House of Commons Hansard #67 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was code.


Public Safety and National SecurityCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

Oxford Ontario


Dave MacKenzie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to join in this debate on the motion before us today. I am especially grateful for the chance to speak on behalf of tens of thousands of law-abiding constituents in my riding who have already made their views known on Bill C-391, as well as millions of law-abiding Canadians in ridings across the country who have done the same. They have told us loud and clear that they are in favour of effective gun control, which is why they are opposed to the long gun registry. They have told us that the long gun registry does nothing to prevent crime and that even worse, it forces law enforcement officials to focus on the wrong people when trying to fight crime.

It criminalizes law-abiding farmers, duck hunters, and sport shooters, rather than ensuring that guns do not fall into the hands of criminals. It creates the illusion that something is being done to crack down on gun crime, when in fact the resources used to run it could be better spent on measures that are really effective.

Most of all, what Canadians across this country have told us is that we should work together to make sure that Bill C-391 is passed into law, so that law-abiding citizens are no longer penalized according to where they live or how they make a living. I am confident that hon. members will do that and vote to defeat the motion before us today, which clearly ignores the will of a majority of voters, as expressed in this place last fall.

The motion before us today suggests the Standing Committee on Public Safety and Security has heard “sufficient testimony that Bill C-391 will dismantle a tool that promotes and enhances public security and the safety of Canadian police officers”.

What it fails to point out, however, is that the standing committee heard from scores of witnesses who testified that Bill C-391 should be passed in the interests of doing away with the long gun registry, which does nothing to prevent gun crimes, nothing to promote and enhance public safety, unnecessarily targets law-abiding citizens, and is a waste of money.

The committee heard from front-line officers that the long gun registry is at best an ineffective and at worst a dangerous tool to use, since the data contained are not accurate. Relying on the data, in other words, could in fact put the lives of inexperienced front-line officers at risk, should they choose to base their decisions on the registry alone. As a former police chief, I know that the long gun registry is ineffective and that front-line police officers do not rely on this information.

In my very riding, these concerns have been raised. Listen to what the president of the Woodstock Police Association had to say. He said, “The inconsistencies, inaccuracies and obscene expense of the registry make it a farce. To say an officer is safer for it is unrealistic at best. Any street officer who would rely on the registry as a safety umbrella is only fooling himself into a false sense of security. Officer safety, safe and responsible firearm ownership, has absolutely nothing to do with this registration”.

The opposition continues to push the misleading headline that all police are united in supporting the long-gun registry. This is simply not true. The statement I just read could not be clearer. The testimony we heard at committee could not be clearer.

The committee heard from Chief Constable Bob Rich from the Abbotsford Police Department, who testified that it was his firm belief that the registry is horrifically inaccurate. Chief Constable Rich testified that in conversations with his investigators and gun experts, and in story after story, whenever anyone has tried to use the registry, the information they received was wrong. His conclusion was that a flawed system such as the one currently in place is in fact worse than no system at all.

The committee also heard from Detective Sergeant Murray Grismer of the Saskatoon Police Service. Detective Sergeant Grismer was a team leader at the Olympic security force and had the opportunity during the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games to speak with police officers from across Canada. His testimony during committee hearings was that the vast majority of officers he spoke with did not support the continuation of the registry. Why? It was because, in his words, they did not trust the information it contains and they see it as a waste of money. Detective Sergeant Grismer added that police across Canada, in his words, cannot and must not place their trust and risk their lives on the inaccurate, unverified information contained in the registry, and that if doing away with the long-gun registry saves even one life of Canada's front line officers, then it is worth it.

With that in mind, I have to wonder how the motion before us today can even suggest that the existing, ineffective registry promotes the safety of Canadian police officers. The testimony of front-line officers, as heard by the committee, in fact suggests otherwise. It suggests that the existing registry actually puts front-line officers in harm's way. Why then do some hon. members wish to keep it?

Here again the motion before us suggested that the registry promotes and enhances public safety. What the committee heard, however, is that the existing wasteful and ineffective long gun registry does no such thing.

Chief Rick Hanson of the Calgary Police Service testified at committee hearings that in his opinion the registry only marginally addresses the broader issue of gun crime and violence in Canada. The real need, he said, was for governments to deal with the criminal activity of individuals who possess and use guns in the commission of offences. Our government agrees, which is why we have introduced and passed measures to crack down on crime, violent gun crimes in particular.

