House of Commons Hansard #269 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cigarettes.


Tackling Contraband Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. Minister of Justice will have twelve and a half minutes remaining when the House next returns to debate on this question, and then the usual 10 minutes for questions and comments.

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from May 2 consideration of the motion.

Persons with DisabilitiesPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on this motion. I congratulate the member for Brant for putting it forward. There are a lot of points to be considered. I know he has done a lot of work in the disability community, so he is probably the proper one to be putting forward this motion based upon his experience in that area.

As our critic indicated, Liberals will support the motion. However, beyond the motion itself, we want it to be a call to action for the Government of Canada.

The report that came out is entitled “Rethinking Disability in the Private Sector”, and the subtext reads “We all have abilities, some are just more apparent than others”.

That is, I think, a remarkable statement. Everybody has talents that we do not see.

I can remember that during my time in the farm movement, when I used to stay in people's homes night after night, I would always find that people had a second talent that was not visible. One farmer whose place I stayed at was an expert in lead glass. He shipped it all over the world. I never knew that until I happened to stay at his house.

When we see people with disabilities, we do not often see that inner ability and talent. Whether they have a mental disability or a physical disability, given the opportunity, those inner abilities and those talents will come out.

There are a couple of things that should be mentioned about that report.

Number one is that there is a business case for employing people with disabilities. It states that there are 795,000 working-age Canadians in that category and that 340,000 of them have post-secondary education.

We hear in this House and we hear in our communities all the time that there is a shortage of skilled workers, a shortage of all kinds of workers, and although we are looking at the business sector being involved in this area, there is a real opportunity to give people with disabilities an incentive so that they have a better quality of life for themselves and can take pride in the work they do.

The other side of the coin is that they can be productive in a job and in the Canadian economy. That potential is pretty good when we look at 795,000 people, with 340,000 of them having a post-secondary education.

The report states clearly that there are myths and misconceptions in the business community about the costs and risks associated with hiring people with disabilities. It claims there are no costs at all in half the cases—I am going from the study—to accommodate a person with disabilities, but that on average the cost is $500. That is a pretty small down payment to get a loyal and engaged employee, as the report talks about.

I have seen people with disabilities in my riding. I know people who, if they could get a job and have the atmosphere and the technology they need to do a job in a productive way, would turn out to be the most faithful and loyal employees any employer could have, as they would appreciate the employer working with them so that they could have the opportunity to work with that employer.

The report, “Rethinking Disability in the Private Sector”, provides a good basis, a good foundation for moving forward.

The motion itself has five sections, and due to time I will concentrate on the last one. It says:

(e) strengthening efforts to identify existing innovative approaches to increasing the employment of persons with disabilities occurring in communities across Canada and ensuring that programs have the flexibility to help replicate such approaches.

There is so much we can do with new technologies. Investments have to be made in many areas to assist the people in the disability community, not only in terms of getting to work but also in terms of having the technology at work to be able to do whatever it is they may be doing.

How do we make this technology work for people with disabilities? I think we have all seen examples. I know one of the bankers I have dealt with was legally blind, but he was still a banker doing productive work every day. He had a computer program that would either talk to him or adjust the print so he could see it.

Just imagine how many people in North America would be helped by technology that assists people who are legally blind. It would help them to be gainfully employed and to be productive in their lives.

I am sure there are other technologies out there that could assist people with other kinds of disabilities. As MPs we go out into the schools, to high school classrooms and others. There is one thing that always amazes me in those classrooms, and that is the personnel who work with the people with disabilities, as well as how the education system, at least in the schools I have been in, utilizes technologies to assist young people with either a mental or a physical disability to learn and to gain their education.

It may take extra personnel, but the technology is improving all the time for these people so that they can gain their education.

The problem is that sometimes that effort, in terms of helping those people with disabilities, stops when they graduate from the school system.

I think the last point in the motion by the member for Brant really goes to that point, that more effort needs to be made to find a way to transfer that technology and to encouraging the business sector to utilize that technology so that these people can be productive in their lives.

Let me close with a quote from the title of the report: “We All Have Abilities, Some Are Just More Apparent Than Others”.

