House of Commons Hansard #134 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seniors.


Cattle IndustryPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.


Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured today to present a petition signed by numerous cattle producers from southwestern Ontario. Many Canadians have forgotten that on May 20, 2003, a single case of BSE was discovered in Alberta causing a series of events that has devastated the cattle industry. Many of the cattle farmers I have spoken with have told me that the prospect for a full recovery for the cattle industry remains unlikely in the immediate or foreseeable future.

As the federal government is fully aware, a class action lawsuit was launched in 2005 and has now been certified and is proceeding to trial.

The 135,000 hard-working Canadian farm families and the signatures on this petition call on the Government of Canada to appoint the Honourable Mr. Justice Frank Iacobucci as mediator to facilitate a settlement between the Government of Canada and the cattle farmers.

I hope the federal government strongly considers the ongoing financial and emotional hardships caused by this event to these families when responding to this petition.

Social HousingPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

February 18th, 2011 / 12:05 p.m.


Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am presenting a petition with 120 signatures, which calls on the federal government not to make cuts in the renovation budget for low income housing.

In Quebec, 544 housing offices produced a health impact assessment proving that major renovations to low income housing are needed. The federal government is responsible in part for this situation because it did not invest enough in the maintenance and renovation of low income housing built in Quebec starting in the early 1970s.

In Quebec, 65,000 families live in low income housing. This work will protect the sustainability of housing stock worth more than $7 billion. The Société d'habitation du Québec needs this funding, which the federal government considers to be adequate.

That is why 120 people are asking the Government of Canada to make the required public investment enabling Société d'habitation du Québec to complete its renovation plan for low income housing, which includes covering an accumulated maintenance deficit.

Canada Health ActPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.


Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table a petition in the House signed by Canadians from across Ontario calling on the House of Commons to enshrine the Canada Health Act and the five principles of medicare in the Canadian Constitution to guarantee the national standards of quality for publicly funded health care for every Canadian citizen as a right.

The petitioners express their belief that this would protect the five principles of medicare: universal coverage, accessibility, portability, comprehensive coverage, and federal funding based on non-profit administration in the provision of health care.

National DefencePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.


Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a second petition from residents of Calgary, Alberta, who are urging the House to hold hearings on the 65 F-35 joint strike fighters.

The petitioners express concern about the roughly $30 billion estimated cost over 30 years, and they express concern about the procedure to approve the cost without open public hearings to review the cost and the need for the joint strike fighters, and to balance those off with the need for icebreakers for the Arctic, transport aircraft, military and civilian personnel, and a major boost to the diplomatic corps, as well as the needs for the environment, health and education.

Right to LifePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.


Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions.

In the first one, the petitioners note that Canada is a country that respects human rights, including the right to life. They note that it has been over 20 years since Canada has had a law to protect unborn children.

The petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada to pass legislation that will protect human life from conception until natural death.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.


Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, in the second petition, the petitioners note that if people are to receive old age security currently, they must have contributed to Canadian society for at least 10 years. The petitioners note that there is a private member's bill, Bill C-428, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (residency requirement), that would reduce that requirement to three years.

The petitioners are calling upon Parliament to defeat that legislation. They believe the 10-year requirement is reasonable.

Multiple SclerosisPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.


Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present another petition today regarding chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency.

MS patients are frustrated, as they are being told to wait for the results of seven studies to which there are already answers. International studies show that 80% to 97% of MS patients have one or more venous abnormalities, depending on the diagnostic or treatment method used.

An estimated 12,500 liberation procedures have been undertaken worldwide, while Canadians wait for seven studies that are still in the planning stage.

Four hundred people die of MS each year in Canada. Many of them take their own lives.

We have been calling for clinical trials and a registry since the spring. The petitioners are calling for clinical trials with diagnosis, treatment and follow-up in Canada.

Canada Health ActPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.


Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition today asking the federal government to preserve and enforce the Canada Health Act and the foundation of medicare in every province and region of Canada, and maintain the five principles of medicare.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to enshrine the Canada Health Act and the five principles of medicare in the Canadian Constitution to guarantee national standards of quality, publicly funded health care for every Canadian citizen as a right.

I would like to thank Russ Rak, a CAW Local 222 retired worker, who has actually taken the time to engage citizens in his community and to raise this very important issue with them, in asking them to sign these petitions. Russ Rack is to be congratulated for this. He and I both look forward to the answer from the minister.

Employment InsurancePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, I rise once more to talk about the EI pilot projects that were recently extended into June.

However, the petitioners from the province of Newfoundland and Labrador draw to the attention of the House of Commons their desire to see these pilot projects extended indefinitely on a permanent basis.

