House of Commons Hansard #9 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was transport.


The House resumed from October 14 consideration of the motion that Bill C-6, an act to establish the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and to amend or repeal certain Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness ActGovernment Orders

10 a.m.


Dave Chatters Conservative Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to inform the Chair that I am splitting my time. I forgot to mention that yesterday.

When I started my presentation yesterday I wanted to acknowledge that the parliamentary secretary made a fine speech in introducing this new department and in explaining what it will do and its purpose. Of course words are always easy and he said all the right things, but in my experience with the government over the last 11 years, actions certainly speak louder than words. Its actions have not indicated that it is willing to do anything serious or take any decisive action about the terrorist threat in Canada.

My first concern with the bill and the creation of the department is the fact that I do not believe the government intends to take the threat seriously or to take action. My other concern is that the department lacks an adequate oversight mechanism to evaluate whether we have the kind of protection that we should have in Canada before we have a terrorist incident and before Canadians lose their lives.

I quoted some examples yesterday of evidence to back up my accusation.This morning in the National Post the Prime Minister's own national security advisor, Robert Wright, said that it would be absurd for Canadians to think that they would not be the target of a terrorist attack. I think that is one more piece of evidence that says that we should take this threat every bit as serious as the United States and that we should be doing things to protect Canadians from the terrorist threat.

The member from the Bloc and even the NDP to some degree focused a great deal of time on the issue of emergency preparedness in the face of natural disasters. As the Quebec spokesman suggested, Quebec has long done a good job of preparing for a natural disaster. I would suggest most provinces in Canada, if not all provinces, have done that. The primary responsibility for natural disasters is the provincial government with backup from the federal government, but that was not what motivated the government to bring this department forward. It was the terrorist threat on 9/11 that motivated the government to create this bill.

I do not think it makes much sense to focus on the issue of government response to a natural disaster. Our concern is that we protect Canadians in the face of the terrorist threat and I do not believe the government is willing to do what it needs to do. Even though it has been given the responsibility and the ability under this bill, I do not believe it will take the actions needed to protect Canadians.

Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.


Carol Skelton Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on behalf of my constituents to discuss an issue that reaches far beyond the boundaries of my riding.

Following the terrorist attack several years ago, Canadians have been asking more questions about the preparedness of Canada to handle similar events. In fact, flooding in Haiti, earthquakes in Turkey and other human and natural catastrophes have caused us to pause and ask ourselves what it would be like if it happened here.

Canada has been fairly lucky in the fact that we have suffered few human catastrophes in recent times. Since the great explosion in Halifax, many of our emergencies have been of a weather related nature and with minimal loss of life. While we are fortunate for this, it has lulled us into a false sense of security. Canada needs to be more active in preparing for future crises.

When it comes to discussing emergency preparedness I must mention that I do so from a position of experience. I am proud to say that I am a graduate of the Emergency Preparedness College in Arnprior, Ontario. Since taking my training there and elsewhere, I have been able to put my skills and knowledge to test, mainly through my employment with the Canadian Red Cross Society.

Prior to becoming an MP, while employed with the Canadian Red Cross Society, I travelled to disaster affected areas to assist people with basic emergency needs. I was in Winnipeg after the flood of 1997. I was in Mississippi during their great flooding. What I learned from those disasters is that advance planning and training does go a long way. It is a good investment and a prudent approach to population protection.

Unfortunately, for all the advance training I did see, I also saw that a lot more was needed in Canada. In the event of a mass crisis we do not have enough pre-coordination and training. We only have enough qualified professionals to meet everyday needs but not for an extended crisis. We do not have a wide network of trained, equipped and organized people to rely on.

I must take a moment though to highlight one of the bright lights of my experience, and that is volunteers. Volunteers are the soul of any disaster management system: volunteer firefighters, cooks, cleaners, medical staff, drivers and suppliers. They are all volunteers. Volunteer staff to assist in every aspect. Volunteers and their families give up time together to help others. They spend their evenings and weekends in training sessions. They spend their own money to help others. They are truly the most giving individuals around. Many volunteers often put the needs of their own home and family at the bottom of the list in order to help others.

If we as a government are going to rely on volunteers so much for emergency preparedness, we must also be prepared to help them. In cases of extreme disaster and, in turn, extreme volunteer commitment, we should consider income compensation, job security protection and out of pocket expense compensation.

What happens if our rural firefighters have to fight a three week tire fire during seeding? What happens if the firefighter works in the local restaurant? Will he or she still have a job afterwards? Who will put the groceries on the table for the family during that period? If we are willing to ask so much of them, we must be willing to consider giving something back.

