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House of Commons Hansard #58 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was sudan.

Topics

An Act to amend Certain Acts in relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will apologize in advance if the minister addressed this point in his opening comments, but I came in a few minutes late.

Bill C-18 makes provision for retroactive gathering of DNA samples from individuals who have been accused and convicted and are currently serving sentences. They would be quite lengthy sentences because the individuals would still be in custody. For people who have been convicted of those offences the bill would allow for a sample to be taken from them now, when it would not have allowed it under the existing law.

Does the minister know how many convicted individuals are still incarcerated who would be subject to the changes that he is proposing? Is it the intent of the government that samples would be taken from every single one of those individuals?

An Act to amend Certain Acts in relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, that is a very important point and a good point.

We know that the bill back in May 2005 did extend the retroactive scheme to cover persons convicted of one murder, one manslaughter, or one sexual assault, which prior to that was not included. Those were included in that.

I stand to be corrected here but it is my understanding that the only substantive amendment in respect of retroactive changes to allow the authorities to take DNA samples deals with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder. They are very serious offences.

I am not certain of the number of persons presently incarcerated. I do not anticipate it being a very large number given, generally speaking, the murder rates in Canada.

An Act to amend Certain Acts in relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to thank the minister for participating in a round table in Oshawa in the summer. One of the comments I got back from the community leaders was about how well he listened and also his commitment to improving victims' rights.

I wonder if he could expand on the bill and how it relates to victims' rights.

An Act to amend Certain Acts in relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, technically it does not address the issue of victims' rights, but indirectly every time a wrongdoer, an offender is prosecuted and has been brought to justice because of DNA, I think that supports victims' rights and it is important from that point of view.

However, as was mentioned earlier by one of the opposition members, the whole issue of missing persons, for example, is an important element that we need to address. Also important is DNA being able to exonerate individuals who in fact are innocent. DNA assists in that exoneration process. If we can speak for a moment of people who are victims of a proceeding in that sense, who have been wrongfully convicted or wrongfully accused, DNA is one of the most effective ways of proving that the individual is not implicated in a particular crime.

I appreciate the opportunity that I had to be in Oshawa to participate with my colleague's constituents in a very informative discussion.

Generally speaking, I view the expansion of these DNA sampling authorizations to be important simply as one more tool by which the police can apprehend suspects and convict them. I believe though, at the same time, the bill is carefully balanced to ensure there is not a transgression of anyone's individual charter rights. Whether the bill goes far enough in that respect, again I would point the member to the Rodgers case that sets out certain guiding principles. I think I would also point to the experiences of other countries, primarily Great Britain, which has a much broader right to take DNA and at the same time has certain safeguards in place. It obviously does involve some balancing that needs to take place.

I believe that these are very good initial steps, but I do not think that we should stop at this point.

An Act to amend Certain Acts in relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes Liberal London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on Bill C-18, An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to DNA identification. Bill C-18 impacts the Criminal Code, the DNA Identification Act and the National Defence Act.

I, along with many in this chamber, was a member of the House when the DNA Identification Act was created in 1998. The act came into force on June 30, 2000.

Section 13 specifically provides that within five years of the coming into force of the act a review of the provisions and operations should be undertaken by a committee of the House, the Senate, or by both. This review has not yet taken place and the current Minister of Justice by letter earlier this year states that the review “should begin as soon as possible after this bill receives royal assent”.

I believe for many reasons that the review should happen as soon as possible. I would like to know from the minister if his assurance for the mandated review really means only after more of his so-called law and order bills come before the House or if the review can take place within the next year in a reasonable amount of time. Where exactly is the review on the list of priorities of the minority government?

In a letter which I believe was sent to all members of the justice committee, the minister identified various issues he wished to be discussed and they are important areas for discussion. Among them are: having only one list of designated offences; the scope of judicial discretion with respect to making an order; taking DNA under the Identification of Criminals Act; international sharing; the one I just mentioned moments ago, kinship analysis; volunteer samples; victim samples; and exoneration.

The current Minister of Justice whom we have just heard from has urged that the amendments in Bill C-18 are needed to give the benefits of changes made under the former government's Bill C-13 passed recently. Former Bill C-13 was adopted on May 19, 2005 and only some parts of Bill C-13 are currently in force.

