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House of Commons Hansard #91 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was deal.

Topics

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Valley Liberal Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member and I live in northern Ontario and know the challenges it is facing. Some of the plant closures happened some time ago. We are facing Christmas now and a lot of people are running out of resources.

I have to mention a statement he made. He asked why the government would take us down this road. What did the NDP think it was going to do? It had heard all of the right-wing rhetoric and knew what great friends the Conservatives were with the current American administration. Did the NDP actually think that the Conservatives were going to stand up for the workers of the communities? That was not going to happen with this administration.

He mentioned billions in forestry and we know we were unable to deliver that. We did not have time to deliver the package that we had proposed, and we accept Canadians' judgment after it happened. However, the package was designed after listening to the very people he mentioned, community leaders, unions and the industry itself. The package had some real value. Would people in the member's riding and across northern Ontario be working had that package been delivered?

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think that was a good package. Like so much else that was promised by the Liberals in their 13 years of government, it was not delivered. That is why Canadians passed judgment on them in the last election. It was not the New Democrats that took them down. It was not the New Democrats who voted them out of office. It was the people of Canada because of what they saw in their experience with them, and their lack of commitment and follow through on promises that they made that took them down.

Hopefully, the Liberals are learning a lesson. There may be a day when perhaps they will be back in power again, but I do not see that for quite some time.

What we need to do together, Liberals, Bloc and ourselves, is to talk to the Conservatives, because we do have the majority in the House, and tell them that this is a bad deal. This is not going to work for our forestry sector, just as disbanding the Wheat Board is not going to work for our farmers and doing away with supply management is not going to work for our farmers.

We cannot continue to conform to the American way of doing things and expect that we will protect something that is uniquely Canadian. We have over the years shown ourselves as Canadians to be creative in the ways that we develop our industry, and in the way we form communities in front of some of the challenges that we face: our geography, our weather and our distances. We must strive to have a very viable and vital economy, and to have communities that are well off supporting each other. However, if we continue to try to copy or emulate the American way of doing things, do not be surprised if we lose some of our best efforts.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to get the opinion of my hon. colleague. Often what happens when we seem to follow the bidding of Americans and their policies, the commentary is that we have to be very careful. We do not want to interfere with the good relationship we have. Yet, I have read and heard with regard to softwood lumber and other incidents that people in power in the United States do not understand why we do this and why we are so compliant to the wishes of our trading partner.

I would like the member's opinion on this aspect. Does he believe that if we stood strong in our beliefs that we would have respect from those people south of the border?

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Yes, Mr. Speaker, I certainly do believe that. I believe that if we would have continued down the road that we were on, which was taking advantage of some of those vehicles that were put in place in the North American Free Trade Agreement as well as the court challenges, we would have won and gained more respect. We do not need to throw in the Canadian Wheat Board and some of the vehicles in the NAFTA simply to conform to the American way of doing business.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have a very brief question. The member who was speaking described the institution of the Canadian Wheat Board as an institution that is uniquely Canadian. He knows that it only applies to Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba. If this is such a uniquely Canadian institution, why do Ontario farmers not want any part of it?

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to speak for Ontario farmers, but I certainly want to say that it was Canadian farmers in western Canada who chose to do business this way. I know that there are farmers in eastern Canada who are very fond of and very concerned about supply management because we do not have the kind of grain industry in eastern Canada that they have in western Canada. In western Canada we have the Wheat Board and in eastern Canada we have supply management.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a comment more than a question. The comment is very interesting. In his response to the member for Yorkton—Melville the member said that he did not want to speak for Ontario farmers. He is an Ontario MP. Yet, he is quite willing to speak for the farmers of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, giving them something that those farmers do not want. That is my comment and I think it speaks for itself.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, what I would like to say to the member who just spoke and perhaps to the member who asked the question previously is this. Why is it that the government will not allow farmers in western Canada to actually determine their own future as far as the Wheat Board is concerned? Why is it intervening in so many destructive and negative ways in whether farmers actually have a say in whether they want a Wheat Board or not? It is having a plebiscite, but it is a very narrow and controlled plebiscite by the government.