I am sure I speak for hundreds of thousands of Canadians who have benefited from emergency service volunteers. I thank them. I thank them for being there when we needed them.

Having said that, we cannot leave emergency preparedness strictly to volunteers. Canada needs to be better prepared.

This week I was visited in my office by Canada's new chief public health officer, Dr. David Butler-Jones. We were also joined by the director general, Dr. Ron St. John. We spoke at length about Canada's state of emergency preparedness, both in general and also specifically as it relates to public health. What quickly became evident and a point of mutual agreement was that we need to do more.

I suggested in the meeting and also in a private member's bill that Canada's medical students should be accepted, encouraged and able to take emergency preparedness training before finishing their education. They could form a network across Canada to help address emergencies far beyond the traditional emergency room.

There are far too many communities that lack a proper plan, resources and staffing to deal with any emergency. Neighbouring communities, and even provinces, have inadequate mutual aid agreements. They are not adequately prepared to come to the aid of their neighbours and this has to change.

A shortage of resources and funding makes it necessary that any successful full emergency response will require the help of one's neighbours. We saw in Florida that repeated crises take a toll on emergency workers. They need to be rotated to ensure they do not make mistakes due to fatigue or harm their own health.

When it comes to mutual aid agreements, I would like to see all services better coordinated, similar to what we often witness with hydro companies. Perhaps it is just the impression given by the media, but in any disaster it seems that out of town hydro workers are among the best prepared to help their fellow workers. They could be leaders for others to follow.

Unfortunately, our rural communities highlight many of the problems also being experienced in our cities. There is inadequate funding even for the most basic of emergency preparedness training. Recent surveys showed that most Canadians do not know basic first aid, let alone have emergency response skills. Skills are nothing without the proper resources.

There are critical resources which do not exist, such as adequate numbers of ambulances, hospital beds, emergency supplies, generators and trained emergency services staff.

I also used to be a coordinator for Canadian Blood Services. I can tell the House that there is room for improvement there. Many rural areas lack enough blood stocks to deal with something as realistically possible as a major bus crash. An event such as a tornado or an earthquake could be disastrous.

Right now in Saskatchewan a team of people are preparing to launch a private rocket into space. While I wish them the best, I also thank them for highlighting the points I have been making. Emergency services in the area have had notice of the planned event and they still do not know how to adequately handle it. Nothing has gone wrong and we all hope that nothing does, but we have exposed a crack in our system that needs fixing. Mutual aid agreements need to be formulated and implemented as soon as possible.

Perhaps the most important point I wish to make in this debate is this. Today we are moving toward passing this legislation and then we will move into the implementation of it. It is not just enough to pass the legislation. We have the responsibility to monitor the implementation, properly fund it and support it. A plan is not worth anything if we cannot execute it.

We realize the need for better emergency preparedness and I really hope the bill does not lull us into a false sense of security. We need to consider ourselves lucky in the past and we must be more vigilant and prepared in the future.

As I said in the beginning, we in Canada have been lucky for the most part. We have had our share of emergencies and we have dealt with some better than others. We have called inquiries into our handling of them and have implemented a few of the recommendations. That is a good start, and I emphasize start, but we need to follow through.

I will conclude my remarks by once again thanking the volunteers in our emergency service response framework. For the trained professionals who work so hard for us, I hope we can create legislation to provide them with what we need. I also want to thank Canadians personally for stepping forward when the need arises. We are a giant nation that often witnesses help coming from ordinary citizens in many forms time zones away.

From coast to coast we truly are neighbours. We really do mean what we say, “If you need a hand, give us a call”. Let us use this legislation to make that a little easier.

Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Toronto Centre Ontario


Bill Graham LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for the helpful suggestions in her speech. This illustrates, in my view, one of the important dimensions of what we are trying to do here, which is to develop collaboration among all levels of government in order to face emergencies. Every jurisdiction has its own responsibilities and one of the most important things we have to do in Canada is bring those jurisdictions together.

However, I hope that the hon. member did not intend to be alarmist in her comments. She is right to say we have to be more vigilant, but I hope she will also agree that, as the national security advisor said in his speech the other day, we have to recognize the nature of the dangers. The government is doing that. We have invested some $7 billion more in issues.

In fact, as members know, Mr. Ridge was here in the last two days talking with the Deputy Prime Minister about that element of our security in working with the United States. My own department has put substantial resources into this as a result of the national security policy. We have now under Norad a joint planning committee which is designed to deal with cross-border issues.