For people who may have not been part of that legislative process, it may be useful to set out the purpose of the DNA Identification Act. Section 3 states:

The purpose of this Act is to establish a national DNA data bank to help law enforcement agencies identify persons alleged to have committed designated offences, including those committed before the coming into force of this Act.

The principles of the act are contained in section 4 and include:

(a) the protection of society and the administration of justice are well served by the early detection, arrest and conviction of offenders, which can be facilitated by the use of DNA profiles;

(b) the DNA profiles, as well as samples of bodily substances from which the profiles are derived, may be used only for law enforcement purposes in accordance with this Act, and not for any unauthorized purpose; and

(c) to protect the privacy of individuals with respect to personal information about themselves, safeguards must be placed on

(i) the use and communication of, and access to, DNA profiles and other information contained in the national DNA data bank, and

(ii) the use of, and access to, bodily substances that are transmitted to the Commissioner for the purposes of this Act.

The use of DNA analysis in solving crime has emerged as one of the most powerful tools that is currently available to law enforcement agencies for the administration of justice in our land. This has taken place in just over a decade. Actually it is remarkable. Its impact is akin to the introduction of fingerprint evidence in court over 100 years ago.

In the science of police investigation, DNA evidence is a major enhancement for the safety of Canadians. What is the value of DNA to public investigations? We should know that biological samples collected from a crime scene can either link a suspect to the scene or rule the suspect out as a donor of the DNA. Evidence from different crime scenes can be compared to link the same perpetrator to multiple offences, whether they occurred next door, across the country, or halfway around the world. It can also identify a victim through DNA from close relatives.

DNA is referred to often as the blueprint of life. It is a fundamental building block of a person's complete and entire genetic makeup. DNA is found in virtually every tissue in the human body. Experts tell us that the DNA in a person's blood is the same in the skin cells, the saliva, the hair and other bodily parts. Highly discriminating other than with respect to identical twins, it is a powerful tool for identification. Every person's DNA is unique to them, again with the exception of identical twins.

The DNA molecule itself can last significant environmental challenges. It is very stable. This enables the forensic experts to obtain new information from very old biological evidence, or establish important data from very badly degraded samples, which can occur when say a body is found or a crime scene is unearthed long after the fact of incidence.

The stability of the molecule and the fact we have very discriminating features of individual DNA and the accuracy of the analysis techniques that the current DNA people use make this a very efficient and strong human identification technology. It is a most vital component of most of our police investigations today of a very serious nature.

I should state that the national data bank respects the considerations, as it should, of the genetic privacy of individuals and follows strict guidelines as specified in the DNA Identification Act. The biological samples that are collected from convicted offenders and the resulting DNA profiles can only be used for law enforcement purposes. Thus, the National DNA Data Bank assists the law enforcement communities in solving crimes by linking crimes together where there are no suspects, by helping to identify suspects or conversely by eliminating suspects where there is no match between the crime scene DNA and the DNA profile in the national data bank. Further, it assists in determining whether a serial offender is involved.

By statute, the national data bank, which is located here in Ottawa, is responsible for two principal indices. The first is a convicted offenders index, which is an electronic index that has been developed from DNA profiles, collected from offenders convicted by designated primary and secondary offences identified in section 487.04 of the Criminal Code. I believe, as of mid-May 2006, the convicted offender index had nearly 100,000 entries.

The second is the crime scene index, which is a separate electronic index composed of DNA profiles obtained from crime scene investigations of the same designated offences addressed under the act. Thus we have several thousands, as the minister said, of the DNA samples from convicted offenders, which are included in the National DNA Data Bank along with the samples from various crime scenes across the country.

Large numbers of police officers from every province and territory jurisdiction in Canada have been the recipients of specific and proper training on how to collect and forward the DNA samples, which are then sent to the data bank in Ottawa for the proper analysis.

We know that the National DNA Data Bank has recorded over 5,200 crime scene to offender matches and more than 750 crime scene to crime scene matches. As everyone should appreciate, this developing science has to be managed very appropriately and properly to safeguard people's constitutional rights.

We have had, though, over the last number of years continuous consultations with provinces and territories and the public at large. They all have been instrumental in developing the amending legislation over the last couple of bills. Again, under the former Liberal government in Bill C-13, changes were made to improve the public safety and the approach of the bill continued to respect the constitutionally protected rights of individuals and their privacy interests. This is the problematic challenge area of concern for many.