The pilot projects are beneficial to the area, especially the policy concerning the best 14 weeks to be used in the calculation of the benefit rate. If the last 14 weeks are used, it becomes an impediment to employment, not only to them but also to employers in the seasonal work industry. The latter will be unable to find people willing to work for the shorter weeks, given the fact that the rate will be reduced. That becomes an impediment to work and is bad for the employers.

These petitioners, primarily from Trouty and Sweet Bay, as well as Port Blandford, want to see these pilot projects made permanent in order to increase benefits from EI.

Canada Health ActPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.


Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, as a member of the party of Tommy Douglas, the father of Canadian medicare, I proudly rise to present a petition from Ontarians.

The petitioners request that the federal government preserve and enforce the Canada Health Act, the foundation of medicare, in every province and region of Canada and maintain the five principles of medicare: universal coverage, accessibility, portability, comprehensive coverage, and federal funding based on non-profit administration in the provision of health care.

These petitioners further call on the Parliament of Canada to enshrine the Canada Health Act and those five important principles in the Canadian Constitution so that the right of Canadians to national standards and quality publicly funded health care is absolutely guaranteed.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan


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

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


Statements by Minister of International Cooperation Regarding KAIROSPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do have a question of privilege and I also have a point of order. They are related, but I would like to begin with the question of privilege.

Yesterday, we heard in the House from the member for Scarborough—Guildwood and the member for Ottawa Centre about the question of the Minister of International Cooperation and the belief and allegations that the minister has deliberately misled the House and the committee.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to add some information on that same question of privilege by bringing to your attention a very recent ruling from the legislature of Saskatchewan. It is a speaker's ruling from Tuesday, May 4, 2010. It has to do with representations by a minister and, in this particular case, whether or not the minister of health had committed contempt by purposely misleading the assembly about a particular matter.

While I will not go into the case, I do want to quote a section of that speaker's ruling, because I believe it will assist you, Mr. Speaker, in your deliberations on the matter before you.

The speaker from the Saskatchewan legislature said:

The charge that a member has made deliberately misleading statements, if well-founded, has been treated as contempt by this Legislative Assembly and other parliaments. On November 3, 2009, I addressed another case of alleged contempt for misleading statements. In that case I referenced precedents that established differences in the way such cases are treated in Saskatchewan compared to other jurisdictions. I will not repeat those precedents except to say they are dated November 18, 1975 and July 13, 1982. These precedents established that in Saskatchewan, the threshold of proof of an offence is not restricted to an admission of guilt. Contempt has been found on the basis of evidence. In this situation the minister has not admitted to have misled the Assembly so the case must be reviewed on the documentary evidence provided by the Opposition House Leader.

The speaker in the Saskatchewan legislature, in his ruling, then went on to look at the evidence in that particular case. I will not go into that, but I do want to quote the conclusion of the speaker in Saskatchewan:

Because of these troubling questions and inconsistencies, I find there is sufficient evidence and reason to warrant the Assembly taking up this question, and as such find that a prima facie case has been established.

I believe that in this ruling, the speaker in Saskatchewan clearly established that the test is not the member's statement in reply to an allegation, but it is actually the evidence before the speaker that establishes the prima facie case. I do think that is relevant to the case that was put yesterday in the House.

Mr. Speaker, I know that you have yet to hear from the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader, but I hope you will consider this information from Saskatchewan relevant to your deliberation.

Statements by Minister of International Cooperation Regarding KAIROSPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan


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

Mr. Speaker, I want to reply to the alleged privilege matters raised yesterday by the members for Scarborough—Guildwood, Ottawa Centre, and Joliette and to today's intervention by the member for Vancouver East. These relate to the content of the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs that was also tabled yesterday.

The sixth report contains a series of quotations taken from evidence gathered earlier by the committee while it was examining a decision of the government relating to a funding application by KAIROS. Those quotations are clear and easily understood.

There are no accusations or other suggestions in the sixth report that the rights or dignity of the House has been compromised. Questions are put and answers are given. There are no indications that the minister or officials refused to answer the questions put to them. There is no suggestion or evidence in the record that the committee has been misled, either unintentionally or deliberately.

The committee concluded:

In light of other information before the House, your Committee wishes to draw attention to what appears to be a possible breach of privilege and recommends that the House consider all relevant documents and ministerial and other statements and take such measures as deemed necessary.

No direct accusation of any sort is contained in the body of the report, no contravention of any aspect of the law of privilege is enunciated, and no person is accused of anything. There are no contradictions of fact, there are no incongruities in testimony and no indication of what the “other information before the House” might be. There is nothing.

What is the matter of privilege that should be examined? What is the prima facie case? Who is accused of what? I do not know. The members of the House do not know. You do not know, Mr. Speaker. The media do not know and Canadians do not know. Why do we not know? It is because the committee has said nothing by way of accusation. What charge is there to be answered? None of us know. There is no accusation.