I was at a meeting in Saskatoon in July where 250 farmers and farm leaders from across western Canada spoke very loudly and very clearly about what they thought was in their best interests. They know that the Wheat Board is not a perfect vehicle, but they are willing to work with others to make sure that it gets better. All they want is a chance to do that, but the government has come in, and by fiat and strong-arm has decided that it is going to put it out of its misery.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to enter into this debate on behalf of the good people of the riding of Winnipeg Centre, especially as we enter the final hours of the final stage of this very long, drawn out and controversial piece of legislation, Bill C-24, which as anybody watching will have realized implements the softwood lumber agreement.

It would be helpful in this final stage of debate to summarize and perhaps detail for Canadians who may be watching just what transpired in this whole agonizing drawn out process, this roller-coaster ride that we have been taken on, which has led us to the point where we are today.

It seems that the Prime Minister and the new Conservative government are moving at warp speed to integrate Canada's security and foreign policies with the U.S. and to shred any competitive advantage over the U.S. in areas such as lumber and wheat as well as an overall harmonization and integration on any number of facets in our relationship with the United States.

It seems that the Conservative government is voluntarily and unilaterally giving up the competitive advantage that we enjoyed over the years in the softwood lumber sector and, as raised by my colleague from Sault Ste. Marie, the sale of our superior wheat, a Canadian brand of wheat that is in such great demand around the world. I will speak to this later.

Bill C-24 deals specifically with the softwood lumber agreement. To set the context for my remarks I would like to remind Canadians that days before Ottawa bludgeoned Canada's lumber industry into this deeply flawed softwood lumber agreement, the Vancouver Sun published the details of a leaked letter from the Bush administration to the U.S. lumber lobby.

In this letter the American administration confirmed its objective was to hobble the Canadian industry for seven years. This should have been shocking to Canadians. Having our competitors reveal in a leaked letter that the administration's intention was not to achieve fairness in the North American marketplace for softwood lumber, but to hobble the Canadian industry should have made us all sit up and wonder who negotiated this deal and wonder if they were really acting in our best interests. I cannot blame the administration for being aggressive that way because it is very good at defending its own domestic industries. This is only the beginning.

What we learned and what our colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster has been trying to point out in every way that he knows how, to alert Canadians to the realities of this deal, is that the Americans will get to keep $450 million of the illegal duties they were collecting. They will get to keep this money to grease the wheels for the protectionist republicans in the White House who were facing tough fights in their mid-term congressional elections. With no strings attached, $450 million goes not to the government of the United States, but to the republican administration to wage war on Canadians who are financing this attack on our trade relations.

Canada's timber industry would be forced to subsidize an ongoing illicit attack on itself. What kind of deal is that? It makes one wonder who would negotiate terms and conditions like that on our behalf. Who are we sending to do our bargaining for us in this regard? It is astounding. All of this is going on with the explicit consent of the Canadian government.

There is even more. This is where a worrisome trend is beginning to develop, a motif, one of the characteristics of the current government. When the industry balked, the current government used intimidation, which is now almost a hallmark of our new Prime Minister.

On August 4 the Globe and Mail quoted a senior government official's warning that industry opponents to this deal “should prepare themselves for the consequences of rejecting it and...might want to start contemplating a world where Ottawa is no longer in the business of subsidizing softwood disputes”.

In other words, they were told that if this deal was voted down, if they did not support this softwood lumber deal, they should not expect Ottawa to help them in any future and subsequent deals. It is some kind of economic blackmail to lord this over the heads of the industry players, saying that if this deal is voted down, if industry players trust their best instincts and vote this deal down, then Ottawa will not help in any subsequent deals. The only conclusion Canadians can draw is that this softwood deal is a deal that is managed of, by and for the American lumber lobby.

Here is the most worrisome thing--and I will say this as clearly as I can because it is a complex notion--even more worrisome than the billion dollars that we are leaving on the table in illegal tariffs and duties collected by the Americans. The most worrisome thing yet is that a supposedly sovereign nation has signed on to an unprecedented clause which requires provinces to first vet any changes in forestry policy with Washington. To me, this is more damaging.

