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House of Commons Hansard #131 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was copyright.

Topics

Correctional Service of CanadaOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Malpeque P.E.I.

Liberal

Wayne Easter LiberalSolicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite knows full well that inmates cannot possess any material they want to within Correctional Service Canada institutions. For him to say that, he knows that he is wrong.

Of course, Correctional Service Canada and all agencies under the authority of the Solicitor General and the Government of Canada are interested uppermost in public safety in the country. I think all our agencies do a pretty darn good job at doing that.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, the unemployed of Charlevoix are resolutely awaiting an announcement from the Minister of Justice. They are demanding that he announce, as soon as possible, an extension of the transitional employment insurance measures scheduled to expire on October 11. A true employment insurance policy is not a series of temporary measures. The government knows that, sooner or later, it will have to review its program.

In the meantime, what is it waiting for before announcing the continuation of the transitional measures?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Shefford Québec

Liberal

Diane St-Jacques LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, the plan was for these regions to benefit from a three-year transition period to allow people time to adapt to these changes, these new rules.

Now, since we are approaching the end of that period, the minister is in the process of examining the possibilities, and we will be announcing the results very soon.

ForestsOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Liberal

Gérard Binet Liberal Frontenac—Mégantic, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canada is a nation of forests. Those forests provide employment to hundreds of thousands of people and play an essential environmental role as well as improving our social well-being. My question is for the Minister of Natural Resources.

What is the government doing to ensure that Canada's forests will be preserved for future generations?

ForestsOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Vancouver South—Burnaby B.C.

Liberal

Herb Dhaliwal LiberalMinister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, last week Canada had the honour to host the 12th World Forestry Congress for the first time in Quebec City. This was in partnership with the Quebec government. There were 4,000 delegates from 140 countries. We talked about the importance to the world of how to protect our forests and how to ensure that for the long term our forests survive and they contribute to the betterment of all citizens around the world.

EnvironmentOral Question Period

October 1st, 2003 / 3 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rex Barnes Progressive Conservative Gander—Grand Falls, NL

Mr. Speaker, the Meteorological Service of Canada receives guidance from an advisory board on meteorological services. The president and CEO of Pelmorex Communications Inc. is on this advisory board. Pelmorex is the parent company that owns and operates the broadcasting licence for the Weather Network.

With the closure and downgrading of weather stations in this country, there is a potential for conflict of interest. What steps did the government take to ensure there was no conflict of interest?

EnvironmentOral Question Period

3 p.m.

York South—Weston Ontario

Liberal

Alan Tonks LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, it is very interesting that the issues relating to meteorological services that have been raised in the past in fact have been brought full course with the tremendous results of the preliminary information that was sent out with respect to hurricane Juan.

The meteorological services in fact have been rationalized in order to anticipate changes in weather conditions. The changes that have been referred to by the member will have absolutely no impact whatsoever.

EnvironmentOral Question Period

3 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, the U.S.government is refusing Canadian beef, and does not accept our softwood lumber except with a 29% tax. Yet the Canadian government is prepared to readily accept toxic waste from the United States at the planned incinerator at Belledune, which could put the environment of Chaleur Bay and its coastline at risk.

Will the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans order a moratorium and an independent study. Will he stop kowtowing to the United States, yes or no?

EnvironmentOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-De-La-Madeleine—Pabok Québec

Liberal

Georges Farrah LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, as I and the minister as well have already said here in this House, following discussions with Fisheries and Oceans, the project has been modified and nothing will be discharged into the sea. There are, therefore, no tools at our disposal with which to invoke the legislation. Consequently, in my opinion, the hon. member ought to be satisfied with the present situation, because the fish habitat has been protected as a result of the department's intervention.

Presence in GalleryOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of the hon. Dr. Linda Baboolal, President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

Presence in GalleryOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 81(14) to inform the House that the motion to be considered tomorrow during consideration of the business of supply is as follows:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should initiate immediate discussions with the provinces and territories to provide municipalities with a portion of the federal gas tax.

This motion , standing in the name of the hon. member for Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, is votable. Copies of the motion are available at the Table.

Zahra KazemiOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations among House leaders and I believe you will find unanimous consent for the following:

That, immediately after the adoption of this Order, the member of Parliament for Brampton Centre be permitted to propose the following motion:

That this House unanimously call on the Government of Iran to exhume and return to Canada the body of the late Zahra Kazemi, the Iranian-Canadian photojournalist;

And that, after a representative of each party has spoken to the motion for not more than one minute each, the said motion shall be put and be deemed adopted.

