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House of Commons Hansard #116 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was haitian.

Topics

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I also look forward to my colleague's speech. I think it was former Bill C-427 by the member for Pickering—Scarborough East.

I have a question for the hon. member for Malpeque, the legend from Malpeque, as we call him. When it comes to this legislation, I find it, in many regards, highly restrictive, which he has already touched on. However, could he bear down on some of the details of just how restrictive this is? One of them is the civilian staff being dictated to about its membership and about the way it is to be organized.

We always hope that when progressive legislation is brought forward in this place, especially when it comes to the rights to collective bargaining, we like to raise the bar to better representation than a group had before. This one, however, lowers the bar in many respects according to the member's speech.

The article that he pointed out is a good illustration. If he could comment on that, plus just how restrictive it is and what key amendments should be made here.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor made it perfectly clear when he said that the bill was very restrictive. One of the concerns that I expressed in my remarks had to do with how it could divide people within the force who feel they are all part of the same system. They could basically defy or separate in terms of their representation, from special constables to civilian members to regular members. These people all work together in one way or another. It is a total system.

Yes, there are some people on the highways and some people in criminal investigation but those people have to be connected throughout the system to do their job appropriately. The bill has the potential of dividing them into silos, which is the last thing we want to see. We see enough of that in this particular city between departments. The bill is worrisome in that regard.

The bottom line is that the bill does not allow the third alternative, which the current representative program is trying to put forward, and that is a dilemma. There needs to be that alternative so that the rank and file can make decisions on the system they want under appropriate choices.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today in this debate regarding the RCMP.

Although I do thank the government for bringing forward some form of legislation, the unfortunate part is that it is reactionary and not very proactive. In fact, if it were not for the courts, it would not have done this at all. It is unfortunate when a group of Canadian heroes, the RCMP and their associates, need to take an issue of association and unionization to the courts to get a fair hearing.

We know that the RCMP members, or gendarmes in Quebec, have asked for many years for the right to form a union or an association of their choice to deal with their pay and benefits when it comes to their management or with the government of the day.

Let us just go into a little history of the RCMP. It is probably one of Canada's most recognized institutions and, unlike my Liberal colleague from Winnipeg who spoke earlier, it is not a red coat. It is a red serge. Redcoats, of course, are British, and the Americans know all too well what the redcoats mean. However, it is the red serge in Canada and it is an honoured tradition for the men and women of the RCMP to wear the red serge. I have lived in British Columbia, Yukon and now Nova Scotia and I have had the chance to travel through Canada and I have yet to meet an officer who is not proud to wear the stetson and the red serge.

Their families are also part of the uniform. As members know, just like our military, they also have to deal with a tremendous amount of stress when a member of their family, either a man or a woman, goes out and does his or her job for Canada on the domestic side, as well as the many RCMP officers who are serving overseas. Many of them are in Afghanistan right now training the Afghan police force on how to run a functional police service in that country. They are also in Haiti and other countries around the world.

The reality is that it is a fundamental right for workers, in this case police officers, to form a union or an association of their choice. It is not the government's right to dictate what that union or association should be. For this bill to put handcuffs on what the RCMP may do in the future is really unfortunate and, to be quite honest, scandalous. To give a civilian commissioner any more powers than he or she already has will not go anywhere.

It was a sad day in this country when the Conservatives picked Mr. Elliott to be the Commissioner of the RCMP. Can members imagine for one second if they were to appoint a civilian as the CDS of the military? There would be an uproar in this country over that. What the Conservatives have said to those rank and file RCMP officers is, “If your goal is to one day be the top dog in the RCMP, forget about it, because we will appoint our friends, whomever we wish to get in there”.

For years we heard from Liberals and Conservatives, when it came to RCMP investigations, that the RCMP was an independent body and that it will investigate on its own what it wishes to do. However, the minute Mr. Elliott was appointed as Commissioner of the RCMP, the tentacles of the PCO and the PMO were right into the RCMP. With the recent resignation and denial of many of the senior officers of the RCMP, there is no question that the hands of the Prime Minister and the hands of the PCO are all over that, which is most unfortunate.

I attended a Depot ceremony in Regina recently at its national mourning and there had to be at least 1,000 people there. The tension could be cut with a knife between the assistant commissioners of the RCMP and Mr. Elliott. It was a beautiful day and we were all there on a beautiful sunny morning but we could feel the ice out there and that should not have to be.

The members of the RCMP should have tremendous respect for their commissioner and they would have that respect if that commissioner were one of their own. I would hope that the next commissioner comes from the rank and file of the RCMP, exactly the way it should be.

On this legislation, it is again up to the individual RCMP members and its membership to determine what is best for them. If they wish to have an association, if they wish to have a union or whatever it is they wish to do, that should be up to them, independent of government, independent of politics and independent of the commissioner. The commissioner should have absolutely nothing to say about this. It should be free and independent. I am hoping those changes at the committee stage will happen.

