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House of Commons Hansard #143 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was agreements.

Topics

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:05 p.m.

NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for all the fine work she does back in her riding.

Certain individuals may very well be facing summary conviction without the benefit of professional legal counsel. Does the hon. member have any thoughts on that?

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:05 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, the presence of my colleague in the House always brings some calmness. His thoughtful input is always appreciated.

One of the basic concepts that we have in the western world is the right to representation. When we see that someone may end up with a criminal record, that right to representation becomes critical.

Members of our military do not have access to lawyers to represent them in summary trials. They also have to appear before their commanding officer. That has a chilling effect when one is advocating for oneself. I would say that it does a great deal of injustice to our men and women who serve us tirelessly.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:05 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for her speech tonight and many of her other speeches. They are some of the more memorable moments in this place.

We hear noise from the other side about bringing this legislation to committee. Yet, as my hon. colleague pointed out, not one amendment put forward by our side has been deemed worthy of the government's meat grinder when it comes to legislation. Committee has looked at this legislation in the past and some sound amendments were passed.

My colleague says she lives in hope that the government will see the light of day. Does she not think that light of day is probably in 2015?

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:10 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have always been called an optimist. No matter how bleak things look I always have an absolute belief in the human spirit. I hope we will begin to see some light long before 2015. The Canadian public needs to see some hope, it needs to see some light. The Canadian public needs to see a government that does not use its majority like a hammer to shut down Parliament constantly and not address legislation in a fair and balanced way.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:10 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, from a process point of view, I just want to know if the member could illustrate other times during second reading where a government, whether it was us or a previous government, stood in its place and accepted amendments prior to an item going to committee?

The process that works here is that at second reading we have a debate. The bill would then go to committee where amendments can be put forward. The bill would come back to the House at report stage to be debated. This is what we did ad nauseam last week. The bill then goes to third reading. That is the process.

Could the member give me any examples when the government of the day accepted amendments to a bill at second reading prior to it going to committee?

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:10 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, my experience in the House is not lengthy. I have only been here just over a year. However my experienced colleague sitting to the left of me tells me there absolutely have been times in the past when the government has indicated it will accept--

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:10 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

When? Name them.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:10 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member should at least give me a chance to answer the question, please.

There have been times when a government in power has said at second reading stage that it would accept amendments.

There seems to be a refusal to accept reality. The reality is that this legislation has been through second reading, has been through committee stage. Amendments were accepted and now it is back here, stripped bare of all the amendments that were accepted.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:10 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise this evening and speak to this bill, but I have to say that I am really getting tired. It has nothing to do with the hour of the evening, but rather listening to the lobotomized government on the other side talking to us about process.

Let us talk about process. In its previous iteration in 2007, this bill died on the order paper. Why was that? The government prorogued this place. That is why it died on the order paper. If the government wants to continue talking about process, then let us talk about process. In 2008 it died again. Why did it die again? The government closed the shutters on this place. It broke its own fixed election laws in 2008 and that is why it died then.

What about 2011 and Bill C-41? That died too because the government fell, in part due to contempt of Parliament. At such a late hour of the evening, clearly I have woken up the sleeping hyenas. It is too bad that the Conservatives cannot actually defend their government in a fulsome way. What do they do? They throw out these pithy remarks about process.

However, we ask a lot of our soldiers, our men and women in uniform. I would like to ask the members on the other side if they think that the kind of remarks and the questions that they are bringing forward tonight are suitable within the context of the conversation we are having. What we are talking about tonight is how we support our men and women in uniform and how we project the image of Canada to the world through our men and women in uniform. If we cannot guarantee for them the kinds of rights in terms of due process that we expect for everyday, ordinary Canadians, then we are doing them a disservice.

Too often, we hear the government using our men and women in uniform as cover for the egregious decisions and laws that it is foisting upon the Canadian public in the guise of a majority in the last election. Thirty-eight percent is not a majority. It has a parliamentary majority here, but we will leave that aside. I may need it a little later in my 20 minutes.

