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House of Commons Hansard #49 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was benefits.

Topics

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

As my Bloc Quebecois colleague is pointing out, they also controlled the rate. But that happened later on. I do not think it was in that bill then. But they did take control of the rate and the amount a long time ago.

In 2001, we had Bill C-2. I kept telling the Liberals more amendments should be introduced so that Bill C-2 would go even further.

I remind the House that members--who should remain nameless--had made promises throughout Quebec during the election campaign They kept saying that more changes were coming. In the House of Commons, these same members said, “Do not move any more amendments. We need Bill C-2. People are struggling, and they need this piece of legislation. Bill C-2 should be passed right away.”

We went along and passed Bill C-2. I have always said in the House of Commons that I would support any bill that brings something positive for workers. I have kept my word until now, and I intend to do the same in the future.

Yet, at the same time, the Liberals promised to strike an all-party parliamentary committee to make recommendations to the government. Its unanimous report was entitled “Beyond Bill C-2”, and it contained 17 recommendations that had the support of all political parties.

Since no election was in the offing, the Liberal government forgot to make these changes. It just forgot. It ignored our recommendations.

Time goes on and people are still struggling. In southeastern New Brunswick, 1,500 people are under investigation and could be accused of “banking hours”, as it is called.

Well, it was a Liberal riding so a solution had to be found the solution. I would like to say to the people listening in from southeastern New Brunswick that the solution offered by the minister cannot be found in writing. With regard to the promise he made to you, I would be somewhat apprehensive if I were you, because you just might get a bill in the mail after the election.

I can say that we saw the same problem in my riding. There were 11 people in the same situation. Those eleven got caught with extra hours. However, it would seem that people have reached an agreement in Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, whereby they are released from their payback obligation, given that the employer will be made to pay. The government, on the other hand, is not sure that the employer will pay.

I am asking the government to state in writing whether employees will be made to pay or not. I can tell you that I asked twice in the House of Commons if people in the southeast of the province would be treated the same way as those in the northeast. The answer was yes.

Yet I can tell the House that this week Michel Guérette, a worker in my riding, got a bill from Human Resources Canada indicating that he owes $4,823 because he banked hours. This is the case that was taken to the Bathurst office, and do you know what the response was? In Beauséjour—Petitcodiac 1,500 people broke the law, and this affects the entire community. In Acadie—Bathurst, there are only 11, and they are spread around a number of different places, which is why they are being made to pay, and the others are not.

The message from the Government of Canada is this: “If you want to break the law, then do so along with 1,500 or 2,000 other people and you will get away with it”. Is that what the government is telling people? I find it deplorable that the minister has stood up in this place twice to state that any Canadian anywhere in this country would be treated the same way in a case like this, and yet today people are getting billed. They are panicking because they do not have the money to pay those bills.

The government recognizes the problem of banking hours. What we will see in the weeks to come is that the government will say that maybe it will take the 14 best weeks so as to try to get rid of the problem it has created in southeastern New Brunswick.

In the meantime, families are hurting. In 2001, even in the southeastern part of the province, in the area of Richibucto or Kent, hundreds and hundreds of people had to pay fines because of the same problem. The government refused to address the problem at the time and still refuses to retroactively reimburse these people for the fines they had to pay.

We now have before the House 17 recommendations. The federal government made two changes in 2000 dealing with EI and a couple of changes to do with parental benefits between 2000 and 2004. Because of the upcoming election, the federal government now wants to buy votes, so it has announced two additional changes. At that pace, it will take 32 years and 8 elections to reform the employment insurance plan.

A few weeks ago, I went to a place near Forestville, in Quebec, where people took to the streets to protest. For the benefit of the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, it was not the CLC, but rather workers, businesspeople and even the priest who were protesting, asking the federal government to stop stealing money from the workers. This is no longer a political issue, it is a human issue. People are hurting.

The rest of Canada needs to understand that the people who work in the forest or lumber industry are seasonal workers. Consumers are quite happy to buy fish and 2x4s. What we are saying is that we will stay in our region. We have no intention of moving to central Canada. We have no intention of moving to Calgary with the Conservatives who, every time they rise in this House, try to reduce EI premiums and put more money back into the pockets of the employers, but not the workers. They should be ashamed.