When it comes to the civilian members, the bill is so poorly drafted that the civilian members of the RCMP feel they are trapped. They do not understand why they may be dragged into something that they do not wish to have.

If the government had consulted with these members, which it did not, it would understand quite clearly that the civilian members of the RCMP, independent of the men and women who serve as RCMP members, should have the right, if they wish, to form an association or a union of their type or keep the status quo. That is up to them to determine. It is not up to the commissioner, it is not up to us as politicians and it is especially not up to the government to determine that for them.

Unfortunately, because I know the government's heart is not in this, which is why it is such a poorly drafted bill, a reactionary to a court decision, I suspect quite strongly that the government will drag it out through committee, drag it out through the summer and, if it comes back for third reading, it will send back to that other place where those Conservative sycophants we call senators will probably delay it until the next election, and, if we have an election, it will die. I suspect that is the Conservatives' goal at the end of the day. We have seen what these senators have done to good legislation before. When we have a government that says that it would never ever appoint Conservative senators, that it would never ever appoint its friends to the other place and it ends up appointing over 35 of them, we can understand where this is going to go.

Unfortunately, a lot of this debate and discussion will probably be all for naught because we will probably have an election within the year and this bill will probably die an unfortunate natural death.

What does this say to the morale of the men and women who serve our valoured RCMP? What we are basically saying is that the government has recognized that there is a court decision and that the government has brought forward legislation.

However, if the government really wanted to, it could work with the opposition to come up with something that works, is fair, is balanced and is truly representative of what the members of the RCMP wish to have. Then we could get this through committee fairly quickly, on to the Senate and, hopefully, although I do not think it will happen, get this through the Senate so we can say to the men and women of the RCMP, the civilian members and others that we truly respect what they wish to do, which is to have fair and collective bargaining with the management of the RCMP and the government of the day.

I remember 2008 all too well when the current government negotiated for months with the pay council of the RCMP, an independent body to negotiate pay and benefits for the RCMP. It agreed, after months of talking, to 3.5%. What happened just before Christmas 2008? An email was sent by the Treasury Board rolling back and rescinding the 3.5% to 1.5%, no ifs, ands or buts, that was it.

There is absolutely no aspect of discussion for the members in the pay council to go back to the Treasury Board and say “Whoa. We negotiated this is in fairness and in good faith and you turned around and arbitrarily destroyed it”. That is what the current government did.

One minute it talks about law and order and says that it is the party of crime fighters and everything, and yet the men and women who, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, maintain that law and order are treated with complete disregard and disdain by that government over there. It is really unfortunate. It is no wonder that morale is down?

Another aspect is that RCMP members have been asking for years for a veterans' independent program, very similar to that which veterans get. Right now, as we know, World War II veterans or Korean War veterans with a disability, or a spouse of a veteran with have a disability, can apply for a veterans' independence program that allows them to stay in their house even longer. The government would provide services for groundskeeping and housekeeping services. For those who receive the service, it is a tremendous benefit for them. RCMP members have been asking for years for the exact same benefit and for years they have been denied over and over again.

When we talk about heroes in the military and the armed forces, we should talk about RCMP members in the exact same breath. Many of them have served overseas, and many of them do the same type of work within Canada's borders.

Imagine what goes through the mind of an RCMP officer when he or she has to extract three children from a car accident on Highway 401 at 3 o'clock on a Sunday morning. Years later when these officers are looking for help, we should be able to provide them the assistance they need. One of the ways we could help them would be through the veterans independence program, to ensure they are treated with respect and dignity when they get older and retire.

We will support sending this bill to committee and hopefully we will be able to convince the government and the other opposition parties that the RCMP members themselves should be able to dictate exactly who will represent them and who will not. The days of the government telling the RCMP members in any way, shape or form what they should be doing or what they cannot do have to end, because that simply is not right.

I have heard from members of the Liberal Party, the Bloc Québécois and Conservative members why they think this bill should go to committee.

We are hopeful that rank and file RCMP members right across the country will have the opportunity, through either the Internet or personal visits, to talk to members of Parliament and tell us why they think this legislation needs to be changed, why it needs to be more representative of the men and women of the RCMP. I hope the committee will travel across the country to big and small cities, to wherever the RCMP is located.

While I am on my feet, I want to personally congratulate several members of the RCMP who have done yeomen's work for the RCMP over the years.

Mr. Jim Hill of Fletchers Lake, Nova Scotia, has given 30 years of service to the RCMP but unfortunately had to be medically released. This individual did tremendous work for his country and for the red serge throughout his career.

Another individual I would like to thank is Mr. Murray Brown. After 37 years, Mr. Brown will be retiring from the RCMP at the end of this year. He is now in staff relations with the RCMP and has done a tremendous job of educating members of Parliament and senators, literally anyone who will listen to him, about the value of the RCMP and the problems that members and their families go through, everything from insurance programs to pension clawbacks, to VIP, to PTSD, everything. Mr. Brown has been absolutely fantastic in what he has been able to do. In fact, he was instrumental in getting to most members of Parliament and senators the magazine that my colleague from Malpeque talked about.

