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House of Commons Hansard #65 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was offences.

Topics

Business of the House

10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

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

That this House consider the reports of the Auditor General presented in 2002.

This motion, standing in the name of the hon. member for South Shore, is not votable. Copies of the motion are available at the table.

Business of the House

10:05 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, before moving to the first item, there was an agreement made yesterday, and I am still operating under the assumption that it was made, that after the first speaker has spoken to Bill C-23 that the debate would be adjourned and we would move to Bill C-13. That was an all party agreement that was made yesterday and it is on the strength of that, that we are not calling Bill C-13 first. I understand some members may have a different opinion but if that is the case it would have to be negotiated outside.

For the record, we are moving on Bill C-23 provided that after the first speaker the debate be deemed adjourned and we move to Bill C-13.

Business of the House

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the House leader is quite right. There was an arrangement among the House leaders yesterday but it has come to the attention of all parties that Bill C-13 is important to a number of members who are engaged in other parliamentary business. There are some discussions going on that will continue to abide by the spirit of that, and so I would ask that the question be deferred until the House leaders have an opportunity to discuss the minor amendment to that arrangement.

Business of the House

10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The Chair is certainly not being asked to negotiate from the chair. However let me take things in the order they were presented to the chair.

The Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons rose and asked for consent as to whether there was agreement among the parties to deal with Bill C-23 with one spokesperson from the government and then move to another bill, which I believe is Bill C-13.

If understand it, the spirit of this would probably be to allow some opposition critics to retain their 40 minute slots when Bill C-23 is brought forward. However I am not here to negotiate. I am simply here to make the request for the unanimous consent.

Business of the House

10:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I understand there were supposed to be two Liberal speakers this morning.

Business of the House

10:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Let me simply put the proposition on the floor as I was requested to do by the Minister of State.

Is there unanimous consent?

Business of the House

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the House

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Sex Offender Information Registration ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario

Liberal

Andy Mitchell Liberalfor the Solicitor General of Canada

moved that Bill C-23, An Act respecting the registration of information relating to sex offenders, to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Sex Offender Information Registration ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine Québec

Liberal

Marlene Jennings LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak in favour of Bill C-23, a government bill that will create a new federal act respecting the registration of information relating to sex offenders and that will make crucial amendments to the Criminal Code.

Before speaking to the specific dispositions of Bill C-23, I would like to give a history lesson for the members of the House and for Canadians who are watching. I would like to take time to briefly describe the continuum of actions and measures that the government has undertaken since 1993 to better protect Canadians from sexual abusers.

Since forming the government in 1993, we have taken a series of measures to better protect Canadians from sexual abusers and we will continue to do so, as Bill C-23 is clear evidence.

As early as 1994 we conducted extensive consultations with individuals and organizations with special responsibility for the care and protection of our children. These included children's aid societies, school boards, big brothers and big sisters organizations, Volunteer Canada, our police services across the country, victims and many other groups. Those who were consulted asked for as a first priority, and we delivered, a made in Canada solution that targets abusers who seek positions of trust with children and other vulnerable groups.

The national screening system was first launched in the summer of 1994 by the Ministers of Justice, Health and the Solicitor General of Canada. This was followed up in August 2001 when the government passed legislation to give police access to criminal records of sex offenders who had received a pardon in order to undertake screening purposes.

For screening, the Canadian Police Information Centre, or CPIC, provides criminal records at no cost to local police forces who help child assisting agencies conduct criminal record background checks. Thousands of such screenings are carried out every year on behalf of volunteer organizations across the country.

It is worth noting that many other efforts have been undertaken by the Department of the Solicitor General and Justice Canada to protect Canadians from sex offenders. For instance, in 1997 we proclaimed Bill C-55, which strengthened the dangerous offender rules in part 24 of the Criminal Code, and also created a new sentencing provision called long term offender.

As a result of these changes, prosecutors in almost every province of this country are aggressively pursuing dangerous offender and long term offender options. In fact, the average number of successful dangerous offender applications per year has doubled since reforms were implemented in 1997.

