House of Commons Hansard #66 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was young.


Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.


Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, recently the health committee came back from Nunavut. We were appalled to hear in some of the communities that 75% of the people in the communities smoke. What the government is trying to do with this bill and the changes we want to put forth is to put forward a strategy for all Canadians, for all Canadian youth. This is something that the Prime Minister committed to in September 2008.

I do not know if the member has had the opportunity to see some of these products, but I was appalled. There are flavours such as grape, cherry, peach, tropical punch, and get this one, banana split, and of course, everyone's favourite, chocolate. These flavours are being added to these products. These products actually look like markers. In some ways they look like toys.

As the member said so eloquently, I think everyone in the House takes their obligations for the future of this country and to our youth very seriously. I look forward to all members of the House supporting these very important initiatives, not just for the aboriginal community, but for all Canadians.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his comments, but he did not really answer my question. I would like to ask again, would he lobby the minister to reinstate a program to help encourage aboriginal people to stop smoking? He is right that this bill will catch aboriginal youth, but there are other aboriginal people who smoke. Certainly the former strategy was very well received by them and the funds were well received. It was a very positive addition toward improving health. As the member is the Parliamentary Secretary for Health, I would think this would be a high priority on his agenda.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.


Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Again, Mr. Speaker, yes, we are committed to the cessation of smoking for all Canadians. When we were up north on our recent trip, I believe that some of the government officials we talked to have a very important program to target aboriginal Canadians specifically. I will look into the member's question directly. I thank him for his time and commitment to this very important issue.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

June 2nd, 2009 / 3:50 p.m.


Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to stand today to speak to Bill C-32, An Act to amend the Tobacco Act.

On April 23, in an effort to hold the government to account, I submitted a question to the order paper asking two things.

First, what is the government's strategy to combat the illegal cigarette trade and ensure tobacco control?

Second, what has the government done to follow through on the September 17, 2008, commitment to ban flavoured tobacco products that appeal to children and ban tobacco advertising in print and electronic media that can be seen and read by our youth?

While it appears that Bill C-32 does little to answer my first question, which I will address shortly, it is clear that the bill seeks to amend the Tobacco Act to provide the additional protection of youth from tobacco marketing and the other things as the hon. member mentioned.

Bill C-32 was introduced last Thursday before World No Tobacco Day. The bill is also part of the federal tobacco control strategy, the government's policy framework to reduce death and disease caused by tobacco use, slated for 2011.

I am pleased that on World No Tobacco Day, the World Health Organization decided to promote the evidence-based approach by the former minister of health, Allan Rock, on the graphic labelling of cigarette packages. We know that tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death. More than five million people die from the effects of tobacco every year. That is more than those who die from HIV-AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. It is the only legal consumer product that kills when used exactly as the manufacturer intends. Up to half of all smokers will die from a tobacco-related disease. Second-hand smoke harms everyone who is exposed to it.

Tobacco companies spend tens of millions of dollars every year turning new users into addicts and keeping current users from quitting. Through advertising and promotional campaigns, including the use of carefully crafted package designs, the tobacco industry continues to divert attention from the deadly effects of its products. More and more countries are fighting back by requiring that tobacco packages graphically show the dangers of tobacco, as we have done in Canada, and have called for the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. They use the MPower technical assistance package developed by the World Health Organization to meet their commitments under this international treaty.

Effective health warnings, especially those that include pictures, have been proven to motivate users to quit and reduce the appeal of tobacco for those who are not yet addicted. Despite this fact, nine out of ten people live in countries that do not require warnings with pictures on tobacco packages.

Nicotine is a highly addictive substance. Warning people about its true risks can go a long way toward reducing tobacco addiction. Requiring warnings on tobacco packages is a simple, cheap and effective strategy that can vastly reduce tobacco use and save lives.

Tobacco use is still too prevalent. Tobacco does a great deal of harm and is responsible for the deaths of 37,000 Canadians every year, deaths that could be prevented.

Additionally, in 2008, over three billion more contraband cigarettes were sold in Canada than in 2007, three billion cigarettes that are now more available to Canadian youth.

Contraband cigarettes cost the Canadian government nearly $2.4 billion a year in lost revenue that could be invested quite usefully in programs and health research.

I hope that in writing Bill C-32 and engaging thorough stakeholder consultations rather than information sessions, the government sought to push for more interdepartmental coordination, re-evaluated the failed enforcement strategy that has seen the number of contraband cigarettes rise rapidly and pushed for the cheap and effective strategy of warning labels on tobacco packages. It is not enough for the government to ban something without finding out about and dealing with the other places where this same product can come into Canada, in the same way that we are fighting so terribly about contraband cigarettes.

Right now on the playgrounds in Ontario, 48.6% of cigarette butts found are contraband, illegal cigarettes that kids are buying out of duffle bags in the parking lot for $6 a carton. This is the way kids are getting addicted. This bill is a good first step to deal with flavoured tobacco, but it will do nothing unless the government actually works much harder to deal first-hand with contraband cigarettes.

Bill C-32 repeals the exemption that permits tobacco advertising in publications with an adult readership of not less than 85%. It prohibits the packaging, importation for sale, distribution and sale of little cigars and blunt wraps unless they are in a package that contains at least 20 units. We know the price point for tobacco is very important to children. Long ago we eliminated the kiddie packs and now it is important to ensure that this also applies to cigars and blunt wraps.

It also prohibits the manufacture and sale of cigarettes, little cigars and blunt wraps that contain the additives set out in a new schedule to the act, as well as the packaging of those products in a manner that suggests that they contain a prohibited additive. It also prohibits the manufacture and sale of tobacco products unless all the required information about their composition is submitted to the minister.

Bill C-32 also aims at protecting children and youth from tobacco industry marketing practices that encourage them to use tobacco products. These marketing practices included the use of flavourings and additives that would appeal to children and youth, the availability of little cigars and blunt wraps, sheets or tubes or tobacco in small quantities and kiddie packs and an increasing number of tobacco ads in daily newspapers and free entertainment weeklies.

Little cigars, also known as cigarillos and blunt wraps, are marketed today with fruit flavours such as grape, cherry, peach, banana split, tropical punch and additives such as vitamins, sugar and others that taste like candy that mask the harshest of the tobacco and appeal to children and youth.

Research from both American sources and the tobacco industry's own internal documents released through court cases indicate that the addition of fruit and candy flavours to tobacco products make them more appealing to new users. The tobacco industry's internal documents show that flavours and additives increase the “try factor”.

There is no question that California ads that portray tobacco industry executives corralling youth or sitting in smoky boardrooms saying, “Our customers are dying off, we had better go get the young ones”, has been clearly demonstrated with the advent of these truly sinister products.

This is a growing problem. Wholesale sales of little cigars have increased from 53 million units in 2001 to 403 million units in 2007, making them the fastest growing tobacco product on the Canadian market. Bill C-32 would amend the Tobacco Act by prohibiting the addition to little cigars, cigarettes and blunt wraps of fruit flavours and additives that would appeal to children and youth. It would also prohibit the representation of these flavours and additives on the package, such as a picture or a graphic.

The amended Tobacco Act would also provide Health Canada the flexibility, through governor in council authority, to ban other appealing additives or include other product categories in the flavour ban at any time in the future if the evidence indicated that these were serving as inducements to youth.

Regarding minimum package requirements, unlike cigarettes that must be sold in packages of 20, little cigars and blunt wraps are often sold individually and priced as little as $1. Bill C-32 would amend the Tobacco Act by extending the minimum quantity provisions that exist for cigarettes, little cigars and blunt wraps, requiring they be packaged in quantities of at least 20. This change would end the industry practice of selling these products in single or small kiddie packs that are attractive youth because of their cheaper price.

Regarding advertising, although there are currently restrictions on tobacco advertising in both print and electronic formats, the tobacco industry has been taking full advantage of an exemption allowing them to advertise in publications that have at least 85% adult readership. A recent resurgence of tobacco advertising, over 400 ads nationwide between November 2007 and December 2008, has exposed youth audiences to tobacco sales pitches.

Full colour tobacco ads have been appearing in daily newspapers, magazines and in free entertainment weekly papers. The free entertainment papers are available to anybody by way of a curb-side box, making it impossible to restrict access by children or determine if the readership is at least 85% adult.

Between November 2007 and December 2008, tobacco companies spent approximately $4.47 million to place nationwide ads in print publications, a dramatic increase from the amount spent in the previous 14 months. The proposed legislation will repeal this exemption that allows tobacco ads to be placed in a print publication, again with adult readership of not less than 85%.

The legislation to ban flavoured tobacco is important. However, in many areas it misses the point. In my order paper question I asked whether the government would develop a strategy to combat contraband tobacco. It is clear that Bill C-32 simply would add regulations and would do little to keep contraband out of the hands of children. It makes the legal industry deal with the problem caused by the illegal industry. As we know, children are unable to purchase the legal product.

I agree with the stakeholder groups such as the Ontario Korean Businessmen's Association, which claims that Bill C-32 will have no impact on the true problem, how children start smoking in the first place. It is the illegal product that causes the rise in consumption and the government continues to do nothing to combat the wave of illegal manufactured cigarettes from being distributed in high schools for, as I said, as little as $6 a carton. In fact, we have seen flyers where people can dial for a carton, except it is not in a carton. It is a garbage bag full of cheap cigarettes delivered right to one's door. We know these are the same organizations that also deal in guns and drugs and this must be stopped.

The Ontario Korean Businessmen's Association says that it does not work. If a person calls the local police, it takes six hours for a police officer to get there. These business people can actually see people selling things right outside their stores. There needs to be at least a 1-800 number and a task force, for which the RCMP called, where all levels of policing could come together to deal once and for all with this dangerous and illegal trade.

The RCMP has also called for the dismantling of the illegal manufacturing sites and called for a multi-jurisdictional department task force. Yet the government has issued licences to illegal operations to make them legal and the task force apparently has never met.

As I mentioned before, illegal tobacco costs taxpayers $2.4 billion a year in lost tax revenue and undermines every single tobacco control law and regulation currently being administered by the federal and provincial governments.

The sale of illegal tobacco is more than just a tobacco industry issue. This growing trade affects everyone. It deprives Canadian governments of significant revenues, it fosters other criminal activities, it has an impact on public health and provides unregulated, easy and affordable access to tobacco products.

