House of Commons Hansard #98 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was crtc.


The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill S-23, an act to amend the Customs Act and to make related amendments to other acts.

Customs ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

There are two motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill S-23, an act to amend the Customs Act and to make related amendments to other acts.

Motions Nos. 1 and 2 will be grouped for debate, but voted on as follows.

A vote on Motion No. 1 will apply to Motion No. 2.

I shall now propose Motions Nos. 1 and 2 to the House.

Customs ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.


Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC


Motion No. 1

That Bill S-23 be amended by adding after line 22 on page 91 the following new clause:

“85.1 At the end of the first year after the coming into force of this Act, the Minister shall prepare a report on the application of its provisions and of any regulations made under those provisions, and shall lay the report without delay before the Standing Committee on Finance.”

Motion No. 2

That Bill S-23 be amended by adding after line 22 on page 91 the following new clause:

“85.2 After concluding its proceedings and hearing all the witnesses whose attendance it considers necessary, the Standing Committee on Finance shall report to the House of Commons on its findings, assessments and recommendations with respect to any amendments to be made to this Act.”

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the two amendments I introduced today.

I should point out, first of all, that the Bloc Quebecois is in favour of Bill S-23 overall.

It should also be pointed out that examination of this bill was undertaken long before the events of September 11.

I will return to this point later, but perhaps those events cast this bill in a new light and perhaps they also cause us to have a number of concerns in connection with it.

Generally speaking, we are in favour of this bill, because it is worthy of note that the government wishes to facilitate or enhance the flow of trade, particularly between Canada and the U.S., as well as border crossings by individuals.

I am often told just how strict Canada's customs system is compared to other countries, and how this causes delays at its borders. I do believe that the desire to facilitate or enhance border crossings is a laudable decision.

That said, we must not be lose sight, specifically because of the lessons learned from the events of September 11, of the need to maintain and ensure the security of Canada.

This focuses attention on the two basic functions of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, which are, on the one hand, to facilitate the crossing of persons and goods between Canada and other countries, the United States in particular and, on the other, to ensure the security of persons and goods entering Canada, and perhaps those leaving it as well.

We have a number of reservations about this bill, among them its considerable vagueness as to the precise application of its provisions.

Much latitude is left to the regulatory authority. We have not been very satisfied with what we have been able to see so far, in terms of projected regulations,

On the one hand, we do not have a good idea of what this bill's regulations will actually be and, on the other, what idea we do have leads us to believe that the minister will have very considerable arbitrary powers, which creates certain misgivings about the long term application of the bill.

It is for this reason that we would like the proposed legislation, once adopted, to be reviewed and debated in one year's time, in order to allow us to assess the effect that it, and the related regulations, have had. This will also give us the opportunity to see if, given the very particular context we now find ourselves in, we have succeeded in maintaining the delicate but important balance that I mentioned, between smooth trade flow between Canada and other countries, particularly the United States, and the flow of persons on the one hand, and maintaining and ensuring the security of Canada's borders, on the other.

This is essentially the purpose of my amendments, which would allow us to review the legislation in one year and also to hear from witnesses in committee.

It was pointed out to me earlier that there may be a jurisdiction problem.

I had an informal discussion with the government House leader, who told me that this bill specifies the particular committee we would like to review the legislation. We only mentioned the House standing committee.

The reason for this may be the Bloc's natural tendency to want to leave the job of assessing what is good for the population to duly elected members. We have some reservations regarding the other place, which is made up, as we know, of persons who are appointed, and not always for the right reasons. We acknowledge that there are some individuals in the other place who have exceptional professional and personal qualities. However, the fact remains that regardless of the intrinsic qualities of the individuals who make up the other place, the appointment process casts a shadow on the credibility of the institution in a so-called modern democracy such as Canada.

Obviously our natural inclination would be to have the House of Commons, which, as I said, comprises duly elected representatives, study this sort of thing. But if the technical nature of the amendments presents a major obstacle for the government or the other house and would lead ultimately to the defeat of these amendments, we would rather, and I will perhaps have the opportunity to discuss this informally with the minister, go the route of a single amendment by unanimous consent to have the appropriate joint committee of both houses look after the revision.

However, what is important, if only to lessen concerns and shadows of doubt in the bill, is for us to be able to integrate this clause in the body of the law. There is a lot of talk about it at the moment in what is perhaps not the right terminology in French. The aim essentially would be to use the terms used with respect to C-36, a sunset clause. In other words, the bill would have to be reviewed after a year.