People studying this deal 20 years from now will probably find that the most alarming thing about it is that we have voluntarily forfeited our sovereignty to manage our own affairs in the softwood lumber sector. This is where it raises a question: how in God's name did the Bloc Québécois support the ruling party, the government, to get this deal passed when it is all about sovereignty? I have heard a thousand speeches by my colleagues from the Bloc about Quebec's sovereignty and how they did not want the federal government to trample on the jurisdiction of Quebec to control its own affairs as it pertains to its resources. I support the Bloc in that argument.

How, then, can the Bloc support a softwood lumber deal that has this unprecedented and precedent setting clause that requires provinces to vet any changes they may want to make, perhaps in the stumpage fees, the quotas or the amount of cutting in certain cutting areas? Any of those changes will have to be first cleared with Washington before the provinces can implement those changes. It is an affront to Canadian sovereignty. It is an affront to Quebec's sovereignty. But that is the softwood lumber deal that we are about to sign.

One of the things that people often overlook in all the hype about how thankful we should be that the Conservative government gets along with the Americans is the reality that Canada tossed away a significant victory, which we won not before the virtually useless NAFTA panels but from the U.S. Court of International Trade. It ruled that U.S. duties on Canadian softwood lumber were illegal.

In other words, we were winning the court challenges that we threw aside when we went into the softwood lumber agreement. We snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory, as it were. If only we had stayed with that route. I have heard the minister and others say that they could not keep throwing millions and millions of dollars to lawyers in never-ending court challenges. That is true, but they were not never-ending. We were winning them. We were within a hair's breadth of winning them. We were almost there. We were within days of winning when the government announced that it was going to accept a far inferior package.

That is what is incomprehensible about the artificial urgency on the part of the Conservative government to accept a deal that is substandard. When we could have had it all, the government left a billion dollars on the table.

This is the second time that a Conservative government has done this. Let me take people back to 1986, when the GATT, the World Trade Organization's predecessor, issued a preliminary finding on the legality of U.S. lumber duties against Canada. The government of Brian Mulroney at the time, bent on negotiating a free trade agreement with the U.S., abruptly aborted the challenge, with eager acquiescence to the Americans.

That is another example of where we were well on our way to winning our argument that U.S. lumber duties against Canada were illegal. That finding, too, was nipped in the bud before it could take effect. The finding was never published. It does not take a paranoid mind to assume that the GATT had ruled for Canada. Mulroney foreclosed on the GATT ruling because it would have wiped out his entire argument about the necessity of a bilateral free trade agreement with the United States.

It seems to many of us that free trade is like a computer virus coursing through Canada's social, economical and political systems, eradicating everything unique. Everything that is unique and special and advantageous must be eliminated, it seems. We must harmonize with the United States, it seems, but we find no fault in leaving the Americans with the advantages they enjoy in the industry sectors where they do things better than we do.

But it seems we are supposed to forfeit anything that we do better than they do. The first agricultural casualty in that regard was the prairie wheat pools. They corporatized. They were hoping to surf on the private American market. Instead, they surfed on losses and put the Canadian Wheat Board on a timeline. The Americans began gunning for it before the ink was even dry on their signature to the initial free trade agreement in 1989.

I live in Manitoba, and for those of us who live in the prairie provinces, I can tell members that since then the Wheat Board has been subjected to 11 separate U.S. trade attacks. The cry, as with lumber, has been “unfair subsidies”. The U.S. does not just want to eliminate a formidable competitor in the world wheat market for its multinational agriculture business; it wants that agribusiness to capture the price advantage enjoyed by superior Canadian wheat. This is the pattern that is developing. This is the worrisome motif that is developing in trade relations as contemplated by our new Conservative government.

It is as if the new Conservative government is prepared to do the Americans' dirty work for them in terms of these two specific trade irritants. As an example, it has now begun a process to abolish the Wheat Board's monopoly. I will not go into that in any great detail other than to say there have been very worrisome things happening in recent days. Mussolini would be proud of the current Minister of Agriculture because he slapped a muzzle on the board of directors of the Canadian Wheat Board.

