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House of Commons Hansard #34 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-3.

Topics

Bill C-3--Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActRoutine Proceedings

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

John Duncan Conservative Vancouver Island North, BC

Madam Speaker, I do not normally get up three times during questions and comments, but I noticed that no one else was standing up.

I think the member has provided a very good description of what an archaic act we are dealing with when we are dealing with the Indian Act. I am reminded that we have many modern treaties in Canada and also that 230 of our 634 first nations have their own membership codes. Maybe we could have a quick comment from the member on that.

Bill C-3--Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActRoutine Proceedings

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Madam Speaker, it is fair to say that there is a distinction between status--that is, Indian status as it relates legally under the Indian Act--and the membership of the band. In fact, for those who are looking on, it might be interesting to know that more than 200 first nations communities have already engaged in treaties with the government. The only provision of the Indian Act that still applies to those communities is the registration provision.

Those communities that have continued and put their own treaty regimes in place make decisions about their own band membership. That is a good thing, and it is not really the subject of interest here today.

Bill C-3--Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActRoutine Proceedings

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in this debate and to support my colleague's motion to ask the House to direct the committee to expand the scope of Bill C-3.

This is a very complex piece of legislation. We have heard much discussion on it already and I am not prepared to go into the substantive issues of the legislation today, but want to speak more to the process.

We have heard much about the urgency of the bill, the fact that we have to do it because the clock is running out. I want to read into the record a quote from the B.C. Court of Appeal which granted an extension until July 5, 2010. It said:

Under the circumstances, we might well have acceded to a request for a longer suspension of our declaration had it been sought. The Attorney General’s factum, however, sought only a 12-month suspension of any declaration of invalidity.

Therefore, we know that the court is likely to grant a further extension if a comprehensive redrafting of the bill was to take place. The decision, and I am emphasizing what my colleague said, to prorogue Parliament further undermined the effort to move the bill along.

We have heard much about the discussion. We have heard the parliamentary secretary say earlier that allowing the scope of Bill C-3 to expand will create “unintended consequences”. I would submit that refusing to allow the committee to address residual discrimination as instructed by most of the witnesses, the government is knowingly creating intended consequences which means gender discrimination.

What the bill means, and I have said it in committee and I will say it here, is that it will create a situation where some aboriginal women will be more equal than others and in a country like ours and a country that purports to respect the charter and respect human rights, this is simply not acceptable.

The member opposite, I think, said, “Equality is difficult to achieve”. I would submit that equality is not difficult to achieve. There are amendments that might be made to the bill that would, in fact, extend equality to all aboriginal women in this country. It only requires the political will of members opposite to ensure that it happens.

The government never really considered a comprehensive remedy to all the gender discrimination concerning status entitlement. First, it appealed the original decision of the B.C. Supreme Court, which called for a broader solution. Then when responding to the 2009 B.C. Court of Appeal, it did not consider a comprehensive solution and put forward several solutions in a limited engagement process that would knowingly leave residual discrimination. Finally, when introducing Bill C-3, it crafted it in such a narrow way that it does not allow the committee to consider comprehensive amendments.

I want to speak to the issue of status and why it is so important for aboriginal women. I am quoting in part from the submission put forward by LEAF. It states:

Denial of status and the corresponding lack of acceptance in one’s community and degraded sense of identity and self-worth, is an independent harm. It is also legislatively connected to the denial of band membership. Under the Indian Act band membership rules...and under the majority of membership codes of First Nations who have assumed control over membership, lack of status results in exclusion from band membership and from having the right to reside in one’s home community/territory. This means that non-status women and children cannot live in their home community. They are treated as “outsiders”. They are unable to practice and transmit their culture and language within the community, and their children’s aboriginal culture and language cannot be nurtured within the community.

I would say that that is very important. In fact, the B.C. Court of Appeal judge acknowledged that when he said:

--I am of the view that the trial judge was correct in accepting that intangible benefits do flow from the right to Indian status.