I hope that all hon. members, particularly the hon. member, who clearly has a sense from her own community of what needs to be done, will work with the government and work with all of us in making sure of it, particularly, if I may suggest to the hon. member, at this level of why we need to coordinate and have cooperation from all levels of government. This needs a coordinated approach from municipalities and provinces as well as the federal government.

Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.


Carol Skelton Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, yes, most definitely, I will work with the government to make things better, because I realize from drafting a disaster plan for my community what needs to be done and what has to be done. My concern is that the government will not act as quickly as it should to put the necessary things in place. That is what we have to make sure it does. I want to see a framework that is done responsibly, I want to see it done correctly and I want to see it done as quickly as possible.

Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Scarborough—Agincourt Ontario


Jim Karygiannis LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I too would like to congratulate the hon. member across the way for some thoughtful interventions. I noted that she has a great background in getting involved with the community as well as responding outside the country in the hour of need. I was a little concerned, though, in hearing her speak, that laymen outside the confines of this chamber who are listening to the hon. member might think we are not at all prepared.

I am wondering if this is really what she means. Yet she volunteers when we sent people in other countries so I am sure that really she does not mean we are not prepared to that extent. I think we are well prepared. If we can send individuals such as herself, and she volunteers to be in other places, I think Canada is well prepared to meet any national emergency.

Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.


Carol Skelton Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to remind my colleague that I was employed with the Canadian Red Cross Society and I was deployed by the society to the United States. I was not sent by the Government of Canada to help in the United States or even in my mission to Winnipeg. I was employed by the Canadian Red Cross Society as a volunteer.

We have to make sure that all these mutual aid agreements and so on are signed and dotted and that the provinces know they can depend on the federal government. We have to make sure that our field hospitals are supplied. We have to make sure that the Canadian Blood Services is in control of the blood supply and that people have it. We have to make sure that large, vast rural areas have ambulances and that it does not take three hours to get to someone who needs service immediately.

If there is a bus crash in southwestern Saskatchewan and we cannot get a ambulance for three hours to that bus crash where there are seriously injured people, we are going to have huge problems on our hands. We see this in rural Saskatchewan especially. We are short 60 RCMP officers in our province. We have RCMP officers who cannot even have the proper communications. Their radios do not work in some areas of our province. They have to use cellphones and in certain areas their cellphones do not work. That, to me, is not being prepared.

I think we have to look at all aspects of government. We have to look at what the federal government does and we have to make sure that the people involved in emergency services training have the equipment they need to do their jobs. That is the point I want to make today.

Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.


Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have the opportunity to rise and make some brief comments about Bill C-6, now before the House. The bill is described as introducing “an act to establish the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and to amend or repeal certain acts”.

On the surface this might appear to be nothing but a pretty straightforward housekeeping bill and in fact one that is overdue, because it basically establishes the legislative authority for what the government has already been doing, generally not a very good practice and not one that is in the proper order of things. Nevertheless, one could say it is positive that we are now dealing with this bit of housekeeping.

I think it is important that we not fall into thinking that this is merely a housekeeping bill. I do not want to exaggerate my concerns. I do not want to go so far as to say that the bill is in fact a wolf in sheep's clothing, but I do want to raise some concerns about the possibility that the bill could create a good many problems. It may solve some problems and there are some reasons for being optimistic about that. But depending on the implementation, on the checks and balances, and on whether the government is prepared to begin paying more attention to the critical importance of human rights and civil liberties in our society and the due process of law, either Bill C-6 will be a positive thing or it will not.

I think that in a way we have to look at this legislation from two points of view. One is around the aspect of emergency preparedness and public safety, which I want to say a little bit about. The other is about the extent to which “public security” matters are really at the heart of what the government intends this bill to be about. It is perhaps difficult in some cases to make a separation between the two.

One of the reasons that I wanted to take the opportunity to speak directly to the public safety and emergency preparedness aspect of the bill is that I want to speak directly from the experience of my riding of Halifax over the last year, when the question of emergency preparedness suddenly became very critical, not just on one occasion but two.

The first, of course, was hurricane Juan, which occurred in mid-September last year. We were subjected to a very serious disaster that called for a Herculean effort from all citizens, all agencies and all levels of government in dealing with its incredible aftermath.

