House of Commons Hansard #194 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-55.


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

moved that Bill C-415, an act to amend the criminal code (hate propaganda), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to speak to this legislation which I first tabled in the House almost 12 years ago. It was on June 27, 1990 that I tabled Bill C-326 to amend the criminal code hate propaganda provisions.

The bill is straightforward; in fact it is a single page. The purpose of the bill is to amend the hate propaganda and promoting genocide provisions of the criminal code to include in the definition of those who are part of the “identifiable group” that is protected under these provisions the ground of sexual orientation.

Under the current provisions of the criminal code hate propaganda sections, identifiable group means any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion or ethnic origin. My amendment would add the words “sexual orientation”. I hasten to add that in the future I would strongly support expanding this provision even further to include, for example, the grounds of sex, and physical and mental disability, to include the provisions that are covered by section 15 of the charter of rights.

The section on hate propaganda has been in the criminal code since 1970. It was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Keegstra case. I will quote from one of the judgments of the Supreme Court of Canada as to the importance of this legislation. It stated:

The harms caused by [hate propaganda] run directly counter to the values central to a free and democratic society, and, in restricting the promotion of hatred, Parliament is therefore seeking to bolster the notion of mutual respect necessary in a nation which venerates the equality of all persons.

That is the purpose of this hate propaganda legislation. I would note as well that two major sections are encompassed by this, section 318 on the advocacy of genocide and section 319 on the public incitement of hatred.

Some might ask what about those who want to engage in legitimate debate about a whole range of issues, including the issue of gay and lesbian equality; or what if our religious beliefs, for example, force us to the conclusion that there is something evil about gay and lesbian people and that is an essential part of our religious beliefs? That speech is protected under the provisions of section 319 in a couple of areas.

First of all, there are safeguards in subsection 319(3). It states that no person shall be convicted of an offence under this subsection if, among other grounds, in good faith he expressed or attempted to establish by argument an opinion on a religious subject. There are other safeguards as well. In addition I would note that a prosecution under this section can only proceed with the consent of the attorney general, so there is that additional safeguard.

I want to take one moment to respond to a concern that has been raised by some members. That is the suggestion that because section 318 of the criminal code on advocating genocide does not include the protections in subsection 319(3) somehow we should not move ahead to include sexual orientation in the overall definition of “identifiable group”.

I would hope that no one in the House would seriously argue that one should be permitted to advocate genocide, which is the deliberate destruction of an entire group under the guise of some sort of religious freedom. I do not think anyone in the House would advocate that. If there is to be opposition to this bill, I would hope that it certainly would not be on that particular ground.

If we amend subsection 318(2) of the code, it also has an impact on other federal legislation such as for example with respect to the interception, seizure and forfeiture of hate materials by agents of the state in other sections of the criminal code. The Canada Post Corporation Act authorizes the seizure of hate propaganda as defined in this section. The Customs Tariff Act prohibits the importation into Canada of material that constitutes hate propaganda within the meaning of the criminal code and the Broadcasting Act as well. This applies to those sections also.

Members might ask why it is important to include sexual orientation. I will not take the full 20 minutes because I want to give other members an opportunity to participate in the debate, but I want to give one very graphic and powerful example of why this is important.

There is a fellow named Fred Phelps from the United States. Fred Phelps hates gay people. In fact, he operates a website called If we went to that website we would find that it is full of hatred. It has an image of a young man named Matthew Shepherd, who was brutally beaten, tortured and left to die on a fence in Wyoming because he is gay. It has a picture of him burning in hell. On the website Fred Phelps celebrates the fact that according to him Matthew Shepherd has been in hell, as of today, for 1,326 days.

Fred Phelps wanted to come to Canada to burn the Canadian flag and to promote hatred against gay and lesbian people in Canada. Many of us were concerned about that. The RCMP in Canada said they would like nothing better than to have the tools to stop this hate purveyor from coming into Canada to promote his hatred, but they said because of the provisions of the criminal code they could not do that. I quote for example Sergeant Pat Callaghan who is the head of Ottawa--Carleton's hate crimes unit. He said:

If this was done against a Catholic, a Jew or a black person, charges could be laid. If we had that legislation, we wouldn't have to put up with his nonsense on Monday. We could have told him, “If you show up and start spreading this hate, we'll arrest you”.

That is as it should be. That is a very important reason for promoting and supporting the legislation.

As well I would note it is important because the impact of hate literature is very destructive. Hate propaganda is very destructive. It has an impact on gay and lesbian people who are struggling with their sexuality in terms of their own sense of self-esteem and self-respect.

