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House of Commons Hansard #51 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was protect.

Topics

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dick Harris Canadian Alliance Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, when the Robin Sharpe decision was handed down, the nation was shocked. Society was shocked that the court, in its questionable wisdom in this case, determined in some perverse way that personal writings, musings, poetry or pictures about child pornography, about children in forms of sexual acts, somehow could be determined to have artistic merit. The government did not do anything about this. It still is not doing anything about this. Children wait for the government's protection.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Northumberland Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to join in the debate on Bill C-20, an act to amend the Criminal Code, respecting the protection of children and other vulnerable persons, and the Canada Evidence Act.

Although Bill C-20 responds to a number of important issues, its overall objective is to provide increased protection to children against sexual exploitation and abuse in all forms. In particular, it addresses child pornography which, unfortunately, is an issue that is all too familiar to all hon. members.

I have found the second reading debate on Bill C-20 to be very interesting from a number of perspectives.

First, the debate serves to highlight the importance of careful scrutiny of measures that we have taken and propose to take to better protect children against sexual exploitation. The government welcomes this debate for it is through such discussions that we, as parliamentarians, can broaden our knowledge and our understanding of the issue at hand and thereby ensure the right response to what has already been said are very complex issues.

Second, the debate on Bill C-20 demonstrates that we do not all share a common understanding of what our criminal laws currently prohibit, that is vis-à-vis, child pornography or what Bill C-20 proposes by way of amendments. I believe that to fully understand and debate what Bill C-20 proposes, it is essential that we first fully understand our existing child pornography prohibitions.

Third, I note that while it may appear that there is a divergence of opinion among hon. members about what is the best way to protect children against sexual exploitation through child pornography, I believe that we all share a common, overarching concern and objective, namely, to better protect our children against this form of sexual exploitation. Let me reiterate the comments of the Minister of Justice in that regard. This government's commitment to the protection of children is clear and strong and it is reflected in Bill C-20's proposed amendments.

As I have already said, before considering the proposed child pornography amendments in Bill C-20, it is important to fully understand and appreciate what our existing criminal law already prohibits.

Since 1993, the Criminal Code has prohibited, first, making, printing, publishing or possessing for the purpose of publication any child pornography. This carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment on indictment.

Second, it prohibits the importing, distributing, selling or possessing for the purpose of distribution or sale, of any child pornography. This carries a penalty of 10 years imprisonment on indictment.

Third, it prohibits the possession of child pornography. This carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment on indictment. I note that the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the constitutionality of the possession offence with a very narrow exception. It does not apply to self-authored works of the imagination that are made and kept solely for one's personal use. However the child pornography offences do apply to self-authored works of imagination that are shared or otherwise disseminated.

Since July 23, 2002, and as a result of Bill C-15A, the Criminal Code also prohibits the transmitting, making available, exporting or possession for the purpose of transmitting, making available or exporting, any child pornography. This carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment on indictment. It also prohibits accessing child pornography. This new accessing offence carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment on indictment.

Bill C-15A amendments also allow the courts to order the deletion of child pornography posted on Canadian computer systems such as websites. These new measures directly address the misuse of new technologies to commit child pornography offences. On a related note I would add that Bill C-15A also created a new offence of luring. That is using a computer system in such a way, such as through the Internet, to communicate with a child for the purpose of committing a sexual offence against that child.

These are existing child pornography offences and they are very comprehensive. They recognize and address the many different ways that child pornography can be made and disseminated. When we look at them altogether, they show why Canada's child pornography provisions are among the toughest in the world, and they are.

Bill C-20 goes further yet and builds upon this comprehensive set of prohibitions against child pornography in two very key respects.

First, it broadens the definition of written child pornography. Currently the existing definition of written material only applies to material that advocates or counsels sexual activity with a young person under the age of 18 years. That would be an offence under the Criminal Code. Bill C-20 proposes to also include written material that describes prohibited sexual activity with a child where the written description of the activity is the dominant characteristic of the material and the written description is done for a sexual purpose.

This proposed amendment recognizes the risk of harm that such material can pose to society by portraying children as a class of objects for sexual exploitation. It also directly responds to the concerns flowing from the most recent Sharpe decision.