When the bill was before committee the last time, the Privacy Commissioner was there expressing some concerns. It is right that these types of debates happen. That is why it is totally necessary we have the overall review and, hopefully, that will not be delayed.

Under the act, we currently have both primary and secondary designated offences. The primary designated offences are considered the most serious criminal offences. They are, for example, sexual offences, murder and manslaughter. The significant but relatively less serious offences would come under the threshold of secondary designated offences in the act. Two examples that have been shown would be assault and arson.

For people to understand the practical difference, a judge who convicts a person of a primary designated offence is required to make an order for the collection of the DNA sample from the offender, unless the offender can convince the court otherwise, under a specific section, subsection 487.051(2) of the Criminal Code. It is usually mandatory unless there are strict criteria.

With a secondary designated offence, and this is the difference, a DNA sample collection order may be granted if the court, upon application of the Crown, is satisfied that it is in the best interests of justice to do so. It should be noted that if a person was convicted or discharged of any designated offence after June 30 of the year 2000, but the act was committed before that date, then the same criteria for granting an order under the secondary designated offence would apply.

Bill C-13 moved a number of previously listed secondary designated offences and the new offence of Internet luring of a child to the primary list. Also Bill C-13 proposed additions to the list of secondary designated offences. Examples of certain offences that moved to the primary list included child pornography and robbery.

Bill C-13 also made changes to the National Defence Act to ensure that the military justice system would remain consistent with the civilian justice system.

The former Liberal government also introduced Bill C-72 in November 2005, less than a year ago. That bill had a series of amendments to help implement the DNA data bank references that were endorsed by Parliament under Bill C-13, which I have just discussed. These technical amendments were to clarify definitions and procedures for obtaining a DNA data bank order and for sharing information. There was a provision to help DNA data bank orders to be carried out, even when, for logistical reasons, it may not have been possible to take the sample at the precise time as set out in the original order.

Bill C-72, which also died when the government fell last year, would have also simplified the procedure to destroy samples taken from those convicted of an offence not intended to be included in the DNA data bank. This is a whole specialized area. There is a lot of concern about whether samples ever really get destroyed or whether we just do not do the matching any more and we lose the ability to match properly.

Among other issues, Bill C-72 was to allow for hearings by video to reduce costs and security associated with two party and greater numbers of offenders eligible for a retroactive sampling as a result of Bill C-13. Therefore, Bill C-72 essentially picked up on some of the issues identified by the stakeholders during the consultations on the implementation of Bill C-13 and also from the committee debate. It was intended to have the technical amendment made under Bill C-72 come into force before the coming into force of the unproclaimed provision of Bill C-13 in order to increase the efficiency of the data bank system and reduce costs.

This has been a somewhat dry and truncated history of the legislation, but it puts us where we are today with the sections.

Bill C-18, introduced by the government based on the work of the former government, is supposed to represent a reincarnation of Bill C-72. Upon looking at the bill, amended forms, which were not ready for Bill C-72, have now been included in Bill C-18. As mentioned previously, we are now further behind the overall review of the legislation. We are again being asked by the Minister of Justice to do the technical amendments before the broader policy and review.

Bill C-18 has some substantive provisions also. I am not going to go through all of them today, that is what we have committee for, but I will give an example. It will make it an offence to fail to appear for DNA sampling. This is similar to the situation in the code where we have an offence for failing to show up for fingerprinting. This seems entirely logical to me. It also proposes to add attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder to the offences covered by the retroactive provisions.

Also, there are simple, or not so simple, procedural changes in Bill C-18. Examples of these amendments include allowing a DNA order to be made within 90 days after the sentence is pronounced and allowing the law enforcement agency authorized to take a DNA sample to authorize another law enforcement agency to do it on its behalf when the offender has moved or been incarcerated outside of the jurisdiction. This would save time and money. As opposed to moving the offender back and forth, we would do the sampling in another jurisdiction, as long as all the orders had been properly made.

These are practical amendments that would assist in an efficient process and rectify some of the on the ground problems that are being experienced by people who have to deal with the various systems, from the justice system courthouse, all the way to the analysis here at the data bank.

