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House of Commons Hansard #82 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was security.

Topics

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, October 20, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

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

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Madam Speaker, I am rising to continue discussion based on a question that I posed in the House on May 25 that had to do with the potential of oil spills on our coast. I asked the government whether it would support a tanker ban on the Pacific north coast inland waters, given that a tanker spill could be four times more catastrophic than the Alaskan coast spill by the Exxon Valdez in 1989.

The answer given was that there is a moratorium in British Columbia and no tankers are allowed into the inside passage, but I subsequently got a different answer from a different minister a few minutes later, in which the government representative said that the government has no plans to open the 1988 exclusion zone on tankers travelling between Alaska and Washington and this is, of course, in the external waters.

Following a period in which government representatives were not willing to give a clear stand on protecting our inland coastal waters of British Columbia, the Liberal Party of Canada took a clear and decisive stand to formalize this historic ban through legislation. This is a ban that had been in place through policy for 40 years through five different governments of different parties.

In addition to committing to legislate a formal ban to get past the confusion that the government ranks were sowing on this issue, the Liberal leader also committed to put an offshore oil spill plan in place, to ensure the best emergency safety measures are part of the cost of doing business for offshore drilling where it occurs, to uphold the moratorium on offshore drilling off the coast of British Columbia and to put in place a moratorium on further leases in the Arctic pending a complete examination of the risks related to petroleum activity in the north.

This is because of the Liberal Party of Canada's strong commitment to safe and healthy economic activities and a safe and healthy environment.

Talking a bit about the economy, this tanker ban on the west coast and the inland waters around Haida Gwaii is about having a sustainable economic development. The first nations throughout that coastal area are united in saying that it is not worth the risk of an oil spill. They are fully involved in the economy of the coast, in fisheries, tourism and other activities, which provide 46,000 jobs, which depend on a healthy environment. In fact that is a hundred times the projected number of permanent B.C. jobs that the proposed pipeline, which would require tanker traffic, would provide for British Columbians.

Formalizing this ban, protecting the coast from a risk that is not worth taking, is a sound economic and environmental policy as well as a social policy for coastal British Colombia.

The benefits of bringing a pipeline to Kitimat and requiring more than 200 tankers in those inland waters are negligible simply because the Alberta oil producers already cannot keep up with the demand from the United States and that demand—

6:35 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport.

6:35 p.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member's question, again on the same issue, but I understand that she is looking for more information.

As members know, oil tankers have been trading safely and regularly along British Columbia's coast for many years. British Columbia's coast includes a voluntary tanker exclusion zone that applies to loaded oil tankers moving between Alaska and the west coast of the United States which protects the coastline from potential spills.

We have a rigorous policy in place and regulations and legislation to protect exactly what the member is speaking about.

I do want her to know, however, that 250,000 jobs across this country rely on that oil and companies are trying to find another route to transport that oil. Some 500,000 jobs in the future will be dependent on the very oil that she speaks of.

Oil is very important to Canada's economy, especially having regard to what is happening in Ontario with the auto workers and in Quebec with manufacturing. Some 40% of these jobs are located in those two provinces, so it is a very important access point for Canada and for Canadian jobs.

The zone that is currently in place was mutually agreed to by Canada and the United States working together co-operatively to come up with a system that was designed to keep these tankers at a safe distance from shore so that if a loaded tanker, for instance, becomes disabled, there would be sufficient time for a salvage tug to come in and actually move that tanker and keep it at a safe distance from shore or anything that would cause problems with that tanker.

While it is a voluntary zone, this is a situation where the industry observes it to the letter of the law. In addition, the Pacific Pilotage Authority has five compulsory pilotage areas in the region. This means that certified pilots must be used for vessels in those particular areas. Over the last 10 years, I am glad to report to the House and all Canadians, there have been no pilot related oil spills and, further, the authority has been handling crude oil tankers of all sizes through Second Narrows Bridge in Vancouver Harbour and Haro Strait for many years without any incident whatsoever.

These waterways actually present more navigation difficulty than do the waters leading, for instance, as the member says, to Kitimat. In fact, during the last five years 1,302 tankers arrived at the Port of Vancouver and 187 tankers arrived at the Ports of Prince Rupert and Kitimat, no small feat. These tankers are huge but they are safe.

In fact, Transport Canada is the lead federal agency responsible for the oversight of ship source pollution and it strictly enforces regulations through ship inspection and pollution incident investigations. Many of these things happen prior to any possible incident coming to light. Operators must also maintain a minimum level of preparedness and have oil pollution prevention emergency plans in place for any eventuality that could take place.