One woman showed me a leaflet that came in the mail. She has a young son who is gay. The leaflet was full of hatred. It was a diatribe of hatred. She said “Imagine, Svend, how this affects my son” and how it affects other people, young people like Hamed Nastoh, a young man who, in despair after having been bullied and brutalized by his classmates, threw himself off a bridge in British Columbia not that long ago. There are others who, because of the failure to clearly condemn this kind of hate propaganda, feel that somehow there is a licence to attack gay and lesbian people.

Rob Peterson, for example, a young law student at the University of New Brunswick was brutally attacked in November 1999. He was kicked in the face, punched in the face, repeatedly called a fag and seriously injured. The failure of this country and of our government to say that hate propaganda is unacceptable creates an environment in which these kinds of attacks are in fact deemed more acceptable.

Of course the fact that we have hate propaganda legislation that prohibits hate propaganda on certain grounds but excludes gay and lesbian people sends out the very clear message that somehow we are less than equal. The failure to include gay and lesbian people sends out the message that we are in fact second class citizens in our own country. That as well is clearly not acceptable.

Finally, I want to note that in terms of the legislation, it has some of the broadest base of support of any private member's legislation, indeed sometimes government legislation, that has come before the House. Every provincial and territorial attorney general supports the bill. In fact in November last year there was a meeting of provincial, territorial and federal attorneys general and they unanimously called on the government to move ahead to adopt the legislation.

I see at least one member of parliament here from Alberta. The attorney general of Alberta, Dave Hancock, pointed out that protecting gays from hateful propaganda has nothing to do with endorsing homosexuality. Here is what he said:

I support the hate crime legislation which prohibits people from spewing hate against anybody for any reason. There are appropriate ways to discuss issues in our country...and you don't need to put forward hateful literature. It doesn't matter what you believe about sexual orientation.

I issue a special plea to my friends in the Canadian Alliance. I hope they will listen to their colleagues the provincial attorneys general in every jurisdiction in Canada on this issue.

This is an opportunity for the Alliance to take a stand on an important issue. On every other occasion, when the issue of equality or respect for gay and lesbian people has come before this parliament, the Canadian Alliance has voted against that legislation. I am hoping today will be different. I am hoping that today members of the Canadian Alliance under the new leadership of the member for Calgary Southwest will in fact have the wisdom to recognize that they should be supporting this legislation which has such broad support right across the political spectrum.

In fact, I have another letter which was sent by Mike Harris and Howard Hampton jointly calling on the federal government to move ahead on this legislation.

I want to quote as well the House leader for the Canadian Alliance, the member for West Vancouver--Sunshine Coast, who said that he supports this change in legislation. In fact, in a public statement he said “It makes sense to me. I don't believe in incitement of hatred against anybody”. I hope other members of that caucus will support this as well.

In closing I want to say that if one is allowed to dedicate legislation to anyone, I would like to dedicate this bill to the memory of Aaron Webster. He was the British Columbian who was brutally beaten repeatedly with a baseball bat in a park in British Columbia for one reason and one reason only: because he was gay. I hope that this parliament will send out the strongest possible signal that hate crimes and hate propaganda of any sort, whether it is racism, anti-Semitism, whether it is directed at gay and lesbian people or people with disabilities, has no place in Canada.

In fact, at Aaron Webster's funeral his two sisters, Pamela Miller and Faith Quintillan, both of whom live in Alberta, said that they hope their brother's legacy will be tougher laws to protect gays and lesbians. I hope that this parliament will heed that plea.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Beauharnois—Salaberry Québec


Serge Marcil LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Madam Speaker, I am most pleased to speak today to Bill C-415, an act to amend the Criminal Code, which deals with hate propaganda, introduced by the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas.

This bill would amend the definition of “identifiable group” outlined in the criminal code provisions on hate propaganda. It would add “sexual orientation” to the criteria used to establish that a group comes under the definition of “identifiable group”. By ensuring that a group is considered as an “identifiable group” under the terms of the definition, the provisions on hate propaganda would apply to this group.

For more than 30 years, the criminal code has targeted the promotion of hate. Provisions on hate propaganda were added to the criminal code to avoid the difficulties associated with using libel provisions to take legal action with respect to a group as opposed to individuals.

The provisions that were added to the criminal code in 1970 were based on the recommendations of the special committee on hate propaganda in Canada, which submitted its report in 1965 to the justice minister at the time.

This committee, chaired by Maxwell Cohen, included notable personalities, such as the future justice minister and Prime Minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, and another future justice minister, Mark MacGuigan. It was under Mr. Trudeau's government that these provisions were added to the criminal code.

These provisions prohibit the dissemination of hate messages targeting an identifiable group. This term is currently defined as any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion or ethnic origin.

What offences are created under this provision?