For the most part, Bill C-18 is an enhanced version of previous government bills. Since we have last had the occasion to discuss DNA legislation, the Supreme Court of Canada, in R. v. Rogers, has held, among other things, that the collection of DNA samples for data bank purposes from designated class of offenders is reasonable, reasonable as an infringement in our constitutional sense of the word.

In conclusion, I believe it is very appropriate to send the bill to committee for careful consideration. I will restate that I also think it is very appropriate that the House, our Parliament and some of the committees consider a full review so we can have a proper discussion about further emerging areas that need to be addressed, not only those outlined in the Minister of Justice's letters, but maybe some of the concerns of some of the other stakeholders. I think that would be a useful thing to do.

An Act to amend Certain Acts in relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, as the former chair of the justice committee, I know the hon. member is very well versed in these issues, certainly more so than I.

Seeing she has a lengthy background with the issue of the sensitive subject of collection of DNA, why does she think that nowhere in Bill C-18 does it raise the thorny issue of what we call Lindsey's law? I note the summary is long and comprehensive. It is one full page when usually summaries are one paragraph.

I know many people throughout the recent years, from both sides of the House, have tried, through private members' business, to get the concept of Lindsey's law to the House for debate and, hopefully, for implementation. It seems like such an eminently reasonable thing to a layperson If people lose a loved one or a child is abducted, if parents want to voluntarily have their DNA listed and filed and it would be a great aid to the law enforcement offices that may need to compare DNA for identification for that lost loved one, why should there be obstacles?

In a bill as comprehensive as this, that touches on virtually every aspect of the privacy associated with the collection of DNA, could she expand perhaps as to why the government was reluctant to include such a reasonable thing as Lindsey's law?

An Act to amend Certain Acts in relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes Liberal London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, although I spent a few years as the vice-chair of the justice committee in 1993 and only chaired the committee in the absence of the existing chair at that time, I did so many times. Unfortunately, we were not dealing with DNA legislation, so I actually look forward as a member of the current committee that we will have a look at this and do the visits that some former members of the committee did at the DNA databank.

When visiting the databank, what is very dry and more difficult to understand about the technical way in which this series of bills operates is that when hearing from the experts and those administering the system, they apparently will show all the technical reasons for privacy that surround the operation of the databank.

This exact question is the one which I posed to the Minister of Justice a couple of minutes ago as the first question on this bill. I can tell the House that in his response he was not giving a lot of information out other than saying his department is currently looking at this.

I know there is a private member's bill which was originally put forward by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, who is now a minister of the current government, known as Lindsey's law. We hope that the current government will look at all of the concerns that will be raised around the technical reasons surrounding what the challenges are and whether these can be dealt with through protocols.

I hope I am being clear enough for the member. For instance, if somebody gives a voluntary sample and it matches up with an existing crime scene, there is an incriminating situation that never was intended as it was supposed to be for a match for someone who was missing. There are privacy situations and protocol situations around this.

I do not think any member of the House would be trying to block what is called Lindsey's law because we know the sorrow and non-closure of an issue when a child is missing. The current minister may find out through his technical discussions with the experts who have to deal with it that there may in fact be some challenges to be overcome. I personally hope that these challenges can be overcome because there needs to be some efforts made to assist people with their very real anguish in that situation.

I know it is one of the listed items in the review. It is very important we have this review, but in the meantime the Minister of Justice should work inside his cabinet to push all of the appropriate departments in getting this done so people can have closure.

An Act to amend Certain Acts in relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, further on this subject of DNA, I am wondering if my colleague is aware that one of the most frequent times the subject of DNA comes up for most members of Parliament is in immigration case work. More and more frequently, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is requiring families to produce DNA evidence to allow families to sponsor, for instance, a child from overseas.

In my own experience, I have found this to be an almost insurmountable barrier for the reunification of families associated with immigration cases, in that the fee is about $900 for DNA testing. Most of the recent immigrants to my riding in the inner city of Winnipeg are from East African countries where the average family income is $200 or $300 per year. Even if the applicant family is in Canada, wants to bring over a child, and has to prove with DNA evidence that it is in fact that family's child, the newcomers in Canada have a heck of a time coming up with this fee.