We have a situation here where the government has let down our men and women in uniform far too often. For example, in my hometown in Toronto we have homeless veterans. How can we ask the men and women in the Canadian Forces to do the most extraordinary things on behalf of the rest of us when the government refuses to properly look after our veterans when they are finished their service?

We have a tax on veterans' benefits. There is an inability for many men and women veterans to get the kind of treatment they need for post-traumatic stress disorder. We have a government that tables legislation that strips out of the legislation some of the wise counsel, the wisdom and the compromises that were hashed out in previous Parliaments.

I would like to echo my colleague from Saint-Jean's comment earlier in this debate where he questioned the government's wisdom and decisions in this regard as a waste of taxpayer money because we have debated and put together some very sensible amendments.

Members opposite say to bring it to committee and we will study the amendments. I sat on the committee looking into the copyright legislation, Bill C-11, where a member on the opposite side said, “I'll bet you $10,000 we're going to move amendments”. Every single amendment that we brought forward was rejected, including an amendment that would have enabled those with perceptual disabilities, those who are deaf, those who have vision impairments, to access works that they otherwise would not be able to access. Even an amendment like that was voted down.

Therefore we have no trust in the government's interest in looking at reasoned amendments from our side.

The issue of process is really a concerning question for us here on this side because we see, time and time again, the government playing games with the process, in fact gaming the process, actually.

Tonight is a perfect example. We have seen the government go through time allocation, limiting debate throughout this year that we have been here in this Parliament, time and time again. In fact, with its pooled pension Ponzi scheme, the debate was limited to an hour or two. Then it says, “Okay, we've limited debate. Now, we're going to extend Parliament because we're going to ram all this stuff through in the last minute”.

That is the kind of respect the government has for process in this place.

Now, I will go back to Bill C-15.

We believe there are elements of Bill C-15 that are a step in the right direction. However, unlike the member from the corner party there who asked us, “If there are some things that you agree with, why don't you just vote for them?” I think he wanted to go home early, which is the kind of culture to which his party subscribes. We cannot swallow that.

As my hon. and esteemed colleague, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, commented earlier, we are not going to vote for a bill that does not support the men and women in our armed forces.

I have sat and listened to the debate, and it is an honour to do that, I have to say. It really is, because I have a chance to listen to some of the acquired wisdom of some of the members here. I started to think, as I was listening to the debate tonight, about some young people I had the good fortune to interview many years ago in Toronto. These were high school students who had decided to sign up for a high school co-op course. The co-op course was, essentially, to join the reserves. That was part of the course. Now, these were young kids. They were 16- and 17-year-olds. They told me they had decided to join this co-op program to get into the reserves, for a variety of reasons. Some of them just did not like school. Some of them had a tough time at home. Some of them were from families where the socio-economic situation was such that they could not see where the future was going to lead them. They thought that maybe the military was an option, and so they joined. They were young kids.

We have a situation where, not too much further down the road, these individuals, 20 years old, 21 years old, could be full members of the Canadian Forces. Maybe they get into a dust-up one night and they get a reprimand or they go before their commanding officer in a summary trial and end up with some kind of criminal record for which, depending on the infraction, it could take them 10 years down the road to clear their name.

The fact is that they would have no recourse to representation. There would not even be transcripts of the procedure. On our side, we see this as a huge problem. It is a judicial issue, but it is also an issue of morale, and we take this issue of morale seriously. That is why we advocate tirelessly on behalf of veterans of the forces, because if we do not do that, then we set up a culture where we are saying that we want the forces to do all this stuff, but then when we are done with them, we do not want to hear from them again.

We adamantly oppose the creation of that kind of culture within the military, and we believe that it is paramount, as parliamentarians, to ensure that kind of culture does not creep in.

We see that time and time again with the government. The Conservatives like to wrap themselves in the flag, but when veterans come to them in need of help, too often there are roadblocks put up in their way.