First, encouraging genocide or promoting genocide is considered an offence. Genocide is defined as killing of members of the group, or deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction, with intent to destroy in whole or in part any identifiable group. It is interesting to note that adding sexual orientation to the criteria used to define “identifiable group” would expand the usual meaning of genocide, which normally applies to a race or a people.

The second offence mentioned in the provisions dealing with hate propaganda is communicating statements in any public place and thereby inciting hatred against any identifiable group, where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace. From the condition attached to this provision, it seems that its main purpose it to protect public peace.

The third offence is communicating statements, other than in private conversation, which wilfully promote hatred against any identifiable group. It seems that this provision is aimed at protecting members of a particular group rather than the state.

It should be noted that, apart from statements made in public or in private to advocate or promote genocide, all other offences require an element of public communication. This shows that, even before the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was adopted, legislators were careful not to interfere in cases where ideas and opinions were expressed in private by an individual.

In recent years, the Internet has been used as a means of communicating hate propaganda against identifiable groups. This is why, in the fall, the government added a provision to deal with this problem in Bill C-36, the anti-terrorism legislation.

The provision in question authorizes the court to order the deletion of hate propaganda stored on and made available to the public through a computer system within the jurisdiction of the court. This would allow for the deletion of any offensive material in cases where the person who posted it is not known or is outside the country.

Canada is now involved in negotiating a protocol on the Council of Europe's cybercrime convention signed by some 30 other countries in November 2001. Among other things, the convention would provide for international co-operation on investigations and legal proceedings regarding certain offences. The protocol would extend the benefits of the convention to offences related to hate propaganda. The question raised in Bill C-415 is whether legislative provisions dealing with hate propaganda should be extended to a group that is identifiable because of its sexual orientation.

In considering this issue, we must take into account the fact that in the Keegstra case, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the provisions on hate propaganda interfere with the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of rights and freedoms. However, by a slim majority of 4 against 3, the supreme court confirmed the provisions as being a reasonable limit in a free and democratic society.

One of the areas examined by the supreme court was the damage caused by the promotion of hate toward identifiable groups. It stated that the damage was caused on two levels: the members of the group singled out by the hate propaganda and society as a whole. The court found indications of the damage caused to groups identified by colour, race, religion or ethnic origin and stated that the protection of identifiable groups was a pressing and important goal aimed at by the legislation.

We must ensure that any amendment made to those provisions will not bring about some imbalance between freedom of expression and protection of minorities that could jeopardize the provisions regarding hate propaganda.

Before adding to those groups, we must ensure that there is enough hate propaganda targeting the group to justify its inclusion under the protection provided by the provisions on hate propaganda.

The Minister of Justice supports this bill. I think this issue should be given careful consideration before we decide whether Bill C-415 should go forward.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Madam Speaker, I will take a few moments to speak about the merits of this bill.

In recent years, as parliamentarians, we have sent a number of messages to the effect that we wish to treat homosexuals with all the respect and equality inherent in our support for diversity.

In 1997, the House passed an amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act to make sexual orientation a prohibited ground of discrimination.

Following the Rosenberg decision, we also passed a bill to amend public pension plans.

Two years ago, we passed an important bill recognizing that a partner in a same-sex relationship is entitled to exactly the same benefits in all federal statutes.

Hate propaganda is something even more serious, because we are sending the public a message. We are sending a message that when there is hate propaganda based on sexual orientation in public messages, when particular groups make fun of homosexuality or treat homosexuals badly, those who engage in such behaviour will be charged and, as legislators, we expect the courts to take this into account.

This is what the bill introduced by the member for Burnaby—Douglas is proposing. He is asking that the criminal code be amended so that we can ensure that just as we do not tolerate discrimination against those of a different colour from the majority, so we will not tolerate hate propaganda based on sexual orientation.

We all remember that the question of hate propaganda had been examined by a working group in the early 1960s. It was the Cohen group. They told us that it was very important to remain vigilant. At that time, for instance, in various parts of this country for isntance, the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacist groups were advocating things that those who believed in equality would have found most repulsive.

Section 318 of the criminal code was amended. We do not tolerate hate propaganda against a person or a group based on the colour of their skin, their race, their religion or their ethnic origins. The member for Burnaby--Douglas is right to want to add sexual orientation to the list.

I know that in Canada as well as in Quebec, there are still many more young people of homosexual orientation who commit suicide because they are victims of prejudice and have difficulty taking their place in society. The more clearly we condemn discrimination and hate propaganda, the more clearly, as a society, will we be helping young people who discover their homosexuality to accept themselves.

This is what I had to say. Again, I join the member for Burnaby--Douglas in inviting all members of parliament to support this bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the matter. While I cannot speak for the Canadian Alliance on the issue I can speak for myself and my constituents.