There is also a direct correlation between the rise in contraband tobacco consumption and the change in government in 2006. Looking at the statistics for the growth of illegal tobacco sales, we can see that 33% was the national average last year, up from 16.5% in 2006. This is a jump up over 100%. In 2008 it was 48.6% on the playgrounds in Ontario schools and 40.1% in Quebec.

The Liberals had a strategy in place and multi-pronged approach to deal with problems, but the Conservative government let the rate of contraband consumption grow exponentially. Now we have learned that the American Secretary for Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, knew nothing of the huge problem in tobacco smuggling until after she came out of the meeting with the Minister of Public Safety. She only responded to this problem after it was raised by a journalist. This is totally irresponsible.

Why is the government refusing to deal with contraband tobacco? Contraband causes huge losses in tax revenues. Does it not need the money? It sees more and more Canadian children becoming addicted on cheap cigarettes and allows smugglers and members of organized crime to profit off the illegal trade.

As I said, it is the same people smuggling the cigarettes who are smuggling the drugs and the guns. This is organized crime. We should look at the statistics. There were 13 billion estimated total Canadian purchases of illegal cigarettes in 2008 compared to 10 billion in 2007.

It is time that the government got smart on crime. If the government were serious about reducing youth smoking, it would consider stopping youth from having access to these cigarettes. The government needs to deliver a plan and enforcement strategy to stop the importation of illegal black market tobacco.

In a Hamilton Spectator article written on April 30, 2009, it was reported that the jump in smoking rates was directly correlated to easy access to contraband and tax free cigarettes that sell for a fraction of the regular price. Rob Cunningham, a senior policy analyst for the Canadian Cancer Society, mentioned in the article that he was very concerned about the impact of inexpensive contraband cigarettes on smoking rates.

Public health officials estimate that 200 contraband cigarettes cost $8 to $15, compared with the usual $55 to $80. Mr. Cunningham continued to say that higher tobacco taxes were the single most effective measure to reduce smoking, and the presence of widespread, inexpensive contraband tobacco was dramatically impeding the progress that we would otherwise be making.

The government must address the fact that contraband cigarettes are the cheapest and easiest cigarettes to get for children. I am concerned that in the media backgrounder, the department skirts the issue entirely by saying that contraband is the purview of Public Safety. While this may be true, it completely ignores the fact that an entire strategy is undermined by the lack of action by whatever department is in charge of contraband, and it shows that the government is working in silence, to the total detriment of the health of Canadians.

These are only some of the stakeholder reaction groups we have heard so far. However, many groups, including Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada and the Canadian Medical Association have been pushing the government for laws that would crack down on the sale and marketing of cigarillos.

Paul Thomey, the chair of the tobacco policy for the Canadian Lung Association, is quoted in the government press release accompanying the bill stating that these are positive steps forward in the fight against tobacco, and that strong measures such as these not only will protect Canada's children from the harmful effects of smoking but will also serve to curtail industry tactics aimed at marketing its products to the youth of this country.

I say again, banning these products in this country will not do anything if they just arrive in duffle bags and dunnage bags from across the border or, as this industry has done before, from Canada, outside and back into Canada, and then dealt with in the black market.

The president of the Canadian Medical Association, Dr. Robert Ouellet, also quoted in the government press release, thanked the government on behalf of Canada's doctors and their patients, adding that closing loopholes is a step forward in protecting our children from a deadly addiction to tobacco.

Despite our concerns that Bill C-32 does nothing to address the contraband issue that is at the heart of youth smoking rates, the Liberal Party will support the bill in principle. However, we will be asking the government questions at committee. Why does the bill not include restrictions against menthol, and why will there be a 270 day period before store owners must take these products off their shelves?

We will also investigate whether the ban on flavours can be extended to chewing tobacco and smokeless tobacco as a kiddie product, as one quarter of the users are children under 19. Flavouring smokeless with candy flavours is a problem so similar to the flavouring of little cigarillos that it makes no sense to exclude this one category.

We understand that smokeless is not as large a problem as smoking, but it is significant enough to worry. For every five boys who smoke cigarettes, there is one smokeless user. Adding smokeless to the bill would require a very simple amendment to the schedule. Although it could be done by regulation later, there is no reason to delay.

Bill C-32 is a step in the right direction to protect Canadians, and youth in particular, from tobacco marketing. Tobacco products should not be marketed as inoffensive. By prohibiting the sale of cigarettes, little cigars and blunt wraps that contain a series of additives that have flavouring properties, and by prohibiting packaging that suggests that these products contain these additives, the bill aims at avoiding the misleading marketing of tobacco products.

By prohibiting advertising in all types of magazines and newspapers regardless of their readership, the bill ensures that all Canadians, and youth in particular, will not be exposed to tobacco sales pitches.

However, as I mentioned in detail, this bill will not solve the problem of smoking among youth altogether, and that is because the bill fails to address the question of contraband tobacco which is an important source of supply for youth, contraband products being cheap and easily accessible.

Despite the omission of contraband, the Liberal Party will support the bill at second reading. We look forward to engaging in a deeper study at the health committee. We will take witness testimony at committee into consideration in assessing whether this bill should be amended.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.


Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her speech. I know she is a medical doctor.

I actually have two questions for her. First, I am just wondering whether in her opinion, and given that all governments of all stripes in Canada, and all political parties, over the years, have collected taxes on tobacco products, and then they turn around and tell people it is dangerous to smoke, she thinks that is a little bit hypocritical on the part of the government.

Also, the member talked a lot about illegal cigarettes. To my mind, whether we are dealing with the area of legal cigarettes from the stores or illegal cigarettes, at the end of the day I think probably the solution to this problem could be along the lines of the government offering incentives for people to quit smoking.

I am sure that has been talked about by some people over the years. Being a medical doctor, I would think that she would be on the front lines of policing such a program because that is the only way it could work. If a person wanted to quit smoking for financial incentives by the federal government, it really would be turned over to the medical association to police. I think that is one way of getting people off cigarettes.

I would be in favour of banning cigarettes, but I know that does not work. People will just find another way around it.

I would ask the member those two questions, about the hypocrisy of all governments of collecting taxes on a product, when it is causing lots of problems for people, and about incentives for people to stop smoking through the medical profession.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.


Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, we know that even when we rolled back the taxes on tobacco, the smoking rate went way up. There is a serious price point, and the taxes on tobacco do two things. It is a deterrent to youth, particularly, in terms of the price point, but it also allows us to do good things.

As the member for Yukon so rightly stated, the government has been previously able to help with programs, particularly for youth. Some of the programs that the government has allowed children to design themselves have been some of the most effective ones, particularly ones that deal with targets because they do not want to be a target of the tobacco industry. I think there have been some very innovative programs that Health Canada has funded over the years.

Unfortunately, the government seems to think that it can cut these things instead of actually using the money that we have to be able to promote it better. I also believe that rather than just giving people money to stop smoking, we need to develop better programs for stopping smoking. Also, some of the products, like the nicotine chewing gum, puffers and patches, need to be much more accessible to Canadians.

We know that it usually takes eight tries for somebody to finally stop smoking. When they have tried and failed four times, they are halfway there. We should not write them off at that point. We must help them go forward to actually be able to kick this deadly habit.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.


André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-32. This bill has a commendable objective, which is to discourage tobacco use among young people by limiting availability and reducing the types of tobacco products on the market.

Needless to say, the Bloc Québécois supports this bill, and we are not alone. Earlier, I got out a May 26 press release from the Coalition québécoise pour le contrôle du tabac that welcomes the federal government's tobacco bill. Louis Gauvin, the spokesperson for the coalition, says:

Even though it does not go as far as we would have liked, the legislation contains crucial provisions that will provide much more protection for young people against the tobacco industry's marketing strategies.

We know that the tobacco industry targets young people. Because nicotine is addictive, young people risk being hooked for a long time. The member for St. Paul's said earlier that someone who is unfortunately addicted to nicotine will likely have to try a number of times to quit smoking. She talked about eight times. My mother, who was a smoker, did not have to try that many times. She tried to quit once in her life and fortunately was successful the first time. But addiction is a fact, and that is why companies target young people.

I digressed briefly, but I will continue. Louis Gauvin says:

From now on, the industry will no longer be able to mask the harmful effects of its products using fruit and candy flavours...These products, which came on the market barely five years ago, are alone responsible for the increase in tobacco use by young Quebeckers. Finally, companies will be prohibited from marketing these deadly chocolate- and strawberry-flavoured products in fun, multicoloured kiddie packs.

Continuing with the press release:

The most recent research shows that tobacco use, even when very limited, can lead to dependency. Young people who have tried cigarillos [a type of little cigar that is even sold singly] can easily develop a dependency on nicotine, since the nicotine content in these is similar to the amount in a cigarette. They are then at risk of changing to cigarettes because they are very much cheaper when bought in large quantities. In other words, “even if they account for only a small part of the market, cigarillos play a major role in introducing young people to smoking”.

I will share a personal experience if I may. When I was 12, 13, 14, like a lot of kids, I had some people in my group of friends who smoked occasionally, and some others a bit more regularly. As I have said, my mother smoked as well. So yes, I have sneaked my mother's cigarettes. We took them to the park and we puffed away on them. Then we found out we could get them at the corner store. I must point out that we were certainly not of legal age to be buying them. I do not know what the age limit was at the time, but I am sure that you could not get packages of cigarettes legally at 12 or 13.

However, they sold little cigars with a plastic filter end and a grape flavour. Grape flavoured cigarillos, with a picture of a grape on the package. They were sold in a pack of four or five, I do not remember exactly. When we started smoking those cigarillos, it was a lot more interesting, because inhaling smoke that smelled and tasted like grapes was a lot easier than inhaling the smoke from a regular cigarette.

I am therefore convinced that this kind of marketing was created by the companies to target young people. I remember that we preferred the cigarillos to cigarettes but I am sure the harmful effects were the same. I will assure you, Mr. Speaker, that I did not continue along that path. I quit completely when my mother did, when I was 14 or 15. Everybody in the family was pleased. My brother, unfortunately, continued to smoke for a long time, but he finally quit as well. At a certain point, a person finally listens to reason despite the harmful efforts of the tobacco companies.

