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House of Commons Hansard #226 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was amendments.

Topics

Development and PeacePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I just found out today about this petition that I received from my constituents. It is rather appropriate since around this time of year people are giving to the “share Lent” campaign and that money goes to the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace.

The petition from people in Kingston asks the government to reverse its CIDA funding cuts to the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace. Funding for the organization used to fund development assistance in 40 countries. Now it is down to seven countries and only one of them is in Africa. Therefore, the petitioners ask, in the spirit of global solidarity, for the government to grant the full funding of $49.2 million over five years to the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace.

Safety of Bus WorkersPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Conservative Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition signed by residents of my Niagara West—Glanbrook riding, as well as citizens across Ontario. The petition calls upon the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada to amend the Criminal Code to recognize the growing incidents of violent assaults against public transit, school bus, para transit and inner city bus workers across Canada in the same fashion as peace officers are recognized in the code.

KatimavikPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg NDP Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition here today signed by nearly 3,000 Canadians.

Since today is budget day, I would like to remind the government of the mistake it made when it eliminated the Katimavik program in budget 2012. I travelled across the country to speak with all of these frustrated young people.

I ask the government to think of these young people when it tables this year's budget and to remember the mistake it made last year. Let us hope it will correct this mistake by restoring funding to Katimavik or otherwise investing in our young people.

Sex SelectionPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand today to present a petition on behalf of my constituents who are very concerned about the sex-selective pregnancy terminations that are taking place across Canada. This is based on a news report that came out. They are really concerned that terminating pregnancies because of the gender of the fetus is the worst kind of discrimination against girls. There is a growing practice in the country of people getting ultrasounds to determine the sex of their child, and then, if it is not the gender they want, they are terminating that pregnancy.

Petitioners are therefore calling on the House to support Motion No. 408 to put an end to this despicable practice.

PovertyPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured today to stand and present several petitions on behalf of people from my riding, and those across the province and across the country.

The first petition is signed by citizens who support an act to eliminate poverty in Canada.

Public TransitPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition that I rise to present is asking the House of Commons to institute a national public transit strategy.

AfghanistanPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, the third petition that I rise today to present calls on the House to remove all soldiers from Afghanistan immediately.

JusticePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, the fourth petition that I present today is calling for justice for an aboriginal man wrongly convicted in my riding of Sudbury.

JusticePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, the final petition I rise to present today calls on the House of Commons to provide justice to a person within my riding of Sudbury.

Sex SelectionPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Conservative Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition from my constituents of Okanagan—Shuswap. Millions of girls have been lost through sex-selective abortions, resulting in a global gender imbalance. Ultrasounds are being used in Canada to determine the sex of the unborn so that expecting parents can choose to terminate the pregnancy if the unborn child is a girl.

My petitioners are calling upon Parliament to support Motion No. 408 and condemn sex selection.

Experimental Lakes AreaPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Independent

Bruce Hyer Independent Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, petitions continue to pour in from across Canada on the Experimental Lakes Area. I have two batches of them this morning, one from the Montreal area, the other from the Winnipeg and Brandon area.

The petitioners are concerned that the government has made an ill-advised decision to close the Experimental Lakes Area. They are calling upon MPs to reverse the decision to close the ELA and to continue to provide staff and financial support for this important scientific institution.

Shark FinningPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition calling for a ban on the importation of shark fins to Canada. The petition has been signed by people across Canada.

It is important to understand that when shark fins are harvested, quite often, the fins are severed from the shark and its body is simply discarded at sea. This practice has serious consequences for marine ecosystems.

I therefore present this petition in the hopes of stopping that practice.

Lyme DiseasePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

March 21st, 2013 / 10:10 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present two petitions. The first petition is from residents of Surrey and Langley in British Columbia, as well as from residents of Halifax, Nova Scotia, calling upon the House to look favourably on private member's Bill C-442, which I have tabled, that calls for a national Lyme disease strategy.

I am hopeful that members on all sides of the House will see fit to give the bill their support.

Foreign InvestmentPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, second, I have petitions from residents of Waterloo, Ontario; Victoria, British Columbia; and other locations, calling upon the Prime Minister and his cabinet to refuse to ratify the treaty that now sits before them between Canada and China. It is not a trade treaty. It is an investor protection agreement that will provide the People's Republic of China the right to challenge domestic Canadian laws that protect the environment, health, labour rights and so on.