I have no doubt that every member of the House is firmly opposed to all forms of genocide and the public incitement of hatred against others. At the same time it is our duty as parliamentarians to ensure that any legislation to censure these acts is consistent with both the principle of fundamental justice and our Canadian ideal of a free and democratic society. I prefer to deal with the issue on a principled and rational basis than on the emotional basis that has sometimes accompanied the debate.

In 1995 the Reform Party put forward a persuasive argument against adding section 718.2 to the criminal code. The section instructs sentencing judges to take into consideration whether offences are motivated by hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental of physical disability, sexual orientation or any similar factor.

Reform Party members opposed the addition of the section on the basis that all criminals should receive appropriate sentences regardless of their reasons for committing a crime. The Alliance continues to maintain that political and social ideas that may motivate an offender to commit a crime are irrelevant. What is relevant are the facts of the crime and how to deal appropriately with the offender. Similarly, victims who suffer from crimes motivated by greed should never be treated with less dignity than victims of crime based on hatred.

For similar reasons members of the Canadian Alliance opposed the definition of terrorist activity in the first anti-terrorism legislation, Bill C-36, which referred to the religious, political or philosophical motivations of a person committing a terrorist act. People's political or religious thoughts at the time should have no bearing on whether they are convicted of a terrorist offence or on the severity of the sentence they receive if convicted.

The issues we are dealing with in the hate propaganda laws are somewhat more nuanced and complex. Some speakers glossed over the distinctions between hate propaganda and advocating genocide. These are very different issues and considerations, yet they seem to lump them all together.

I do not intend to wade into the convoluted and intricate arguments that surround the discussion of how freedom of speech can or cannot be applied to hate literature. However I would point to two specific concerns in the bill which must be addressed and which form the grounds of my opposition to the legislation.

First, the legislation would extend protection from hate propaganda to some groups while excluding others. While the bill would add sexual orientation to the list of groups who may claim protection from hate literature, a number of other Canadians who may be targeted for reasons of age, health, disability, social status or a number of other characteristics would not be afforded the same protection.

What concerns me is not only the piecemeal way we are approaching the law but the exclusion of a number of vulnerable groups in our society that are routinely subject to discrimination and inequality. Discrimination based on age will present an increasingly difficult moral dilemma in the ongoing public debate surrounding euthanasia and how we treat elderly members of our society. Promoting hatred or genocide against those perceived by some to be a drain or to no longer be contributing members of society is a real concern. It will undoubtedly present a challenge for us in the future, particularly in the contemporary climate of modern technology.

A more broadly based approach would assist in addressing the challenges the mentally or physically infirm may face from those who advocate eugenics or euthanasia. The unfortunate case of Robert Latimer, a father who took the life of his severely disabled daughter in the hopes of relieving her pain and suffering, has brought the issue to the forefront of moral and ethical debate in Canada.

Groups representing disabled Canadians have voiced concerns that they may become targets without their consent. To address the issue there are two possible solutions. First, the definition of identifiable group could be expanded along the lines of our current standard in the charter of rights and freedoms. The charter currently extends protection from discrimination on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, or mental or physical disability.

Amending the definition in this manner has been suggested in the past. In April, 1985 the Special Committee on Pornography and Prostitution recommended the definition be broadened to include sex, age, and mental or physical disability. The Law Reform Commission of Canada recommended the same so the provisions would be consistent with the charter of rights and freedoms. A broader definition would be consistent with international standards such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which guarantees that everyone is entitled to rights and freedoms:

--without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Second, I would prefer to remove the definition that applies to the offence of advocating genocide, since genocide in itself is self-defining. This way any group which found itself subject to abuse could seek and receive the necessary legal protection.

It is second reading and I am not entitled to move an amendment. It will therefore have to wait. At the same time, given the shortcomings of the bill I cannot support it either.

Another concern about the legislation relates to the issue of legal defences. Section 319 of the criminal code proscribes public incitement of hatred. One of the four defences set out in the section would likely preclude prosecution in the context of the expression of a religious opinion. Subsection 319(3) reads:

No person shall be convicted of an offence under subsection (2)

(b) if, in good faith, he expressed or attempted to establish by argument an opinion on a religious subject--

These defences do not currently apply to section 318. There is a substantive difference between section 319 and section 318. However problems immediately arise that need to be addressed, and Bill C-415 ignores the difficulty in a simplistic way.

The absence of defences in section 318 could pose a problem for a number of common publications including the Bible, the most widely read and widely published book in Canada and across the globe. This would affect both Christians and Jews. In addition, many Muslims do not believe homosexuality should be permitted. Specific books of Islamic law dictate that homosexuals should be punished harshly. Under a broad definition of the law this could arguably fit into the definition of advocating genocide based on sexual orientation.