The member for Scarborough—Guildwood used this report as the basis of a complaint asking that the Speaker find a prima facie case of privilege. However, since the committee transmitted no grievance, the member's accusations are apparently based on something for which there is no reference or evidence in the committee report.

I respectfully suggest that it is not open for a committee to report that an undescribed and undefined breach of privilege may have occurred, as that would then open the door for any member of the House to make a new accusation without the support of the committee.

What does the member say is the breach of privilege? Yesterday, the member accused the Minister of International Cooperation of contempt for the House, in that she had “deliberately attempted to mislead the House by way of a statement” and “that she knew or ought to have known that the statements to the House were either false or an attempt to mislead”.

That is the accusation by the member, not the committee. Let me repeat: it is by the member, not the committee.

What is the evidence put forward by the member? He cites testimony from the December 9 meeting, and a reasonable reading of that exchange cannot substantiate his charge. The minister is precise in her answers and they are clear in meaning. There is no double meaning or other deception.

In particular, there was an exchange in answer to a simple question about whether the minister knew who had written in the word “not” to signify the minister's decision. There was nothing before the committee, and nothing now in its report before the House, to suggest that the answer was inaccurate. Once again, there was nothing before the committee and nothing now in the report before the House to suggest that the answer was inaccurate.

In light of other direct and clear answers given by the minister at the same meeting to the effect that the decision at issue was taken by her, there was no omission in the answers with the intent to mislead. Perhaps the member should have asked different questions or more questions or have been more diligent in his inquiry, but his unhappiness with the answer is not a breach of privilege.

The member for Scarborough—Guildwood then went to the answer to a written question, which I assume is Question No. 106, put by the member for London North Centre. This was answered on April 23 last year. The date is last April. At that time there was no discussion of the minister's decision.

It is therefore not surprising that the response to the question followed the structure of the question. The question referenced CIDA priorities, CIDA criteria and CIDA examination. The minister's response referenced an activity within CIDA that was the subject of the inquiry. She was not asked about the decision process insofar as the minister and officials were concerned. Again, it was a straightforward and, on all the evidence, an accurate answer to the question put.

Were the member to read the answer given to his own written question, Question No. 31, he will find these words:

The Official Development Assistance Accountability Act, stipulates that official development assistance may be provided only if the competent minister is of the opinion that it (a) contributes to poverty reduction; (b) takes into account the perspectives of the poor; and (c) is consistent with international human rights standards.

The answer further states that “CIDA receives more proposals than it has the budget to fund”, so even if some of the proposals that meet the broad framework of the act must be turned down because of budget restrictions.

This answer was given in March. The April answer is of a similar construct in that, “CIDA encompasses both officials and the minister responsible for CIDA”.

Turning now to the focal point of much of the discussion and debate in the House over the last few days, that is, the minister's answers as to the identity of the person who inserted the word “not” in the document, the minister told the committee she did not know who did it. She told the House the word was inserted on her instructions. These are not contradictory statements. On all the evidence before the House, it must be concluded that both statements are true. Once again, the member asking the question failed to pursue the inquiry. Precise answers to questions do not constitute contempt.

The member's fourth accusation does not relate to anything said or done by the minister.

The member for Ottawa Centre and the member for Joliette echoed the points offered by the member for Scarborough—Guildwood. There is no evidence that members have been obstructed.

Some may say that the departmental document carrying the inserted word “not” is an issue. I respectfully disagree. Few of us in this place ever see these internal documents. They are not parliamentary documents and they are intended to convey information within the executive government.

What is clear is that the senior departmental officials knew the wishes of the minister, knew that she had full authority to differ with officials and to refuse the application. No member of the House has suggested that this was improper, and no one ever suggested that a bureaucratic and ministerial paper flow had to be a work of art.

The means chosen to communicate the minister's decision back to officials may not have been what others would or should do, but it was intended solely to communicate to officials the minister's decision, nothing more, nothing less, not in the knowledge that it might one day be made public and with no intention whatsoever to deceive or mislead anyone about the officials' recommendation.

The committee makes no specific charge or accusation. The member for Scarborough—Guildwood, who is a member of the foreign affairs committee and therefore an author of this report, cannot use an empty committee report to concoct his own accusations and grievances and then suggest that they carry the authority of the committee. And a committee report whispering the word privilege and other unspecified information is not a sufficient authority on which to find a prima facie case of privilege.

In conclusion, while the committee report does not make a charge or offer evidence of anyone making deliberately misleading statements, these charges are being made against the minister in the media and by the opposition in this place. The facts do not support these charges.

