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House of Commons Hansard #108 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was refugees.

Topics

(Return tabled)

Question No. 503Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

With regard to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC), breaking down each response by individual First Nation: (a) how many First Nations communities were under third-party management in each of the years from 2006 to 2012 inclusive; (b) how long has each of these First Nations been under third-party management; (c) what is the total amount of contribution funding to First Nations by AANDC that has been spent on third-party managers in each of the years from 2006 to 2012 inclusive; (d) what is the total level of debt for each First Nation under third-party management in each of the years from 2006 to 2012 inclusive; and (e) what specific measures has the government taken to support capacity development and re-establish sustainable program and service delivery in First Nations that are under third-party management?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 504Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

With regard to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and Health Canada, breaking down each response by First Nations or Inuit community: (a) what was the number of registered First Nations or Inuit clients with a prescription for OxyContin under the Non-Insured Health Benefit (NIHB) Program in each of the years from 2006 to 2012 inclusive; (b) how many requests for Suboxone treatment were received by NIHB after it was listed on December 7, 2011, and, of these (i) how many were granted, (ii) what was the reason given for requests that were refused, (iii) was an alternative treatment offered to those clients whose requests were refused, (iv) what measures were taken to measure the health outcomes of clients whose requests were refused; (c) is there a doctor, nurse or other health professional trained in drug treatment in the community; (d) is there a healing centre in the community, and, if not, what is the location of the closest or most-readily accessible healing centre; (e) what sort of culturally-appropriate psychosocial aftercare services are available in the community for clients who have completed a detoxification program; (f) did the government conduct evaluations of the level of substance abuse during the period 2006 to 2012, and, if so, (i) how has the rate changed over time, (ii) what is the extent of abuse of legally-obtained prescription drugs, (iii) what is the extent of abuse of illegally-obtained prescription drugs; (g) what was the amount of funding for drug prevention and drug treatment in each of the years from 2006 to 2012 inclusive, and what was the amount of funding dedicated specifically to prescription drug abuse, obtained both legally and illegally; and (h) what was the amount of funding for the National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program in each of the years from 2006 to 2012 inclusive, and what was the amount spent on (i) prevention activities, (ii) intervention activities, (iii) aftercare activities?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 505Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

With regard to the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada’s Additions to Reserve (ATR) Policy, breaking down each response by individual First Nation, during the period from 2006 to 2012, did the community have an active ATR proposal, and, if so, for each proposal (i) when was the proposal first made, (ii) when was the proposal approved?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 506Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

With regard to the awarding of medals, decorations and awards for present or past members of Canada's Forces: (a) since 2006, were meetings organized by a committee within the government, a department, or an inter-departmental entity to consider such awarding, and, if so, (i) when, (ii) who attended, (iii) who chaired those meetings, (iv) were minutes taken, (v) were the minutes made public, and, if not, why not, (vi) was Rideau Hall involved in these meetings, and, if so, what was the nature of their involvement; and (b) did Ministers of the Crown take part in any of these meetings with respect to decorations for Canadian members of Bomber Command, and, if so, did they participate (i) directly, (ii) in writing, (iii) orally, (iv) by way of a representative of their office, (v) if no representation occurred, why?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 507Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

With regard to particular military theatres in which Canada has been involved, what decisions about medals for the Canadian military in these theatres have been made since 2000 and what committees, advisory boards, groups or inter-departmental units have been involved in these decisions?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 508Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

With regard to all theatres in which military service has been recognised by Canada, what were the known and official casualties experienced by Canadian forces, broken down by theatre?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 516Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

With regard to the Investment Cooperation Program (INC) managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, for fiscal years 2010-2011 and 2011-2012: (a) what is the total budget of the program; (b) what is the total number of projects funded under the program; (c) what is the total number of applications made under the program; (d) for each approved project, what is the (i) name of the client, (ii) description of the project, (iii) duration of the project, (iv) country where the project is located, (v) total cost of the project, (vi) amount of contributions by the government to the project; (e) for each approved project, (i) was the project selected for formal audit, (ii) was this project selected for formal evaluation, (iii) has a report of results been submitted for this project, (iv) was a gender analysis of this project completed; (f) what criteria and guidelines do companies have to meet with regard to human rights, labour and environmental standards to be eligible under the INC program; (g) what is the due diligence process to ensure clients are complying with the contribution agreement; (h) is compliance monitored for the life of the investment; (i) what are the penalties in cases of non-compliance, once support has been given; (j) what information is available to the public regarding projects; and (k) where can information available to the public be found regarding projects?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, finally I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

National DefencePrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to rise to supplement my initial submission in response to the question of privilege that was raised by the hon. member for Toronto Centre on April 5.