Zahra KazemiOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House for this proposal?

Zahra KazemiOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Zahra KazemiOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Sarkis Assadourian Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

moved:

That this House unanimously call on the Government of Iran to exhume and return to Canada the body of the late Zahra Kazemi, the Iranian-Canadian photojournalist.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleagues and the government House leader for accepting this motion unanimously.

A few months ago Canadian citizen Ms. Zahra Kazemi was arrested in Iran and killed soon after that. Iranian authorities have accepted responsibility. They have already charged an Iranian security officer for the crime that person committed against a Canadian citizen.

I would also like to thank the Iranian government for its cooperation. I look forward to full cooperation from the authorities in returning the body of Ms. Kazemi as soon as possible to her son. Canadians all across the country are waiting for her body to be returned so they can celebrate the end of what has been a difficult period for us as Canadians and for the family of Ms. Kazemi.

I thank all members of the House for making this motion unanimous.

Zahra KazemiOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, the demands obviously are important within this motion, and we support it because it is what we have been asking for all along. We have been asking the government to be firm on this particular item all along and it has not. In fact, it does beg the question: Why is the government presenting this motion now after so long a period of time? I believe the answer is politics.

The government is attempting to distract from the fact that the foreign affairs minister's soft diplomacy has utterly failed in all respects to advance Canada's demand in the case of Zahra Kazemi. The Iranian dictatorship buried her body against the family's wishes and now her likely killer, one of the suspects, is involved in the murder investigation.

Throughout all of this, Canada's foreign affairs minister has attempted to validate rather than to challenge the actions of the Iranian dictatorship. When it tried to blame two low-level female medical workers for the murder, our foreign affairs minister applauded and said it was a step in the right direction. After that arrest failed to convince anyone other than the foreign affairs minister, the Iranian authorities released the two women and now they have apparently arrested a member of the intelligence service. Once again the minister praised the so-called arrest knowing absolutely nothing about the guilt or innocence of the accused.

Now in the ultimate validation of the murderers in Tehran, the minister has decided to return Canada's ambassador to Iran, without any forgiveness. The request for the body to be returned has been denied. The request for an apology has been denied. The request for some kind of recognition of the violation of the rights of a Canadian has also been denied. We send our ambassador--

Zahra KazemiOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

I regret to inform the hon. member that his time has expired.

The hon. member for Mercier.

Zahra KazemiOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, the fact that the House of Commons of Canada is unanimously demanding that the body of Zahra Kazemi, the Montreal photojournalist who was murdered in an Iranian prison in early July, be repatriated and returned to her son, Stephan Hachemi, is the least we could do. I think we should be proud of this motion.

However, this is only the beginning. Her son, along with a coalition of 19 organizations, including Amnesty International, Reporters without Borders, the Fédération des journalistes professionnels du Québec and the International Centre for Legal Resources, is demanding that Canada take all means necessary, in Canada, Iran or at the UN, to learn the truth about her murder.

So, I want to this motion to address not only the return of—

Zahra KazemiOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but she has run out of time.

The hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester.

Zahra KazemiOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to support the motion. I applaud the member for raising it. On one hand I applaud it, but on the other hand I think his party has let down this family dramatically by not pushing harder and by not demanding that the issue be dealt with differently from day one.

Again, I applaud the member for his motion, but I criticize the government for mishandling from day one. It has not put enough pressure on Iran. It has not made the demands that should have been made and now the family is requesting that the body be brought back to Canada. Perhaps if it came back to Canada, we could find out what actually happened to her and how her death occurred.

Every indication is that the Iranians will not take this issue seriously. They arrested two people, then they released them. Then they arrested somebody else and so on but there is no real action on this. There is no satisfaction from anybody's point of view. What happened to her was awful and we should demand that the body be brought back.

Zahra KazemiOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my New Democrat colleagues and our leader, Jack Layton, we join in this unanimous call from all sides of the House to the Iranian government to finally do the right thing and return the body of Zahra Kazemi to Canada, to exhume the body and return it, so we can finally learn the truth of what happened.