The directors are not allowed to defend their own best interests. They are not allowed to represent farmers and to advertise in any meaningful way why the Canadian Wheat Board, which has a business case that shows it, is in the farmers' best interests. The government has taken draconian measures to make sure that the Wheat Board directors are not heard, to the point of cancelling a meeting of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food today, in fact, so that the directors could not make their own case. I will not dwell on this except to say that there are such natural and obvious parallels between these two longstanding trade irritants between our two countries.

I will simply say this, and perhaps I can do it best by quoting John Morriss, the editor and publisher of the Farmers' Independent Weekly, who says that a dual marketing board is “a chimera”, that it cannot work. He asks farmers to recall the voluntary central selling agency, which was run by the pools in the 1920s, and the voluntary Canadian wheat board, which began in 1935. Both of these voluntary wheat board organizations had spectacular bankruptcies. They were likely the two biggest business failures in Canadian history. The voluntary Canadian wheat board lost $62 million in 1938-39, which was an enormous sum at the time and the largest bankruptcy in Canadian history.

The way we explain this is really quite simple, even to a lay person like me. The reason a dual market for marketing Canadian wheat will not work is simply this: if the open market is higher than the initial payment, then the board gets fewer deliveries, and if the initial payment is higher than the market, it gets those--

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The member for Winnipeg Centre is going on about the Wheat Board. The debate right now is on softwood lumber and Bill C-24. I would ask that he get back on topic. I would ask that he discuss the matter at hand and not get off track.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I thank the member for Selkirk—Interlake for his point of order. He does know that although we are studying Bill C-24, the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre, like all members, does have quite a bit of latitude in doing this. I am sure the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre will get back to the point.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, in the context of debating Bill C-24 I was using as an example the similar parallel trade irritant of the Canadian Wheat Board. I think there is a connection, enough of a one to allow me to finish my thoughts in that regard, and then I will come quickly to a summary of the NDP's view on why we are opposed to the current softwood lumber agreement deal.

I was trying to explain that the reason the dual desk marketing system will not work for the marketing of Canadian wheat is that if the open market price is higher than the initial payment, the board gets fewer deliveries. If the initial payment is higher than the market, it gets all the deliveries but it has to sell the product at a loss. It simply cannot work.

In the case of both of these examples, both of these major trade irritants between Canada and the United States, the Conservative government feels compelled to roll over and do exactly what the Americans want it to do. The Americans want the government to give up, even in cases where it is close to victory. When it could have in fact delivered a resounding victory in the softwood negotiations, the government chose not to. It bailed out too early. It left too much on the table.

I would like to quote Margaret Atwood and her view in this regard:

It's said the beaver bites off its testicles when threatened. If true, the beaver is certainly an apt symbol, if not for Canada, certainly for a succession of governments which, when faced with ceaseless bullying, react by carving off pieces of the nation.

That is, carving off our own independence, and I think the words of Margaret Atwood are very prescient and very wise in this regard.

Let me tell members one specific thing. Above and beyond leaving $450 million on the table for the Bush administration, and $500 million that goes directly to the American softwood lumber industry, again so that it can continue its relentless assault on the Canadian softwood lumber industry, one of the things that bothers me most about this deal is that it actually discourages value added manufacturing of softwood lumber in Canada.

My father used to comment on this. Whenever we saw a truck full of raw logs rolling down the highway, logs leaving the country in their round, raw log form, my dad called it economic treason to allow that raw product to leave the country without the value adding that would create quality Canadian jobs. This particular softwood lumber agreement actually discourages value added manufacturing, because the export taxes are based upon the value of the exported product. The softwood lumber deal therefore discourages value added manufacturing by imposing penalties on the value added production and thus creating an incentive for exporting raw logs.

I will quote Stephen Atkinson, the director of paper and forest products research at the Bank of Montreal. He says, for instance:

Let's say you're paying a duty--pick a number again, 15% or 5% or whatever it is. If you can bring in the log without any duty to the United States, then of course it makes sense to put the lumber mill there and create jobs south of the border.