In the context of talking about the DNA registry and Canada coming to terms with DNA as the single most important identifier that we can point to, is the member aware of this burgeoning problem associated with DNA identification, and is she finding in her own riding that more and more Canadians are being stymied and frustrated with reuniting families by virtue of this near impossible test?

An Act to amend Certain Acts in relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes Liberal London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have encountered over a number of years situations where DNA testing has actually helped my constituents, people who have come often as refugees fleeing from other countries. I know east Africa was mentioned. I am thinking of one case where a family had a number of children, but because of the refugee situation and civilian strife in their country of origin, they left without any documentation that most people would have to identify their children such as passports and birth certificates.

Some people leave under military situations where they are running away from guns and crossing borders with barely anything other than the clothes on their backs. DNA has been utilized successfully in cases in which I have been involved. Parents were able to identify children who somehow got separated from their families while fleeing. It was one way in which the former government did find a way of reuniting families.

I do understand the point that it is expensive, but it does give certainty and actually helps solve the situation. It is a solution for those families. It brings them together and in a way has helped develop the family reunification objectives of our Immigration Act.

An Act to amend Certain Acts in relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois will support this bill in principle, that is, we want police forces to have the tools they need to solve investigations quickly. During investigations, the police may need to collect DNA samples. We also understand the need to have a DNA data bank managed by the RCMP. We will therefore vote in favour of sending this bill to committee after second reading, and we will raise a number of questions.

We feel it is our duty to do so, especially since, in the very recent past—just now, actually—the RCMP's actions were not beyond reproach regarding the collection and sharing of information. In our opinion, there must be extremely firm guarantees that the appropriate recipients of such information will be correctly identified.

Since 1998, the Bloc Québécois has supported these measures. In 1998, we began voting on the first measures concerning the collection of DNA samples. Furthermore, we supported Bill C-13. This is really a question of judges having the ability to impose an order that will be mandatory in some cases, but optional in other cases. This will allow something extremely intrusive in terms of human rights, that is, collecting DNA samples.

We understand fully—and the minister was right to point it out—that when an individual is imprisoned and convicted of an offence under the Criminal Code, it is not unreasonable to ask for a DNA sample.

I will close by sharing our questions on this matter. Bill C-13 deals with the primary designated offences that involve the most violence and relate to sexual assault, and I will name them. There are 16 cases where the courts must issue mandatory orders to take DNA samples. The DNA information is kept in a data bank that is managed by the largest police force, the RCMP. Sampling is mandatory in the following cases: prostitution, living on the avails of prostitution, murder, manslaughter, aggravated assault, sexual assault, kidnapping, robbery, extortion, etc. This list of primary designated offences also includes offences such as breaking and entering a dwelling house and participation in the activities of a criminal organization.

Section 467 of the Criminal Code was created in response to the conflicts between outlaw motorcycle gangs in major urban centres. A new offence was added to the Criminal Code: gangsterism, which consists in committing an offence for a criminal organization. Now, in cases of luring children using the Internet or procuring, the Crown must prove that the mandatory sampling order will better serve the interests of justice. In the case of secondary designated offences—all crimes punishable by more than five years in prison—the prosecution must request an order and demonstrate that it is in the interests of justice.

The Bloc Québécois was in favour of all these provisions that would give the police additional resources, because we voted in favour of Bill C-13.

One aspect of Bill C-18 that might warrant further discussion is the fact that, in addition to the existing provisions, the government wants everyone who has been convicted since 2000 of conspiracy and attempted murder to be included in the national DNA data bank.

Obviously there is some grey area. Conspiracy corresponds to a fairly broad provision in criminal law. There are situations where conspiracy leads to the commission of criminal acts, but conspiracy in and of itself is closer to plotting than actually committing the criminal act.

I asked the minister a question earlier, but unfortunately he was unable to provide an answer. Our question is on a provision in the bill that will allow the RCMP—the entity in charge of administering this data bank—to use the information, and thus the DNA.

This data bank has two major indices. The first index includes DNA samples of people who have indeed been convicted of one of the 16 designated offences I mentioned earlier. As far as the second index is concerned, it has to do with scenes of crimes, including unresolved crimes. I will give you an example. A murder occurs on a property and the guilty party is not identified, but there are traces of blood, bodily fluid and other substances. The RCMP collects samples and they become part of the crime scene index. Even when no suspect is identified, there is still anonymous information left by DNA, bodily fluids and blood.