Bill C-20 also proposes to amend the existing defences of child pornography. Currently the Criminal Code provides a defence for material that has artistic merit or an educational, scientific or medical purpose. It also makes the public good defence available for all child pornography offences.

Bill C-20 proposes to merge these two defences into one defence of public good. As a result of the proposed amendment, a court would be required to consider whether the act or material in question serves the public good. If it does serve the public good, then the court must also consider whether the act or material goes beyond what serves the public good. If it exceeds what serves the public good, then there is no defence available. In other words, does the risk of harm posed by an act or material in question outweigh any potential benefit to society? That is the question we have to ask.

The question has been asked, when or how could anything related to child pornography ever serve the public good. I can understand this question, particularly from those who may be less familiar with the intricacies of criminal law, but this is not a new defence or indeed one without any existing legal interpretation or understanding.

In January 2001 the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Sharpe child pornography case, the court considered the meaning of public good. The court noted that the term “public good” had been interpreted as including matters that were necessary or advantageous to the administration of justice, the pursuit of science, literature, art or other objects of general interest.

An example given is that of possession of child pornographic material by police or crown prosecutors for the purposes associated with investigation and prosecution. I hope all hon. members can see the public good to be served by enabling our police and prosecutors to possess child pornography for these investigative and prosecutorial purposes. The law must take these realities into account and Bill C-20 does exactly that.

The proposed amendment to have only one defence of public good should not be misconstrued as saying that child pornography is good. Of course it is not and the government has taken very real and concrete measures that strongly condemn child pornography.

The existence of child pornography defences was a key element in the supreme court's decision to uphold the constitutionality of the overall child pornographic scheme. Bill C-20's proposed amendment to allow a very limited defence in limited circumstances that requires the balancing of the risk of harm against the risk of good to be served by that act or material in question draws from the supreme court's wisdom in this regard.

In other words, the government has taken very seriously its responsibility to protect children against sexual exploitation, as well as its responsibility to uphold the charter. It is not a question of doing one or the other. Bill C-20 does both. It protects the right of child victims to equal protection and benefit under the law and the charter rights and freedoms of the accused.

I would also like to acknowledge concerns noted by hon. members regarding the sentencing results in some child pornography cases. In this regard concerns are twofold; namely, that the sentences being handed down are generally too lenient and that they are inappropriate where they consist of a conditional sentence.

To this I would like to draw the attention of hon. members to a part of Bill C-20 that has received little attention and that is clause 24. Clause 24 proposes to make the commission of any offence against a child, and not just against one's own child, an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes. First, I believe that this part of Bill C-20 speaks directly to the concern noted by some members regarding how seriously courts should view child pornography. Second, on the question of the use of conditional sentences in child pornography cases, I would note that the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights is currently in the midst of a review of the use of conditional sentences since their implementation some six years ago. I certainly look forward to seeing the results of that review on this issue.

Bill C-20 proposes significant reforms that will better protect children against sexual exploitation through child pornography. I call on all hon. members to support this important bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, since I came here in 1993 I have talked about waiting and waiting for something to happen in regard to protecting our society from these kinds of predators and of doing a better job of it. What I am hearing today from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice is exactly the same rhetoric we have heard for 10 years.

Here we suddenly have the answer but it has been in the Criminal Code all the time. The parliamentary secretary said that we have the toughest child pornography laws in the world. If they are the toughest in the world, could he explain to me why the Toronto police department has 1,700,000 pieces of child pornography in its possession that it has to investigate and determine whether it has any artistic merit? If we were to add the hundreds of thousands of other articles from all across the country, are we the toughest in the world when we have 1,700,000 in one city in the country?

I cannot believe for a moment that he would say that we have the toughest laws in the world.

I would like that member or any member on that side of the House to give me one example of where a child pornographer has received a 10 year maximum sentence, just one. I can give him hundreds of examples of conditional sentences and home arrests. I would ask the member to just give me one of a 10 year sentence, the toughest in the world.

This is back to the old rhetoric that we have heard for 10 years. It is no solution and, praise the Lord for the lawyers, the courts will be crammed with people saying that they did it under the public good. They will be busy. Every lawyer in the country will pocket a lot of change because we do not have the intestinal fortitude to say that child pornography is no good for anybody in the land and that collectively we should stamp it out in the House. We do not have enough brains to say that our children deserve that kind of protection.