It is not true, as sometimes is suggested, that it was a good thing there was no loss of life given how terrible the massive destruction was, because in fact there was loss of life. An emergency worker ambulance driver was killed in the line of duty by a tree that fell crashed through the roof of his ambulance. There were also some deaths that were indirectly caused although that is a bit more difficult to measure. I am talking about people who were in a state of frail health. A close personal friend of mine, a medical doctor, had been struggling with cancer and was fatally impacted by the fact that, in her very fragile medical state, when severe damage was done to the hospital she was in, service was interrupted and she had to be relocated to another hospital. In the process, she lost her valiant and heroic struggle against cancer.

In general, taking note of these very tragic results of hurricane Juan, the mobilization of the community was truly exemplary. I am not saying that it was perfect. There were tremendous frustrations. The biggest criticism to be made, and I still feel this way, is that communications with the public about what was happening were not perhaps what they might have been. However, the state of preparedness to deal with this emergency and national disaster was really a model of why we have efforts to coordinate government activity.

I was interested to hear the comments of the member from the Bloc last night referring to lessons that were learned from the massive flooding in the Saguenay region. I am not sure if my sequence is correct, but this was followed I think by the ice storm which also created great damage. There probably were lessons learned about improving the communications and coordination that I am sure would have been shared from one province to another, and among the different levels of government.

By and large we saw a very impressive mobilization. There were heroes and incredible stories of voluntary effort that were phenomenal. There were municipal workers who went flat out around the clock without regard to the fact that they were working far beyond the hours that they were duty bound to work.

Then we have the Canadian armed forces. For me it was an extremely valuable education in precisely how the armed forces mobilize in a situation like that. I appreciated the opportunity extended to me by the minister responsible for emergency measures, the then minister of defence, when I was invited to accompany him to do a tour of the disaster areas, both by helicopter and on the ground. I could see the operational side. Mobilizing the armed forces was very impressive, not only those that were on-site in Halifax or throughout Nova Scotia, but bringing in additional personnel from other provinces.

Earlier in the year I introduced a bill which I think was an appropriate one. In fact, it would fall within the mandate of this bill now before the House to provide for the awarding of medals for the Herculean effort put forward by armed forces personnel. It would provide for the awarding of similar medals in the future under similar circumstances.

A question that might arise is, why would we do that for our armed forces personnel, but not suggest the same for municipal workers? There is a small difference that is significant and needs to be taken into account. The municipal workers, who would have been mobilized, worked long hours and were very important participants in restoring security and safety to people's lives. They would have received overtime pay for those extra work hours. There was recognition through appropriate remuneration.

In the instance of the armed forces, I do not know that the public fully takes account that no such thing happens. They are called upon to respond to duty, in some cases do it around the clock continuously without the possibility of any additional financial remuneration. They of course do that at a significant loss of time and ability to play a role in their family life. It is a small way in which we as Canadians can recognize those situations where they go far beyond the call of anything anyone could consider to be reasonable duty.

The provisions in the bill regarding the improvements to coordination and communication are completely supportable and laudable. Cutting down on the possibilities that this kind of coordinated effort may in any way be impeded by the lack of appropriate structures is overdue. I have no reservation about supporting these provisions.

I want to briefly express some concerns about what we have here in terms of both the provisions of the bill and the government's intentions. Of course one cannot measure that and I seek some assurances from the parliamentary secretary who has introduced this bill.

I want to start by citing a prophetic statement. I am not sure who made it, but it is seared forever in my mind. I says that any nation that sacrifices human rights for security will end up with neither. We have had sufficient numbers of alarming situations in this country post 9/11 where there has not been nearly sufficient attention to that very serious threat.

We heard the prophetic words of Afro-American Congresswoman Barbara Lee from California in the aftermath of 9/11, when Bush rushed to create the us and them situation, rushed to declare that every human being was either on Bush's team or on Osama bin Laden's team, and severely polarized the situation which was already extremely dangerous, precarious, and challenging for all nations to respond to.

Those words of Barbara Lee, that in the attempt to defeat terrorism we should not become the enemy we deplore were prophetic at the time. It was very sound advice. She was giving that advice clearly to the Bush administration, but I regret that the Canadian government did not sufficiently heed those warnings. They did not just come from Congresswoman Barbara Lee, although the courage she showed to stand alone and articulate that position was very inspirational for those of us who had a much easier task of trying to create an awareness and a sensitivity on behalf of our own governments.

Being concerned about ensuring public security, we have seen far too many incidents in which there have been imbalances created where human rights and civil liberties have been sidestepped, sideswiped, and in some cases outright trampled upon, in the name of public security. That can take us to an extremely dangerous place as a nation. Unfortunately, we know in considerable agonizing detail that it has brought immense hardship and is continuing to impose incredible hardship on the lives of individual people, and families in some instances, in this country.