I invite all my colleagues to support these amendment proposals. It goes without saying, as I said a few moments ago, that I would not want my colleagues to oppose these two motions just for technical reasons, even if they are important enough to them to cause their defeat. If our colleagues share our concerns, we could work things out to find a formulation that suited all the parties involved.

However, the objective of these two proposed amendments is valid. It is to ensure that we can review the bill after a year. It will mean that, in the present context and given that the bill was drafted long before the events of September 11, we could maintain this fragile but vital balance between the movement of goods and persons between Canada and abroad and the protection of Canadian borders.

Customs ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the coalition and take part in the debate on Bill S-23, an act to amend the Customs Act and to make related amendments to other acts.

Let me begin by reiterating how important trade is to Canada. We are historically a trading nation, going back to the beaver pelt. Without the free movement of goods and services between our borders, our standard of living would certainly be threatened. September 11 has changed how our economy is operating, including the movement of goods and services between our two borders.

There is no doubt the goal of the legislation is reasonable. However September 11 changed all the parameters on how we treat our borders. Provincial leaders are currently calling for perimeter security. Canadian ministers are travelling to Washington weekly to discuss trade and border issues with our counterparts.

Bill S-23 was drafted long before the September 11 event. The bill needs major changes in light of the present day discussions. The coalition believes the bill needs to go back to the drawing board or be scrapped all together. There is no doubt some of the amendments do have merit.

The coalition certainly understands how important trade is with up to a billion dollars a day going back and forth across our borders.

In a time of crisis our governments must work together to ensure that the flow of business services is not interrupted. Both countries benefit from this free flow of goods and services.

At this time I would like to quote from a trade quarterly report written by the Canada-U.S. Interparliamentary Group. On the topic of border crossings it does an excellent job in summarizing the problems. The report begins by saying:

One need look no further then the border to see the problems we are facing with a continental economy. While there are 116 border crossings between the United States and Canada that handle commercial traffic, almost 76% of commercial traffic uses only 9 crossings. Much of the infrastructure is obsolete, even at those crossings that were recently upgraded. Physical infrastructure appears to be only part of the problem, as some suggest that our borders are enforcing a 19th century attitude in a 21st century global economy.

I presume that is why the bill has been tabled. The report goes on to say:

NAFTA and the Shared Border Accord were supposed to facilitate border crossing between Canada and the U.S., although anecdotal evidence from those involved in cross-border activities suggest that crossing the border has actually gotten more difficult over the past five years, rather than easier.

Many propose a completely open border between Canada and the U.S., à la those European Community countries that signed onto the Schengen Agreement. These individuals point out that if Europeans, who were fighting each other as recently as 55 years ago, can open their borders to each other, then surely Americans and Canadians, who have not fired at each other in anger for almost 200 years, could do likewise.

There are others in both countries who believe that our border is already too open and would like to see more restraints put on border travel. In the U.S., Canadians are only temporarily exempted from the provisions of Section 110 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which requires all foreigners to be documented in and out of the country. If Section 110 were ever enforced, the consequences for those industries that rely on cross-border commerce, like the auto industry, would be devastating.

Proponents for stricter border control in Canada argue that without the border, Canada would be inundated with American fugitives, firearms and drugs. Those in the United States claim a tight border is required to keep out illegal immigrants, terrorists and drugs. While there is some validity to these claims, in reality over 99% of people crossing the border do not pose any security threat.

An official with the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (USINS) pointed out that with the approximate 30 million crossings at the various Niagara Falls-Buffalo border points, only 10,000 Canadians were deemed ineligible for entry into the U.S. However, 9,500 of these individuals qualified for a waiver to regain the eligibility.

The Canada-United States border does provide an effective tool for law enforcement agencies on both sides of the border. The border provides these agencies with greater latitude to question and search individuals than is permitted elsewhere in either country. The challenge is to utilize these powers only with that small percentage of traffic that poses a threat. We need to balance legitimate security concerns with traffic management. The current process is adding millions, if not billions, of dollars to the cost of cross border business.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance has calculated that for every minute that all trucks are held at the border, an additional $8 million is added to the direct cost of cross-border shipping. With an average delay of twenty minutes for trucks at the border, that means an additional $160 million has been added to shipping costs.

Both the American and Canadian governments have tried a number of experimental projects to reduce the time spent at the border. There is general agreement that there should be a minimal amount of paperwork done at the border, but there are concerns about the accuracy of the information currently being forwarded electronically. This is one area where the use of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) is the answer to many of the problems, but it must be shown to be beneficial to all parties involved.