This motion gives us the opportunity to work with people to find those abilities that are not so apparent on the surface, and to utilize the technologies so that those people can add to our economy, assist the business community and find a quality of life in their own livelihoods. This motion could give us that opportunity.

Persons with DisabilitiesPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey Ontario


Kellie Leitch ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Motion No. 430, which calls on the government to endorse the report of the panel on labour market opportunities for persons with disabilities, and to support the member for Brant in his efforts in putting forward this motion, about which I know he is quite passionate.

A few months ago we published this report, which showed possible courses of action and best practices in this regard. The panel gave us a solid business case that supported hiring people with disabilities and targeting our available resources to bring about better outcomes.

The panel gave us a solid business case that supported hiring people with disabilities and targeting our available resources to bring about better outcomes. The results are in the panel's report, “Rethinking Disability in the Private Sector”, which I urge all members and employers to read.

For example, it was found that accommodating people with disabilities in the workplace is not that expensive, that it can pay many dividends and that employees with disabilities have lower rates of absenteeism and staff turnover.

Canada is already experiencing a skills gap, and we have yet to face the demographic challenges of the baby boomers retiring en masse. Ensuring all Canadians are able to contribute their skills to the economy is vital to addressing this looming challenge.

Our image of the typical worker for a typical job, though, has substantially changed. Why? It is because we are not living in the world of typical any longer. We have the responsibility of designing our own destiny when it comes to our talent and our competitiveness. We should be asking what people can do, rather than whether they fit a traditional mould. We should ask what their capabilities are, not how we can accommodate their disabilities.

Our government gets that. There are many people with different types and degrees of physical, developmental and psychological disabilities who are willing and able to work. Despite our aging population and the looming labour skills shortages, we have been slow to tap into this wealth of talent. There are actually approximately 800,000 working-age Canadians with disabilities who are employable but have yet to find a job. Almost half of those individuals have a post-secondary education.

It is clear that the education, skills and talents of many Canadians with disabilities are not being maximized, nor are these individuals getting a chance to actually have a fulfilling career. This is important because we know that having a job gives people a sense of dignity, a sense of independence. We know that people with disabilities can be real assets to their employers.

What can we do to get more people with disabilities into the workforce? The fact is that people with disabilities do not take a job for granted. They are often the best and hardest working employees, and they improve both the productivity and the morale of all the others in their workplace.

Take, for example, the Toronto Tim Hortons where employees with disabilities have proven to be a tremendous asset, an asset not only because they do the work well but because they are giving the business a relative competitive advantage.

The fast food industry has an average turnover rate of 75%, a huge turnover rate. However, this Tim Hortons has a turnover rate of only 35%, creating a significant amount of stability for this local business owner.

People with disabilities are used to overcoming problems and finding ingenious ways to cope with everyday tasks. They also tend to be more flexible in their thinking, and that is what makes them valuable to businesses and their need to innovate.

Let me quote from the chair of the panel on labour market opportunities for people with disabilities, Kenneth Fredeen: “There is a strong business case to be made for businesses hiring people with disabilities”.

From personal experience dealing with the incorporation into the labour force of adolescents and young adults who have disabilities, I know that when they have that first opportunity to have a meaningful role in the labour market, to have their first job, they stick with it. They are diligent to it. They are focused on it, and they make sure they are meeting every expectation of their employer and also all the people they are serving in their role.

The release of the report could not have been more timely. With the baby boomers starting to retire, Canada is facing skills and labour shortages in many sectors. To meet this challenge, we need to ensure that our talent is at work, that everyone in the country is contributing toward our prosperity.

That is why our government is investing in training so that Canadians can get the skills employers need. Our government supports many programs to promote the full participation of people with disabilities across the country.

Let me highlight some of the items in economic action plan 2013 that have been announced and some very specific measures for job opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

These initiatives would build upon the great work this panel has done.

We would extend the labour market agreements for persons with disabilities for one year and introduce a new generation of agreements in 2014. Our goal is to better meet the employment needs of businesses and the employment prospects for individuals with disabilities.

The opportunities fund for persons with disabilities would assist individuals with disabilities to prepare for, obtain and keep employment or become self-employed.

In addition, this opportunities fund will be redesigned to provide people with disabilities with more training options based on the skill sets employers are looking for and to become more responsive to labour market needs. Employers and community organizations will be involved in the design and implementation of specific projects.