When I start to think about these kids who I interviewed, they were fresh-faced but a little confused. They were young, and one could see that, depending on how luck went, they could get into trouble. We want to make sure that, in those situations, they are accorded the same rights, the same access that any other Canadian citizen would expect. It is amazing that many Canadians, and we heard tonight that many members of the military and lawyers, are surprised to know that members of the forces do not and cannot access some of these.

We have heard as well that the bill has gone through several different iterations and that some of these amendments have been kept in, and there are some that we can support, but like so many bills that the government puts before this House, we cannot swallow this bill whole. We simply cannot.

It needs to be noted that over the last year the government has, as a way of excusing this anti-democratic practice of serial use of time allocation to shut down debate in this place, tried to say that since we have debated some of these issues in previous Parliaments, we do not need to give them full airing here. Yet this is a case where the Conservatives had a bill ready to go, and as my colleague earlier attested, they could have passed it in March if they had wanted to, but they chose to let it fly, and here we are again.

People must be wondering why the Conservatives would strip out some of these amendments. Why would they reduce the numbers of minor infractions that would potentially lead to criminal records?

We have heard overheated rhetoric from that side too often that they want to use the issue of crime and criminality as something with which to beat people over the head. One has to wonder when we look at the bill whether this is part of a piece of the government. This is about locking things down. This is about crime and about punishment. That is what we are seeing here.

It is really hard to understand why the government would not have retained the amendments proposed by the NDP, which passed at the committee stage last spring after long hours of debate and seemed to have resulted in positive steps forward. By failing to include those amendments in Bill C-15, the Conservatives are undermining the important work of all members in the national defence committee and the recommendations of Canadian Forces representatives during the last session of Parliament.

In other words, the government is not building on the work of past Parliaments. It is not taking best practices or wise counsel. It is not looking at the ways in which parliamentarians have come to mutual consensus. That is what Canadians want to see from this Parliament. They want to see mutual consensus, not dictatorial edicts from a parliamentary majority masquerading as a majority of Canadians who support it, which as we know, is not the case.

Retired Colonel Michel Drapeau has been quoted before in this debate, but I am going to quote him again:

I strongly believe that the summary trial issue must be addressed by this committee. There is currently nothing more important for Parliament to focus on than fixing a system that affects the legal rights of a significant number of Canadian citizens every year.

That is very interesting, because he particularly calls out those of us in Parliament. Nothing is more important than for Parliament to focus on fixing a broken system as opposed to breaking it even further. This is what we are called on to do in Parliament. This is our job.

In fact, Canadians do not understand the amount of time that has been spent stripping away and undermining the work of Parliament in order to push flawed legislation through. There was an example earlier this year of a piece of legislation on which the government refused to acknowledge any amendments, but then it realized at the final minute that maybe it had better introduce some of the amendments. It missed the deadline and the Speaker ruled that the amendments were inadmissible. This is the kind of government we in the House and Canadians are faced with.

Unfortunately those in the military are also faced with a government that does not like to listen. It is the government's way or the highway, even if the highway is a highway to hell. That is the problem with the government. It is obstinate in its refusal to listen to wise counsel. It would rather drive the bus over the cliff than gear down, look at the map and maybe even ask someone it is driving with if there is a better way forward. That is what New Democrats are saying.

Members on this side of the House have spent years engaged in issues of Canadian justice and fairness within the military. It is fair to say and I think members on the government side would acknowledge that we are reasonable in our issues and our demands. What we are asking the government to do and what all Canadians are expecting is for the government to be reasonable too. That is the Canadian way, and we would like the government behave the way Canadians expect it to behave and Parliament to work.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:30 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was amused by the comment about process, to which my hon. colleague referred.

In the budget debate, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster used up virtually 98% of the time that was available to members of the House by continually speaking about the budget. He did not even allow his own members to discuss the budget, let alone members on this side. I guess that shows a bit about the NDP's respect for process.

The other night we were here for roughly 23 hours, voting time after time, and saw how New Democrats actually slowed down the process that should be expedited in the House, by their trademark arthritic voting pattern when they rose slowly from their chairs.