The essence of the interim Liberal leader's argument is twofold. He suggested that because ministers have taken a posture different from that originally taken by bureaucrats, in respect of chapter 2 of the 2012 Spring Report of the Auditor General of Canada, Parliament is being misled. Alternatively, because the government has agreed with the conclusions of the Auditor General, he alleges that ministers are agreeing that Parliament has been misled. Neither is the case here. Indeed, I will argue that there is neither substance nor procedural grounds to find a prima facie case of privilege in the circumstances.

On the first point, I offered some immediate comments in the House before the Easter adjournment on the position taken, and articulated in the House, by ministers of the crown and how that is distinct from earlier views of officials in the departments concerned.

I invite the Chair to take a comprehensive and complete reading of chapter 2 of the Auditor General's report. From that, one will see that it contemplates a distinction between the departments and their officials on the one hand, being National Defence and Public Works and Government Services, and the government or ministers on the other.

For example, if you look at exhibit 2.3 of the chapter, which spans pages 12 and 13, you will see entries such as, “National Defence sought government's decision...”, and “Officials in National Defence and Public Works and Government Services Canada signed decision documents for government consideration.” One can find similar concepts and wording throughout the chapter, such as in paragraphs 2.32, 2.33, 2.34, 2.35, 2.39, 2.43, 2.45, 2.51, 2.54, 2.55 and 2.72. It sounds like I am my parliamentary secretary answering questions.

To assure you that it is not simply a matter of semantics, I have found a fact sheet published by the Auditor General which might be useful in this case. The following quotation comes from a document entitled Bringing Performance Audit Results to Parliament and Canadians, published on the website of the Office of the Auditor General. It is found halfway down the first page. It reads as follows:

During the audit, the Office deals only with public service officials, giving them an opportunity to check facts, provide additional information, and respond to recommendations. Once the report is final, and shortly before it is tabled, the Auditor General offers to brief ministers whose organizations are included in the report.

Before moving on to addressing the second branch of the hon. member's argument, I would be remiss if I did not highlight the fact that the interim leader argued just one day earlier, on April 4, about the exact same issue.

Mr. Speaker, you ruled, at page 6903 of the Debates:

If the member for Toronto Centre feels that statements need to be re-addressed, he can bring it up at a future question period, but question period is now over, and I have not heard anything that leads me to believe that it is a question of privilege.

Now I want to turn to the spurious idea that the hon. member has advanced. He stated:

If...it is true that the government accepts the conclusions of the Auditor General's report, the Government of Canada is admitting that for a period of 21 months it misled the Parliament of Canada.

I challenge the hon. member to quote to you a part of that 35 page report which says that ministers intentionally misled Parliament.

Let me quote from the operative part of the Auditor General's report at paragraph 2.76, which states:

We also have significant concerns about the completeness of cost information provided to parliamentarians.

Nowhere there does it say that the House was intentionally misled.

Mr. Ferguson's report then goes on to mention specifically the public response of National Defence to the March 2011 report of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. Immediately following that paragraph, the Auditor General then offers up his sole recommendation in chapter 2, which respects the refining, updating and publishing of life cycle costs for the F-35. This was a recommendation with which the government, ministers and officials agreed.

I want to read the department's response as printed in the Auditor General's report. It states:

Agreed. National Defence will continue to refine its full life-cycle cost estimates for the F-35 capability and commits to making the estimates and actual costs of the F-35 available to the public.

On the question of whether Parliament was intentionally misled, the hon. member for Toronto Centre is seeking to put conclusions into the mouth of the Auditor General. I am afraid that is what he is seeking to do.

The Auditor General appeared as a witness at the Standing Committee on Public Accounts on April 5, less than 48 hours following his report being tabled here. Let us take a brief moment to look at what was said there.

I first want to make the point that in response to a question about whether the audit revealed that any money was misspent, the Auditor General replied unconditionally, “No, we didn't.”