We would extend the enabling accessibility fund, which supports capital costs for construction and renovations to improve physical accessibility for people with disabilities through projects that demonstrate community support, including workplace accommodation. This is something we have heard about all across the country. It is making sure that individuals, not just with physical handicaps but with other developmental disabilities, have opportunities to enter into a workplace in a free manner.

We also announced additional funding for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, which will support research related to the labour market participation of people with disabilities.

Finally, our government would create the Canadian employers disability forum, recognizing the importance of engaging employers who are committed to promoting the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the workplace.

Economic action plan 2013 proposes to provide a temporary investment to support the creation of the Canadian employers disability forum, as recommended by the panel. The forum, an initiative led by Canadian businesses, would be managed by employers for employers, providing them the education, training and sharing of resources and best practices concerned with the hiring and retention of persons with disabilities.

This is something that is essential. We have heard from across the country about the need for employers to better understand how to include individuals with disabilities into their firms and into their employment, whether that be small or large firms, those focused on the service industry or in the trades. I think it is essential that employers have an opportunity to be better educated so that they can be more inclusive.

Under the leadership of the forum, employers would help to promote and further the invaluable contributions that persons with disabilities make to their businesses. This measure is a direct result of a recommendation by the panel.

Unfortunately, the opposition parties voted against many of these investments. It is difficult to understand how the opposition MPs can stand and talk about their parties' support for persons with disabilities when they have consistently voted against each of these investments.

As I have said before, Canada faces serious labour and skills shortages in many areas. These shortages are the most significant challenge to our success and competitiveness as a nation. That is why our government is focused on removing barriers to employment for people with disabilities and helping them get the right skills and the training they need. The private sector must also do its part to hire people with disabilities and create more inclusive work places.

We believe the report of the panel on labour market opportunities for persons with disabilities will get a lot of people opening their minds and seeing the potential for these employees.

I want to thank the member for Brant for bringing this motion forward. It has been an excellent vehicle for change, for education and for making sure that Canadians, particularly Canadian employers, know why this is such an important issue. Much of his hard work has been seen in the various measures brought forward in the budget as well as at our human resources committee, which has done a recent report on inclusiveness and making sure that individuals with disabilities can be included in the workplace.

I urge all members of this House to support this motion and to support the many actions our government has taken to support Canadians with disabilities to further their participation in the economy.

Once again, I want to commend the member for Brant for his excellent work on this motion and for bringing this important issue forward to Canadians and employers.

Persons with DisabilitiesPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Motion No. 430, which pertains to labour market opportunities for persons with disabilities.

I would like to point out that the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly and came into effect on May 3, 2008.

Article 27 is particularly interesting. It reads:

States Parties shall safeguard and promote the realization of the right to work, including for those who acquire a disability during the course of employment, by taking appropriate steps, including through legislation, to, inter alia...[ensure] that reasonable accommodation is provided to persons with disabilities in the workplace...

It is clear that the convention's objective is for people with disabilities to fully enjoy basic human rights and actively participate in political, economic, social and cultural life.

Today in Canada, people with disabilities make up about 14% of the population. Unfortunately, approximately 800,000 working-age Canadians who have a disability are unemployed, even though their disability does not prevent them from working.

Why is that? It is because there is a lack of opportunity and infrastructure. People with disabilities may have feelings of inferiority or employers may discriminate against them because they are not familiar with the disability or have concerns about it. These individuals may have had difficulty in another job or a training program.

I would like to quote Tara Hooper, who testified before the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in March 2013.

More attention needs to be given to our youth with disabilities. The issues with bullying, as an example, are prevalent among youth. It impacts their esteem, confidence, and worth as human beings. All of these factors have an impact on how an individual decides to move forward with their life following high school.

I would also like to speak briefly about the Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, which examined the private sector's successes, challenges and best practices in hiring people with disabilities.

This panel recommended promoting education and training in order to overcome barriers, dispel myths and further encourage people with disabilities to contribute to our country's economic prosperity.

Motion No. 430 calls upon the government to endorse these findings and recommendations.

