House of Commons Hansard #111 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was colombian.


Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to)

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.


Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think the member hit on the real reason for the free trade agreement proposal when he started to talk about the business investment aspect of it.

We know that Colombia is not a significant trading partner for Canada. It is only our fifth largest trading partner in Latin America. We know that 2,690 trade unionists have been murdered in Colombia since 1986. In 2008, murders were up 18% over the previous year. So far this year, 31 trade unionists were murdered. Almost 4 million people in Colombia are internally displaced persons. Sixty per cent of this displacement has been in regions of mineral, agriculture and other economic importance and where private companies, the government and paramilitary supporters are forcing people from their homes. This is not a tranquil country by any means.

The Colombian government of President Uribe has been accused by international human rights organizations of corruption, electoral fraud, complicity in extrajudicial killings by the army, links to paramilitary and right wing death squads, and using its security forces to spy on the supreme court of Colombia. This is not a healthy environment.

The government is pursuing this trade agreement for other reasons and I think the member is on to what those reasons are.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.


Claude Guimond Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his comments.

As I stated in my remarks, this agreement is not based on trade. Earlier this morning, I heard my Liberal colleague talking about pork production and the fact this agreement would save the pork industry. I strongly doubt that.

That same colleague was with me this morning at the meeting of the Standing Committee on International Trade, where we had an opportunity to hear Canada Pork International tell us that, at present, trade in pork meat with Colombia amounts to between four and five million dollars. That is not a significant amount and it certainly is not enough money to save the pork industry. It is proof that this agreement is really not about trade but rather about protection of investors.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.


Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques for his very clear and rational remarks. He was really convincing. I believe if someone has to have the last word on this subject today, he is the one.

I would like to speak about the whole question of energy. Now that we are running low on gasoline and have much less natural gas, I would like to ask my colleague whether this is the time to be trading in pork or other export-import commodities, except perhaps heavy metals, diamonds or other high value items. Imagine a new agreement like that that would have us transporting items to a country as far away as Colombia at a time when the amount of energy in the world is changing?

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.


Claude Guimond Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. I can clearly see his great devotion to the cause of the environment. I congratulate him, and I thank him.

We talk a great deal about fair trade and reduction of greenhouse gases. It is true that putting meat into containers and exporting it will not produce any gain. As one who works in agriculture, I believe that, instead of receiving containers of meat, my farming colleagues in Colombia would prefer that we send people to show them how to raise pork so that they can start to feed themselves.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

There are three minutes remaining before Private Members' Business. The hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher therefore has three minutes to begin his speech.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.


Jean Dorion Bloc Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me these three minutes.

As it was put so eloquently by my colleague from the riding with the name too long to repeat for someone with only three minutes, the members of the Bloc will vote against this free trade bill. We have repeated it enough, although I think it cannot be ever said enough, that the real aim of this bill is not to expand Canadian and Quebec trade with Colombia or to get the innumerable jobs that one of our colleagues in the Liberal Party claimed earlier to expect from such a bill. The real aim is to give free rein to Canadian investors in Colombia to act to the detriment of human rights and people's aspirations for development. In addition, it testifies to the usual indifference of the current Conservative government to all of these humanitarian considerations and respect for human rights.

We in the Bloc do not oppose in principle the provisions to protect investors in such treaties. We understand that investors want to be protected up to a point, but there are civilized ways of doing so.

Let us take the example of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement—I am not referring to NAFTA, but to the agreement between Canada and the United States that preceded NAFTA. It contained a chapter on investor protection, chapter 16. It was the first agreement in the world that contained a mechanism to resolve potential disputes between both sides of the agreement. The agreement worked well in its day. No case of discriminatory measures against a foreign investor was reported. No case went to the arbitration tribunal. And still the value of Canadian investment in the United States increased considerably during this period.

The clause in the treaty with Colombia is totally abusive, as my colleague explained. As a result, the Bloc Québécois will definitely oppose this bill.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member will have seven minutes to conclude his remarks when the House resumes consideration of this bill.

It being 5.38 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from October 22 consideration of the motion that Bill S-205, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (suicide bombings), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in the debate on Bill S-205. Since this is a bill that starts with “S”, it means that it began in the Senate and has arrived in this place. It was introduced in the Senate by a Liberal senator. He can be very proud of his work in the field this bill deals with, which is terrorism and justice.

Senator Grafstein introduced this bill in the other place. I understand that he will be retiring in December. I think he will be recognized for this legislation, for all the great work he has done over years and for his service to Canada. Senator Grafstein is well known by all members of this House.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


John Baird Conservative Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

A very good member.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, he is a very good member, as my colleague, the Minister of Transport said. I am sure the senator would appreciate that.

