House of Commons Hansard #128 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was documents.


Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Prince George—Peace River B.C.


Jay Hill ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I rise on one final point of order. Given that the House is rising tonight and therefore the notice paper is unlikely to be published until the new year, I wish to inform colleagues in the House that the Minister of Labour gave notice of a bill today entitled, “An Act to ensure Economic Success in British Columbia Ports through Labour Stability”. Merry Christmas.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

6:40 p.m.


France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

moved that Bill C-343, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Employment Insurance Act (family leave), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

6:40 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan


Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. On November 6, the Speaker made a statement with respect to the management of private members' business. In particular, the Speaker raised concerns about Bill C-343, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Employment Insurance Act (family leave), which in the Speaker's view appeared to impinge on the financial prerogative of the Crown.

Without commenting on the merits of the bill, I submit that Bill C-343 would add a new purpose to the Employment Insurance Act which would require new spending and therefore would require a royal recommendation.

Let me explain how the bill would require new spending.

Bill C-343 would amend the Canada Labour Code to allow employees to take unpaid leave from work for four family related reasons: first, the inability of their minor child to carry on regular activities because the child suffers a serious physical injury as a result of a criminal offence; second, the disappearance of their minor child; third, the suicide of their spouse, common-law partner or child; or fourth, the death of their spouse, common-law partner or child as a direct result of a criminal offence.

Bill C-343 would then change the Employment Insurance Act to allow all EI eligible employees to receive up to 52 weeks of EI benefits when they took the proposed new family leave under the Canada Labour Code. As a result, the EI benefit contemplated in Bill C-343 would add a new purpose that is not currently authorized in the Employment Insurance Act, which would require new government spending.

The Department of Human Resources and Skills Development estimates that Bill C-343 would cost the government between $340 million and $410 million per year, depending on the level of criminal activity in the country. Precedents demonstrate that legislation for new spending for EI benefits not currently authorized under the Employment Insurance Act require a royal recommendation.

On November 6, 2006, the Speaker ruled in the case of Bill C-269, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (improvement of the employment insurance system) that “Bill C-269...extends coverage of the employment insurance plan to the self-employed. New purposes must be accompanied by a new royal recommendation. I must rule that...Bill C-269 requires a royal recommendation”.

Bill C-343 would add a new purpose to the Employment Insurance Act, which is not currently authorized and should therefore be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

6:40 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The Chair will take the parliamentary secretary's submission under advisement. I anticipate there may be others on this matter. At this point, we will resume debate.

The hon. member for Compton—Stanstead.

6:40 p.m.


France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am going to explain things.

Today, I am very proud to introduce Bill C-343, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Employment Insurance Act (family leave), at second reading.

This bill would amend the Canada Labour Code to allow employees to take unpaid leave from work for a period of 52 to 104 weeks for the following family-related reasons: the inability of their minor child to carry on regular activities because the child suffers a serious physical injury during the commission or as the direct result of a criminal offence; the disappearance of their minor child; the suicide of their spouse, common-law partner or child; or the death of their spouse, common-law partner or child during the commission or as the direct result of a criminal offence. This bill also amends the Employment Insurance Act to allow these employees to receive benefits for up to 52 weeks instead of the 15 weeks currently provided for sickness benefits.

In December 2007, the Quebec National Assembly showed the way by passing Bill 58, which allows employees and their families who were the victims of a criminal act or who are mourning a suicide or have a missing child to take unpaid leave and keep their jobs for a period of up to 104 weeks.

Unfortunately, the current federal legislation results in discrimination against people whose jobs fall under the Canada Labour Code. Since these people do not have their jobs guaranteed, they can take only 15 weeks of sick leave. The failure of the federal legislators to act in this regard has created two categories of workers: those who can get through difficult times with their jobs intact and those who are forced to choose between losing their jobs and returning quickly to work.

Although it is good that people can take some time off and return to the same kind of job, the result will be the same if they do not have enough income to meet their needs: they will have no other choice than to return quickly to work. In the view of the Bloc Québécois, which has always been very concerned about victims and their families, the federal government should immediately follow Quebec's lead for a number of reasons.

First of all, we know very well that suicide, violent crimes and disappearances are tragic events that are very difficult for the families of the victims. These events cause great psychological distress for many relatives and parents. The victims’ families wait and worry, mourn and frequently feel depressed, often over extended periods of time. In cases of murders and disappearances in particular, more than two years can pass between the criminal act and the resolution of the investigation.

During this period, family members are deeply affected and cannot pursue their regular activities. They need support, help and understanding and most importantly, no additional worries as a result of their financial situation. It is terrible to think that, at present, these people are left to their fate and have to keep working during this period as if nothing had happened because they have to meet their family’s needs like everyone else. These people need time to get over such difficult events and gradually rejoin the work force at their own pace.

Quebec has unfortunately been shaken, over the last few years, by a number of murders and disappearances. I am thinking in particular of Cédrika Provencher, Nancy Michaud, Alexandre Livernoche, Julie Surprenant, Julie Boisvenu, Jolène Riendeau and, just recently, Natasha Cournoyer. I could also mention, in this commemorative week, the 14 victims of the shootings at the École Polytechnique, as well as the shootings at Dawson College, in which young Anastasia de Sousa lost her life. In my own riding of Compton—Stanstead, Isabelle Bolduc was sexually assaulted and murdered in 1996. I have named only a few of the cases, but I am fighting today for the parents, relatives and friends of all these families.

After all, are the victims’ families not also victimized by the anguish, despair and other repercussions they suffer as a result of the violent act? When people are mourning a disappearance, a homicide or a suicide, it takes longer and is more complex than other kinds of mourning, especially when rape or violence was involved. There are greater feelings of frustration, anger and powerlessness, even more so when the death was caused by a criminal or by the victim himself or herself.