I would ask my colleague if he would finally, on behalf of the NDP, support the legislation and get it to committee, so it can be studied, and actually stand up for the men and women in uniform.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:35 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, if I heard and understood the member correctly, he characterized our expressing the concerns of Canadians on the Trojan Horse budget bill that guts Kyoto, that guts environmental oversight and that guts oversight of CSIS as arthritic voting. I think that underlines the cynicism that has crept into the government.

What we are actually trying to do our own side is do what we were elected to do, which is express the concerns, hopes and dreams of Canadians and to hold the government's feet to the fire. If the member calls that arthritic voting, I say shame on him.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:35 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member has more to say about the new-found respect for processes and procedures that the Conservatives are professing on the other side.

I notice that they made reference to the speech by the member for Burnaby—New Westminster on the budget where the time was limited. What it illustrates to me is that the Conservatives did not listen to anything he said. The member used his time to invite Canadians to send their input through emails and Twitter. He used that time to express Canadians' concerns in the House of Commons.

It is very obvious that the Conservatives did not listen to what the member was saying during that 12-hour period because they are not very interested in process or listening.

I would just like the hon. member to comment on both legislation by exhaustion and the lack of listening skills on the other side.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:35 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, when members on the government side listen to their constituents and express the concerns of their constituents, they get shut down by the government. We have seen this time and time again in this Parliament. We saw it around the budget implementation bill where on the one hand members of the government are in their ridings saying that we need an environmental assessment for something like a quarry, which the bulk of the community does not want, but, “Oops, wait a second, I am about to vote with the government to gut environmental assessments”.

That is what members get on the government side for listening to their constituents.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:35 p.m.

NDP

Jean-François Larose NDP Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is another half measure. We are fed up with them. How can the government take Canadians for complete fools and continually hide behind all sorts of statements without ever actually getting anything done?

I simply cannot understand why, after having the opportunity to do a thorough job, the Conservatives are hiding behind a committee when the work should have been completed. For the last 10, 15 or 20 years, professionals, members of the military and experts have been requesting changes that should be made.

These amendments were brought forward and agreed to during the previous Parliament. Everyone agreed. Now the Conservatives are proposing half measures by saying that they are going to send the bill to committee for review, but they are not giving any guarantees.

I cannot understand why the government is so arrogant and why it does not take the time to listen to what we are telling it yet again: its work is incomplete and it should have done it right from the outset.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:35 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I could not agree with my hon. colleague more.

The government shows a lack of respect for Parliament far too often. We have members working in good faith, and I think that most of the members, even on the other side, would agree that at the committee stage members try to come to the best possible solutions around important matters.

We can battle our partisan battles till the Speaker tells us to stop, but what I think Canadians want to see is good legislation that is fair and balanced. What we are arguing for tonight and what we have been working on since this was Bill C-41 and before, is something that does not just come from our side. There are experts and studies that support our position, especially around the issues we raised tonight.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:40 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, when the Conservatives talk about procedure and rules of the House, one of the rules I learned in a hurry, because I am fairly new here, was this thing called time allocation. The first time someone mentioned that we were having a time allocation motion I asked what it was. I was told that it was basically shutting down debate on the very legislation that was in front of us. Not only that, the government has used that over 25 times now to shut down debate in Parliament.

Now the Conservatives are lecturing us about the due process that we have in this place and yet they are the ones who have been constantly using time allocation to shut down debate. In addition to that, if debate is being shut down, how am I supposed to represent my constituents from my riding?

That is one part of it. The other part is the amendments. That is where in committee people bring forth good ideas that could work better for the laws that we are making here. However, there has not been a single amendment from the opposition that the Conservatives accepted.

When the Conservatives talk about due process or the process in this place are they speaking out of both sides of their mouth?

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:40 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, as my father would say, they are speaking through their hat. It is true that they are playing two halves against the middle most of the time. They like to talk about due process and they like to hector us and all Canadians around process in this place and yet they subvert it and play tricks with it on a constant basis.