I think it is important for all aboriginal women and children to have the opportunity to be treated equally by the Government of Canada within their own bands. We have heard much of the exploratory process. The exploratory process or, what I would prefer, a consultation process has a whole host of issues that it can deal with but need not deal with. There is no other group in this country that we would go on an exploratory process to see whether they are equal in our country.

All aboriginal women should be recognized as equal within their own communities before the government of this great country that we live in. I see this as a real effort to diminish aboriginal people. I see the title of this bill, an act to promote gender equality, as misleading and, repeating what we have said over here many times, contributing to what I see as a culture of deceit. This is not what this bill is all about. It is, in fact, creating a situation where some women will be more equal than others.

I would submit to members on both sides of the House that we do the right thing, that we take this motion seriously, that we direct the committee to look at the bill to the fullest possibility, and expand it so that all aboriginal women and their children will have the opportunities, rights and sense of community to which they are entitled. It is incumbent upon us as parliamentarians to ensure that this happens.

In concluding my remarks, I plead with all members of the House to look at gender equality in its truest sense of the word for all aboriginal women. Some are not more equal than others.

Bill C-3--Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActRoutine Proceedings

1:30 p.m.

Vancouver Island North B.C.

Conservative

John Duncan ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Madam Speaker, I am once again disappointed. The member for Winnipeg South Centre has not been a regular attendee at the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

Once again, we are getting this line that the B.C. court's granting of an extension was done in such a way that we should have asked for a longer extension and that all of this debate would be moot. There was no certainty at all that an extension was going to be granted. We had no way to predict that. By asking for the extension, which we did, we thought there was a reasonable probability it might be granted. This backward, rear-view look that suggests that we could have asked for a long-term extension is really quite inventive.

There is another thing that I think is being overlooked. There are 230 first nations across the country that now have adopted a membership code. They are free to determine membership in their communities and we are very pleased when that occurs. We are willing to empower that.

I am trying to characterize this in a different way because it is almost like the opposition parties want to paint us as the ones who want to control all of this. We do not want to control all of this. We want to ensure it works properly. We are dealing with an archaic act and fixing it is not a simple exercise. We need to do it in a series of steps.

Bill C-3--Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActRoutine Proceedings

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I do not think we usually comment on attendance, but just to keep the record straight, I have been as regular a member of that committee for over five years as the member opposite. My record on that committee more than speaks for itself.

I am not quite sure what the question was from the member opposite. What I do know is that the government has the capacity to ensure that all women are treated equally. There are a number of other problems related to band membership and citizenship. Members know that. The engagement process can address those issues, but the issue of gender equality for all aboriginal women is front and centre in this bill, and the government, if it has the political will to make it happen, has the ability to do so.

Bill C-3--Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActRoutine Proceedings

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Madam Speaker, I caught about half of the remarks of the member opposite who is also a great contributing member to our committee, I might add. But on the question in terms of trying to expand the scope of the bill to, as she says, address some of these discriminatory issues, would she not agree that in the past, as in 1985, as with the lower Court of Appeal, the presumption that some of these measures will in fact address those gender issues? We have seen in the past where they have actually given rise to other unintended consequences. The very issue we are dealing with today was for all intents and purposes an unintended consequence of Bill C-31.

Therefore, would it not behoove the House to proceed in a measured and guarded way in line with what the Court of Appeal has given us and then use the secondary exploratory process to get a more broader examination of these issues?

Bill C-3--Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActRoutine Proceedings

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, we know that the ruling in 1985 produced a number of unintended consequences. The difference in this situation is that there are intended consequences. The intended consequence is a lack of equality for all aboriginal women. This is not a negotiable issue in a country like Canada where we knowingly legislate that some are less equal than others. So while the consequences of 1985 were unintended, the consequences of this legislation will be intended, will be harmful, will be degrading, and it is incumbent upon the government to expand the scope of this legislation.

Bill C-3--Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActRoutine Proceedings

1:35 p.m.

Vancouver Island North B.C.

Conservative

John Duncan ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Madam Speaker, I am happy to speak to this motion moved by the NDP member for Nanaimo—Cowichan.