Statements by Minister of International Cooperation Regarding KAIROSPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, you will recollect that in round one of this question of privilege you made several observations. You made the observation that you were deeply disturbed, that reasonable people might well conclude that there were some difficulties with this decision making process, that you, indeed, were shocked by the way in which the decision was communicated to members and that a reasonable person might well conclude that there was some possibility that members were misled, but you decided on a narrow ground that no point of privilege was sustainable by virtue of the fact that certain documents were not properly before you.

Mr. Speaker, when that decision was made, the foreign affairs committee therefore issued its report last Wednesday, which had the effect of putting the documentation in question properly before you. Then we, in effect, launched a second round of inquiry with respect to this question of parliamentary privilege. The minister has had an opportunity to clarify the record and at this point we have something in the order of about three, four or five versions of what actually happened.

At some point or another, Mr. Speaker, you are going to have to come to a decision on the basis of the record now properly before you as to whether there is a prima facie case of breach of members' privileges. The documentation that was properly put before you is in addition to the minister's statement on February 14, and is in addition to the exchanges in question period, which seem to be creative, to say the least.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that you extend to me and my colleagues the same courtesy that you gave to the government representative and defer our response to the government's intervention to the first available opportunity when we return after this break week.

Statements by Minister of International Cooperation Regarding KAIROSPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.


Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker,there are a couple of points that I think are important to underline in light of the government's intervention and response to the question of privilege.

Mr. Speaker, I should point out that in the report that was submitted by the committee, at the bottom of the report, just before the chair signed off, there is a copy of the relevant minutes of proceedings. I want to underline that because it does give you a full overview of the debate within committee on this issue. I think that is important because it is in context that we are debating this point of privilege.

One of those points is not only the minister saying that, on the one hand, she was not aware of who put the “not” in the document, she was not able to divulge that, then she conveyed in testimony that she was very well attuned to what was in the proposal. That is important because when I asked her questions at committee, I asked if she had read the proposal and she had assured us that she had. That is important because of the dates. She had the sign-off from senior officials on this to approve the proposal and when we came to the point of trying to find out from her how this process worked, she was not able to tell us.

This is where I believe our privileges were compromised and where there is a prima facie case of contempt. As I mentioned in my intervention yesterday, the 1978 decision by Speaker Jerome was notwithstanding that the information that was provided to an hon. member back in 1973, and this was with regard to the opening of mail by the RCMP, there was no knowledge of it at the time. It was later found out that there was, in fact, knowledge and that there was withholding of information from hon. members.

I need to underline one thing here. There is a certain standard of conduct that all hon. members should all ascribe to, that is, telling our colleagues exactly what has happened in a truthful manner.

Cabinet ministers are held to a higher standard, for obvious reasons. They have to absolutely assure all members that they are divulging all information because of the nature of their position.

I say that because when we asked for information about how this decision was made, to be polite, the minister was evasive. She would not tell us who intervened to change this document, which I will speak to in a moment, and she led us to believe that she was not involved. That is clear, when we look at the sign-off of her deputy minister and others, the fact that she had this on her desk for the period of time she did, the fact that she said that she had studied this proposal for the time that she had and, at the end of the day, she could not disclose to hon. members who actually made the intervention to kill the proposal.

This is the higher standard I am speaking of. It is not good enough to shrug and say, “Well, I'm sorry. I should have told you I directed someone to do it, but I didn't." I think that is something that needs to be ascertained and Mr. Speaker, if you connect it to the 1973 intervention of an hon. member which led to the 1978 decision of prima facie from Speaker Jerome, you will see that there is an argument.

Finally, there is the document. I respectfully disagree with my colleague from the Conservative Party when he said that normally people would not see this document, maybe it was sloppy, maybe it could have been done differently, but it is not something we should concern ourselves with because, at the end of the day, the minister said it was her decision.

The problem is that it is the whole focus right now because it is important. It is a legal testament to whether or not this proposal was going to be approved.

To go back in time, the nature of bureaucracy and why we have documents is so that there is accountability. My friend says it is not important because normally we would not see these documents, and that this is just the way things happen, that it was sloppy, but we should not worry about it.

The only way to hold government to account, and this applies to the private sector as well, is to look at documents and contracts. This essentially was a contract, a proposal put forward to government, approved by upper levels of the bureaucracy and given to the minister to sign off.

That is the way this works. How else can we have accountability unless we look at documents to ascertain how decisions were made in this place? I know the government does not like that. It would prefer that none of us see anything. We have seen that before with the Afghan detainee documents.

At the end of the day, Mr. Speaker, I encourage you to focus on the document, the impression that was given by the minister, what was divulged by her, and at what point hon. members were actually given access to how that decision was made. I think a prima facie case will be found. As I said before, I think that Speaker Jerome's decision will help in that instance.

Statements by Minister of International Cooperation Regarding KAIROSPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.


Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, let me respond very briefly to the further interventions by my hon. colleagues from Scarborough—Guildwood and Ottawa Centre. I have a couple of points on each.