Why do we have this continued rhetoric? Why is the government trying to convince us that we have the toughest laws in the world when we have millions of pieces of this junk in the country?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Liberal Northumberland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not think there is any doubt that we are always concerned about issues relating to the protection of our children and that we do and have as a government taken a very strong stand on the issue.

I just recited for the members assembled in the Chamber the number of provisions that we have that limit, in extraordinary ways, those who would attempt to commit an active dissemination or making of child pornography. When we look at our history of legislation I think all of us can sit back and reflect that simply making laws does not ultimately result in the protection that all of us would like to see.

We within the Chamber are limited to the obligation and opportunity to go forward to make the best laws and provide the best tools that we can for those who have to enforce the laws of the land.

I believe that in providing a more limited defence, as we are suggesting in the bill, through public good, it will be much more limiting than the previous defence. I think that is advantageous to those who would try to enforce the law.

As the Supreme Court clearly stated, we must be prepared to allow for some of those areas as defences, otherwise it would be declared unconstitutional. The question is, how do we provide for defences, for example, as I set out, that clearly limit it to areas where we believe it is extremely important to have the freedom, in particular with respect to the prosecution of those offences? We need to have that available to protect those who would investigate and prosecute.

I believe we are making great strides in this area. We have a comprehensive program. I believe this will add to it. With respect to the Sharpe case, we must remember that Mr. Sharpe was convicted using our existing laws. It was within our purview to provide the tools for the law to be there and it was enforced. He did receive a penalty under the law as provided.

If we are going to go forward and deal with the matter I believe that what we have brought before the House is an excellent basis on which to do so.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Art Hanger Canadian Alliance Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, there has been a lot of so-called tough talk on the part of the Liberals when it comes to laws dealing with the protection of children. This issue has gone on and on, as my colleague from Wild Rose has said.

We came here in 1993 and the government was talking about making it tough for sexual abusers of children, making it tough for abusers of children, let alone sexual abusers, and nothing really has happened other than the fact that the number of abusers has certainly increased over that period of time.

If we look at the legislation that has come from the Liberal side we see that even the release programs dealing with convicted pedophiles and convicted sex offenders have been almost brushed away. There is no criteria hardly. They are being placed in their homes or being locked up for a day or two and then being released back into the community.

Some of the petitions that I hold in my hands today, with thousands and thousands of names on them, call for the Minister of Justice to hold persons who are charged with an offence of child abuse, sexual abuse against children, in jail until their court appearance.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice talked about how tough the law is. Is one of the provisions in the bill, that a sexual abuser of a child will be held in court until his trial?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Liberal Northumberland, ON

Mr. Speaker, within the confines of the context of what we are proposing, we have always taken the position that the judges within our courts have to look at all the facts in each individual situation and determine whether there is risk to society if the person is put out on bail or given interim release of some nature, and that is important. We have valued that within our system.

I will specifically refer to clause 24 of the bill which states that we can draw the attention of the judiciary to the issue that we believe is very important by saying “this is an aggravating factor that we want you to take into consideration when sentencing”. I believe that is the way in which we as legislators are able to draw to the attention of those who sit on the benches throughout the country the way in which we want them to proceed with matters which we believe are important and what we believe they have to put their minds to.

I believe the bill would succeed in that regard. It would bring the attention of the court to it. It states that it would be considered as an aggravating factor when the court looks at sentencing. I believe that is the way in which the House operates to assist the judiciary in the country to go forward and properly deal with those who come before it with respect to these offences.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my friend and colleague from Surrey Central.

I want to address the statements the parliamentary secretary made in his speech. I have some sympathy for him being forced and obliged to give a government position that is so weak and effete in its intent.

As my colleague from Calgary Northeast mentioned, many of us have been in the House since 1993 and we have been trying to get the government to act on something that should be very basic, yet it refuses. This deals with the safeguard and protection of children in the face of sexual abuse and predation.

I want to address the comment made by my friend, the parliamentary secretary, about the case of Mr. Sharpe, who was, as he quite correctly said, convicted of an offence under the laws of our land. The reason we are putting forth an alternative and a tougher position in the case of Mr. Sharpe is that he did receive a conviction but the penalty did not fit the crime. That is the problem. At the end of the day, Mr. Sharpe paid but he spent a very small amount of time in prison. In fact he was let out after a small period time and the parliamentary secretary knows that.

