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House of Commons Hansard #52 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.

Topics

Status of WomenOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska.

AgricultureOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, the National Bank of Canada may not renew financing for Levinoff-Colbex tomorrow because details of the federal plan to help modernize slaughterhouse facilities, and especially to manage specified risk materials, are not known. Because of SRM regulations imposed by the Conservative government, the slaughterhouse has lost $4 million per year since 2007.

Will the minister finally inform beef producers of the program eligibility criteria and the amount of financial assistance, and tell us what form this assistance will take, if it ever arrives?

AgricultureOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Jonquière—Alma Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn ConservativeMinister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, Levinoff-Colbex is one file that we have been working very hard on to ensure that this slaughterhouse receives the assistance it needs.

In the last while, we have provided Levinoff-Colbex with $10 million from Farm Credit Canada and $9.6 million from the slaughter improvement fund. There is also the $40 million investment to introduce new technologies to different companies, for which Levinoff-Colbex is also eligible. We have also provided $25 million for a transition plan.

The federal government has done its job and put money on the table, and now it is up to the government of—

AgricultureOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Outremont.

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

May 31st, 2010 / 2:55 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Barlagne family, French citizens who moved to Quebec three years ago, are going through a stressful time.

The Federal Court has just ruled that their daughter Rachel, who has cerebral palsy, would place an excessive financial burden on Canada and that the family has to leave the country.

The decision is now a political one, not a legal one. The judge said that the only recourse is to seek a ministerial exemption on humanitarian grounds.

Will the minister make the only humane decision possible and allow the Barlagne family to stay in Canada?

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeMinister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question.

I want to remind the hon. member and the House that the Privacy Act prohibits a minister from discussing the details of a case or anything personal. The opposition may want me to violate the act, but I have no intention of doing so.

In Canada, everyone has access to a very open and very fair legal system, and every individual can present their case to the courts of Canada.

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

John Weston Conservative West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, our government learned last Friday of vicious attacks on the Ahmadi Muslims in Lahore, Pakistan. Our government was deeply disturbed by this and we would like to offer our deepest condolences to those who lost their loved ones in these terrible attacks. These acts were clearly motivated by hatred. Victims were targeted based solely on their faith, which is completely unacceptable.

Would the Minister of Foreign Affairs please inform the House what our government is doing to address the issues facing the Ahmadi Muslims in Lahore and attacks on minorities around the world?

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Pontiac Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, our government condemns last Friday's barbaric attacks on worshippers at two mosques in Lahore. We are urging Pakistani authorities to ensure equal rights for members of minority communities. We will continue to work with Pakistan and our allies to bring peace and stability to that country.

Additionally, my colleague from Edmonton—Sherwood Park will be putting forward a motion to the House officially condemning these acts. Our government actively works with countries around the world to promote freedom, democracy, the rule of law and particularly religious freedom.

Sydney HarbourOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are appalled with the billion dollar price tag of the G8 summit for an 18 hour meeting. However, they are not as upset as the people of Cape Breton with the government's lack of action for the funding of the Sydney Harbour dredging project. In response to my Friday's question, all I received were condescending comments from the regional minister about the people of Cape Breton.

Is there any chance the G8 security detail could maybe kick off 15 minutes early so the money the government saves could dredge the harbour in Sydney?

Sydney HarbourOral Questions

3 p.m.

Fredericton New Brunswick

Conservative

Keith Ashfield ConservativeMinister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned earlier in a response, the dredging of Sydney Harbour is a complex and costly undertaking that will require the involvement of all levels of government and the private sector.

While I am on my feet, I would like to mention the fact that we have made major investments in Cape Breton, ones of which I am very proud. We have invested some $28.7 million in 116 projects through CAF, RInC and ICF. The list goes on such as $14 million from the infrastructure stimulus program—

Sydney HarbourOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Halifax.

HealthOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Assisted Human Reproduction Agency of Canada is supposed to uphold ethical principles, carefully monitor scientific advances in this complex field and protect Canadian families. However, since being created, it has done very little licensing or regulatory work. Over the last month, three of the agency's directors have resigned. We do not know what is going on because it is being muzzled.

Will the government tell Canadians what its plan is to bring real accountability and transparency to this agency?

HealthOral Questions

3 p.m.

Nunavut Nunavut

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq ConservativeMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, the board continues to fulfill its mandate in respecting overall management at the agencies providing advice to the minister. I have a very good working relationship with it and it has been very transparent. There has been some turnover in the board of directors, but it was a result of individual choices to leave the organization. I will continue to work with it.

Provision of Information to Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in AfghanistanPoints of OrderOral Questions

3 p.m.

Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point further to my point of order of May 14. I would like to advise you and all hon. colleagues that with respect to the agreement in principle that was reached by all parties on May 14, we continue to make very good progress on the terms of the memorandum of understanding that is to flow from that agreement.

We had collectively agreed to have this memorandum of understanding finalized today. However, there are a few remaining issues that we would like to take a little more time to work on and therefore will take the coming days to finalize the document.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my colleagues for all the co-operation and work they have done on this at this point.

Provision of Information to Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in AfghanistanPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, on the same matter, the proposed agreement that is the subject of these discussions is a matter of great importance to the House and flows from an order of the House and a ruling by you.

On behalf of the official opposition, I would simply like to underscore the importance of all parties in the House pursuing this matter with great diligence to ensure that it is not punted into never-never land, but in fact is successfully completed within the next very short while.

Oral Questions—Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order, please. I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on May 5, by the hon. member for Beauport—Limoilou regarding the use of the term “token Quebecker” or “Québécois de service” in reference to some members.

I want to thank the hon. member for Beauport—Limoilou for raising this issue, as well as the member for Crowfoot, the member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, the member for Joliette and the Parliamentary Secretary for Official Languages for their interventions.

Following question period on May 5, the member for Beauport—Limoilou rose to object to being referred to as a “token Quebecker” or “Québécois de service” by the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin. In doing so, she spoke of the need for all members to act respectfully toward one another, regardless of their opposing beliefs and ideas.

These very sentiments were echoed by the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, who characterized such a remark as insulting. The Parliamentary Secretary for Official Languages and the member for Crowfoot added that there were in fact no token members.

Together with the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, the member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord dismissed the claim, saying that only the French term “Québécois de service” had been used, rather than “token Quebecker” as was suggested and that previously the member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean had used the term intentionally when referring to himself.

Acknowledging that some members may indeed consider such language offensive, the member for Joliette contended that there are many occasions where members of his party are slighted during proceedings, without feeling the need to bring the insulting language in question to the Speaker’s attention every time.

The use of this same terminology has been brought to the attention of the Chair in the past. On March 31, 2009, at page 2221 of the Debates, the member for Bourassa raised a similar point of order and since then, the Chair has found that it has been used more than a dozen times, including a number of times in just the past few days.

While the term “token Quebecker” or “Québécois de service” may be acceptable to some, it appears to the Chair that it is being used in a provocative manner time and time again in the House. Members raising objections to language used in the House have, in the past, cited House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, at page 618, which states:

The proceedings of the House are based on a long-standing tradition of respect for the integrity of all Members. Thus, the use of offensive, provocative or threatening language in the House is strictly forbidden. Personal attacks, insults and obscenities are not in order.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, at page 619 also states:

In dealing with unparliamentary language, the Speaker takes into account the tone, manner and intention of the Member speaking; the person to whom the words at issue were directed; the degree of provocation; and, most importantly, whether or not the remarks created disorder in the Chamber. Thus, language deemed unparliamentary one day may not necessarily be deemed unparliamentary the following day...Although an expression may be found to be acceptable, the Speaker has cautioned that any language which leads to disorder in the House should not be used.

In the current circumstances, the use of the term in question has clearly led to some disorder and considerable offence, and I would therefore urge hon. members to refrain from using it and any others that tend to lead to disorder.