According to page 5 of the evidence of the meeting, the hon. member for Chambly—Borduas asked, “Do you agree that the minister did not fulfill his responsibility in informing parliamentarians of the cost of the project?” to which Mr. Ferguson replied:

We identified that after the Parliamentary Budget Office presented its estimate of costs, that was the opportunity National Defence should have taken to bring forward the full costing information to Parliament....The way to respond to what the Parliamentary Budget Office came out with was their full estimate of the cost over the full life cycle of those replacement jets.

In short, the Auditor General did not say that Parliament was intentionally misled. He did, however, point to shortcomings to the approach used in responding to the Parliamentary Budget Officer in 2011.

The different accounting approaches can be gleaned from exhibit 2.6 of the Auditor General's report. The suggested shortcomings turn on whether at least 20 years' costs for operating expenses and Royal Canadian Air Force personnel, as well as contingency reserves, should have been built into the government's purchasing cost estimates.

I want to use an analogy to demonstrate my point. Being the father of a young family, I dare say, Mr. Speaker, you might own a minivan and could relate to this example. When it comes time to replace your minivan, are you itemizing and calculating the cost of gas, oil changes, insurance, car washes, new tires and wiper fluid over the lifespan of the vehicle when you are looking at the sticker price in the car lot? Probably not, since those are routine expenses you have already budgeted for. They are being incurred for your current minivan and you would continue to face them regardless of which vehicle you purchased.

To apply this approach to the situation now before us, a pilot's salary, a gallon of jet fuel and tarmac patching are all expenses which are being incurred today for our current fleet of CF-18s and would continue to happen for any successor aircraft, such as the F-35s.

As we can see, this issue boils down not to whether Parliament was deliberately misled about the costs of the F-35, as the leader of the third party might like us to believe, but to the best way to account for the costs of purchasing replacement equipment. The Auditor General has offered his recommendation on calculating life cycle costs. We agree with it, and we are doing more than just its bare implementation. The Government of Canada has announced a seven point action plan in response to the Auditor General's report, including providing annual reports to Parliament and offering technical briefings as needed.

I want to interject here that the Auditor General advised the public accounts committee that in respect of these things, “At first glance, some of the items that you have mentioned appear to be steps in the right direction....”

The arguments advanced by the hon. member for Toronto Centre do not rise to the threshold of rhetoric fitting good political theatre, let alone a finding of a prima facie case of privilege. Nonetheless, I would like to take a moment to look at a procedural aspect prior to concluding.

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member in making his submissions quoted two rulings from your predecessors which suggested that, in cases of “doubt” or “to clear the air”, discrepancies as to facts should be referred to a committee to examine. However, there are no discrepancies as to the facts here, as I outlined earlier, so the precedents are not really at all on point.

There is a different ruling which I believe the Chair should consider, that given by Speaker Milliken on February 25, 2004, at page 1047 of the Debates. In that case, Mr. Speaker, your immediate predecessor was asked to find a prima facie case of privilege in relation to a report of the previous auditor general wherein she offered damning remarks related to, among other things, a department's report on plans and priorities, including pointed conclusions about Parliament having been misled and bypassed.

Although the current issue we are dealing with does not venture into that territory, the approach taken by Speaker Milliken would, I submit, be applicable here, in the alternative. In his ruling he said:

I must conclude that the requirements for showing that a prima facie breach of privilege has occurred have not yet been met in the present case.

As I mentioned earlier, this matter is currently the subject of a study being carried out by the public accounts committee. The investigation of issues raised by the Auditor General in her reports forms a key part of the mandate of that committee as set out in Standing Order 108(3)(g).

A report from the public accounts committee may present the House with evidence that certain individuals provided information in a deliberate attempt to mislead the House. If that proves to be the case, it would certainly constitute grounds for the raising of a question of privilege at which point it would be possible for hon. members to deliberate in full possession of the committee's findings.

That is the end of that very lengthy quote from the Speaker's ruling.

Just as in that earlier case, the Auditor General's report, which was tabled on April 2, was automatically referred to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts by virtue of that same Standing Order 108(3)(g). All reports of the Auditor General are referred in that same fashion automatically.