Senator Grafstein is also well known in this House for the fact that over the years he has worked very hard to maintain strong relations with our neighbour to the south, our strongest and greatest trading partner, the United States. Not only has he done that, but he has also advocated very strongly and vehemently over the years on behalf of Canada with his many colleagues and friends in the American Congress and Senate. He has very good contacts there and has advocated on Canada's behalf. He has tried to influence things positively and has often done so over the years.

For instance, he pointed out to our American friends that when 9/11 occurred, none of the terrorists who took part in those actions came from Canada. This is an important point that some of our American friends unfortunately did not understand at the time.

Since they are supporting this legislation, it is clear that the NDP, the Bloc and even the Conservatives share that sentiment and recognize the value of our senators and their contributions. It is a positive sign. The fact is all parties in this House have shown their support for Bill S-205 which passed the Senate on June 10 of this year.

The Senate adopted the bill to ensure greater clarity in relation to particular measures. The Liberal Party fully supports this initiative and we support this bill. Of course, it being a private member's bill, these matters are free votes for our party, but I can say confidently that my colleagues will be supporting it.

It is a very short bill. It essentially has one key paragraph that I would like to read:

Section 83.01 of the Criminal Code is amended by adding the following after subsection (1.1):

(1.2) For greater certainty, a suicide bombing comes within paragraphs (a) and (b) of the definition "terrorist activity" in subsection (1).

Canadians probably believe that suicide bombings are already illegal under our Criminal Code, and they are right. Someone listening may ask how we would penalize a suicide bomber. If the person is successful, obviously there is no penalty that can be applied. However, suicide bombers are not always successful. What we are talking about, in part, is someone who attempts to commit a suicide bombing, or perhaps people who might try to assist or prepare that person for that event, to supply the person with materials for example. These are all relevant parts of that activity.

It is simple common sense that a suicide bombing would be considered a terrorist activity. I had a look at the definition in section 83.01 of the Criminal Code, and it is a fairly long and complicated definition of what terrorist activity is. I think it is reasonably clear, but it would not hurt at all and it is probably wise to make this absolute clarification for greater certainty.

I endorse what Senator Grafstein has done in this regard. It is no wonder that all parties in the House are supporting this bill.

My understanding is that we will be the first country in the world to take this step to clarify this matter, and it is a positive step. I look forward to the bill going to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and to its eventual passage.

Suicide bombings are horrendous, terrible acts. Who can forget watching the television on the morning of September 11, 2001?

I remember sitting in my office in Nova Scotia. The night before, I had been at a reception at what we call the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax. My assistant came into the room and said, “Turn on the TV. I just got a call saying that a plane has flown into the World Trade Center”. I thought my assistant meant the one in Halifax. That was my first reaction since I had just been there the night before and had it in my mind. I turned the TV on and saw that it was not that at all, that it was the World Trade Center. Moments later, maybe a minute or two after turning on the television, I saw the second plane fly into the other tower.

With the first plane I thought maybe it was an accident, that it was possible there was some bizarre situation with the pilot, a mechanical problem, a problem with navigation and somehow the plane ended up flying into the building. But with the second one, everyone knew. It did not take long to dawn on me that there was only one possible explanation, the horrible explanation that it was, and we all saw the terrible result. Even while watching the flames it did not occur to me; maybe there were structural engineers watching who recognized what would happen next, but I do not think most of us could imagine that those buildings would collapse in the horrible way they did with the tremendous loss of life that resulted.

That type of activity has never happened here. We have been fortunate in Canada. We have been spared that sort of terrorist attack, which was a successful attack certainly, but we have seen the devastation that it has caused abroad. Thousands of innocent people have died and even more have been injured.

This is truly a despicable act and we must recognize that. I hope we never experience it here, but we must recognize that there is the danger of experiencing it here. It clearly is a distorted action of depraved and distorted minds, people who are misguided and who perhaps have been brainwashed in various ways.

Let us think about the number of suicide bombings that have been carried out around the globe in the last number of years. We were all shocked by 9/11, as I mentioned. We remember the one in Madrid, which was not that long ago. In 2007 there were the London subway attacks. In 2008 there were the attacks in Mumbai, which are being recognized this week with the Prime Minister's visit there.

This bill serves to illustrate the fact that suicide bombings happen elsewhere, that they are horrible and that they could, sadly, happen here. The statistics are shocking. From 2000 to 2004, 472 known suicide bombings took place in 22 different countries. Wow. They resulted in more than 7,000 people killed and tens of thousands wounded, the horror of those actions on innocent people.