Is this the intention of the amendment? If it is, or if this is its effect, we cannot support it. I do not believe this kind of material was intended to be prohibited under these laws. However without specific defences in place individuals could be subject to costly prosecutions. Religious publications of many varieties could be subject to censorship or even prohibition. If Bill C-415 passes second reading we must require the committee to consider which legal defences would be appropriate in this context.

The Canadian Alliance has always promoted equal treatment of all Canadians under the law. However we are not in favour of preferential treatment of any group, something the legislation in its current form would do. We must be mindful that one man's or woman's freedom is not arbitrarily exchanged for another's based on what happens to be the current political flavour.

I will continue to work to extend equality and freedom from discrimination to all Canadians. Although I will not be supporting his bill I thank the hon. member for Burnaby--Douglas for bringing the matter forward for debate.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is my intention to speak for only a few moments to the initiative brought forth by the hon. member for Burnaby--Douglas.

I want to state categorically for the record that both the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and I as a private member for the riding of Fundy--Royal are in wholehearted support of Bill C-415. The bill would amend subsection 318(4) of the criminal code and replace it with the following:

In this section, “identifiable group” means any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.

To illustrate the issue I will being members back to Fredericton, New Brunswick on the evening of November 7, 1999. A young man named Robert Peterson was walking home on Regent Street after a night out with his friends. His only crime that evening was walking home. He was heinously attacked in a brutal and severe fashion. As a result Robert Peterson, a law student at the University of New Brunswick, ended up with his eyes blackened. He required stitches on both sides of his face. The motivation for the crime was clearly established as a gay bashing. He was attacked merely because of his sexual orientation.

Moments ago a reference was made to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in terms of how it distinguishes discrimination if not racism and does not include sexual orientation in its list. The declaration was written by a man named John Peters Humphrey who came from my riding of Fundy--Royal.

Things change in society. We learn to add where appropriate. Also in my riding of Fundy--Royal is Gordon Fairweather who was Canada's first human rights commissioner and the hon. member for Fundy--Royal from 1962-78. He believes sexual orientation must be added to the code.

The hon. member for Burnaby--Douglas said he wanted to dedicate his initiative to the memory of Aaron Webster. I want to send a signal on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada that the heinous beating of Robert Peterson will not be forgotten. In his name we support the initiative of the hon. member for Burnaby--Douglas. I thank him for the opportunity to contribute to the debate.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Mississauga South Ontario


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

Madam Speaker, I would like to add a couple of comments on Bill C-415 which is a bill to amend the criminal code with regard to hate propaganda. It also seeks to expand the definition of what is called an identifiable group, in the area of hate propaganda in the criminal code, to include any sector of the public distinguished by sexual orientation.

This bill makes me ask the question: How are our laws made and conformed? We went through the debate some time ago on the matter of amending the charter to include sexual orientation as prohibitive grounds for discrimination. One of the discussion points dealt with a list. If we make a list then someone must be left out. It is an interesting point for me because I would have thought that charter amendments to the human rights code, or whatever, would automatically be conformed in legislation. I am not sure about the legal point of whether all legislation which emulates a list would have or should have been conformed. I am not sure why that is the case. Therefore, I wanted to identify that question and get the answer.

Many groups within our society could be identifiable. Currently the criminal code specifies colour, race, religion, and ethnic origin. Bill C-415 seeks to add the identifiable group sexual orientation. I do not think there is any question with regard to the principle matter of hate propaganda. I have often thought that to have a list, if it tends to leave an identifiable group out, is perhaps not as inclusive as it should be. I would have thought the criminal code would identify hate propaganda as a criminal offence, period.

Regardless, Canadians, citizens or not, would be covered by the charter provisions, the provisions of the human rights code and by the laws of Canada. We should seek to be more inclusive in the legislation by not creating lists which somehow seek to be more inclusive when the existence of the list itself presumes that someone is left out.

As time goes on other groups will say to include them too. All of a sudden we would get into a situation where we would have to balance the relative priority. Have we done legislation a service by somehow continuing to change it? Provisions such as this appear in a number of pieces of legislation. I am not sure whether or not we have the formula for making changes to the extent that the intent is to make a parallel. That parallel should be consequential to the main change that was made and all other related references, in whatever pieces of legislation, would consequentially be made.

I wanted to raise that point not so much with regard to the specific bill and what it is seeking to do but rather to identify that it seems to be a long way around to do something that should be done automatically. The member should not have to have a bill before this place to do something which this House has already dealt with.

It is an unusual situation. I hope that in the future as we come to similar matters, whether they be government bills or any other bills, they be more omnibus in nature and seek to make consequential conforming changes which would reflect the decisions of this place. In this way the same debates would not happen over and over again.