Parallel to these events, several citizens' initiatives arose out of the sense of solidarity felt by the families. For example, the Quebec families affected by these tragedies came together in 2004 to form the Murdered or Missing Person’s Families’ Association, which is a Quebec organization that comes to the aid of victims’ families. When our bill was introduced at first reading, the MMPFA strongly supported it. The members of this association work very hard to support the families and are convinced that the families should be able to face these crises in their lives without any financial worries hanging over their hands.

From the start of the session, this government has said again and again that we have to be tough on crime. For the Conservative Reform Party, law and order is a government priority. They loudly proclaim that they are thinking of the well-being of the population and its security by getting tough on crime. However, criminals now have more rights and get more attention than the victims' families, who have no legal recourse. Measures adopted in recent months concerning prison sentences focus on just one aspect of these tragedies. Victims' families and spouses are not taken care of and are all too often forgotten. Therefore, it is not enough to fill our prisons. We must give tangible support to the families affected by these tragedies.

In recognition of this fact, some members of the Conservative government have stated their support for victims' families. The member for Thornhill said, “It would be nice if all of the opposition parties showed as much concern and compassion for the lives of victims and their families as they do for the perpetrators.” Also, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada as well as the Minister of Public Safety made an official commitment in April 2009 to support victims' families. I will quote the Minister of Public Safety:

This Government recognizes that crime places a heavy toll on individual victims, their families, communities and society-at-large. Supporting victims takes a collaborative effort, and this Government is committed to continuing to work with our partners to help victims of crime...

This government even established the annual National Victims of Crime Awareness Week in 2005 and organizes symposiums on that occasion. Such events are not enough. If the Conservative government is consistent, it will not hesitate to support this bill and will transform its words into concrete action for families. As they say; put your money where your mouth is.

Moreover, any members of this House who are opposed to this bill will no doubt say that these new measures will cost the government too much money because they extend employment insurance benefits from 15 to 52 weeks. Fortunately, though, these sorts of tragic events that would require 52 weeks of benefits do not occur frequently. By the same token, not many people would become eligible for employment insurance with the passage of this bill. We can assume that a certain portion of the eligible population is unlikely to experience a drop in income and that some people would want to go back to work after a time in order to resume a normal life. In addition, a certain portion of the population does not work, is not covered by EI or does not work enough hours to qualify for benefits.

Because of these various factors, our estimates put the total cost at roughly $50 million a year. A lawyer told me that when you want to get an answer to a question, you have to find the answer before asking the question. This is a minimal expense considering the annual federal budget, a mere drop in the ocean. Employment insurance is sufficiently well funded by workers to enable families who suffer such a traumatic event to receive benefits.

Considering the $56 billion surplus in the employment insurance fund, it is even clearer that this bill would not cost much. If this government is really concerned about victims and their families, it will not hesitate one second to vote for this bill. But if it votes against the bill, the public will rightly see that as indicative of the government's total indifference to victims' families and will remember that for a long time to come.

In closing, I want to address all the families of victims of crime or suicide and tell them that the Bloc Québécois and I will work very hard so that this bill receives the support of a majority of members of this House. I dare to hope that if the members here are moved by the fate of victims and their families, they will rise with pride to vote for Bill C-343.

I went into politics to make a difference, and I sincerely believe that these measures will provide valuable help for families that badly need it. I therefore call on all my colleagues in this House to walk the talk. The well-being of crime victims' families depends on it.

6:55 p.m.


Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member on Bill C-343. I think it is an excellent bill and our caucus will be supporting it.

I find it rather interesting that the government would be trying to kill the bill through the route of the royal recommendation challenge. The government pretends to be supportive of the victims, but that is what the bill is all about. The bill is all about supporting victims and here we have a government at the first opportunity to actually do something for victims trying to kill the bill.

The bill would amend the Canada Labour Code to allow employees to take unpaid leave from work for family-related reasons, one of which would be the inability of their minor child to carry on regular activities because the child suffers a serious physical injury during the commission or as a direct result of a criminal offence. There are three other instances where they would qualify for this.

The government has costed it already. It says that it is going to cost $340 million to $410 million. I would like to know how it comes up with figures like that--

6:55 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order. There is a five minute question and answer period. If members keep their questions to about a minute we will have two opportunities. The hon. member for Compton—Stanstead.

6:55 p.m.


France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question.

Regarding the victims and humanitarian concerns, I think this Conservative government has forgotten about them. The cost of this measure is approximately that of an F-18. These people have endured immeasurable grief. It would be unbearable and I would not wish it on anyone.

I am sure there are people here who know someone who was close to a victim. I worked with a woman whose nephew was Alexandre Livernoche's best friend. He had no family ties to the boy, but he went through a week of hell. These people go through terrible suffering and loss. However, the person must go on living. They could have family or other children to care for. These families need to eat and sleep somewhere. That is why they need financial support. It would be unbearable to go back to work after 15 weeks.

6:55 p.m.


Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, first of all I want to commend the hon. member on the bill. It is something that needs to get done.

Perhaps the member could clarify something. The bill refers to “children” and “spouses” but not to “mother” and “father” and even the individuals themselves if they were attacked. A person may be single. Under compassionate care or sick leave a person only gets 15 weeks. Here there is potential for getting more. I just wondered if there is a reason for leaving out those particular aspects.

6:55 p.m.


France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, the answer is no, because according to statistics, far more young people disappear than parents. We must also be careful, because many young people run away and many seniors suffer from Alzheimer's disease. This is something I thought of and must be taken into account. I thank my hon. colleague for raising the point. She is right, and this aspect could be added, if it proves necessary.

6:55 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain Saskatchewan


Ed Komarnicki ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I certainly enjoyed listening to the comments and the intention behind the bill. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-343, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Employment Insurance Act (family leave). It affects two pieces of legislation.

All members here certainly sympathize with those whose loved ones have been victims of violent crime. There is no question about that. It can take a long time for anyone to fully heal from that kind of tragedy.

Before discussing what may be the best way to support these victims and their families, I would like to take a moment to sum up the main components of the proposed legislation.