Going beyond this bill, we need to address the root causes of terrorism. I am not saying we could ever eradicate all people who might commit a terrorist act, but it is important that we work for peace to flourish, that we work to reduce the possibility, that we work to remove the fertile ground on which terror may flourish. We need to ask why it happens and what we can do to stop it.

The changes to the Criminal Code with this bill help set the stage for that kind of discussion. Senator Grafstein has done a tremendous service with this bill, as he has so often done throughout his career. It is appropriate to acknowledge his hard work for initiating this bill many years ago. It has been a while getting to this point. Because of his commitment, we are able to send a clear message to the world that this country stands firmly against terrorism.

Let me conclude with a quote from Senator Grafstein. He said in February:

Suicide bombing has become an all too frequent practice in many countries throughout the world. Thousands of civilians are killed and maimed to advance a cause based on falsely implanted expectations of glory and martyrdom. We say no cause can justify suicide bombing.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise, as I think everybody else has so far, to support this bill. The bill, and I have said this to my caucus, in its technical basis may not be necessary. In fact, one could argue strongly is it not necessary. However, that is not the reason we would support it. We support it because of the message it would send. I think that is clear from, again, some of the speeches I have heard from all parties, that we understand this.

In that regard, to be a bit technical, this is an amendment to a section of the Criminal Code that is part of the anti-terrorism sections in the code. There is a specific provision now in the code that speaks of violent acts as being a terrorist activity, depending on what the intent is of the conduct. We are amending that to say suicide bombing would be a specific example of this type of violence. Again, as a lawyer, it is probably not necessary to do this.

However, in terms of the role we also play in this legislature, and in any democratically-elected legislature, we also have to provide leadership and examples to the country. Part of that leadership and the examples we provide are on those occasions when we need to speak a strong voice of denunciation, and we must do that. This is one of those times it is necessary to do that.

One could argue that there are all sorts of other times where we may do it and not have any particular impact and so we probably should not. However, in this case the message we would send to our citizenry and to rest of the world is this is a particularly abhorrent type of murder, one that has become, unfortunately, for the peace and safety of the world, all too common.

In preparation for this, I did some background reading. One could argue that this type of murder, this type of violent, abhorrent criminal activity, is a fairly new concept, and there is a great deal of truth to that. I think most observers internationally recognize that the first modern suicide bomber came out of the conflict in Sri Lanka, in the late 1960s through to the mid-1970s, and was used very often, again, unfortunately for the peace and safety of the citizenry of that country.

Unfortunately, it also provided a message to other terrorist groups and groups bent on the use of violence to achieve their ends, a methodology that could be used, and it has spread to any number of countries in the world. Our response to that must be this act of denunciation on our part, to simply say this is not acceptable.

Again, there are strong arguments that we can go back and look at the use of people committing a criminal act, killing other people and, at the same time, taking their own lives. It existed long before the incidents in Sri Lanka made this so prominent a tool for those who had a significant absence of sanity in their conduct.

It is impossible to imagine anyone encouraging other people to strap explosives to their bodies, conceal them on their bodies, move into a highly travelled area where there are a number of other human beings and set off those explosives, taking their own lives and those of any number of innocent bystanders. It is the act of someone who is insane.

I do not have any doubt in my mind that by supporting and passing the bill, it will change the minds of those people who are that lacking in mental health. However, there is a broader audience to which we need to speak, the audience of those individuals who would consider doing this and allow themselves to be talked into it. They need to hear that democratic societies do not function on the basis of force and violence. We need to repudiate that at every opportunity.

Since we are being given that in this case, it is appropriate and very important that the House as a whole, when this comes up for a vote, which I believe will be tomorrow evening, give this unanimous support. I know it simply means it will go to committee and we will study it more there. I cannot imagine there will be any amendments. It will then come back here and, again, it is extremely important that it receives unanimous support for the purposes of expressing denunciation and sending this very clear message. If one is going to consider using violence to achieve one's ends, whether they be political, religious or any number of other ideological goals, a particular violence that is as abhorrent as this is, we are going to denounce that as the representatives of our country, both to our citizenry and to the rest of the world.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak in favour of Bill S-205. The bill introduces greater certainty into the Criminal Code by specifically including the term “suicide bombing” under the definition of terrorist activity.