This information is found in two major indices. I was somewhat surprised to see that Bill C-18, if passed in its current form, would allow the Commissioner of the RCMP, Mr. Zaccardelli, to use DNA information for all criminal investigations and offences.

I hope the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities shares my opinion, but, at the risk of repeating myself, I maintain that we must be extremely careful when it comes to distributing personal information. The RCMP is not above reproach. That is why we will leave the parliamentary committee to do its work.

I have read the O'Connor report on the Arar case and it is clear that the RCMP was given a lot of power. It can even respond to requests from other countries and both parties may want to share information.

In investigating an offence that is not necessarily on the list of 16 designated offences that I was talking about, if there is information to do with the DNA of bodily fluids and blood, in other words a genetic profile, the RCMP could distribute this genetic information, affecting potential suspects, to different police bodies and to independent investigators. Obviously we are concerned.

Once again, I recognize the importance of Bill C-18 . In 1998, the Bloc Québécois agreed to the creation of a data bank. We even collaborated on Bill C-13, which was passed unanimously, but we have always expressed reservations concerning the extent to which the information may be shared. This is very important for genetic profile information, and it makes a significant contribution to resolving criminal investigations.

In the absence of a perfect match, Bill C-18 would also enable the RCMP commissioner to communicate similar genetic profiles to foreign authorities.

This is extremely important. Since Bill C-13 was passed, the international communication of profiles has been limited to the validation of DNA samples found at crimes scenes outside of Canada. In such cases, the information in the profile is communicated to police authorities in countries that request it. If there is no match—if the DNA sample is not validated—all the RCMP is authorized to say, according to Bill C-13, is that the DNA profile requested for validation does not correspond to any information in the current data bank.

Bill C-18 takes this a little farther. It would permit identification by DNA profile in the communication of possible matches. This may seem very technical, but it is not just technical. This is about the concerns and the balance we have to have. We accept that convicted individuals who have harmed a person or property and been imprisoned may be subject to an RCMP investigation. However, we are not prepared to say that all foreign police forces can have access to the information in the data bank, even if a suspect has not yet been identified.

These are the issues the committee will discuss. I will take a break for member statements under Standing Order 31, and I will continue my speech after oral question period.

An Act to amend Certain Acts in relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Hochelaga will have eight minutes after oral question period to conclude his speech.

Conservative Party of CanadaStatements by Members

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, democracy is alive and well in the Vegreville—Wainwright constituency and in the Conservative Party of Canada.

Despite the fact that the last election was only eight months behind us, I was challenged for the nomination. No member of Parliament really likes a nomination challenge, but I fully support the right of party members to do just that.

This commitment to the democratic process is something we simply do not see in the Liberal Party, where Liberal MPs are being protected from nomination challenges.

I thank all 2,100 members who got involved in the process for caring enough to come out and vote. I also thank the members of the board of directors of our EDA, who worked hard to make the process work.

Finally, I commend all Canadians who buy a membership in any political party and get involved in democracy at the grassroots level. To them I say that they are the true protectors of democracy in this country and I thank them for that.

World Sight DayStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Lui Temelkovski Liberal Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to host World Sight Day 2006 on Parliament Hill. World Sight Day is on October 12. We will mark the occasion tomorrow afternoon.

My office has been working closely with Christian Blind Mission International, CBMI, whose office is located in my riding. It was after having spoken with its leadership that I decided to include Braille on my business cards.

Vision 2020: the Right to Sight is a global initiative of the World Health Organization, along with national governments and organizations. This initiative aims to eliminate unnecessary blindness to give all people, including those in developing countries, the gift of sight.

My office has issued the invitations. I hope that everyone will take the time to learn more about World Sight Day with CBMI, CNIB, Operation Eyesight, the World Blind Union and other members of the Canadian coalition.

CultureStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Maka Kotto Bloc Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, culture is what enables humankind to create a framework for itself and for its development. It helps us to think for ourselves. Culture is key to having a sense of belonging to a community. It represents the essential fibre of Quebeckers, influencing our thoughts, words, actions and daily life, and enabling the development of individual members of the community.

Given its ideology intended to smother and stifle our museums, theatre, cinema, and creators, the Conservative government is undermining Quebec's hopes for the survival of its culture, here and around the world.