With regards to the movement of people, pilot programs where individuals are pre-screened have had some success. These programs provide border authorities with more information about the individuals than they would otherwise obtain through the usual primary interview at the border. However, the success of these programs has been generally limited to those locations where the pre-screened individual benefits from a dedicated commuter lane that significantly reduces the crossing time.

In closing, we understand that trade is very important to the health of both countries. We believe that there is merit to some of the amendments, but we would like to see the bill go back to the drawing board in light of the events that occurred on September 11.

Customs ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill S-23 today. The Canadian Alliance is supporting the bill because it will speed up the flow of goods and people entering Canada.

Bill S-23 is actually the product of indepth consultations with trade and tourism sectors. As far as the amendments which have been introduced this morning, we will support these as well. We do not have any problem with them and it only makes sense to do that.

What I would like to address more than anything else is what is not in the bill that is so important at this time. While assisting with trade issues, the bill does address some equally important issues that we consider to be positive including new penalty structures, improved equipment, more strict controls over export mail and customs-controlled areas at international airports.

We all know that the world as we knew it before September 11 has changed a great deal. I strongly feel that Canada customs must change as well. Since September 11 our frontline officers have done an excellent job in securing our borders. Security is of the utmost importance. To date, Canada customs has been about collection and not about protection. It is time to reverse those. It is now about protection.

The Canadian Alliance would like to see Canada customs removed from the tax collection agency of revenue Canada and moved into a law enforcement department of the solicitor general. Long before the terrible events of September 11, the auditor general recognized the fact that with more than one hundred million travellers a year entering the country at 147 border points and 13 international airports, the risks to Canada's safety and security were extreme.

Last April the auditor general wrote about customs officers and said that their main role now was to protect Canadians against illegal activities such as smuggling or contraband or the unlawful entry of inadmissible people. He said that their audit raised some concerns about how well these risks were being managed. Since the tragedy on September 11, he had the opportunity to meet with the Canadian Police Association and customs and excise union. He said that both of these organizations, among many others, were in full support of moving customs out of revenue Canada and into the solicitor general department.

The role of customs officers is already very similar to other peace officers. Customs officers in the last year have been issued bulletproof vests, batons, pepper spray and have been given self defence and use of force training to better enforce our laws. Recruitment requirements are now more difficult. Labour Canada has also just contracted a consultant to study the inherent risks of the job and this consultant will undoubtedly look at the question of whether customs officers should be equipped with firearms.

Let me just read a paragraph out of the regulations that customs officers are required to follow in regard to security. Paragraph 16 of the regulations states that Customs officers shall not use force against members of the public where it is known or strongly suspected that the individual is carrying a weapon and considered dangerous if, in the judgment of the officer involved, the use of force would present an undue risk to their personal safety or to the safety of another officer or the public. In these circumstances officers shall note the pertinent details of the case, permit the individual to proceed unobstructed and then the officer shall notify police immediately.

One of the problems with this policy is that in our vast country many of the border crossings are hours away from local police response.

In other words, some dangerous character who arrives at the border can come into Canada because customs officers are not properly equipped or trained to detain and arrest and keep the individual from coming in.

I can understand why the revenue agency would not be equipped in that sense. In one agency we issue both bullet proof vests and calculators. That will not detain the most ardent of criminals. It is time to start issuing the proper equipment so customs officers can do a good job at the border of being able to arrest, detain and hold individuals for the police.

It is possible to do that but we must equip them properly. Under the circumstances customs officers are at risk because they do not have the tools to look after their needs. In particular they do not have the tools to do their work at border crossings where there is only one guard on duty. What chance would they have?

Across the southern border they have increased personnel by 5,400. The last figure I heard was that possibly somewhere around 100 to 130 individuals would be moved into these positions in Canada. It does not make any sense, particularly following September 11.

Why would we want to allow a known criminal, smuggler, big drug pusher or terrorist into Canada for any length of time to roam around and then hope the police would be able to round him up before the individual caused any real problem? That does not make sense. The people at the border crossings are our first line of defence. Let us give them the proper equipment and tools so they can do their job as the front line of defence. We must let them detain and let them arrest. Let us give them the tools to do that.

Another thing I find amazing is that at some border crossings where they only have one individual they are only open for eight hours. They shut the port down for anywhere from 12 to 16 hours. They put up a little orange cone indicating that the border is closed. That would really mean a great deal to somebody who wanted to get into Canada. It would not stop them whatsoever.