Another big thanks to Mr. Abe Townsend, formerly of Nova Scotia and now living in Ontario. He works very hard in staff relations for the RCMP.

It is very important that members of the RCMP have an unbiased and unprejudiced opportunity to present their concerns and issues directly to senior management without fear of retribution. We have already heard about what happens to senior management in the RCMP when they raise their concerns about a particular commissioner. Their head gets cut off and they are removed or retire suspiciously early. That has to stop.

I firmly believe, and I am sure that every member of Parliament in this House believes, that the RCMP is one of the most trusted and valued institutions in Canada. It has had some bumps along the way, but the reality is that the RCMP is one of the institutions that makes this country great. I for one, and I am sure others, am very proud to know that there are many members in every community across the country who are doing a fantastic job for all of us.

At the end of the day, all members of Parliament have to respect the men and women of the RCMP and allow them, either through legislation or whatever, the opportunity to determine for themselves what is best when it comes to either forming a union or an association or whatever it is they would like to do. If we get to that point and truly respect the men and women of the RCMP, that will be a great day in Canada .

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I certainly like this member and his ability to talk until everybody else is asleep, which is definitely a skill that I do not have and I wish I did. He can talk and talk and he is very effective at it.

My difficulty is that this particular member and the NDP never walk the walk. They talk the talk, and this gentleman is particularly good at that, but he never walks the walk.

That is something that I would like him to do this time. Just like in the veterans affairs committee, talk is cheap, quite frankly, and he may talk yes, but he never votes yes. That is the difficulty. He never stands up behind our men and women in uniform, whether it be our military or the RCMP.

In fact, a few minutes ago I asked one of his colleagues, another NDP member, how many civilian members he actually talked to, how many he surveyed on what they wanted, to find out whether he had a good study and some good background on what he is suggesting today. I did not hear a response from that NDP member. I am hoping that this NDP member will be able to tell me how many civilian members he actually talked to first-hand.

If memory serves me correctly, he voted against increasing depot investment for the RCMP. He voted against paying RCMP members when they were being trained.

Why now is he standing and saying yes, yes, yes? Is he going to vote yes, or is he going to vote no? Is he going to stand behind the men and women in uniform, or is he going to again not do so? That is what I want to know.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

To the civilian question, Mr. Speaker, nine is the answer. I have spoken to nine civilians in my riding.

Secondly, it is so good of the Conservatives. They bring forward a budget that has 1,000 spending items. They take two items out of the budget and say, “These are good but you voted against it; you voted against the entire budget”.

The reality is that what my hon. colleague, the hon. member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca, is asking me to do is to vote confidence in him and his Conservative government.

I can assure the House that it will be a very, very sad day in this country when I vote confidence in the Conservative Government of Canada.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The next time the bill is before the House, the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore will have seven minutes remaining for questions and comments.

[For continuation of proceedings see Part B]

[Continuation of proceedings from part A]

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the consideration of a motion to adjourn the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter requiring urgent consideration, namely the situation in Haiti.

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

moved:

That this House do now adjourn.

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to thank you for allowing us to hold this debate, which, in my opinion, is extremely relevant. A number of hon. members will have the opportunity to discuss the future of Haiti in a non-partisan manner. I would also like to say that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Winnipeg South Centre, who will speak about the situation of women in Haiti in particular.

This is an extremely important and non-partisan issue. In view of the meeting this morning between the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Mexico's Secretary of Foreign Affairs, this debate will allow us to shed some light on this issue.

Why must this debate be held today? I would like to quote Dany Laferrière, who said, “You are really dead when there is no one left on this earth who remembers your name.” We must not forget the Haitians. We must examine the situation. We must encourage and support them. The purpose of this debate is to send a message to our friends in Haiti to let them know that Canada is a player, that Canada wants to help them and that Canada will support them. But are we doing enough? Tonight's debate will help us to gain a better understanding of what is happening.

We must bear in mind that because of the earthquake on January 12, 2010, which killed over 250,000 people, there are more than 1.5 million homeless people in the country. The cholera epidemic has affected hundreds of thousands of people and, sadly, has already caused 2,200 deaths. According to UN medical experts, that number could double.

We need transparency and we need to know where the money is going. We must ask ourselves what is causing the current impasse. We have to remember that an election took place recently. The first round was on November 28, 2010. On December 7, the provisional electoral council announced the results. This sent shock waves through the country, because the people strongly suspected electoral fraud. People feel they have been tricked, and that the vote in no way reflects the current situation or the election results.

Today I would like to talk about several things, including possible solutions. I think this can be a positive, constructive debate. We will talk about the election and we must consider various scenarios. We would also like to discuss the possibility of having a special envoy specifically for Haiti, as we do for other countries. Of course we will talk about the cholera outbreak and what we can do to stop it. It seems that NGOs are experiencing some difficulties. Is there enough humanitarian aid? Is it being used wisely? We need to examine the possibility of sending a special force, the disaster assistance response team or DART—although, as we know, the Haitian government must request it—which could play a leading role in this health and humanitarian crisis.