That is the crux of the matter. One of our concerns with the bill is that this is not a case of where somebody stole something from somewhere else. This is not a young person or any person who has made a mistake. Anyone can make a mistake, that is part of being human. However the type of creature with whom we are dealing, to which this law applies, is a serial predator and sexual abuser of children. That puts these types of individuals in a class by themselves I would think.

At the end of the day our objective is to protect the most vulnerable people in our society against those often violent repeat predators and sexual abusers of little children. In its blunt form, that is what this is all about.

What we would like to see, in the case of Mr. Sharpe and individuals of his ilk, is that they will not be released into the public until the authorities are sufficiently confident that they will not reoffend. One of the deep and pervasive concerns that many of us have, as I said before, having worked in a jail, is that individuals who we know will reoffend and sexually abuse a child or even an adult, are let out. A singular failure of our judicial system is that it allows individuals who commit these heinous crimes out of prison knowing full well that they will reoffend.

We know we cannot treat this lightly. We know we cannot put individuals behind bars forever. That is not the mark of a free and fair society. However, on balance, surely in the case of children, we have to err on the side of being conservative and on the side of protecting children.

I personally hope the government will, under the bill, modify it and make changes so that at the end of the day we will have a mechanism to assess those individuals, who are sexual abusers, violent individuals or pedophiles, to see if there is sufficient cause for concern that they will reoffend before we let them out of jail. We must be sufficiently confident that they will not reoffend before we allow them out of jail.

When I was working in a jail on a Sunday night I remember being called to see a person who was going to be released the next day. The person had a very long rap sheet for extremely violent offences. As the physician responsible I was asked to see the person because he was acting up. I went into his jail cell and started to interview him. Within three minutes the person attacked me.

We managed to get the person into a psychiatric institution. The day after I went to the head of the jail and asked how we could possibly have a system where an individual with a long history of repeated violent offences who had been incarcerated was going to be let out into the unsuspecting public to commit another violent offence and perhaps kill somebody. Within three minutes of merely interviewing him, the person attacked me. What kind of a system is that? The response was, “That is the law. I cannot do anything about it”. That happened before I got into politics.

It points to a deficit in our system which we desperately need to fix. It is our responsibility to give our police and judicial system the ability to protect innocent civilians. We can all agree that has to be a fundamental job and responsibility of our judicial system. The problem is we do not have that right now. We are trying to offer the government a way in which the protection of innocent civilians can be put first and foremost. Specifically we are dealing here with children.

I personally would like to see it extended to other groups, to the violent offenders, to the sexual abusers, and also to the pedophiles.

There are two somewhat related areas with which we have not dealt. One is an international problem concerning how we deal with pedophile rings, people who travel on pedophile journeys to Thailand and Colombia. Many countries have laws on their books that are supposed to apprehend and convict individuals who travel on these journeys as a group of pedophiles to sexually abuse children in some of the poorest and most impoverished countries of the world.

I hope the parliamentary secretary can take back to the justice minister a commitment on his part to work with the international community to better track, apprehend and convict individuals who are involved in pedophile travel rings. We have to do a better job at that. Very few people in the world are ever convicted for that.

Another related issue involves prostitution. There are pimps and organizations that sexually abuse and enslave young women and some young men into the sex trade in Canada. The judicial system has been unable to deal with those individuals. Many of these people are immigrants to Canada, and some of them are illegal immigrants. Be that as it may, these individuals are still human beings. We need a system that penalizes individuals who are profiteering from sexually and physically abusing individuals involved in the sex trade.

Those people often are swept under the carpet and ignored, but they often live lives of virtual slavery in many of the large cities in our country.

I ask the hon. member to please take that back to the justice minister. Perhaps he could incorporate it in a way where we could go after the pimps and the gangs that are involved in this type of sexual slavery of individuals.

In closing, the government has an opportunity to work with parties in the opposition and indeed some of its own members to put forth a law that will protect children, that will get tough with individuals who commit these offences, that will ban conditional sentencing, and that will no longer allow the spurious argument of “for the public good” for allowing individuals to possess child pornography. We fear that is going to put an enormous loophole in the system which will enable individuals to possess child pornography.