If anyone thinks the criminal element or terrorists will only try to come through our major ports they need to give their heads a shake. They know about these ports. They know about the ability to come into Canada. These crossings exist and they know it. That is where they will go.

Let us get serious about tightening them up. Let us get them out from under a collection agency and get them under a protection agency that knows what is required to enforce the law to better protect Canadians. It only makes sense to do that. I do not understand why we are hesitating or reluctant to do that at this time.

In 1998 the government passed Bill C-18 which for the first time in the history of Canada customs extended criminal code powers of detention and arrest to customs officers. Does it not make sense that if officers are to be given the power to enforce the criminal code they should come under a different agency than tax collectors or Revenue Canada? One would think that would be the case.

We are supporting Bill S-23 because we want the flow of goods and services to continue in an uninterrupted manner and we want to do the best we can to keep them going. However we must not forget that the top priority today as a result of September 11 is the protection and safety of Canadians, so let us do that.

Having said all that I have said, let us make sure we make it a lot easier and safer for our front line officers by equipping and training them properly, getting the right individuals into position and getting them out of collection and into protection.

Customs ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill S-23. My comments are based on the discussions that our caucus had following the proposals made by the hon. member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, who followed this bill on behalf of our party.

For the benefit of those who may not know it, Bill S-23 will change Canada Customs' controls and rules of operation within the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency.

First I want to mention two points. This is a bill that came from the other place. We are always somewhat uncomfortable with this way of doing things. We do not question the fact that the Parliament of Canada is bicameral, which means that it has two chambers. The same legislative process must be followed in each of the two chambers. We know these rules of operation and we do not question them.

However, the legitimacy of each chamber is not the same, since we feel that any legislation should first be dealt with by the true holders of democratic legitimacy, who are of course the elected representatives sitting in the House of Commons.

Let me do a bit of history. The reason our benches and the floor here in the House of Commons are green is because the Commons represent the grassroots, it is the people's chamber and it reflects the diversity found in the public.

It is no coincidence that, in the other place, the furniture and the floor are red. Why are they red? Because it is the chamber of the monarchy. When the Queen, who is theoretically the head of Canada, comes to our country, she never goes to the House of Commons. She goes to the Senate. There is even a chair reserved for her in the Senate. That is the big difference.

We examined this bill very seriously. The hon. member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles did so, but I also want to mention the rather exceptional work done by Sylvain Boyer, who helped us make the appropriate distinctions. Sylvain Boyer is a kind of behind the scenes thinker who very discreetly sets the tone for all our interventions.

Since we are discussing the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, we should remember that this agency is special in that it is not, in theory, part of the public service.

In the House, we debated a bill in which there were problems regarding unionization and labour relations. I think we will have the opportunity to come back to these issues.

We are generally in favour of Bill S-23. However marginally, it is a reminder of the events of September 11. It is obvious that Canada, a large continental country, which shares several thousands of kilometres of border with the United States, must have border controls. But these controls must not prevent freedom of circulation between Canada and the United States.

Why is it important to ensure that the flow of goods and people between Canada and the United States is as streamlined as possible? Because economic imperatives demand it, of course. Every day, thousands of people cross the Canada-U.S. border, as do thousands of dollars in goods.

We want there to be the necessary controls when circumstances require, but we also want fluidity between the two countries.

This brings me to another point. In our plan for a sovereign Quebec, it is clear that there will be no customs post between Quebec and English Canada. We will welcome any measure that encourages freedom of circulation.

This was in Mr. Lévesque's 1967 white paper. It was part of the 1980 referendum plan and the 1995 agreement: there will be no customs offices between a sovereign Quebec and the rest of Canada.

The bill before us contains a number of measures. The first has to do with providing for the expedited movement of persons who are precleared and authorized to travel freely between Canada and the U.S.

There will also be streamlined clearance procedures for low risk passengers by pre-arrival risk assessment of passenger information. This is the crux of the bill.

There are people who travel on a regular basis, such as MPs going from one place to another, business people, people in positions of authority which require them to make representations at various times. Obviously, because they travel frequently, are honest citizens and are known to customs officials, these people do not represent a threat to the integrity and security of either country. Provision must be made for very streamlined procedures for these individuals.

This bill addresses such a measure as it relates to requests for information provided by individuals and how it will be handled. We welcome this measure, and have no problem with it.

Another provision of this bill addresses the requirements for provision of information under the existing act. We have no problem with that either.

Obviously, we understand that people do travel and that information must always be available on who is on a plane, who is preparing to go through customs. This is a matter of security, and there may be a need to contact people quickly. We are, of course, in agreement with such a provision.