It is not some kind of random hardship. It is not random in who is affected. It is very clear that there has been racial profiling. Individuals have been singled out and in many cases mishandled, mistreated and have had their basic human rights and civil liberties trampled upon. When that happens, it is not just damage to the individual, it is damage to the very fibre and fabric of a democratic society that is supposedly rooted in rule of law.

The list is long and shocking. I know there are some who will say that I am exaggerating. Well we cannot exaggerate when we know of instances where there has essentially been a suspension of the presumption of innocence in people facing accusations and harsh treatment. It is not an exaggerated concern to say that people are incarcerated with no charges laid, with no legal process of being brought to trial, and actually in some instances imprisoned for a considerable period of time. That is not acceptable.

We have people, as a result of our appropriate genuine concern about security, who are not benefiting from those very fundamental protections that should exist in a civilized democratic society around due process, transparency, and accountability. In addition, knowing what it is one is being accused of and having the legal counsel and legal process to be in a position to face one's accusers and defend oneself. These are all very serious concerns.

Those cases have a human face. The best known example is what happened to Maher Arar. It is shocking that it occurred because of what appears to have been the passing of information. One could say that the sharing of information is critically important and certainly in this bill there are explicit provisions for removing barriers to the sharing of information. However, the sharing of information can either be a constructive thing and be exactly what is needed to deal with public safety and security or it can be lethal and very damaging if it is not done within the context of the rule of law and appropriate protections for people.

As my House leader, the member for Vancouver East, articulated so well yesterday, we are in support of the principle of the bill. It is hard to imagine why one would not be in support of the principle of the bill, but we are extremely vigilant about what this legislation is really going to be about. We are going to be seeking a great deal of reassurance and more detail in that regard in committee.

I want to end by raising a question and I do not know the answer to this question. I opened one of my newspapers this morning, it might have been reported in many papers, but this was the National Post , and I read an article reporting on Tom Ridge's visit to Ottawa yesterday. The title of the article was “Security will reshape relations”. It was attributed to Mr. Ridge and the subtitle was “Greater integration”. U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge was stating in Ottawa yesterday that the drive to safeguard North America from global terrorism would reshape Canada-U.S. relations and lead to greater economic integration.

It was not, frankly, until I read that article this morning that it became crystal clear to me that the government's decision to introduce this legislation yesterday may indeed have been directly related to the visit of U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. I do not make any accusations about that, but I ask the government to address the concern that is widely shared, that in fact we may be going down the very same road that is shocking the world in terms of the response of the U.S. administration to the issues of public security and post 9/11 responses.

It seems to me that it is too much of a coincidence that the U.S. homeland security secretary was here yesterday on the day that this bill was introduced, which of course was the government's decision and presumably done for a reason. I think it underscores the point that we want to make.

We want to be assured absolutely that the legislation will not put us on a further track to ape, or emulate or follow the truly reprehensible suspension of civil liberties and due process of protection against the abuse of power in the name of security which sacrifices human rights in pursuit of that security. We want to be assured this not just by words from the parliamentary secretary, who is piloting this through Parliament, but in terms of the actual provisions and protections that are built into the bill.

Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Etobicoke North Ontario


Roy Cullen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Halifax for her comments and for her support in principle for Bill C-6. I hope that over the course of the debates we will be able to bring her on side beyond the principles of the bill.

However, I understand the sensitivity on some of the points she has raised. The balance between our national security interest and the rights of Canadians is never an easy balance to achieve, particularly in this new world, to which I am sure that Secretary Ridge was referring, where we have the threat of global terrorism.

I should reiterate what I said in my remarks on the bill. Bill C-6 does not give the minister or any of the portfolios any new information exchange authorities. It simply replicates what is there already. It gives the opportunity to improve the way we share information in terms of technology and protocols, et cetera, so we can be better positioned to share information. However, the authorities in terms of the actual information in the bill do not go beyond what is already there.

We have designed the bill to be a made in Canada solution, respecting Canadian cultural norms and values. That is why I share the member's concern about racial profiling and issues around that. The bill will do nothing to accelerate that. In fact it might help to put a better light on it.

That is why the minister is forming the cross cultural round table so we can hear the views of many of the communities across Canada who have expressed some concern about the potential for racial profiling. That is why we are sensitized to that type of information.

The member for Halifax also is aware, as I pointed out to her colleague yesterday who was aware, of the many oversight agencies that are implicit in the bill and indeed are already in place, the oversight of CSIS, the RCMP. I will not bother to name them as I did yesterday, but I am sure the member for Halifax is aware of them.