I would like to remind the House of a simple fact. Because it is culture that embodies the history and pulse of a society, soon, in a sovereign Quebec, culture will become both a major challenge and a collective priority.

VolunteerismStatements by Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians value the importance of the non-profit and voluntary sector in providing social, cultural and recreational benefits. The size of its contribution to Canada's economy and job market is enormous at 6.8% of the nation's GDP, more than the mining, oil and gas sectors combined.

In Sault Ste. Marie, the non-profit sector is valued at $78 million and employs more than 1,400 people, but the Conservative government does not get it. It says volunteers are a “non-core priority”, with $200 million in cuts, including the national volunteer initiative serving 161,000 non-profit agencies.

The Muttart Foundation from Alberta says that the cuts hurt the vulnerable and create social deficits that will cost more than $1 billion to repair.

If the Conservatives keep this up, it will not be long before the Conservative government is deemed “non-core” by the people of Canada.

The EnvironmentStatements by Members

October 3rd, 2006 / 2 p.m.

Conservative

Maurice Vellacott Conservative Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, our new Conservative government agrees with the environment commissioner's recent recommendations pertaining to the need for a coordinated and measurable approach to climate change. Our new Conservative government also looks favourably on her recommendations for accountability.

The new Government of Canada will develop a comprehensive and inclusive approach that involves all sectors of industry. It will also work closely with the provinces and the territories as well as key stakeholders.

Canada's new government has already taken a number of actions: a systematic categorization of chemical substances; a tax credit for public transit riders on the cost of their monthly passes; $1.3 billion in investments in public transit infrastructure; and a commitment to 5% average renewable content in Canadian motor fuels

Our environmental agenda will include achievable, affordable and practical measures to clean up the environment and protect the health and well-being of all Canadians.

Hungarian CanadiansStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, October 2006 marks the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian revolution, after which upwards of 40,000 people fled to Canada for freedom and opportunity.

Tomorrow the National Arts Centre will open a photo exhibit celebrating the contribution of 50 Canadians of Hungarian origin.

Photographer V. Tony Hauser has captured the essence of these exemplary Canadians and their contribution to the arts, business, media, sports and politics, including two of our colleagues, the member for Scarborough Southwest and the member for Kitchener—Waterloo. I would be remiss not to mention my much better half, Catherine, who is also included in the group.

Also, tomorrow morning, with the help of the National Capital Commission, the Canadian Hungarian community will unveil a monument in honour of those who lost their lives for freedom and in gratitude to Canada and to the Canadian people.

Canadian ForcesStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Fabian Manning Conservative Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, on Saturday evening, September 30, Corporal Keith Mooney of St. Mary's, Newfoundland, received a hero's welcome in his hometown on his triumphant return from Afghanistan. A large motorcade, followed by a packed community hall, welcomed Corporal Mooney back to his roots in St. Mary's Bay.

Recovering from severe shrapnel wounds, Corporal Mooney spoke to the people about his experience and about his comrades who had died in an effort to bring peace and democracy to that faraway land. He told us about the success of our Canadian soldiers and the all important difference they are making in that wartorn country, especially in the lives of the children.

While he was delighted to be home again, Corporal Mooney said that if a request came for him to return to Afghanistan tomorrow, he would do so in a heartbeat.

They are winning the fight and our continued support is needed.

When given the opportunity to speak, I thanked Corporal Mooney and his comrades and assured him that the military has the government's 100% support for this mission.

Corporal Keith Mooney's family and community are proud of him. His country and his government is proud of him. God bless him and we welcome him home.

Quebec Intercultural WeekStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to highlight the fourth edition of the Semaine québécoise des rencontres interculturelles, which takes place from October 1-8, 2006, with the theme “A thousand faces, our future”.

This week provides an opportunity to seriously reflect on our citizenship values, particularly in the context of Quebec, and on the invaluable contribution of immigration to Quebec society.

This is also an opportunity for us to take a closer look at the situation of our fellow citizens who contribute to the vitality of our communities. We must acknowledge the difficulties associated with their full integration. We must applaud their success and recognize that we could make better use of their education, experience and their desire to succeed with us.

We would like to work together on initiatives to make immigrants feel more welcome. I hope these intercultural meetings will be used to support and encourage activities in our communities that promote their development.