As I said, the Bloc Québécois is in favour in principle of Bill C-32, although it is not particularly useful in Quebec because the Government of Quebec already has more severe restrictions on cigarillos.

The cigarillos we are talking about and all other tobacco products should be subject to the same bans as cigarettes.

As with cigarettes, advertising of tobacco products to young people under 18 must be banned. In addition, the message warning of the dangers of smoking must be applied to all these products, and the products must be hidden from public view.

The companies have tried to convince us, without saying so and just by the product's appearance, that tobacco was less harmful, that it smelled good and that the taste of it was much milder and more pleasant. My colleagues and I talked about all sorts of flavours such as strawberry, chocolate and vanilla. I know we are not allowed to show any props here and I do not want to advertise, but I have in the palm of my hand one of these vanilla cigarillos. I do not want to show it or hold it up to the camera, but the packaging is delightful. It looks like a treat or a candy. A young person getting hold of this would think it was a candy more than anything else. However, far be it from me to advertise it or light it here.

All of us in the House of Commons were given a small package by an anti-smoking coalition to show us how the tobacco companies use this type of marketing to disguise their product, which is in fact harmful. We saw an image of candies and real treats interspersed with tobacco products, which were presented as if they were treats. You cannot tell which is which. There was nothing to indicate that what I had in my hand earlier was harmful to my health. The law in Quebec requires it, however, for tobacco products. Fortunately this will change with Bill C-32.

Some of the demands I mentioned earlier are in part covered by Bill C-32. Still, it must be added that the federal government needs to take stronger action, in connection with cigarette smuggling, among other things. Action must be taken to limit the supply of illegal tobacco products as much as possible, for they are available to minors as well. If the supply is cut, young people will have less access to tobacco products, especially those at lower cost. The low price is, of course, why tobacco smuggling exists.

While police action is needed, certain regulations should be changed to discourage smugglers. There is talk of eliminating the source of supply, which is still the best way of preventing smuggling. There is a proposal to prevent unlicensed manufacturers from acquiring the raw materials and equipment used to produce cigarettes. It has also been suggested that the licences of tobacco manufacturers who fail to obey the law be revoked and an effective system established for marking cigarette packages—the term is traceability— so that tobacco deliveries can be more closely monitored.

Efforts could also be made to persuade the United States federal government to close the factories of illegal manufacturers on the American side of the border. In some places, it is easy to cross by boat. Everyone has seen television reports about this kind of thing. It is very easy to smuggle goods across the U.S.—Canadian border. Not everyone is caught. We should try, therefore, to persuade the American government.

Finally, there are proposals to increase the fee charged to obtain a federal licence to manufacture tobacco products. It could be increased to $5 million instead of the laughable $5,000 it is today. These are some of the measures proposed by the Bloc Québécois to help reduce smuggling.

About a year ago, on May 7, 2008, the public safety minister of the time, who is now the Minister of International Trade, announced an RCMP strategy to fight tobacco smuggling. There were three objectives: dismantle the production facilities, disrupt the supply and distribution networks, and seize illegal tobacco and related products of crime. We never heard any details about the implementation of this strategy and the methods to be used were never clearly explained. The only conclusion we can draw is the results have fallen far short of the expectations.

Ever since 2003, and even before, the Bloc Québécois has been constantly calling on governments of all stripes to act vigorously to prevent the explosion of cigarette smuggling. The Bloc even proposed measures to fight this crime, which undercuts all our efforts to discourage smoking, especially among young people.

The conclusion after a year is that the strategy has not been very well defined. According to several studies, illegal tobacco products supply one-quarter of the Quebec and Ontario market. The federal and provincial governments lose nearly $2 billion a year in taxes. It may be even more by now. Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada is right to emphasize that the reduced cost of contraband cigarettes is undermining the progress we have been making in reducing smoking, especially among young people.

I am talking about contraband products today because all the efforts we might make in the House as parliamentarians, through things like Bill C-32 or other measures to reduce smoking among young people, will be in vain if we do not attack the root of the problem, which is smuggled cigarettes.

The Bloc Québécois demands that the RCMP utilize every legal means to effectively combat this illegal importing of tobacco. We absolutely must fight the evil at its root by taking action on both supply and demand. If that means going so far as to seize the automobiles of people going to stock up at the many illegal smoke shacks, so be it. Obviously this would be an excellent way to deter the resellers.

This problem is very expensive for Quebec and Canadian taxpayers, and deprives regular merchants who have the right to sell tobacco—even though we are trying to reduce the availability of tobacco products and cigarettes are no longer displayed openly in convenience stores—of legitimate income because of this unfair competition. This is why it is absolutely necessary to tackle cigarette smuggling.

To return to the famous cigarillos—I have even given my own personal example—I would describe their attractiveness to children as a con game, because of what the tobacco companies have managed to do, which is to present them almost as if they were candy. The variety of cigarillo flavours makes them seem less harmful to children and youth. The trick lies in perception. I think the kids will have the impression that they are less harmful because of the better taste and smell. All the flavours come from the natural world, but I think that is exactly what these companies were aiming for—to ensure that there is less of the bad cigarette smell so that children are not put off so much and are attracted to the product. As a result of this con game, children really like the cigarillos. Yet those little cigars pose as much risk to their health in terms of nicotine dependence as real cigarettes.

One Health Canada study done in 2000 concluded that cigarillos contain between 67% and 200% more tar than standard cigarettes. Furthermore, unfiltered cigarillos contain twice as much nicotine.

According to the Coalition québécoise pour le contrôle du tabac, there are many reasons why children are attracted to cigarillos. First, the unit price is very accessible. One cigarillo can be bought at a convenience store for $1. This used to be possible, but things are changing. As I said earlier, it is no longer possible in Quebec. There are also the attractive flavours and packaging, as I demonstrated earlier.

The selling of individual cigarettes is prohibited in Quebec. The reason is quite simple: single cigarettes and cigarillos are more financially accessible. Children generally do not have much money, and buying cigarillos is easier and more accessible when they cost $1. In my time, it may have been 10¢ or 25¢, and we were all able to collect enough coins from our piggy banks to buy one cigarette or cigarillo. Not so long ago this was also going on in Quebec, and it may be happening, as it should not, in Canada. This will be corrected when Bill C-32 comes into force.

Quebec law prohibits selling to minors. Unfortunately, certain merchants do not abide by the law, and I am sure this is not just in Quebec. According to Health Canada data, nearly 86% of merchants were complying with the law in 2007.

Still, that left 12% who were not, who were selling tobacco products to minors.

The survey by the Institut de la statistique du Québec, the ISQ, estimates that approximately 38% of students purchase cigarettes themselves at a shop. In other words, at some point, the word gets around. It is just a matter of finding the convenience store or shop that will sell tobacco products and all the children will go there. Every group has one youngster who looks older than the others. That was the case in our group, and it wasn’t me. There is always someone who looks older and succeeds in duping the merchant and buying cigarettes or alcohol. There is always a way: young people are imaginative.

Therefore it is up to the merchant to be very vigilant and to require ID when someone who looks young comes in to buy cigarettes or cigarillos.

When it comes to flavours, I would again point out that cigarillos come in many flavours. We heard the list earlier. I kept a copy of the list here to show the extent to which the marketing of this kind of product was probably aimed much more at children and young people. They come in raspberry, vanilla, cherry, spearmint, strawberry, cinnamon and even rum. Some may say they are trying to attract adults with this, but in any event, the intention behind this marketing is really very clear. Flavouring tobacco products obviously encourages people to take up smoking by making their first puffs sweeter and more pleasant.

They have chosen attractive packaging. Catching people’s eye, the visual aspect, is very important. Cigarillo packages conjure up treats and candy. There are no warnings on the boxes. As I was saying just now, when they are purchased as singles, the little package has absolutely no indication of the danger of inhaling, really of smoking, and using these products. You can even buy chewing tobacco now. It is also presented as an attractive product.

I said that I have smoked, but I have to say I have never tried that. It completely repulses me, but I think some children who like to try things, if it is presented in a way that it looks almost like a treat, a candy, they are certainly going to try it. Imagine what a catastrophe it may be when they put that in their mouth. In the United States, studies have been done, and people who chewed tobacco were more likely to develop cancers of the mouth.

I said earlier that we have all had the evidence from an anti-smoking coalition placed on our desks, showing that these products were hidden among the treats and the attempt was made to pass them off as candy. We were also given a brochure with information.

We are told that the market for new flavoured tobacco products has grown by over 400%. In 2001, 50,000 items were sold, and in 2006 it was 81 million items. We can see what a master stroke of marketing this has been, one that has been diabolically effective, but at the same time a damaging and terrible thing for our young people’s health.

I mentioned the Institut de la statistique du Québec. I have more information, in particular about a Quebec survey on tobacco, alcohol, drugs and gambling among secondary school students. Statistics were collected in the fall of 2006 from nearly 5,000 students.

The ISQ found that students were starting to smoke cigars between secondary 2 and 3, and boys and girls were using these products in equal numbers. In the month before the survey, 22% of boys and 21% of girls had smoked a cigarillo. In secondary 5, more than a third of students said they had smoked a cigarillo in the month before the survey. Eight out of 10 students who smoked or were starting to smoke cigarettes every day or occasionally had smoked a cigar. One out of 10 students who did not smoke cigarettes had even tried cigars or cigarillos.

These statistics, which have been collected not only in Quebec but more or less everywhere in Canada, show that tougher legislation has got to be enacted. While Bill C-32 is not perfect, it is a step in the right direction.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, Culture; the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, Foreign Affairs; and the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona, Aboriginal Affairs.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a real privilege to rise today in support of this legislation, Bill C-32. This is a good news day for Canadians.

I am very pleased that the government has responded to suggestions by the New Democratic Party opposition to move in this area and that it has listened to the voices of Canadians from one end of this country to the other to try to close a very serious loophole in terms of tobacco addiction.

I have listened to some of my colleagues in the opposition, and I agree there are major areas yet to be dealt with by the government, by Parliament, issues of huge importance, like the contraband issue, like the fact that we have not been able to stop tobacco companies from designing new smokeless products. There is no end to the job at hand by parliamentarians, but we have to take this journey of cracking down one step at a time, wherever possible, when it comes to the very crass, very manipulative marketing of big tobacco. Let us face it, that is what this is all about.