That would mean promoting the employment of people with disabilities, since nearly 340,000 of these individuals have a post-secondary education and they are a tremendous, viable and as yet untapped source of workers at a time when Canada is experiencing a labour shortage in various sectors.

My riding is one that often does not have enough workers because of the economic boom. More and more, private sector employers are starting to consider hiring more workers with disabilities to make up for the shortage.

It should be said that it is often advantageous for a company to hire people with disabilities because they are more likely to stay with the same employer. Employers therefore save on hiring and training costs.

For more than 30 years now, there has been no change in the number of people with disabilities who are active in the labour market. In 1995, 43% of people with disabilities were actively involved in the labour market, which is roughly half the equivalent percentage of people without disabilities.

Again according to Statistics Canada, people with disabilities are less likely to have a job than people without disabilities. In 2006, 51.3% of people of working age with disabilities had jobs, compared to 75.1% of people without disabilities.

When I was doing my research, I paid close attention to the minutes of a standing committee meeting, which I spoke about earlier. I would like to quote some relevant comments made by the member for Burnaby—New Westminster:

About 50% of the nation's homeless are people with disabilities and about half of those who have to line up in the food lines and bread lines of this country are people with disabilities. So the situation for people with disabilities is very dire in this country, there is no doubt, in part, because of neglect.

The problem seems to be a lack of support in the workplace. I found his comments to be quite pertinent.

However, I want to say that I will support the motion. I think it is extremely appropriate to give people with disabilities independence and dignity so that there is genuine equality in the labour market.

Although I will support the motion, it unfortunately does not go far enough. The problem is very broad, and the motion could have gone much further. The motion heads in the right direction and its purpose is really to promote employment for this vulnerable minority. However, one of the problems is that the motion is unfortunately too formal. The government lacks vision when it comes to the complex issue of the employability of people with disabilities. Certain issues have not been addressed, and that may be due to the fact that the report I mentioned lacked depth. I will now address a few of those issues.

How do you go about working if you cannot get to your workplace? That is an obstacle. Imagine that an employer is prepared to hire someone but that person has no means of transportation to get to work. That is a major obstacle that should have been considered. In some instances, some employers may be prepared to hire people, but the infrastructure cannot accommodate those workers very well, or at all.

There are two realities regarding aboriginal communities, and that makes the task more difficult. The employability rate among aboriginal people is lower than in the general population. If someone also has a disability, his or her chances of finding work are cut in half. We can also talk about support for people with disabilities, everyday assistance, education and financial responsibility. These various issues, which were not addressed, could have been explored in greater detail.

On November 9, 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada rendered a decision on the rights of people with disabilities and the right of students with disabilities to the accommodation measures required to access and benefit from public education. The court held, “Adequate special education, therefore, is not a dispensable luxury.”

According to the brief that the Council of Canadians with Disabilities presented to the committee in April, one in four women with disabilities who are of working age and living in low-income households works in a business or has a job. We therefore see that women are greater victims of the situation.

Consequently, poverty is on the rise and these women are unable to support their families. In the case of women with disabilities who are the heads of single-parent families, the problem is much greater and leads to more dependence, a lack of freedom and isolation. If the situation persists, it will be increasingly difficult for the person to return to the labour market.

Declarations of principle, studies and encouragement are not enough today. We expect more specific action. I think it is high time we adopted an actual strategy to make Canada more accessible and inclusive.

Various measures must be taken to do that, such as the following: work consistently with the provinces, the territories, first nations and people with disabilities to develop a federal strategy; involve the public and private sectors in communities in a co-operative relationship; invest in youth with disabilities at the end of their high school education and help them make the transition from school to work; promote access to public post-secondary education to help people with disabilities enter the labour market; develop long-term support funds to promote financial security; evaluate health and disability benefit programs; conduct studies to determine the nature of barriers and ways of overcoming them; access information on the labour market, support services, workplace accommodation and the training necessary to find and retain a job; adapt the workplace to people with disabilities; develop appropriate means of transportation; and work to improve housing and living conditions.

We can find many more solutions and do more things. I think it would be a good idea to do so.

Persons with DisabilitiesPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Dan Albas Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of this motion by my colleague from Brant. There are times in the House when we as members of Parliament can work together for the common benefit of our constituents.