I am extremely concerned. My interest in Haiti dates back over 25 years, and I have visited the country many times. My duties in a previous government allowed me to experience the Haitian reality first hand. Haiti has been through considerable turmoil and still today, they seem to be caught in a never-ending nightmare.

The Canadian government, no matter the political persuasion, has always invested in Haiti through CIDA. Haiti has always received the most aid or has been one of the highest priorities for Canada. Unfortunately, in light of recent events, we believe that a storm is brewing. If we do nothing, if we do not take preventive action, chaos will most definitely ensue. We must not act out of fear. However, senators in that country—they were subsequently set straight, thank goodness—said that if it would take a civil war, then so be it. That is totally unacceptable.

I salute the work of the international community, which called for order. However, many things need to be taken into consideration. With regard to the elections, there are three scenarios. The first would be to allow the process to proceed and have a recount. The Minister of Foreign Affairs talked about this today.

All ambassadors accredited to Haiti signed a press release indicating that the process must be given a chance and that there should be a recount, and that the possibilities should then be examined. That was reiterated today.

Unfortunately, when we listen to the candidates leading the presidential race, we realize that it may not necessarily happen. Mirlande Manigat was the first to refuse to participate in the recount. Michel Martelli has also refused to participate. The other 12 presidential candidates, despite their poor results, unanimously declared that they would not accept a recount.

In my opinion, the role of the international community is to provide assistance. We are not there to dictate anything. We are there to provide guidance. We must provide technical assistance, and we must also encourage people and empower them. What is problematic is that the trust of the people and the candidates in the current government is dwindling.

We have to consider an interesting alternative. Since the first round of elections was held on November 28 and the runoff elections are to be held on January 16, the episcopal group and civil society are suggesting that the runoff election on January 16 become the first round with a simple majority.

There is a word in Creole that sounds exactly like a word in French and that is the word “magouille”. The word “magouille” means exactly the same thing in French and in Creole: a shady deal. People do not trust the system because they wonder how a ballot box can be recounted when that box was stuffed in the first place. An alternative should be considered such that candidates will all run again, the difference being that the first past the post will be elected president. The same would apply to the legislative elections.

There is another option and that is to cancel the vote. To me, there is a problem with cancelling a vote and starting over. In 2004 there was a provisional government, a government of technocrats. Things started off well, but certain problems needed to be taken into consideration and I do not think it is adequate.

I truly believe that we have to give the process a chance. Our role is not to dictate a result. We are not there to pick a candidate and say this is our champion. This is not the case. Our role is to make sure we will respect the process. It is about democracy. We want to help the people cast their votes and make sure that the way it goes, the way the votes are calculated, will be accurate. This is the trust link that we have to build among the Haitian people.

Frankly, if the people who are supposed to accept the recount process are not willing to do so, I think we should go for another option.

A special envoy would allow us to develop political and diplomatic ties.

Since all of my colleagues will be speaking later, I will close by saying that the Creole language is quite descriptive and says exactly what it means. In Creole they say, “Yon chen gen kat Patti Men, li p'ap ka pran yon sèl chemen.” That means that a dog might have four legs, but it can only go down one path.

That is probably what we should do as politicians. There may be many possibilities, but we can only go down one path and that is the path of freedom, hope and respect for the people. Let us help the people of Haiti restore this pearl of the Antilles to its glory days. Ensem ensem nou fo Kin Ben Pa lagué.

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

6:35 p.m.

Calgary East Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member has rightly pointed out, Haiti is a priority for Canada. Canada has always stood up for the people of Haiti. When the earthquake took place, Canada stood up. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and the minister responsible for CIDA worked very hard.

We, including NGOs from all over the country, have contributed a tremendous amount of money. We have invested heavily there. I agree with the hon. member that there are fault lines gradually coming. The elections he talked about, these are the fault lines. As members will note when the minister speaks and everybody else speaks, we are heavily engaged in trying to close those fault lines. We will work together in this aspect to ensure that.

I just want to remind my colleague on the other side, when he talks about the special envoy, that a former Governor General, the Hon. Michaëlle Jean, has been appointed by the UN Secretary General as a special envoy to look at the case of Haiti. I think Canada has very much stood out at the front, and I am sure we will be working with him over the course of tonight as we discuss this important issue.

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly the point. If Michaëlle Jean is a special envoy for UNESCO, it means that UNESCO understands the role and the importance of that role.

We can have the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the minister responsible for CIDA, but they have tons of jobs and the world is big. However, there is red tape, there are some political issues we have to deal with and we can work with the ministers. To have a special envoy would help us be that link, that bridge builder, not only among the domestic venues in our own departments, but we are also focused on Haiti and at the same time we are working with our counterparts specifically on Haiti, and that is why it is important.