Hopefully the election will take place soon and Canadians will remember what the Liberals did. They drove families out of the regions. I get calls to my office from women who tell me they want to commit suicide. You should know that the suicide rate in the Acadian peninsula has gone up as a result of the changes to employment insurance. You should know also that when it was in the opposition, that party, through Doug Young and Jean Chrétien, said that we had to deal with the economy. In this respect, if you do not want people to be on EI, create an economy that works. Put people back to work instead of forcing them to leave the rural regions to go to major centres. That is what should be done.

I want to express my gratitude for the fact that this motion was moved here in the House of Commons, allowing us to stand up for workers. The CLC has done a good job. The FTQ has done a good job in this respect, and so has the CSN.The trade unions have represented workers while the federal government has stolen their money. That is regrettable.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will give the member the time to slow down because I noticed that he is losing his voice.

I am wondering if the member remembers the same things as I do. He talked about the economy. He said it has not improved. I wonder where he gets his numbers because, when we were in the opposition, before we came to power in 1993, the deficit was $42 billion, if I recall. I remember very high interest rates. I also remember that there was a lot of unemployment then. Moreover, I remember rates of premiums paid in part by workers, may I add, that went as high as $3.30 then and that today are $1.90, under $2, which is a two-third reduction. I remember that the unemployment rate has gone down considerably since that time. There are now over 2 million more Canadians who have jobs. I am not talking about the jobs lost in the meantime. That is a net gain of 2 million jobs that have been created since that time.

I am wondering--I know that time is of the essence--if it would not have been more reasonable for the member to also mention those numbers in his speech. Has the member forgotten to mention, for instance, that some of the changes made to the EI plan have benefited part-time workers and women? He mentioned women and seasonal workers. I am told that over 400,000 people working part-time or in short-term jobs have received benefits for the first time as a result of certain changes to the program.

Of course, our new minister, whom I congratulate, keeps on improving the system. He does not do it because an election may be called in a few days--I don't know when--, but in 1996, we made improvements. We have reduced premiums every year. We do not have an election every year though.

These are all things that have been improved by the Liberal government that works every day, as we all know, for the welfare of all Canadians. Why has the hon. member opposite forgotten to mention all the good things the government has done? Someone said, a few minutes ago—and the members are invited to comment as well—that in some regions there are fewer people receiving benefits, for example in Quebec.

Yes, but people are employed. People who work do not receive employment insurance. That does not happen in my riding, nor in Stormont—Dundas—Charlottenburgh, represented so well in the House of Commons by the Deputy Speaker. We want jobs for the people, and employment insurance for those who do not have jobs.

Finally, I will ask the hon. member for his comments. I know that some people have mentioned a report by the Canadian Labour Congress. Some claim, and the member himself said so during questions, that only 38% of the unemployed receive benefits. That total includes those who have never paid premiums. We must be objective enough to admit that these figures are not truthful, since they include elements that have nothing to do with the concept of employment insurance. We all know that.

This is a member who is usually completely objective—at least he is on the committee where we both sit—so why is it that, on the floor of the House, he has forgotten to mention those things? I do not understand. I invite you, Mr. Speaker, to ask the hon. member to explain himself.

The same report from the Canadian Labour Council includes former employees who are self-employed, as well as students. People who are not even available for work can certainly not receive benefits. It is not reasonable.

The member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, who has done so much work on the issue that he has become a real employment insurance expert in the House of Commons, may want to get into all the great things the government has done, and all the work the current minister has put into building on the progress made in recent years.

Why is it that the member opposite and others do not mention these things? I do not get it. Why does the member not answer the questions I am putting to him right now? I could ask more questions.

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1:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Let us start with the ones that have already been asked.

The hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is a good thing that his question was not designed to eat up my speaking time, making it impossible for me to respond. He has done a good job on that, I can tell you.

First, let us look at the premiums. The member proudly indicated that premiums have been reduced every year. I can tell the House that I have not seen a single worker take to the streets asking for lower premiums, but I did see employers talking to the government, to lobbyists, about it. The Conservatives have asked that premiums be reduced, and so they were, as requested by the Conservatives, because, as far as I am concerned, Liberals and Conservatives are one and the same. That is what happened.