Shark FinningPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to present a petition calling for a ban on the importation of shark fins, knowing that every year, 73 million sharks are killed. We are talking about the cruel practice of shark finning.

Many people have signed this petition, and I am honoured to present it here today.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

10:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, this arises out of a point of order that was raised last Friday. The government House leader chose to enter the debate earlier this week. I notified the Speaker then that we would take some reflection on what happened on Friday over the course of question period and respond as soon as we could, which is now.

I spent some time looking at and listening to what transpired on Friday during question period and I looked through the blues. There are two central and salient points of the conversation that may aid the Speaker's office, if there is a ruling forthcoming. I am not sure what the Speaker's views are on this right now.

One aspect of this debate on which I agree with the government is the usage of the terms around calling a minister to account and how it is that we, in question period, pose our questions and use the terms “minister responsible for” or “the minister of”, which are proper titles given to ministers. We normally associate that title to their official title. Sometimes that title has a couple of variations, but we attempt in our questioning to adhere to the specific title given to the minister. We think insults or particular impugning of their reputation in that title is inappropriate. We have tried to guide our members in that direction. However, sometimes, either in French or English, that can become a bit murky.

The second point is more a point of interpretation as to what happened on Friday, when some members of the government took offence. When I read the transcript in French and in English, there may have been problems, or interpretations of the interpretation, if you will, Mr. Speaker. Over the course of that question period, we can hear, because of the change in the voice, that a new interpreter was in the interpreter's booth attempting to interpret what was going on in the House of Commons and used different words. I will get to that in a second.

There is a specific reason why we use the term “interpreters” and not “translators” in the House of Commons. It is because simultaneous interpretation goes on here. I have the greatest respect for this work because it is an incredibly difficult job, particularly in the cut and thrust of a question period session. Our interpreters try to understand, but not the exact words. That is not what they do. They do not translate word for word what is being said in the House, but they have to very quickly establish the essence of the question or the answer coming from the government and provide an interpretation of that question and that answer to get the best essence of what is being proposed.

The reason this is important in our conversation today is that there were quite serious accusations made and there were obviously feelings hurt on the side of the government, because of the use of the word saccager.

The exact words were, “la ministre responsable du saccage de l'assurance-emploi”, the minister responsible for butchering employment insurance.

The topic being discussed was the misuse and abuse of the employment insurance system, whereby the government has not only thrown many hundreds of thousands of Canadians off employment insurance, making them ineligible, it has also further exacerbated the insult and the problem by going door to door and performing what some, not myself but others, have called a witch hunt upon those who have rightfully claimed access to employment insurance, which they have paid into.

The point of the word saccager is that one interpretation of what transpired on Friday had saccager as destroying, gutting, wreaking havoc or butchering the employment insurance program. Another interpretation would be the word “looting”. In some of our House discourse, impugning someone by saying he is committing a theft, that the government or a particular minister has stolen something from, in this case, the recipients of employment insurance who have paid into the program, is something that has been found out of order in the past. It has been found to be unparliamentary language. I would agree with that.

In terms of whether a minister is destroying a program, butchering a program or causing a program not to function, there are many candidates within the government that may fall under that particular accusation. We have never found in this place that it is out of order or unparliamentary to suggest that a minister is not performing their job very well. In the opposition's role of holding the government to account, we find far too many instances in which a minister has not performed their duties to the Canadian people responsibly.

Accusations of incivility and, in fact, misogyny are quite strong to make, particularly when made against female members of the opposition by a female minister of the Crown. It is a bit rich for the Conservative government to suggest that the strong feminist voices coming from the New Democratic official benches are somehow representing a misogynistic view of the world. We take the accusation very seriously.

In terms of civility and general decorum in this place, I am very tempted to look to the constant and uncivil attacks that come from the government benches on a daily basis, in question period and outside, and say that it is a somewhat hypocritical stance for the government House leader to suddenly be seized with the idea of civility. However, I will maintain that the purpose and the cause of our initiative to have more decorum and civility in the House of Commons overrides my temptation to further accuse the government of its various personal attacks on members of the opposition, which happen, again, on a daily basis. The higher cause calls me to say that while we will avoid calling ministers particular names in their titles, or misappropriating their titles to make a point, we will not, because it is not appropriate for us, desist from the role of the official opposition when a minister is badly doing his or her job and badly representing the Crown.