We want tougher penalties. We want to stop conditional sentencing. We want to ensure that people who are a danger to children will be incarcerated until there is sufficient evidence that they are not going to be a danger to society. We would prompt the parliamentary secretary and the Minister of Justice to listen to our constructive solutions for the betterment of all Canadians.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

After question period when we resume the debate on Bill C-20, the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca will be allotted a five minute question and comment period.

We will now proceed to statements by members.

Mining ExplorationStatements by Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, the Association de l'exploration minière du Québec is asking the federal finance minister to extend by five years the investment tax credit for exploration in Canada and to make five minor changes to the eligibility criteria for the temporary flow-through share program.

Eleven of the fifteen mines currently operating in the Abitibi—Témiscamingue and Chibougamau regions will shut down by 2006, leading to the loss of 2,300 direct jobs and approximately 4,700 indirect jobs.

The five minor changes being proposed are as follows: extend the investment period from December 31 to the end of February; allow the use of up to 15% of the funds obtained to pay management-related costs; make the big Canadian mining companies eligible to participate in the program and maintain the look-back rule at 365 days; increase the non-refundable tax credit to 25% in 2004, decrease it to 20% in 2005 and then to 15% for the three following years.

Columbia

Space ShuttleStatements by Members

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Canadian Alliance Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, the people of North America share a common heritage, one of discovery. The history of our planet is the history of the movement of people. As has always been the case, that spirit of adventure is not without danger. The exploration of space brings us together globally.

So it is the world mourns the loss of the two women and five men who were aboard the space shuttle Columbia . By a single act we can honour their contribution to the exploration of space by learning from this tragedy and move forward with our efforts to reach out into space. Ever since man gazed at the first star in the night sky, he has been fascinated by the possibilities. The legacy of these seven courageous pioneers will be the continued pursuit of space travel, strengthened through their sacrifice.

And even though our hearts are heavy, we are at peace in knowing that the crew of the Columbia is at one with the heavens they so dearly loved.

Roy RomanowStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to congratulate Roy Romanow on being named the recipient of the Atkinson Award for Economic Justice. Mr. Romanow, the former premier of Saskatchewan and head of the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada, received this prestigious award for his work on health care, which provides a more powerful future for all Canadians.

The Atkinson Charitable Foundation award includes a financial endowment which will allow Mr. Romanow to continue with research and public education efforts to strengthen public health care in Canada.

I ask the House to join me in congratulating Roy Romanow on being honoured with this very important award.

Columbia

Space ShuttleStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Walt Lastewka Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am certain that all Canadians and all members of the House will join me in expressing our deepest sorrow at the loss of the space shuttle Columbia this past weekend.

The seven astronauts on board the space shuttle were a symbol of the hopes and achievements of all humanity: Commander Rick Husband; pilot William McCool; payload commander Michael Anderson; Kalpana Chawla, the first woman from India in space; specialists David Brown and Laurel Clark; and Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli citizen in space. We will not forget them. Their lives may be lost, but their dream lives on.

I ask the House to join me in sending our condolences to the friends and families of the astronauts and to the people of the United States and Israel at this time of tragic loss.

Black History MonthStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, February is Black History Month. I am pleased to rise today to pay tribute to the remarkable achievements of black Canadians.

Black Canadians have a long history in Canada. Through generations, both black women and men have enriched our culture and our society.

In Ontario our rich tapestry includes many extraordinary individuals, such as Mary Ann Shadd, the first black woman in North America to edit and public a weekly newspaper; Lincoln Alexander, the first black cabinet minister and first black lieutenant general; and our own Jean Augustine, the first black Canadian woman to be appointed to the federal cabinet. We celebrate their contributions to Canada's cultural, social and political development.

I also want to acknowledge Rick Gosling, the former chair of the race relations committee and the great work that he continues to do.

CurlingStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Charlie Penson Canadian Alliance Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my great pleasure to announce that the Alberta Junior Women's Curling Team is here in Ottawa today to compete in the Karcher Canadian Junior Curling Championships from February 1 to 10.

Coached by Heather Moore, the team hails from Grand Prairie Curling Club. The team, with Desiree Robertson as skip, Cary-Anne Sallows as third, Jennifer Perry as second and Stephanie Jordan as lead will be vying for top spot at the competition.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the team on making it this far. I wish them the very best of luck in the days ahead. I know they will do very well.

