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House of Commons Hansard #100 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.

Topics

Question No. 244Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

With respect to the development of an action plan to increase the equality of women across Canada, announced in the Budget 2008: (a) what is the time frame for the development of the action plan; (b) what department will be responsible for developing the action plan; (c) what monetary resources will be allocated to develop the action plan; (d) how many full-time equivalents will be allocated to develop the action plan; (e) will there be any public consultation on the development of the action plan; (f) what organizations have been consulted; (g) what organizations will be consulted; (h) will Canada's commitment under the 1995 Beijing Declaration serve as base for the action plan; (i) what mechanisms of accountability will be built into the action plan; and (j) will eliminating systemic discrimination against women be the main objective of the plan?

Question No. 244Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Louis-Saint-Laurent Québec

Conservative

Josée Verner ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, in response to a) Over the next year, the government will work on the development of an action plan.

In response to b) Status of Women Canada will lead the development of the action plan, with other federal government departments and agencies.

In response to c) and d) The development of the action plan will be done within existing resources.

In response to e), f) and g) Work is underway on the action plan, and it is yet too early to be specific on this level of detail.

In response to h) The Beijing declaration and platform for action will inform the work and content of the action plan.

In response to i) Status of Women Canada recognizes the crucial role that accountability plays in insuring equality for women. As such, accountability will be a key consideration as the action plan is developed.

In response to j) The main objective of the plan is to advance the equality of women across Canada through the improvement of their economic and social conditions and their participation in democratic life.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, if Questions Nos. 202, 241 and 242 could be made orders for returns, these returns would be tabled immediately.

Question No. 202Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Glen Pearson Liberal London North Centre, ON

With regard to the Canada Strategic Infrastructure Fund within Infrastructure Canada and the Strategic Highway Infrastructure Program within the Department of Transport: (a) what has been the total spending in the program since 2002; (b) how much of this total has been spent in each of the provinces in each year of the programs from 2002 to 2007, inclusive; and (c) what is the per capita amount of spending of these programs per province in each year of the programs from 2002 to 2007, inclusive?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 241Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell NDP Vancouver Island North, BC

With regard to oil spills off the West Coast of Canada: (a) what systems, plans or procedures are in place in case of an oil spill off of Vancouver Island, Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte area, or the North Coast of British Columbia; (b) who would be the first to respond to an oil spill off the coast of British Columbia and who would be in charge of clean up; (c) what are the response times to contain an oil spill in (i) the North Coast of British Columbia, (ii) the Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte area, (iii) the North Coast of Vancouver Island, (iv) the West Coast of Vancouver Island; (d) have there been any studies, reports, estimations on the risk or possibility of oil spills due to oil tanker traffic coming from Kitimat or Prince Rupert, British Columbia and, if so, what are their conclusions; (e) have there been any studies, reports or estimations on the possible cost of an oil spill off the coast of British Columbia and, if so, what are their conclusions; and (f) in terms of the gas spill in Robson’s Bight on Vancouver Island (i) has there been any evaluation of the potential damage this spill has caused, (ii) has there been any evaluation of the response and clean up, (iii) are there any further plans for clean-up operations such as removing the truck from the area, (iv) are their plans to ensure that similar accidents do not reoccur in ecologically sensitive areas?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 242Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

With regard to the anthrax vaccine administered to Canadian Forces personnel serving in the Gulf War: (a) has the government completed independent testing on the safety of the vaccine; (b) has the government completed a study on the health of Canadian Forces personnel who received the vaccine; and (c) has the government continued to monitor or has it undertaken any follow up studies on the health of Canadian Forces personnel who have received the vaccine?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

May 28th, 2008 / 3:35 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all notices of motions for the production of papers be allowed to stand.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question Period—Speaker's RulingPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier concerning comments made by the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board during question period on Monday, April 28, 2008.

I would like to thank the hon. Member for Ottawa—Vanier for raising this matter and the hon. parliamentary secretary, the hon. member for Beauséjour, and the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons for their interventions.