Bill C-343 would amend the Canada Labour Code to introduce a new type of unpaid leave, known as family leave, which would be available to federally regulated employees whose family member has experienced certain kinds of trauma. It would also amend the Employment Insurance Act to provide temporary income support for up to 52 weeks, including the two-week waiting period, to eligible individuals who take this new type of family leave. It would also use a provision of the same act to ensure that premium rates were reduced in provinces where similar income support is provided.

In part, the proposed bill seeks to address issues related to victims of violence through the employment insurance program. I should like to note that the employment insurance program already provides some compensation to victims of crime. Specifically, eligible individuals who are unable to work and who are undergoing treatment for the psychological effects of bereavement or violent crime would be eligible for up to 15 weeks of employment insurance sickness benefits. In this way, the employment insurance program already responds to the needs of Canadians in these difficult circumstances. In limited situations, eligible workers can also access up to six weeks of compassionate care benefits.

While the EI system plays a very important role in providing some income support during absences from work for Canadians, the government recognizes it may not address the needs of all victims in all situations. The proposed changes represent a significant shift to special benefits, and it is not clear that employment insurance is the best instrument to provide income support under these circumstances. In addition to these concerns, the proposed changes have of a number of additional implications that are matters of concern.

The proposal to create family leave does raise some questions with respect to fairness. I am not sure whether, in making policy in this area, the distinctions and restrictions in this bill will result in a fair outcome.

For example, I am not sure parents of a 17-year-old and parents of a 19-year-old are deserving of substantially different treatment by the EI system. In the painful cases this bill seeks to address, I am not sure either type of parent would agree that differential treatment is fair either. While this is a little outside the scope of the bill, I am concerned that crime is the only thing being addressed here by these changes and that other painful and tragic events that are no less shocking, unexpected and difficult to endure are not being considered. As I said, other events are not within the scope of the bill, and that is a matter of concern for sure.

I will move on, however. It is important to note that most provinces already offer a variety of supports to assist families of victims of crime, such as coverage of medical expenses, as well as access to counselling services.

Six provinces even provide compensation for lost wages. Provincial compensation measures also have the advantage of being provided to victims and their families without regard to employment status.

Managing the employment insurance system is very complex, as we have seen in this House with the various pieces of legislation we have introduced, including the one that just passed today, Bill C-56. Our recent changes were only made after careful consideration and in response to a critical economic situation and, therefore, a situation that was critical for thousands of Canadians and their families. Our most recent proposal for change is to bring access and fairness to self-employed Canadians, as I mentioned, to the people who have never had access to the special benefits within the EI system before.

Right now, because of the global economic situation of the past year and because previous governments used EI premiums for non-EI spending, and the member makes a fair point there, the EI account is under strain. It is estimated that adopting the bill would increase program costs significantly and could result in significant upward pressure on premium rates, something that most people do not want.

While the length of the bill itself does not imply so, these proposed changes are major financial changes to the EI system. As we know from both the existing EI system and the new access to special benefits proposed by the government under Bill C-56, adding another class of people for whom 50 weeks' worth of benefits would be available is a very expensive proposition.

I am certainly not here to say that grief has a price tag or a price ceiling, but that these sorts of changes have consequences that need to be fully considered. Not only is the EI system perhaps not the best vehicle to help in these circumstances, but it is also an expensive way to use the system.

It is also important to bear in mind that the Department of Justice provides assistance with respect to issues surrounding victims of violence. It already offers a variety of programs and services, including the victims fund and the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime. In fact, in 2007, our government made a $52 million commitment over four years to increase services for victims and funding to the provinces for elements of their programs.

Finally, our government is also working to better protect Canadians against those who commit serious and violent crimes. In February 2008, the Tackling Violent Crime Act became law. This act strengthens the Criminal Code in the following five ways: mandatory prison sentences for criminals who commit crimes with guns; tougher bail rules to make it easier to keep people accused of serious gun crimes off our streets; a higher age of protection, that is, 16 years old, to protect children from sexual predators; new stronger measures against impaired driving; and more effective sentencing and monitoring to prevent dangerous high-risk offenders from offending again. Collectively these will certainly have an impact on reducing the number of victims.

Our government is concerned about the impact of violence on all Canadians and it is taking measures to address these concerns. We always welcome ideas for improvements to programs and services to respond to the needs of victims and their families. However, further consideration is required to determine whether employment insurance is the most suitable income replacement instrument for addressing this issue.

I want to assure the House that our government acknowledges the extensive work done by groups engaged in promoting a better understanding of the needs of victims and their families. These include the Murdered or Missing Persons' Families Association, led by Pierre-Hughes Boisvenu.

However, we believe that the Canada Labour Code should not be amended in such a piecemeal manner. We strongly believe that adopting a comprehensive approach would enable us to address more efficiently the needs of employees whose family member has been a victim of violent crime, has committed suicide, or whose child has disappeared.

For all of these reasons, the government cannot support this bill and intends, at the appropriate time, to move forward on this issue and introduce its own legislation for unpaid leave for victims of crime. This area is an important one and these issues need to be addressed, but they need to be addressed in a comprehensive manner.

Going through the employment insurance program is not the way to go. The system is not specifically designed for that and this may not be the time to work through that. As I have said, the government will be introducing legislation and certainly will deal with the issues that have been raised.

7:05 p.m.


Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise tonight and am glad to speak on Bill C-343, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Employment Insurance Act (family leave).

First, I want to say that while I have some concerns about the bill, they are things that could actually be better addressed at committee, so I support sending this bill to committee.

We definitely all understand the crises and trauma that families and individuals can go through when a crime is committed. This is something for which victims in this country do not get a great deal of attention, and this is critical.

The main provisions of the bill, I noticed, mirror to some degree the legislation that already exists in Quebec. I know the hon. member has obviously taken the information and used the Quebec model to draft her bill, which I believe was a good direction to go.

The bill allows employees to take unpaid leave from work for family-related reasons, specifically when there is a criminal offence. Some of the provisions, as others have mentioned before, are there to allow the minor child to carry on activities because the child suffers a serious physical injury. Again, the parent could take time off if that had happened because of a criminal offence.