The member for Scarborough—Guildwood seems to suggest there were answers given at committee that were misleading. I suggest they were not. As I mentioned in my earlier intervention, precise answers, clear answers and accurate answers were given to precise questions. Just because the member may not like the answers does not make that a matter of privilege.

In particular, I would point out the one question about the word “not”. The question to the minister was whether she knew who inserted the word “not”, to which she quite accurately and honestly answered, “no”.

Had the member asked yet another question, such as, did the minister instruct someone to insert the word “not”, I am sure the answer would have been in the affirmative, but he did not ask that question. The minister should not be held in contempt because the member opposite did not ask the correct questions.

With respect to my hon. colleague, the member for Ottawa Centre, when he states that he feels, in his opinion, that he was perhaps deceived, that is a totally subjective interpretation.

The questions were objective in nature. The answers were clear, precise, accurate and honest in their response.

Just because the member feels that he deserved more information, but did not provide questions to elicit that information, does not make this a matter of contempt or a breach of privilege.

I think the facts speak for themselves. I made the government's presentation. Obviously you, Mr. Speaker, will be taking this and other interventions into account. I think all of us in this House look forward to your speedy response to resolve this matter.

Statements by Minister of International Cooperation Regarding KAIROSPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.


Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a fairly short intervention. Like many members, I have not been involved in this directly, but I have been watching the story unfold.

First, there was a very clear indication on the record that the minister's answers publicly and in the House of Commons were suggesting that someone other than her had made this decision to not fund, or to de-fund, the applicant KAIROS. Then the story evolved to where she said she did not know who put the “not” in. If she were taking ownership for the decision and someone asked who put the “not” in, I am pretty sure the minister would have said, “I did”, or “I did not do it”, or “I told somebody to do it”.

This was a record of a ministerial decision. These things are not designed to be done on the back of an envelope. The minister failed to provide sufficient clarity when clearly, members of Parliament at the committee were looking for clarity and she could not or would not provide it, thereby causing significant confusion. Then at the end of the whole exercise, very recently, the minister has had to step up and say the only way the confusion could be cured was by her saying it was her decision, even though she has not been able to tell us who made the record of the decision. She is taking ownership of the decision now, as she should have right from the beginning, instead of saying, “I don't know who put the 'not' in”, or “I am not sure how this record was made”, or “I think the department was against this grant or in favour of the de-funding”. She did not do that. She is doing it now. She is trying now to make right what should have been done over the last few weeks or months.

That has confused me. It has confused Parliament. It has confused us in our exercise of holding the government to account, whether it is the Privy Council, whether it is the minister, whether it is public officials; we cannot do our job when there is that type of confusion.

Mr. Speaker, I leave that with you.

One should not accept the suggestion here that everything is all right because the minister is somehow able now to reach back and say all of this from the very beginning was her decision, that she did what she had to do. A minister in the House even described it as a courageous decision somehow.

I am confused. There are still unanswered questions. The minister could have helped by simply saying who put the “not” on the document, the record of what is now her decision. Who put the “not” on the document and when was it done, before or after which signatures? If she could answer those questions she could put the thing in order. It does not mean she has not confused us and the public record, but it could be put in order if answers could be given to those questions.

Until then, I remain confused about the accountability function on this file.

Statements by Minister of International Cooperation Regarding KAIROSPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

12:45 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that the conclusion of the arguments on the question of privilege?

Then I thank hon. members for their submissions and I will take what they have said today under advisement, as I did the matter yesterday.

Procedure for Dealing with Matters of PrivilegePoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

12:45 p.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for your patience. I know that this is a complicated issue and you are listening carefully to what all members have to say.

I am now rising on a point of order. It is a related matter and has to do with the process whereby members raise questions of privilege based on a committee report.

I want to draw it to your attention because I have to say, the way things unfolded yesterday really bothered me, and I want to get some better understanding and clarity about what your understanding is of the practices and the rules for questions of privilege.

You will recall yesterday that the member for Ottawa Centre rose on a question of privilege. When you recognized him, I think you asked whether it was a point of order or a question of privilege, and he made it quite clear it was a question of privilege. Then you recognized the member for Scarborough—Guildwood and heard his question of privilege on the same question. We were wondering why that was, because the member for Ottawa Centre had made it clear it was a question of privilege.

Later, we realized that the letters that had gone in as a result of the committee report, the letter from the member for Scarborough—Guildwood actually came to the table moments prior to the committee report being tabled in the House, an the letter from the member for Ottawa Centre came in exactly after the report was tabled.

In fact, the member for Ottawa Centre was in the House. He watched the report being tabled. He immediately brought his letter forward and therefore believed that he had followed the practices and the rules and he would raise his question of privilege.