Following question period on April 28 last, the member for Ottawa—Vanier rose on a question of privilege to take issue with comments made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board during oral questions in response to a question from the member for Beauséjour concerning election expenses. In that response, the parliamentary secretary said, as can be read in the Debates on page 5164:

Not to mention the fact that the Liberal Party transferred money directly to the Liberal candidate in Ottawa Centre to fund this Liberal in-and-out scam. I wonder if the member will stand up now and demand that the member for Ottawa—Vanier, who got involved, step aside until his name is cleared.

The member for Ottawa—Vanier expressed concern that these remarks suggested that he had been involved in improper election expenses—a suggestion to which he took strong exception—and he requested that the hon. Parliamentary Secretary withdraw the remarks and apologize.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary defended his response to the question by quoting from an affidavit, a copy of which he tabled the following day. I undertook to review the transcript of both Members’ statements, to look at the affidavit in question and to return to the House with a ruling on the matter.

As I have explained in previous rulings on similar matters, it is difficult for the Chair to find a prima facie case of privilege when dealing with these sorts of disagreements.

As stated on page 433 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice:

In most instances, when a point of order or a question of privilege has been raised in regard to a response to an oral question, the Speaker has ruled that the matter is a disagreement among Members over the facts surrounding the issue.

I have examined closely the documentation cited and the comments made during question period on that day. The affidavit is a lengthy description by a party official of alleged election advertising transactions and arrangements. Contrary to the impression left by the parliamentary secretary, the affidavit in no way supports the pointed insinuation of wrongdoing he made regarding the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier. Similarly, the Chair cannot find anything in the affidavit that contradicts the very clear assertions made by the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier on the matter at issue and in particular his statement found at page 5168 of the Debates for April 28, 2008.

As Speaker, I can fully appreciate that the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier believes the parliamentary secretary attacked his reputation on the basis of the remarks he made. However, it is difficult for the Chair to find a prima facie question of privilege. Members may clearly disagree on the propriety of certain events that are alleged to have taken place; they may even dispute their legality, but I do not believe it is the role of the Speaker to settle that argument. My only role is to determine whether the remarks were unparliamentary and whether they constitute such a grave attack as to impede the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier in the performance of his duties.

Given the differing views of both hon. members, and the actual words used by the parliamentary secretary, it is difficult for the Chair to regard the matter as anything other than a matter of debate. On the same ground that I ruled on similar questions for which I gave rulings on October 5, 2006, and again recently on April 10, 2008, I am, therefore, unable to find a basis for a prima facie breach of privilege.

That said, I must take this opportunity once again to remind honourable Members to be more judicious in their choice of words. As is stated in House of Commons Procedure and Practice at page 522: “Remarks directed specifically at another member questioning that member's integrity, honesty or character are not in order”.

The political climate in the House may be very heated at the moment but that is no reason to dispense with all civility or natural courtesy.

In the case at hand, although the Chair has not found a breach of privilege, the comments complained of have been addressed and I consider the matter closed.

I thank the House for its attention.

I wish to inform the House that because of the deferred recorded divisions, government orders will be extended by 10 minutes.

The hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier.

Question Period—Speaker's RulingPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I listened to you closely, just as I did yesterday when you presided over a part of the ceremony unveiling the portrait of Canada's 16th prime minister, the Right Honourable Joe Clark. I would like to quote something Mr. Clark said at the end in English:

“A little respect can go a long way”.

I am disappointed in your ruling, Mr. Speaker. This episode in the House is an attempt to go beyond what is permitted. The fact that a parliamentary secretary is trying to attack the reputation of a colleague directly, without any documentation—because he cannot produce any—demeans debate in the Canadian Parliament and the House of Commons.

I am very disappointed that your ruling basically allows this type of behaviour to continue.

Question Period—Speaker's RulingPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member has certainly made his opinion on this subject clear, but I did not say that allegations of this nature should continue. In addition, I would encourage all of the hon. members to review the Standing Orders, obey them and not repeat the type of attacks I have mentioned.