We need to talk about the trauma that families have when these kinds of things happen. The bill, as I mentioned earlier, addresses the spouse, common-law partner and the child, but does not mention the mother or father. I note that it did not much refer to those issues, and that is something that we may want to look at, as other members of the family are certainly victims of acts of crime at times, and I just wondered why that particular aspect was not mentioned or is not in the bill at this point. However, the bill goes on to cover things such as the death of a spouse or common-law partner as a result of a criminal offence.

According to the bill, in the case of a minor child, the child must be under the age of 18. This is what the hon. member was mentioning as a concern, although I think that is a reasonable thing to do. Unpaid leave of up to 104 weeks is granted if the child is injured as a result of a criminal offence and if the presence of the employee is required by the child.

There are different times mentioned in the bill. Fifty-two weeks of unpaid leave is granted if a minor child is missing. However, if the child is found, the leave ends after the eleventh day following the return of the child. So there are some parts of the bill that actually take into account different situations or possible different scenarios, and that is helpful.

The 104 weeks of unpaid leave are granted if the child, spouse or common-law of the employee dies during the commission of, or as a direct result of, a criminal offence. This bill is very much tied to addressing the issue of victims of criminal activity, and the bill is very clear, in case anyone is concerned about it. The employee may not benefit from these provisions,

if it may be inferred from the circumstances that the employee—or...the deceased person, if that person is the spouse, common-law partner or adult child—was probably a party to the criminal offence....

This again reflects very closely the provisions in the Quebec legislation, if I am not mistaken from having taken a brief look at it earlier today.

Losing a child or a spouse is one of the most difficult circumstances anyone could ever face and has a traumatic effect on all members of the family. In my riding, about a year ago on New Year's day, a young woman by the name of Stefanie Rengel was killed, stabbed practically next door to her own home. Her mother did not hear her cry because it was late and it was outside. She died on the snowbank a couple of doors from her own home. It was a horrible crime and I still remember going and meeting with the parents and discussing the situation.

It was one of those things where no one could ever say anything that would help. Being sorry would not cut it. The trauma suffered by the mother, father, brother and other family members has been tremendous. They have been through a difficult time.

We all know that criminal offence victims who face serious injuries require the help and support of their families. All efforts should be made to ease the challenges in meeting those needs. Those who survive injury need time to deal with the trauma. The family, children or spouse of a victim also need time to rebuild their lives and get back to a normal life. This is something that is extremely important. We take our safety for granted sometimes. No one believes that it will hit us, but unfortunately it can and it does, as some of us have seen.

As I said earlier, there are areas of this bill that need study. I believe the committee needs to look at a couple of things, but those are not insurmountable or things that cannot be addressed.

I am going to highlight some of those areas. For instance, in the case of a physical injury to a child, an injury is deemed serious if it renders the child unable to carry on regular activities. I am not sure that the bill is clear on what regular activities are and whether it is limited to attending school or it includes other activities, but I think it is important to be clear so the interpretation is not wrong.

In another section, as I mentioned earlier, family leave is restricted to an event that happens to the child or spouse. However, what about a father, mother or any other family member? I do not want to expand on it too much, but mothers and fathers are obviously considered to be immediate family members.

I am going beyond the age of 18 and 19, and maybe there is something to be said about the age equation. I am not quite sure that the impact is much different if somebody loses a child at the age of 19 or 20, especially if they lose that family member through a criminal offence. I think that is worthwhile to discuss at committee.

There is another aspect to this. We have the question of the cost of allowing employees on family leave to receive EI special benefits. That is very important. The bill allows for a maximum of 52 weeks of special benefits, compared with six weeks on compassionate leave and 15 weeks for sick leave. I think we might want to look at expanding compassionate care or compassionate leave.

We are going to have different categories, and maybe this type of legislation could be in one category. I know that the Standing Committee on the Status of Women did a study with respect to the reform of EI specifically. Some of the recommendations dealt with compassionate leave.

We are looking at increasing and expanding compassionate leave. This might be something that would fit into that area. I think it would be worthwhile to look into it. It is certainly something we may want to discuss and potentially change. Compassionate care and compassionate leave is something we already have in the EI legislation, and it may be something we could expand.

The committee also looked at taking some of these things out of EI. That is something important that we would want to look at.

The Canada Labour Code currently does not specify that an individual can take unpaid leave when his or her family has suffered a major loss, including the death of a spouse, common-law spouse or child as a result of suicide or criminal offence, nor if a child has gone missing. As I said earlier, it is not there. I understand what the hon. member is trying to accomplish with this bill. However, there are some clarifications that I think the committee should look at.

We will support the bill, but some of these things could be looked at in committee to clarify them further and ensure that when the bill comes back to the House it will have more clarity.

7:15 p.m.


Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to speak to Bill C-343, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Employment Insurance Act (family leave) brought forward by my colleague, the member for Compton—Stanstead.

As the title suggests, this is indeed a bill that seeks to reform Canada's labour laws, but in essence it is about our society's treatment of victims of crime. I will be interested to see how members of the Conservative Party end up voting on the bill. Their rhetoric of course is all about law and order. It is all about getting tough on crime. Yet if we look back on all the bills that have been introduced in the House under the auspices of the government's crime agenda, it becomes painfully obvious that it has focused almost exclusively on the offenders and how they are treated by the criminal justice system.

As I have said elsewhere, when those bills made sense, I was proud to stand in my place to support them. Other bills I voted against because in the view of experts they constituted bad public policy. However, throughout the countless hours of debate that we have had on these bills, I do not recount the government bringing forward a single piece of legislation that spoke to the needs of the victims of crime.

Surely we need to be smart on crime and not just tough on crime. Instead of focusing solely on the enforcement side of the law a smart agenda on crime needs to incorporate policies on prevention and it needs to have a plan for assisting the victims of crime.