The official opposition will talk about the butchering of the employment insurance program until this government changes its position, until it guarantees that the employment insurance program will be restored to its previous form.

I was keenly interested in hearing the government House leader call for civility. Perhaps he can call off his member, who consistently uses McCarthyism tactics to call into question the loyalty and fealty of various members of Parliament or others. He suggests that they are somehow traitorous in their actions when they express an opinion or that Canadians are enemies of the state or foreign-funded radicals when they happen to express a view. The government would do well to take some of its own advice in this regard. If civility is what the Conservatives want, then civility is what they will get from members of the official opposition, but it would be hypocritical for a government to call for such civility, decency and decorum in our debate and then not exercise that same civility.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

I can assure the House Leader of the Official Opposition that his comments will be taken into account.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-15, An Act to amend the National Defence Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Speaker's RulingStrengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

There are two motions and amendments standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-15. Motions Nos. 1 and 2 will be grouped for debate and voted upon according to the voting pattern available at the table.

Motions in AmendmentStrengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-15, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing lines 11 to 13 on page 4 with the following:

“(3) The Vice Chief of the Defence Staff may, with the consent of the Provost Marshal and in accordance with the respective roles, responsibilities and principles set out in the Accountability Framework signed by the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff and the Provost Marshal on March 2, 1998, issue instructions or guidelines in writing in respect of a particular investigation, providing that the rationale for issuing the instructions or guidelines is also stated.”

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-15, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing line 16 on page 4 with the following:

“section (3) and the relevant rationale are available to the public.”

Mr. Speaker, I rise today for a very specific set of changes with which I hope the House will find favour.

As we know, Bill C-15 is, for the most part, supported by people throughout the House. It is an act to amend the National Defence Act and to make other consequential amendments. The piece I want to focus on is quite critical and deserves consideration at report stage. It is about changes to the military policing process.

If we go back to why it matters, we go back to an incident Canadians would sooner forget: the shameful incidents that occurred in Somalia involving Canadian armed forces and the subsequent efforts to interfere with that investigation. That led to an entirely new accountability framework, which I am holding here. The Vice Chief of the Defence Staff and the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal co-signed an accountability framework in March 1998 to set out the principles for proper operational flow.

The primacy of operations as well as the need for independence in investigations are recognized. Striving towards these complementary objectives through a transparent, timely and responsive process are described in this framework agreement as being critical.

These are very important principles that are embodied in the document. What Bill C-15 does is throw them out the window. I have brought forward these amendments to get the relationship back to where it should be, under the accountability framework, to ensure that senior military officials cannot interfere in an investigation.

It is unseemly to imagine that we would have a military investigation. Again, let us cast our minds back to a situation like Somalia. We can all hope that such a thing will never happen again. To have some assurance, we need to have good systems of law, accountability, clear lines of authority and absolute certainty that senior defence staff cannot intervene in an investigation to engage in a cover-up. That is why we have the accountability measures that currently exist.

In the section of Bill C-15 I propose to amend, we have something quite extraordinary. We have a change in the relationship. For members who are following along, the relevant section of Bill C-15 is clause 4, proposed subsection 18.5(3). Here we find the bill turning the accountability framework on its head. We find the following words: “The Vice Chief of the Defence Staff may issue instructions or guidelines in writing in respect of a particular investigation". In proposed subsection 18.5(4) we find: “The Provost Marshal shall ensure that the instructions and guidelines issued under subsection (3)”—in other words, by the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff— “are available to the public”.

That is what we have in Bill C-15, and that is why my amendments propose to clean it up. My amendments, very clearly, would ensure that the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff may, with the consent of the Provost Marshal, in accordance with their respective roles and responsibilities and the principles set out in the accountability framework to which I have just referred, issue instructions and guidelines in writing along with the rationale.

My amendment still meets the government's purpose. The Vice Chief of the Defence Staff may still issue instructions, but only with the consent of the Provost Marshal and only if consistent with the framework agreement under which our military policing system has been living since 1998.