However, we live in a different world today. Yesterday the member for Central Nova asked about perimeter. We use this terminology, for example, economic integration. What does that actually mean? The reality is that economies of the United States and Canada are integrated. There is movement of $1.8 billion a day between Canada and the United States. Does that mean we need to integrate fully? There has been discussion around a whole range of options.

I cannot speak for Secretary Ridge, but I know we are cooperating. We have some shared objectives. We want to ensure that we have secure borders and that the flow of people and goods moves freely across the border. That is what we are facilitating. Economic integration is a buzz word that I am not sure I fully understand. It goes in some cases beyond what I personally am prepared to accept, but we need to have that debate in the House.

Our economies are integrated and we are cooperating. That is the level we are pursuing certainly.

I would like to thank the member for Halifax also for her support on emergency preparedness. I had the opportunity to visit our operation centre. It contrasts very well with the operation centre in the homeland security in Washington.

Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.


Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I do not think there was a question in there, but I am happy to respond to a couple of things the minister raised.

Yes, it is true, we have oversight agencies dealing with CSIS and the RCMP. However, it is clear that those agencies have utterly failed in some instances. That is in part what the Maher Arar inquiry is about. If we have protections to deal with the excesses and abuses of actions by the RCMP or by CSIS, how could we end up seeing this unbelievable tragedy unfold? I do not choose to, nor should I in any way second guess the outcome of the public inquiry. However, it is clear that the protections were not there or we would not have witnessed a situation where a Canadian citizen ended up being spirited off the continent, because he happened to be passing through New York, on the basis of information that appears to have been supplied by the Canadian government without appropriate checks and balances.

It is also true that the RCMP oversight commissioner has publicly said that the oversight body does not have sufficient powers to even get the information it needs, let alone to come to conclusions that can have any impact in changing the situation with respect to abuses of power.

We have to recognize that we have a job to do to strengthen the oversight capacity and the kind of actions that can be taken in the face of abuses of power that have occurred. I hope this is something at which the government is looking.

Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness ActGovernment Orders

October 15th, 2004 / 10:45 a.m.


Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the member for Halifax for challenging us to be careful in terms of what we put in place because it has long ranging consequences.

I heard the member who spoke before her talk about the fact that Canada has been lucky in that we have not had any disasters other than natural. I wonder if maybe it is more than luck. Canadian society has evolved as a society that is tolerant and inclusive and the government has come forward in most cases and developed programs over the years that support people so we do not get into positions where we have one group of people who are desperate and in need as opposed to another. There is a mentality or an environment in Canada that precludes us attracting the kind of devastating attack that we have seen in other parts of the world.

Could the member comment on the fact that sometimes we hear people saying that we are lucky as opposed to Canada has been thoughtful in the way it has evolved as an inclusive, tolerant society, and we need to continue down that path?

Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.


Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, the member for Sault Ste. Marie brings forward a very important point. It is one we need to remind ourselves about from time to time. It is not just some kind of waffle.

We have made different choices in a deliberate way about what kind of society we want to create. It is not an accident that we have chosen to be a bilingual, multicultural nation that celebrates the diversity and differences while also working to build a strong Canadian family that is absolutely inclusive.

Potentially that means we can be more sensitive and vigilant about the protection of human rights and civil liberties, but we ought not to ever take it for granted. We ought not to make the mistake of thinking that because this is who we say we want to be, that this in fact is who we are. At any point in time we can turn our backs on the important protection of human rights, civil liberties and so on.

Having lived in Texas for a year, post-graduate school was perhaps for me the most Canadianizing experience I could ever have. It made me appreciative of the fact that we made different choices about kind of society we wanted to create and produced different consequences in the process.

Not to be beat up on Tom Ridge today, particularly, but when we see in the name of public security some of the things that are happening in the U.S. today in terms of trampling human rights and civil liberties, suspending the rule of law and so on, then one has to be very vigilant that we do not go down the same path. When one sees the argument that he made publicly yesterday, without apology, that public security demanded and dictated that we go to total economic integration, is drawing a very long bow. It is using the argument of public security to massively influence public policy choices that we have a right as a sovereign nation to make and that we have a responsibility to make to ourselves and future generations to ensure that we continue on that path of compassion and sensitivity and a vigilant safeguarding of human rights and civil liberties, which is the only path to true public security.

Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I sense from the hon. member that there is some concern about the extent of economic cooperation between the U.S. and Canada and that this would tend to lead to other consequences. I know that members have talked a lot about issues to do with security particularly, missile defence, et cetera.