There is also going to be a harmonization of the provisions relating to the recovery of monies owing under this act, the Income Tax Act and the Excise Tax Act. This is self-evident.

Where the problem lies, and the reason, I believe, for the amendments presented by the hon member for Verchères--Les Patriotes, is the coming into effect of this law and the extremely important role played by the regulatory context.

The categories of individuals to be processed more rapidly are determined by regulation. Implementation of the law is determined by its regulations.

As for the various administrative penalties, the fact that there is provision for 250 different ones to be set out in the regulations concerning the various offences relating to the transit of goods and individuals poses a problem for us.

Moreover, this government's predilection for such vague provisions in a piece of legislation is most unacceptable.

Customs ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Unclear provisions.

Customs ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

The hon. member for Jonquière calls them unclear. Why not make it a habit in this House to introduce bills that are clear as to their intent, with provisions that can be evaluated, that will not present ambiguity to parliamentarians?

This is unfortunate, because the bill is based on good intentions. Of course, we disagree with the fact that it came from the other place but, overall, the Bloc Quebecois supports the harmonization of customs procedures.

Customs must be much more effective at clearing persons and goods. However, a power that is much too broad will be granted through future regulations, and the discretionary power given to the minister is also very broad.

We proposed amendments and I will read one:

85.1 At the end of the first year after the coming into force of this Act, the Minister shall prepare a report on the application of its provisions and of any regulations—

I will conclude by saying that, after the act has been in force for one year, we hope that an evaluation will be made of the measures triggered by this act.

Customs ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise here today to speak to not only the amendments but also the bill.

We all know that since the attack on the United States on September 11 the world has changed. Most important, North America has changed. We have to look at many areas not only to tighten up Canada's security but also to address the fact that through some of these measures our trade routes might be impacted.

Canada is a nation of trade. It was built on trade. Our biggest trading partner is the United States which we depend mostly upon. In order to achieve the goals that are needed in Canada and the United States, it is necessary for all government employees to address this concern. It impacts on our daily lives, particularly on the lives of those who are trying to move trade back and forth. We already have some information that companies are looking at moving their operations south of the 49th parallel because of some of these concerns.

Bill S-23 will address some of those concerns. That is why I say here today that I give qualified support to it. I still have many concerns with regard to what has not taken place, what has not been introduced in this bill, and the speed with which this has taken place, which in my opinion has not been fast enough on a number of issues.

There are concerns expressed by the public, not only here in Canada but also in the United States. One of the big concerns we hear is that here in Canada many people think that through co-operation with the United States we will lose some of our sovereignty, that we will lose what we take to be wholly Canadian. That is not true. That part of it is a myth.

Americans have concerns that Canada will not implement a lot of what it has been talking about with regard to our borders. That has grown over the years. Even as the ministers have stated in the House, we have been very lax. We have allowed a lot of our laws and policies to be abused. That can be addressed. All of those concerns can be addressed.

What we have to understand first is that it is only a border and we are dealing with a continent. In order to achieve that, we should be harmonizing as close as possible with the allies we trade with. That becomes the most important thing. We have to be able to move our goods back and forth. We have to look at ways of speeding up the movement of the legitimate people that come to Canada.

I will quote something by Gordon Giffin who was the U.S. ambassador to Canada until last April. He talks about harmonizing, but there is another issue he discusses. “We have talked about a perimeter of defence to try and offset some of the concerns that are happening at the border and I am strongly in favour of that”.

He goes on to mention: “Perimeter policy does not imply unilateral action. Actually, it offers an opportunity for Canada to define the agenda for this dialogue”. Here is the interesting part: “Since the 1950s we have jointly defended North American airspace through NORAD, American and Canadian military personnel working together with seamless binational command authorities. Both procedures were not unilaterally imposed by the U.S. and Canada is not less sovereign for its role in that initiative. Surely if we can have a military perimeter policy, we can find better ways to collaborate on the civilian side as well. Canada and the United States share much more than geography as our shared goals that provide the foundation for this task”.

The good news is that there are people here in Canada and the United States that are working toward achieving those goals. If Europe can figure out how to simply enact legislation that allows goods to flow freely, surely we can do no less here in Canada and the United States. It becomes mandatory.

In order to achieve that, we have to look at our customs agency. Most people in Canada have the mistaken impression that the customs agents are our first line of defence. In some aspects it is true on the inspection part. A real strange thing is that our customs agency is basically underneath the revenue department and not the justice system. The citizens of our country are depending upon those customs agents out there to stop the flow across our borders of certain goods or people yet they have no power to detain them nor the equipment to stop them.