As for the long term provisions contained in the 1997 legislative package, that targeted individuals who were clearly a threat but would not meet the threshold as a dangerous offender. This new designation recognizes that released sex offenders who receive supervision and treatment in the community experience dramatically low recidivism rates than an offender who was released at warrant expiry without conditions requiring supervision or treatment.

In addition to their custodial sentence, long term offenders can be sentenced up to 10 years of community supervision and conditions. As of July 2002, more than 150 long term supervision orders have been imposed by the courts. I think that goes a long way to showing how the government has taken seriously our responsibility and commitment to protecting our Canadians against sexual abusers and offenders.

In fact, in 1996 the national flagging system was developed in co-operation with our provincial partners, so that prosecutors are now able to identify offenders who should be considered for dangerous offender status in the future.

Protection orders under section 810 of the Criminal Code were also introduced to allow the court, on application by the crown, to order special conditions to restrict the movement and conduct of sexual offenders after their release and even when they are no longer under sentence.

With those measures we have imposed tougher controls on sex offenders. All of those actions underscore the commitment of the Solicitor General and the Government of Canada to ensure the protection, the safety and the security of our children and Canadians overall.

I hasten to add and to emphasize that all those measures have been developed in collaboration and with the support of our provincial and territorial partners. This is probably one of the areas where this government has made great strides in working in partnership and in collaboration with our provincial and territorial counterparts. It is in this same co-operative manner that consensus has been achieved among all jurisdictions on Bill C-23, the bill we have before us today, which will create a sex offender registry.

Finally, the former solicitor general, the hon. member for Cardigan, in the House in March 2001, stated emphatically that he supported a motion to establish a national sex offender registry, as did all other members present. They could do so because Canada already possessed one of the most effective criminal history registries in the world in our Canadian Police Information Centre, or CPIC.

I think that I have shown how our government's commitment to better protecting Canadians from sexual offenders has been translated so far into concrete action.

Now let us go back to the legislation at hand, Bill C-23, an act respecting the registration of information relating to sex offenders. As I was saying earlier, this bill will create a new federal act respecting the registration of information relating to sex offenders and will make crucial amendments to the Criminal Code. Its provisions will allow for the creation of a national sex offender registry for the use of all our provincial and territorial partners. As many members know, premiers had unanimously requested that the federal government help them establish an integrated registration system that their respective administrations will be able to use.

The existence of such a system would give more weight to their individual efforts and would guarantee a national approach. I must point out that the national sex offender registry that I am talking about here is in fact made up of three elements.

First, there is the legislation before us today. It had to emanate from the Parliament of Canada for the system to be truly national in scope and to be the same across the country. Then, there is a national database, which will be managed by the RCMP on behalf of all police forces in Canada.

Finally, there will be mechanisms for administration and use of the registry system, which will be the responsibility of the various police forces in their respective areas of responsibility.

What is of primary importance is that all these elements combined create a new and extremely useful tool for police investigation of sexual offences when the perpetrator is unknown. The police will be able to consult the registry quickly, screen it according to specific criteria, and locate possible suspects in the vicinity of the scene of the crime

I emphasize the rapidity of the process, because that is the very essence of the system. Police forces are aware that there is very little time for action when a child has been abducted. When a child has been abducted, and is going to be sexually assaulted and killed, the tragic outcome usually occurs within hours of the abduction.

Unless police forces can intervene promptly, this outcome cannot be prevented, even if the crime is eventually solved. This bill, the Sex Offender Information Registration Act, will make it possible for the police to determine very quickly whether any individuals convicted of sex crimes reside in the vicinity of the crime scene, identify them, and decide without delay whether they need to be investigated further or dropped from the list of suspects.

This is, briefly, how the system works. Persons found guilty of a sex crime as designated by the Criminal Code will be required to register with the police within 15 days after the court order is made, or after their release if they were in custody.

They will be required to remain in the registry for a minimum of 10 years, often for their entire lives. This means they will be required to report any change of address or name within 15 days, and to present themselves in person once a year to renew or update their information in the registry. Otherwise they will, under this bill, be found guilty of a criminal offence punishable by up to two years in prison in the case of the second offence, and fines of up to $10,000.