I thank the member for raising the bill. I congratulate him on being selected in the lottery and having his bill become votable. Obviously he has sought and obtained substantial support for his bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is the House ready for the question?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

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

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is it agreed that we see the clock at 6.30?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


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

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Madam Speaker, the year 2002 is the 20th anniversary of the launching of the United Nations convention on the law of the sea.

In the 1970s and the early 1980s the Government of Canada strongly supported the law of the sea and was one of the first nations to sign it in 1982. The convention has been in legal force since 1994 but Canada has yet to ratify it.

In the 1993 election campaign, we Liberals promised to ratify the law of the sea. In 1994 and in 1995 Canada's foreign affairs ministers confirmed in the House that the government would ratify the convention. Concurrently the government tabled Bill C-98, the oceans act. In it Canadian maritime boundaries and substantive rules were harmonized with the requirements of the convention.

The official explanation for not ratifying it is that the government is waiting for a “high seas and fisheries enforcement regime” which needs to be put into place. Last December Canada ratified the related spinoff United Nations agreement on straddling and highly migratory fish stocks. The straddling stocks enforcement regime is now in place. Therefore the question is why is the government still waiting? The question is asked because not ratifying the law of the sea has serious disadvantages.

The first is that Canada claims a 12 nautical mile territorial sea over which it exercises sovereignty. It also claims a 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone and the right to certain resources, such as oil and gas and some forms of marine life, on the continental shelf beyond the 200 nautical mile zone.

In the absence of ratification, Canada cannot forward any claim to the commission on the limits of the Canadian continental shelf. Our claims are not recognized in law and therefore remain unenforceable. Apparently the Russian government is about to announce continental shelf claims which could overlap with Canadian claims. Having ratified the law of the sea, Russia will have a considerable advantage over us.

Second, Canada is at a disadvantage as a non-party of the law of the sea for other reasons. Article 234 of the law of the sea convention, I am told, would provide Canada with clear legal authority over the Northwest Passage, a most important route for environmental and economic reasons. Moreover, Canada cannot be a member of the law of the sea tribunal which could rule on crucial issues.

Third, article 18 of the Vienna law of treaties convention obliges Canada to refrain from acting inconsistently with the law of the sea but does not confer the benefits of the law of the sea.

Fourth, most parties to the convention are now planning to establish all their maritime boundaries as allowed by the convention. Canada however is taking selective advantage of the convention and enjoying many of its benefits without assuming the responsibilities that go with the benefits. It is profiting without paying, so to speak.

Fifth and last, all industrialized states except for the United States and Canada have ratified the convention. The U.S. congress may introduce a bill next year which would lead to the United States government's ratification of the convention. This would leave Canada in the company of a small number of states, such as the Congo and Botswana, outside the scope of the convention.

To conclude, Canada was a leader in the negotiations of the law of the sea convention and also gained most from it. The 12 years leading to the drafting and conclusion of the convention provided Canada with a leadership role in the international system. Evidently we have lost ground but we can regain it by ratifying.

I am therefore asking the parliamentary secretary--

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Order. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford Ontario


Aileen Carroll LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question which as usual is well researched and hits dead on the target.

As recently stated in the House, it is the policy of the government to ratify the United Nations convention on the law of the sea as soon as possible, bearing in mind it is the primary duty of the government and ourselves to protect Canada's fish stocks. This means an effective international fisheries regime for straddling and highly migratory fish stocks outside the 200 mile exclusive economic zone.

By way of background, I note that the UNCLOS was opened for signature in Montego Bay, Jamaica on December 10, 1982. This marked a culmination of more than 14 years of work by over 150 countries. The convention currently has 158 signatories and 138 parties. The convention entered into force on November 16, 1994, and is now binding and effective for states which are party to it.

Canada signed the United Nations convention on the law of the sea in 1982, after being one of the most active participants in the negotiations. Although the UNCLOS was one of our highest priority treaty negotiations in the 1970s, Canada initially delayed ratification in the mid-1980s due to its opposition to its seabed mining provisions.

A satisfactory resolution to the seabed mining issue was found in 1994 through an agreement amending UNCLOS. However increasing concerns about the failure of the United Nations convention on the law of the sea to address the problems of overfishing of straddling stocks prevented Canada from proceeding with ratification. Consequently, it was agreed that Canada would ratify when an effective enforcement regime for high seas fisheries was in place.

Since 1992 Canada has focused its efforts on the development and adoption of the UN agreement on straddling and highly migratory fish stocks, UNFA. This agreement fills these gaps by establishing this management regime.