I have been a special adviser to the Prime Minister myself. Trust me, 24 hours a day was not enough. However, the issue right now is to seek stability. We need the kind of individuals who will be helpful in settling some issues. Sometimes at the diplomatic level there are ways, but at the political level, when we have a direct link with the diaspora, we can be part of that solution.

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

6:40 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I obviously listened with interest to the member's intervention and what he was hoping would happen. Certainly, having this debate tonight is a good opportunity to discuss different ideas.

It is incredibly important right now to look at the priorities, and the priority right now is to save lives. Clearly, the cholera epidemic is having a huge impact. More than 1,000 people have lost their lives. We still have issues around prevention, et cetera, from the cholera epidemic.

I am wondering if the hon. member would like to express his concern about the sequence in which we deal with this problem. Of course, the post-election violence has exacerbated the problem, but I am hearing from NGOs who were on the ground over the weekend that they cannot get out to help the people who need help. So how do we do that in this period before whatever will happen in terms of a run-off or recount or whatever?

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I just spoke half an hour ago with Port-au-Prince and there is a situation. However, if Haitians do not have the stability, they will have violence.

It is like embers—burning embers that are currently smouldering.

If they do not have that kind of stability right now, it will be even worse.

I agree with the hon. member, the priority is to save lives. They do not have water necessarily. That is why we should send DART. We should also protect the NGOs, because they cannot get out. However, we need to chew gum and walk at the same time. We need to focus on cholera, but if we do not settle the issue at the electoral level, it will be even worse.

Look what happened on the eve of December 7. There was death and violence all over the place, and it was spontaneous. It was not orchestrated by only one candidate. People were mad as hell, and because of that, there was some retaliation.

I really believe, like the hon. member, that our priority should be on the people, save lives, help them, but at the same time—

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. Unfortunately, the hon. member's time has expired. Resuming debate, the hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre.

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in this debate this evening.

One would be hard pressed in the modern era to identify a country outside of wartime that has faced so many catastrophes within such a short period of time, both natural and man-made.

As my colleague has indicated, within the last 11 months Haiti has been faced with an earthquake, with 250,000 people killed and 1.5 million people homeless and massive destruction of infrastructure in the country, and is now faced with the plague of cholera, which is an epidemic with over 2,000 people dead, tens of thousands at risk and an urgent need to address this.

As we heard very much in the news in the last days, there is a crisis of government and of governance as a result of an election for president in November, which was full of irregularities so we can doubt very much the veracity of the voting.

It is facing dire economic consequences as a result of the instability of the governance. There is violence in the streets, humanitarian work is virtually at a standstill and, as we have heard today, the electoral crisis is creating warnings that future humanitarian aid is at risk.

It is imperative that the people of Haiti assume responsibility but equally important is for governments like Canada to work to resolve the democratic impasse as soon as possible.

To my mind, the key issues, and my colleague identified them, are the violence in the country, the lack of stability and the cholera epidemic that is devastating the country.

We have heard some solutions put forward: increased deployment of DART, a special envoy and increased coordination. However what I want to speak to is the crisis of what is being reported as happening to women. Compounding the mayhem and somewhat unreported is what is being called Haiti's unaddressed catastrophe, the violence against women.

Research has been in place that has shown that, when there are catastrophes initiated by weather issues, gender has a profound impact. What we have seen, to give a bit of background, is that in 1980 with the eruption of Mount St. Helens, the police reported that domestic violence increased by 46%. Following the 1993 Missouri floods, the turn-away rates at shelters was over 110%, programs increased by 400% and more women and children were impacted by the floods than anticipated.

In the ice storm in our own country, the Montreal police chief reported that 25% of the calls were related to domestic violence.

What we have heard out of Haiti and what we have heard most eloquently from Taina Bien-Aimé, the executive director of the international women's rights organization Equality Now, who cites data from the U.S. Agency for International Development from 2006, is a direct link between humanitarian emergencies and the increased vulnerability of women and children to both sexual violence and exploitation.

We know that in Haiti, where sex tourism and human trafficking were a prospering business before the earthquake, violence and this kind of activity has increased many times over. In Haiti with the government in a shambles, women are frequently defenceless and frequently unprotected.

There are estimates that, prior to this situation, 72% of Haitian girls had been raped and 40% were victims of domestic violence. The havoc at play without the structures of government and the impact of cholera are widespread.

Taina Bien-Aimé wrote a very moving article describing what was happening to women in Haiti. She said:

Protection of human rights, particularly those of women and children, is as important as providing immediate medical attention, food and shelter. In Haiti, women come last in terms of protection from violence. One small example of the urgent need to establish special contingencies for women in post-earthquake intervention is underlined by images of men fist-fighting over UN-delivered food, while women, barely keeping hold of their babies, struggled in vain to reach the relief truck. Emergency assistance teams must ensure that coordinated security is in place to protect the most vulnerable and that the full participation of qualified women, in particular Haitian women, is secured to tackle gender issues in the response and management of disaster relief.

