the minister and his cabinet bring joy at Christmastime to the Buchenwald survivors?

I was very concerned that the minister chose to ignore that part of my question. Perhaps I should not have been surprised. This Liberal government has gone out of its way to ignore these brave Canadians.

In response to a letter I wrote on this topic, the Minister of Foreign Affairs said that in other countries compensation was paid for civilians, such as people working for the Red Cross and other similar wartime efforts I assume, who were sent to concentration camps.

The issue remains on the table. The Canadian troops who suffered the horrors of living in Buchenwald deserve compensation and it is up to the Liberal government to ensure that compensation is delivered.

It is appalling that the Liberal government tried to buy the silence of these veterans for about $1,000 each. One of these veterans, a constituent of mine, William Gibson, made it clear that this so-called compensation was offensive. This constituent who survived the horrors of the Buchenwald concentration camp sent the cheque back to the Liberal government with the word “refused” across the insulting payoff of $1,098.

These veterans were interned in the Nazi Buchenwald concentration camp instead of a prisoner of war camp where they should have been sent under the Geneva convention. Other governments have had the ability to convince the German government to provide appropriate reparation. Our government has failed itself and failed these brave Canadians miserably.

I do not understand the inability of the government to secure a just settlement for these Canadians. Is it a matter of incompetence or is it simply that the government cares little for the plight of a small handful of 26 veterans?

Perhaps even more insulting than the cheque to these Canadians were the words of the Minister of Veterans Affairs in his accompanying letter. He said, “I am delighted to be able to close the chapter on this longstanding issue”. Delighted indeed. It is now over eight years since the plight of these veterans was discussed in the January 1991 report of the subcommittee on veterans affairs entitled “It's Almost Too Late”. Over eight years later I should say it is almost too late.

This issue was raised again in committee in 1994 and in letters to the veterans affairs, defence and foreign affairs ministers in 1997. I have raised this issue time and time again for over a year now and the government still admits defeat where other governments have succeeded.

A letter from the office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs to my office admits failure with these words, “Canada has embarked on several démarches requesting prisoner of war compensation from Germany, but we have had no success”.

I will close with a comment my constituent made when addressing the Nova Scotia government committee on veterans affairs in February of this year:

We have been fighting for German compensation since 1945, but we haven't got it yet and I don't know if we will ever get it because I don't think there is anybody in Ottawa who has the intestinal fortitude to go after it.

I ask the Liberal government to respond now to this issue. I sincerely hope we will not be subject to a litany of what the Liberal government claims to have done about other issues. Let us talk about this issue.

These Canadian veterans deserve a government that will stand up for them and ensure they receive the compensation they are due from the German government. Anything less is unacceptable.

Witness Protection Program ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

Nipissing Ontario


Bob Wood LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Halifax West actually raised two issues in his original question last December: the compensation issue for the merchant navy and the question of compensation by Germany for Canadian airmen imprisoned at Buchenwald. Although the member has chosen to focus his remarks tonight on the Buchenwald question, I would like to address both of his issues since I know he has a deep personal interest and a commitment to both matters.

I am pleased to report on the progress that has been made in recognizing the heroic contribution of the merchant navy to Canada's war effort.

On February 1, 2000, the Minister of Veterans Affairs announced a tax free package for Canada's merchant navy veterans and their surviving spouses. This package is compensation for post-war demobilization benefits provided by the armed forces but not the merchant navy veterans.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has received more than 10,000 applications for the merchant navy special benefit. Today, close to 1,000 cheques have been issued to eligible merchant navy veterans or their surviving spouses. These payments will be paid out in up to two disbursements, depending on length of service.

Thanks to the tremendous effort and leadership of veterans organizations, they agreed upon compensation of $20,000 for service of more than 24 months, $10,000 for service between 6 and 24 months, and $5,000 for service between 1 and 6 months or for less than 1 month if captured, killed or disabled. An additional 20% will be paid to any veterans receiving these benefits who spent time as a prisoner of war.

As expected, when processing the applications the department is finding that a percentage of these applications do not fall within the guidelines agreed upon with merchant navy and national veterans organizations. For instance, some individuals served with the armed forces and so have already received benefits. Some were on vessels in coastal waters but do not meet the qualifications for war related services.

I reassure all merchant navy veterans and their families that the Government of Canada recognizes their valiant efforts on behalf of their country and that Veterans Affairs Canada is giving the merchant navy the special benefit and priority that it deserves.

I now want to address the issues of compensating Canadian airmen who were—

Witness Protection Program ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am afraid the hon. member has run out of time.

Witness Protection Program ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, recently I had the opportunity to pose a question during question period with regard to the issue of sudden infant death syndrome. It is a terminology and maybe a condition which mesmerizes people because we do not hear very much about it. However we do hear about it from time to time in communities.

During much of the work I have done with regard to the healthy outcomes of children, one of the phrases that sticks in my mind about its impact was from the psychiatrist in chief at the sick kids hospital in Toronto. She said that a secure, consistent attachment to an engaged, committed adult was one of the most significant indicators or preconditions for a healthy outcome of a child.

While doing some research on healthy outcomes of kids I came across a report by Dr. Christopher Ruhm from the University of North Carolina, produced in April 1998. The paper was entitled “Parental Leave and Child Health”. He studied 25 years of population data from nine European countries and found a 29% reduction in infant mortality where parental leave of at least 50 weeks was taken. I found this really fascinating.

In the study he went on to highlight the significant benefits of breast feeding as result of the longer parental leave which the government has now introduced in its budget. In fact my Bill C-204 proposes to extend parental leave benefits to a full year. The report also talked about breast feeding and about the lower incidence of sudden infant death syndrome. That is one of the reasons I wanted to raise the question again.

There appears to be a pattern. There appear to be linkages. I am hoping by asking the question that maybe we could find out a bit more about what Health Canada is doing to investigate the trends and linkages between the healthy raising and nurturing of children in those vital formative years and the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome.

I am here tonight again to ask if the parliamentary secretary could please advise Canadians and the House about other things Health Canada is doing to examine sudden infant death syndrome.

Witness Protection Program ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Nipissing Ontario


Bob Wood LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS, also known as crib death, refers to the sudden and unexpected death of an apparently healthy infant, usually less than one year of age, which remains unexplained even after a full investigation.

Although the specific cause of SIDS remains unknown, several risk factors have been identified through scientific research, including the tummy and side sleeping positions and exposure to tobacco smoke before and after birth.

SIDS is the leading cause of death in Canada for infants between one month and one year of age, touching the lives of three families in this country each week.

Health Canada, through the Canadian Perinatal Surveillance System, collects and analyses infant mortality information. Since 1980 the overall rate of SIDS deaths in Canada has steadily declined. This decline in SIDS rates coincides with the identification of risk factors and public education regarding these factors.

In 1993 Health Canada co-sponsored a consensus conference on SIDS with the Canadian Paediatric Society, the Canadian Institute of Child Health and the Canadian Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths. This resulted in the development of a joint consensus statement and public awareness strategy to reduce the incidence of SIDS in Canada. The key messages are: positioning infants on their back to sleep; avoiding exposure to environmental tobacco smoke during pregnancy; protecting infants from exposure to environmental tobacco smoke; avoiding too many clothes and covers on babies; and the promotion of breast feeding.

In March 1999 Health Canada and its three partners launched “Back to Sleep”, a national public education campaign to raise awareness and provide information on how to reduce the risk of SIDS. The campaign includes a joint consensus statement, a brochure, a poster and a TV public service announcement.

It is through research, education and promotion that the incidence of SIDS in Canada can be further reduced.

Witness Protection Program ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6.26 p.m.)