When offenders first report to the police registry office, as required by this new bill, they will be required to provide certain information, such as their address, telephone number, date of birth and employer's name, as well as any distinguishing marks or tattoos. On subsequent visits they will be required to update all registry information concerning them.

The government is aware that this new tool, if it can save lives, is also a massive intrusion into the private life of those who have to be registered. The majority of them will be registered in the database long after having serving their sentence and most of them--according to our estimates, 65% after 30 years--will not be found guilty of a similar offence. Those who really try to get their lives back on track do not need to have their efforts annihilated by the stigma of being a registered sex offender.

That is why the legislation does not give the public access to the database. The information can only be consulted by authorized persons for specific purposes. There will be criminal sanctions for the misuse of the information. Public protection, which is the main purpose of the bill, will be ensured through the use of this information by the police.

On the issue of who should have access to the database, I would like to go over what other jurisdictions have experienced. In jurisdictions where the public had access to a similar database, there has been abuse and misuse of the information, at times the public was alarmed by mistake and some people even acted like vigilantes.

In more than 20 U.S. states where the public has access to this information, the courts have ordered the database to be closed and protection measures to be taken to avoid any abuse. In some cases, they ordered the creation of commissions or tribunals to assess each and every individual record to determine if the registration of the offender was justified.

The federal government and its partners, namely the provinces and territories, have sought to avoid problems by implementing a judicial process, providing procedural guarantees and clearly limiting the number of authorized users and uses.

The guarantees contained in Bill C-23 were carefully designed in partnership with the provinces and territories. They will allow for the establishment of a system that is fair and just, while still efficient and effective. The guarantees will prevent any court challenges from weakening or shutting down the system because of unwarranted repercussions on the lives of those registered, including their rights and freedoms, all without compromising the effectiveness of the registry.

Persons whose sentences would normally include registration in the database will have the opportunity to defend themselves in court to prevent their registration. After the crown attorney requests it, defendants may argue that the registration of information pertaining to them would have, and I quote, a “grossly disproportionate” impact on them.

Furthermore, defendants will have the opportunity to make the same argument after being registered for five years, then again after 10 years and 20 years of being registered. They will have the opportunity to make an application for termination of the order that requires them to provide information, once they have been rehabilitated under the Criminal Records Act.

These guarantees will not only protect the rights of persons from being registered when they should not be, but they will also prevent the courts from using the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a mechanism to shut down the whole registration system.

We already heard the hon. members of the opposition express their views in the various debates. They believe there should be no limits regarding who should be included in the system. In fact, they seem to feel that the legislation should apply retroactively to all criminals who have been convicted of a sexual offence, regardless of what they have done with their lives since then.

However, this goes against not only the charter, but also the most basic principles of justice that form the foundation of our democratic, social and parliamentary systems.

For previously convicted offenders who continue to pose a threat to the community, there are effective measures that this government has put in place over the past ten years, as I mentioned at the beginning of my comments.

A mechanism can be triggered to inform neighbours or the community of the presence of a high risk offender in their neighbourhood. The national screening system can be used for hiring persons who are to work in a position of trust with children.

The orders seeking to ensure the protection of the public under section 810 of the Criminal Code can be used to subject this type of offenders to certain conditions, including supervision.

Moreover, any sex offender who has already been convicted of a sexual offence will be treated like a repeat offender under the provisions of the bill, and he will be required to provide information for the rest of his life.

These are effective measures and will ensure that, in high risk cases, resources are not uselessly wasted on trying to locate former offenders who have long left the area where they were convicted or released. And these measures do not increase the risk that the registry will be rendered inoperative by the courts on charter related grounds.

While opposition members may be prepared to take this huge risk, our government and our provincial and territorial counterparts are not.

Allow me to quote an excerpt from the letter sent by one our provincial counterparts, that is Alberta's Minister of Justice, the hon. David Hancock. Following the first reading of Bill C-23, he wrote the following:

The sex offender registry will be very useful to police in its efforts to try to apprehend people who commit criminal offences. The concerted efforts of federal, provincial and territorial ministers, deputy ministers and senior public officials are a very good example of all that can be accomplished when we cooperate.