She went on to say:

Invariably, foreigners leave Haiti enchanted by the kindness, easy smile and resilience of its people. If we want to invest in Haiti's recovery through which prosperity and stability will replace despair and chaos, we must ensure that protective measures and security systems for women and children are in place.

Last September, the UN launched a new operation in Haiti to combat rape and gender-based violence. The UN police force of 200-strong were pressed into service in six of the high-risk camps sheltering 135,000 people. However, it also said at the time that it was impossible to assume complete security coverage in 1,300 camp, given the availability of forces from Haitian national police or the UN peacekeeping mission.

It is important that Canada make this a priority. There are many issues to be addressed in Haiti, but the violence against women, the marginalization of women is of supreme importance. There must be coordination with local governments, with national governments and local stakeholders that are interested, particularly with issues pertinent to women. They must be given the top of mind and priority of purpose.

I urge my colleagues across the way, in all of their negotiations, both with partners in the process of trying to address some of these issues, to remember that the issues particular to women are singular and must be addressed in a coordinated way.

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

6:50 p.m.

Calgary East Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, we all agree that violence against women is a horrific thing and has very strong negative consequences on society as a whole. The member has brought up a very important point on the violence against women.

However, I would like to discuss the statement she made that humanitarian work in Haiti had come to a standstill and that we were not addressing many of the issues.

I wish to advise her that Canada stands at the front to address the issue of cholera at this time. Let me just give an example of what Canada has done: $2.5 million to the Pan-American Health Organization; $2 million to UNICEF; $700,000 to Médecins du Monde Canada; $550,000 to Oxfam-Québec, $1.3 million to World Vision. All of these NGOs are working very diligently with other donors as well to address the issue of cholera which, at this current time, is very important, as she has rightly pointed, as have others.

Canada is heavily engaged and during tonight's debate, we will indicate how Canada has been helping.

However, humanitarian assistance to Haiti has not stopped, as she has tried to say. It is ongoing and we will continue doing what we can, as will be elaborated by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, to assist the people of Haiti.

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, at no time did I suggest that humanitarian support to Haiti had stopped. I appreciate that Canada is funding many of the not-for-profit organizations, many of which are doing stellar work in extraordinary circumstances. What I am saying is it is very difficult to carry out this humanitarian work. Circumstances are difficult and conditions are uncertain and unsafe. As we heard during the previous line of questioning, it is difficult to move around the country.

I do not want to treat this as a partisan issue. I am not suggesting that aid has stopped. I am saying that it is difficult to deliver that aid and it is incumbent upon us as a country to work with other countries and with Haitian officials to ensure that aid gets to those who need it.

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is important that we focus on gender. As Haitians deal with the crisis, particularly after the elections and the violence, it is important that they play a leadership role as well as receive help. Does she have any comments on that?

The government, after a couple of years of being asked, has put forward an action plan on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and the subsequent UN Security Council Resolution 1820. It calls for women to be central when dealing with post-conflict tenuous situations. Does she have an idea of how that resolution 1325 action plan can be put in place? Would this not be a good opportunity for the government to put its plan into action?

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, UN resolution 1325 is important. I recently had the opportunity to read the Government of Canada's action plan. Departmental officials have developed a fine plan. This is an opportunity for Canadians and for the women of Haiti to step up and be part of the negotiating process to prioritize women's issues. This is an opportunity for resolution 1325 and the subsequent resolution to be showcased. This is an opportunity for governments and countries to work together with women to make a difference.

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

6:55 p.m.

Pontiac Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, we reacted quickly and decisively to the earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12.

Canada took the initiative to organize the ministerial preparatory conference on Haiti in Montreal on January 25, less than two weeks after the earthquake. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the hon. member for Bourassa for his excellent co-operation and support in this regard. The conference made it possible to bring together key partners who are involved in the international efforts in Haiti, civil society representatives and the Haitian diaspora.

The purpose of the conference was to review the situation on the ground, advance coordination efforts and develop a clear vision for the country's recovery and reconstruction. Given the extent of the damage, participants also agreed that long-term assistance for at least 10 years would be necessary. I believe it would be helpful to remind the House of the three strategic objectives set in Montreal: strengthened democratic governance, sustained social and economic development and enduring stability and respect for the rule of law.

Almost a year after the earthquake, we are still a long way from achieving these objectives, as the current political crisis in Haiti so pointedly demonstrates. Let us take a moment to recall the work that Canada has already done in Haiti. In March 2010, at the International Donors Conference Towards a New Future for Haiti in New York, Canada committed $400 million over two years for the reconstruction of Haiti to support the Government of Haiti's action plan and priorities. This funding is on top of Canada's long-term development aid to Haiti of $550 million for the period 2006-11. The Government of Canada's total current commitment is over $1 billion, making Haiti the primary beneficiary of Canadian aid in the Americas, second only to Afghanistan globally.