I do believe there is confusion as to whether or not a member can write a letter to you raising a question of privilege on a report from a committee that has not yet been tabled.

We believed we were playing by the rules, only to learn that things could go in earlier. If that is the way it is to be, then I think we should be clear about that. Believe me, if we speculate that a report might be coming, we will rush forward and get a letter in. Maybe we will do it a day ahead of time in the belief that something will happen. I think it does raise the question about whether we can even raise a question of privilege by submitting a letter if the report has not yet been tabled.

I realize it is a process question. I realize you are dealing with a bigger issue here, but I have to say it did cause us some concern. We want to be clear on your understanding of the practices and rules around a letter submitted to you when it involves a committee report.

I place that before you, Mr. Speaker, with good intention and look forward to the response.

Procedure for Dealing with Matters of PrivilegePoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

12:45 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. member for her intervention. I will check the record and get back to the House in due course with a ruling on this matter.

I believe that concludes the points of order for today.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act, be read the third time and passed.


12:50 p.m.


Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, after law school I had the opportunity to work with Professor Wayne MacKay of Dalhousie University, who was working on a couple of papers having to do with anti-terrorism law and privacy and where the two meet. One paper that he produced from this research was for a lecture at St. Thomas University, in New Brunswick. It was titled, “Human Rights in the Global Village: The Challenges of Privacy and National Security”.

Despite having completed my law degree at that time, working for Professor MacKay was the first time I had ever really considered the issues around privacy law. The research I did then, the stories I heard, and the newspaper articles I read had a huge impact on my thinking about law generally.

Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act, raised all the red flags that could possibly be raised for me when it comes to the balance between making our global village function more efficiently and our right to privacy.

I would like to start by reading the opening paragraph from Professor MacKay's lecture at St. Thomas. It provides a good framework for thinking about this bill, a bill that may touch upon our privacy rights. He stated:

In the 1960's renowned Canadian academic, Marshall McLuhan, coined the term “global village”. McLuhan's vision of the global village was that the world was a community in which distance and isolation had been dramatically reduced by electronic media. In the global village we are crossing borders physically, with travel and trade, and we’re also crossing borders virtually with technology, like the phone and internet. There are many benefits to living in the global village but there are also casualties of this new world order, and one of them is privacy.

One of the casualties of this new world order is privacy, and one of the casualties of Bill C-42 is privacy. Bill C-42 is nothing more than an opportunity for data mining by foreign security services, primarily the United States, and it is an unwarranted invasion of the privacy of Canadians.

I would like to spend a bit of time discussing what the bill would actually do, and then provide some of my comments about this bill.

Bill C-42 amends the Aeronautics Act to allow airlines to send personal information about passengers to foreign security services. The information that would be forwarded is determined by requirements laid out in secret agreements with other countries. The details of these agreements have not been released. However, it is known that Canada has signed or is negotiating agreements with the European Union, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Panama, the Dominican Republic and the United States.

Details of the agreement between the European Union and the United States for the same information transfers are troubling. That agreement allows, first, that the information forwarded would be the passenger name record, which is the file that a travel agent creates when booking a vacation, and it could include credit card information; names of the people a passenger is travelling with; hotel or other booking information, such as tours or rental cars; and any serious medical condition the passenger might have. Second, the information collected can be retained by the United States for up to 40 years. Third, this information may be forwarded to the security service of a third nation without the consent or notification of the other signatory. Fourth, no person may know what information is being held about him or her by the United States, and they may not correct that information if there are errors, which is hard to believe. And fifth, the United States may unilaterally amend the agreement as long as it advises the EU of the change.

Apparently there has already been one amendment: all documents held by the EU concerning the agreement will not be publicly released for 10 years, which means there can be no access to information requests.

As I said, in essence this bill would allow data mining of Canadians' personal information by foreign security services. There is the danger that unless this bill is agreed to, the United States could close its airspace to Canadian aircraft. While this threat may result in pressure to pass the bill, it is unlikely the United States would carry through with this threat.

The Conservatives have put the spin on this bill that it is necessary to fight terrorism. There is not one single example of how this data mining has caught one single terrorist, or any other criminal.

In fact, we have many examples of how this type of information can be misused. We have heard about it before, but I will say this name again, Maher Arar, who is the perfect example. If members will not take my word for it, I would ask that they listen to some of the testimony that was heard at committee. It was clear and it was straightforward.

It is hard to imagine that the Conservatives are still supporting this bill. We do not really know what the Liberals are doing, but we will find out. We think they are supporting it.

I will read some excerpts from the committee. There is a very short excerpt, but it is to the point.

Jennifer Stoddart, whom we all know quite well as the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, said very simply:

Bill C-42 raises important sovereignty issues. We are not questioning the American government's authority to implement its secure flight program. International law is clear that a state's sovereignty extends to its airspace. However, the Canadian government has a duty to protect the privacy and civil rights of its citizens.