UNFA entered into force last December. It is an excellent first step toward establishing the effective high seas fisheries regime for which we are looking. However UNFA is not yet in force for a number of the significant participants who are fishing off of Canada's shores. In this regard I note that the European Commission has stated its intention for the EU and its member states to ratify the UNFA by the end of this year, 2002.

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6:20 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for her comprehensive reply and background that she has given to us. I also thank her for the reference to the European Commission and its intention to ratify the straddling stock convention by the end of the year.

Considering the disadvantages to Canada for not ratifying, could the parliamentary secretary give an indication to the House as to when Canada plans to ratify the United Nations convention on the law of the sea in view of the very reasons that I described earlier in my presentation?

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6:20 p.m.


Aileen Carroll Liberal Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford, ON

Madam Speaker, the recent entry into force of the UN agreement on straddling and highly migratory fish stocks is an important step in this process and will be considered with regard to the question of timing. My understanding is that it is not a question of if we will, but when we will. The priority is the establishment of the enforcement regime.

I believe, as the hon. member does, that the European Commission's ratification will and should be a trigger for us. I quite personally undertake, having learned something through this process, to press the issue within the department and to request an explanation of when that timing will be. Should it be later rather than sooner, I would like to hear the answer for that, having listened very carefully to the hon. member's rationale and good reasons.

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6:25 p.m.


Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC

Madam Speaker, tonight I would like to come back to the representative for the Minister of Industry about a question that I asked of the minister on Wednesday, May 22. I asked him to confirm or deny information that was given by a number of media outlets the day before. According to the media, the Minister of Industry had been given a report that recommended permanently closing the Saint John, New Brunswick and Lévis shipyards.

In his response, the minister said that he was considering all options. He mentioned that it was up to the shipyards to decide whether or not they would close. The power the Minister of Industry and the federal government has is great. He is capable of influencing MIL Davie's decision. MIL is the former name of the Lévis shipyard.

On Monday, I wrote the Minister of Industry. I spoke with him yesterday and we gave him a document. I invited the minister to come and visit the shipyard, in order to understand the situation and to see for himself the scale of this shipyard, to realize that it is the largest one now since the Saint John shipyard closed two years ago. It is now the largest shipyard in Canada. It is the only one with the ISO 9001 standard.

Why does it have this standard? Because it specializes in design and delivery, but also because it has after sales service, as it were; it can go to a site. The Lévis shipyard engineering service is one of the top five in the world. Right now, a Korean shipyard is using technology tested by the Lévis shipyard.

I told the minister not to rely on the report by senior officials which said that the government's requirements were limited to $111 million. This report is based on budgetary availability dictated by politicians. These are not real requirements. In my letter, I reminded the minister that the needs for military equipment exist.

As the Minister of Industry, he is responsible for the program set up by his predecessor, Brian Tobin, the structured financing facility. There is one way to let a shipyard die and that is to not respond to demand. Yet, demand there is. Right now, the shipyard has an order for $100 million in conversion work on a ship. I ask the minister to follow up.

I also ask him to take the leadership Mr. Tobin had promised to take with respect to other ministers, especially in connection with the $2 million we are waiting for from the department of public works. Unfortunately, there is a new minister. This is for work already completed since December.

I ask the parliamentary secretary today if the minister really intends to go and visit the Davie shipyard and meet with its managers.

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6:25 p.m.

Beauharnois—Salaberry Québec


Serge Marcil LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for giving me the opportunity to speak about Davie today. Davie has been in serious financial difficulty for some time now and was placed under the protection of a bankruptcy trustee on October 24, 2001. The reality is such in the private sector that all businesses experience some difficulty. Davie and the shipbuilding and industrial marine industries are no exception to the rule.

Of course, the Government of Canada has sympathy for the Davie workers who face an uncertain future. The industry minister met the shipyard workers last week, on May 23, 2002, to talk about the situation in the shipbuilding industry.

It is for the very purpose of helping the shipbuilding industry that the Government of Canada kept its promise and published a new policy framework for shipbuilding on June 19, 2001. The new framework provides for 20 practical and affordable measures that will help the shipbuilding industry to be efficient, productive, creative and competitive on the world market.

A key element of the new policy framework is the structured financing facility for which the federal government has earmarked $150 million over a five year period. This facility will stimulate economic activity in the Canadian shipyard industry by providing financial assistance to buyers and lessees of ships built in Canada. This initiative has already ensured the success of three approved projects, while creating jobs in Vancouver and Victoria, in British Columbia, and in Île-aux-Coudres, in Quebec.

The other initiatives taken by the Canadian government to help the shipbuilding industry include the following: supporting the promotion of exports through Team Canada Inc.; intensifying efforts to make the Canadian industry benefit from offshore oil and gas development; and giving the shipbuilding and industrial marine industry access to the funding of Technology Partnerships Canada, so that it can develop innovative technologies.