As I suggested when this matter was first raised, members may bring questions about the use of this term, and perhaps even more broadly, questions related to unparliamentary language, to the attention of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

I would also like to take the opportunity to remind the House in the strongest terms possible that all members are legitimate and duly elected members of the House who have rightfully taken their seats. As rightfully noted by the member for Crowfoot, none of them are token in any sense of the word and to suggest otherwise would diminish the importance of our parliamentary system, our electoral system and the decisions of the very electors who sent them, indeed all of us, here.

I thank hon. members for their attention and for their co-operation.

Agreement concerning Annual Reports on Human Rights and Free Trade between Canada and the Republic of ColombiaRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Pontiac Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, with leave of the House and pursuant to Standing Order 32(2), I would like to table, in both official languages, the treaty entitled “Agreement concerning Annual Reports on Human Rights and Free Trade between Canada and the Republic of Colombia”, signed in Bogota on May 27, 2010.

The agreement is tabled pursuant to the government's policy on the tabling of treaties before Parliament and is therefore subject to a period of 21 sitting days for examination. However, if during that time the House proceeds to a vote on a bill that refers to the agreement, the vote will be deemed as having fulfilled and respected the requirements concerning the examination.

Canadian Forces Pension PlanRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativePresident of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, in accordance with Standing Order 32(2), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, a revised actuarial report on the pension plan for the Canadian Forces.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to five petitions.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-30, An Act to amend the Criminal Code.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Canadian Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union concerning its participation at the parliamentary meeting on the occasion of the 54th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, the role of parliamentarians in enforcing gender equality in women's rights 15 years after Beijing, which took place in New York, New York, United States of America, on March 2, 2010.

Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with DisabilitiesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in relation to Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act.

The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House without amendment. I wish to thank all the committee members and other members of Parliament for their hard work, commitment and collaboration in getting this bill through expeditiously.

Government Operations and EstimatesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the second report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates in relation to its study on the main estimates 2010-11.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

In accordance with its order of reference of Wednesday, March 3, 2010, the committee has considered the votes under Justice in the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2011, and reports the same.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

moved:

That the third report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, presented on Tuesday, April 20, 2010, be concurred in.

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to move that the third report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, presented on Tuesday, April 20, be concurred in.

This motion is really about updating the citizenship guide. As the House knows, there is a new citizenship guide. Tens of thousands of copies have been printed, but there is no reference to gay rights and gay history in it.

Why is it important that newcomers to this country understand the proud history of Canada? We receive immigrants from around the world and there are countries where gays, lesbians and bisexuals face death, torture, and penalties such as prison terms. For example, in Uganda gays face death threats. Homosexuality is a crime punishable by death in Iran. In Paraguay, in April of this year, a 20-year-old lesbian was abducted and dragged into a car, strangled, suffocated, and subjected to multiple blows which resulted in severe bruising to her body. In Turkey, on April 27, a founding member of the Black Pink Triangle was murdered. She did not survive the gunshot wounds to her back and head. On December 13, 2009, in Honduras, a 27-year-old gay activist, a member of the national resistance front against the discrimination against gays and lesbians, was also murdered.

There is violence and discrimination in many countries. Immigrants come to Canada from many of those countries, so it is very important that the citizenship guide clearly state the rights and responsibilities of new citizens. Under the section regarding the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, under equality rights it should be spelled out clearly that Canadians are protected against discrimination based on race, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation or age. It should be mentioned in the section “Towards a Modern Canada” that homosexuality was decriminalized in 1969 and that more recently, civil marriage for same sex couples was legalized nationwide in 2005.

May 17 of every year is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. In 1985, as a new school trustee I heard of a murder in Toronto. Kenneth Zeller, a librarian who was very much loved by the elementary school students where he taught, was gay-bashed and murdered in High Park, a park that a lot of gays and lesbians go to in Toronto. He was killed by four high school students. It was tragic. It was unbelievable, in a way, that these were young people who had graduated from our high schools.