We are inextricably linked to the United States. I am not sure whether it should be characterized that somehow we are beholden. The level of our trade, 75% of our exports go to the U.S., is very good for Canada.

Would the member care to clarify her concerns with regard to the economic linkages and the possible consequences to other areas such as sovereignty issues or militarization issues?

Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.


Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I welcome this question because it gives me a chance to say that the hon. member's characterization of my comments is just simply not accurate. I have not said, he did not hear me say and Hansard will not indicate that I said that economic cooperation with the U.S. is to be avoided. However, there is a very big distinction between economic cooperation, collaboration and the obvious interrelationship that exists between our respective economies and the notion of total economic integration.

I am glad the member raised what is a very serious concern, certainly of the New Democratic Party, and it is no secret to anybody. Vast numbers of Canadians are concerned about the same arguments of the threats to public security leading us inevitably, unalterably into falling in line with Bush's missile defence madness, on the same line of argument that somehow because we are neighbours and we exist on the same continent, we have to sacrifice our sovereignty. We have to say we no longer have the right to make this decision based on our own values and on our own analysis of what brings lasting peace in a just world and say no to missile defence. The list of reasons for doing so is very long and we are not prepared to cave into pressures that public--

Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The time allocated for questions and comments is over. Resuming debate.

Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the last engagement moved me to say a few thoughts before we reach question period.

I understand the member's position. She has been quite clear. I am not sure what would constitute full economic integration. I do not think that our economy moves in directions simply because we wish it to. Our economy builds because the government has created an environment which promotes job growth, economic growth and wealth in Canada and to take care of Canadians. I have often thought that the success of a country is really a measure of the health and well-being of its people, not an economic measure.

With regard to Bill C-6 in general, all members understand that in the creation of the department on public safety and emergency preparedness we took a critical step forward to maintain the safety and security of our country.

There are a vast array of issues which Canadians will want to know about. Through the debate here and through the debate that will go on in committee, many of these issues will be explored. That is the important aspect. This is the starting point to deal with some of these concerns.

Certainly we will read in the media of some speculation about where this goes from here. Today I had an opportunity to speak directly with the minister about her meetings with Mr. Ridge yesterday. I was very impressed with the work that has been done with regard to the security issues in areas like Sault Ste. Marie and the piloting there as well as in B.C. There are concerns about the Windsor-Detroit bridge. It is a very busy economic route for bilateral trade. It is going to take seven to ten years to bring that infrastructure into line with what is necessary to deal with the current level of transport as well as the projected growth.

It was a delight for me to see Mr. Ridge here yesterday. The optics were good. I also believe that the issue with regard to security preparedness is on the right track. Sovereignty issues should never be a concern. Canada indeed is a sovereign nation.

Renovation MonthStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, October is Renovation Month.

For 15 years the Canadian Home Builders' Association has been celebrating the renovation season by providing consumers with information on home renovations, as well as showcasing the building industry's professionals, their products and services.

As Canada's national agency, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation supports this initiative and works with home builders to share with consumers a wealth of housing information and know-how. CMHC Is there to help Canadians with decisions on buying, renovating and maintaining their homes.

It is committed to working with builders and helping Canadians access a wide choice of quality, affordable homes and making vibrant and sustainable communities a reality right across this country.

Great White North Pumpkin FairStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Dave Chatters Conservative Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Mr. Speaker, earlier this month I attended the 16th annual Great White North Pumpkin Fair in the small community of Smoky Lake in my riding.

In early October of each year, contestants and observers come from all over western Canada and the northern United States to this festival, swelling the population of Smoky Lake to near 40,000, requiring almost every permanent resident of the town to volunteer to help make the weekend a success.

The residents of Smoky Lake have worked tirelessly to make this weekend a real success with steam thrashing demonstrations, a farmers market, displays, and of course, giant pumpkins. The winning pumpkin weighed in at a staggering 817 pounds and gained 20 pounds per day at the peak of the growing season.

Sincere congratulations to the community of Smoky Lake.

Thunder Bay TelevisionStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Ken Boshcoff Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the member for the riding of Thunder Bay—Rainy River, I am pleased to offer sincere congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Fraser Dougall on the 50th anniversary of their television station, CKPR.

For half a century the staff of CKPR have proudly served the communities I represent with timely, relevant and insightful news. In addition, CKPR is a strong supporter of community events and encourages volunteerism among its employees. It is also known as a very generous supporter of community events and for its corporate generosity.