I would like to clarify something in the last question and comment period. I was not in the 2006-08 Parliament, so that would explain why I was not on the aboriginal affairs committee of that Parliament. I do have a long history with the committee dating back to 1994 and right up until 2006, and then in this current Parliament.

I witnessed the unintended consequences of the 1985 legislation up close and personal because 1994 was not that far removed from 1985. We are now a full generation beyond that, it being 25 years since the 1985 amendments. We are into another attempt to address some of the issues that flow from the whole question of registration. This is a complex and complicated area. The whole question of identity is tied up in questions of registration which fall under the Indian Act, questions of membership which are determined for 230 of the 634 first nations by the first nations themselves, and an allowance for all of them to adopt a membership code if they so desire, and we have questions of citizenship.

From a number of witnesses we heard from on the first nations side at committee, there was a broad statement that became fairly generalized, which was that first nations have the inherent right to determine their membership. I think it would be presumptuous of us to go too far into that discussion during the discussion of Bill C-3. However, it is very germane to the parallel process that we wish to put in place and which has had buy-in from the national aboriginal organizations. We wish to put in place an exploratory process to look at citizenship, membership and registration considerations with a view to further changes that could be adopted above and beyond Bill C-3.

This is a backdrop to what we know we have. We have an archaic Indian Act. Archaic as it might be, we have modern-day treaties that have been negotiated, every point gone through with a fine-toothed comb by legal counsel, and when all is said and done, lo and behold, we find most often that section 6, the portion of the Indian Act dealing with registration, is the only part of the Indian Act that remains intact and built into that modern treaty. The reason for that quite simply is it is such a complex thing to get rid of, it is easier to adopt it.

That is not where the pressure is coming from to make the changes, such as what is being proposed under Bill C-3. That came from the court case of Sharon McIvor in British Columbia.

The Government of Canada is responding to a long debated, long discussed, long considered question about transmission of status to grandchildren where there is a difference in transmission of status between a male Indian who married out and a female Indian who married out. That is where the bill is coming from.

The court recognized that there is no way to address all of the issues without impacting on the people who have been living under the old provisions of registration, citizenship and membership all these years. This then becomes part of the balancing act. The broad, sweeping statements that have been made this morning on this issue have conveniently omitted or forgotten about the other side of the ledger. There are a lot of implications, ramifications and potential unintended consequences that flow from anything beyond the government travelling down the road where it has a court mandate. We should not do that without a full process to look at all of this. That is why we put in place a parallel process called the exploratory process. Until today, I thought that everybody was comfortable with that.

This is an interim step in everyone's mind. It does affect 45,000 potential new entrants across the country. There are some practical implications of 45,000 new applicants. The Registrar of Indians will have to gear up, hire more people, create a whole new regime in order to take a large number of new applications. I cannot imagine the implications for the registrar if we were to go beyond that. I fail to see why this interim step is being viewed with negativity. We know from a lot of ad hoc evidence that there are a lot of people who are very interested in being new entrants. The number of calls that are being made to the department and general conversations indicate that this has really engaged a lot of people.

A witness who came before committee made a statement which was very incisive. She said that we probably would not be debating this bill and that it would not be controversial except for one thing, that there is money involved. I think she hit the nail on the head. We are talking about government certification of ethnicity that has financial consequences in the way of benefits. That is another way to look at this.

We have to be realistic in that this is a complicated issue for the public. The public may not understand why there is so much discussion about what basically amounts to an official designation, but that is what it is all about in terms of some consequences. We want to make sure that we are not endorsing amendments that are of concern regarding unintended consequences which we cannot predict reliably. I would remind the opposition members of this.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission attended our committee meetings with a high degree of interest. Members will recall that the last Parliament adopted the amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act, which I had been advocating since approximately 1994 in this place, to delete section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. That section exempted first nations people living on reserve from the provisions of the act. In other words, there were Canadians to whom the Canadian Human Rights Act did not apply and who were pre-empted and prevented from appealing to the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

As of July next year, there is a phase-in and under the new legislation that provision is removed. There is an expectation the Canadian Human Rights Commission will be involved in the future in questions of registration in some cases. There is no clarity at this point as to whether it would be some or all, or potentially none, but I cannot imagine that somehow. That is another downstream consequence where we cannot predict exactly where we are going on this train. It is clear there are changes coming, but it is not clear at all what the ramifications will be.