I will just double back to the beginning of my little speech tonight just to say that had the government not prorogued Parliament in 2007 we might have had a decent bill then. Had the Conservatives not broken their own fixed election laws in 2008 we would have had something then. Had they not been in contempt of Parliament in 2011 we might have had something then. They could right some of their sins of the past by actually looking at this thing in a sensible way, looking at what they had in Bill C-41 and listening to some of the good advice and wise counsel from our side and from others across Canada.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

June 19th, 2012 / 11:40 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to join with my many competent and capable colleagues who have spoken tonight. I want to recognize and pay tribute to some of the wisdom we have heard on this side of the House. It has been a truly stimulating debate. There have been a lot of good points and well argued.

If I could, I will pick up and preface my remarks to Bill C-15 by following through on the theme that was introduced most recently by my colleague from Davenport. I will focus on one word in the same context that he was speaking, and that word is “consultation”. We have members of our caucus on the front bench here who are experienced lawyers and they know that the word “consultation” has legal weight. It is not just as simple as a conversation between two people. There is the duty to consult and the meaning of true consultation that the Supreme Court of Canada has spoken at length to in the context of first nations and aboriginal people. What the Supreme Court has arrived at is that true consultation not only includes the conversation and exchange of ideas, it includes the accommodation of some of the reasonable concerns brought forward by the other party.

I have been here 15 years now and I have noticed a couple of colleagues who have been here as long as I have, six terms. We used to do that extensively, even in majority governments. The majority government would consult with the opposition. If the members were sincere about moving a piece of legislation forward that they knew had merit and that there was a real public interest in achieving success of that legislation, the House leaders would meet and maybe even the leaders of the parties would meet and they would discuss what it would take and what was needed to make this work. It was not quite Camelot. It was not beautiful or anything, but it was functional. Parliament used to function that way.

What we are experiencing today, and my colleague from Vegreville will probably agree, is unprecedented. I do not think there is any precedent in Canadian history. I have talked to former leaders of our party going away back. Ed Broadbent shared with me how that was a not uncommon occurrence, that they would have dinner together. The leader of the NDP and the prime minister of the day would have dinner from time to time and talk over the legislative agenda coming up for that fall session. There would be some horse trading and some feeling out of each other. Accommodating the legitimate concerns brought forward by the other parties is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of maturity and the public would welcome it, the public expects it and I think the public misses it in this Parliament.

I caution my colleagues on the Conservative side. I am not a scholar or an academic but I have been here long enough to ascertain that our parliamentary democracy is a fragile construct. When it operates well it is the best system in the world. However, all parties have to stipulate themselves to a certain set of rules and part of that is accommodating one another's legitimate concerns because the very nature of our electoral system is that no one party represents all the people. However, when a party is lucky enough to form government, it has an obligation to represent all the people, even those who did not vote for it.

I learned from my friend Gary Dewar that the first thing a smart government does when it forms government is to try to convince the people who did not vote for it that it is not such a bad thing, that it is not the end of the world that their side lost and our side won because the government will accommodate some of the voters' legitimate concerns in the process of governing. There is no evidence of that whatsoever in this Parliament and that leads to the frustration felt on our side.

We, on this side of the House, represent roughly 60% of all Canadians. They elected us here to speak on their behalf and to bring their legitimate points of view into the debate for consideration by the ruling party. It has an obligation and I argue that it will do irreparable harm to the integrity of our democratic institutions if it fails to accommodate those legitimate concerns that we bring forward.

The integrity of our institutions is not like some kind of a light switch that can be turned off for a while and then turned back on at will. It cannot be corrected that easily.

At the same time that the government is undermining the integrity of our democratic institutions, it is fueling the cynicism of an already jaded electorate who already has a fairly low opinion of government and a lack of confidence that government can and should play an active role in the well-being of the economy and their quality of life issues. The neo-conservatives have told them time and time again that government is bad, that government should be reduced. The Conservatives are an anti-government government. The Conservative government is a government that does not believe in playing an active role.

I notice my colleague who was elected the same year I was is somehow still with us. We keep asking ourselves how we both keep getting re-elected. He believes firmly that less is more when it comes to government, that there is no role.