In this instance, there are in excess of three-quarters of a million Canadians who have a disability. I am certain that every member of the House knows someone in their riding who has a disability.

Many of us will also know that each year we host a chair-leaders day here on Parliament Hill. As a participant in this event and having spent a day in a wheelchair, I am certain that I am not alone in sharing what an eye-opening experience that is.

We also know that disabled citizens are capable of doing amazing things. In my home province of British Columbia, Man in Motion has been an inspiration and role model for all citizens around the world. More recently, I was very pleased to note that the B.C. legislature has three elected MLAs who did not let a wheelchair stand in the way of public service. In the House, we have a distinguished colleague who has served the citizens of Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia incredibly well for close to a decade.

We also must recognize that for employers and those with disabilities there are still challenges that remain in the workplace. We know there are many businesses with skills shortages and the report by the Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities is a great resource that can make businesses think differently about those shortages and how they might be met by people with disabilities. Since the report came out in January, we have been urging businesses of all sizes to step up to the plate and consider people with disabilities as part of their human resources strategy.

In economic action plan 2013, our government outlined further steps that we are taking to connect Canadians with existing jobs. The Canada job grant aims to create $15,000 per person, a partnership that includes a federal contribution and matching funds by the provinces, territories and employers, to ensure that Canadians are getting the skills they need and that employers are seeking. By directly involving employers, the Canada job grant will do what previous training programs did not do. There is certainty that Canadians will acquire the skills and training in an area where jobs are available. This program will move training away from the status quo and into the hands of job creators who know best what skills are needed to fill current vacancies. Indeed, in Okanagan—Coquihalla, from meeting with employers recently, I can state with certainty that welders, electrical engineers and saw technicians are only some of the skills that are currently needed. Many of these jobs also require support positions. Skills trade harmonization requirements for apprentices can also help those looking to get a fresh start in a new community.

It is important in this discussion that we look at some of the initiatives to help people with disabilities.

In economic action plan 2013, we will renegotiate a new generation of labour market agreements for persons with disabilities by April 2014. These new agreements will be designed to better meet the needs of Canadian employers that will, in turn, help to improve employment prospects for persons with disabilities.

We will also maintain ongoing funding starting in 2015 for the opportunities fund for persons with disabilities. This fund helps persons with disabilities prepare for, obtain, and most importantly, keep work. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council will also receive funding to help support research related to the labour market participation of people with disabilities.

A time-limited investment will be made to create the Canadian employers disabilities forum. The forum itself will be managed by employers to facilitate education, training and sharing of resources and best practices concerning the hiring and retention of people with disabilities. It will share successes and communicate ongoing challenges.

Finally, the enabling accessibility fund will also be extended on an ongoing basis. This fund supports the capital costs of construction and renovations related to improving physical accessibility for people with disabilities through projects with demonstrated community support, including workplace accommodation. Clearly, physically accommodating a person with a disability is of key importance and this fund will help to ensure that occurs.

Taken together, these measures show resolve to help include people with disabilities in our Canadian workforce.

As the panel's report says, we have to make sure that the barriers people with disabilities face when trying to get a job are removed. We must never forget that many Canadians who have a disability are perfectly capable of working and have yet to find a job as there are still some barriers that must be overcome. Skills retraining and workplace accommodation are two of the most important considerations to help increase employment for disabled Canadians. Fortunately, both of these issues are targeted in economic action plan 2013.

I am proud to support my colleague from Brant by supporting the motion. It is an important step forward toward engaging the private sector to do more to employ persons with disabilities. I also believe it is important that we recognize that the motion cannot and will not resolve all challenges for disabled Canadians in the workplace.

As I said earlier, we all know people who have faced the daily challenges of a disability, who know firsthand the feelings of an uncertain future and circumstances sometimes beyond their control. It requires resolve to live and thrive despite these challenges that can really only be lived one day at a time.

One step at a time is how we need to move forward together. I submit the motion takes important steps that will make a difference in getting disabled Canadians the jobs that they need in a workplace that can be accommodating.

I am pleased to support the motion. I am pleased with the work of my colleague the member of Parliament for Brant.