Historically, the criminal justice system consisted of two parties: the offender and the victim. The victim initiated and handled the prosecution of the offender. That scenario is a far cry from the scenario we have today where the only two parties involved are the offender and the state, and where the victim is at most a witness for the prosecution. Today, a crime is considered to have been committed against the state, not against the victim.

Through years of determination and hard work, the voices of victims began to be heard. Change began when victims themselves began to speak out about the system and its shortcomings. When police and others within the system began to validate what the victims were saying and supporting their message, people began to take notice.

The victims' rights movement in Canada really has its foundation in the feminist movement and the results they obtained for women victimized by domestic violence and sexual assault. In Canada since the early 1980s, victims' organizations like Victims of Violence and CAVEAT have convinced various governments that the role of the victim in the process is an important one and that it should be recognized.

Changes with regard to the Criminal Code and victims' rights legislation were a direct result of the courage displayed by victims who allowed society to benefit from their experience within the system. Their influence is not limited to ensuring that victims have their rights respected throughout the process, but as well with regard to legislation that will prevent future victims. They want to enhance services and promote justice for all victims of crime and tragedy.

It is out of this strong advocacy tradition that support for Bill C-343 has grown.

The impact of serious crimes or tragedies is not just felt by victims in the realm of the criminal justice system. It is felt in all aspects of their lives. With the vast majority of adults participating in the labour force, it is immediately felt in the competing demands of work and family.

Even in the absence of personal tragedies, it is a challenge for working Canadians to meet the demands of both their jobs and their families. According to an Ipsos Reid poll in October of 2000, balancing work with home and personal life was the greatest source of stress for 45% of Canadians. The poll also showed that 42% of Canadians said their stress had increased over the past five years, while 21% said it remained the same.

There are a whole host of reasons for that.

About 70% of women with young children are in the labour force, more than 15% of families with children are led by single parents, the vast majority of them women and 18% of Canada's population has a disability, yet there is still almost no accommodation of their work and family needs.

As the aged population grows, more and more working Canadians are faced with caring for elderly relatives. In fact, one in four Canadians now provides some form of care to an elderly relative. Clearly, balancing work and family life has become a critical problem for workers right across our country.

However, imagine how much worse those already existing pressures become during times of personal tragedy. Imagine the pressures when a child or spouse commits suicide. Put oneself in the shoes of a parent whose child has disappeared. Imagine trying to cope with the aftermath of a child being seriously injured as a result of a criminal offence. What would happen to families whose child or spouse died as a result of a criminal offence.

Thankfully for most of us, those are pressure we may never have to face. However, that does not mean we do not have an obligation to recognize, understand, and accommodate them. That is precisely what the bill before us today is all about.

Many jurisdictions in Canada have already incorporated some provisions dealing with family leave and compassionate care leave into their employment laws. In other areas it has been the labour movement that has fought for these benefits on behalf of its members at the bargaining table. Negotiated agreements often provide much better protection for organized workers than employment standards legislation offers.

However, the labour movement never rests on its laurels. It keeps alive the spirit of CCF/NDP founder, J. S. Woodsworth, by acting on the credo: what we desire for ourselves, we wish for all. In that way the labour movement fights for all workers in our country and not only its membership.

That is why the Canadian Labour Congress, representing over three million workers in Canada, supports the legislation that is before us today. Like members in this House, the congress is keenly aware that the only jurisdiction in Canada that currently has legislation to assist families who are victims of crime is the province of Quebec. That simply is not good enough. Victims' rights should be recognized from coast to coast to coast.

It is true that the Canada Labour Code only sets labour standards for employers and employees under federal jurisdiction. These include sectors, such as air and marine transportation, interprovincial and international rail, road and pipeline transportation, banking, broadcasting, telecommunications and crown corporations. However, as the federal government is often seen as setting the national standard that provinces then follow, it is imperative that these amendments to the Canada Labour Code be adopted.

I will briefly address the details of what the bill proposes. Bill C-343 is a nine clause bill that would modify the Canada Labour Code to allow employees to take unpaid family leave because of (a) a serious physical injury to their minor child as a result of a serious criminal offence; (b) the disappearance of their minor child; (c) the suicide of their spouse, common-law partner or child; or (d) the death of their spouse, common-law partner or child as a result of a criminal offence.

Importantly, it would then also amend the Employment Insurance Act to allow employees on family leave to receive special benefits.

The precise wording of the bill does raise some questions. Unfortunately, debate at second reading does not allow the author of the bill to respond to concerns in this House. These are not questions for which the answers will determine my support for the bill. I support its intent unequivocally. My concerns are of a more technical nature and I am certain we will be able to work out the details once the bill gets into committee.

However, let me flag them briefly so that, as the member for Compton—Stanstead, we will be aware. Why, for example, does the bill offer 104 weeks of leave for a physical injury that prevents a child from carrying on regular activities, while the disappearance of a child only leads to a maximum of 52 weeks of leave?

Why is family leave restricted to an event that happens to a child or spouse? How about a father or mother or another family member living in the same residence?

The bill deems an injury to a child serious if it “renders the child unable to carry on regular activities”. It is not clear whether regular activities are limited to attending school.

Finally, the bill suggests that nothing prevents an employer from dismissing, suspending or reassigning an employee if the consequences of the criminal offence or the repetitive nature of the leave constitutes a just and sufficient cause. I worry this may contradict what I understood to be the essence of this bill, which is to allow employees to take an unpaid family leave in such circumstances and to be protected from dismissal for this reason.

Again, I am confident we can resolve these issues in committee.

For now I will commend the member for Compton—Stanstead for bringing this bill forward. I look forward to working with the member as we amend Canada's labour laws to support victims of crime.

7:25 p.m.


Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, congratulations are in order for my colleague from Compton—Stanstead, who introduced this bill and did such a good job of explaining it in the House.

The examples she provided and her references to the families reminded us all of painful memories associated with sometimes sordid crimes and unexplained disappearances. If we feel shaken up just thinking about it, imagine how the families dealing with such tragedies must feel.