Juvenile DiabetesStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Liberal Erie—Lincoln, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are over 200,000 Canadians with juvenile diabetes. To stay alive, diabetics must balance insulin injections with the amount of food intake and must always be prepared for low blood sugar or high blood sugar, either of which could be life threatening.

Juvenile diabetes can also be very costly. One child with diabetes costs a family up to $20,000 per year to manage the disease. Diabetes and its complications cost Canada more than $9 billion a year in health care, absenteeism and lost productivity. These Canadians live with the realization that the results from diabetes are a lifelong problem and could result in serious and permanent complications to their health.

Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, non-traumatic amputations, adult blindness, stroke, heart attacks and is the seventh leading cause of death in Canada.

Let us all work together to find a cure for diabetes.

Black History MonthStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, this being Black History Month, I would like to highlight the important contribution of black communities to Quebec's social, economic and cultural vibrancy.

Many black people of various origins have settled in Quebec over the past four hundred years. Slaves freed under French rule, Afro-Americans fleeing slavery, workers from the West Indies who came to build the railroad and dig the Lachine canal, young West Indians who came to work in hospitals and schools in the 1950s, professionals from Haiti, and refugees and immigrants from numerous African countries all played an essential role in the development of modern Quebec.

In closing, I would like to point out the challenges still faced by the black community in being fairly represented in all sectors of Quebec society. To this end, it is particularly important to maintain a dialogue between Quebeckers of all origins, so that Quebec can be an increasingly inclusive and egalitarian society.

Soirée des MasquesStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Carole-Marie Allard Liberal Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today and extend congratulations to the nominees and winners at last night's Soirée des Masques.

To list just some of the winners, L'Homme de la Mancha received the Loto-Québec award; Amours délices et ogre , the Enfants terribles award; Le ventriloque , the Montreal production award; Les trois soeurs , the Quebec production award, and Encore une fois si vous permettez , the regional production award.

There was also a moving tribute to theatre personality Paul Hébert.

Thanks to Quebec theater, we have an opportunity to experience moments of magic, tragedy and joy. The time we spend in the theater is always unforgettable, and I encourage our artists to continue to offer us the opportunity to experience the whole gamut of emotions.

British Columbia AvalancheStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Canadian Alliance Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, this was a weekend of double tragedy. As we mourned the loss of seven astronauts, we learned of another avalanche in British Columbia which took the lives of seven students from Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School near Calgary.

What makes this tragedy all the more saddening is the young age of the avalanche victims. From all reports, they were great kids who had accomplished much in a very short time, excelling in sports, music, and drama while maintaining high academic standing and a zest for life.

As parents, Laureen and I were saddened to learn that the lives of these bright young people with such unlimited potential were cut so short. On behalf of the Canadian Alliance, we offer our sincere and heartfelt condolences to their families and friends. Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time.

Also, may we express our sincere thanks to the rescue workers who prevented additional loss of life and also to the teachers and support workers who continue to help those affected come to terms with this terrible tragedy.

Black History MonthStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

In December 1995, the House of Commons passed a motion declaring February Black History Month, thereby acknowledging the long and rich, yet often neglected, history of black Canadians.

Black History Month is dedicated to the recognition, learning and celebration of black history in North America. The event emerged from Negro History Week which was started in the United States in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson. As a black educator and publisher, Mr. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History to help uncover the history of black people in Africa and America. He launched Negro History Week to increase awareness in the United States of the contributions of black people throughout American history.

I encourage all Canadians to take part in the numerous activities organized around Black History Month.

Tragic EventsStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my fellow New Democrats and our leader Jack Layton, I wish to express our deepest sympathy to the families, loved ones and friends of the seven young Canadians who died so tragically in Glacier National Park on Saturday.

As young students, they exemplified a love of life and its challenges through their school, their sports and their community.

The loss suffered by family members, friends and classmates at Strathcona-Tweedsmuir school is difficult and painful. We join with all members of the House in not only expressing our sorrow, but also hope for what these young Canadians represented.

I also want to express our shock and pain, shared by all people at the catastrophic accident of the Columbia space shuttle and the loss of life by seven men and women who gave their lives for the ongoing quest for understanding our human place in this universe.