There we have it: “the Canadian government has a duty to protect the privacy and civil rights of its citizens”.

Dominique Peschard, the President of the Ligue des droits et libertés, testified before the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. Here are some excerpts from his testimony:

It is an illusion to think that the information provided under the Secure Flight program will be protected, that it will be destroyed or that it could be corrected in the event of any error. On the contrary, that information will be added to the data bases of the U.S. intelligence agencies and will be compared with information held by all the agencies I've just mentioned to determine whether such and such a person should be prohibited from flying over the United States or even placed on another list.

Justice O'Connor's investigation of the Arar affair has shown to what extent the ill-considered sharing of information can have harmful effects. Four years after Judge O'Connor's report was tabled, we are still waiting for implementation of his recommendations for the introduction of a mechanism for monitoring security intelligence activities in Canada.

Bill C-42 raises some fundamental issues about Canada's sovereignty and the protection of Canadians' rights and freedoms. The Parliament of Canada has a duty to defend those rights, rather than submit to the United States' endless demands allegedly in the name of security.

I thank my colleagues for their support of my French. I do try.

There is a great quote that I want to use. Nathalie Des Rosiers from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said in her testimony:

Certainly to the extent that there is an expectation of privacy protected by the charter, this bill would not meet a section 1 challenge--

Members probably know that section 1 says that something that violates the charter could actually be saved, because it has certain importance for the Canadian public.

She went on to say:

--because it has no limitations. It does not adequately protect the problems that may arise with the disclosure of information, and so on.

The first point is there is a constitutional vulnerability that should be looked at before we go too much further. There is no requirement in Bill C-42, or in the regulations of the United States TSA, for safeguards to protect the information. There is no safeguard that the TSA would not pass information to other government agencies, such as law enforcement or immigration.

There is no safeguard that the TSA would not pass this information to third countries. This has been a particularly difficult issue for some Canadians, Maher Arar being a case in point. There is no guarantee that the TSA would not use the information for profiling Canadians to put them on its watch list or the no-fly list.

Ms. Des Rosiers went on to say:

I would mention to the committee that in the United States the no fly list is under a constitutional review as we speak. It has been challenged because there are too many false positives arising.

It is interesting to note that Nathalie Des Rosiers does point out that it is under review in the United States.

We also had some interesting testimony at committee from the Liberty Coalition, a U.S.-based civil liberties organization, represented by Edward Hasbrouck. He said:

Unlike the case in Canada, where someone denied travel is given formal notice of that decision and has rights to appeal it, those no-fly orders in the U.S. are entirely extrajudicial. No one in the U.S. has yet obtained court review by any U.S. court of a no-fly order. It is U.S. government policy not even to admit that they have issued such an order, and that includes those denying passage on flights overflying the U.S. that were not scheduled to land.

The former Secretary of Homeland Secretary, Michael Chertoff, is on the public record as saying he believed that no-fly decisions should not be subject to judicial review, and the current U.S. administration has done nothing to repudiate that perspective

While the consequences for anyone are very serious, including those U.S. citizens trapped abroad who are currently unable to return because they are not allowed to fly and have no other way back to the U.S., they are perhaps most draconian for refugees and asylum seekers.

We should be very clear that the enactment of Bill C-42 would grant the U.S. government de facto veto power over the ability of virtually anyone to obtain sanctuary in Canada, since in most cases it is impossible to get to Canada to make a claim for political asylum or refugee status without overflying the U.S. That power of the U.S. would be exercised at the worst possible point, while a refugee is subject to the persecution of a regime they are trying to flee.

The Liberty Coalition went on to say:

These data are also used for purposes of surveillance of travellers. It is not the case that the information is simply used to make a one-time decision about whether to let you fly. All of your PNRs, even if you are not deemed suspicious and are allowed to fly, will be added to the lifetime travel history and compilation of data already being kept about you as part of the automated targeting system. This includes, as Professor Salter alluded to, a wide range of information. We've been coordinating efforts by individuals in the U.S.—at least, by U.S. citizens, who have some rights in this regard—to request these records. They include, for example, such things as your IP address, who paid for someone else's ticket, what friend's phone number you gave because you were staying at their house when you reconfirmed your reservations, or, in the case of two people travelling together who made their same hotel reservations in the same PNR with their flight reservations, codes indicating whether, behind the closed doors of their hotel room, they asked for one bed or two.

That definitely smacks of all of the terrible accusations of how the mandatory long form census has violated our rights as Canadian citizens. God forbid the government know how many bathroom one has.

Yet, here we are, by law, Bill C-42, allows the government to find out whether a one requests one bed or two.