I find that very strange as do the people in the United States and other countries. If we are going to base customs strictly on revenue and taxation, then at least give our customs officers calculators and let them know that is their mandate.

If we are going to do what is necessary in order to secure our borders, then let us properly equip our customs officers. Let us train them to be officers and not tax collectors. Let us put our first line of defence back where it should be, at our borders.

Today if a customs officer has a problem with people coming into Canada, if somebody coming across the border threatens a customs officer, if a customs officer feels that he is being threatened, if he or she feels that the people coming in are armed or dangerous, they are supposed to let them cross our border unimpeded and phone the RCMP. Coming from a province where some of our customs officers may be an hour to an hour and a half away from the closest RCMP detachment, I find that very strange. In a province like British Columbia, within an hour to an hour and a half people can disappear awfully fast. They can also swap any goods being brought across the border illegally without being noticed. That is a major concern. We hear this across the board regarding our custom agents and also the American agents.

Another area of concern is the sharing of information. This must be mandatory. As we receive information about safety concerns regarding the flow of people across our borders, we should be obligated to share those concerns not just with one or two, but with all law enforcement agencies in Canada and the United States. Until we are able to harmonize that information and finally come to the realization that we are no longer innocent people in the world and can no longer live underneath the old rules that we were used to, that we must tighten our security, we will always have these concerns.

To do that we have to implement some of the amendments that are put forward in this bill and hope that the government will listen and act upon them. That becomes of primary importance. If we are to have free travel and trade routes and keep that trade flowing to eliminate hours of backlog at the border, we must address not only the concerns of the American people but also the concerns of Canadians who have come forward so strongly since September 11.

Customs ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to speak to the bill today, not because of what is in it but for the opportunity to address issues that should be raised concerning the travel of people and commercial goods across the border between ourselves and the United States.

Before I address the specifics of the bill I will express our party's displeasure with the fact that this very important issue has been addressed once again at the Senate level. The issue, which before September was crucial for my riding in terms of ongoing economic viability, has become extremely important since September 11 yet is being addressed by a body that is unelected and unaccountable. This is a policy that the government has unfortunately followed all too often.

I will emphasize a point that a number of other members have made, that the bill and the issues it addresses were all addressed prior to September 11. We have said ad nauseam that our lives as individuals and as a society as a whole in North America have changed dramatically since September 11. As a result the bill is inadequate to deal with the issues around moving goods and people across the border between ourselves and the United States.

To digress for one moment, the Bloc has raised a couple of amendments. I express our support for those amendments. Since both the amendments deal with an early review of the legislation we would like to see the bill withdrawn and sent back to the planning stages because it is inadequate for the needs we faced before September 11 and even more so since the tragedy and the outflow from those events.

I will begin to address the balance that the bill attempted to reach, and that it clearly has not achieved, between the issues of security, the free flow of goods and people across the border, and, because it has raised its head, the issue of civil liberties for both travellers and employees on the Canadian side of the border.

Customs ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I wish I did not have to interrupt the hon. member but I must proceed to statements by members at this time. After question period he will have approximately seven minutes remaining in his intervention.

Bernard MascarenhasStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Karen Kraft Sloan Liberal York North, ON

Mr. Speaker, a constituent of mine from York North, Bernard Mascarenhas, worked as the managing director at Marsh Canada. On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, Bernard was working at the company's offices at the World Trade Center in New York City. He did not survive the catastrophic destruction of the terrorist attack.

Over 20 years ago Mr. Mascarenhas adopted Canada as his new country. He was a hardworking man who did very well in his profession. He was also a very humble man who gave much of himself to help those less fortunate. He loved his family and was devoted to his wife Raynette, son Sven and daughter Jaclyn.

In honouring the thousands of people who perished on September 11, we must remember that they were individuals like Bernard Mascarenhas who worked hard, gave to their community, loved and were loved.

Marine Conservation AreasStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Andy Burton Canadian Alliance Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a matter of great importance to my constituents. I have been working to amend Bill C-10, the badly flawed government bill on marine conservation areas.

Over 25 organizations, municipalities, chambers of commerce and fishing groups have made their concerns known to me and through me to the committee. Unfortunately less than half will have the opportunity to present their concerns to the committee. The government has done a poor job of consulting with British Columbians.