Question Period—Speaker's RulingPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I point out that one of the rules of the House is to show respect for the Speaker when he rules. Obviously from time to time, you are called upon to make rulings with which all of us might differ with, but clearly we need to show the Chair the respect that the position deserves at all times. It is rather ironic that the hon. member questions your decision on an issue on which he has asked for respect.

Question Period—Speaker's RulingPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I think we will consider the matter closed.

The House resumed from May 16 consideration of Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act, as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to stand today to speak in support of the amended Bill C-21.

Members will recall that the bill was first introduced into the House in the 39th session of Parliament as Bill C-44. It has been re-introduced into the House as Bill C-21 and has gone through a very lengthy committee process. It has now come back to the House in its amended form for final conclusion.

To recap, members will remember that the act would repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which excludes Indians who live or work on reserve from filing human rights complaints with the Canadian Human Rights Commission in respect of any alleged human rights violations that relate to any action arising from or pursuant to the Indian Act.

I want to make it very clear from the outset that this party, this official opposition, has supported the intent of the bill. The repeal of section 67 of the Human Rights Act has been a long time in coming and it is something that we support very much.

What we did not support was the manner in which the bill was brought forward, both in its initial introduction and in its subsequent introduction as Bill C-21. It was brought forward without any consultation with first nations communities. We heard that there were significant concerns about the legislation, but there seemed to be absolutely no will, commitment, effort or respect on the part of the government to address some of those concerns.

I am repeating myself, but I want to make it very clear. I said, at least 18 times, in the House or in committee, as did my colleagues, that we supported the repeal of section 67 of the Human Rights Act. We did not support the process in which the government chose, as one of the chiefs from Alberta said, to ram it down their throats.

We are proud to support the amended legislation. We are proud of the process that went on in committee. We heard from a host of witnesses who came before the committee. I emphasize that this is not a substitute for consultation; it was about hearing witnesses and their concerns. Out of the 21 or 22 witnesses we heard, only 1 witness supported the legislation in its original form. We heard learned presentations from academics. We heard from leaders in the aboriginal community. We heard from individuals in the aboriginal community. We heard concerns from the men and women who the bill would affect.

We were concerned that there was no interpretive clause. We were concerned that there was no non-derogation clause. We were concerned that there was no attention given to the fiscal capacity. We were most concerned that the transition period was very short. We were also concerned that no study or analysis had been done on the impact the legislation would have on first nations communities. We know an analysis was done on what the impact would be on INAC, but no study was done to determine what the impact would be on first nations communities.

The amended legislation was a model of cooperation by the opposition parties, listening to the representations we heard from individuals, working together to amend the bill to make it a stronger, fairer bill for aboriginal people in our country.

Many times we heard in the House that we had gutted the bill. Far from it. Misrepresentations were mailed out to every household in my riding, misrepresenting my position and the position of my party as it related to the bill.

We proposed a number of important amendments to the bill. We proposed and passed through committee, a non-derogation clause, an interpretative clause, an extension of the time for implementation for three years. This is important. The government originally proposed six months. It was willing to extend it to 18 months, but not beyond that. I am pleased to see the government has allowed it to go in at three years now.

The implementation period of three years will allow first nations to determine their capacity and to look at the implications. It will allow them to prepare their communities for the actual final implementation of the bill.

As the House may recall, the government tried at one point, through a point of order, to remove the non-derogation clause and the interpretative clause. We are pleased that it has come back with amendments. Although they are not what we would have preferred, we will accept the amended non-derogation and interpretative clauses in the bill. They deal with the intent and the protection of the collective rights of first nations communities. We do, however, prefer the amendments put forward in committee, but as an expression of good faith and a desire to get the bill passed, we will support the amendments put forward by the government.

With the amendments, we would be able to grant human rights to first nations people in a way that balances their collective rights with individual rights as well as maintaining all existing aboriginal and treaty rights, as recognized under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

With respect to the transition period, first nations will now have an adequate amount of time to prepare for the legislation. In doing so, the government will have a chance to properly consult with all affected first nations peoples. I sincerely hope the government will take advantage of the opportunity to do this. I hope it will not just tell them but engage them in a meaningful consultation process whereby it will listen to them and work with them to implement the bill.