Persons with DisabilitiesPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise and speak to Motion No. 430, labour market opportunities for persons with disabilities. This important motion was brought forward by a good member of Parliament who is a clear advocate for people living with disabilities. He is personally involved and works hard to ensure that governments at all levels are aware of the need to provide the kinds of supports necessary to ensure that people who are living with disabilities are able to contribute at the level at which they want to contribute. It is extremely important, and I thank him for the work he does. I want to make that clear. I will be supporting this motion.

The member will probably not be surprised that I am going to raise a few little points where I think the motion does not go quite far enough. I do that because I am well aware of this issue. I have many constituents and friends who are dealing with the barriers to people living with disabilities every single day. We can stand here in the House and talk about it and we can read reports that talk about the need to do this or that, but at some point we have to draw the line and put some concrete actions into place. We have to assign the appropriate funding to those actions to ensure we specifically remove the barriers that exist for people on the ground who are living with disabilities.

The “Rethinking Disability in the Private Sector” report is a solid report. It identifies challenges and success stories of employment for persons with disabilities, but I suggest that there are gaps. Persons with disabilities do not just deal with barriers existing in the workplace. They deal with barriers that are brought on by problems of accessibility to housing, education and transportation, and none of these issues were directly dealt with in the report.

In my province of Nova Scotia, and I know this exists across the country, the ability of persons with disabilities to access independent living opportunities is at a premium. There are far too many wait-lists for people who are trying to find proper living accommodations. We can appreciate that for people who are in a program that is helping them transition from school to work and trying to support them in employment opportunities, there needs to be an opportunity to live independently in appropriate housing. Not only does that create opportunities for them, but it relieves the enormous pressure on families who are the primary supports and caregivers.

Likewise, the opportunity for persons living with disabilities to access education, to get supports in the school systems, both secondary and post-secondary, is extremely important. I have evidence of the success that is enjoyed by people living with disabilities who are able to take advantage of those supports, but they are not there for everybody. Again, there are waiting lists and the disability-specific supports are not always in place.

It is the same thing with transportation, unfortunately.

Those are the kinds of barriers that we need to focus on, that we need to ensure we get rid of. We need to ensure that the funding is available.

I spoke in a debate a week or so ago about how the government is letting the provinces down on a commitment that it made in the Constitution of 1982 to provide equalization payments to ensure that the provinces are able to deliver an equal level of service. Some provinces that do not have access to the same revenues as others are facing challenges.

I will give some examples of success stories in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour because there are a few. There are individuals living with disabilities who are recognizing opportunities.

There is the ACEE program established in 2005 by the Independent Living Nova Scotia Association. It is a year-long transition program for youth with disabilities who have completed high school but are not yet ready for the workforce or further education.

There are currently and usually about 20 young adults who participate every year in this innovative program, which includes literacy and numeracy, employment orientation, career exploration and job placements in real-life workplaces. It is currently situated in the Akerley campus of the Nova Scotia Community College. It is located within a post-secondary institution. The participants benefit greatly, as do the students who are attending that community college. They learn and experience good things as a result of that program being there.

The Dartmouth Adult Services Centre, DASC, provides community employment services dedicated to providing access to employment opportunities and the support required to ensure continued and future success. It strives to obtain competitive employment in the community for its clients. It has just moved into a new facility partially funded by the federal government; the grand opening is tomorrow. I have been through the facility and it provides a wonderful suite of services to people living with disabilities and to organizations within the community. It is known for its political buttons; I have certainly bought a few buttons from DASC myself.

DASC also provides a community employment service work model made up of four components: assessment and orientation, job search, job site training and ongoing support. This is an extremely valuable support. It has a new building and is providing support and work opportunities for over 100 individuals. It has staff. It is continuing to grow in terms of demand and there is a waiting list. It needs greater funding to ensure that it has qualified staff on hand to provide support for people who are working in that organization and in the community.

Another program is called reachAbility. It operates on the basis of a culture built on the belief that we are all equal and that accommodation is simply about equalizing the playing field. The committed staff of reachAbility provide support to a wide range of clients with a focus on programs designed to build a stronger community, one ability at a time. The program provides transferable skills through training, education, job placement services and assistance in overcoming barriers.

I want to make two final points. The first is with respect to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Conservatives were supposed to report on what their commitments would be, as was required when they signed on to it a year ago. They have failed to do that. That is simply not good enough.