Among the reconstruction initiatives announced by the Government of Canada, I would like to draw attention to the $30 million CIDA call for proposals from Canadian organizations in order to support short-term restoration and reconstruction projects in Haiti. CIDA also launched new initiatives, including the construction of temporary facilities for key Haitian government departments, a $12 million investment; the reconstruction of the Gonaïves hospital, $20 million; and the rebuilding of the Haitian National Police Academy, $18 million.

The human and material losses resulting from the earthquake have also had a serious impact on the capability of Haitian security and justice organizations, which are crucial to running the country and to ensuring its stability. The Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force, START, a Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade initiative, has increased its financial contribution in order to tailor its response to new areas of need resulting from the earthquake. The annual average allocation of $15 million has been increased to $25 million for 2010-11, thereby enabling the task force to ramp up its commitment in its traditional response areas of police reform and prison and border management, and to add justice to its list of priorities.

The task force is working on strengthening the Haitian National Police by deploying Canadian police officers to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, so that they can play a role in training their Haitian counterparts.

The task force is also funding the reconstruction of new headquarters and the reconstruction of police stations in the areas affected by the earthquake, to help the Haitian National Police carry out its mandate and serve the public effectively.

To support the reform of the Haitian correctional system, the task force’s contribution means that Canadian correctional officers can be assigned to MINUSTAH, with the mandate of training and supervising their Haitian counterparts, and renovating and building new facilities to provide appropriate places for the detention of prisoners.

The task force is also funding the construction of the Croix-des-Bouquets prison which is scheduled to open in 2011. In fact, I travelled there with the member for Bourassa this year when we were asked to visit the construction site. That institution will become a model institution for the Haitian correctional system in terms of security, hygiene and health, and respect for human rights.

Canada also has a leading role to play in managing the borders by supplying equipment, infrastructure and training. Reform of the justice and security systems is more central than ever to Canada’s commitment in Haiti, because it helps create favourable conditions for the reconstruction of the country.

At the New York conference, following on the Montreal conference, all participants, including Canada, agreed on the creation of two mechanisms: the interim Haiti recovery commission and the Haiti reconstruction fund. The aim of those mechanisms is to improve coordination of international assistance while applying best practices in respect to transparency and ensuring that the projects funded reflect the priorities identified by the Haitian government in its action plan.

The interim commission is co-chaired by Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and the UN special envoy to Haiti, Bill Clinton, and is composed of an equal number of Haitian and foreign representatives.

Canada supports the work of the interim commission and in fact sits on its governing board. Canada is also a member of the Haiti reconstruction fund and has allocated $31.3 million to that multi-donor fund to finance priority projects approved by the interim commission.

Canada is also working to strengthen trading relations with Haiti and expand collaboration between Canadian and Haitian businesses.

In the present situation in Haiti it is becoming increasingly apparent that the private sector plays an essential role in the long-term prosperity of the country, that it is an essential engine of development and job creation and that it also contributes to reducing the country’s dependence on development aid and budget support.

Canada is determined to maintain its long-term commitment and help rebuild the country, its infrastructure and its institutions and develop its humanitarian and human capacities. We are also involved in the fight against cholera, which has been ravaging the Haitian population for several weeks now.

I should point out, as I did this morning when I met with my Mexican and American counterparts, that neither Canada nor the international community, working all together, can solve all of Haiti's problems.

I say frankly to our Haitian friends: it is up to you to elect a democratic, effective, honest government.

That is essential to rebuilding the country.

I would also like to say to them that we respect your sovereignty and we understand your frustration. But I ask you to consider everything that the international community has done for Haiti.

The job is not done. But you must do your part by creating democratic institutions, which your country urgently needs.

To support the elections in Haiti, Canada has provided $5.8 million and is continuously working with the UN and the Organization of American States to call for calm political dialogue and compromise. The Canadian government is in the process of exploring various options. It may have to offer further support to proposals currently under discussion. Of course it is important to remember that as a sovereign country, Haiti is ultimately responsible for its own electoral process, supported by the international community.

We affirmed our collective commitment to the principle of Haitian ownership at the Montreal ministerial conference in March, and we must continue to uphold this principle. While it is up to the people of Haiti to decide who they select as their leaders, the international community remains concerned about the democratic process and principles of good governance.

While Haitians are making crucial choices for their future, they need our support. Both Canada and the international community are monitoring events and encouraging calm to prevail.

The elections, the cholera outbreak and the volatile security situation are all complex and interlinked challenges that threaten to further destabilize an already fragile country still reeling from this year's devastating earthquake. Canada views elections in Haiti as a critical milestone in the country's recovery.

It is the newly elected leaders who will lead the country, with support from the international community, through this next crucial stage of reconstruction and development. It is also the new government with which the international community will work to continue to make progress on reconstruction and rebuilding. For this reason, it is vital that the situation regarding elections in Haiti is resolved in a timely manner.

