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House of Commons Hansard #114 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was right.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member would comment on the history of human rights in this country.

On April 1, 1947, under the leadership of CCF premier Tommy Douglas, Saskatchewan became the first province in Canada to introduce a bill of rights. That decision of Tommy Douglas' inspired John Diefenbaker, who was from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, influenced him and led him to bring in the Canadian Bill of Rights in 1960. That part of history is not well known. In fact, Jehovah's Witnesses brought a petition to Parliament containing 625,000 signatures in 1947. This demonstrates that all the activity in this area is not just recent; it goes back a long way.

Opposition Motion—Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for reminding this House of our history and of the incredible visionary, T.C. Douglas.

In 1947, just after the war, Canadians had laid down their lives for this country. Canadians who had sacrificed for this country returned home to find there were no jobs. Veterans who had pledged to protect our country were disrespected, very much like veterans now are disrespected.

T.C. Douglas came forward with this charter in Saskatchewan in 1947. He told Canadians that we had come of age, that we were a nation and that we needed the kinds of rights and freedoms that would protect every single citizen.

Mr. Diefenbaker too showed wisdom by emulating Mr. Douglas with a bill in 1960, and even more so, understood the importance of the health care system that Tommy Douglas had established in Saskatchewan. Mr. Diefenbaker said we must have that system across Canada.

Canadians are grateful to Tommy Douglas for many reasons. I am grateful to him too.

Opposition Motion—Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, this interesting debate gives us an opportunity to provide commentary on who we are and what our values are.

I do not so much look at the charter as a document that protects us from anything but rather as a document that defines us, that probably represents to the world a value system that many countries wish they had, freedom of speech, mobility freedom and all of the things that Canada offers. From a public perspective, that would be the reaction to the charter.

It does concern me when someone talks about the rights of persons who have done wrong in the criminal justice system, in the courts, et cetera, that they have the right to access proper representation. Some would characterize that as giving more protection to those who break the law, whereas we know that many people who are charged are not convicted.

I wonder if the member would care to comment as to whether or not the charter is a matter of protection or a matter of articulating the values of Canada.

Opposition Motion—Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

It is both, Mr. Speaker. It sets out a value system as has been indicated, that in extending rights, in guaranteeing rights, in saying that we will ferociously protect those rights, we are not diminishing anyone.

In my own work as a constituency person, I noted that there seems to be a fear out there that ensuring rights to minority groups, new Canadians, our first nations, somehow diminishes the rights of many citizens. That is not true. In establishing or expending those rights, we are making Canada a stronger country.

In terms of guilt and innocence, I would hope that Canada is a country where guilt would have to be absolutely established and innocence is presumed.

Opposition Motion—Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, as we all know, Canada is a country of immigrants. I dare say that every member in this chamber either came to this country him or herself or is the son, daughter, grandson or granddaughter of someone who came to this country at some point in the last 200 years. Of course, there are also the first nations people who have been on this land for far longer. However, I think we can say that the vast majority of people are in this country today because they or their relatives came to Canada as a freely chosen place.

We need to remind ourselves why people came to Canada. They came to this country because they were seeking freedom. In many cases, they came to this country because they were fleeing persecution. However, in all cases people were attracted to this country because they thought there was a promise of human rights, civil liberties and a chance to pursue happiness in a secure environment where their lives, property and security were guaranteed by the state.

Of course, we also live in a country that is a multicultural model to the world. We have managed to create a peaceful country where people from every corner of the world, of every religion, every political persuasion, every cultural group and all ethnicities can come together and build a tolerant society where we respect each other, live together, work together and prosper together.

One of the linchpins of this whole dream is a foundation of respect for basic human rights. A very important feature of those basic human rights is the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which represents Canada's codification of that dream.

We have already heard that the genesis of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms can be traced back to the New Democrats. In 1947, a year before the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the CCF government in Saskatchewan, led by Tommy Douglas, passed the Saskatchewan bills of rights act, showing once again something that Canadians know all too well, which is that New Democrats are often at the forefront of progressive social change in this country.