In addition to these measures and to the establishment of a new branch at Industry Canada, the federal government was already providing assistance to the industry in the following forms: accelerated capital cost allowance for Canadian-built ships; a 25% tariff on most non-NAFTA ship imports; Export Development Corporation financing for commercially viable transactions; and a very favourable research and development tax credit system.

The federal government did not sit idly. The new policy framework, which is widely supported by the industry, shows that this government really wants to continue to help the industry.

In conclusion, as the Quebec government and Davie Industries know, we will continue to work as hard as possible to help Davie Industries take advantage of all the opportunities available to it under the new policy framework.

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6:30 p.m.


Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC

Madam Speaker, I also wish to thank the parliamentary secretary for his answer. He just spoke about the structured financing facility. He should know that Davie submitted a request under that program and is waiting for an answer from the Minister of Industry.

As I already mentioned at the end of my speech, the federal government, through the department of public works, owes $2 million for some work already completed. It would be very good for Davie to receive an answer on this.

I ask the Minister of Industry to show some leadership so that the whole government can act consistently and help Davie. The work involved concerned a dry dock and the cost was $12 million. Of that amount, $10 million has been paid and $2 million ise still outstanding. Following a $10 million to $12 million investment for a dry dock, the decision to shut down Davie would be incredible.

Finally, will the minister go and meet with the people at Davie next week?

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6:30 p.m.


Serge Marcil Liberal Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Madam Speaker, on May 23, 2002, we published an overview of government procurement, to give shipyard owners a realistic idea of government work available to them. Shipyards are commercial enterprises and they make business decisions based on opportunities in the commercial and public sectors.

The new policy framework on shipbuilding launched in June 2001 will foster a shipbuilding sector that is efficient, productive, innovative and competitive on the world market. Canadian shipyards able to meet the needs will still have a chance to compete for future government contracts when it is ready to go ahead.

The Policy Framework on Shipbuilding and Industrial Marine Industries is aimed at promoting opportunity, growth and innovation in niche markets where Canada can compete. With the development and implementation of this new strategic framework, in addition to its existing shipbuilding policy, the Government of Canada recognizes—

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6:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest.

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6:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Madam Speaker, I know that the member has more to say but I am glad you cut him off.

I am again up on the Lancaster Aviation file, the Henry McFliker file, if you will. I want to bring attention to some of the inaccuracies of the parliamentary secretary last night in his response to my question.

Basically my question is this: How could the Government of Canada allow spare parts to leave the country, go to Florida to a third party and wind up in a warehouse owned by a convicted felon in the United States by the name of Henry McFliker?

When I mentioned the inventory that has been dealt with by Henry McFliker, the parliamentary secretary used information that is not accurate. The numbers he quoted were in Canadian dollars and he has underestimated them by at least 100%. The fact of the matter is that if we take Mr. McFliker at his word, and I know that is very difficult to do, he advertised having close to $40 million U.S. in Canadian aviation spare parts and military parts housed in Florida.

This is a serious issue. The reason we have been at this for two years now is that basically I would like to have a level of honesty from the government in terms of how this contract was allowed to be negotiated. What eventually happened to those spare parts in Florida? When Henry McFliker, who was marketing and housing spare aviation and military parts on behalf of the Government of Canada, was arrested, many of his holdings were seized by the government of the United States. To back that up, I have with me documentation from the attorney general of the state of Florida where this court case was heard and where Henry McFliker was convicted.

The question is, what safeguards do we have? Did the government keep an accurate inventory of parts that did wind up in Florida? What did that inventory include? I do not think the government knows what was in that inventory. It certainly does not know the value of that inventory, so if it does not know the value of the inventory how can the member stand in the House and say that everything is okay, that we received fair market value for these parts?

My suspicion is that the Government of Canada did not receive fair market value for those spare aviation parts. The reason is that Mr. McFliker, who owned this warehouse and who was selling these parts, was fined $1.7 million by the attorney general when he was proven guilty of money laundering and drug trafficking and all of the rest of the charges that were thrown at him. He had to pay a huge fine, only two years ago. My suspicion is that he sold off these parts to pay off his obligation to the courts in the United States. In other words, we were the fall guys.

Because of sloppy bookkeeping and all the other reasons that Mr. Gagliano got himself in trouble, as well as the former public works minister, I think that the Government of Canada owes it to the people of Canada to go down to Florida, in co-operation with the FBI, and do a thorough investigation of this file so that we will know.

At the very minimum, Madam Speaker, would you not like to know? Would you not like to see the inventory list of these spare parts and what happened to them? If the government would provide us with that inventory list we actually could track these parts.

Just to conclude, Florida has--

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6:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services.