Once the bill comes into effect, first nations will work with the government to undertake the extensive preparation, the capacity, fiscal and human resources required.

The important part of this is the amended legislation, and it was amended not without acrimony or without challenge, is an example of parliamentarians working together to fix flawed legislation and amend it to reflect the best interests of first nations people.

As I said at the beginning, the Liberals have always maintained our support for the repeal of this section. It was not done in a way which we supported. Since the bill is now in front of us, we are proud to say that we improved flawed legislation to reflect the views of first nations communities throughout the country. They will be able to work with this legislation, and we are proud to support it.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is an important day in the House as we bring back the amended Bill C-21. Specifically, we are dealing with a couple of amendments.

Unfortunately, this bill has been decades in coming. I will share just a bit of history around this bill. Originally in 1977 an exception was provided that first nations living on reserve could not file complaints under the Canadian Human Rights Act against anything in the Indian Act. Part of the history around that so-called temporary exemption from 1977 being put in place was of course that there were discriminatory provisions in existence in the Indian Act.

One of those discriminatory provisions was around the fact that first nations women who married non-aboriginal men were actually excluded from living on reserve or maintaining their status. The report that came out in 2005 from the Canadian Human Rights Commission, “A Matter of Rights”, talked about the impacts on the community. I have a quote from that report about what happens to families:

The effect of this discriminatory provision was the effective banishment of over one hundred thousand women, their spouses, and their children from their communities and traditional homelands. This caused great psychological, emotional and economic suffering. This was especially true in cases where marriages broke down and First Nation women were not allowed to return home.

What we had in place was a system that disenfranchised thousands and thousands of women and their families. Because the department of the day knew this discriminatory provision was in place and was not at that time prepared to deal with that discriminatory provision, it asked for this exemption and it was put in place.

Subsequent to that, this particular part of the Indian Act was repealed and women were granted their status. I am going to come back to that in a minute, because that was Bill C-31 from 1985, which was one of the reasons that so many people who came before committee were so vocal about wanting some of the amendments that were put in place.

I am not going to read all the recommendations from “A Matter of Rights”, but there were five key recommendations. Part of what the Canadian Human Rights Commission recommended in 2005, before legislation was developed, was that consultation take place with first nations and that “an interpretive provision”, which would take into consideration the rights and interests of first nations, be put in place, and that there would be a transitional period of at least 18 to 30 months, and so on. There were a number of other recommendations.

However, part of the challenge that this House and the committee faced was that when the piece of legislation came before the committee, it was of course a very simple piece of legislation and did not include any of those elements. The bill was developed without consultation with first nations communities.

Therefore, to the Conservative government's surprise, there were a number of concerns raised by witness after witness who came before the committee. People were saying that in the past governments have passed bills in the House that have had some unintended consequences, and they did not want to see that happen.

The committee listened quite respectfully to the witnesses and subsequently proposed a number of amendments, which included an extended transitional period for 36 months. They included an interpretive clause and a non-derogation clause. The amendments we are dealing with today have done some refinement on the non-derogation clause and on some additional wording around gender principles.

I want to come back for a moment to the Canadian Human Rights Commission and why the committee faced some challenges around needing to hear so much more information, because the report of the Canadian Human Rights Act Review Panel, “Promoting Equality: A New Vision”, made a number of specific recommendations with regard to the repeal of section 67.

The panel said specifically,“Any effort to deal with the section 67 issue must ensure adequate input from Aboriginal people themselves”. We saw what happened when that did not happen: it took months for us to get to the place where there was some agreement in getting the bill back in the House.

The panel talked about resources. To go back to Bill C-31, one thing was very clear in Bill C-31, and in a minute I will quote the Native Women's Association of Canada. What was very clear under Bill C-31 was that there were inadequate resources once women regained their status in their communities. There was not enough housing. There were not enough other support services for women who could have returned to their community.