If that message is continually pounded home, more people will ask themselves why they should even bother voting because governments are bad things, governments never listen to legitimate concerns anyway. It is an unvirtuous, whatever that term is, downward spiral.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:45 p.m.

An hon. member

A self-fulfilling prophecy.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:45 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

A self-fulfilling prophecy, Mr. Speaker. That is right. I would like to know what the government's end plan is, the conclusion. Where does that lead us when we undermine the ability of governments to play an active role? I do not know who we leave it up to.

In the context of this legislation, the legitimate concerns brought forward in the previous Parliament were accommodated by committee and they were stripped away. Why should we believe the government? The Conservatives ask why we have to be up until midnight. If we are serious about moving the bill forward, we will let it go to committee. They say they will let it move forward. We do not believe them. They have not earned our trust or our confidence. There are no tacit agreements. There are no deals. There are no handshakes in this Parliament. The 41st Parliament is handshake-free. That is a real shame and a real loss.

I am starting to sound like an old guy. I lament and I miss the common sense of purpose that we enjoyed at one time when we were all elected to Parliament, yes to different parties, but moving forward, paddling our canoe in the same direction in the best interests of the country, especially in this matter, in the best interests and the well-being of our men and women in the armed forces. Surely this is one example of where we could extend the goodwill to make this particular bill work. We have been burned in the most egregious possible way.

I was wondering how I was going to use my time in this debate. To understand why we behave the way we do, we have to scratch the surface a bit and back up and take a look. I hope members can understand the level of frustration.

I represent a lot of armed forces personnel in my riding: the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry that was at the Kapyong Barracks until recently when it was moved to Edmonton and the Cameron Highlanders Reservists at the Minto Armoury in my riding. A lot of people do not realize that Winnipeg has a navy but the HMCS Chippawa is based in my riding of Winnipeg Centre. The 17th Wing Air Command is in Winnipeg. The Sgt Tommy Prince Cadet Corps, Canada's newest cadet corps named after the most decorated soldier in the Canadian armed forces, a first nations man named Tommy Prince affiliated with the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, is in Winnipeg.

When I enter debates about the military I like to make reference to my own father who was a lieutenant colonel by the end of his career and secretary treasurer of a Canadian military intelligence association, what he called his spy agency. He served in Italy in the liberation of Holland. He often spoke about the veterans who came home from war and were promised so much and treated so badly. It was a recurrent theme throughout his life. He spoke of the veterans as we licked the envelopes, all of us kids around the dining-room table stuffing envelopes for the dues for the Canadian military intelligence association. That is how I started as an organizer, I think.

He often commented on the “deemed never to have served” for the 14,100 veterans of the Second World War. In the demobilization of a million-some-odd soldiers, some of them did not get to the office in the correct period of time to hand in their papers. In fact, when some went, the lineup was so long that they were told to come back in a couple of months. They went back to the farm and did not return in time, so they were deemed AWOL.

The way the government solved that problem was that instead of dispatching military police to round them up, the government passed an act of Parliament to deem them never to have served. Their military records were erased and their benefits were erased, 14,100 of them. It was a terrible injustice.

Many had to come back to try to have their service recognized now that they were not 21-year-olds any more. They were getting married and having children, and they wanted the benefits due to a veteran, whether it was housing or education. Of course, by then Parliament had deemed them never to have served.

My father was adamant that this was one of the greatest injustices to his colleagues in the Second World War. I am trying to imagine what he would have to say on this today. Colonel Drapeau reminds me of my dad physically and in the types of issues that he champions.

I believe that an awful lot of World War II veterans, were they alive today, would be of the same mind as the debate that we heard on this side of the House for the last couple of hours. The idea of the morale of the armed forces being compromised, undermined and jeopardized by a system that is simply not fair and the lack of a grievance system that meets the test of natural justice and the justice afforded to people outside of the armed forces would be galling to the sensibilities of anybody who served and wore the uniform.