We are coming into a period of celebration for all Canadians, but we must not forget that people suffer from these crimes all the time. When we talk about this problem, about the challenge before us, I can see that members of every single party understand the scope of this bill even though we do not all have the same understanding of its intention. For example, the government's parliamentary secretary said he understood the intention, and his remarks led me to believe that he would vote in favour of the bill. I was confused when I realized that his party would not be voting for the bill.

However, I did get the feeling that he was aware of the situation and understood the intention of the bill. In fact, he began his remarks by saying that he understood the intention.

Of course these crimes are tragedies for those who are directly affected, but they are also tragedies for their loved ones, the people who, in many cases, are forced to live with situations that are sometimes so intolerable they have to quit their jobs. Until now—and in Quebec, until September 2007—nothing has been provided for these victims. In Quebec, Bill 58 introduced provisions enabling these people to take leave from work for a year or two depending on the circumstances and the act or event. By that, I mean crimes as such or events like disappearances and suicide.

In cases of suicide or disappearance, the authorized leave period is one year—52 weeks—and employers must authorize such leave. In the case of crimes such as homicide, leave periods may be as long as two years.

Quebec law is very clear about the rights of employees and the obligations of employers. Respectively, they are entitled to and required to provide only one period of leave without pay.

This situation must be remedied, because we have to understand that families in such situations bear a double burden. Not only are they forced to take a leave of absence from work, but they have no income.

The bill introduced by my colleague from Compton—Stanstead offers a solution that requires that two acts be amended. First, the bill amends the Canada Labour Code to recreate the provision that already exists in Quebec for the whole of Canada by entitling employees to a leave of absence for the same length of time, one or two years.

Both my Liberal colleague and my NDP colleague who spoke just before me talked about the need to amend the bill, because they already see flaws in it. We are quite willing to look at any measure to improve the bill. That is why we hope it will be passed at second reading and referred to committee.

The Canada Labour Code must be amended to allow employees to take a leave of absence from work. However, the issue of benefits has not been addressed. That is where the amendments to the Employment Insurance Act and regulations come in. These amendments would enable the individuals concerned to have income for the same length of time as in Quebec, that is, one or two years, depending on the nature of the event or crime.

This is a purely technical exercise, and there is no need to go on forever about it. But we do need to take the time to understand the scope of this bill in relation to two suggestions that were made previously by the other three parties in the House. It was suggested that the bill be modelled on existing measures such as the 15 weeks of leave for serious illness or the six weeks of compassionate care leave. We are willing to look at that, but it seems to me that we are talking about something completely different.

We must consider these measures in relation to their purpose. I can already tell the House that the Bloc Québécois has a motion to increase the number of weeks of absence in the case of serious illness and for compassionate care leave, similar to the suggestion by the parliamentary secretary, while keeping in mind the purpose of each measure.

A petition has been circulating for a few months now. I have a petition here that has been signed by 55,000 people, and I have been told that 10,000 others still want to sign. This petition aims to encourage the House to improve these two measures for individuals during difficult times, for example when they must take sick or compassionate care leave. That is something completely different.

Let us get back to Bill C-343 from the member for Compton—Stanstead. In conclusion, I remind members that the purpose of the provisions of Bill C-343 is to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Employment Insurance Act to give benefits to individuals who have been the victim of a crime or who have had a loved one disappear.

I think I am the last to speak in this session, before we leave for Christmas. Happy holidays, Mr. Speaker, and the same to our parliamentary colleagues, and especially to my constituents in Chambly—Borduas.

7:35 p.m.


Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-343.

This is an important bill, one that I think will get a lot of support in the House. I am rather disappointed to hear the Conservatives' opinion about it. They do not feel they will be able to support the bill. They have suggested they will come up with their own legislation to take its place. I guess the government will sell it as part of its crime agenda.

This is solidly based legislation and the NDP supports it.

Bill C-343 would extend workplace benefits to victims of crime and their families. The bill would amend the Canada Labour Code to allow employees to take unpaid leave from work for the following family-related reasons: first, the inability of their minor child to carry on regular activities because the child suffered a serious physical injury during the commission of or as a direct result of a criminal offence; second, the disappearance of a minor child; third, the suicide of a spouse, common law partner or child; and fourth, the death of a spouse, common law partner or child during the commission or as a direct result of a criminal offence.

All these occasions would be extremely stressful for families. It is important that they be allowed to take time off work because of the enormous stress associated with any one of these developments. The parties would need counselling. I would think it would be very hard for people to concentrate on what they were doing. We need to deal with these major issues.

Since 1969, the province of Manitoba has had a fund called the criminal injuries compensation fund. Some other provinces might have a similar thing. The fund provides benefits to people who have been hurt as a result of criminal acts. I would be surprised if Manitoba was the only province with a criminal injuries compensation fund. It is one province of which I am aware.

The bill would also amend the Employment Insurance Act to allow these employees to receive benefits while on leave.

I want to point out that the Conservative government talks a lot about crime. We spent an entire week in this place on crime bills. It was almost like a factory. There was a new bill every day of the week. I rather enjoyed the process, but it was difficult to keep up with the bills.

On CTV, I would hear that the government had announced another crime bill. It had two days of free coverage without us even seeing what the bill was about and then doing the necessary research to respond in short order. Then the very next day, there would be another one. It was as if it would never end. I am sure the government has many more such crime bills planned for the upcoming year.

The Conservatives always talk about being tough on crime. The NDP wants to be smart on crime not just up on crime. The fact is the Conservatives talk a great line about the victims of crime, but where are they when it comes time to do something about the victims? They are big on talk, but they are not so big on action.

Bill C-343, proposed by the member, does that. The bill does what the government talks about but does not actually do anything about.

I am really surprised that the government would take this very negative position on this bill and on many other good ideas that members in the opposition come forward with. It always has to find a reason why it is a bad idea and why it cannot support it.