We are here today because big tobacco in this country has found a loophole in the Tobacco Act and regulations that tries to restrict the sale and marketing of tobacco products. The companies have taken advantage of that loophole and designed products that are specifically targeted at creating a whole new market, another generation of smokers. Their market is dwindling, their market shares are falling, their profits are not as large as they once were, and they need to capture the hearts and minds of another group of Canadians so they are addicted to tobacco products for a lifetime.

We are talking about the most clever products one could imagine. I wish we could use props in the House. I know it is against the rules, but if we could, we would show Canadians what we are talking about, show parents how serious this issue is and how important it is that the House finally acts on cracking down on these kiddie products, these little cigarillos that are designed to look like candy or cosmetics, which have the flavours of the world embodied in them, from cotton candy to peanut butter to banana to orange to cherry, and the list goes on and on.

These are wonderfully smelling products that are designed to appeal to young people, to make them want to purchase them because they look so harmless, so appealing. Big tobacco knows that if these young people smoke these products they are more addictive than even normal, regular cigarettes. They are more harmful than the run-of-the-mill tobacco products. Worst of all, they get those kids addicted to cigarettes and smoking before they are even of legal age to smoke.

This is really about shutting down, closing a loophole that tobacco companies have taken advantage of. These products were never intended to be part of any legislation or regulations that this Parliament would allow. We cannot envisage the creativity, the ability of big tobacco to develop such products.

Who would have thought that big tobacco in this country would be so crass, so profit hungry, so disrespectful of human health and well-being that it would design products to deliberately get young people hooked? Imagine.

The bill is something that many anti-smoking activists have called for in this country for a number of years. They called on members on our side of the House, and we responded by saying this is a serious issue and it is time that we had legislation.

I brought forward a private member's bill last spring. What was important about that was not so much that I brought it forward but that it was the result of work by many young people across this country.

The youth behind this legislation have to take credit for what has happened here today. They have to claim a victory. Members saw their lobbying here in the House last week. They were responsible for bringing forward a little pencil container for every member of Parliament, which contained two products that resembled each other. They looked sweet and innocent and trendy and colourful, and they smelled pretty. One was a tobacco product and one was a candy product.

This showed all of us how far tobacco companies and large profit seeking corporations will go in order to trap young people into a lifelong addiction to smoking. They know that if they can get them at that age they can get them for a lifetime and their profits will continue to go up. It is more important than anything else we do in the House to stop tobacco companies dead in their tracks when it comes to products that appeal to children and teenagers.

The facts are in. Some in the House may say that the legislation does not go far enough. That is true. The bill could do other things. It could go after all sorts of smokeless products. The bill could look at chew products, which about 1% of the population actually uses, many of them young people. These products are typical chewing tobacco, but they are flavoured. They are interesting to chew, I guess, but they are addictive. We acknowledge that is a problem with the bill.

The bill is also flawed because although it gets at most flavours, it does not go after menthol, because that has been around since the 1920s. We would have liked the bill to close all loopholes and to crack down on all flavoured products and all types of products, not just cigarillos, but we have to make progress in this place. We cannot sit back and continue to squabble.

We have to leap at this moment. We have to capture the imagination of young people and join with them in their efforts. We have to tell them it was a good campaign. We have to tell them they did a great service to Canadians and we owe them a debt of gratitude for their leadership.

I dare say that if it had not been for those young people and many anti-smoking alliances and organizations, I would not have brought forward a bill, the Conservatives of Canada would not have promised to take up my bill in the last election, and the Minister of Health would not have brought forward a government bill that adopts many of the ideas that I raised in my private member's legislation.

It is a sequence of events that shows how important it is to listen to Canadians and to be responsive and to take steps toward ending something evil, something that is harmful, that is contrary to any notion of a healthy population, to curtail and eliminate those products.

That is what we have done today with this legislation. The government has brought in legislation that would eliminate flavoured tobacco products from the marketplace. All of those interesting flavours and smells that ensnare young people, that capture their attention and imagination and make them want to try one of those cigarillos, are gone. Furthermore, we have said that companies cannot try to get young people to start smoking by selling little cigarillos individually.

Not is only is the flavour gone, and by the way, Mr. Speaker, Let's Make Flavour ... GONE!, is the slogan of the young people who worked so hard on this issue, the Northwest Youth Action Alliance and the eastern Ontario youth action alliance, all those folks involved in stopping the sale of flavoured cigarillo products have to take credit that the bill not only bans flavoured tobacco but it bans the sale of individual cigarillos.

Even if they were not flavoured, the fact that these tiny products are sold individually without proper warning labels is also an inducement to start smoking. They are also designed to appeal directly to young people.

Young people go to corner stores and buy one of these little products for $1 or $2 because they think they are harmless. “Why not? Let's just try it for the heck of it. It is something to do, and others are doing it.” Before they know it, they are hooked. Before we know it, there are serious, high rates of smoking among young people and we have a higher than ever rate of death and illness among Canadians. It is no joke. When we look at the statistics, this is a serious issue.

Tobacco use is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced. Do you know, Mr. Speaker, that there are more than one billion smokers in the world? Globally, the use of tobacco products is increasing, although it appears to be decreasing in some of the high-income countries. Almost half of the world's children breathe air that is polluted by tobacco smoke. The epidemic is shifting to the developing world, with more than 80% of the world's smokers living in low- and middle-income countries.

We know that tobacco kills 5.4 million people a year. That is an average of one person every six seconds, and it accounts for one in ten adult deaths worldwide. It kills up to half of all users, and it is a risk factor for six of the eight leading causes of death in the world.

Because there is a lag of several years between when people start using tobacco and when their health starts to suffer, the epidemic of disease and death has just begun. There were 100 million deaths caused by tobacco in the 20th century. If current trends continue, there will be up to one billion deaths in the 21st century.

Unchecked, tobacco-related deaths will increased to more than eight million a year by 2030, and 80% of those deaths will occur in the developing world. Therefore, every step we can take towards preventing people from getting started in the first place is absolutely critical. It is a life and death situation.

If we were to look at cigarillo products and realize that the sales of cigarillos in a few years jumped from 50,000 to 80 million or more, we get a pretty good idea of how clever the tobacco companies have been and what their intentions were. Their intentions were to design a product that would appeal to young people and get them hooked on cigarette smoking, thereby handing them a life sentence of addiction to tobacco.

Smoking statistics in Canada are real, glaring and horrific. In Canada today, smoking rates for 15- to 19-year-old boys are about 18%, and among 20- to 24-year-old boys, it is 32%. It is slightly lower than for girls, although we know the tobacco companies are busy trying to design products to appeal to young women as we speak.

On the same day that the minister introduced this groundbreaking legislation, Bill C-32, there was a program on national CBC TV called Busted. It was about the tobacco companies designing new packaging to appeal to all kinds of different populations, such as slender packs that look sexy, packages that open sideways because that is innovative, some with light coverings because people will think they are light cigarettes when those words cannot be used, or dark coverings to show that these are solid products. The tobacco companies know no end. We have to stop them each and every step of the way, every time we can.

Let us look at the statistics, in terms of cigarillos. Boys, between the ages of 15 and 19 years old, either have smoked occasionally or every day a cigarillo 30% of the time. Among 20 to 24-year-olds, 57% of young men have smoked cigarillos on an occasional or a daily basis.

Let us translate that kind of intensity of smoking among young people to the deaths we face down the road. Based on 2008 statistics, for cancer, men have an incidence rate of 11,900 and women of 5,500. For heart disease, men have an incidence rate of 6,300 and women of 3,900. For respiratory problems, men have an incidence rate of 4,900 and women of 3,500. The total of men with some sort of complication because of smoking is 23,800 and of women 14,500.

The statistics speak for themselves. I think everybody in this place knows we have to do something. This is why I recommend we support the bill even though it has a few flaws such as the absence of menthol, it does not include smokeless products like chew and it gives the tobacco manufacturers and the retailers a fairly lengthy period of time to get the products off the shelves, up to 270 days. Some would say that is a long time, and I agree. I would like our manufacturers and our retailers to take note of the debate today and come to the conclusion, I hope, that this place is united in its support for the legislation and that it will not be a matter of very much time before it is passed and they must abide by the law.

In fact, I hope, despite the concerns of members of the Liberal and Bloc parties, which I share, they will see the importance of dealing with this bill quickly, getting it to committee, seeing if there are any amendments that have to be made, which can be handled quickly and expeditiously, and getting the bill passed by both houses before we rise for the summer. By the time children start to go back to school in September, many of these products will be off the shelves, not visible and not there to tempt and tantalize them. We owe that to Canadians. We owe prompt and swift action on this legislation to prevent any more young people and children from trying these cute, trendy products, which bring death and sickness if they lead to an addiction to smoking, and we do know that they lead to addictions.

I have heard many of my colleagues suggest that the real issue is not these products and that we really have to focus all of our attention on contraband. Contraband is a very serious issue. I know about the amount of cigarettes that appear in garbage bags and are readily passed around for cheap. I know how harmful that is. However, I also know we have to deal with that issue separately.

In fact, members will know that I presented a motion to the House that had support from all parties. It called on the government to take immediate steps to deal with contraband. In fact, all three health critics of the opposition sent a letter to the Minister of Health and the Minister of Public Safety, demanding action on contraband. There is no doubt that we will keep the pressure on that issue.

However, let us not be fooled into thinking, as big tobacco would have us believe, that the real problem is not its products but contraband. While it is busy trying to go after contraband because its own markets are threatened, it refuses to acknowledge that its products designed to create a niche market to build its markets and profitability is a part of its doing and has to be stopped. The industry refuses to acknowledge its wrongdoings and how it, each and every day, tries to develop a new market and a new product to appeal to people to get them addicted to smoking because its livelihoods and profit margins depend upon it.

Let us not mix apples and oranges. The bill is designed to get after those kiddie products. It is designed to stop those flavoured cigarillos. It says that cigarillos must be packaged into containers of no less than 20 and they must have proper warnings. That is the objective the bill.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.


Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my hon. colleague on her fine speech. It was certainly informative. I appreciate her point about the existing packaging. To be honest, I have never really seen these products before. I have read so much about them and have heard all the protestations about them. When it was presented to us in the House, I could not believe that what I was reading was actually true, that this package looked so appealing to a younger age. I was absolutely flabbergasted. I appreciated the member's comments.