I am a trade unionist. The combination of things that describe me in my CV are the things that the Conservatives probably most loathe. I am a socialist, a trade unionist and an NDP member of Parliament. I served as a union leader, to make me even more unpalatable to my colleague for Vegreville—Wainwright.

I was a union boss, I guess one could say, so I know the need for a fair system to deal with grievances in any kind of institutional setting, be it a large workforce or the Canadian military. There is not only an advantage but also a need to have an avenue of recourse for those who feel that the system has not treated them fairly.

That avenue of recourse has to meet certain tests. It cannot be arbitrary and it cannot be biased. It has to meet the same tests as our justice system. The very system that use to measure the health and well-being of our democracy is the health and well-being of our justice system.

How can anybody think that the current system is fair if it is one's commanding officer or one of his subordinates who rules on the grievance? There is no arms-length in the process.

These legitimate issues, brought forward by some of the most respected jurists in the land, led to the amendments in two previous incarnations of the bill. One was the Rt. Hon. Antonio Lamer, the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and another was Patrick LeSage of the Superior Court of Ontario.

These people know what they are talking about, and their observations and recommendations deserve implementation. They do not deserve to become a political football, subject to whims and vagaries. They should be handled better. This is one example in which I urge the government of the day to perhaps try something new.

We have three years that we have to live together before the next federal election. If the Conservatives continue with their bully tactics, they are not only doing irreparable harm to the integrity of our democratic institutions, they will watch themselves plummet even further in the polls.

Canadians have pretty much had it with these guys. Canadians are getting fed up with the way they conduct themselves. That is starting to resonate. Now that people are getting some idea of who these people they elected really are and how they conduct themselves, they do not like it.

The impression is that they are a bunch of bullies and thugs. They may not realize that. Some of them are nice people. Individually, they are nice people. I am the first person to admit that. Collectively, the persona they have put forward to the Canadian people is that they are a bunch of thugs who will get their way and they do not care what they trample on or who they trample over to get it. They will never accommodate a single issue or a single legitimate concern by the opposition because they view it as a sign of weakness and that is not the way these guys behave.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order. The time for government orders has expired. The hon. member for Winnipeg Centre will have four minutes remaining when this matter returns before the House.

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

Search and RescueAdjournment Proceedings

June 20th, Midnight

Liberal

Judy Foote Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to the issue of search and rescue, which is so important, not just to the riding of Random—Burin—St. George's but to all of Canada. In fact, the idea that anyone could require the services of search and rescue and not be able to avail of them, I would suggest was probably unheard of in Newfoundland and Labrador, until recently when the government went to the extreme of closing down the maritime rescue sub-centre in St. John's, Newfoundland.

The problem is that those people who make a living from the sea, who work on oil rigs, who fish, who travel on ocean-going vessels, who travel on Marine Atlantic, are all at the mercy of the weather and the ocean. To suggest it is appropriate to close down the maritime rescue sub-centre and have the issue with respect to search and rescue handled by the joint rescue centre out of Halifax is something that leaves one wondering why the government would even go down this path.

To suggest that it would save $1 million by doing this is foolhardy. We know only too well that will not happen. We know that the joint rescue centres in Halifax and in Trenton cannot accommodate those who will be put out of work, as well as hire others, in the existing facility. It will have to expand that facility. There is a cost associated with that expansion, and we know only too well what happens when we have to expand a facility. Therefore, for the government to suggest that this will save money, again begs this question, how much is a life worth?

We only know too well in Newfoundland and Labrador what it means to be at sea and to require the services of search and rescue. It has not been easy for people who make a living from the sea. Being all too familiar with the issues that arise when people are in distress on the ocean, I can say they really need that comfort that someone in search and rescue will be able to respond immediately to their needs and to make sure they are saved.

In a lot of cases, the maritime rescue sub-centre did just that. In fact, it responded to over 500 distress calls a year, which resulted in over 600 lives being saved.

Therefore, for the government to even think about closing the maritime rescue sub-centre, as it has done, points to the carelessness and recklessness of this decision. It will mean the loss of life. Anybody who has any appreciation for people who work on the ocean knows only too well what it means to try to make a living off the ocean, and to go down this path is indeed a reckless and irresponsible one.