The committee also heard from Dave Shipman, who served for 25 years with the Winnipeg Police Service and spent nearly 19 of those years investigating violent crimes in the homicide robbery division. He asked the same question that many law-abiding Canadians are asking: How does the gun registry assist the police in preventing gun crime? His answer was that it does not. In fact, he said that it offers nothing to protect our citizenry from being victims of gun crimes perpetrated by well-armed criminals.

Those were his words, and they are words all of us heard time and time again at committee hearings and words all of us have heard from our law-abiding constituents with regard to the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry. They are also the words all of us have heard from the Auditor General. In the Auditor General's report from both 2002 and 2006, she noted that the Canadian Firearm Centre was unable or unwilling to provide information to substantiate the need for a long-gun registry as a public safety tool. She stated, “The centre does not show how these activities help minimize the risk to public safety with evidence based on outcomes such as reduced deaths, injuries and threats from firearms”.

The bottom line is that if the long gun registry fails to do what it intends to do, then any amount of money spent on it is a waste. As the Yukon minister of justice wrote, “Canadians would be better served if the funds invested in this program had been spent on increased funding for violence prevention initiatives or more enforcement personnel. Yukon's position is that the registry does not deliver positive results at a realistic cost to taxpayers”.

The government could not agree more. We can and should put those resources to better use in funding programs and initiatives that actually have an impact in targeting gun crimes. Our focus should be on getting tough with gangs and crime guns, not on turning goose hunters into criminals.

I must say that I am often saddened and even shocked by what is happening in some of our communities. Blatant acts of violence committed by gun-toting criminals all too often make the headlines. There are many perpetrators and too many victims. We hear of gang members gunning down their rivals on the sidewalks or in parking lots, or even in local parks where children play. Don Morgan, Saskatchewan's justice minister has noted that Saskatchewan is investing in programs to combat gang activities, assist victims of crime, and put more police officers on the street.

Public Safety and National SecurityCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It being 7:30 p.m., pursuant to an order made earlier today, all questions necessary to dispose of the motion are deemed put and a recorded division deemed requested and deferred until Wednesday, September 22, 2010 immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

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

September 21st, 2010 / 7:30 p.m.


Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, better product safety legislation is needed in the country. It seems like every few weeks there is a new report about some dangerous or faulty product. Many of these products are products for children. In 2010 we saw children's toys, cribs and medications all being subject to safety concerns.

Unfortunately Health Canada does not have the tools it needs to ensure the safety of the public. For example, it cannot issue mandatory recalls. In 2009 Health Canada posted more than 300 voluntary recall notices, a third of them for children's products. Lots of these products were not made in Canada, but still the government did not have the power to make the recalls mandatory.

The Hazardous Products Act of 1969 has not been effective in identifying or removing dangerous products. This has meant in the majority of cases Canadians have been dependent on the product alerts and recalls issued by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission instead of Health Canada. In 2005 and 2006 more than 40% of product recalls were ordered as a direct result of U.S. initiated action.

Successive Canadian governments, this one included, have been happy to promote and applaud corporate trade over the last few decades but not to police it. This is unacceptable. It is putting people at risk.

We need Health Canada to be taking the lead in these instances, identifying and removing dangerous products in a timely fashion. This is why I have asked this several times in the House since becoming health critic for the NDP, just as my colleague Judy Wasylycia-Leis asked before me. When will the government get serious about product safety legislation?

We have been asking and asking and finally the government did introduce Bill C-36 last spring. What an amazingly drawn out process. Delays have been due in part to the government's habit of proroguing when it suits its needs. It has been repeatedly terminating legislation designed to keep Canadians safe.

Here is a summary of what we have gone through. The first attempt was Bill C-51 in 2008. The NDP opposed Bill C-51 because instead of strengthening safety, it was a continuation of the previous Liberal government's interests and permissive attitudes toward big pharma. Fortunately Bill C-51 did not become law, but this was not due to political courage or insight from the government but because of Conservative prorogation after the federal election of 2008.

The next attempt to respond to the needs and requests of Canadians came when the government introduced Bill C-6, the Canada consumer product safety act in February 2009. Again, Bill C-6 did not survive because of prorogation in December 2009.

