House of Commons Hansard #23 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was endangered.


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6:20 p.m.

Mississauga South Ontario


Paul Szabo LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Madam Speaker, I am prepared to answer all the questions the member has raised.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade manages its relationship with the diplomatic and consular community in Canada through the office of the chief of protocol. The department's deputy head has traditionally delegated the responsibility to interact with the diplomatic and consular corps to the chief of protocol, and in his absence the deputy chief of protocol.

As part of its duties, the office of the chief of protocol is to be accountable for upholding the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations so as to guarantee to this community that Canada will respect its rights to immunities and privileges under the convention. A corollary to this responsibility is that the office of the chief of protocol endeavours, to the extent possible, to ensure that diplomats and consular representatives respect Canadian laws and regulations.

In cases involving a breach of Canada's obligations under the Vienna convention, the offended diplomat entity can at times merit an apology. Each such incident is treated on a case by case basis. Traditionally this responsibility has been delegated to the deputy head of the chief of protocol or his representative.

In the specific case which the member raises in which a letter of apology was sent to the embassy of the Russian Federation in July 1999, the facts were deemed to merit such an action. The diplomat in question was handcuffed by the police, taken to the police station and detained for a number of hours. This form of detention of a diplomat is specifically prohibited under the Vienna convention, and thus an apology was provided.

This apology did not receive ministerial approval but was effected by the office of the chief of protocol under the authority delegated to him by the deputy head.

As a result of the department's analysis surrounding this recent tragedy, a number of corrective measures are being taken to strengthen the accountability and policy frameworks. As such, letters of apology will receive greater scrutiny in the future and, when appropriate, higher levels of sign-offs will be given.

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6:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, last week I directed a question to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans regarding the Canadian coast guard search and rescue dive team based on the west coast, on Sea Island. The question was this: why has the minister disbanded this dive team?

The Canadian coast guard dive team at Sea Island was founded as a pilot project in 1995. Previous to this, between 1985 and 1995, there were 36 deaths, at least 13 of which, it is suggested, could have been prevented had there been divers present. The coast guard dive team was operating on a Hovercraft out of the Sea Island base.

In a letter I received from the minister, the reasons put forward for disbanding the program were that there was risk to the divers and a minimal gain. While the letter was in transit, a tragedy did occur on the west coast. A car driven by Mr. Paul Sandhu went over a dike and ended up in the Fraser River. Tragically, Mr. Sandhu died in that accident.

There have been three reasons put forward as to why the dive team was disbanded. The safety of divers was one issue. Second, there was the issue of the need for a dive team. Third, there was a question of jurisdiction. Exactly whose responsibility is it for search and rescue dive capability on the west coast?

According to the minister, it is not the coast guard's responsibility. If it is not the coast guard's responsibility, then whose is it?

The Richmond Review published an article on this just recently. According to an interview with Vice-Admiral Ronald Buck, commander of maritime forces in the Pacific region, he said that it is not the department's mandate to respond to these types of emergencies, although it will respond when it is ordered to.

The Department of National Defence has bases in Esquimalt and Comox, but both are quite a bit removed from the Sea Island area where there is such heavy marine and air traffic exposed to considerable risks.

If it is not the responsibility of the Department of National Defence, then perhaps it is the RCMP's responsibility. The RCMP also has a dive team, but when contacted, RCMP Sergeant Dennis Erickson, program manager for the E division underwater recovery team, said that his squad is not set up as a rescue team although it will respond to distress calls. It is not the RCMP's mandate to perform underwater rescues.

In the tragic incident involving Mr. Sandhu, the RCMP divers arrived at the scene of the accident about 35 minutes after they were alerted. The hovercraft based team was there within three minutes of being notified.

The question of jurisdiction comes back to this: why was this team disbanded? Looking at the other two issues, that is, safety of the divers and need, I alluded to a report that said in the 10 years previous to when the dive team was originally operating, there were 36 incidents, 13 of which might have resulted in lives being saved.

There is no other site in B.C. and probably in Canada with a combination of search and rescue influences like the lower Georgia strait and the Fraser River. The factors include heavy year round traffic, a demonstrated high frequency of capsized vehicle incidents, close proximity to a busy year round port, and a major urban centre. All this is in proximity to an existing 24 hour a day crewed high speed vessel platform, with personnel who are very well trained.

The minister said he would be taking several weeks to review the issue. Will he commit to table in the House the parameters of the review, indicating the deadline that he has issued to his department for the review?

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6:30 p.m.

Labrador Newfoundland & Labrador


Lawrence O'Brien LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today about the government's commitments to safety on the water.

Before I continue, I wish to state that it is unfortunate that the automobile accident in Richmond, British Columbia, resulted in a death on February 18. My heartfelt sympathies go out to the Sandhu family on this tragic accident.

Rescue diving was initiated in the Canadian coast guard as a two year pilot project in 1995. The project was undertaken to determine the effectiveness of rescue diving as a complement to coast guard search and rescue. The pilot project was meant to gather necessary information.