First of all, it is pretty unbelievable that we would sign on to this. It is shocking that we would. What is even more unbelievable is the incredible hypocrisy of saying no to a long form census that is just trying figure out what the population of Canada looks like, what it is doing, what its needs are and how Canadians are working. This information is to better design programs, to better run the government, to better serve the needs of our people. That is not allowed, yet the U.S. can know who we are sleeping with. It is mind boggling to me.

I would like to read testimony from Roch Tassé, the national coordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group. We heard from Canada and the U.S. in terms of civil liberties groups, but this is an international group. Mr. Tassé testified:

After running a risk assessment for each passenger using data mining technology, Homeland Security in turn issues a boarding pass result back to the airline. The result instructs the airline to issue a boarding pass, deny permission to travel, or issue an enhanced screening requirement. These regulations give the U.S. access to a whole subset of information on air passengers who are not entering the U.S. but merely overflying its airspace. Furthermore, this information can be shared among at least 16 U.S. agencies and with foreign governments. The program gives the government of a foreign country a de facto right to decide who gets to travel to and from Canada, since the vast majority of Canadian flights to and from Europe, the Caribbean, and South America overfly American airspace...

We know that Maher Arar is on the U.S. no-fly list. Several other cases in which Canadians have been denied boarding by the U.S., even for domestic flights in Canada, have also been reported. Those cases include several individuals who have been deemed by Canadian courts and commissions of inquiry not to pose a risk to the national security of Canada. They include Abdullah Almalki, Adil Charkaoui, and others I could talk about later. If Bill C-42 is adopted, even the rulings of Canadian courts won't be able to be enforced.

There are other concerns related to Canada's sovereignty. For example, half the cabinet members of the Bolivian government are persona non grata in the U.S., so if Canada were to invite one of those ministers for a diplomatic meeting in Canada, the U.S. could bar this minister from boarding a plane to attend the meeting at the invitation of Canada. The same could apply to refugee claimants, who, even if admitted by Canada, could be denied the possibility of leaving their country by the U.S.

Other impacts on refugees and immigrants include the possibility of mistreatment abroad by third countries with whom the U.S. might share travel information. By adopting Bill C-42, Canada could become an accomplice in the U.S. rendition program, which is already responsible for the torture of Canadians in Syria and Egypt, among others. At the very least it would support Canadian complicity in a foreign government's program that violates due process and the principles of natural justice.

Disclosure of personal information to the Department of Homeland Security on passengers travelling to certain destinations, particularly Cuba, could lead to unpleasant consequences. For example, this information could be used to identify Canadian companies that do business with Cuba or to penalize travellers who have visited Cuba by subsequently refusing them entry into the U.S. How will Canada ensure that the U.S. will not use the secure flight program to apply its Helms-Burton act, which imposes penalties on foreign companies doing business with Cuba?

Again, that was from Roch Tassé, National Coordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group.

These are pretty ominous predictions.

I will wrap up by saying that in 2006, internationally acclaimed Canadian author Rohinton Mistry cancelled his book tour after being repeatedly harassed while flying to and from the United States. Mr. Mistry is not a terrorist. He is not a criminal. He is a national treasure. However, he is a very unfortunate victim of flying while Arab or, as it has become, Arab-looking or with an Arab-sounding name or having any skin tone other than the ruddy white of the British Isles and having a name that would be uncommon on the Leave It To Beaver show.

Rohinton Mistry's critically acclaimed novel A Fine Balance sums it up. We need a fine balance when we are weighing the global village's needs against our privacy rights and this bill gets it wrong.


1:05 p.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta


Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I did hear one thing from the NDP member that was correct; that is, she labelled this an issue of Canadian sovereignty. She is right. It is an issue of Canadian sovereignty. Just as the United States expects us to respect its right to its sovereignty and its right to its air space, we expect it to respect our right to our sovereignty and our airspace.

How can we expect the U.S. to do so if the NDP will not even let us pass this law in order to respect the right to sovereignty and expect the U.S. to do the same?

She asked for examples as to where this was used in the past, where the U.S. has actually filtered a list, utilized it and passed it on to enforcement agencies. For the hundreds of millions of passengers a year who pass through the U.S., we have received information from the ambassador that it has been done three times. The fearmongering by the member and by the NDP through its filibuster is simply ridiculous.

However, I will say this to the NDP member. She actually has an advantage. Because of the hard work of the Minister of Public Safety, he received an exemption for Canada, the only country to receive an exemption, for those flights that fly from Vancouver, for instance, to Ottawa, they actually pass through U.S. airspace. The member takes advantage of that. I would think she would stand and say “Thank you, minister, thank you, Conservative government, because you got an exemption for us and your hard work is paying off for Canadians, keeping us safe, keeping our economy strong”. That is what she should be standing and doing right now.