Both the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships and Canada's regulations for the prevention of pollution from ships and for dangerous chemicals contain requirements for double hulled tankers. That is right, not just one hull on these tankers but two hulls to ensure we do the most we can as Canadians to protect our waterways and our natural environment. This further reduces the risk and double hull tankers provide the containment for the oil and, in the event of damage to the outer hull, this protects the environment. This has been recognized worldwide as the primary method of reducing the impact of spills.

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Madam Speaker, I am disappointed that the member is again talking about the tanker exclusion zone and regulations. The point is that we cannot regulate against human error. The point is that these are vulnerable inland waters that need to be protected.

The credibility of the government is low, just as it is low on economic issues that the member talked about. Yes, jobs are important. Why is it that the government has lost a net 200,000 full-time jobs? Unemployment is up 2% since the government came into office and spending increased by 18% over the first three years.

This is an incredible borrow and spend government with $12 billion in surplus blown that the Liberals left the Conservative government. We now have the highest deficit in Canadian history, a record deficit that once again came in over the government's projections. The government has no credibility on economic issues and we need a government that actually has credibility on those issues and on the environment.

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Madam Speaker, additional prevention measures include the requirement for polluters or potential polluters to have contracts with responsible organizations, something unusual for this particular brand of industry. This also includes increased monitoring of vessels.

Finally, operators must contribute to Canada's ship-source oil pollution fund. This can immediately pay compensation for spills, if they do ever happen, for ships of all classes. This fund would actually go after the polluters, so it is a polluter-pay principle. We have double-hull vessels. We ensure that everybody is properly trained as far as pilots go in these narrow passages. We ensure there is a preparedness plan in place. We are doing everything to keep Canadians and the environment safe and we will continue to do that.

6:40 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Madam Speaker, the Commissioner of Official Languages is refuting the Conservatives' arguments regarding bilingual judges at the Supreme Court.

Commissioner Graham Fraser reminds us that when the Official Languages Act was passed 40 years ago, it was claimed that bilingualism requirements would prevent people from western Canada from getting jobs in the federal administration. Yet the current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is from Alberta, the most senior federal public servant is from Saskatchewan and one of the highest ranking officers in the armed forces is from Manitoba.

Instead of setting us back by 40 years, why does the Conservative government not insist that judges appointed to the Supreme Court understand French? The Conservative Party is showing its inability to think in terms of the future of the Quebec and Canadian peoples represented in the House of Commons.

And what about the minister responsible for official languages, who is desperately trying to justify his government's inaction by saying that the bilingualism requirement for judges is dividing Canada? Is he trying to tell us that, in Canada, the fact that a judge of the highest court can hear French without understanding it is an argument for the way French should be respected?

Is he saying that a Supreme Court justice who might not understand English could grasp what is said in that language as well a judge in the same courtroom whose daily language of communication is English?

Frankly, the minister should explain himself. Is he saying that he cannot require Supreme Court justices to understand French for fear of upsetting hardliners in his party?

We know that Bill C-232, which would require judges appointed to the Supreme Court to understand English and French thoroughly, is currently rotting in the Senate because it is being blocked by the Conservatives.

This is just another example of how the upper chamber is an obstruction to democracy. The vast majority of the unelected who sit there are friends of the government, appointed as a partisan reward. Without any mandate from Quebeckers or Canadians, they are currently preventing a bill, which was adopted by the elected members of the House of Commons, from reaching third reading stage and royal assent by the Governor General.

What can we say about the Conservatives from Quebec in the House of Commons and in the Senate, who are fuelling the notion that French is a second-class language with which Supreme Court justices do not even need to be acquainted?

This makes us realize yet again that, to the Canadian assimilation state, the concept of two official languages is nothing more than a concept, and not a real commitment.

6:45 p.m.

Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles Québec

Conservative

Daniel Petit ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Madam Speaker, I am happy to speak today to affirm this government's commitment to providing access to justice in both official languages.

As we all know, the Government of Canada is strongly committed to enhancing the vitality of English and French linguistic minorities in Canada and fostering the full recognition and use of both English and French in Canadian society, including our justice system.

The member for Gatineau spoke like a good federalist about the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court of Canada.