As one of Canada's last remaining private and local television broadcasters, I commend everyone who has contributed to the achievements of this quality TV station. On behalf of the member for Thunder Bay—Superior North, félicitations à tous.

Mental Illness Awareness WeekStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, last week was mental illness awareness week.

On Saturday, in my riding, I stressed the importance of this broad public awareness campaign. The main purpose of the awareness week was to dispel the misconceptions about mental illness and its consequences, which often include ostracism.

It was also an opportunity to recognize the many volunteers and agencies that work in this field with limited financial resources. There is a direct connection between funding and service quality and the fiscal imbalance to which the Speech from the Throne will now include a reference.

The fiscal imbalance has to be corrected once and for all, for the well-being of citizens, especially those affected by this growing problem in our society.

Community Care WorkersStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Raymond Simard Liberal Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform the House and all Canadians that October 10 to 16, 2004 is national Community Care Worker Week.

The health care professionals, paraprofessionals and volunteers who provide care in the community are an integral part of our health care system. Community care workers represent many groups and disciplines and carry out various functions. They include nurses, social workers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, homemakers, home support workers and volunteers. These are the vital front line workers who provide home based care, facility based long term care, meal programs and community support programs.

To honour these front line workers, the Canadian Association for Community Care has initiated the Community Care Worker Award which is presented to the winner in their community every year during Community Care Worker Week. The award recognizes a community care worker who has made a difference in people's lives.

To pay tribute to community care workers across Canada, I ask my colleagues to join me in recognizing national Community Care Worker Week.

Crystal MethamphetamineStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Randy Kamp Conservative Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise for the first time in this chamber as the representative of the good people of Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission. I want to thank them for the privilege they have given me of being their voice in Ottawa.

Like all communities, we face challenges. The current challenge before us involves the dramatic increase in the use of crystal meth, a highly addictive drug that can cause violent, erratic behaviour that puts us all at risk.

Led by Mary and Gord Robson, the Meadowridge Rotary Club launched a campaign to tackle the problem. The response has been overwhelming. Hundreds of concerned citizens have joined us in the effort to do something about this drug that is poisoning our children. We believe that it is time to do everything we can to fight back.

The theme of our campaign is “Life or Meth” because that is the choice facing our communities today. Let us stand together in our hometowns and in this House to choose life and eliminate the use of crystal meth.

Excellence in TeachingStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, Francesca Ianni is a history and civics teacher at Assumption Secondary School in Burlington. Today she is the recipient of the Governor General's Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Canadian History.

Canada's National History Society hosts this award. It selected eight teachers from across the country who utilize creative teaching methods and exceptional lesson plans that inspire our young people.

A teacher for 11 years, Ms. Ianni offers her students a range of experiences in order to learn history. They do role playing, they listen to guest speakers, including veterans, and they take tours. Through her work she inspires and encourages a lifelong interest in the history of our great country. Her enthusiasm and energy know no bounds. She was nominated by students, parents and colleagues. I have met her and I can say that kids are lucky to have her as a teacher.

Ms. Ianni's ideas will be shared online in the publication of the Canadian history lesson plan which is on the website of Canada's National History Society.

Congratulations, Francesca. Félicitations. Way to go. Keep up the great work.

Institut maritime du QuébecStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Louise Thibault Bloc Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I wish to draw attention to the 60th anniversary of the Institut maritime du Québec. This diamond jubilee is proof that the IMQ is a gem, one we should be proud of but also one we need to put every effort into preserving.

Its reputation is second to none. Quebec and our great region of Rimouski are proud of it. Canada and the rest of the world call upon its expertise. The IMQ has earned pride of place among our knowledge institutions thanks to the determination and dynamism of its directors and the skill and professionalism of its teaching and support staff.

I congratulate the IMQ's management and staff on their excellence and wish the institute many more years to pursue its mission of education and leadership.

Women's History MonthStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Diane Marleau Liberal Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, October is Women's History Month. Today I am proud to rise as a strong woman from northern Ontario to pay tribute to the trailblazers in the women's movement who have made their mark on Canadian society.

I invite all my colleagues to note the date of October 18. It is the ideal time to visit the monument placed on the Hill to honour the women known as the Famous Five.

These five made their mark in history 75 years ago by their dogged campaign to gain the right for women to be appointed to the Senate.

Emily Murphy once said, “We want women leaders today as never before. Leaders who are not afraid to be called names and who are willing to go out and fight. I think women can save civilization”. This quote is still valid today.

I am one woman who is proud to stand on the path laid out by those five notable women.