For example, tonight the government talked about how it has costed the bill out already and that the effects of the bill are going to cost the system $340 million to $410 million. How in the world did the government come up with figures like that? Does it know what the crime rate will be? Supposedly, with all its great initiatives in its crime bills, the crime rate will come down. Therefore, there will not be the amount of crime that it is talking about.

Therefore, how would it be able to project figures--

7:40 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order. The time provided for the consideration of private members' business is now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

The hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona will have four minutes remaining when this matter comes before the House again.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

7:40 p.m.


Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is proving impossible to reach a negotiated agreement with the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation. The employees of the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Canadian War Museum have been on strike since September 21, 2009. At the end of August, the 420 workers voted 92% in favour of the strike.

From the beginning, the union has clearly indicated to the employer, to a mediator, to members of Parliament and to the general public that the employees of the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation are simply asking for employment conditions similar to those offered in other museums and cultural institutions in the region.

Specifically, these conditions include layoff protection, protection against subcontracting, a commitment to promote stable, permanent employment, and salaries that are in line with those paid at other museums in the region. The Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation's position falls short in all those areas.

Regarding layoff protection, the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation insists on maintaining its capacity to lay off employees as it sees fit. When layoffs do occur, the corporation refuses to recognize the employees' years of service to the organization.

Regarding protection against subcontracting, the employer wants to maintain its authority to contract out certain jobs.

Regarding fairer treatment for term employees, the employer wants it to be more difficult for certain employees to get indeterminate positions. Again, 38% of the staff is temporary.

Regarding salaries and other monetary items, the employer's position is such that employees lag far behind those of other museums in the region. However, the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation has recognized from the outset that recruitment and retention are serious problems.

In terms of the overall situation, the striking workers from the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Canadian War Museum have massively rejected the final offered presented by the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation. The workers came together at a meeting and 96% rejected the offer.

After the vote, the Public Service Alliance of Canada informed the Minister of Labour that it would be impossible to reach a negotiated agreement with the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation and therefore asked for her direct intervention to settle this dispute without further delay.

The statements made by the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation after the vote only confirm to what extent the parties are divided on the issues. Given the length and intensity of the strike, binding arbitration is a reasonable solution to end the dispute.

We are therefore asking the Minister of Labour to provide a reasonable solution by imposing binding arbitration.

7:45 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain Saskatchewan


Ed Komarnicki ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to provide further information in response to the question raised by the hon. member for Gatineau, who obviously has an interest in seeing a positive outcome to this matter, as we all do.

The strike at the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation has been going on since September 21, when 420 members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada walked off the job.

All members of the House hope that the parties can resolve this dispute soon, and all members, I am sure, would urge the parties to give it their best efforts.

The hon. member for Gatineau would like the minister to intervene further by imposing arbitration. I would remind the House that the Canada Labour Code provides the foundation of labour relations in our country, and part I in particular, outlines the steps that parties, including labour, management and the minister can take in these situations.

Just as important, I would remind the House that this code is a finely balanced piece of legislation that has been refined over the course of several decades by Parliament, with the input and advice of experts who, over the years, have guided various amendments since the original Conciliation Act was passed in the 1900s.

The code is built upon the long tradition of labour legislation and policy to promote common well-being through free collective bargaining and the constructive settlement of disputes. It supports freedom of association and free collective bargaining as the basis of effective industrial relations.

That code balances the interests of both labour and management and, as a result, Canadian labour relations have recently enjoyed a degree of relative stability.

The hon. member for Gatineau would like to have the minister and the government intervene in a way that is not appropriate in this case. The best solution is always for the parties to reach a settlement themselves, assisted as needed by conciliators and mediators.

Under the code the minister has various options. For example, in this case, when given notice that parties failed to renew or revise their collective agreement, she appointed a conciliation officer on July 3.

On August 27 the parties were released from the conciliation process. On that date, the union members voted 92% in favour of strike action.

Once the conciliation process has concluded, the code provides the minister with the authority to appoint a mediator. This was done on August 31.

On September 17 the union gave notice to the employer that it would take strike action on September 21 if a settlement could not be reached.

The settlement was not reached, and the union members of the War Museum and the Canadian Museum of Civilization did indeed begin their legal strike on September 21.

On November 20 the parties agreed to resume bargaining talks with the mediator. However, unfortunately, no settlement was reached.

There is another avenue that remains, and that is arbitration. The parties may agree in writing to refer outstanding issues to an arbiter for binding arbitration and determination. Both sides must, however, agree to go to arbitration. The minister does not have the legal authority to impose arbitration without the consent of both sides. It is clear that in order to refer their outstanding issues to arbitration, the two parties need to come to an agreement.

The strikers have voted to pursue arbitration. The Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation has indicated it does not wish to go to arbitration, so there is no legislative authority for the minister to get involved in this strike by appointing an arbiter to settle the dispute.

We would again urge the parties to get back to the bargaining table and to use their best efforts to bring in a resolution they can all live with.

7:50 p.m.


Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, according to this morning's Le Droit,

The architect of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, Douglas Cardinal, is “appalled” to see how the museums' workers, who have been on strike for 81 days, are being treated.

“Museum workers are guardians of Canadian heritage and the keepers of our national treasures,” he said. “It's absolutely shameful that the museums' management is not in dialogue seeking a mutually harmonious resolution [to the conflict]”.

The internationally renowned architect, now 75, spoke out yesterday in support of the 420 striking employees of the Museum of Civilization and the War Museum.

I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Cardinal.

The 420 striking workers want the Minister of Labour to keep the strike from dragging on any longer. She must intervene and impose binding arbitration. That is a reasonable solution to put an end to the conflict.

7:50 p.m.


Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the hon. members of the House that this is a legal strike and that the Minister of Labour has done everything she can to help resolve this dispute.

The Canada Labour Code clearly establishes the roles and responsibilities of the government and the Minister of Labour. In this case, she has exercised every option available to her to help the parties resolve their issues.

Any further involvement by the government would be detrimental to the resolution of this labour dispute. The parties have to work together to reach a settlement. If they cannot achieve such resolution, they could both agree to submit all issues to binding arbitration.