The hon. member does not know what is goes on outside this House, in his riding or elsewhere across the country. With the changes it has introduced—the 910 hours of work requirement to qualify for benefits, for example—the federal government has disqualified part time workers. These workers can no longer collect employment insurance. That is the reality.

As for the economy, as he was saying, he should come explain that to the people in my riding. We have never been further in the hole than since the Liberals have been in power. We have problems with fisheries closures. If there was job creation, then it occurred in central Canada and in Calgary. However, I can guarantee that workers at home are willing. They get up in the morning to work. I can guarantee it.

We know where the economic problem is and we know where the federal government focuses its efforts. It focuses on central Canada or elsewhere, but I guarantee it does nothing for the rural areas. The member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, who was here earlier, has told me many times that the northern regions are not receiving their fair share.

Let me add on more thing in response to the member's question about where we were. Where were the Liberals who fully agreed with us at the parliamentary committee? The members unanimously agreed that changes needed to be made to employment insurance. Even the human resources parliamentary secretary was with us and she also signed the recommendation. Everyone, including the Liberals, agreed that employment insurance was hurting the workers.

Where were the Liberals in the House of Commons when 15 changes to employment insurance were requested? Almost all the people from eastern Canada voted for the changes tabled in the House of Commons, people from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia or Îles-de-la-Madeleine.

At his first meeting as member of the parliamentary committee, the member for Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-de-la-Madeleine—Pabok made a heartfelt appeal to the minister so that she would make changes, because people in his riding were affected. Where are these Liberals? They know about the problem.

Why are people from the Gaspé Peninsula or Quebec's North Shore forced to take to the streets? Where is the member opposite who is asking me these questions? I think that he has stayed in Ottawa too long. He has not visited Canada. He does not know about Canada. That is the problem.

Today, even unions agreed on the fact that we should take this fund away from the Liberals because they keep dipping in it. Workers felt the same way.

I do know what I am talking about.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a very brief question for my colleague.

Why does the current Liberal government refuse to have a vote on this motion, when its own members took part in the work that led to a unanimous report? Why is it that, today, the Liberal government even refuses to vote on this motion? Does it make sense that it refuses to vote on the unanimous proposal of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development, when it would lead us to believe that it wants changes to employment insurance? Is this not a telling sign that there is indeed a democratic deficit?

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I think it is because the Liberals need to make two changes per election to get elected and to buy votes. If they make all the changes today, come the next election they will not have any changes to make to buy the votes of the poor workers who lost their jobs and who were robbed by the federal government. This is what the Liberals have done in recent years.

Let us not forget that it will take eight elections to implement the 17 recommendations made by the parliamentary committee and agreed to by all the political parties. This is the only answer I can provide.

Otherwise, the employment insurance fund would have to revert to what it was and the benefits would have to return to where they belong. This is the real measure to take. It is called job creation. In the meantime, we should be able to give to these people what belongs to them. This is what should be done.

Back home, we call it putting the cart before the horse, and this is what the Liberals have done. But it is not a cart that they put before the horse, it is a carrot and they wanted to eat it. That carrot was the money with which they eliminated their deficit and balanced their budget, at the expense of workers.

The current Prime Minister said in the House: “I put that money to good use. I transferred money to the provinces. I invested some in health care.” Workers do not contribute to the EI fund just to balance the government's budget or to transfer money to the provinces. They contribute in case they need benefits.

The hon. member for Madawaska—Restigouche supported the recommendations because he knows what is going on in New Brunswick, and the problems associated with seasonal jobs. I am proud that he stood up in the House and supported these motions. The hon. member for Beauséjour—Petitcodiac voted in favour of 15 changes to the EI plan, but when a motion was introduced in the House to recognize seasonal workers, he voted against it.

What the Liberals did in recent years is a shame. They used the elections, and they used the EI fund to balance their budget and to buy votes. It is a shame. I am sure the electors that are listening now and all Canadians will see through this scheme that has been going on for all those years.

Makivik CorporationStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, the federal government has announced a five-year moratorium on import duties for oil drilling platforms, in order to help the east coast region.

I rise today to encourage the government, and in particular the Secretary of State for Financial Institutions, to immediately extend this program to the eastern Arctic, in order to help that region develop its economy and thus improve the future for people in the communities of Nunavik and Nunavut.