We encouraged the participation of the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The commission is encouraged by its participation that it will be able to deal with this. It has set up a committee within the Canadian Human Rights Commission in order to ensure that it is proactively looking at this whole question of registration and any complaints that may flow from it.

Clause 9 in Bill C-3 is very important from the standpoint regarding any implications financially that flow from people being denied status between 1951 and 1985, and who are empowered by Bill C-3 as we have presented it. There would be no liability attached to either the Crown or to the first nations in terms of those individuals being able to seek compensation for their lack of membership during that time frame.

This is not something that has been talked about much this morning, but it is one that was criticized. I think it protects probably the first nations entities more so than the Crown. It is in there for clarity, but it is important clarity and I wanted to mention it.

The legislation we now have before us proposes to achieve two goals: first, to eliminate a cause of gender discrimination in the Indian Act; and second, to provide a timely and direct response to the ruling of the B.C. Court of Appeal.

We are aware of a number of broader issues related to the question of registration and membership. However, given the short timeframe and in the interest of avoiding a legislative void in British Columbia, we are seeking to implement changes that directly respond to the British Columbia Court of Appeal's decision.

Bill C-3 does offer a solution to these specific issues by amending the Indian Act to address the gender discrimination identified by the court. We are aware of broader questions of registration and membership because our government has been acting in collaboration with the people directly affected by the issues at play.

Last year, following a thorough review and analysis of the court's decision, department officials had technical briefings with representatives of five national aboriginal organizations to discuss the decision and Canada's proposed response. Following those briefings, 15 engagement sessions were held throughout the country to present Canada's proposed response to the McIvor decision and solicit feedback. As I have said, there was a lot of feedback but there is also a lot of interest in new entrants wanting to register. They are simply waiting at this point for this bill to go through.

Hundreds of participants came to the engagement sessions and many submissions were received. There were some common themes during the sessions. Many people expressed their concerns about the broader issues of registration, membership and citizenship. These concerns need to be considered and discussed. These broader issues are, as I and others have said, complex and there is a diversity of views among first nations.

For that reason, we will be undertaking a collaborative process with national aboriginal organizations to plan, organize and implement forums and activities that will focus on the gathering of information and identifying broader issues for discussion. This exploratory process, the terms of reference and the mandate are things that will be put together collaboratively. This is not a top-down exercise. I think it is a very enlightened way to approach a very complicated and complex issue.

It is the appropriate thing to do and it should begin promptly but it cannot begin promptly if we do not have an interim step in place, and the interim step is passing this legislation. That is what is was predicated on and that is what will commence it. The wide array of views on status, membership and citizenship must be shared and carefully considered. They cannot be viewed in isolation and they cannot be addressed in a rushed manner.

This will be a process that will inform the government on the next steps. As important as this work is and will be, it cannot take precedence over Bill C-3. Bill C-3 responds to a specific court ruling and prescribed deadline. I can say with certainty that the proposed legislation is precise, compact and focused. Unlike the debate and discussion this morning, the bill is precise, compact and focused.

I will remind members that we are working on a deadline and we need to meet that deadline. The decision to grant that deadline was rendered on April 1 of this year and it takes us through to July 5. We need to get this done in this spring session. We have an opportunity to process Bill C-3.

Bill C-3--Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActRoutine Proceedings

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Madam Speaker, the parliamentary secretary talked about the government's genuine effort to fill a legislative gap. If Bill C-3 were not passed, there would still be a legislative gap. Would the government be as sincere within that particular scenario in terms of bringing forward another bill?

Bill C-3--Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActRoutine Proceedings

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

John Duncan Conservative Vancouver Island North, BC

Madam Speaker, the member must recognize that the government has a process in place to deal with legislation. I am not the minister but I can assure the member that the question that has been posed is above and beyond the scope of Bill C-3, which is what we are debating here today. I am not the one to answer that question.