The member opposite brought forward a great motion, but we need more action and more resources focused on people living with disabilities so they can participate in our communities at their fullest potential.

Persons with DisabilitiesPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to join the debate on motion M-430 regarding employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. This motion follows on from the work of the Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, which was set up in July 2012.

In general terms, the panel’s mandate was to hold discussions with private sector stakeholders, employers and organizations on the representation and participation of people with disabilities in the Canadian labour market.

The report prepared at the conclusion of the panel’s work highlights the fact that there are too many Canadians living with disabilities who are unemployed, even though they have the ability and willingness to work. Even today, about 800,000 working-age Canadians who are living with disabilities have the willingness, the talent and the ability to participate in Canada’s labour market, but they do not always have the opportunity to do so.

The report entitled “Rethinking DisAbility in the Private Sector” describes a number of success stories, best practices and obstacles to accessing the job market for those with disabilities. The surprising thing is that unfortunately the panel did not have the authority to make recommendations to the government. It could only describe the situation and make suggestions for improvements.

The motion under consideration today asks the government to endorse the report of the Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities and puts forward measures inspired by the report that aim at improving access to the labour market by Canadians living with disabilities.

This motion is a good initial step and I support the measures it contains. However, as a number of my colleagues in this House have mentioned, there remains a great deal of work to be done and the text of the motion does not go far enough in putting forward measures that will really increase access to the labour market by people with disabilities.

The panel’s report is not particularly ground-breaking. We have been aware for a number of years now of the conclusions it draws and the facts it presents. Through a succession of governments, a number of reports have raised the same problems and issues. However, not one of those governments, nor even today’s government, has taken adequate measures or shown any genuine leadership to resolve the situation or to ensure that people living with disabilities who have the ability and the willingness to work actually take part in the labour market.

Furthermore, motion M-430 does not cover some of the problems that are crucial for people with disabilities. It does not discuss the demands that groups representing people with disabilities have expressed for a number of years now. I am thinking primarily of health and disability benefits, access to housing, access to education and income security.

This afternoon I had an opportunity to discuss motion M-430 with a long-time friend, Maxime D. Pomerleau, who was with me in high school and cégep. We have known each other for many years. She is a journalist and a host on Canal M for a public affairs program about people with disabilities. Her program is called Accès libre. At the moment, she is also developing a web series called Batwheel, which deals with issues of universal accessibility for those living with disabilities.

Maxime has McCune-Albright syndrome and has used a wheelchair since she was young, so she really understands the problems facing people with disabilities, particularly problems with gaining access to the labour market. When she was young, she did not have access to summer jobs because there were not enough incentives for employers to hire people with disabilities.

She had a chance to look through the report and, like me, she found it objectionable that it focuses on big, well-established companies that already have programs to help people living with disabilities. Small and medium businesses do not have these kinds of programs, especially in rural areas. The report does not really even cover the situation outside of urban areas.

The report does not go into the problem of accessible transportation either. Nothing is being done to address these issues, and this is something that I deplore about the motion before us.

Persons with DisabilitiesPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is truly a privilege to speak to the debate that has been part of this motion.

I want to thank both opposition parties for their support of this motion and especially those who spoke to the motion in terms of their support.

I am under no illusions with this motion, having lived and watched persons with disabilities from the time they were small children to the time they were adults. I am under no illusions of the multiplicity of challenges that they have in their lives and the multiplicity of services and support they need to live fulfilling lives.

This motion has been as prescriptive as possible to put forward five elements for progress. They are small steps forward, but is it not better to make those small steps forward and to get to the point some day where we are in a position where we are completely inclusive of individuals who suffer from all ranges of disabilities?

I must thank members of the organizations from across the country to whom I have spoken over the past year and who were a very significant part of putting together the elements of this motion, because it was their experience and their suggestions that said, “This will move the yardstick forward. If you present a motion with these elements, it calls very prescriptively on the government to do things”. To the credit of our government, in the past budget several of the elements we were working on were adopted even before the motion came to the floor of the House of Commons.

I also thank our Minister of Finance and the leadership of our government on this file, in taking it forward in a way that I, frankly, did not actually anticipate we would be able to move as quickly as we did.