We have this current legislation, but we have seen more delays. The House convened on March 3 and Bill C-36 did not have its first reading until June 9, three months later, despite the government's repeated statement that the legislation was as important to it as it was to Canadians. Bill C-36 does not seem to be on the House's legislative agenda for the next few weeks.

My question to the government is this. When will the government continue the legislative process for a bill for which so many Canadians have been asking? Will there be more delays?

7:30 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario


Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the member on her return to the Health committee and I am looking forward to working with her over the next few months.

I am pleased to rise this evening to discuss the government's commitment to consumer safety and specifically to address Bill C-36, An Act respecting the safety of consumer products.

On June 9, as the member said, the Minister of Health introduced Bill C-36 and, as members opposite know, it now awaits second reading. The government has made important improvements to what was previous Bill C-6 and we are looking forward to support from our colleagues when the bill begins its progression through Parliament.

Bill C-36 fulfils a promise made by the government in our 2010 throne speech. Many Canadians believe that the consumer products they purchase every day are safe when used as directed. We know that businesses in Canada want to ensure the products they sell are safe. It has been estimated that up to one-third of Canadians have at least once bought products that were later found to be unsafe.

Each year, millions of Canadian consumers are affected by recalls. In 2009 alone, Health Canada posted over 300 recall notices. One-third of these recalls were for children's products. This statistic alone underlines the importance of the work the department has done to regulate products for vulnerable populations.

However, the regulation of consumer products has been done in the context of the Hazardous Products Act legislation which is now over 40 years old. While that legislation may have served Canadians well in the past, it is now out of step with market globalization and out of step with the legislation of our major trading partners. Clearly, it is time update and modernize our consumer safety regime. Bill C-36, the proposed Canada consumer products safety act, would modernize and strengthen Canada's product safety legislation.

What is our goal with the bill? Bill C-36 is part of the government's comprehensive food and consumer safety action plan and targets three areas for improvement. The first area is active prevention. We want to prevent problems with consumer products before they occur. The second area is targeted oversight. By having better information, such as through mandatory incident reporting, the government will be able to better target products with the highest risk. The third area is rapid response. The legislation would give us the tools we need to act swiftly when we required

Right now our legislation supports only a reactive approach. The vast majority of consumer products are unregulated by the Hazardous Products Act. This essentially means that for the vast majority of consumer products we are very limited in the actions that we can take when a consumer safety issue is identified. Even for regulated products, like toys, children's jewellery and cribs, we are limited in the actions we can take when a safety issue is identified.

Arguably, the most significant gap in our ability to respond to safety issues is the absence of any authority to issue mandatory recalls for consumer products. This means that when a safety issue is identified with a consumer product we have very little options other than to ask the industry to recall its product voluntarily.

We will always favour a voluntary approach with industry and we believe industry will usually respond favourably. However, Canadian consumers should not have a lower standard of protection than consumers in both the United States and Europe. The need for government to have new authorities has grown in concert with the dramatic changes we have seen in the global marketplace.

The marketplace of 40 years ago when the Hazardous Products Act was introduced was very different from that of today. Products sold in Canada now come from all over the world and there are new materials, new substances and new technologies. There are new products and more products from a multiplicity of sources all around the globe.

In Canada, these are found in post-market regulatory regimes. That means that, despite what many Canadians might think, producers, importers, distributors and retailers are not required to certify or otherwise verify the safety of their products with government before they are offered for sale in this country.

Bill C-36 would not change the fundamental nature of a regulatory regime--

7:35 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Halifax.

7:35 p.m.


Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, while the NDP is pleased that Bill C-36 has finally been introduced, we do have a few questions about the bill that we hope the government can answer. We do see it having a few deficiencies, for example, the lack of a comprehensive labelling system for products that contain hazardous materials. People need to know what is in the products they are using. There is no acceptable or convincing reason not to inform people of what is in a product.

There is too much discretion in some pieces of the bill. I believe that if human health is at risk Canadians should know about it. However, the government is not required to inform consumers of safety issues that have been identified. This really needs to be tightened up, hopefully through amendments at committee.

I am also left wondering about enforcement resources. The bill would require significant government performance in order to achieve the level of proactive product safety needed.

I am wondering if the parliamentary secretary has answers to those issues.

7:40 p.m.


Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the member says, I am looking forward to the bill going to committee.