It is important to point out that the government's position is that bilingualism remains an important criterion in the appointment process. However, it is not and should not be the only factor in the selection of our judges. The primary consideration in all judicial appointments is legal excellence and merit. Other criteria must also be taken into account, such as proficiency in the law, judgment, work habits, writing and communication skills, honesty, integrity, fairness and social awareness.

We also recognize that our courts must be able to provide equal access to justice in both French and English. Our current process allows the government and the judicial advisory committees to take into account the language skills of judicial candidates along with 14 other assessment criteria.

I am confident that the current appointment process was crafted in a way that permits the Minister of Justice to address the need for access to justice in both official languages and to ensure that the federal judiciary linguistic profile provides adequate access to justice in official language minority communities.

Under the current process, before recommending appointments, the minister confers with the chief justice of the relevant court to determine the court's needs, including linguistic capacity. As hon. members are likely aware, a chief justice's primary responsibility is to determine the overall direction of sitting on his or her court and to assign judges to cases. The chief justice strives to ensure that all cases, especially criminal cases, are heard in a timely manner.

The chief justice is, therefore, in an excellent position to understand the needs of the communities served and identify particular needs where vacancies arise. As a result, the minister consults with the chief justice of the court for which a candidate is being considered to determine any particular needs to be addressed, including linguistic capacity.

With a view to improving the pool of bilingual judicial candidates, the government invites the French-speaking jurist associations and their national federation to identify individuals with the necessary qualifications and encourage them to apply, and to share their recommendations with the Minister of Justice.

The minister also welcomes the advice of any group or individual with respect to considerations that should be taken into account when filling current vacancies. It is important to understand that the federal judicial appointments process operates on the basis of detailed personal applications from interested candidates and, as such, relies primarily on a system of self-identification.

The government has appointed more than 200 judges so far to various Canadian courts. The government is extremely proud of the quality of appointments made today to our superior courts across the country. We are also committed to maintaining the highest quality of judicial appointments to ensure that our judiciary continues to enjoy the respect and confidence of all Canadians.

6:50 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Madam Speaker, for the assimilating Canadian state, the concept of two official languages is nothing but a concept. There is no real commitment.

In Canada, the Prime Minister is not required to understand French; ministers are not required to understand French; Canadian ambassadors are not required to understand French; deputy ministers are not required to understand French; and even so-called bilingual jobs in the Canadian public service are held by unilingual anglophones. And yet Canadian federalism wants Quebeckers, Acadians, Franco-Canadians, who are proud of the language they speak, to identify with this country. That is Canada. That is not the country I identify with.

I am eager for Quebec to become independent, to become a sovereign state in which French will be the common public language.

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to respond to some of the remarks made this evening by the opposition member.

We do not deny the importance of linguistic competencies, especially when a specific need comes to light. However, merit is the overriding factor in the appointment of judges. First and foremost, the government is committed to appointing the best-qualified individuals. The government will continue to appoint competent, dedicated people and to comply with principles of gender equality, cultural diversity and bilingualism.

The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of supporting the development of minority language communities. To that end, in June 2008, the government announced the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality 2008-2013, an unprecedented government-wide commitment with a budget of over $1.1 billion, based on two components: participation of all in linguistic duality and support for official language minority communities in the priority sectors of health, justice, immigration, economic development, arts and culture.

As the government has stated in the past, the overriding principles guiding the selection of members of the judiciary, including those of the highest court, is merit, which is based on legal excellence. Such an assessment would necessarily include assessing the bilingualism of candidates, but this factor must be evaluated alongside other elements.

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Speaker, MS patients are deteriorating and their frustration is growing, further hurting their disease. There is only one thing worse than having devastating MS, and that is knowing the liberation procedure might improve quality of life and being denied access to trials.

The parliamentary Subcommittee on Neurological Disease had four meetings with the world CCSVI experts, including Dr. Zamboni, who said the diagnosis and treatment of CCSVI were safe, had resulted in significant improvements in the qualify of life of many MS patients and that clinical trials were needed.

While I personally met, spoke with and reviewed data with leading CCSVI researchers internationally, including Dr. McDonald, the only Canadian who has been trained by Dr. Zamboni and has performed the procedure in Canada, and Dr. Haacke, a world leader in diagnostic imaging, the government actually refused to listen to the subcommittee experts. Our committee heard from the best and brightest.

Is this a new trend, as people at the August 26 meeting also refused to listen to experts, supposedly for fear of biasing the sample? Yet two witnesses had previously spoken vehemently against the procedure.