It is clear that acting within her authority, the minister has sought to facilitate a timely and equitable resolution. This is why the minister is urging the parties to go back to the bargaining table and, with the assistance of a mediator, find a solution to this dispute. Everyone in the House would like to see that and it is in the interests of everyone.

7:50 p.m.


Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, in preparing, responding to and recovering from the H1N1 pandemic, Parliament's focus must be to reduce the rate of hospitalizations, illness and death, as well as to reduce economic and social impacts. Therefore, our discussions must remain on the winding down of the second wave, as well as preparing for a possible third wave.

Having said this, we are here to address a question regarding communication and consistent messaging. Before I address challenges, I want to recognize the government's effort in producing a guide, information sheets, radio and television ads, et cetera, during the mid-fall. I also want to recognize Dr. David Butler-Jones, who made himself available to me several times to answer questions regarding vaccine research and safety.

However, we missed a window of opportunity in the summer to adequately prepare Canadians for a possible second wave. That is to first, let families know that for the vast majority of Canadians H1N1 would be a mild illness, but for a small percentage it would be a very severe, potentially fatal disease; and second, to inform Canadians of the best way to prevent the spread of the disease and to reduce the risk of contracting it.

Tragically, it was a bereaved family that shook the complacency of Canadians when their young hockey-player son passed away. The family wanted other families to know that H1N1 could be deadly so that no other family would have to suffer as theirs had.

Communication is vital in responding to any crisis and clear, consistent messages are required. Prior to asking tonight's question in the House, MPs' office had been inundated by health care workers and the public who wanted real answers.

Perhaps the greatest confusion surrounded vaccine for pregnant women. The WHO advisory panel on vaccines recommended on July 7 that non-adjuvanted vaccine be used for pregnant women if it were available. However, the government ordered adjuvanted vaccine on August 19, and not August 6 as earlier stated, and later ordered non-adjuvanted vaccine on September 4.

Why were pregnant women an afterthought? When the WHO made its recommendation in July, there was no safety data for the adjuvanted vaccine in pregnant women and expectant women fared poorly during past pandemics.

The government then recommended that pregnant women wait for the non-adjuvanted vaccine unless the cases of H1N1 were rising in their area. If a woman was over 20 weeks, she should take the adjuvanted vaccine.

To add to the confusion, the government then ordered 200,000 doses from Australia. This meant that expectant women in Canada had to make a choice that they should never have had to make: risk getting H1N1 or risk taking a vaccine for which there were not yet clinical trials in pregnant women.

The position was eventually clarified, but the damage was done. Research shows that the first message received on a particular subject sets the stage for a comparison of all future subjects; that is, if the public cares that the world is flat and someone comes along and says the world is round, the latter message may face some resistance because of preconceived ideas on the subject.

Preliminary data shows that the vaccine uptake among pregnant women in Manitoba is lower than other priority groups considered at high risk of falling severely ill from H1N1 influenza. Consistent messages are vital and inconsistent messages will increase anxiety and quickly torpedo credibility of experts.

7:55 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario


Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to respond in greater detail to the matter raised by the member opposite in regard to the Government of Canada's efforts to keep Canadians apprised of the developments on the H1N1 front.

We on this side of the House fully recognize the importance of sharing timely information and of conveying it to Canadians in a clear and consistent way. We recognize the need for using multiple communication channels to get the message out. We recognize the need to partner with others, with the provinces and territories, with health professionals and with community organizations to get these messages out.

We recognize the need to apply basic principles of risk communication, of ensuring people understand how serious the issue is, what they should expect, the steps they can take to protect themselves and their families, and where to access the latest information. More to the point, we acted on the knowledge. The scope and breadth of our activities to keep Canadians apprised of the latest news of the H1N1 vaccine has been unprecedented, and against a backdrop of constantly evolving scientific knowledge about the virus and ongoing developments on the vaccine production front, we have done an admirable job.

I know the hon. member opposite is aware of the diligence with which the Minister of Health has acted to keep all members of the House up to date on this issue. Since the beginning of the outbreak, the Minister of Health and her officials have appeared before the Standing Committee on Health some 10 times. She has participated in multiple debates in the House on this issue and has answered all questions put to her by the opposition fully, responsibly and respectfully. Mr. Speaker, you know that, the hon. member knows that, and all other members of the House know that. Rather than debate subjective issues, let us look at some of the hard facts about how extensive our efforts have been to share information with Canadians on the H1N1 virus, on public health measures, and on the benefits of getting vaccinated.

Indeed our comprehensive citizens readiness marketing campaign for the H1N1 flu virus was launched in late April, shortly after the significance of early reports of a potential flu pandemic could be assimilated. Our first step was to immediately issue travel advisories in English, French and Spanish for travellers coming to Canada from Mexico, or visiting Mexico from Canada. Since then, our efforts have remained ongoing and multifaceted. Let me give a few examples.

Since the outbreak was first reported in April, the Minister of Health and Public Health Agency of Canada officials have participated in no less than 48 separate press conferences. Our website has had six million hits. We have posted guidance documents on the site for families, health professionals, parents and businesses. We set up a toll-free 1-800 service to respond to questions from Canadians. To date, some 65,000 Canadians have called and their calls have been received and answered.

We have purchased H1N1 advertising in all mainstream media, including radio, television, and in daily and weekly newspapers. We have posted transit ads, posters and billboards. We have produced materials specifically targeted to first nations and Inuit communities in English, French and five Inuit dialects. We have also demonstrated our respect for new Canadians by purchasing advertisements in over 300 ethnic newspapers and 500 ethnic radio stations.

These are impressive efforts and they have been delivered in close partnership with our provincial and territorial counterparts. We have been working hard to coordinate core messages for H1N1 outreach activities with the provinces and the territories. Senior public health officials and senior public communications experts from all jurisdictions have been meeting on almost a daily basis to get it right and ensure our outreach is mutually reinforced.