Some may ask why I, as a member for Parliament for Abbotsford on the west coast, would take such an interest in the subject of suicide bombings. Abbotsford has not yet experienced terrorism first hand, although drug and gang related violence remains a very serious challenge to our city and to our region. However, the residents of Abbotsford do understand that terrorism, in all of its forms, does in fact threaten our way of life and the values we hold so dear, values such as freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. We understand how pervasive the threat of terrorism is and how difficult it is to fight this scourge within our global community.

The most important responsibility that governments have is to protect their citizens. It is a public trust, a sacred trust that is imposed upon us as parliamentarians to protect Canadians. That is why our Conservative government has been so focused on addressing some of the holes in our criminal justice system.

Let me provide the House with at least three reasons why I am supporting Bill S-205.

First, this year I had the opportunity to travel with our Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism to India. Abbotsford has a large number of residents who identify themselves as Indian and maintain strong relationships with the world's largest democracy. Among other things, the minister and I travelled to the city of Mumbai where we visited the Taj Hotel and Chabad House. Those familiar with the events of November of last year know that these two facilities were among the buildings that were attacked by terrorists, resulting in the loss of many innocent lives, including the lives of two Canadians.

Chabad House was a hostel and a trading centre for the Jewish diaspora. Essentially it was a place of respite for travellers and others seeking spiritual guidance. The terrorists who attacked the centre tortured and then ultimately executed a number of the residents of that facility, including a rabbi and his wife. Similar scenes of horror played out in other parts of Mumbai, and the reason for these horrific acts, a complete absence of respect for the dignity and value of human life.

I am very pleased that yesterday our Prime Minister visited Mumbai to pay his respects to the Canadians and others who lost their lives in the Mumbai terrorist attack. As always, Canada stands in solidarity with India and the other nations of the world that defend freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

In May of this year I also had the opportunity to visit Israel and to meet with Israeli parliamentarians in their Knesset. Israelis are deeply appreciative of Canada's outstanding leadership in consistently speaking out and acting against anti-Semitism. Sadly, many around the world still have not learned the lessons of history and continue to advocate hatred and genocide against others.

The Israeli MPs we met with also expressed their profound concern over the very real and ongoing threat that terrorism, including suicide bombings, represented to their country and to Jews and other minority groups around the world.

My experiences in both India and Israel have reinforced my commitment to speak out against extremism and intolerance of all kinds, and I do strongly support the bill.

The second reason I support the bill is the ongoing threat that terrorism and suicide bombings represent to the safety and security of the brave men and women of our armed forces. Canada has lost over 130 Canadian soldiers to the conflict in Afghanistan. Some were lost to combat. Some were actually lost to accidental events. Many of the deaths were the result of cowardly roadside bombings. On top of that, 11 soldiers and one Canadian diplomat lost their lives to suicide bombers in Afghanistan.

Suicide bombers represent a daily threat to our soldiers as the latter do their part to improve safety, security and human rights in Afghanistan. The voices of our fallen Canadians call out for us to do everything in our power to ensure that other Canadians, both here in Canada and abroad, do not meet a similar fate. Bill S-205 responds to that call.

The third and final reason for my interest in this bill is the impact that terrorism has had on Canada. Sadly, Canada is not immune to the ideology, extremism and hatred that motivates terrorists. We kid ourselves if we believe that terrorists are not interested in Canada. It would be a mistake to forget that 24 innocent Canadian lives were lost during the tragic events of 9/11.

Canadians also remember and continue to mourn the tragic loss of hundreds of lives in the Air India bombing, a terrorist act spawned right here in our own country. Moreover, not long ago, 18 alleged terrorists were arrested in Canada. Their plan was to attack political and other high-profile targets in our country, including our Prime Minister. A number of the accused have already been convicted or have pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit terrorist acts and have been sentenced to prison terms.

Does Canada face an ongoing threat from terrorism? It most certainly does. That is why any legislation, including this bill, which improves the clarity and severity of the criminal sanctions against terrorism deserves our support.

There are those who state that the current definition of terrorist activity contained in the Criminal Code already implicitly includes suicide bombing when it is committed in the context of terrorism.

That may be so. A closer look at the definition of terrorist activity in the Criminal Code appears to incorporate criminal conduct as envisaged by the United Nations counterterrorism conventions. The second part of the definition includes terrorist activity that intentionally causes death or serious bodily harm, or that endangers a person's life.

The bill before us simply clarifies, for greater certainty, that suicide bombing is indeed a terrorist activity. There is also one added benefit to this bill that has already been articulated by others in the House. By specifically including the term “suicide bombing” in our Criminal Code, Canadians will demonstrate international leadership by specifically denouncing such bombings as a form of terrorist activity.

