House of Commons Hansard #237 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was s-7.


Citizenship and ImmigrationAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.


Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is one thing for an opposition member to come into the House to present a case that suggests that the government should change a policy. It is quite another when members of the opposition stand in the House and fearmonger, because that is exactly what is happening here.

The last two times I responded to this question regarding interim federal health, the examples given have been untrue. Those individuals are covered under interim federal health. They are not left at the hospital door. I would ask the member to come to the region of Niagara, because there is no one who has been turned down for health care for the reasons she suggests.

What we do have is this. In December 2012, Nanos completed a poll that suggested that over 70% of Canadians supported the decision the government made that no one in this country should receive more than anyone else, including those who come here as refugees, yet are not true refugees, and try to take advantage of our system. We have stopped that, and we are not going to start it again.

Search and RescueAdjournment Proceedings

April 22nd, 2013 / 7:05 p.m.


Annick Papillon NDP Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to an issue that is very important to me. I have been speaking out about this issue from the beginning. I have lost count of the number of press conferences I have attended, both in Quebec City and here in Ottawa, on the Quebec City marine rescue sub-centre, the one and only officially bilingual rescue centre in Canada.

As everyone knows, I have asked over 50 questions in the House and I have grilled the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans about the importance of keeping the Quebec City marine rescue sub-centre open, the importance of not closing it and going back in time by 36 years, which is what this Conservative government would be doing if it closes the centre.

The Quebec City centre was created to meet two needs, the first of course being knowledge and fluency in the French language during distress calls. The second need has to do with geographic knowledge about the coastline of the St. Lawrence River and its islands, which are not all indicated on maps—basically knowing every nook and cranny. Unfortunately, every time I ask, the government ignores me. We have not heard anything about the need for this centre.

A report by the Commissioner of Official Languages was tabled. It set out very important criteria, such as an adequate bilingual presence when transferring the Quebec City centre to Trenton and Halifax. To date, all the problems persist, and it seems that there is not an adequate bilingual presence. We are waiting for the Commissioner of Official Languages' opinion, but no changes have been made since the first report was tabled last August.

The government did not want to hear this at the Standing Committee on Official Languages or at the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. Every time they kept sending the ball back and forth, and they absolutely did not want to hear what people had to say about it. The NDP therefore decided to create a parallel committee in Quebec City to discuss this problem. The message was loud and clear. People are worried about what we stand to lose with the closing of the Quebec City rescue centre, namely the French language, and the ability to work in French and to make a distress call that is coordinated in French. A family of boaters, on the river, close to the location of an incident, must be able to intervene. In coordinating the rescue, we need bilingual people who understand the people in distress in French as well as in English. We need more than just one per centre, in Halifax and in Trenton. That is important.

That is what this majority Conservative government, which is deaf to everything, needs to understand. It has to respond this time. There have been three postponements to date. The deadline has been extended. They could not close it in April or in the fall. They have not been able to do so once again.

Money is at stake. To the Conservatives, that is more important than the safety of francophones. Perhaps my proposal might interest them. Before it costs three times as much, does the government intend to give up on this and keep the Quebec City centre open?

Search and RescueAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission B.C.


Randy Kamp ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to respond yet again to concerns raised by my colleague, the member for Québec about the consolidation of the marine rescue sub-centre currently located in Quebec City.

We have had this discussion before. I find it interesting that this issue continues to be raised, even after we have witnessed the successful transition of the consolidation of the rescue sub-centre in St. John's into the joint rescue coordination centre in Halifax. Search and rescue coordination and response continues to be provided at the same level of service today as it was when the marine rescue sub-centre was in place in St. John's.

Nevertheless, we need to continue to ensure that the facts are reported accurately, to assure Canadians that their safety will continue to be a priority. In particular, I want to refer the member to a statement made by the Canadian Coast Guard on March 28. Let me quote a couple of paragraphs:

Coast Guard recognizes that the government must be absolutely confident that strong French-language services are in place before any changes proceed. Therefore Coast Guard officials will engage with the Official Languages Commissioner to ensure French-language services out of JRCC Halifax meet or exceed current levels.

It went on to say:

Coast Guard will delay consolidation until such time that the Official Languages Commissioner shares the Coast Guard’s level of confidence in the bilingual capacity at the JRCC Halifax.

In fact, if the member has not already, I would encourage her to review the statement in its entirety.

Let me emphasize again that we are fully aware that the provision of bilingual services is critical, particularly when it comes to a safety service such as maritime search and rescue. Recognizing this, the Canadian Coast Guard has taken steps to address this important issue. In fact, we have increased the required level of language proficiency for the maritime search and rescue coordinators at the rescue coordination centres. Language training and maintenance plans have also been developed so that we can ensure that we are meeting our official language obligations in the most effective way.

This change to how we organize search and rescue coordination services would not be made if there was any evidence that it would impact the safety of Canadians, wherever they may reside and whatever their official language of choice. We will of course be receptive to the current review of the Official Languages Commissioner.

As we have stated many times before, this change does not affect the availability of search and rescue resources. Coast guard ships and the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary will continue to respond to emergencies as they have previously with the joint rescue coordination centres maintaining the current levels of service provided by the Canadian Coast Guard. The plain fact is services will always be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week in both official languages.

Canada is an international leader in marine safety and the Canadian Coast Guard's search and rescue program is among the best in the world, and will remain so. We will continue to ensure that timely and appropriate maritime search and rescue coordination and response services are available to all mariners.

Let me conclude with the assurance that any changes to the Quebec marine rescue sub-centre will occur only when we have full confidence that the same level of services can be provided and public safety assured. The safety of Canadians remains this government's top priority. The excellent standard of maritime search and rescue that Canadians have come to expect, and indeed depend upon, will continue to be met.

Search and RescueAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.


Annick Papillon NDP Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to see that the members opposite seem to understand that this is not working perfectly. That is why I come back each time and ask a question. Each time it is not working.

Yesterday, another distress call was made by the people at the Quebec City centre, who are very concerned. A few weeks ago, pilots on the St. Lawrence were saying that they were unable to communicate in French and that they got the impression that they were not being heard in French. Of course, after receiving these calls, I am raising this issue again, and I am asking for accountability.

However, it is important to talk about the botched simulation that took place on February 27 or 28. It was a terrible simulation. In fact, there was more staff on hand than usual during a simulation. It was a regular simulation. More bilingual staff members were on hand than usual. The thought was that it would likely work, which would strengthen the government's position, but the whole thing was a failure.

It is pathetic. The government should use what happened during this botched simulation and all the failures related to this issue, take the high road and reverse this decision because it does not make sense.

Search and RescueAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.


Randy Kamp Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if she has read the report on the exercise that took place. Yes, they made some suggestions about improvements. That is why we are proceeding slowly and carefully with this change. It is to make sure that we have in place all the right resources and language capabilities. It was not the dire failure she indicates.

We have listened to the concerns of our hon. colleagues on this issue. I would continue to stress to my colleague and fellow Canadians that public safety remains a priority for Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The changes to the marine rescue sub-centres will have no impact on service delivery or public safety. However, in this case, because of the language concerns, and we are waiting for the review by the Commissioner of Official Languages, we are proceeding carefully and slowly.

Search and RescueAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

The House adjourned at 7:18 p.m.)