The Saskatchewan bill of rights was a forerunner to the Canadian Bill of Rights enacted by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker's government in 1960 and, of course, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982. The Saskatchewan bill of rights was the first general law prohibiting discrimination in Canada. It is important that Canadians understand that in this country the party that first brought in laws prohibiting discrimination was the New Democratic Party.

This is in a country where federal governments, Conservative and Liberal, passed racist legislation and legislation that discriminated against Chinese Canadians, Japanese Canadians, first nations and women. The New Democratic Party was the first to insist that legislation be passed guaranteeing the rights that are the foundation of all of those dreams that every new Canadian brought with him or her when settling in this country.

To this day, the Saskatchewan bill of rights broke new ground in Canada and protected civil libertarian values. It is the only legislation in Canada to this day to extend this protection from abuse by powerful private institutions and persons.

That courage was extended in 1970 when Tommy Douglas, again leading the New Democrats, spoke out about the need to protect our rights and freedoms, especially in the face of violence and in the case of civil insurrection. He stated:

We have all been appalled and disgusted by the abduction of two innocent men who are being held as hostages.

He was referring to the 1970 abduction of Pierre Laporte and James Cross. He further stated:

We are not prepared to use the preservation of law and order as a smokescreen to destroy the liberties and freedom of the people of Canada. I say to the government that we cannot protect democratic freedom by restricting, limiting and destroying democratic freedom.

Those words, spoken 40 years ago, are as instructive today as they were then. That is because it is easy to protect rights when it is easy to do so.

However, the true measure of a country and the commitment of a government is to protect fundamental human and democratic rights when there are challenges to doing so.

I want to take the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms document and t focus a moment on what it does. This is what the charter enshrines in law in Canada. It says:

Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

(a) freedom of conscience and religion;

(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press...;

(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and

(d) freedom of association.

Every citizen of Canada has the right to vote...and to be qualified for membership therein.

And to seek office, including in this chamber.

I will stop there. Many countries of the world make it impossible for citizens to vote in elections and make it impossible for people to seek office. We enshrine that in our founding document.

The charter continues to say:

Every citizen of Canada has the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada.

....has the right

(a) to move to and take up residence in any province; and

(b) to pursue the gaining of a livelihood in any province.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

Legally, it says:

Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.

Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned.

Everyone has the right on arrest or detention

(a) to be informed promptly of the reasons therefor;

(b) to retain and instruct counsel without delay and to be informed of that right;....

Any person charged with an offence has the right

...

(b) to be tried within a reasonable time;

c) not to be compelled to be a witness in proceedings against that person in respect of the offence;

(d) to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing...;

In certain serious cases, people have the right to “trial by jury”. People have the right to be protected against ”cruel and unusual punishment”.

Under equality rights, it says:

Every individual is equal before and under the law...without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

The equality rights specifically enshrined in law, the equality between men and women in this country.

It enshrines official languages and respect for educational instruction in minority language educational rights.

Those are not just words. This is the codification of that dream that attracts people from all over the world to come and want to settle in Canada.

I have heard some disturbing comments, particularly from the government side of the House, about words like “balance”. When it comes to fundamental rights, some of those rights must be balanced, it is true, but some must never be comprised.

There is no balance when one speaks of having the right to be told charges against oneself when one is arrested by instruments of the state. There is no balance when it comes to having the privilege or the right to call a lawyer upon being arrested. There is no balance when one has the right as a Canadian to be safe from cruel and unusual punishment.

Those are not things that are equivocal. Those are things that every citizen of this country has the right to expect, and there is no balance about it whatsoever. Those are fundamental rights that no one has the right to take away. They are basic fundamental human rights.

I am concerned when governments start saying that it is not in every circumstance. Yes, it is in every circumstance. If people are walking the streets of this country, they have a right not to be stopped and searched and have their goods seized without due process of law. People have the right to walk these streets safely, if they are minding their own business, and not be thrown into a prison cell and left there for a week or two weeks without being told the reasons.

Certain members of the government seem to suggest that sometimes it might be the case where, in exceptional circumstances, that might be okay. It is never okay, and this is not just theory.