I would like to think that Canadians have moved beyond this image of being hewers of wood and drawers of water. I would like to believe that we have the ability to manufacture and add value to the export of these natural resources, these Canadian commodities. We should not be entering into any kind of agreement that would limit or discourage value added manufacturing for softwood lumber in Canada.

I have 25 good reasons why the NDP is opposed to this deal, but time does not permit my going through them in any great detail. Suffice it to say that we have launched a courageous battle to warn Canadians and to inform Canadians that we are about to enter into a dangerous, precedent setting bad deal.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I know that we are talking about softwood lumber, but somehow these members keep bringing in the Wheat Board.

The member mentions not taking our raw products out of the country to be processed in another country, which is a very valid argument when we are talking about a softwood lumber agreement. I wonder, then, how he can possibly defend the Wheat Board, which prevents us from having value added in those grain products in our own country.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, in addition to Canada's multiple NAFTA and WTO victories, the October 13 Court of International Trade judgment finally confirmed that Canada was very close to a decisive victory. Within 24 hours of Canada and the U.S. forcing the amended October 12 softwood lumber agreement, 19 pages of previously undisclosed amendments, the U.S. court declared that to recover all of Canadian industry money and to establish free lumber trade immediately, no agreement was necessary.

As of October 13, our worst fears were realized. The views of our member for Burnaby—New Westminster were validated, and we now know we made a terrible deal. We bargained from a position of weakness. Instead of standing up on our hind legs to the Americans and fighting for what was right, we bargained on our knees. No one stood up for Canada. People rolled over instead and accepted a substandard deal when we were a hair's breadth away from getting the whole kit and caboodle. The whole $1 billion could have been delivered to us.

Instead of a 100% return and fair and free trade, the government has seized $1 billion of the Canadian industry's money to complete its tax funding scheme and to deliver it to the U.S. government.

I wish I had time to explain for Canadians what section 18 of the softwood lumber agreement does, but it sets a precedent about which every Canadian in every industry sector should be very concerned.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Valley Liberal Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Winnipeg Centre for giving us all the credit for being on the right track. When we were in government, that is not what the NDP said.

Very clearly, we heard him say over and over again that the Liberal government was on the right track with softwood lumber, that we should have stayed the course and we would have finished with all the money returned back to Canada.

Therefore, we thank him for giving credit to the Liberal government.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the reason Bill C-24 is fiscally flawed is the payout is based on Canadian softwood exporters that are owed the equivalent of 95% of the total $5.3 billion in illegal duties paid to the U.S. We know full well that the Conservative government fell far short of the 95% target, despite contrary public representations which makes the special tax essential and imposes costs on taxpayers funding these advance payments.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Before we go to statements by members, there will be seven minutes left in questions and comments for the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre when we return to the study of Bill C-24.

Wheelchair Foundation CanadaStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert Conservative South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow 500 wheelchairs will arrive in Kandahar, Afghanistan. A wheelchair can transform the life of an amputee, providing mobility, opportunity and hope.

After decades of conflict and war, several hundred thousand Afghanis are amputees. In response, Wheelchair Foundation Canada, led by a constituent of mine, Christiana Flessner, has worked alongside our Canadian military to provide wheelchairs to Afghanis in need.

Each wheelchair proudly displays the flags of Canada and Afghanistan side by side, symbolizing our friendship and national determination to help them through this difficult time. The wheelchairs will be distributed by our soldiers in Kandahar, giving our troops yet another opportunity to build new and important friendships with Afghanis.

I would like to honour Ms. Flessner for her dedication to this worthy project. I encourage all Canadians to visit the Wheelchair Foundation website, at wheelchairfoundation.ca, to learn more about this exceptional organization.

VolunteerismStatements By Members

December 5th, 2006 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, today is International Volunteer Day. On behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada, I would like to thank the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who tirelessly volunteer both here at home and abroad to improve the lives of those less fortunate. They exemplify the very best our great nation has to offer. Yet this great work by Canadian volunteers stands in stark contrast to the unbelievable cuts the government has made.