New Brunswick 4-H Communications CompetitionStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Madam Speaker, this past weekend, I had the honour to serve as a judge at the New Brunswick 4-H Communications Competition held in Woodstock.

Close to 40 young people from across New Brunswick took part in the event, each winners of their respective regional competitions. It was impressive to watch these fine young citizens get up in front of a large audience, present their ideas clearly and convincingly, including in the Clover Bud category of seven and eight year olds.

I want to congratulate the local organizing committee headed by Allie and Linda Porter; president of the NB 4-H Council, Kelly Power; and all the volunteers who gave of their time to support this important event.

I also want to congratulate category winners Shaughnessy Riordon, Barry Riordon, Emma Allen, Isaac Gilbert, Emily Gregory, Valerie Guilbault, Shaylee Neal, Falyn Coates, Devlyn Hooper, Kyle Kirby, Rachael Merritt and senior speech winner, Audrey Eastwood, who will be our representative at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair this fall.

All the participants did well. They are all winners and our province and country are all the better off as a result of the 4-H program.

Menuhin International CompetitionStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Madam Speaker, Kerson Leong, an Ottawa—Vanier musical prodigy, just won first prize in the prestigious Menuhin International Competition held every two years in Oslo, Norway, for violinist under the age of 22, and he is only 13.

While attending Ashbury college, Kerson studied at Tutti Muzic, a private school run by his mother.

Twice I was fortunate to have Kerson, his older brother, Stanley, and their mother perform a mini-concert at my swearing-in ceremony here on the Hill. Both times they were phenomenal and they held the crowd spellbound. I have also had the pleasure of attending other concerts and they keep getting better.

Now they are taking the music world by storm and prevailing. I want to congratulate Kerson and, indeed, his entire family for making us proud and demonstrating that perseverance and talent are a formidable combination anywhere in the world.

JusticeStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Madam Speaker, this government falsely claims it is tackling crime, yet it is doing nothing about the need to introduce an effective, balanced bill to facilitate police investigations involving the Internet, particularly in cases of sexual assault on minors.

We in the Bloc Québécois are not the only ones calling for such a bill. The Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime and police forces have been calling for such legislation for over 10 years.

On April 20, in committee, the ombudsman said that the longer we wait to give police the tools to enforce the law, the more children will be abused, which I believe makes everyone angry. He added that if he were Prime Minister, the Internet would be his top priority.

How many more children who could have been spared will have to be assaulted before the Prime Minister finally decides to act? He must introduce an effective bill immediately to facilitate criminal investigations on the Internet and respect individual rights and freedoms.

Public Safety Officer Compensation FundStatements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, today on Parliament Hill, Canada's firefighters are here for the 16th consecutive year asking for a public safety officer compensation fund to take care of their families. Last week, police officers were here doing exactly the same thing.

However, Parliament has already voted to put this important benefit into place. In 2005, Parliament adopted my Motion No. 153 that called for the establishment of a public safety officer compensation benefit. For four and a half years the Conservative government has steadfastly ignored our brave firefighters and police officers by refusing to implement this benefit.

While widows, widowers and children of fallen firefighters and police officers are forced sometimes to sell their homes and give up school and they live financial hardship, nothing has been done.

The government should apologize for the disrespect it has shown to Canada's fallen and their families. It should immediately put into place the supports for the families of those who lost their lives while protecting the lives of Canadians. It should do it now.

FirefightersStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Conservative Barrie, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to firefighters across Canada. Firefighters are not only on the front lines of emergency services in our community, but they give us peace of mind. They ensure public safety in some of the most challenging environments and have been incredible supporters of charitable causes.

Barrie firefighters have raised $1 million in their annual boot drive and over $790,000 over the years have gone to benefit charitable organizations, such as Muscular Dystrophy Canada. Barrie has raised the most funds out of all its peers in Canada for firefighters.