The Union of B.C. Municipalities passed a unanimous resolution calling on the government to consult widely prior to passing the bill. The bill has the potential to seriously hamper offshore oil and gas exploration on the west coast, a resource an ailing British Columbia economy badly needs to build its future.

I ask the government, on behalf of my constituents, to please listen to our concerns and delete clause 13. I ask it not to stand in the way of B.C.'s offshore oil and gas development.

Organ DonationsStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada lags behind other countries in organ donations despite the efforts of various groups and individuals.

The problem appears to lie with the relatives of people who are unexpectedly taken. Often the driver's licence or other documents declaring the deceased's wishes to donate organs are found too late or those wishes are simply not acted upon.

Organ transplant technology has advanced very rapidly in recent years. It is tragic that sick people cannot take advantage of this for lack of available organs. A national organ registry would help. Those who wished to donate organs would all be listed in the same place, making verification of their wishes easier. This would ensure that their wishes were carried out.

Let us all work to improve organ donations in Canada.

Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention MonthStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, October is Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month. The purple ribbon members of parliament have received represents the campaign to make Canadians aware of the importance of early intervention and prevention of child abuse and neglect.

Ever since the purple ribbon campaign was started by the Durham Children's Aid Society in 1992, a growing number of organizations dedicated to protecting children and children's rights have joined in. Last year 39 agencies participated.

The Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies reports that by working together these agencies are accomplishing their objective to educate the public and take the message to wider audiences.

During the month of October I encourage all my colleagues in the House to support this campaign and to focus on the work of children's aid societies so that one day, child abuse will become a thing of the past.

Amnesty InternationalStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I ask hon. members of the House to join me today in recognizing Amnesty International Week.

Amnesty International is among the most highly respected human rights organizations in the world and was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1977.

Amnesty's work enables people to make a difference. All around the world there are innocent people, poets, human rights activists, journalists and others, who are imprisoned, tortured, executed or who simply disappear. Amnesty International speaks out for the rights of these innocent people, telling officials that these individuals are not anonymous. Often it has led to their release.

Amnesty International's work is particularly relevant in the new world that has emerged since September 11. Amnesty's work on behalf of refugees and its commitment to human rights provides hope and courage in today's world.

I ask Canadians to join me today in lighting a candle to prove that, as the old Chinese proverb says, “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness”.

Canada Winter GamesStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I was delighted to travel to New Brunswick this fall. The residents of the cities of Bathurst and Campbellton were warm and inviting.

While there I learned that these cities will jointly host the 2003 Canada Winter Games. The Minister of Labour awarded the games to the Bathurst-Campbellton bid committee in 1999.

These games will see participants from Canada's ten provinces and three territories. The games will provide an opportunity for dedicated athletes to participate and compete against their peers. Races will be won, awards will be presented and friendships will be formed.

I was also made aware during that visit that the minister made a campaign promise to provide $2.5 million for these games. Has the minister fulfilled her promise to the people of New Brunswick and the Canadian athletes of the 2003 Canada Winter Games?

Order of CanadaStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Serge Marcil Liberal Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday, the Governor General of Canada presided over a ceremony for new members of the Order of Canada.

During this prestigious ceremony, 48 Canadians were honoured for their contribution to our nation. The Order of Canada is the highest honour for lifetime achievement.

I would like to pay tribute to these persons who, through their commitment, deserve the recognition of all Canadians.

I would particularly like to congratulate the Quebecers who received the honour. Their accomplishments have helped our society to develop and move in the right direction.

Canadian Museum of CivilizationStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Canadian Museum of Civilization launched an exhibit entitled “The Lands within Me”, in reference to the many places that have shaped the works of the 26 artists of Arab origin, of whom more than half have chosen to live in Quebec.

The works presented, both in their choice of medium and in the texts that accompany them, clearly illustrate that artistic expression cannot be dissociated from the human experience. All we need to do now is take the time to recognize how it affects us.

I would recommend this exhibition to everyone. There are pieces that are both stunning and significant, such as Karim Rholem's magnificent photograph, entitled “A Family Resemblance”. Rholem is a Quebecer of Moroccan origin who introduces us to the Giroux family, a family of 11 living in Sainte-Rose de Laval.

The exhibition's curator, Aïda Kaouk is right in stating that “The Lands within Me” invites us to broaden the view we have of others, who may be different in their origins, but who are similar in their human experiences.

Diamond IndustryStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


David Pratt Liberal Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday I introduced Bill C-402, an act to prohibit the importation of conflict diamonds into Canada.

We know the marketing lines that “diamonds are a girl's best friend” or that “diamonds are forever”, but to many people on the African continent, diamonds mean something completely different.