We respectfully offer our deepest sympathy to their families, to the people of the United States, Israel and India. We honour their memory and the memory of the young Canadians at Glacier National Park.

Columbia

Space ShuttleStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, on Saturday morning Americans once again suffered a blow that shook the world.

The space shuttle Columbia , the oldest of all the shuttles, broke up in the sky, taking with it the lives of seven astronauts.

As I watched the terrible images on Saturday, I was remembering that in June 1982, in my work as a journalist, I had the privilege of watching Columbia's fourth launch from Cape Kennedy.

The launch and re-entry of a shuttle are crucial moments in a space mission which often seem to tread a fine line between fiction and reality.

In January 1986, when the Challenger exploded, all the wonder of the launch quickly turned to nightmare.

On behalf of all my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois, I offer my sincerest condolences to the families of those who perished and to the American, Israeli and Indian peoples.

The intrepid men and women who explore space have our greatest admiration and respect.

Chinese New YearStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, February 1 marks the beginning of the lunar year 4701 of the Chinese calendar. Chinese New Year started more than 4,000 years ago and is celebrated today by people all over the world and in Canada. It is a time for families to come together and to rejoice, looking forward to the year to come.

Legend has it that in ancient times, Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve came and Buddha named a year after each one. This new year comes under the sign of the ram, an auspicious symbol, offering amiability, sensitivity and peace in the coming year.

The Chinese New Year presents an opportunity for Canadians to learn more about each other and about the richness of Chinese culture in Canada.

On this important occasion, we would like to wish our Chinese Canadians a happy and prosperous new year.

Columbia

Space ShuttleStatements by Members

February 3rd, 2003 / 2:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, on Saturday morning Canadians, like others all around the world, were watching the re-entry of the Columbia space shuttle. Minutes from home the space shuttle disintegrated before our unbelieving eyes.

The world not only lost seven great space pioneers; it also lost crucial scientific information, particularly in the health and science field.

To prepare for tomorrow, we must test our outer limits today. We will have a better world because of the work of these astronauts and of the people in our space programs. The people on the Columbia may be gone, but their good deeds will remain. We will not forget.

The members of the Progressive Conservative Party offer their condolences to the families and to the nations of these great astronauts.

Tragic EventsStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, the thoughts and sympathy of all Canadians are with the friends and families of the seven students of Strathcona-Tweedsmuir school in Calgary who died this weekend in a terrible avalanche.

Ben Albert was a scholarship recipient who played junior varsity volleyball and was in his first year at the school.

Daniel Arato had a great sense of humour and was known for juggling while riding a unicycle in the Terry Fox Run.

Scott Broshko was on a number of school sports teams and played in the school jazz and concert bands.

Alex Pattillo was an artist who performed in many of the school's musicals.

Michael Shaw was an accomplished sailor who was also on the junior varsity basketball and volleyball teams.

Marissa Staddon was a scholarship recipient who competed in the junior national skating championships, enjoyed mountain climbing with her father and played in the school band.

Jeff Trickett was an honours student who played in the school band and was an active sportsman.

Canadians feel the pain of the loss of these enthusiastic and accomplished young people. I ask the House to join with me in expressing our deepest condolences and regret at this tragic accident.

AgricultureStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gerry Ritz Canadian Alliance Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, the old adage, “I'm from the government and I'm here to help” has a whole new meaning for elk farmers in my riding. The past two years have been a nightmare of government red tape and contradictory directives from CFIA bureaucrats to the hardest hit farms.

To that end, a class action suit against the government's continued mismanagement and abusive tactics has been initiated.

One of those litigants, elk farmer, Rick Alsager, had his house raided and searched by CFIA vets when no one was at home. Quarantined farms that have been ordered “cleaned up” have followed the directives. At huge costs to themselves, they have removed the topsoil and buried it and have sanitized buildings and equipment, only to have the rules changed and the quarantines imposed indefinitely.

A sentinel program that was promised has never been implemented. That program would see a small herd of elk contained on the quarantined premises for three to four years, then tested for CWD. The government must realize that more science is the answer to CWD, not this program of stalling an industry to death.

As usual, the Liberal government's shortsighted agriculture policies are a day late and a dollar short.