The Makivik Corporation was a key partner in the historic importation of the MV Umiavut , the first and only Inuit-owned class 1 ship. The partners have asked for the duty they paid on this ship to be reimbursed.

Purchasing and importing the MV Umiavut represents a major step toward greater economic and political self-sufficiency for the north.

By immediately announcing a retroactive moratorium on taxation for vessels operating in northern waters, including the Makivik Corporation's MV Umiavut , the government will show that it wants its economic development policy to be fair and equitable in the north.

Edmonton--Sherwood ParkStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, these days a number of our colleagues are giving their final farewells because they are not running again, but I am still ready for the fight. I am running again and will be working hard to win the new riding of Edmonton--Sherwood Park.

I believe that the work of reforming Parliament cannot be left to this Liberal crew. They use the words, but the words have no meaning. I am truly interested in making MPs more accountable to the citizens we represent, in reducing waste and mismanagement in government, in getting rid of corruption and unaccountability in fiscal management, and in having laws that protect law-abiding citizens and our innocent children.

I have been frustrated in the past 10 years watching this bumbling Liberal government go nowhere on these important issues. It is time for change. It is time Canadians get an honest and trustworthy government. It is time we demand better.

Elizabeth Fry WeekStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, this week we are celebrating National Elizabeth Fry Week. All the Elizabeth Fry societies in the country will be organizing activities to raise public awareness about the situation of women in conflict with the law.

National Elizabeth Fry Week is held in the week preceding Mother's Day as most women in prison are mothers and most were their family's sole supporter before incarceration. When mothers are sentenced to prison, children are sentenced to separation.

By focusing on women's needs and alternatives to prison, Elizabeth Fry Societies encourage community responses to addressing criminal justice matters and build support for community based options for women.

Congratulations to all the Elizabeth Fry societies across the country for organizing this week.

LupusStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Liberal Northumberland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I lost a dear friend to lupus, a disease that attacks the body's immune system.

My friend was not alone, since more than five million people worldwide suffer the effects of this disease and each year over a hundred thousand men, women and children are newly diagnosed with lupus.

Many physicians worldwide are unaware of the symptoms and the health effects of lupus. As a result, many people suffer for years before they obtain a correct diagnosis and medical treatment. There is an urgent need to increase awareness and educate our communities worldwide about the debilitating impact of lupus.

Therefore, let us resolve that the World Health Organization recognize and declare May 10, 2004, as World Lupus Day and that we call for increased funding for medical research and education on this significant public health issue.

Road SafetyStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Gurbax Malhi Liberal Bramalea—Gore—Malton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, the number of traffic accidents within the Brampton area has reached an average in excess of eight per day. This totals a staggering number exceeding 3,000 accidents annually. This has led to safety advocates in the region seeking the advice of the local residents to find ways and means to better the safety of our roads.

I believe this is a serious issue that requires federal, provincial and municipal governments working in tandem to bring about tangible results.

Last month, the World Health Organization identified road safety as the focal point of World Health Day. This stems from the fact that 1.2 million people are killed worldwide as a result of traffic accidents and 50 million more are injured annually. Moreover, approximately three-quarters of accidents occur in clear weather conditions.

CrowfootStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, given that this may be one of the last opportunities I have to rise in the House during this Parliament to make a statement, today I would like to say thanks and farewell to a very significant part of my riding.

It is with a very heavy heart that I bid adieu to the County of Flagstaff and the Municipal Districts of Wainwright and Provost. Unfortunately, due to the electoral boundary changes, after the election I will no longer represent the good people of: Sedgewick, Daysland, Forestburg, Killam, Lougheed, Strome, Alliance, Provost, Hardisty, Hughenden, Heisler, Chauvin, Edgerton, Wainwright, Daysland, Irma, and Amisk.

Fortunately for me, however, over the last four years I have traveled extensively into these parts of Crowfoot and I have had the privilege of meeting many fine people. It has been a real pleasure to attend or participate in so many events and celebrations in these truly rural Alberta communities.

To the County of Flagstaff and the Municipal Districts of Wainwright and Provost, I say thanks for making my first term as the member of Parliament for Crowfoot such a memorable one.