This view is essentially shared by all our partners in this endeavour. Following a series of discussions during meetings of federal, provincial and territorial ministers, it was agreed, in Moncton, in February of last year, that we would do our best to reach a consensus on the establishment of a sex offender registry by the end of the year 2002.

Unfortunately, we did not succeed in doing that, but this is still early 2003 and we are close to succeeding in doing what all our counterparts wanted.

Over the 10 months that followed, we were able to reach a consensus, to develop and set up the necessary database, which will be operated by the RCMP, and to draft and introduce the legislation that is before us today, as a result of the consensus reached with our provincial and territorial counterparts. This is, in my opinion, an excellent example of the effectiveness our confederation is capable of.

Of course, not all jurisdictions achieved their individual objectives. However, their objectives would often have been incompatible, and even unacceptable, in the eyes of some of our partners.

So, in the interest of a genuine concerted effort, there had to be some give and take on both sides to come up with a model that would meet with general consent and, thus, be feasible.

This is the model before us today: a system that will be national in scope and in terms of its support, flexible enough to accommodate various applications within common parameters, and efficient when it comes to helping police and protecting children and, in fact, all Canadians.

We are moving quickly to put in place this legislative framework which already has the support of governments in all jurisdictions of Canada. I am convinced that the Solicitor General of Canada, the solicitors general and justice ministers at the provincial level, as well as all senior officials agree. This measure will have the support of government in all jurisdictions of Canada.

I am convinced that the hon. members of this House and the other place will also support Bill C-23, and I hope quickly pass it at all stages so that it can take effect as soon as possible.

To conclude, this bill is the result of a concerted effort by the federal government and all provincial and territorial governments, at all levels, be it that of ministers, deputy ministers, or senior officials, as well as police forces and communities. They have told this government, “We need a national registry including information on sexual offenders that will be made available to our police forces and managed by them to assist them in their work”.

The government has taken very seriously its commitment and its responsibility and, as I said, we have worked with the other stakeholders. Bill C-23 is the result.

I can tell all the hon. members here that all levels of government want this bill to get through all the stages in both Houses and receive royal assent as quickly as possible so that the police will be able to use this tool as soon as possible.

I am asking for your cooperation and your support on behalf of the Solicitor General, the federal government and all the provincial and territorial governments. We have to put our shoulder to the wheel and work hard to ensure that this bill is passed as soon as possible. I assure you of my full cooperation. If you have any questions, please contact me. I would be pleased to answer, to assist you and to discuss this with you. In conclusion, I urge you to vote in favour of this bill.

Sex Offender Information Registration ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. As was discussed by the House leader this morning, there are discussions going on with the parties with regard to the disposition of the balance of the day. I am of the understanding that the intent is that one more speaker would rise, myself, and my being the second speaker would not prejudice the fact that the Canadian Alliance and the Bloc Quebecois would continue to enjoy, with consent, their full 40 minute allotment as they normally would as the second and third to speak. My speaking would be to provide some input to the bill, only until question period. That is my understanding. If there are others who have some questions on this, it would be a good time to rise otherwise I will rise for debate.

Sex Offender Information Registration ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The Chair needs some clarification. Is the hon. member for Mississauga South asking for consent on the matter that he raised?

Sex Offender Information Registration ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Yes, Mr. Speaker.

Sex Offender Information Registration ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. member for Mississauga South have the consent of the House?

Sex Offender Information Registration ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Sex Offender Information Registration ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, my thanks to you and all colleagues in the House for assisting with the disposition of important business of the House.

Presently we are dealing with Bill C-23, an act respecting the registration of information relating to sex offenders, to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other acts. It is a very important bill: “The enactment requires that certain information about sex offenders be registered in a national database. This database is part of the automated criminal conviction records retrieval system maintained by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It is intended to serve as a tool that will help police investigate crimes of a sexual nature by providing them with access to current and reliable information related to sex offenders”.