There is significant support in Canada for this bill. I am pleased that all four parties in the House have indicated that they plan to endorse this bill. There is also a group in Canada called Canadians Against Suicide Bombing, a Toronto-based group led by a former judge. It has been a leader in developing support for this Senate bill. Indeed, this organization has been successful in circulating an online petition that is generating much additional support. Many other Canadians have also signed an open letter of support.

The terrorists who commit these heinous acts will use women and children. Apparently, they are now even using mentally disabled children to conduct their heinous acts of carrying out suicide bombings. Suicide bombers strike all over the world. They strike at Canadians, Israelis, Iranians, Pakistanis, Indians and Sri Lankans. They strike at any target in order to advance their destructive agenda.

I strongly endorse Bill S-205. Once again, Canada has an opportunity to demonstrate its strong international leadership in defending free and democratic nations around the world who abide by the rule of law. Denouncing suicide bombings is simply the right thing to do. It goes without saying that I encourage all members of the House to support this bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, with her five-minute right of reply.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to sponsor Bill S-205 and to close off our discussions today during this second hour of debate before, I trust, it is sent to the justice committee.

I want to summarize my opening comments and those expressed during the debate. However, before I do so, I would like to recognize and thank Senator Grafstein for his dedication and hard work in bringing this bill to the House.

The bill, as amended, is not overly broad or vague but still fulfills its intended purpose. The proposed amendment is designed to provide for maximum precision regarding what forms of suicide bombing are included in the definition of terrorist activity, and makes certain that suicide bombings unrelated to terrorist activity are not caught by the definition.

The definition of terrorist activity in section 83.01 of the Criminal Code has two components. The first incorporates a series of offences enacted to implement international legal instruments against terrorism.

The second, more general, stand-alone component states that a terrorist activity is “an act or omission” undertaken “in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause” intended to intimidate the public or compel a person, government or organization “to do or to refrain from doing any act”, if the act or omission intentionally causes a specified serious harm.

Specified harms include causing death or serious bodily harm, endangering life, causing a serious risk to health or safety, causing substantial property damage where it would also cause one of the above listed harms and, in certain circumstances, causing serious interference or disruption of an essential service, facility or system, whether public or private.

Suicide attacks are intended to kill and maim innocent people and to inflict extensive property damage. Attackers are prepared to die in the process. Anyone who reads a newspaper, listens to the radio or watches television knows that suicide bombings occur on an alarmingly regular basis.

We all remember the attacks of September 11, 2001 that killed nearly 3,000 people in the World Trade Center in New York City. We also remember the July 7, 2007 London bombings and, as was mentioned, the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India.

Bill S-205 is crafted to ensure the utmost precision about what forms of suicide bombing are included in the definition of terrorist activity.

No other country is known to refer specifically to suicide bombing in its definition of terrorism and terrorist activity, so Canada would be the first to signal its abhorrence of these cowardly acts by adopting such a reference in its legislative definition of terrorist activity.

Members of the House have a unique opportunity to be an example to the world. By passing Bill S-205, a made-in-Canada initiative to cover suicide bombing explicitly and to ensure that anyone who organizes, teaches or sponsors suicide bombing is criminally liable in Canada, you would be promoting a worthy aim.

Accordingly, I wish all hon. members in this chamber the fortitude to do the right thing and to pass this bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I declare the motion carried.

Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

(On the Order: Concurrence in Committee Report:)

November 2, 2009—That the Seventh Report of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology (recommendation not to proceed further with Bill C-273, An Act to amend the Competition Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (right to repair)), presented on Monday, November 2, 2009, be concurred in—Mr. Chong

Industry, Science and TechnologyCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:10 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Pursuant to Standing Order 97.1(2) the motion to concur in the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology (recommendation not to proceed further with Bill C-273, An Act to amend the Competition Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (right to repair)) presented on Monday, November 2, 2009 is deemed to be proposed.

Industry, Science and TechnologyCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:10 p.m.


Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to address Bill C-273.

I am pleased to speak to the motion regarding the recommendation not to proceed with Bill C-273, the right to repair bill, which was proposed by my NDP colleague the member for Windsor West.

I want to commend the member for Windsor West for having proposed the bill. It is not easy for members of the House to successfully propose legislative changes that will better the lives of Canadians and Canada. It is rare for a private member's bill to be adopted by the House and even rarer for that bill to be adopted by the Senate and to receive royal assent. In effect, that is what has happened here.

The bill has been successful because of the adoption of the Canadian Automotive Service Industry Standard by automotive stakeholders. It is precisely because the purpose of the bill has been effected that the bill will not go any further in the parliamentary process. For that I want to commend the member for Windsor West.