Sikh CommunityStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh scripture, is a compilation of the divine revelations to the Sikh gurus and saints of other faiths, reaffirming the fundamental unity of all religions. The Sikh scripture embodies the universal message of truth, compassion, peace, equality and service toward all humankind.

The fifth guru of the Sikhs, Guru Arjan, compiled and consecrated the Sikh scripture, giving self-determination to the Sikh community that originated the Sikh homeland of the Punjab.

Sikhs have been part of our Canadian society since 1899. They are a very vibrant community and they contribute significantly to the economic, social and cultural well-being of our country and its citizens.

As this year marks the 400th anniversary of the first installation of the Guru Granth Sahib, I would like to congratulate the Sikh community in my riding and across Canada.

National Mental Health WeekStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of National Mental Health Week, from May 3 to 9, is to remind us of the importance of helping our fellow citizens detect the early signs of distress or mental illness and to provide them with the tools they need to deal with such crises.

In order to help these people, Quebec has strengthened front-line care, particularly by establishing family medicine groups and local service networks. These approaches facilitate better case management and continuity of care for people affected by mental illness.

This week is also an opportunity to express our appreciation of all those who contribute to the well-being of persons affected by mental illness and their friends and families.

Our sincere thanks go to the employees of the health and social services network, as well as to the volunteers and community organizations that offer support, assistance and advocacy.

Member for Vancouver--KingswayStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Eleni Bakopanos Liberal Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to pay tribute to my dear friend and colleague, the member for Vancouver--Kingsway.

As a community activist, she served as an executive member, sitting on the board of directors with over 30 arts, business and community organizations. Her work has not gone unrecognized here or in her community. She has been the recipient of many community and government awards, including the Order of Canada in 1994.

In 1997, she was the first Asian woman to be elected a member of Parliament in Canada. Since her election, economic issues, immigration, western alienation, human rights, and justice for all are but a few of the issues she has raised as a tireless advocate for her constituents, for her community and, on the international level, for Canada.

The people of Vancouver--Kingsway, her community and her Liberal colleagues are proud of her accomplishments and the invaluable role she has played during her seven years as a member of Parliament. Her presence will be missed and her contribution never forgotten. Zhu Ni Cheng Gong . We wish her success in all her future endeavours and a good retirement.

Olds CollegeStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pay tribute to Olds College in my riding of Wild Rose, which is celebrating its 91st anniversary as a teaching institution.

Over the years the college has watched the agribusiness industry grow dramatically, and this year it is more concerned than ever about the future. To this end, the college encouraged its students to participate directly in the USDA public comment period regarding the border closure and our livestock trade with the United States.

Every member of Parliament received their formal submission this week. The college took an innovative approach by collecting impact statements from 30 of their students across Canada and compiled them as a CD-based video and a webcast that is accessible through the college's home page.

The impact of their submission has been tremendous. I would encourage every member of Parliament to take a moment to view these heartfelt messages.

Those students know that if we do not do everything possible to get the border open soon, there may be no future for them in agribusiness in Canada.

Mental HealthStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, Sunday, April 18, was the Fondation Pierre-Janet's fifth edition of the “En espadrilles pour la santé mentale” event.

This annual event held at the Aylmer race track raises funds to help people with mental health problems. Nearly 1,000 sponsored participants ran laps around the track each at their own pace. The fundraiser brought in $65,210 to implement telemedicine for mental health in the Outaouais.

Mental illness, and depression in particular, is a growing concern. Hence the need to demystify it now, to eradicate the stigma attached to it and to improve access to quality services.

I want to congratulate everyone who took part, the dedicated volunteers, the honourary president of the 2004 event, Alain Raymond, and particularly the president of the Fondation Pierre-Janet, who instigated the event, Dan Gay, as well as the foundation's board of directors.

Mission accomplished, job well done.

Mental Health WeekStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, this week, May 3 to May 9, is National Mental Health Week in Canada.

Good mental health is essential to everyone's well-being and to the strength of our communities. Too often, people suffering from mental illness and other brain disorders are discriminated against and stigmatized. We have to work together to find better means to decrease the stigma associated with mental illness so that it becomes as easy and acceptable to speak about as any other disease.

For that to happen, we need to start providing stable, long term funding to mental health care and its research and treatment. I was very disappointed that there was no mention of mental health in the recent budget presented by the government even though programs all over the country are facing cuts.