Am I the only one who thinks that we need these amendments? No, I am not. I felt that it was important to bring them forward when there was significant testimony before the committee coming from none other than the Military Police Complaints Commission. The Military Police Complaints Commission, which was represented by senior counsel, said, “We don't think it's intended to be used in any kind of nefarious way, but it sort of calls into question what is and isn't improper interference”.

That could be called the understatement of the year. It definitely calls into question what could be called improper interference. This was also pointed out by a very significant witness before the committee, a professor of law from the University of Toronto, Professor Kent Roach, who in his substantive presentation to the committee made some very telling points.

There are reasons we have an accountability framework, and it is very important that this legislation not turn that on its head, undo accountability and open the door to completely improper interference in investigations by the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff. This is, of course, I hasten to add, not specific to any individuals holding the posts in the current era or in the past. However, as a matter of good principle and good policy, one does not put in place a system that is open to such clear abuse.

The provisions put forward by the Military Police Complaints Commission in its brief, which I want to point out, stated:

The provision in question, in clause 4 of the bill, would create a new NDA subsection 18.5(3), which would expressly authorize the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff to direct the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal—the head of the CF military police—in the conduct of specific [military police] investigations.

I should be careful when I speak of investigations in this place and use the initials “MP”. I should quickly clarify that it is military police.

In the Commission's view, such an express authority is inconsistent with existing arrangements in place since the period following the troubled Somalia deployment which specifically sought to safeguard [military police] investigations from interference by the chain of command.

Further down, the evidence from the Military Police Complaints Commission states:

the proposed authority of the [Vice Chief of the Defence Staff] to direct the [Provost Marshal] regarding the conduct of particular military police investigations set out in subsection 18.5(3) represents an important departure from the status quo. This proposed authority would effectively abrogate key provisions of the Accountability Framework whose purpose was to adapt the command relationship of the [Vice Chief of the Defence Staff] and [the Provost Marshal], such that the latter would retain appropriate independence from the chain of command in the conduct of individual law enforcement investigations.

Similarly, I want to mention that the University of Toronto professor to whom I referred earlier, Kent Roach, also spoke of the critical importance of police independence in investigations.

I am putting forward two small amendments. They do not deter or distract from the overall purpose of this act. Anyone who examines the history of why the accountability framework was brought forward in 1998 will see clearly that it is good public policy. It is a wise provision to ensure independence. It is not just that justice must be done but that it must be seen to be done. Opening the door to this kind of abuse goes against all principles, natural justice, the rule of law and the independence of an investigator from top-down interference.

I know it is unusual to pass amendments at report stage, but these are clear and straightforward and meet the demands and strong recommendations of the Military Police Complaints Commission itself. They make sense, and I urge members on all sides of the House to support these amendments to Bill C-15 at report stage.

Motions in AmendmentStrengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Ajax—Pickering Ontario

Conservative

Chris Alexander ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, is the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands aware that one of the purposes of Bill C-15, as reported back unamended to this place from committee, is to make the accountability framework, which to date has been an administrative document only, a statutory component of the framework governing military justice, to give it the status of a statute and to make the role, mandate and mission of the Provost Marshal of the Canadian Forces much more explicit than it has ever been before? Under Bill C-15, unamended, the Provost Marshal would have the absolute ability to make public any instruction he or she receives from the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff on any occasion.

Motions in AmendmentStrengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Yes, Mr. Speaker, I am aware of that, of course, but just as I am aware of it, so too were other witnesses before the committee. I draw attention to the following statement from Kent Roach, law professor at the University of Toronto:

I think it's always a problem in a democracy when police independence to commence an investigation or conduct an investigation is interfered with.

Michel Drapeau, who is a lawyer with over 34 years of experience with the Canadian military, said:

Would the mayor be able to issue a direction to the chief of the Ottawa police, even if it's in writing, about a particular investigation? The answer is “no.” Would the Prime Minister be able to do that with the RCMP? The answer is “absolutely not.” So why would it be here?

Those witnesses and experts in military justice knew, just as the Military Police Complaints Commission knew, that the instructions would later be made public. The question is how much damage would be done by demands or instructions from the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff in the course of an investigation, even when the Provost Marshal might make them public later on. There is a very large window for abuse, and we should close it now.