In proposing the bill last spring, the member for Windsor West really forced auto sector stakeholders to recognize that they had to change. Those auto sector stakeholders realized that if they could not come together voluntarily to improve access to information and technologies that would allow independent repair shops to fix late model vehicles, then they would be forced to legislatively.

As a result of this realization, the stakeholders worked through the summer to resolve their differences and at the end of the summer they arrived at a voluntary agreement that was satisfactory to all parties involved. This voluntary agreement would not have happened had this private member's bill not been tabled in the House and had it not gone to committee.

The agreement, which is called the Canadian Automotive Service Industry Standard, or CASIS, is a voluntary agreement that was negotiated by vehicle manufacturers along with other stakeholders. It will make information and tools for the repair of vehicles available to independent repair shops on the same basis that brand name auto dealers have had for some time now.

Before I talk about the specifics of this voluntary agreement, let me first talk about the important role that the auto sector plays in the Canadian economy.

In 2008 there were 14 large scale passenger and commercial vehicle assembly plants which assembled more than two million vehicles in Canada. To put that in a North American context, this year North Americans are expected to purchase somewhere in the range of 10 million vehicles or so. Clearly, we have a significant portion of vehicle assembly in North America, close to 20%.

These 14 plants, which assembled these two million vehicles, represented 12% of our overall manufacturing output and 18% of our manufactured exports.

The sector directly employs 140,000 Canadians and another 230,000 Canadians are employed in the aftermarket sector. In addition, 30,000 Canadians are employed in the service and repair industry.

In 2008 the average life of a vehicle on the road was eight years. It is estimated that over the course of an average vehicle's life, $14,000 in repairs and service would be required. By 2010, it is estimated that this overall market in Canada will be $19.2 billion. That is a big market.

Because the aftermarket repairs and service is such an important part of the Canadian economy, the government is pleased to see that the automotive sector, that is the automakers on the one hand and the aftermarket repair and service sector on the other hand, come together to sign on to CASIS.

Before CASIS was agreed to some independent automotive service and repair shops expressed concern that they were not always able to provide service to their customers because they lacked the information, the tools, the software and training required to accurately perform the diagnostic and repair services so often required on today's computer controlled vehicles.

Under this voluntary agreement, all repair and service shops will be able to access repair and service information provided they do two things: first, they commit to the provisions of CASIS; and second, they make the necessary investments in equipment, tools and training.

This voluntary agreement is consistent with the spirit and intent of the instructions that were provided by the Minister of Industry when he wrote to officials in the automotive sector on April 14 of this year. In that letter he expressed a desire to resolve the right to repair issue and stated the government's support for an industry-led voluntary solution, fashioned after the U.S. agreement, which would satisfy the needs of Canadian automotive auto repair companies.

In the United States, vehicle manufacturers in the aftermarket industry worked together to develop a national automotive service task force, a voluntary agreement that has been in place for more than a decade. The benefits of the Canadian agreement is that it will foster greater competition by giving automotive consumers greater choice on where they get their vehicles repaired.

While we have supported the intent of my colleague's private member's bill, Bill C-273, we believe that a voluntary agreement negotiated by the private sector is superior to government regulation and are pleased that the committee and the member has agreed to this as well.

Let me finish by thanking all the people who worked so hard to get this agreement in place, the people at the National Automotive Trades Association, the people at the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association, the people at the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers of Canada, and all their member companies. I also want to recognize the Automotive Industries Association, AIA, for its persistence in bringing this matter to the attention of parliamentarians. I want to recognize the Minister of Industry for using this private member's bill to convince all the stakeholders involved to come to a voluntary agreement.

Finally, I want to recognize and thank the member for Windsor West who recognized the significance of this issue, introduced a bill that brought the issue to the forefront, and resolved the issue in the industry. Without him, none of this would have happened.

Competition is essential to the functioning of the marketplace. The Canadian automotive service industry standard agreement enhances competition by providing automotive consumers with a greater degree of choice about where they fix their vehicles. That is why I will support this voluntary agreement and that is why I support this motion not to proceed any further with Bill C-273.

Industry, Science and TechnologyCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:15 p.m.


Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-273 on behalf of the Bloc Québécois.

Before I begin, I want to thank the hon. member for Windsor West for presenting this legislation, which seeks to promote competition in the automobile maintenance sector, so that Quebeckers and Canadians can enjoy affordable, accessible and quality services.

When a member tables a private member's bill and invests time and efforts in it, it is always nice to see that things can be changed. In this case, some actions were taken. The parties involved came to agreement, which means that this bill is no longer necessary.