During that period, I went around to different high schools and spoke to a lot of gay and lesbian students. I encouraged them to talk about what was happening in their schools. With the help of a student worker, Tim McCaskell, we were able to invite gay and lesbian students to speak to the school board about their experiences. The Toronto Board of Education was the first school board in all of North America to adopt a curriculum that talks about sexual orientation. We also pledged to train all the teachers and adopt policies to protect students.

Many years later, a recent survey has indicated that three-quarters of LGBTQ students and 95% of transgender students feel unsafe at school. A quarter of LGBTQ students and almost half of the transgender students have skipped school because they feel unsafe.

Six out of ten gay and lesbian students reported being verbally harassed about their sexual orientation, and one in four LGB students has been physically harassed about his or her sexual orientation. Two in five transgender students and one in five gay and lesbian students have been physically harassed.

This kind of difficulty and violence happens in our schools, which is why recently there was the launch of the Gay-Straight Alliance. MyGSA.ca is a website that encourages teachers and students to come together to counteract homophobia. This is supported by Egale and is an excellent website that helps promote the curriculum and helps promotes students.

It is important to look at the history of pension rights in Canada. George Hislop was a gays rights pioneer who won the right to same-sex survivor's benefits from the Canada pension plan for gays and lesbians across Canada. In the early 1970s, when it was not easy to be out of the closet anywhere, George was on national television with his partner, Ron Shearer. His partner had contributed to the Canada pension plan for many years, but when he passed away and Mr. Hislop applied for a pension, he was turned down because he was the same sex as Mr. Shearer.

Same-sex couples were excluded under the Canada pension plan until August 2000 when the laws were finally amended to include them. Those amendments, however, continued to deny pensions to those whose partners had died prior to January 1, 1998, which was the case for Mr. Hislop's same-sex common law partner. Because of his same-sex class action lawsuit based on the charter right of equality, he was able to leave a lasting legacy of tolerance to our entire country.

A person like George Hislop should be celebrated in our citizenship guide, because he was a leader in the lesbian and gay community in fighting discrimination and demanding equal respect.

Luckily in July 2005, the federal government agreed to start paying pensions pending the appeal. While Mr. Hislop did receive his first cheque in August, he passed away soon after.

I talked earlier about equal marriage, and about the long struggle here on Parliament Hill and in the community. Brent Hawkes at the Metropolitan Community Church has been a leader in Canada in pushing for people to learn to love and support each other and not be judgmental. It is part of the universal fellowship of the Metropolitan Community Church. The MCC published banns for same-sex couples, Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell, and Elaine and Anne Vautour, in accordance with the age-old legal tradition.

The Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto married the couples in a double wedding ceremony on January 14, 2001. It was an extremely joyous occasion. I was fortunate to be there. I want to share what Reverend Brent Hawkes said. He said:

Love is the fundamental basis of all Christian teaching.

Because of their Christian heritage, their current faith and for many, their current loving relationships, access to marriage has always been desired by many in our congregation. In fact, blessing same sex unions was one of the first types of services provided by UFMCC [Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches] when it was founded over 30 years ago.

I believe that most Canadians either support our right to marry...or they believe that the state has no business in telling us that we may not do so....and that the majority of Canadians cherish freedom of religion as a fundamental right in our society. Most Canadians would agree that one group in society should not impose its religious beliefs on another group with a different view.

He continues that love and marriage is something that should be celebrated and not prohibited. I witnessed the marriage of Michael and Michael. They are from Halifax. They have been together for 20 years. In Michael Leshner's affidavit, he said:

It should not be necessary for me to justify my application for a marriage licence and requiring me to do so would be discriminatory, humiliating and upsetting. Being denied a marriage licence suggests that Mike and I do not love each other, and that our hopes, our dreams, our life together do not exist. Mike and I, while supposedly equal citizens of this great country, are deemed non-persons, because we are gay.