The illegal diamond trade has been used to finance the activities of rebel groups in places like Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. To many Africans, diamonds do not mean eternal love, they mean death, destruction and suffering.

This illegal trade must be stopped. It not only threatens human rights, political stability, economic development and peace and security in a number of areas, it also threatens the legitimate diamond trade in countries like Botswana, South Africa and indeed Canada.

We have been a leader in the Kimberley process which involves an international system for the certification of rough diamonds. We must work to ensure the Kimberley process is successful if we are to finally eliminate the trade in conflict diamonds.

Air CanadaStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Canadian Alliance Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, it seems the reduced fares announced by Air Canada may not be fair.

The discounts are significant, but Quebec City is not on the list of originating cities. In fact, the fare between Toronto and Quebec is $100 more than the fare between Toronto and Winnipeg. This is absurd.

For far too long, the people of Quebec City have paid exorbitant fares to fly. Air Canada is the only airline serving Quebec City. It would be unfair for it to increase its fares and benefit accordingly from its monopoly.

I want to assure this House and the people of Quebec City that I will monitor Air Canada's fares closely on all flights between Quebec City and other Canadian cities.

It is vital to ensure the rights of Quebec travellers are protected, and we will fight to see they are.

PeacekeepingStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to acknowledge in parliament two residents of Prince Edward Island who have been honoured as recipients of Canada's prestigious peacekeeping award.

They are Mr. Blair Darrach of New Haven, who served with the special forces units in the 1960s and 1970s, including two missions to Cyprus, and Mr. Thomas Albrecht of Albany, who served with the Canadian forces from 1963 to 1979, participating in missions to Cyprus, Egypt and the Golan Heights.

Blair, Tom and their families exemplify the best of our service men and women. They have shown a willingness to serve in some of the world's most troubled places and enhanced our nation's efforts to make this a more peaceful world.

I congratulate and thank them for a job well done and for the inspiration they provided to others.

Mackenzie-Papineau BattalionStatements By Members

October 19th, 2001 / 11:05 a.m.


Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to salute the unveiling of the national Mackenzie-Papineau monument honouring the bravery and sacrifices of the Canadians who fought against fascism in the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939.

Recognition of the Mac-Paps is long overdue. Former New Democrat MP Nelson Riis worked tirelessly to win Mac-Pap veterans and their survivors the war pensions they deserve.

The Canadians who volunteered for the Mac-Pap Battalion were true heroes, motivated by their convictions to risk everything in the name of freedom and democracy. They went despite attempts by the Canadian government of the day to stop them. Their valour in the field did our nation proud.

The Mac-Paps are an integral part of Canada's long history of involvement in the worldwide struggle against tyranny. That struggle continues today.

As Canadians and parliamentarians, it is our duty to support the members of the Canadian armed forces who serve our country today, the loved ones they leave behind, as well as to honour and provide for the veterans who served in the conflicts of yesterday.

The Mac-Paps have a rightful place in that storied heritage. May this new monument stand forever as a fitting reminder of their valour.

Tax HavensStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, the superintendent of financial institutions has asked Canadian banks to co-operate in the FBI's efforts to trace and freeze funds belonging to terrorist groups.

We have often asked the Minister of Finance to report on this and tell us whether such co-operation should extend to foreign branches of Canadian banks. This question is basic, since the funds often comprise dirty money, which is laundered in perfectly honest institutions, but in countries considered tax havens, which are very permissive and which, according to the OECD, do not look too closely at its source.

The major Canadian banks have a lot of branches in the Caribbean, a total of 50 for fewer than 2 million people, in a region that is the very best place for tax havens.

The Minister of Finance must answer these questions and unequivocally fight the practices of the tax havens, an excellent breeding ground for terrorists' financial power.

National SecurityStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, in the face of recent news of anthrax scares and terrorist threats around the world, I would like to take a moment to emphasize the importance of a calm and rational response.

It is understandable that at a time such as this individuals might give in to fear and panic. It is crucial that we all remain alert but it is equally important that we not succumb to the temptation to see the world only through the lens of our fear, amplified by repeat media broadcasts. This is exactly what the terrorists would want.

Common sense is our greatest ally as we struggle with the new realities of the world around us. The government has sought a reasoned and measured response to the threat which balances security needs with the individual rights of our citizens. We have taken strong measures to ensure the safety of all Canadians.

Once again I urge Canadians to remain strong, rational and level-headed as we all work together to confront this new world reality.