The health and safety of Canadians is very important for our government. The proposed Canada consumer product safety act would modernize and strengthen Canada's product safety legislation and would provide new ways to quickly and effectively protect the health and safety of Canadians. By modernizing our consumer product safety law, we are seeking to better protect the public by addressing or preventing dangers to human health or safety posed by consumer products.

In most cases, companies co-operate with the government and take voluntary action quickly to pull unsafe products from the shelves. However, there are exceptions when this does not happen. By collaborating with manufacturers, suppliers and retailers and backed by strong legislation, we will help improve the safety of consumer products in Canada.

As part of active prevention, the proposed act would institute a general prohibition against the manufacture, importation, advertisement or sale of consumer products that pose an unreasonable danger to human health or safety and packaging or labels on products which are false, misleading or deceptive as they relate to health and safety would be prohibited under the proposed legislation.

As part of improved targeted oversight, compliance and enforcement would be strengthened through maximum fines of up to $5 million for some offences. This change would put us in step with our major trading partners.

In the U.S. and EU, for example—

7:40 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway.

7:40 p.m.


Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, last May I asked the government to justify the $1 billion cost of security at the G8 and G20 summits. At that time, it said that this spending was necessary to ensure a safe and secure summit that would protect participants and protect the rights of Canadians to demonstrate their views.

I would like to quote a member of the government, the member for Edmonton—St. Albert, who stated:

—these allocations will not be used only to ensure we protect the safety and security of visiting heads of state and their delegations. Indeed, they are being used to protect the safety and security of all Canadians, including those who wish to engage in peaceful protests during those summits. Clearly, our government believes in freedom of expression.

He stated that on June 1.

He went on to say:

We believe that everyone has the right to be heard. That is why the community relations group within the G8 and G20 integrated security unit has been proactively reaching out to individuals and groups who may wish to protest in order to ensure their needs are accommodated and also to ensure that we can facilitate peaceful and lawful protests at both summits.

Once again, that was the member for Edmonton—St. Albert, speaking on behalf of the government and a member of the public safety committee on which I sit.

Those lofty promises were betrayed. Instead, the $1 billion in summit security did not prevent violence or property damage and resulted in the largest mass arrest in Canadian history. More than 1,100 individual Canadians were arrested over a 36-hour period in Toronto. Those arrested included journalists, human rights monitors, lawyers, protesters and even innocent passersby. More than 800 of those arrested were later released without even being charged and 58 more had their charges dropped later.

The government criticizes previous governments for wasting $1 billion setting up the gun registry, but it managed to squander $1 billion in 72 hours alone on the G8 and G20 summits.

Over the summer, the public safety committee was recalled to study this issue. Yet instead of voting on the motion to launch a federal inquiry into what went wrong, the Conservatives defended the mass arrests and the violations of the rights of Canadians. They filibustered the debate and accused those who supported a federal inquiry of promoting “the agendas of the violent mob made up of thugs and hooligans”.

I met two of the G20 protesters and I think Canadians would be interested to hear their stories. They are not thugs or hooligans. They are law-abiding Canadians who were exercising their freedom to peacefully assemble and express their views. Their names are Kirk Chavarie and Grayson Lepp.

Kirk and Grayson are students at the University of British Columbia's Okanagan campus. They are leaders in the student movement, serving on the executive of their student society and on the provincial executive of the CFS. They were in Toronto representing their student union to attend rallies in support of strengthening public education in Canada and around the world.

They told me that they were transported to a makeshift detention centre and detained there for 24 hours. These are the conditions that they described to me: holding cells cramped full with 30 to 35 people in them, with concrete floors and a steel bench; women forced to toilet themselves in front of other detainees and police officers with their hands still zap-strapped behind their backs; requests for water repeatedly denied; requests for toilet paper repeatedly denied; hundreds of detainees forced to sleep on bare concrete floors; diabetics refused insulin and others refused needed medication; detainees left with hands zap-strapped for up to 16 hours at a time; leaking porta-potties in cells, garbage and unsanitary conditions; abuse, profanities and open threats of violence, sometimes imbued with racism from police officers; and mass arrests of innocent people who committed no crime at all.

7:45 p.m.

Oxford Ontario


Dave MacKenzie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to the success of our front line police officers who were able to protect the safety of visitors and delegates during the G8 and G20 summits.

I just heard my hon. friend talking about lofty promises. I would just remind him of a lofty promise that came from him in this House on April 21, 2009 when he said:

I am particularly proud of our leader, the leader of the New Democrat opposition, who has freed all MPs to vote at their conscience and as their constituents dictate.