On the heels of that, there was something she mentioned in her speech. She said that thanks to the youth movement around this issue, it had now come to the fore. Certainly it has come to the floor of the House of Commons.

Could the member shed more light on that. I am always very interested in the youth movements that make a difference? They make a difference for the simple reason of who are the proponents and that would be our children. In this case could the member cite some examples and talk in particular about the young groups that spearheaded movements to bring this legislation to the House? Also, could she comment on her private member's bill?

I assume she meant her private member's bill took care of all loopholes, not just the cigarillos but also the smokeless products, such as the chew.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, first, let me be frank in terms of my private member's bill, which was originally Bill C-566 and then became Bill C-348. It focused on cigarillos, all flavoured tobacco products that ended up as cigarillos. The purpose of my bill was threefold. It was to end the flavouring in those products, to require that cigarillos be sold in packages of no less than 20 and that there be the full two-thirds of the package devoted to warning labels as per legislation when it came to regular cigarettes.

That was the focus of my bill, based on my discussions with the young people and many of the activists in the field. It did not touch the issue of chew. In hindsight I wish it did.

However, we know that in terms of volume the real problem is the cigarillos. The House has heard the numbers. More than 80 million of these cigarillos are being sold on a regular basis. That age group has over a 25% share of the market. It is big and it is important. That is where I stand on this.

With respect to the movement, the whole campaign of “flavour gone” was as a result of young people actively speaking out, from the Eastern Ontario Youth Action Alliance and the Northwestern Ontario Youth Action Alliance, people like Angela McKercher-Mortimer, David Bard, Jennifer McFarlane, Jennifer McKibbon, Sam McKibbon, in my own province the Sister Teens Against Nicotine and Drugs and Aaron Yanofsky who is president of the Manitoba Youth for Clean Air.

So many of these young people mobilized on the Hill, with press conferences and sharing the products and the information. They are responsible for the billboards we see around the city. They kept the pressure on me and others for the last year or more. All credit is due to them.

Let me also mention that Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, the Canadian Cancer Society, Coalition québécoise pour le contrôle du tabac and others were very instrumental in gathering information, providing us with the statistics, informing us and keeping the pressure on.

Although all those groups would like to see some further changes to the bill, I think they also realize the importance of getting this through quickly. They have asked us to do whatever we can to move this bill through all stages as quickly as possible.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Winnipeg North for the excellent work that she has done on this.

As she has noted, she introduced her original bill in June 2008, Bill C-566, and then she reintroduced her bill in March 2009 as Bill C-348. She acknowledged the good work that had been done by young people around the country. It is worth stating, for people who are paying attention to this debate, that concerted action can make a difference in the House.

I also want to acknowledge the Conservative government, which picked up the member for Winnipeg North's bill and has introduced it as government legislation.

The member has tackled the tobacco debate in terms of the product that is advertised and designed to attract new smokers, in this case particularly young people, but could she comment on the whole aspect of prevention and education?

We know that a couple of years ago the Conservative government cut some programming that was designed for first nations and Inuit communities around prevention and smoking cessation. Could she comment on the importance of funding those kinds of programs, not only to prevent new smokers from starting with educational awareness, but to help smokers who need it to quit?

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a very serious issue and we are cognizant of the need to deal with very high incidents of smoking among first nations and aboriginal communities and the need for prevention programs that are geared toward people in rural, northern and remote communities.

Because of that we were very disappointed when the government of the day cancelled a program in September of 2006 that was designed to provide first nations communities with some prevention tools to try to ensure that young people in their communities would not get hooked on smoking.

The government at the time promised it would replace that program with another initiative. In fact, it stated that it was looking for value for money programming and it would be presenting a new initiative and reviving a prevention strategy as soon as possible. Unfortunately it has now been almost two years since that announcement was made and we still have not heard about a prevention program designed to deal with the high incident rates of smoking among first nations, Inuit and aboriginal communities.

It is a deep concern of ours. We will continue to put pressure on the Minister of Health and her department to come forward with a program and more. As the contraband issue shows us, we are dealing with an effort to get products to people in very difficult circumstances, who are finding easy access to these products and need to be reminded of the dangers of smoking and the problem of a lifelong addiction.

Many groups are worried about those issues as well. In addition to the young people I mentioned, I wanted to also mention Phil Janssen and Mike Robinson, who were on the Hill with a press conference not too long ago. They are from the Area Youth Coalition of Eastern Ontario, associated with the Smoke-Free Ontario Strategy.

I also want to mention some of the major organizations that have worked tirelessly, year in and year out, trying to make progress in this area. Cynthia Callard and Neil Collishaw, who are with Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, have to be given credit for much of the work that is being done today. I want to mention Louis Gauvin with the Coalition québécoise pour le contrôle du tabac, Rob Cunningham, Canadian Cancer Society, Garfield Mahood and Melodie Tilson, with the Non-Smokers' Rights Association, Trevor Haché, Smoking and Health Action Foundation, Raphael Jacob, Tobacco Control Accountability Initiative, the Ontario Medical Association and the Canadian Council for Tobacco Control. Let me also mention the Manitoba Tobacco Reduction Alliance, and there are many more groups, organizations and individuals, who have worked long and hard on this issue and whose advice we count on and must be taken seriously.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Bramalea—Gore—Malton.

Today I rise to speak to Bill C-32, for a cause that is near and dear to me, both as a former health professor but also as a coach and judge, namely, reducing tobacco use among Canadians and particularly among our youth. Today, over 125 countries grow tobacco on four million hectares of land. The global crop is worth about $220 billion per year, with five trillion cigarettes rolling off the assembly lines annually.

Not surprisingly, tobacco consumption is increasing and it may kill over eight million people a year by 2020 in the absence of drastic controls. Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, 60 of them known or suspected carcinogens, such as arsenic, DDT and methanol. Adults who smoke risk heart disease, lung cancer, nasal sinus cancer and respiratory disease. Even light smokers risk their health. For example, a 2005 British Medical Journal study showed that smoking only one to four cigarettes per day was associated with a significantly higher risk of dying from heart disease.

Studies show substantially higher levels of lung cancer among people who work in bars, restaurants and other smoke-filled environments. Exposure to second-hand smoke also increases the risk of breast cancer, cervical cancer, miscarriage and stroke. Children who are exposed to second-hand smoke are at an increased risk of asthma induction and exacerbation, bronchitis, low birth weight, pneumonia and sudden infant death syndrome. Over 1,000 and possibly as many as 7,800 Canadians are thought to die from second-hand smoke each year.

Most smokers begin smoking in childhood or early adolescence. Ninety per cent smoke before the age of 18. Early starters are more likely to become addicted daily smokers. Partly because the tobacco industry targets adolescents, 82,000 to 99,000 young people start smoking every day. Gro Harlem Brundtland, then director-general of the World Health Organization, angrily spoke out:

That is no freedom of choice! Civilized nations protect their people under 18--they don't let them play around with a product which statistically kills one out of two of its permanent users.

Fifty per cent of young people who continue to smoke will die from tobacco related causes. Smoking causes 90% of lung cancers and 75% of bronchitis and emphysema. On average, tobacco kills 560 people every hour, 13,000 per day or 4.9 million per year. The World Health Organization reports that not a single country fully implements all key tobacco control measures. As a result, the World Health Organization outlines six MPOWER strategies that governments can adopt to prevent tens of millions of premature smoking deaths by the middle of this century.

The six MPOWER strategies are: monitor tobacco use and prevention policies; protect people from tobacco smoke; offer help to quit tobacco use; warn about the dangers of tobacco; enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; and raise taxes on tobacco. In Canada, between 63% and 79% of the price of a package of cigarettes is tax. In comparison, the tax on cigarettes in New York is 38%. Unfortunately, governments around the world collect 500 times more money in tobacco taxes each year than they spend on anti-tobacco efforts.

The Canadian government has initiated many programs to try to lower rates of smoking in Canada. These include: encouraging Canadians to support smoke-free living; increasing product pricing through taxation; informing Canadians about the health effects of smoking and second-hand smoke; providing programs to support those who choose to quit smoking; reducing access to tobacco products by minors; and restricting tobacco product advertising and promotion.

Tobacco is a communicated disease, communicated through advertising which appeals to the psychological needs of adolescents, and sponsorship.

Many of Canada's leading cigarette brands are now sold in packs that imitate BlackBerries, cell phones and mp3 players. Making tobacco products look like everyday objects minimizes the harm associated with tobacco use and makes them socially desirable and trendy.

A 2002 study showed that tobacco companies use cigarette packaging as an integral component of marketing strategy and a vehicle for creating significant in-store presence and communicating brand image. Market testing results indicate that such imagery is so strong as to influence smokers' taste ratings of the same cigarettes when packaged differently.

I am pleased to support this bill and am encouraged that it is receiving strong support from anti-smoking and health groups. Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst at the Canadian Cancer Society, said, “We are hopeful that MPs will adopt this bill quickly. It is a very important gain for us”.

The bill bans flavoured cigarettes and cigarillos. One-third of youth and close to half of all young adults have tried cigarillos with flavours such as chocolate mint, peach, strawberry and vanilla. These products have as much or more nicotine as cigarettes, and are just as likely to trap young people into a deadly smoking addiction. They are also the fastest growing tobacco product on the Canadian market, with 53 million sold in 2001 and 400 million in 2007.

The bill will also ban tobacco companies from advertising in print publications, repealing an exception that currently allows advertising in publications with an adult readership of at least 85%.

If the bill is passed, the revised Tobacco Act would leave tobacco companies with only two possible ways to advertise: on signs in places where minors are prohibited and in publications that are delivered by mail to an adult.

It is my hope that the time has to come for sustained funding and political support. A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health examined state tobacco prevention and cessation funding levels from 1995 to 2003 and found that the more states spent on these programs, the larger the declines they achieved in adult smoking. The researchers also calculated that if every state had funded its program at the levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control during the period, there would have been between two million and seven million fewer smokers in the United States.

It is also my hope that the government will engage high level opinion leaders and high profile champions to help achieve the significant health and economic benefits of a reduction in tobacco use.