The enactment also amends the Criminal Code “to enable the Crown to apply for an order to require an offender who is convicted of, or found not criminally responsible on account of a mental disorder for, certain offences to report regularly to the designated registration centre and provide information”. It also creates a new Criminal Code offence “for failure to comply with the order, as well as an offence for providing false or misleading information. The enactment regulates access to, and the use and disclosure of the information contained in the database and includes an offence for contravention of those provisions”.

We have spent time in this place discussing important matters related to children. Certainly Bill C-20, with regard to child pornography, and this bill are related in many regards. As hon. members know, this is an extremely important bill. It is a bill that deserves our utmost attention, as it deals with improving the safety of our children and other vulnerable Canadians. I am confident that this is an objective shared by all parliamentarians, both here and in the other place. Moreover, the bill responds to the resolution passed by the premiers in August 2001 calling for a national sex offender registration system.

Further, the minister told the House that his department would begin evaluating potential improvements to the CPIC system in the specific area of sex offences. CPIC is the Canadian Police Information Centre. That database includes substantial information which the law enforcement authorities use for assistance in the conduct of their work. CPIC did not routinely contain up to date information on sex offences. It is one of the reasons why this bill is being brought forward.

In a very short time, the minister fulfilled his commitment when he announced to provincial and territorial ministers on September 11, 2001, that a new database within the CPIC system was to be created under the sex offender category. Further, he announced that this database would be “address searchable”, which is one of those Internet terms, and we are getting there, I think. It could be up and running within a year, funded completely by the federal government. I am pleased to note that the development of this new sex offender database has been completed and is now ready for implementation upon proclamation of Bill C-23.

At the same time, it was recognized that to create a truly national system, national legislation would be required. I know that many hon. members have risen in their places time and time again to bring a focus to the need for this national registry. There have been disagreements with regard to whether CPIC, even with the new category added, would be adequate to support law enforcement agencies in the discharge of their duties as they relate to sexual offenders and the offences by those persons.

In February 2002 all federal, provincial and territorial ministers agreed to work together to develop a legislative package that all could support. Ten months later, we have that legislation before us and a national consensus that it should be enacted as quickly as possible. I am confident that we will see that representatives from all parties and from all walks of life in this country will be supportive of the establishment of this registry.

During the 10 months of discussion, the Solicitor General and justice officials of all jurisdictions have worked together to fully explore the whole aspect of the registry, to determine what works and what does not and to agree on what is and what is not feasible. It is one thing to have a registry. It is quite another to have a registry that works and helps our law enforcement officers and agencies to do the job they are supposed to do on behalf of all Canadians.

If we are going to have a registry, we want to be certain that it will work and that it is efficient and affordable. We all know that Canadians expect us to be open, transparent, accountable and fiscally responsible with regard to legislation and actions taken on behalf of Canadians.

We want to ensure that it respects and guarantees the protection of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that it is not in breach of federal or provincial privacy laws. I do not know how many times we have bumped our heads up against privacy issues in balancing the rights of individuals to privacy against the issue of the rights of others. We certainly saw that in Bill C-20 dealing with child pornography when we were talking about the rights of someone to possess child pornography on the basis that it was an expression of artistic merit, as opposed to the rights of the common good of Canadians and to societal values that the existence of child pornography means that children must have been abused. We can see this is a very important determination: to respect the provisions of the charter and at the same time ensure that the rights and the freedoms provided by the charter are not going to be violated in a manner which would not be consistent with Canadian values.

We are going to have this registry and we want one that the local police agencies also can administer in a consistent manner while at the same time allowing enough flexibility to respect diverse values and resources among provinces. Most important, we want an approach that will help police solve crimes and will not drive convicted sex offenders underground with changed identities and no hope for rehabilitation.

This has to be a very difficult challenge for any country to deal with. To the extent that we make laws, that we close in, tighten the ring and close the net, it makes people flee, it makes people go underground. It takes them out of an environment in which they can get the help and the rehabilitation they need. This is extremely important.

The sex offender information registration act would establish, as I have said, a national sex offender database containing information on convicted sex offenders. This database would be maintained by the RCMP and would contain information provided by local police across the country. This would be an integrated database, partnering with law enforcement right across the country. It makes a great deal of sense that it should operate in this way.