We will see how that pans out tomorrow.

I would like to remind the member opposite of the Auditor General's observations from May. She said, “Obviously $1 billion is a lot of money, but I think we have to recognize that security is expensive. There are a lot of people that are involved over a long period of time. We may think that the meetings only last for a few days [as my friend suggested], but all the preparations involve extensive planning, extensive coordination for months before that and I think we have to be really, really careful”.

The notion that these events, which represented the largest security undertaking in Canadian history, were restricted to a 72-hour period is not an accurate reflection of reality.

The simple fact is that security planning began well over a year and a half prior to the summits and involved the coordinated participation of several federal security partners, including the RCMP, Public Safety Canada, the Department of National Defence, the Canadian Border Service Agency, CSIS, as well as several other departments, not to mention our provincial and municipal security partners who were crucial to the provision of security for these events.

This extensive security planning process was indicative of the complexity and scale of hosting these events. Unlike the Olympics, the summits were a security event that had 38 world leaders in attendance, as well as 5,800 delegates and 2,600 journalists.

Canadians can be proud of how our security partners were able to protect the safety of Canadians, delegates and visitors to the city of Toronto and the town of Huntsville, working in what were exceptionally difficult circumstances.

Canadians can be proud of the progress that this government achieved during these meetings on global governance and opportunities for emerging economies.

The G8 was successfully refocused on its strengths: development, peace and, of course, global security challenges.

The G20 summit resulted in an action plan for entrenching the global economic recovery, including reducing global deficits, financial sector reform, progress on anti-protectionism and debt relief for Haiti. As well, it set the stage for an enhanced level of discussion that will occur at the G20 summit in South Korea this November.

Unfortunately, there are those who seek to disrupt and prevent these summits through unlawful activities. Consequently, a large scale and world-class security plan was necessary to deliver the security required.

This government has been transparent in representing the costs of hosting these important events from the outset and will continue to be. Full co-operation was granted to the Parliamentary Budget Officer to review the security cost estimates. After his assessment, Mr. Page concluded that the government had been transparent in representing the cost estimates and that they were within the range of security costs for recent G8 summits.

The government has also invited the Auditor General to review the security costs and is co-operating fully with this process. The Auditor General's report is scheduled to be released next spring.

In the meantime, as stated before, final security costs will be reported once they have been finalized.

7:45 p.m.


Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, Grayson and Kirk, along with dozens of other students, were awakened at gunpoint, kicked in the stomach and arrested for unlawful assembly early on the morning of June 27 while they were sleeping at the University of Toronto. I wonder if that is the enhanced discussion my friend just talked about.

It is outrageous that these conditions were allowed to take place in this country.

Tonight, I want to ask the Conservative government if it will join with New Democrats in our efforts to give Canadians accountability for the $1 billion that was spent on summit security but, more important, will it join with us to get to the bottom of the serious violations of Canadian civil rights that occurred in Toronto?

A full public inquiry has been supported by a wide array of groups and individuals, including the Toronto deputy police chief, Keith Forde; Canadians Advocating Public Participation; the Canadian Civil Liberties Association; Amnesty International Canada; and the Southern Ontario Newsmedia Guild which is demanding an independent federal inquiry into police actions at the G20 summit. That includes 34 media workplaces, including the Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, Toronto Sun, London Free Press, Ottawa Sun, Sing Tao--

7:50 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

7:50 p.m.


Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I have already indicated, my friend opposite talks about lofty promises. I just gave him one that came from him in this House. Let us see how that pans out for him tomorrow.

I would like to take the opportunity to remind the member opposite that Canada has an obligation to protect visiting heads of state in accordance with the United Nations convention that was adopted in 1973 to provide security to internationally protected persons.

The 38 world leaders and 5,800 delegates who arrived in Canada for the summits were all covered under the security provisions that were delivered. Clearly, their security was critical to the success of the summits.

The responsibility that comes with hosting events of this magnitude and the corresponding risks cannot simply be dismissed due to monetary reasons.

Security experts, the Auditor General and the Parliamentary Budget Officer have all confirmed that the security costs were reasonable and direct cost comparisons that the media and the opposition have made to other summits have been disingenuous and false.

7:50 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

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

(The House adjourned at 7:51 p.m.)