As I mentioned earlier, the Auditor General appeared before the committee less than 48 hours after his report was tabled to discuss his findings. The committee adopted a motion at a meeting last week to pursue a study and to start planning it at its meeting tomorrow. We should let the public accounts committee do its important work.

I am not surprised at all that the interim leader of the Liberal Party did not offer up this 2004 precedent. After all, it pertains to the sponsorship scandal, one of the most egregious abuses of taxpayers' dollars that we know, which happened under the Liberal Party's watch and guidance.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, there is neither substance nor procedural grounds in this particular case to justify a prima facie finding of breach of privilege which the hon. member for Toronto Centre has invited you to find.

I would like to reserve the right to respond, if appropriate, to the submissions which will be forthcoming from the official opposition containing rebuttal which the hon. member for Toronto Centre might offer.

National DefencePrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, we will be making a submission in due course. We first wanted to hear the government's response to the hon. member for Toronto Centre. It is an intriguing submission, one on which we will have several points to debate with my friend across the way.

National DefencePrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The Chair looks forward to further submissions on this question.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, the Marine Transportation Security Act and the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, it was very interesting to hear the government House leader say that a committee should be allowed to complete its work before decisions are made. That is the situation on Bill C-31 with respect to biometrics. A committee was engaged in a study to discuss the facts and meet with experts and witnesses in order to reach a decision on biometrics. However, the Conservatives just shot that out the cannon and are now proceeding with this bill before the committee's work is done.

Of course, it is always a pleasure to stand in this House, but I wish we were debating a bill that I would be able to support.

The title of Bill C-31, protecting Canada's immigration system act, is an improper and inaccurate title because rather than protect it, it would do damage to Canada's immigration system legally, socially, morally and internationally.

New Democrats strongly oppose Bill C-31 because it would punish refugees instead of ensuring a fast and fair refugee system.

This is not the first bill this Parliament has seen that targets the wrong group. I would point to Bill C-4, which I spoke up about several months ago, which has now been rolled into this bill.

I would like to sincerely thank my colleague, the member for Vancouver Kingsway, for his hard work and leadership on this file.

I want to talk about the omnibus nature of the bill which, from a structural point of view, is something that is a disturbing recurring feature of the Conservative government's legislation.

Bill C-31 is an omnibus refugee reform bill that combines the worst parts of former Bill C-11 from the last Parliament with Bill C-4 from this Parliament.

We saw this strategy before when the government put nine separate pieces of serious and complex crime legislation into one omnibus bill which it then put out for discussion and debate, therefore denying parliamentarians the opportunity to properly debate the merits of each individual bill.

Now the minister is combining two separate major pieces of legislation, as well as another serious issue, that of biometrics, into one unwieldy bill.

For Canadians who may be watching the debate, I want to explain what those bills are.

Bill C-11 was introduced in the last Parliament. It was debated, went through committee, was amended and passed in this very House. It went through all three readings in the other place, passed, received royal assent and was waiting to be implemented in June. Now, by introducing this bill, the minister has stopped that bill from being implemented. That bill was geared toward reforming Canada's refugee system.

When speaking to that bill on Tuesday, June 15, 2010, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism stated:

We have, in good faith, agreed to significant amendments that reflect their input, resulting in a stronger piece of legislation that is a monumental achievement for all involved.

These amendments, I am happy to say, create a reform package that is both faster and fairer than the bill as it was originally tabled.

The minister has now gone back to the original bill and thrown out all the wonderful hard work done by parliamentarians and the amendments that he lauded as faster and fairer than the original bill, the very bill he said was inferior to the amendments that were made by all parties in the House. It baffles me that the minister has yet to explain his reasoning behind this.

One of the first bills the Conservatives introduced, and one of the first pieces of legislation that I spoke to was Bill C-4. Now the minister has wrapped that bill into Bill C-31. There is no explanation as to why he would do that to a bill which had already been introduced and was moving through the system. This slows the bill down and puts it back at the start of the legislative process.

As I am opposed to the original bill, I do not necessarily mind that it will take longer before it becomes law, but it is certainly a waste of our time and taxpayers' money.

Bill C-4 has been plainly condemned by virtually every group and stakeholder involved in the immigration system in this country: lawyers, refugee groups, churches, immigrant settlement services across the board, and, I might add, a great number of my constituents.