We must be vigilant in identifying and raising awareness about all new forms of tobacco products which industry continues to develop.

We must recognize that the tobacco industry obstructs effective tobacco control measures and continues to promote tobacco products through all possible means, including the entertainment industry, as traditional marketing is becoming more and more limited due to the ratification by 164 countries of the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Considerable research has suggested that youth are influenced to smoke by positive smoking portrayals in the movies, with celebrities serving as role models. A recent study in fact suggests that exposure to smoking portrayals in the media may be very important in prompting initiation among adolescents, whereas tobacco marketing may exert a specific influence on their progression to established smoking.

What steps will the government take to snuff out contraband tobacco, which accounts for 49% of cigarettes smoked in Canada, menthol cigarettes and smokeless tobacco?

Finally, when the next product emerges, and it will, let us take immediate steps to snuff it out.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Gurbax Malhi Liberal Bramalea—Gore—Malton, ON

Mr. Speaker, May 31 was World No Tobacco Day.

It is only fitting in light of the efforts of so many anti-smoking groups that we have this debate today on ways to prevent young people from becoming addicted to a product that kills thousands of Canadians every year.

I am proud to rise today and speak to proposed legislation that would amend the Tobacco Act and assist in protecting our young people from tobacco addictions while encouraging the tobacco industry to amend its marketing practices.

Recently I rose in this House to support a petition signed by several hundred of my constituents demanding that this Parliament take immediate action in amending the Tobacco Act. The petitioners were asking for changes to limit and restrict the marketing of tobacco products to minors.

Studies show that increased exposure to tobacco advertising has a significant impact on the decision by young people to start smoking or using tobacco products. We also know that 85% of all regular smokers started smoking before the age of 18.

It is fair to say that advertising and marketing efforts aimed at young people have been a contributor to the rising number of young people using tobacco products.

Recent research has shown us that following a reduction in tobacco advertising there has been a decrease in the number of young people who smoke. However, simply putting further restrictions on the advertising and marketing of tobacco products to young people will only go so far.

We know that tobacco use is responsible for killing approximately 37,000 Canadians every year.

The Liberal Party is supportive of this bill in principle. We believe this bill is a step in the right direction to protect Canadians, and youth in particular, from tobacco marketing.

Our position is that tobacco should not be marketed to young people and should not be advertised in any publications that could be viewed by those under 18 years of age.

We have seen an increased number of tobacco ads in daily newspapers and free entertainment weeklies that are more likely to be read by young people. We believe that prohibiting advertising in all types of magazines and newspapers, regardless of their readership, is a necessary first step.

This bill would ensure that all Canadians, and youth in particular, would not be exposed to tobacco sales pitches. The limiting of advertising is a start, but I wonder if the government has considered the other factors at work here.

For example, some of the current marketing practices include using various flavours and additives that would make tobacco products more appealing to children and youth. We are seeing a growing number of tobacco products, ranging from mini cigars to blunt wraps, sheets or tubes of tobacco, that are available in flavours like grape, cherry, peach, banana-split and even tropical punch. We are also seeing tobacco companies include various additives such as vitamins, sugar and others that taste like candy to help mask the harshness of the tobacco and make it appeal to children and youth.

We are now aware of research findings from various sources, including documents from the tobacco companies themselves that show the addition of fruit and candy flavours to tobacco products makes them more appealing to young and new users. For the tobacco industry, this dramatically increases the appeal for young people to give tobacco a try.

Young people today are aware that cigarettes and tobacco products are highly addictive, and tobacco companies know this. Therefore, they must find new and innovative ways for young people to try them, despite being aware of the dangers. By adding flavours or other additives to increase the appeal of tobacco, it would seem that the tobacco industry is trying to increase the “try factor” and increase sales.

This brings me to my next point. Recent data shows that wholesale sales of little cigars has increased from 53 million units in 2001 to 403 million units in 2007, making them the fastest growing tobacco product on the Canadian market. This is quite alarming and needs to be addressed.

The availability of little cigars and blunt wraps in single or small quantities is one of the contributing factors. Unlike cigarettes, that must be sold in packages of 20, little cigars and blunt wraps are often sold individually and priced for as little as a dollar.

It is important to regulate the industry to create minimum quantities of tobacco products, so that the opportunity to price them low and make them more available to youth is no longer an option.

Bill C-32 would amend the Tobacco Act to extend a minimum quantity provision that exists for cigarettes and apply this to little cigars and blunt wraps, requiring them to be packaged in quantities of at least 20. We agree this change would limit or end the industry practice of selling these products in single or small quantities that are often more accessible and attractive to youth.

My next point is that the bill currently fails to address the concerns of contraband tobacco, which is an important source of supply for youth who decide to start smoking or using tobacco products and acquire them through illegal channels. The primary concern is that contraband tobacco products are cheap and easily accessible, and the bill does not address this issue.

There is a direct correlation between the rise in contraband consumption and the change of government in 2006. We had a strategy in place and a multi-pronged approach to deal with the problem. It appears the government has let the rate of contraband consumption grow to almost 33% nationally, 40% in Quebec and almost 50% in Ontario.

The Liberal health critic and my colleague from Etobicoke North have made very strong statements about this issue in the past. This legislation would be effective in limiting the sale and manufacture of specific types of tobacco in Canada, but in order to effectively reduce the consumption of tobacco by children, the legislation completely misses one primary point.

Kids are not able to purchase legal product and for them to access legal products, someone else must be breaking the law. As such, the legislation will have no impact on one very real problem. It is a well established fact that most teenagers gain access to tobacco from the illegal industry.

The issue of contraband tobacco sales affects several departments including Revenue, Public Safety, Justice, Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Health, Finance and Intergovernmental Affairs.

In making amendments to the Tobacco Act, it should be noted that the bill is a reasonable starting point but must include measures that control accessibility as well as enticement through clever marketing activities.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this debate. It is an important subject and one that has touched all members. We also realize the extent to which the evidence is now in very clearly and emphatically with respect to the impact of tobacco on health.

I remember the first meeting I held of the premier's health council in 1990 and asking members around the table what was the one single thing I could do as premier to improve the public health of the province. The answer was simply to deal with the question of tobacco. If we can reduce tobacco consumption, access to tobacco by minors, the extent to which kids get hooked and the usage, then we have made progress.

We have made progress, both federally and provincially. We have done a lot to deal with the challenge, but we have two particular problems that we have to continue to deal with. This bill deals with one of them but it does not deal with the second one.

The first problem is the fact that, try as we may, we cannot convince the tobacco companies to get it. Unfortunately, we keep having to go back to the well each and every time to remind tobacco companies that they are dealing with a product which is bad for human health. It causes cancer and heart disease. It affects the health of each and every one of us and is something which needs to be dealt with in a most emphatic way.

This bill, in its own way, is intended to deal with tobacco companies directly luring young people into the consumption of alcohol. It is truly deplorable that tobacco companies are back at it again and we have to revisit this question. We should simply tell them this door is going to close and keep on closing, that no matter how inventive they may try to be, we as parliamentarians are not going to do anything that will permit the sale and smoking of tobacco to be more attractive to people. We are simply not going to permit it or allow it to happen.

Liberals are fully supportive of the legislation. Mr. Speaker, I know you are about to stand and see the clock, but before you do, I want to introduce my next topic, and that is the question of price. The big issue which continues to affect the consumption of tobacco is price.

We can do all we want on ads, we can do all we want with respect to packaging, and we can do all we want with respect to the issues which have been raised by the government. It is an important step and I am not minimizing what is being proposed, but until we deal with the critical issues of price and contraband, we will not be dealing with the fact that there are still people selling green garbage bags full of cigarettes in the yards of our schools and giving kids--

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. The hon. member for Toronto Centre will have 16 and a half minutes remaining the next time this bill is before the House.

It being 5:30 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 March 31 consideration of the motion that Bill C-307, An Act to amend the Official Languages Act (Charter of the French Language) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Official Languages ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Resuming debate.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice has seven minutes to finish his remarks.

Official Languages ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles Québec


Daniel Petit ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me today to continue the speech I started last March 31 on Bill C-307, An Act to amend the Official Languages Act (Charter of the French Language) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

A new Official Languages Act came into force in 1988 to reflect and implement the provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The 1988 act reflected three major objectives of the Government of Canada. The government wanted to ensure respect for English and French as the official languages of Canada and also ensure equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in federal institutions. The legislation reflected a desire to support the development of minority francophone and anglophone communities and foster progress toward the equal status and use of both English and French in Canadian society. It also specified the powers, obligations and roles of federal institutions in regard to the official languages.

This new law contained provisions as well in part VII on the promotion of English and French, which were strengthened by an amendment in 2005. This amendment reminded federal institutions of their responsibility to take positive action to support the development of official language communities and promote the full recognition and use of English and French in Canadian society. It is also very important that part VII of the act can now be used to take legal action before the appropriate authorities.

I want to remind the House that our caucus was unanimously in favour of this change. That helped the amendment enhancing the vitality of the English and French linguistic minority communities and supporting their development to pass. These changes to the law strengthened Canada’s linguistic legislation. We were motivated then, and still are, by our conviction that federal institutions should assume their responsibilities and lead the way when it comes to promoting our official languages and linguistic duality throughout the country.

This description of the milestones in the recognition of French over the last few decades helps to show that a consensus exists in Canada on the official languages. Linguistic duality is an essential part of the Canadian identity and a tremendous benefit for all of society. Our government is very much in favour of this linguistic regime.

The provisions relating to linguistic duality do not contradict the charter of the French language, as some say. The charter of the French language applies fully in areas of provincial jurisdiction.

As regards the language used by the public, it is generally French in the province of Quebec and on the island of Montreal. In all, 94.5% of the population of Quebec know French. It is also in this province that anglophones have the greatest mastery of French, with 69% of them speaking it. Of the allophones, 50% speak both French and English along with another language. We may readily suppose that they use French regularly.

In our global economy and in a difficult economic climate, it is agreed that knowledge of a number of languages is an advantage. For individuals, it means enrichment, opening the door to whole cultural worlds. The ability to speak a number of languages also means greater employment opportunities, a benefit recognized by parents in Quebec, over 80% of whom want their children to learn at least the other official language, if not a third language.