There was important pertinent information that the August 26 reviewers missed, possibly 25 different venous abnormalities in the neck and chest, including missing jugular veins, truncated jugular veins at the clavicle, in the middle of the neck, spider veins, stenosed veins, string-like veins, imaging of iron deposits in the brain, video of reflux in the deep cerebral veins, the internal jugular veins and flow or lack thereof in the internal jugular veins. MS patients with primary and secondary progressive disease can also experience an improvement in brain fog, circulation, fatigue and motor skills.

Patients do not want to wait possibly two more years for the results of seven correlation studies. MS patients have done their homework and know that researchers from Bulgaria, Canada, Italy, Kuwait, Poland and the United States are all presenting similar results, namely, that 87% to 97% of MS patients show venous abnormality.

Patients want clinical trials. MS patients know 3,000 procedures have been done worldwide and understand the hypocrisy that after just 27 procedures with a stroke sucking vacuum, the vacuum was deemed safe enough to implement in 10 Canadian hospitals.

The government should know that its August 26 ruling, based on the narrowest possible review of science, is already forcing desperate MS patients overseas. What assurances do Canadians have that they are going to a reputable clinic with adequately-trained people who have undertaken a sufficient number of procedures and what follow up is available to Canadians, as many must often return overseas?

The government should also be aware that some doctors are refusing to treat their patients upon their return. I am hearing from patients across the country that their appointments are being cancelled and not re-booked, liver tests for MS drugs are being cancelled and several have been threatened with, “No doctor will treat you should you develop a blood clot”. This is illegal and unethical.

I implore the government to do its job, which is undertake what it failed to do this summer. Science can only progress through reviewing all of the available evidence, from meeting and speaking with those engaged in the science and treatment, to asking if they are willing to share their expertise and results, to reviewing the published material, to doing site visits to labs and operating theatres and to come to a conclusion based on evidence, all of the evidence. The longer the delay, more will sicken and die.

6:55 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to discuss multiple sclerosis and the way in which new research and actions can give hope to Canadians living with multiple sclerosis.

MS is a devastating illness, usually striking young adults who may lose the ability to move and speak throughout the course of the illness. Canada has one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the world. Every day three more people in Canada are diagnosed with MS.

It is with the goal of alleviating the suffering of Canadians with MS that the Government of Canada has invested, through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, CIHR, over $49 million to date on MS research. It is through investments in research and innovation that our best hopes lie in improving treatments and someday soon finding a cure.

On August 26, CIHR, in collaboration with the MS Society of Canada, convened a meeting of leading North American experts in MS to discuss these priorities. This expert meeting reviewed the evidence, including the potential links between chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency, or what is referred to as CCSVI, and MS. The unanimous decision was that it would be premature to support pan-Canadian clinical trials on the Zamboni procedure.

Just last week at an MS conference in Gothenburg, Sweden, Dr. Zamboni himself indicated very clearly that more research is needed before patients proceed with this surgery.

We are currently awaiting the results of seven clinical diagnostic trials being funded by the MS societies of Canada and the U.S., which are currently under way, before making a decision on whether to support therapeutic clinical trials on the Zamboni procedure.

If the medical experts agree that there is sufficient evidence to warrant clinical trials, then our government will fund them.

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Speaker, I am personally in touch with over a thousand MS patients across Canada. Where is the government's registry? I have a list of over 170 who have been liberated.

I absolutely appreciate that those having a positive response are more likely to come forward and would never want to hope-monger but just provide facts.

One patient was in palliative care on a morphine pump, immobile, could only whisper and was not expected to live for more than a few weeks. The night of the procedure her husband said in an email, “I can feel a faint squeeze. She can wiggle her feet, brain fog gone. Feeling more energy”. Two months later he said, “She is long off the morphine pump, she can sit on the bed supported by her hand. She can move her knees, legs, head, neck and her right hand and arm are coming back”.

This is just one of my 170 cases who have been treated. The government needs to give them a chance, to do clinical trials. There is the evidence to do clinical trials and to create a registry. MS patients are waiting.

7 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Madam Speaker, my thoughts go out to all who suffer from MS. We are moving as quickly as possible based on the best available science. We have established a scientific expert working group to monitor and analyze results from the seven MS Society sponsored studies already under way in Canada and the United States.

This year the CIHR has invested $5.4 million specifically for MS.

If the experts advise in favour of clinical trials, our government working with the MS Society and provinces and territories will ensure they are funded, again based on the best available science.

I appreciate the opportunity to have spoken on this very important issue.

7 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:01 p.m.)