For the one in five Canadians affected by mental illness, and for their friends and families, this is truly a public mental health emergency.

Hearing Awareness MonthStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Bloc Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, every year in May, I make a point of drawing attention to Hearing Awareness Month and the fact that, in Canada, some 3 million people, including more than 750,000 in Quebec, have a hearing problem.

As parliamentarians, it is critically important that we make sure that the deaf and the hearing impaired have equal rights when it comes to communications.

In this respect, captioning of television programs is essential, and I would like to acknowledge the great work done by the Centre de recherche informatique de Montréal, which has developed an automatic speech recognition system.

This technological advance which will provide real time transmission of information was recently introduced to both houses of Parliament and would allow, among other things, the captioning of proceedings in the House of Commons in French; at present, captioning is only available in English and only during oral question period.

The technology is there. All we need now is the political will to make it accessible as quickly as possible, not only to Parliament but also to all broadcasters.

RAI InternationalStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, in August 2003, a petition with 100,000 signatures and over 330 letters were sent to the CRTC by Canadians, including some from my riding, asking to have access to the Italian television network RAI International.

Today, I wish to reaffirm my support to these citizens, particularly the members of the Italian community, who hope that the CRTC will approve the application filed on September 15 by RAI International. A CRTC licence would give them 24 hours a day access to this network, which is broadcast in most countries of the world, but not in Canada.

I would also like to mention the work of the hon. member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel and of several Liberal colleagues who, from the outset, supported and continue to support the initiative of these Canadians of Italian origin, who are demanding to have access to RAI International.

NigeriaStatements By Members

May 6th, 2004 / 2:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, five years ago the governor of the northern Nigerian province of Zamfara declared his province an Islamic state and began the introduction of an extreme version of Sharia law, contrary to the Nigerian constitution.

In the following months, Governor Sani destroyed or shut down several Christian churches and has gone so far as to sentence women to death by stoning for engaging in extramarital sex.

The Nigerian constitution states that every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, much to its credit. Yet last week Governor Sani ordered the demolition of all churches and non-Islamic worship centres and launched phase two of his extreme agenda.

I would ask all my colleagues in the House to join me in condemning this blatant persecution of people of faith and the destruction of houses of worship in Nigeria. Canada must use whatever influence it has with Nigeria and other African countries to demand an end to these abominable crimes against freedom of religion and conscience.

Burlington Citizen of the YearStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, tonight my community of Burlington, Ontario will honour one of its greatest champions and supporters as Citizen of the Year.

Keith Strong has had many accomplishments during his very successful business career, but it is the work he has done to build our community that distinguishes him.

A past president of the Burlington Economic Development Corporation, Keith has been instrumental in bringing people together to improve our fellow citizens' quality of life in a variety of ways.

For instance, together with Dorothy Borovich, he helped develop Youthfest. Now in its second year, Youthfest is a local festival promoting volunteerism, philanthropy and fun among Burlington's youth. It features diverse community organizations and encourages people to do more.

Keith Strong's dedication to his community has enriched all of its fellow citizens. I wish to express thanks to Keith Strong as well as congratulations to him on being named Burlington's Citizen of the Year.

Palliative Care WeekStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Yolande Thibeault Liberal Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, this week is Palliative Care Week.

With an ageing population, the need for palliative care will increase dramatically. It is therefore critical to pay special attention to this need, so as to provide to the sick a constant presence in the journey toward the end of their lives, and to allow close ones to get the necessary support during this difficult time.

I want to congratulate the Government of Canada for taking compassionate action regarding this issue by offering eligible workers six weeks of paid leave to care for a parent, a spouse or a child who is seriously ill or dying.

Thanks to the compassionate family care benefits, terminally ill patients will be able to live in dignity and be accompanied by their close ones to the end.

Veterans AffairsOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Canadian AllianceLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, many D-Day veterans are upset that they will not be able to attend the celebrations in Normandy. Only 60 veterans are being taken by the government, yet the government has the money to take over 70 government support staff.

I wonder if the Prime Minister would reconsider and take all the veterans who want to go to Normandy.

Veterans AffairsOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Veterans Affairs is already looking into ways in which we can augment the number and improve the situation. Obviously, that is a matter which the government takes very seriously.