It is intended to assist police in investigating crimes of a sexual nature by providing them with rapid access to current vital information about convicted sex offenders. The new national registration system would enhance public protection by helping police identify possible suspects known to reside near an offence site and it would enable an officer to instantly obtain a list of sex offenders who are registered and living in the area where the offence occurred. It is no guarantee and there is certainly no certitude that a sex offender who may be in the proximity of another crime is responsible for that crime, but the evidence is clear, particularly as it regards recidivism on sex offences, that there is a much higher likelihood of past offenders to repeat. This would be another tool to complement the tools that our law enforcement agencies already have.

Re-registration would be required annually and within 15 days should convicted offenders change their address. Offenders would be required to provide the local police current information, such as addresses and telephone numbers, names and aliases, as well as identifying marks and tattoos. Penalities of up to two years in prison and $10,000 in fines would be levied for failing to comply with the registration order and for not giving truthful information.

Other notable features include the sentencing judge or Crown application imposing an order unless the offender is able to demonstrate that it would be grossly disproportionate to the interests of the administration of justice. There would be no public access and strict privacy controls would be placed on day-to-day access, even by law enforcement personnel.

Provinces would have specific regulatory abilities to tailor operational aspects to their particular needs. Again, the partnering and ensuring that all agencies, at all levels, have the tools that they need to do their job the best that they can.

Offenders would be required to register for periods of 10 years, 20 years or life, depending on the maximum penalty of the predicate offences for which they were originally convicted.

All registrants would be able to apply for a judicial review of their status at the halfway mark of the registration. Offenders who receive a pardon would be able to apply for judicial review of their registry status, based on the grossly disproportionate test. Young offenders would not be subject to a registration order unless sentenced as an adult, consistent with the current and pending young offenders legislation.

A number of prescribed non-sexual offence convictions would also be subject to a Crown application for a registration order where it can prove an intent to commit an offence.

In closing, no measure within the criminal justice system exists in a vacuum, sex offender registries included. The task of preventing recidivism by sex offenders needs an effective, multi-faceted approach. Bill C-23 provides us with an instrument which we can work with to ensure that happens.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government's commitment to sustainable development in this week's budget is something both sides of the House should applaud.

To begin with, the budget provides $2 billion to help implement our climate change plan. Future generations will benefit from this knowledge that we are making these commitments in order to pass on to them an environmental legacy that is sustainable and healthy, and provides a better foundation upon which they themselves can build.

The budget also provides another $1 billion for environmental priorities, such as water and waste water systems on first nations reserves, the cleanup of federal contaminated sites, improving air quality, assessing and managing toxic substances, protecting species at risk, and creating 10 new national parks and 5 new national marine conservation areas.

But what is most significant is that all of these commitments and others have been done and presented within a balanced budget. Not only are we providing a sustainable and healthy environment for--

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Calgary East.

VolunteersStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, thousands of Canadians across this country contribute silently to the well-being of their community. Our country is blessed with these individuals. I am lucky to have these dedicated Canadians living in my riding of Calgary East.

Today, I would like to acknowledge their contributions to strengthening the communities in my riding.

I wish to congratulate and thank the presidents, past presidents, executives, past executives, board members, past board members and thousands of volunteers of the following community associations: Abbeydale, Albert Park, Applewood, Dover/West Dover, Erinwoods, Forest Heights, Forest Lawn, Inglewood, Lynnwood Ridge, Marlborough, Marlborough Park, Mayland Heights, Ogden, Penbrooke Meadows, Radisson Heights and Southview

We all appreciate their contributions to Canada's well-being.

The BudgetStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Guy St-Julien Liberal Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, QC

Mr. Speaker, during the throne speech, the Government of Canada announced initiatives to improve the quality of life of aboriginals and Inuit in Canada.

The 2003 budget provides for significant investments, among other things, for the needs of aboriginals and Inuit in urban areas; for education, training and employment opportunities; for initiatives supporting aboriginal cultures and languages, and health care for first nations and Inuit; for the improvement, maintenance and monitoring of sewer and water systems on first nations reserves; for the first nations and Inuit police program; and for initiatives supporting the creation and operation of a new aboriginal cultures and languages centre that will be run by the aboriginal community.