Rescue diving is not a core mandate of the coast guard. However, the coast guard is not a static organization. It continuously reviews all aspects of its services to Canadians as part of the government's commitment to safety. This includes establishing projects as necessary to ensure that the coast guard has all the facts before recommending changes to the government.

In 1997, after two years of operating the rescue diving pilot project, the project was extended in order to collect further information. The coast guard did not have sufficient information to determine the effectiveness of providing a rescue diving capability.

In November 2000, after reviewing the information spanning a six year period, the coast guard, in light of the low demand and low effectiveness of rescue diving and out of concern for the safety of divers engaged in the very high risk operations in these activities, suspended the pilot project.

Ending a pilot project that is well known is a difficult decision. The dedication of the professional specialists in this project is well known. We acknowledge that. Let us not forget that this was a pilot project. It is not the mandate of coast guard to deliver underwater rescue services. It is noteworthy that the United States coast guard and the British royal navy terminated their programs for the same reasons that prompted our decision.

As members are aware, on February 21, 2001, the minister announced an independent review of the February 18 accident and of the basis of the decision to terminate the Sea Island rescue diving pilot project. Until this review is complete, and a final decision is announced, the rescue diving project will remain suspended.

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6:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Pankiw Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Madam Speaker, last Friday I asked the minister for multiculturalism to explain an advertisement that appeared on the online job search for the Government of Canada. This was a job with Correctional Service Canada that specifically excluded anybody from applying for the job who was not an Indian person.

The job advertisement was brought to my attention by a constituent of mine. She was highly offended that the Government of Canada would deny her the opportunity of even applying for a job, an administrative position in this case, with Correctional Service Canada because she was, according to the government, not the right skin colour or not the right race to qualify for this job.

The government's justification for this policy was what it called affirmative action. Affirmative action or employment equity are racist policies that discriminate against people on the basis of race in the hiring process. There are a couple of things that the proponents of these highly discriminatory and prejudiced race based hiring policies do not understand or are not able to answer. I would like to direct my comments to the minister about that.

First, I would like to explain to the minister, because the minister appears to not understand, that it is not possible to discriminate in favour of someone on the basis of race without discriminating against somebody else because of his or her race. For example, June Kuhn, a constituent of mine brought to my attention the fact that she was discriminated against because she was not an Indian. That is a blatant act of discrimination and is unjustifiable. The person who obtained the job in this case received it because he or she was discriminated in favour of while my constituent was discriminated against because of her skin colour.

These policies are not only racist but highly offensive. That is why over 90% of all Canadians are opposed to them. They are offensive in many ways, not the least of which is the message, which in this case singles out Indian people. The message is that they are inferior and incapable of competing for jobs on the basis of skills and merit, so they must therefore be provided with special circumstances that discriminate against other people.

I could go on for quite some time, but I will wrap this up by asking the minister a very specific question. I request a detailed answer. What does the minister say to my constituent, June Kuhn, who is denied the opportunity to even apply for a job with the Public Service of Canada because she is not the right race? What does he say to her? Instead of politically correct rhetoric and doublespeak, I would like the minister to be very specific in the answer. What does he say to someone, in this case my constituent, who was denied the opportunity to seek employment with the federal government because she is of the wrong skin colour?

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6:35 p.m.

Etobicoke North Ontario


Roy Cullen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, the concept of merit as the basis for hiring is one that we all agree on. However, good jobs and promotions elude many visible minorities and aboriginal men and women in Canada according to a recent report written by the Canadian Council on Social Development, the CCSD, and based on 1996 census data.

The study, “Unequal Access: A Canadian Profile of Racial Differences in Education, Employment and Income”, found that while keeping education levels constant, 50% of aboriginals were unemployed, followed by 34% of visible minorities and 25% for non-racialized groups. Even though labour force participation is higher for visible minorities than it is among other Canadians, their occupational status is generally lower.

The CCSD study also found that visible minorities earn less money than non-visible minorities with the same qualifications. The same is true for aboriginal people and women and persons with disabilities. Earnings gaps were found between visible minority groups and aboriginals and white males after accounting for factors such as education levels. The gaps increased if the individual visible minority person obtained his or her education in a foreign country.

Given the same education levels, aboriginal people were the least likely to be in the top income bracket, 5.8%, followed by foreign born visible minorities at 12.5%. Non-racialized groups were most likely, 20%, to be in the top income bracket.

In his paper, “Immigrant Skill Utilization in the Canadian Labour Market: Implications of Human Capital Research”, Professor Jeffrey G. Reitz speaks of the underutilization of skills in Canada which leads to substantial economic losses and has a negative impact on Canadian society.

Government and its institutions must represent the people they serve. Forty-six percent of Canadians report at least one origin other than English or French. In order to represent all of this diversity we must ensure that we find out why they are not equally represented in our institutions and set strategies in place to rectify that. Good government ensures that we help Canadians identify and remove barriers to full participation in Canadian society.

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6:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

It being 6.39 p.m. the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6.39 p.m.)