Haiti cannot afford to languish without a strong and accountable government at this critical time in its history. That said, speed must not trump transparency and accountability. This delicate process must be undertaken in a thorough and inclusive manner, for without public support and buy-in, the credibility of future leadership could be compromised.

Last Friday, I personally shared my concerns with President Préval and Prime Minister Bellerive about the irregularities noted during the first round of voting.

I also appealed to the sense of responsibility of the political players and urged them to maintain calm and continue with the electoral process. In the coming days, we will see whether these people measure up.Their attitude will determine what happens next. The sympathy of the international community depends in large measure on what they do.

For my part, I cannot forget that in addition to the very considerable efforts our government has made, Canadians have raised $220 million for earthquake victims, in co-operation with the government.

Frankly, I find it disgusting that after a tragedy that cost the lives of more than 250,000 of their fellow Haitians and in the midst of a deadly epidemic, some unscrupulous people can think only of their own personal ambitions.

In these perilous times, the international community must speak with one voice and send a message to the Haitian people.

The current situation around the elections shows the importance of working on governance in Haiti. Rebuilding infrastructure is pointless if the state remains weak and irresponsible. This includes the ability to manage key institutions and run essential systems. That is why our priority in the coming weeks will be to ensure that the electoral process is brought to a legitimate and democratic conclusion.

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for his words. We have many points in common. However, I would not want to talk about disbursements. The government can say it gave a certain amount of money, but this may not have arrived yet, and so forth. Apart from that, we should focus our efforts on helping the Haitian people, who are starting to feel they have been had. We are not there to choose one of the candidates but to ensure that the process works. That is why the international community has invested $30 million, including $5.6 million from the Government of Canada. But things are happening in Haiti. People are starting to lose confidence in MINUSTAH. They have already lost most of their confidence in the president. Our role is to help establish a decent environment so that a real future government can emerge.

It may be that the recount will not work. If Mr. Martelly, Ms. Manigat and the 12 other candidates, including Jacques-Édouard Alexis and Jean-Henry Céant, do not want a recount, they cannot be forced. We can lead a horse to water but we cannot make it drink. Instead of a second round on January 16, maybe the election could be held all over again with all the candidates, both for the legislature and the presidency. That would probably be the only way to ensure the Haitian people’s confidence in their institutions.

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Conservative Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his question. He wonders whether I am prepared to agree to a certain option. I would say, quite frankly, that we work in close co-operation with the international community at the Organization of American States and CARICOM and with other partners who are interested in what is happening in Haiti.

As I emphasized in my speech, the international community must speak with one voice and call upon the political players and the government in Haiti to do everything necessary to see the electoral process through to the end. We will not get what we want at this point by suggesting various options. It is important to show respect for Haiti as a sovereign country. When we act, we should ensure that the people who are directly involved in the electoral process are basically doing everything they can to see the process through to the end.

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

7:15 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the minister said that everyone should buy into a solution. That is what we want to see from the international community on the ground in Haiti.

To that point there is a real concern that if we do not see an agreed upon process for the next step in the election process, there will be continued violence. I know that all issues cannot be put on the table tonight, but I would hope that Canada is using its influence working with others in the international community to look at all solutions. One that some have talked about is to get the leaders to agree to some form of interim government to get on with the real concerns that people have with the cholera epidemic and the reconstruction. That would provide some stability first and then there could be talk about elections after.

I am wondering if all of those options are being talked about. I am not asking the minister to tell us exactly what the conversations are, but I just want to know that Canada is involved in these kinds of conversations.

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Conservative Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, let me respond actively on that question and say yes, we are involved in discussions. I mentioned before my phone conversations with both President Préval as well as Prime Minister Bellerive.

The point that I reiterate time after time when I discuss with Haitian authorities as well as our ambassador in Haiti, and the information I put forward, is that we will not be able to do all of the things that we want to do in terms of reconstruction and addressing in a fulsome manner the medical issues that are taking place today without re-establishing the credibility between the electoral process and the number of candidates, as well as the government and the population. There will not be any economic development in that country unless it has a stable government. That is the message that we have been repeating.

We are working with the Organization of American States, our CARICOM partners, and a myriad of other countries that are equally interested. The message we are sending is that this process needs to be respected. I have spoken about correcting the irregularities, and, of course, that is extremely important in order to get the credibility back, but I fundamentally say that we all need to speak with one voice, which is extremely important, while respecting the sovereignty of that country.

Situation in HaitiEmergency Debate

7:20 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, like the minister just said, Haiti is like big, simmering coals right now. Stability is the name of the game, but we have to do better. It is a sovereign country, but because of the violent situation, what are we going to do to help the vulnerable among the population, the children and displaced families?

Because the trust link has been damaged between MINUSTAH and the population, I would like to hear from the minister whether he considered the fact that maybe we should send more Canadian troops there for security since we have a lot of French-speaking soldiers and that would be more helpful. Maybe he could also give a heads-up on DART because given the cholera it may be a good solution if DART goes back to Haiti.