The Barrie Firefighter Union executive is comprised of Len Mitchell, Kevin White, Cory Mainprize, Brad Conrad and Rob Taylor. I also want to thank Fire Chief Lynn for encouraging this public service and charitable work among his firefighting team. They also run a scholarship fund in the name of Bill Wilkins who perished in the line of duty, sadly, on May 27, 2002. This scholarship is for worthy students from the pre-fire service program at Georgian College.

Firefighters around Canada and Barrier firefighters continue to be pillars of our community, excellent local citizens and an example of generosity.

Friends of MohamedStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to acknowledge the work, dedication, and energy of a small group of individuals from the Charlottetown area known as the Friends of Mohamed.

Mohamed Mara is a young man who came to Prince Edward Island in 2005 as a refugee from Sierra Leone. In the midst of the civil war, rebel forces killed his family. Mohamed escaped but was caught later by the rebels, who cut off both his hands.

Friends of Mohamed organized and engaged the community, and raised $65,000 necessary to fit and install state-of-the-art myo-electric hands.

I would like to publicly thank all businesses, groups and individuals who generously donated to this cause. I also want to thank all members of that very special group, Friends of Mohamed, especially Catherine Ronahan, who gave so much of her time and very much played a leadership role.

Mohamed's new hands have been fitted and are operating. He has received the necessary training and he is back in the community. He is doing very well.

On behalf of the House, we wish him all the best.

Audrey PatersonStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Alice Wong Conservative Richmond, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise in the House today to honour the late Audrey Paterson, founder of the Canadian Women Voters Congress and the Western Businesswomen's Association. She passed away in Vancouver last week at the age of 82.

My condolences go out to her husband, Ron Castner, her six children, her fourteen grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Audrey Paterson was a former journalist and editor. She will be remembered by her tireless efforts as a crusader for advancing women in business and politics. She also established the non-partisan Women's Campaign School, of which I am a proud graduate.

Her vision, her hard work, and her persistence in creating equal opportunities for women has inspired and will continue to inspire us all. Her legacy will live on.

Normand RoussyStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Bloc Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, we were saddened to learn of the tragic death this week of a lobster fisher, 62-year-old Mr. Normand Roussy. Mr. Roussy had gone out into Chaleur Bay, early Saturday morning, together with other members of his crew. Unfortunately, while fishing, Mr. Roussy lost his balance and fell off his boat into the water.

The Sûreté du Québec were called at around 9:45 a.m. and went to the dock where his fellow fishers had taken Mr. Roussy. He was taken to the Centre hospitalier de Chandler, where he was pronounced dead.

This is another tragic event that reminds us of the dangers of fishers' work and the courage required of the thousands of workers who take to the sea every morning to earn a living.

The members of the Bloc Québécois and I wish to extend our sincere condolences to his family and friends, as well as to the entire community that has been touched by this tragedy.

Quebec's Forest EconomiesStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, our government announced the establishment of the temporary initiative for the strengthening of Quebec’s forest economies, a three-year, $100 million measure to support communities affected by the forestry crisis.

The mayor of Dolbeau-Mistassini, Georges Simard, has said that this announcement is very good news. And the vice-president of operations at AbitibiBowater, Gilbert Demers, has said that it is exciting news that can help people who have new ideas.

The member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord has not held back in criticizing this initiative. But everyone knows that the Bloc Québécois is against anything that makes sense. That is nothing new.

The Bloc voted against the forestry industry in Quebec. This proves, once again, that the Bloc does not defend the interests of Quebeckers. Quebeckers can count on our Conservative government. We are taking action in the interests of workers and communities by strengthening the economy in the regions. I can assure you that we will not let the Bloc keep taking Quebeckers for fools.

Official LanguagesStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives want Canadians to believe that they care about and respect our official languages. When it is time for grandstanding, they show up; but as for everything else, that is debatable, as demonstrated by these few lines from a document sent to French-speaking citizens. I have left them in French, because they are unintelligible, as I will explain.