These Government of Canada initiatives will enable aboriginals and Inuit to play a direct role in their community and to obtain a better quality of life.

Once again, the Government of Canada has delivered on its promises.

The BudgetStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Serge Marcil Liberal Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise in the House and congratulate the Government of Canada for its innovative budget for 2003.

Businesses fared well in this budget. One of the measures announced is improved access to venture capital, in the form of a $190 million cash injection to support new or growing companies.

Also in the budget was a $25 million a year investment in the National Research Council Industrial Research Assistance Program, $20 million for Aboriginal Business Canada, $20 million for Farm Credit Canada over the next two years and a 12% cut in employment insurance premiums.

I applaud these Government of Canada initiatives, which will help our businesses contribute to Canada's economic prosperity.

HousingStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to congratulate the Minister of Labour and Federal Coordinator on Homelessness, an outstanding citizen and one of the finest ministers. She is, simply put, a great leader.

As we know, the highly successful Supporting Communities Partnership Initiative was renewed for another three years. Under the leadership of our great Prime Minister, budget 2003 provides another $1.1 billion to the government's affordable housing and homelessness initiatives. In addition, the budget also renews the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program and increases funding to our affordable housing initiative.

Simply put, not only have my constituents of Ottawa Centre benefited from all of these initiatives, but countless Canadians across the country have also.

Human RightsStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Betty Hinton Canadian Alliance Kamloops, Thompson And Highland Valleys, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have stood in the House on numerous occasions to speak out about the human rights violations in Iran.

The Iranian government continues to refuse to sign the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. Canada and the European Union will hold consultations this March in Geneva. This will be a turning point in deciding Canada's involvement in this important human rights issue.

I will be hosting a meeting next week with the former UN representative on human rights in Iran, Mr. Maurice Copithorne, and the committee for defence of human rights in Iran. This is a time sensitive issue. We cannot continue to condone the violence and discrimination by keeping silent. Every day that passes is another day of suffering.

I wish to invite all colleagues in the House to join me at the meeting on February 25, in Room 104 of the Justice Building at 1 p.m. I wish to raise their awareness and ensure their support.

The BudgetStatements By Members

February 21st, 2003 / 11 a.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Oak Ridges, ON

Mr. Speaker, budget 2003 builds the society Canadians value by making investments in individuals, families and their communities.

These include: a 10 year infrastructure program that the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has been seeking for a number of years; a down payment of $1 billion plus an additional $2 billion for the Strategic Infrastructure Program that will enable our towns and cities to better plan for long range development; $1 billion to environmental priorities that directly affect our cities, including the clean up of federal contaminated sites; targeted investments in affordable housing and the homeless; a three year extension of the RRAP program with $128 million per year; $2 billion over five years to support actions such as environmental technology and partnerships in areas such as sustainable transportation; $1.7 billion invested over three years to build on previous investments in innovation and skills development; $46.6 million over two years to continue the integrated proceeds of crime initiative; and continued support to entrepreneurs and small business.

We will continue to work with our counterparts toward a sustainable future for all of our cities, towns and rural communities.

Estates General on the Reform of Democratic InstitutionsStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, over the coming days in Quebec City, the estates general on the reform of democratic institutions will provide an opportunity for hundreds of citizens to examine the meaning of democracy.

Our institutions date back several hundred years, and for the first time in our history, we are embarking on a collective reflection that will set into motion a process of change in our institutions. The emphasis will be on fairer representation, with citizens being encouraged to take an active role in defining major socio-political challenges.

Democracy, as we know, is fragile and precious. In these turbulent times the world is experiencing, this message is clearer than ever.

The Bloc Quebecois hopes that the estates general on the reform of democratic institutions will help us turn over a new leaf by collectively taking charge of the society we want to live in, a society that is open, generous, fair and respectful.

We would like to thank Claude Béland, the chair of the steering committee, and its members for their important contribution to launching a debate essential to the quality of our democracy.