When we talk about search and rescue, we cannot speak of it in Newfoundland and Labrador without talking about Burton Winters, the 14-year old young man who should never have lost his life. We know only too well how difficult the terrain and weather can be in Labrador. When that young man went missing, for there not to have been a search and rescue helicopter made available, again speaks to the issue of what the government is doing with respect to search and rescue.

Search and RescueAdjournment Proceedings

June 20th, Midnight

Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I would like to respond to the issue raised by my hon. colleague, the member for Random—Burin—St. George's, regarding the consolidation of the rescue centres in St. John's and Quebec City with the joint rescue coordination centres in Halifax and Trenton.

Let me please begin by first offering my deepest condolences to the Winters family. Burton's story has touched Canadians across the country, and our thoughts are with the community of Makkovik during this difficult time.

It remains to be said that the consolidation of the marine rescue sub-centres is in no way connected to this tragedy. In order to be respectful, perhaps it is best that we refrain from crafting tenuous links between two entirely separate issues to show compassion for the family and community as they mourn such an unfortunate loss.

The Canadian search and rescue system is comprised of hundreds of federal, provincial and local partner organizations, each with their own distinct mandates and responsibilities.

The marine rescue sub-centre located in St. John's, Newfoundland was operated by the Canadian Coast Guard until its responsibilities were transferred to the joint rescue coordination centre in Halifax on April 25.

The mandate of the Canadian Coast Guard with regard to search and rescue is clear: to provide maritime resources in support of search and rescue in areas of federal responsibility. This explains why the sub-centre was not involved in this incident. Its mandated responsibility, and therefore area of expertise, is in on-the-water response. Ground search and rescue, as was required in this incident, is conducted under the jurisdiction of individual provinces and territories.

With that being said, this incident only serves to highlight the value in consolidating the marine rescue sub-centres into the joint rescue coordination centres located in Halifax and Trenton. This initiative will facilitate incident response coordination by co-locating both air and maritime personnel in a single rescue centre. Co-location will provide for closer communication between Canadian Coast Guard and Canadian Forces personnel, ultimately to the benefit of Canadians.

The decision to consolidate the rescue centres in St. John's and Quebec City with the joint rescue coordination centres in Halifax and Trenton resulted from the Government of Canada's strategic review exercise, which provides us with the opportunity to streamline programs and the way in which services are delivered to Canadians.

It was determined that search and rescue coordination services could be delivered in a more efficient and effective manner, with no impact on service delivery or safety. This process ensures that the tax dollars of hard-working Canadians are used in the most efficient way possible, a value that Canadians demand of us.

It is for these reasons that Fisheries and Oceans Canada will not reconsider its decision to consolidate the marine rescue sub-centres in St. John's and Quebec City with the joint rescue coordination centres in Halifax and Trenton. Implementation is currently well under way in co-operation with our partners at the Canadian Forces.

Finally, I would like to reaffirm this government's commitment to ensuring the safety and security of all Canadians. Despite the best efforts of everyone involved, it is unfortunately impossible to save everyone, as recent events humbly remind us. However, it is the duty of this government to provide the means for a strong, responsive search and rescue system in Canada and it is the dedication of search and rescue personnel across this nation that make such a promise reality.

Search and RescueAdjournment Proceedings

June 20th, 12:05 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, we have heard that line so many times that one would think by now the government would understand that we are not buying it. No one is buying it. The family of Burton Winters is not buying it. People in Newfoundland and Labrador are not buying it. Canadians are not buying it.

It simply is not true that there is no connection. In fact, JRCC out of Halifax was called. There was an aircraft available, but it chose not to deploy it in case it was needed elsewhere. The premier of Newfoundland and Labrador said that if an aircraft was available that was not being used for its primary function, then it should have been deployed on a humanitarian basis.

This was a 14-year-old young man out of Labrador who was lost. He was missing. If an aircraft was available, it should have been deployed to look for this young man instead of being held in the event that something happened at sea.