Our government remains firmly committed to promoting and supporting the economic and social benefits our linguistic duality represents. Our government reiterated this support when it announced the Roadmap for Canada’s Linguistic Duality 2008-2013: Acting for the Future in June 2008. The roadmap consolidates, adapts and modernizes the government's actions with respect to official languages in order to ensure they produce real results.

Of course, Canadians and their government have come a considerable way in recent decades. Our government wants to focus on the considerable successes and progress in linguistic duality in order to take advantage of the growing mobilization of all players.

The roadmap defines the Government of Canada's comprehensive approach in official languages, while outlining our objectives and strategies. There were originally thirteen federal departments and agencies involved.

Since then, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs has joined the group in order to meet the needs of communities in the territories. So now there are 14 departments working to implement the roadmap and our investment of $1.1 billion.

We want as many Canadians as possible to have the opportunity to appreciate the French language and culture, an essential component of our country's character and identity. Major investments are made annually to this end.

By way of example, our government recently announced the details of the national translation program for book publishing. This program will help Canadian publishers translate Canadian-authored books into English and French. With this program, we want to give as many Canadians as possible access to the enormous wealth of our country's culture and literature.

The Official Languages Act celebrates 40 years this year. This anniversary is a real landmark in our history, since the Official Languages Act was an excellent initiative to affirm the rights of Canadians and give them new opportunities. This enshrined linguistic duality is now at the heart of Canada's identity.

Let us then use this 40th anniversary to make Canadians aware of the benefits of having two world-class official languages and make sure that this linguistic duality is a source of pride throughout the country.

Official Languages ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak on this bill, which I will be voting against.

History is repeating itself in this House. In 2008, the Bloc Québécois introduced a motion in this House, which read as follows:

That, in the opinion of the House, following the recognition of the Quebec nation by this House, the government should move from words to deeds and propose measures to solidify that recognition, including compliance with the language of labour relations of Quebec's Charter of the French language regarding enterprises under federal jurisdiction located in Quebec.

That was in 2008. Now we have Bill C-307, which is far broader than the motion I have just read. As a federalist, a Canadian and a friend of the Official Languages Act, I am opposed to many aspects of Bill C-307.

There are four major points in this bill that are of great concern to me. First, it implies that the French language is in decline in Quebec. Second, there is the matter of what goes on in federally regulated institutions in Quebec. Third, are they thinking about the anglophone minority population of Quebec? Fourth, and most important to me as a representative of the Acadian people, of the French speaking people in a country with linguistic duality, there is the Official Languages Act.

Should this bill become the law of the land, what would happen to the francophone minority Acadian populations in New Brunswick, in Nova Scotia, in Prince Edward Island? What will happen to the French speaking minority populations in Saint-Boniface, Manitoba, for instance? To the francophones on the Ontario side of the Ottawa River? To the people who attend the Collège Saint-Jean d'Edmonton in Alberta? What will happen to the people of Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan?

When I sat on this Parliament's Standing Committee on Official Languages, I was amazed to learn that there were 50,000 francophones in Vancouver, B.C. What would happen to them if Bill C-307 were adopted? This worries me somewhat.

In her speech, my friend and colleague from LaSalle—Émard said that the Bloc clearly lacked solidarity with the Canadian Francophonie, and in this case, that is true. It is true because this bill would be very problematic for Acadians, for example.

If all federal institutions were to be subject to Quebec's Charter of the French Language, then why not have a Charter of the English Language in other provinces with minority francophone populations?

Why could we not then have an English language charter in a province where there is a francophone minority? What if, in the province of New Brunswick, a government said that the province shall have an English language charter and that English shall be the language of all federal institutions in the province of New Brunswick?

In the history of New Brunswick, there have been riots over political events, hockey victories and defeats, and over quotas for fisheries in parts of our province. One would never see a riot such as there would be if such a law were brought into the province of New Brunswick. It is because I live in a country that respects two languages, two languages under the Official Languages Act that are of equal value and merit, that I so strongly oppose this bill.

The Bloc has falsely stated that the French language is undergoing a catastrophic decline in Quebec. However, the 2006 census and the report of the Office québécois de la langue française, both published in 2008, suggest otherwise. It is not true that the French language is undergoing a catastrophic decline in Quebec. In Quebec, the French language is alive and well, and Quebec's culture is alive and well, thanks in part to the presence of federal institutions that protect the country's two official languages.

It is important to note that Statistics Canada says that the number of people who speak French as their mother tongue increased 1.6% between 2001 and 2006. There have been other increases in the quality and number of French speakers throughout this country. Evidence that bilingualism is one of Canada's core values is so evident in surveys conducted on Canadians by Canadians. It is the very essence of what we are as Canadians.

I want to move on to the question of what happens to federal companies and institutions that are situated in the province of Quebec. In the past, words have been used against the Official Languages Act. The real meaning of what a federal institution is or what a federal company is has come into play throughout this debate. The bill's main result would see that the Canada Labour Code would be amended so that companies operating in Quebec but under federal jurisdiction would be subject to la Charte de la langue française, a provincial charter.

The Bloc is trying to impose la Charte de la langue française on companies under federal jurisdiction under what it would call a regulatory vacuum. Clause 34 in part 5 of the Official Languages Act states:

English and French are the languages of work in all federal institutions, and officers and employees of all federal institutions have the right to use either official language in accordance with this Part.

What is meant by that is that Canada is a bilingual country. We have the protection of the Official Languages Act. The party on this side has always stood for the core value that we are a bilingual country protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Official Languages Act. It has not always been the case that all parties in this place have thought of the country this way. We think it is a core value and we think it is worth fighting for.

We must stop this bill so that we will not see any riots in any parts of New Brunswick or other provinces in Canada over something as fundamental as taking away the guarantee of bilingual rights in our great country.

Official Languages ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to this private member's bill. I must say that, in the House, I have been very critical of the Bloc in the past. Its option is not at all in the interest of the francophone presence in North America. Indeed, the Bloc's approach has often left Quebec less united around a blueprint for society shared by progressives in Canada. In this case, I find it perfectly normal to have a bill that ensures French may be used in the workplace.

The NDP supports this bill, and it is quite simple. As a federalist party, we say it is important to acknowledge the French fact in Quebec. It is important, as we have done in Parliament, to recognize the Quebec nation. And in Quebec, people should be able to use French in the workplace.

I lived in Quebec for 14 years and am very proud of that. At the start of my life in Quebec, I was a unilingual anglophone. However, I always had access to services in my mother tongue, regardless of where I was in Quebec, be it in the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region, in metropolitan Quebec City, in the Eastern Townships, in Montreal, in the greater Montreal area or even in the Outaouais. In all these areas, I had access to services in my mother tongue. That is important. It is an important but little known aspect of Quebec. Often, people speak more of what is missing in the anglophone community. It is true that the services could be improved, especially in the health care and social services network, but still the availability of services is very important.

I then returned to the province where I was born, British Columbia, which is home. I adore this province. There is an ever-growing francophone presence there. Some cities even qualify as bilingual according to the Official Languages Act. The francophone presence is increasing not only in absolute numbers but also as a percentage of the population. That is important. Unlike the process of assimilation feared in some provinces, we have this francophone presence in British Columbia.

I am proud that it was an NDP government that brought about the establishment of a whole educational network in French in British Columbia. There are dozens and dozens of schools now. They welcome francophones of all origins, not only francophones from Quebec, Acadie or western Canada. People talk about a sort of rainbow francophonie, which comprises francophones from Africa, Europe, Asia and all the former French colonies, from all countries using French. All these people live in greater Vancouver. Now, people have access to this school system established by a New Democrat government. That said, there remains work to be done in British Columbia.

However, I cannot imagine a situation in which people would not have the right and opportunity, in their workplace, to communicate with their employer and access information in English. That is exactly what Bill C-307 is doing for French. It means that francophones in Quebec, in their workplace, can access information and read their collective agreement in French, in the ordinary course of things, and ensure that they have full rights in their workplace in French. That is perfectly reasonable. It is not surprising, and it is nothing out of the ordinary. It is perfectly reasonable.

Some may say that this is already the case in Quebec, that people can work in French and people who live in French in Quebec have no problem working in French. Certainly, in some cases, companies under federal jurisdiction have arranged for people to be able to work in French in their workplaces. But it is not the case in every situation.

That is why this bill has been introduced. What it is intended to do is to require that companies under federal law, be they Canadian or foreign, allow their employees to work in French. That is nothing out of the ordinary; it is perfectly reasonable. Canadians think that a measure that allows people to work in French in a francophone community is fair. That is also why the Quebec nation was recognized in Parliament, so that people could work in their own language, as I am allowed to work in my own language in British Columbia.

The question is how this bill will affect the Official Languages Act. The problem is that at present, the Conservative government, like the previous Liberal government, is not enforcing the laws already in place. The Commissioner of Official Languages reminds us every year that we still have a long way to go before all of the symbolic measures in the Official Languages Act become part of everyday reality. People need to be able to access services in French and English, regardless of where they live in Canada, where numbers warrant. We are engaged in a project that we must continually improve. There are still problems to be solved with the existing legislation, so that reality reflects what is written in the law.

Because there is still work to be done, I believe it is important for members from all four parties to work together to ensure that an anglophone can feel as much at home in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, and a francophone can feel as much at home on Vancouver Island, in northern Saskatchewan or elsewhere in Canada, as I felt in the Kingdom of the Saguenay 20 years ago.

The NDP has always been active in this issue. I mentioned British Columbia a minute ago. It was a New Democrat government that established the francophone school system in that province. And not just in British Columbia—it was the NDP government that established the francophone school system in Saskatchewan as well. It was also a New Democrat government in Manitoba that made sure that Franco-Manitobans there have more rights now. In Yukon, it was again a New Democrat government that brought in the Official Languages Act to give the French language status. The New Democrat government of Ontario was also a good government, although it was unfortunately led by a Liberal. Nonetheless, it established a French-language college system in Ontario.

What about the government? It has to put its money where its mouth is to advance the cause of francophones and of language equality in Canada. That is why we support this bill.

Official Languages ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am sure that you will agree with me, or at least you will do after my speech, in my support of Bill C-307. This bill amends the Official Languages Act to recognize that the Charter of the French Language has precedence in Quebec.