In recent months, many if not all members of Parliament have received emails and letters asking them to either support Bill C-273, or oppose it. Personally, I received numerous representations from independent repair shops, dealers, associations and officials representing the various stakeholders.

On September 29, an agreement was reached on the maintenance of motor vehicles between the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers of Canada, the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association and the Canadian auto repair and maintenance industry. This agreement means, for all intents and purposes, the death of Bill C-273. I am using the word “death”, but we could also talk about a “happy event”, since an agreement was reached between the parties involved.

Even though Bill C-273 did not go further in the changes that it proposed, it was still a step in the right direction.

This is why, during its review by the Standing Committee on Industry, the main witnesses were pleased to see that the agreement essentially put an end to Bill C-273.

I am convinced that the pressure resulting from the introduction of Bill C-273 and its review in committee helped negotiate a quick solution. Since a similar voluntary program has been in place in the United States for the past few years, it was probably just a matter of time before an agreement would be reached here.

During my speech at second reading, I explained why the Bloc Québécois supported this legislation. I am going to quickly explain our position on this issue.

More and more, vehicles require electronic diagnostic tools. As a result, independent repair shops in more remote regions do not have access to the information needed for proper maintenance and repairs to vehicles. People who live in rural areas must travel great distances to have their vehicles serviced and repaired.

The bill would allow repair facilities in the regions to service vehicles for Quebeckers and Canadians in the very communities where they live. It would also allow consumers to go to the repair shop of their choice.

Neighbourhood garages in all regions of Quebec and Canada are important. Two of the largest replacement parts distributors, NAPA and Uni-Select, are located in Quebec. Together, they employ hundreds of Quebeckers in a Montreal plant, and they rely on neighbourhood and rural garages.

We think that the agreement and the forthcoming discussions among the parties will help protect jobs.

It is clear that this agreement among the parties will give consumers more flexibility in choosing the businesses they want to maintain and repair their vehicles. Auto makers want consumers to keep doing business with them. The Bloc Québécois believes that vehicle owners should have the right to choose their own mechanic.

During my previous speech on the subject, I asked why the solution we are talking about today had not already been implemented. For several years now, the United States has been considering legislation that would establish a policy similar to what we are debating today. They implemented a voluntary system that enables anyone to access the information for a fee.

In closing, I would like to thank all of the groups and stakeholders who appeared before the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology for sharing their point of view with us.

Providing vehicle maintenance and repair technicians with access to the information and tools they need will improve the vehicle repair and maintenance market. Businesses will benefit from healthy competition and consumers in Quebec and Canada will benefit too.

I will close by saying that we support this motion. Once again, we are pleased to see that the parties to these talks have reached an agreement that will be good for consumers.

Industry, Science and TechnologyCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today in support of this motion.

I want to begin by thanking the member for Wellington—Halton Hills, the chair of the industry committee. It is important for people to know that our committee, not only on this bill, is an example of the parliamentary process for a number of different reasons. The first and foremost reason is that the chair provides a fair and balanced approach, which is appreciated for many other pieces of legislation, as well as this one.

I would also like to thank the member for Saint John who just spoke. It is important to recognize that when this bill went through its first vote in the House of Commons, it passed with a margin of 248 in favour. I thank all those members who considered the importance of this bill, and that is critical.

I would also like to thank the parliamentary secretary, the member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, because this has been very much a challenging issue. I have spent three years on this bill trying to get a result, hopefully, for Canadians. If it had not been for working through problems, I do not think we would actually see a solution, which is now the CASIS agreement. As noted earlier, this is a provision that is new to Canada, which is something important to recognize. It has been available in the United States. The Americans actually have a different system. They have a system that is a national automotive service task force but it is backstopped by legislation.

I believe, though, that this bill is no longer necessary because there has been an agreement reached by all parties involved and I believe there will be enough public pressure on that.

I also would recognize that the current Minister of Industry and the previous minister of industry took interest in this, and I thank them both for doing so, to ensure Canadian consumers are protected.

I do want to impress upon people the importance of this bill in terms of what it means. It is important not just in terms of competition but it means a cleaner environment and it means public safety.

What was happening in our country is that we were literally being treated as a colony in many respects. We were being treated differently from the United States, Europe and other jurisdictions where new technology relating to onboard diagnostics, computerization literally of the automobile, was not being successfully passed on to the aftermarket industry. The end result was that Canadians could not get the best service or the most competitive prices.