Peter NaglikStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, we all know that moments of sudden tragedy can arrive that seem to stop the world for a moment and which remind us starkly of what really matters in life: the eternal things like faith and friendship.

Such a moment arrived for many members of this House last Friday when we learned that a dear friend and colleague, Peter Naglik, was tragically taken from us in a car accident.

Peter was well-known to many of us through his lifetime of service to his province and country through the democratic process. He was a stalwart advisor and speech writer in both the Ontario provincial parliament and this House where he served many MPPs and MPs, including former Premier Harris and the current Minister of Public Safety.

He brought his gentle spirit and special élan to dozens of campaigns as one of the leading conservative activists of his generation.

There are members of this place whose election would have been impossible without Peter's dedication and professionalism.

As all who knew him can attest, Peter was a man of deep conviction and enormous kindness. We are consoled only by the knowledge that he lived and died with a strong Catholic faith.

We mourn his passing with his family, his beloved Rossana and her daughters, Rebecca and Leah.

Requiescat in pace aeternam, Peter.

International Day of Older PersonsStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Chan Liberal Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, on October 1, the world celebrated International Day of Older Persons. This day is set aside to celebrate the wisdom and accomplishments of senior citizens around the world.

Shamefully, the Conservative government commemorated this day by announcing $1 billion in cuts to social programs, key programs that directly touch the lives of Canada's seniors, such as affordable housing through the CMHC, the Canadian volunteerism initiative, Status of Women Canada and the literacy skills program.

The seniors in my riding of Richmond are very concerned with these program cuts. Sadly, I was reminded just how the government is not standing up for Canadians.

Abdou DioufStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I congratulate, on behalf of the Government of Canada, His Excellency Abdou Diouf upon his re-election as Secretary General of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie. He was re-elected handily last week during the 11th summit of la Francophonie.

Mr. Diouf is the former President of Senegal and has provided expert leadership to the international Francophonie these past few years.

We are convinced that he will continue to do so over the next four years of his mandate.

Once again, congratulations Mr. Diouf.

Jack StaggStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, on August 9, Canada lost one of her greatest public servants.

Mr. Jack Stagg's last posting was deputy minister of Veterans Affairs. Throughout his career he had many accomplishments which made Canada a better place to live: the political accord for the establishment of Nunavut, the settling of the Marshall decision and the creation of the Year of the Veteran, just to name a few.

I had the good fortune to travel on several overseas veterans missions with Jack and his wife, Bonnie, where their love and respect for our veterans and their families created memories I will always cherish.

Jack showed us all what dedication to family, service and duty to country was all about and he displayed tremendous courage with his battle with cancer.

On behalf of my colleagues in the House of Commons, I extend my condolences to Jack's family and to the employees of Veterans Affairs on Jack's recent passing.

I want to thank Bonnie, Amary and Wallis for sharing Jack with all of us.

In the words of the solemn act of remembrance we say, “We will remember Jack Stagg”.

VeteransStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, on June 11 I had the privilege of attending the unveiling of the veterans' wall of remembrance, at the Rideau Memorial Gardens in Dollard-des-Ormeaux, on which are inscribed the names of 1,299 men and women who served our country.

I wish to thank everyone who made this ceremony possible and to express my sincere gratitude to our veterans for the inspiration they provide to our present and future generations.

This wall reminds us of the sacrifices made by our military in order for all of us to live in freedom and dignity. We should always remember that democracy and freedom cannot be taken for granted and that, on the contrary, they require the vigilance and commitment of each and every one of us.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all members of our military who are presently on duty around the world. We are proud of you.

Aboriginal AffairsStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canada must vote in favour of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples during the current session of the United Nations general assembly. The declaration offers a promising vision of a new relationship between countries and indigenous peoples, based on collaboration and respect for individual rights.

To date, no universal instrument has protected the rights of indigenous peoples better than this declaration. Indigenous peoples continue to be among the poorest and most marginalized on the planet.

Adopting the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is consistent with international peacekeeping. These rights do not represent a threat to peace. They are an essential foundation for indigenous peoples.

The Bloc Québécois has always supported the adoption of this declaration in order to recognize the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples. That is why we are asking once again that Canada vote in favour of this declaration.