In Toronto, just four or five months ago, we saw Canadians who had those very rights abridged. Canadians who had simply gathered peacefully, exercising their charter rights to assemble peacefully and to express themselves publicly, had those rights egregiously violated. Members of the government have said nothing. They stand and talk about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms but none of them have stood and said that was wrong. They say that those people can make a complaint to the Police Complaints Commission. It is every citizen's right and every citizen's obligation to defend the charter of rights in this country. As parliamentarians, it is our duty--

Opposition Motion—Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. Questions and comments. The hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso.

Opposition Motion—Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, although I was not able to catch my colleague's entire speech, as I have been in and out of the chamber today, I was very impressed and inspired by some of their speeches that have been given today. I think we on this side of the House agree that the charter has laid the foundation for what we are as a nation and the just society that we are.

I do not know if my colleague made reference to this in his comments, but was he and his party not troubled by the comments made by the soon to arrive member for Vaughan over the last number of weeks, months and really throughout his career with regard to the charter and what he perceives to be many of its shortcomings?

Opposition Motion—Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, the short answer is, absolutely. I believe any Canadian who believes fundamentally in rights and democratic principles would have to be offended by the comments of the newly elected member for Vaughan. The newly elected member said, “Who has reaped the greatest benefits from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? I would argue that if it isn't common criminals, then it must be the Hell's Angels”.

What a fundamental misapprehension of what the Charter of Rights and Freedoms does for Canadians. I will tell members who has reaped the greatest benefits from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Every Canadian citizen in this country has reaped the greatest benefits from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Mr. Fantino also said that “there is often an overreaction about protecting people's privacy in the public domain. Frankly, I do not understand why any person wouldn't want to co-operate fully with the police. Yet, some people seem very concerned with an already overworked Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms”.

I am proud to live in a country where citizens express and enforce their charter rights. I am glad we have a charter that is overworked. That tells me we have an active, vibrant population that knows what its rights are and is not afraid to exercise them. That is what makes Canada a great country.

I am extremely concerned about someone who thinks that protecting people's privacy in the public domain is something that can possible be overstated or overreacted to. With respect, I think Mr. Fantino has a fundamental misunderstanding of the importance of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to this chamber and to Canadian people.

Opposition Motion—Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, after listening to many of the speeches today, I have the impression that the whole issue of rights surfaced around the year 1982 and the ascension of Pierre Trudeau and the Liberal government.

However, to add more balance to the debate, we have to look back to 1947 when Tommy Douglas introduced the Saskatchewan bill of rights and all the activities that led to that and after that with John Diefenbaker, who was also from Saskatchewan, introducing the national Bill of Rights when he was the prime minister of Canada. So we are getting the impression that somehow this issue only surfaced after 1982, when in fact it was an issue long before--

Opposition Motion—Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. There is less than a minute for the member for Vancouver Kingsway to respond.

Opposition Motion—Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, what we can say fairly, and to give credit to early iterations of the Conservative Party, is that the development of respect for fundamental rights, legal rights, democratic rights, social rights and cultural rights, has been part of the development of Canada in the 20th century. That is why it is so pivotal and profoundly important that we respect those rights, that we cherish them and that we be ever vigilant to ensure they are respected.

That is why when we saw 1,000 Canadians in Toronto, the largest mass arrest in Canadian history, having their rights violated, we should be concerned.

Opposition Motion—Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It being 5:15 p.m. and this being the final supply day in the period ending December 10, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the business of supply.

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

Opposition Motion—Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Opposition Motion—Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Opposition Motion—Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Opposition Motion—Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Opposition Motion—Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Opposition Motion—Charter of Rights and FreedomsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #142

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion lost.

Supplementary Estimates (B), 2010-11Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativePresident of the Treasury Board

moved:

That the supplementary estimates (B) for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2011 be concurred in.

Supplementary Estimates (B), 2010-11Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

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

Supplementary Estimates (B), 2010-11Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Supplementary Estimates (B), 2010-11Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Supplementary Estimates (B), 2010-11Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.