Therefore, one of the things that the Human Rights Commission recommended was that these resources be put in place. It said that resources must be put in place so that people actually have access to any redress mechanisms that might be deemed suitable once a complaint was filed.

It talked about the fact that there should be cultural recognition and said:

At the same time, the Act should permit a balancing of the values of the Aboriginal people and the need to preserve Aboriginal culture...These points raise huge questions about the social and economic structure of Aboriginal life and its legal underpinnings. Such matters deserve far more study than we have been able to give them. So again, there is a need for adequate consultations.

It talked about the balancing provision and stated:

The Panel believes it is highly important to balance the interests of Aboriginal individuals seeking equality without discrimination with important Aboriginal community interests. A balancing provision means that a Tribunal would actually hear evidence and representations on the issue of whether the interests of the individual and the community are properly balanced.

It talked about self-government and said:

The Panel believes something more should be done in order to ensure greater say in the human rights roles that apply to Aboriginal governments. This would be consistent with the principle of self-government.

Thus, the Canadian Human Rights Commission itself acknowledged the fact that there needed to be a number of other mechanisms put in place in order to make sure that this piece of legislation did not have the same kind of impact that Bill C-31 has had. Bill C-31 has had some difficulties in terms of the fact that when women were reinstated there were not the resources that I referred to, but there is also a second generation cut-off.

The second generation cut-off means that people whose parents were not both first nations could end up losing their status by the time the second generation is born. That is an unintended consequence. A report did some analysis on key reserves across the country and did some estimates on when the last status person would be born on those reserves. Some would say that quite cynically the government is not dealing with that provision because then first nations people would come under the guidance of the provinces rather than the federal government.

Bev Jacobs, president of the Native Women's Association of Canada, said in a press release:

Twenty-five years after having the Charter, NWAC is well aware that having rights on paper does not guarantee the ability of all individuals to exercise those rights. NWAC believes that consultation with Aboriginal peoples and specifically, Aboriginal women, is necessary to ensuring the rights are meaningful and exercisable. We are also well aware that membership provisions under Bill C-31, off-reserve rights, health, housing and education policies as well as the continuing lack of a matrimonial real property law regime that applies on reserve are issues that the federal crown will most likely see complaints filed about.

She goes on further in that press release to say:

--It is important for both the CHRC and First Nations communities to have the resources to build a relationship that acknowledges and respects human rights.” This is the only way equal rights for all can be promised.

We know that this very important piece of legislation, the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which does provide the right for first nations people on reserve to file complaints under discriminatory provisions under the Indian Act, in itself will not guarantee human rights unless there are resources in place.

The Native Women's Association of Canada talked about resources around education and housing. We know, of course, that the children from Attawapiskat are here on the Hill today, talking about how their human rights are being violated by the fact that they do not have access to a school. They do not have access to the education that every other Canadian child off reserve expects as a fundamental human right. When Ms. Jacobs from the Native Women's Association of Canada talks about this, she knows full well that many communities simply do not have those resources that would make sure that their human rights were not violated.

In a brief that the Native Women's Association put forward to the committee on the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, it talked about the fact that governments, both the current Conservative government and previous Liberal government, should not have waited so long, and again quotes the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which said:

However, the Commission would prefer that the Government take a proactive approach to preventing potential discrimination and not wait for complaints to be filed and potentially lengthy proceedings to take place. The Commission, therefore, urges the Government, in consultation with First Nations, the Commission and other relevant bodies, to review provisions of the Indian Act and relevant policies and programs to ensure that they do not conflict with the Canadian Human Rights Act and other relevant provisions of domestic and international human rights law. Such a review should focus in particular on the impact of Bill C-31....

In conclusion, I am very pleased that the House has decided that it would support Bill C-21, the repeal of section 67, and I urge the government to ensure that the resources are put in place to deal with potential human rights complaints and also to ensure that the resources are available to the Canadian Human Rights Commission so it can go out and work with first nations governments to ensure this understanding is in place.