What it meant for many of these aftermarket garages, many of which I visited across the country over a number of years, is that we would see technicians in Canada, who were better trained than those in the United States, who could not successfully repair vehicles because they could not download a program, for example, which is a real quick and easy thing to do. They wanted to pay for it and wanted to ensure it was done within the law but at the same time they were not provided it.

Meanwhile, the people in Windsor, Ontario, where I am from, could drive their cars over to Detroit, Michigan and get the same type of service from somebody less trained because the information was being provided by that company. Quite frankly, there were some companies that were better than others. General Motors is better, in general, about providing this information. Ford has recently released more of its information to comply with the spirit of the agreement which comes into effect later on, but will roll out, I hope, a very successful program. I believe the minister in this Parliament will have a due diligence to ensure that Canadians are treated fairly past the date of this bill.

When we look at the aftermarket, it is important to recognize its significance. This concerns over 200,000 jobs in Canada. I come from the auto sector. In terms of the auto industry, and Windsor being the auto capital of Canada, a bill like this would be seen with some type of curiosity. People may wonder why the member who represents the area of the auto market would bring in a bill that some of the auto companies were very opposed to. The reason is that after we sat down and started talking to some of these small shop owners and to the consumers, we saw what was going to take place. We were going to lose some very successful businesses across this country and we were going to see people even in the rural areas having to drive hundreds of kilometres further to get their vehicles serviced because of unfair competition, in my perspective, with the unavailability of codes, training and diagnostic equipment that was being provided in other nations across the globe, and particularly the United States, our neighbour.

That is why I introduced the bill and I would like to thank my family for putting up with travelling across the country to promote this.

I think of the people who have been part of this, and first and foremost are Nancy and Roger Suranyi of Namao Automotive who live just outside of Edmonton. I had a chance to really see the spirit of what was happening. They could not provide the same services they once did. Their facility was as clean as a whistle and their technicians were very well trained. It had been a family business for many years but they were slowly losing business related to the aftermarket. They could not get the same codes and equipment that were available before. In looking around the facility, not only did we see vehicles that needed repair but we also saw other vehicles, like a school bus, an ambulance and other types of service vehicles. I saw them in Windsor as well when I went to visit John Sawatsky of MSJ Automotive. We would have our Windsor police cruisers and ambulances in there.

The loss of this other business puts these businesses at risk and, subsequently, the service of other types of fleets of vehicles that we need a strong aftermarket for because they are not serviced through the normal dealership associations that are available.

That is why I introduced a bill in the previous Parliament which, at that time, was Bill C-425 and now it is Bill C-273 in this Parliament. It was fortunate enough to be selected high on the order paper.

It has been a great experience because I have learned more about Canadian business and the spirit of competition through this process than I ever thought I would. I would like to thank my staff who put up with this as well: Mohammed Pierre, Melanie Namespetra, Darlene Dunn Mahler, Karen Boise and Kieren MacKenzie, and all the volunteers we have because we really worked with a team. This took a lot of extra resources. Without their constant support, I would not have been able to go across the country.

I think about people I met, like Art Wilderman from the Canadian Independent Automotive Association, Bento from Toronto, John Strickey of Midas Auto Service in Halifax, Ron Jones of Mid-Island Automotive in Nanaimo and Mario Schuchardt of Canadian Tire in Burnaby. Those people often represented people who did not have a voice in the previous process. The aftermarket association had been advocating for a change for many years and, in my opinion, there had not been the respect paid to the industry that was necessary. Hence, the legislation was seen as the alternative because they could not go any further.

I also would like to thank a number of people from AIA: John Cochrane, Larry Goudge, Marc Brazeau, Deborah Moynes-Keshen, Mireille Schippers, Patty Kettles, Christine Farquharson and Scott Smith who I particularly want to recognize because he worked diligently on this bill and spent a lot of time away from his family. Also from the association were John Watt, Brad Morris and Mauro Cifelli.

It was an interesting group to work with because we saw medium and small businesses that banded together to bring forth an issue.

What we get with this agreement, the Canadian automotive service information standard, is a voluntary agreement that I am hoping the minister will keep a strong eye on. I am sure it will come to fruition. There will now be a process in place for the disbursement of the information, the codes, the technical information for the equipment, as well as the training capability.

It is very important that we recognize that none of this is to be provided for free. What they are asking for is the right to compete and that is why the bill has come forward. There is now a process in place to regulate the actual advancement of the codes, the training and the technology. There is also a dispute mechanism if there is a problem with regard to the releasing of that.

It is also important to note that it will no longer be a dog's breakfast in terms of which company will provide information and when. There would be a process in place for fair competition for all Canadians, which is good for public safety, for the environment and for consumers to choose the right to repair.