The government has rolled everything into one bill and has added one more controversial issue that deserves its own debate. The government has added the issue of biometrics to the bill.

The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration held meetings and was in the middle of an important study on biometrics when the government introduced this legislation that steps on the very thing it is supposed to be studying. Sadly, it is no great surprise to me that the Conservatives moved on this before the facts were in and the work was completed. It is a little haphazard and half-baked like a lot of things they propose.

What does this say about the government's view of the work of standing committees and the experts and witnesses who appear before committees when the government reaches conclusions before the committee members have heard all the evidence? We would not accept it in a court room and we should not accept it here. That is one among many of the problems the government has.

One of my major concerns is the excessive power that the bill gives to the minister. The minister has the discretion to designate countries of origin or safe countries, to designate a group as an irregular arrival and determine what conditions would be placed on those designated refugee claimants. The designations have serious consequences and there should be oversight in making these determinations. Designated countries of origin would be countries that the minister believes do not produce legitimate refugees, usually because they are developed democracies.

The minister has thrown out the panel of experts to advise him, and I ask why. If the minister is so confident that he can choose which countries are safe countries, why would he not want the benefit of advice from experts in human rights? He praised this very idea as a good one 18 months ago. He still has not explained himself.

The Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism may have great faith in his own judgment, but to have one person make such important determinations as to which country is safe or not, which country is or is not capable of producing refugees, and who is an irregular arrival is extremely troubling and sets a dangerous precedent. That is too much power for one person to have. It sounds to me that he is creating his own little PMO of control in immigration. We should build in checks and balances. That should be the case no matter who the minister of immigration is, even a New Democrat after we form government in 2015. I do not know who would make the argument that the system is not better served by having that kind of check and balance in place.

With regard to the DCOs, the bill removes the requirement that a determination be made by a panel including human rights experts. By concentrating the power to designate a country in the minister's hands, it opens the prospect that decisions could be made for political and/or foreign policy reasons and considerations. Thus, these designations by the minister create two classes of refugees.

Refugee claimants from DCOs would face a much faster determination process and faster deportation for failed claims. An initial form must be filled out and submitted within 15 days of the claim. DCO claims submitted in Canada would be decided within 30 days, DCO claims submitted at a port of entry would be decided within 45 days. All others would be decided within 60 days. Failed DCO claimants could be removed from Canada almost immediately, even if they have asked for judicial review. In other words, a person could be removed before the review is even heard and that is unacceptable to me and to the members on this side of the House.

Furthermore, DCO claimants have no access to the new refugee appeal division. Herein lies what is fundamentally backward about the bill. The accelerated timelines make it difficult for people to get proper legal representation. This could lead to mistakes and subsequently a negative decision. Legal experts have warned that these accelerated timeframes and restricted access to the refugee appeal division would create an unfair system. The effect of the accelerated deportation would mean that people would already be removed from the country before the legal process had run its course. We know that once people have been removed it is much more difficult to get them back here if they are legitimate claimants.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague made a very informative and polite speech. I want to ask him about one specific aspect of Bill C-31.

We have a Minister of Public Safety who tells Canadians that if they are not with a particular piece of legislation then they stand with child pornographers. We have a Minister of National Defence who cannot give straight answers on a massive procurement. We have a Minister of Industry who is getting his hands slapped for cozying up to big business. We have a President of the Treasury Board who shovels money out the back door. How can we really trust the Conservative government to put more power into the hands of a single minister without proper oversight?

I would like my hon. colleague to comment on that part of the bill.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is the crux of it. At the end of the day, even without all of these ethical and potentially other breaches that we have seen from the government, as parliamentarians it would not be right to put that much power to decide the fate of tens of thousands of claimants into one person's hands.

Citizenship and immigration backlogs are now being cleared off by simply eliminating everybody who has applied, including individuals who applied six years ago to come here as skilled workers. A person who applied when single and is now married with a family is finding out that his file is going to be thrown out the door and shredded. This individual is going to have to apply again at the same time as somebody who decided yesterday to come here as a skilled worker.

These are the kinds of decisions being made by the minister, and they give us absolutely no faith whatsoever that he will be able to make the kinds of decisions that are going to be fair to the people coming to Canada seeking a better life.