A partir des dernières années, répondants à l'enquête requis à répondre à L'enquête sur les établissements de soins pour bénéficiaires internes utilisant un système électronique au Internet. Nous vous prière d'annoncer que cette est maintenant possible. [...] Access à la nouveau système de questionnaire électronique est facile et vite. De la line d'adresse au votre Internet [...]. Veuillez inclure votre identifier l'enquête q'il est trouver juste en haute de votre nom d'établissements dans l'adresse.

My hon. colleagues should not worry if they did not understand any of that, because as I said, it is unintelligible. Imagine how hard it was for those who were supposed to understand this machine translation. This is how the Conservatives show their respect for official language communities.

Automotive IndustryStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, last Wednesday Canadians were pleased to hear General Motors' announcement that it had repaid its loan to the governments of Canada, Ontario and the United States. Today, I would like to announce that General Motors will invest more than $200 million at its engine plant in my riding of St. Catharines, Ontario, for the next generation of small block engines.

Now the St. Catharines plant will not only invest in making highly fuel-efficient engines but, in addition, will continue to assemble small block engines. This means the preservation of 400 jobs in St. Catharines. This, along with the new front-wheel assembly transmission expansion in 2012, shows that we are on track in St. Catharines.

In our government's economic action plan, we provided support to help create and protect jobs in communities and industries in our country that have been most affected by this downturn. This included the manufacturing sector.

This shows that the investments our government has made are working not only in St. Catharines but across this country.

Public EducationStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on the vital importance of public education in British Columbia and to bring to the House's attention the current crisis facing public schools in my province.

Due to chronic underfunding by the provincial government, schools boards across British Columbia are facing budget shortfalls of millions of dollars. Because of provincial legislation that prohibits school boards from running deficits, they are being forced to slash vital services to children in B.C. This is both bitterly ironic and wrong.

Not only is the Liberal government of Gordon Campbell running a deficit approaching $2 billion, four times what he claimed it was last election, but it was his government that promised to make education in British Columbia a world-class system, a betrayed promise.

Now our students are facing the loss of special needs teachers, music and athletic programs, ESL teachers, multicultural support workers, enriched curricula, teacher librarians, administrators and teachers themselves. Some school boards are even cancelling school days to save money.

I hope all MPs will join me in the House to condemn this shortsighted and appalling abdication of responsibility to our children and to urge the B.C. government to provide all funds necessary to ensure our public school system is property funded.

I also want to congratulate school boards across—

Public EducationStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order. The hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake.

Firearms RegistryStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, since the Liberal leader announced his plans to force his MPs to support the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry, the Liberal member for Yukon has been sending mixed messages about what he will do.

Last week, the member for Yukon was quoted as saying he, “may not have a choice” to support the long gun registry and, “I would certainly prefer that it was a free vote”. However, the member for Yukon said on the weekend through his spokesman that the Liberal leaders's plan to force MPs like himself to support the wasteful long gun registry is “excellent”.

This kind of flip-flopping by the member for Yukon is totally unacceptable. His choice is clear: he votes to keep the long gun registry or he does the right thing and votes to scrap the long gun registry. It is that simple.

The Liberal member for Yukon should do the right thing. He should listen to his constituents and vote to eliminate the long gun registry once and for all.

2010 UQAM AwardsStatements By Members

April 27th, 2010 / 2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, last evening I attended the 2010 UQAM Prix Reconnaissance gala.

Among the award winners were: Jocelyne Blouin, meteorologist at Radio-Canada; Élaine Hémond, founder of Femmes, politique et démocratie; Jean-Marc Eustache, from tour operator Transat A.T. Inc.; Louise Richer, director general of and teacher at the École nationale de l'humour; Manon Barbeau, filmmaker; Yolande Brunelle, principal of Saint-Zotique school; lawyer Johanne Doyon and the honourable Dominique Larochelle, as well as David Altmejd, sculptor.

This gala wraps up UQAM's 40th anniversary celebrations. The goal of UQAM's founders was to make higher education more accessible and to democratize the education system. UQAM has remained true to their vision: bold and open to the world. it is a powerful symbol of innovation and one of the top institutions of learning in Quebec.

On behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I want to congratulate these remarkable people who have used their exceptional talents to make a contribution to our society.