Subsequently, in 2005-06, there was a series of votes in the House of Commons, and gay marriage was finally approved. I want to repeat a short part of a speech by the member for Toronto—Danforth, the leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada. When the House debated the Civil Marriage Act, Bill C-38, he said:

Mr. Speaker, there are junctures in a country's path when it is an honour to be a member of Parliament because one is able to help make a fundamental choice, a choice that celebrates more of our rich diversity and extends that fundamental Canadian value of equality. Originally, the goal of extending marriage—civil marriage—rights came directly from the grassroots, part of the long struggle of gays and lesbians for a society in which their right to a just, equitable relationship was recognized, meaning the celebration of their union, but also, let us hope, our celebration of their union.

It is important that all of this history and the rights of the gay and lesbian community be recognized, celebrated, and documented in our citizenship guide. For us not to do so, especially for our new immigrants, is unfair and unjust. There is no excuse. The citizenship guide, as it is, is fairly substantial. It is hefty. There is all sorts of good information in the citizenship guide. There is absolutely no reason not to include this section.

Many people have done a great deal of work on equality. Not only should we include all of this in the citizenship guide, but I believe that the federal government has a role to play in helping to educate our young people and new immigrants to make sure that they understand that homophobia is not tolerated, that there is a hate crime in this country, and that gay bashing will be punished.

All those elements we celebrate should be included. We must make sure, whether people are young or old, new to Canada, or live in urban centres or rural Canada, that all citizens of Canada understand this priority.

I want to take the time to read something that passed through the House of Commons three times in three years in three Parliaments under three prime ministers. The House of Commons voted to affirm the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and to affirm the inclusion of same-sex couples in civil marriage.

The first vote was in September 2003, following the historic Court of Appeal for Ontario ruling. The second vote was in 2005 on Bill C-38, which is the equal marriage bill. The final vote was 158 to 133.

The third vote was on December 7, 2006, and that vote was divisive, because even though Bill C-38 had passed, the Conservatives at that time wanted to bring forward that issue again. Thankfully, the vote passed again for the third time in three years.

Immediately after its passage on December 7, 2006, Canadians for Equal Marriage had this to say:

We are heartened that Canadian values of inclusion, equality and respect for difference have shown themselves to be stronger than ever.

A clear pattern has been established in the three votes that have been held in Parliament since the courts first ruled that excluding same-sex couples from civil marriage violates the charter. This is a pattern of growing acceptance of equal marriage, a pattern that reflects Canada's growing consensus on this issue.

Most MPs, like most Canadians, have come to understand that equal marriage doesn't harm anyone; it only makes life better for some. They have come to understand that a generous and inclusive definition of marriage actually strengthens the institution. They have come to understand that the only reason to exclude same-sex couples from civil marriage is discomfort, resistance to change and moral judgment. And they have learned that voting in favour of equality and inclusion feels really, really good.

We also want to salute all the Canadians who may have been uncomfortable with including same-sex couples in marriage, but who have come to accept and perhaps even embrace equal marriage. It's you who have truly demonstrated the wonder of Canada—that people with such diverse backgrounds and beliefs get along and live together in peace and harmony. That ability makes Canada the envy of the world.

That is why many of them want to come to Canada.

To continue with this statement from the Campaign for Equal Families:

Our common challenge now is to look at each other with eyes of understanding and compassion. To put aside our differences and focus on what we have in common. We all want to build a better Canada and a better world. And now that we have put this issue behind us, we can get on with that task.

In the not-too-distant future, we will look back and wonder how it was that this was even an issue. We will be proud that Canada chose to continue its long tradition of inclusion and respect for diversity, and refused to turn back the clock on equality. And hopefully, one day, the idea that someone would hide their sexual orientation or their gender identity will make no sense at all.

We look forward to that day.

We look forward to the day when all new immigrants understand that they do not have to hide their sexual orientation or their gender identity. That day, when every new immigrant becomes a citizen, he or she will be proud of Canada's long tradition of inclusion and respect for diversity. Now is not the time to turn back the clock on equality, which is why we must include gay rights and gay history in our citizenship guide.