In November 2006 in this House, all the members of the Bloc Québécois, all the members of the Conservative Party, all the members of the New Democratic Party, and almost all the Liberal members, except for 16, recognized the Quebec nation for the first time in history in the House of Commons, as it had been recognized on many occasions in the National Assembly of Quebec.

Once it has been said and recognized that Quebec is a nation, Quebec is entitled to the tools that determine, define and guarantee its long-term survival. The Quebec nation makes up about two percent of the population of North America. It is a nation whose ethnolinguistic critical mass is French-speaking. The common public language in Quebec is French. However French finds itself in an anglophone ocean, comprised of Canada as well as the United States of America.

I was listening to my colleague from Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, the former mayor of Moncton, asking why the other provinces should not protect their English language. Apart from New Brunswick, all the other provinces are de facto anglophone. English is not in danger of disappearing in North America. The history of the Quebec nation is a perpetual struggle to ensure that the French fact is firmly established even in its home, which is Quebec.

We have lived through extremely difficult times in the history of Quebec. One need only think of the struggle of the Patriotes, in 1837 and 1838, when the Lower Canadians of the time melted down their forks to make bullets to fight the British empire, the largest empire of the era. We know the outcome. We were given the recipe for democracy, but not democracy itself. They wanted to take that democracy from us.

In 1848, eight years after Lord Durham’s affront in saying that we had to be assimilated—that everything to do with the French language in the British empire in North America had to be assimilated—we rose up in opposition. The purpose of the Act of Union of 1840 was to assimilate us, that is, to bring about our ethnolinguistic disappearance as a nation and make us a pale reflection of the dominant culture by stripping us of all rights to maintain our cultural identity. The French fact was in danger.

In 1848, Lord Elgin agreed to democracy once he realized that more immigrants could settle in the French part of North America, ensuring the ever-increasing demographic submergence of the French fact. In 1848, what is now francophone Quebec was bigger in numbers, but had to have the same number of members of Parliament as Canada West, which was Ontario. And yet there were more of us and we should have had more MPs.

When they saw we were becoming a minority—and this was the Canada of today in embryo form—they applied the principle of representation by population because it made it easier to assimilate us. So that is Canada.

If Quebec does not take charge of its future, does not defend itself with legislation ensuring the survival of its language and culture, no one else will do it. English Canada is even going to make sure it crushes us. It did so in New Brunswick by abolishing French schools in 1873. It did so in Manitoba by abolishing French schools in 1890. It was only in 1979, thanks to a court challenge by George Forest, that Manitoba was able to recover its credentials as a francophone province, as it was in 1870 with Louis Riel. The Conservatives of the day in the House found a way to hang Riel, in large part because he was a defender of the French fact in western Canada. He defended his Métis brothers and his francophone brothers.

In my home province of Ontario, French schools were abolished in 1912. In 1893, French schools were banned in Saskatchewan, part of the Northwest Territories at the time. This was repeated in 1931 and in 1988, the government of Grant Devine, known well to some in this House as a colleague in their province, even abolished services in French. This has happened three times in history. Now imagine what would happen if Quebec abolished English schools. Not that I want that to happen, but if it did, tanks would be sent into Quebec rather than Afghanistan. They respect neither Quebeckers nor the French language. For Canada, we are a people to be assimilated bit by bit.

Quebec has risen. The perpetuity of the French fact is up to Quebeckers alone. The purpose of Bill C-307 is to ensure that my colleagues, my fellow working men and women of Quebec, will be able to work in their French language in areas under federal jurisdiction. A bill must be introduced to defend ourselves. It is being turned down here. This is one more piece of evidence that, with the exception of the NDP, when they agree to recognize the Quebec nation, it is nothing but a smokescreen, a smoke and mirrors trick. Once again, this shows Canada's lack of respect for Quebec.

I am a Franco-Ontarian who has lived in Saskatchewan. I went to Saskatchewan to fight for French schools that were abolished in 1931. They were reinstated in 1995. For 64 years, there were no French schools, and then we went from 63 to 8 French schools. Even today the rate of assimilation among youth 15 to 25 years of age is more than 85% in this province. Why? Because the institutions that would ensure the survival of the French fact were abolished.

Quebec is in the minority in North America. Quebec must protect itself against Canada. I heard the members for LaSalle—Émard, Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe and the Conservative member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles say that there is no respect for French-language minorities. Quebec is entitled to its vision of society. Those people are afraid of Canada. They say that if Quebec were to become sovereign, they would no longer have the critical mass to protect themselves. Quebec has been there for four centuries. That did not prevent the federal government from closing its eyes when the provinces abolished our schools, our French services, hung our Patriotes and hung Louis Riel. That is Canada's attitude towards the French fact.

Bill C-307seeks to protect my Quebec colleagues, to allow them to work in their language and to ensure that the French culture and language will be part of all aspects of daily life.

We do not want Quebec to suffer the same fate visited on my brothers and sisters in predominantly English provinces by English Canada.

Official Languages ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Royal Galipeau Conservative Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, as part of this debate on Bill C-307, if I may, I would like to speak to my colleagues about how important the influence of the French language in Canada and the world is to the government, and what the Canadian government is doing in this respect.

I would first like to say that, if this bill passes, its enforcement would set a major precedent in the history of Canada. Certain provinces could simply enforce restrictive language laws within their borders, laws that would probably not promote the use of French, my mother tongue, in circumstance in which that language is the minority.

Once again trapped by their own secessionist ideology, the members of the third party are thinking only of their own parochial interests, while completely disregarding those of francophones in minority communities in every part of this country.

Canada's official languages policy and the status that it confers on the French language are part of the very nature of our country. This policy is a reflection of the desire of English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians in every corner of the country to live together and is a sort of social contract between our two major linguistic communities. The government that I support in the House strongly defends these founding principles of Canada.

Since the beginning of the Canadian federation 142 years ago, linguistic duality has been one of the foundations of our country and is of ever greater benefit to this country and its citizens. My Quebec cousins join me in supporting this linguistic duality.

The government that I support in this House is firmly committed to supporting our official languages and the promotion of English and French, both in Quebec and in the rest of Canada. Its Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality 2008-2013: Acting for the Future is clear proof of that commitment.

First of all, as the Prime Minister has said on many occasions, we cannot forget that Canada was French before it was English, when it was founded 400 years ago.

French was spoken on both sides of the Ottawa River before Molière was even born. Samuel de Champlain travelled very close to here on June 4, 396 years ago. That is the day he baptized the Rideau Falls and the Chaudière Falls. Even better than the language of Molière, the language of Rabelais is at the heart of Canada, its history and my identity.

As it says in Psalm 72, verse 8, A Mari usque ad Mare. D'un océan à l'autre. From sea to sea.

Last October, the 12th Sommet de la francophonie took place in Quebec City. Our government was very pleased to have the opportunity to work with Quebec in strengthening the presence of the French language and culture internationally.

That summit provided Canada with a unique opportunity to promote a strong and diversified Canadian francophonie. The event brought together on Canadian soil the heads of state and of government of all the countries of the Francophonie.

I remember; je me souviens.

Canada is a beacon as far as supporting the dissemination and promotion of the French language are concerned. Moreover, we made the effort to ensure that francophones from all parts of Canada had a presence in the activities surrounding the summit.

The lasting support of the summit shows how committed this government is to ensuring not only that Canada's francophone aspect is fully represented on the international stage, but also that Canada as a whole benefits from the fantastic advantages of having French as one of its official languages.

Spoken by more than 200 million people, French is an official language in 29 countries. Canada is very aware of the importance of its French fact and is determined to help it shine on the international stage. Canada was one of the first countries, therefore, to promote the Francophonie by participating actively in the creation and development of its numerous institutions.

The Government of Canada is the second largest provider of funds after France, with a contribution of more than $40 million a year for the International Organization of the Francophonie and francophone institutions.

I must also point out that the Francophonie was a major contributor to the adoption of a convention by the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture—UNESCO—to make cultural diversity an inescapable frame of reference. As we know, this convention formally recognizes, in international law, the fact that cultural goods are different from other goods.

That is why the Canadian government wants to work to promote the French language in the context of a unifying, inclusive and respectful vision of all the francophone realities of our country.

Our approach aims to create a francophone space to connect the francophones of Quebec and those from minority communities , as well as francophiles from every cultural origin. There are a number of ways to achieve this, but the cultural sector is definitely a preferred option in this respect.

We know, of course, that Canada's arts and culture policies generously support the cultural development of French-speaking Canadians in Quebec and everywhere in Canada. That is how we support the distribution of Canadian cultural products to foster a better understanding of French language artistic and cultural production from across the country.

This can help create closer ties between francophones in Quebec and their cousins in minority communities and between the country's francophones and francophiles.

Heightened visibility of French also makes all Canadians more aware of our country's linguistic duality.

So whether the purpose is to strengthen the French fact at the international level or within the country, the Government of Canada and the governments of Quebec, New Brunswick, Ontario and the other provinces are going to have to work together increasingly closely to strengthen ties between francophones and francophiles here and elsewhere, to promote the establishment of sound partnerships, and to generate concerted and effective measures, which means ensuring that their respective actions complement each other.

I have just given a few examples of the federal government's broad support for the French language and its vitality in Canada, including in Quebec and abroad.

The government's support and initiatives have taken place within the current language policy framework, which proves that the equality of status of the two official languages in no way prevents the federal government from working hard to strengthen the French fact in Canada.

The supporters of Bill C-307 have completely failed to demonstrate how Canada's linguistic regime represents a barrier to the full use of French in Quebec and why it would be necessary to make the proposed legislative amendments to secure the future of French in that province.

Consequently, the government considers Bill C-307 unwarranted, and we will oppose its passage.

Business of the HousePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Prince George—Peace River B.C.


Jay Hill ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, my apologies for interrupting the debate but there have been consultations and discussions between all parties and I think if you were to seek it you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, on Wednesday, June 3, Statements by Ministers, pursuant to Standing Order 33, shall take place at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions followed by a moment of silence; any recorded division previously deferred to Wednesday, June 3, shall be taken up at the end of the moment of silence provided that the time taken for the ministerial statement and the deferred recorded divisions shall be added to the time provided for Government Orders; and, notwithstanding Standing Order 30(7), Private Members' Business shall begin no later than 7:00 p.m.