Why did the government cut money for such programs as the young professional international program, which sends young Canadians to work abroad on international development programs? Why cut the extremely successful support program for volunteers at home in Canada? Why allow only $20 million from CIDA's $3 billion budget for volunteer driven Canadian NGOs, which do some of the best work on the ground? Why cut funding for our museums which are largely driven by volunteers?

It makes absolutely no sense why the government has implemented these stupid cuts and destroyed some of the most effective initiatives that Canadians have to offer through volunteers. Today, on International Volunteer Day, we call on the government to--

VolunteerismStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Gatineau.

Gatineau Soup KitchenStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, on November 14, La Soupière de l'Amitié de Gatineau celebrated the 20th anniversary of its founding and paid tribute to three remarkable citizens for their tremendous contributions.

This organization, whose mission is to fight poverty and social exclusion by relieving hunger every day, wished to thank Msgr. Gilles Dion, Gilles Trahan and Jean-Guy Sabourin for their dedication.

Since 1986, these men have contributed to the growth and success of the Soupière de l'Amitié de Gatineau. First they believed in its mission and got it off the ground. Then through their involvement, they got the word out about its mission and the need for the organization and they helped the most disadvantaged. Today, they remain engaged and active in the fight against hunger.

The Bloc Québécois joins with the users and volunteers of the Soupière de l'Amitié de Gatineau to thank and congratulate these three citizens being honoured for their involvement.

Aboriginal AffairsStatements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, today I am honoured to welcome a number of chiefs from my riding to Ottawa for the special assembly of chiefs.

The first nations of my region have a long and proud tradition and culture that goes back thousands of years. Yet far too many of them suffer under third world conditions that we would not accept in any other region of our country.

The violence that inevitably accompanies these conditions is faced by the aboriginal women who live along Highway 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert, British Columbia. This highway has become known as the highway of tears. Since 1974, there have been at least nine and potentially as many as thirty-five women who have disappeared or been killed along the highway. An overwhelming number of these women were aboriginal.

Any tragedy of this kind has a huge impact on families and communities, but this wound has been made worse by officials who seem to give these disappearances less attention than they merit. What effort was made was too little too late.

We all must work together to finally solve the conditions that are leading to such tragedies--

Aboriginal AffairsStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Nanaimo—Alberni.

Canadian Rabbinic CaucusStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, arriving on Parliament Hill today are some 20 rabbis of the newly established Canadian Rabbinic Caucus, a coalition from across Canada, from Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Kingston, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax. These rabbis represent the three main streams of Judaism: Orthodox, Conservative and Reform.

While in Ottawa, the caucus will meet with officials from government, including foreign affairs and MPs from across the political spectrum.

Noting that terrorism is rampant in the world, the rabbis will call on the leaders of other faith groups to denounce the killing of innocents in the name of God or religion. They will ask that overseas conflicts and the resultant passionately held views not be allowed to degenerate into uncivil discourse and antagonisms here at home.

The Rabbinic Caucus has embraced a hope shared by many Canadians that Canada, as an open, pluralistic, democratic and diverse society, might aspire to be the country that offers guidance and inspiration to the world in the 21st century.

I hope all members will welcome and engage the Canadian Rabbinic Caucus in its first visit to Parliament Hill.

Canadian Rabbinic CaucusStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I too rise to advise the House of the presence on Parliament Hill of a group of 20 rabbis from across Canada, representing Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Reform Judaism.

As we have heard, these 20 rabbis are all members of the newly established Canadian Rabbinic Caucus, a coalition with the goal to create an ongoing dialogue with the political sector and offer a religious Jewish perspective on issues of the day.

Today these rabbis will call on leaders of other faith groups to denounce the killings of innocent civilians in the name of deity. They will also ask other religious leaders to join them in promoting an open dialogue so the different perspectives on issues can be debated in an open, respectful and trustworthy manner.

I ask all my colleagues to join me in welcoming the rabbis and salute their efforts to create a forum for free and open dialogue on both national and international matters.