We know she was interrogated for a period of some 77 hours. She was beaten and murdered. We know there were at least three different agencies involved, and we do not want to see a whitewash on this. The truth must come out. There must be an independent inquiry for which Reporters without Borders, Amnesty International and others have called. We as New Democrats join in this call. We urge the government of Iran to listen to the people of Canada and certainly to listen to her son, Stephan Hachemi, who is calling for justice on behalf of the family.

Zahra KazemiOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

In accordance with the order adopted earlier this day, the motion is deemed adopted.

(Motion agreed to)

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on Monday, September 15 by the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville concerning statements of the hon. Minister of Justice in relation to the financial administration of the firearms program.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville for raising this matter as well as the government House leader for his comments.

The hon. member for Yorkton—Melville contends that the hon. Minister of Justice misled the House on February 3 in describing the results of a financial review of the firearms program carried out by the consulting firm KPMG and that similar statements were contained in a justice department press release issued on the same day. The hon. member also alleges that the minister had shown contempt for the office of the Auditor General by failing to substantiate the justice department's assessment of the KPMG report.

In support of his charges, the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville pointed to concerns expressed in a letter from an official of the Auditor General's office sent to the deputy minister of justice on February 14. The hon. member cited the following passage from that letter, and I quote from the debates of September 15, page 7340:

We are concerned that there may be insufficient information in the KPMG Report to support the conclusions in the Press Release. We would like to be able to respond to any Parliamentary concerns about the KPMG Report that may be raised in the forthcoming hearings.

There are two statements in the Department's Press Release that are causing concern. These statements conclude that the KPMG Report has allowed the Department of Justice to confirm that the necessary systems are in place to ensure the integrity and completeness of relevant financial data; and

This work has provided the Department with confidence that the information compiled on past expenditures is accurate.

We are concerned that the work described in the KPMG report and accompanying transmission letter does not appear sufficient to support these statements.

The letter from the Office of the Auditor General went on to question whether other aspects of the position taken by the Department of Justice could be fully supported by the report of the consultants’ study.

The hon. government House leader in his intervention pointed out that the KPMG study in question was tabled in the House by the Minister of Justice on February 3, the day that the minister made the comments complained of. The House leader characterized the statements made by the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville as a matter of debate, a difference of opinion, in regard to the report. He noted that since the report in dispute had been made public, members were free to reach their own conclusions with respect to its findings.

Indeed, the government House leader added, that the justice minister and the Auditor General had appeared before the Standing Committee on Public Accounts concerning the firearms program on February 24. Both the minister and the Auditor General had an opportunity at that time to elaborate on their views and respond to questions from hon. members.

As members of Parliament, we all deal regularly with differing interpretations of various events or situations and differing views of documents laid before the House. Members can, and often do, disagree about the actual facts of the same situation. Disagreements of this kind form the basis of our debates. Our rules are designed to permit and indeed to encourage members to present differing views on the given issue. This tolerance of different points of view is an essential feature of the freedom of speech and of the decision making process that lie at the heart of our parliamentary system.

I have examined with care the documents provided to me by the hon. member for Yorkton--Melville. I have also reviewed the arguments both he and the government House leader presented to the House when the question was raised on September 15. I can find no evidence that the hon. Minister of Justice intended at any time to mislead the House.

In my view, the minister simply presented his views regarding a document that he had tabled in the House and his department repeated those views in a press release. I can see no basis in the documents provided by the hon. member for Yorkton--Melville that the minister acted in anything but good faith.

As the government House leader pointed out, the disputed report has been tabled and members can read it and form their own opinions of it. The officials of the Auditor General's office did so, and they seemed not to endorse the minister's view. They have expressed their reservations and have requested further information. Members may do likewise and, if they so choose, pursue the matter directly with the minister through various avenues available here in the House or in committee. However these are matters for debate and they are not matters that the Chair must decide.

With respect to the final point raised by the hon. member for Yorkton--Melville, if the Auditor General requires the assistance of the House to obtain information, she can always seek that assistance through the usual means, such as a special report to the House or in consultation with the public accounts committee and the House can then take whatever action it deems appropriate. At this stage, I see no basis on which, as Speaker, I could intervene on procedural grounds.

I thank the hon. member for Yorkton--Melville for having raised this matter, and of course in his usual very thorough fashion. However, on the evidence before me, I can find no indication that either the minister or the department have breached the privileges of the House in this case.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

I have the honour to lay upon the table the report on the Canadian parliamentary delegation to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia from May 17 to 23, 2003. I commend it for reading to all hon. members.