We provide significant resources to provinces and territories and we have a window of opportunity on one of the elements mentioned in the motion, which is to have a new generation of labour market agreements for persons with disabilities. When we get that new generation, we will be able to direct to the actual individuals more concrete and measurable results for those who seek to work.

As has been mentioned over again in this debate, there are 800,000 individuals who are ready, willing and able to work in the country and our country is on a path of labour shortage, so this is an untapped pool of talent.

In our society, sometimes these people get overlooked, maybe because of their physical appearance, perhaps the way they walk, or the fact they cannot walk, or the fact they cannot speak clearly or their sight is an issue. Some people have episodic disabilities, as we have learned, who need programs and the assistance of our society, our government, as well as their employers in moving forward.

We are also picking up on the report for persons with disabilities, which has been mentioned over again and over again, to focus on private sector participation. I disagree with one premise that was said tonight and the fact that it did not address small, medium and large-sized business.

I have had my own small business for 25 years and had 20 employees. There are so many opportunities for employers to look beyond the wheelchair, to look beyond the eyesight, to look beyond the intellectual disability and say, “The business case is there to hire this individual, not only for their talent, but for the multitude of benefits that my company will receive”.

I will wrap up with one last comment. The verdict is in. Not only does employing people with disabilities unlock enormous opportunities for their social and economic inclusion, but we now know that doing the right thing makes good business sense.

Persons with DisabilitiesPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The time provided for debate has expired.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Persons with DisabilitiesPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members



Persons with DisabilitiesPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Persons with DisabilitiesPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Persons with DisabilitiesPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Persons with DisabilitiesPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Persons with DisabilitiesPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to an order made on Wednesday, March 22 the division stands deferred until Wednesday, June 19 at the expiry of the time provided for oral questions.

Data Used by Government With Respect to Bill C-54PrivilegePrivate Members' Business

June 13th, 2013 / 6:30 p.m.

Niagara Falls Ontario


Rob Nicholson ConservativeMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I rise in response to a question of privilege raised by the member for Kingston and the Islands, with regard to statistics related to Bill C-54, the not criminally responsible reform act.

As hon. members know, the cases involving Alan Schoenborn in British Columbia, Vince Li in Manitoba, Richard Kachkar in Ontario, Guy Turcotte in Quebec, and Andre Denny in Nova Scotia were horrific tragedies for everyone involved. No words of mine nor anyone else's can ever ease the pain felt by the victims and their families.

As the Prime Minister rightly stated, we cannot change terrible things in the world, terrible things are going to happen, but we can create a system that is reasonable. That is exactly what Bill C-54 aims to do.

On November 22, 2012, the government announced its intention to move forward with legislation to address concerns about high-risk accused persons found not criminally responsible.

On February 8, 2013, the government tabled Bill C-54 in the House of Commons.

On February 12, the member for Mount Royal tabled Question No. 1169. Question No. 1169 sought information that the government relied upon in developing Bill C-54.

The government responded to Question No. 1169 by indicating several sources of information that it had relied upon in developing the legislation. The government's response included the final November 2012 report by Crocker et al to the Department of Justice.

As correctly noted by the member for Kingston and the Islands in his question of privilege, “This makes sense because the government can only rely on the evidence it had at the time.”

The member for Kingston and the Islands also noted that the government included an annotation in its response to Question No. 1169, indicating that the Department of Justice had received a significantly amended version of this report 38 days after the introduction of Bill C-54.

After the bill had been introduced, we gave notice that the report had been significantly amended.

In any case, the amended version of the report was provided 17 days after my speech on March 1 on second reading of Bill C-54, with respect to which the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands had taken exception.

A simple Internet search would show the hon. member that the amended version in fact has been available online for everyone to see on the National Trajectory Project at

I would also point out that nothing at any time between March and today, June 13, 2013, has stopped any member of the House to ask the government a follow-up order paper question or just ask us to table the amended version.

I would also like to respond to the assertion made by the member for Kingston and the Islands regarding the Minister of Natural Resources.

In delivering what I consider an excellent speech on Bill C-54, the Minister of Natural Resources was provided, as were many government members, with supporting documentation that in error included the statistics listed in the final report that was submitted to the Department of Justice in November 2012.

To suggest that by referring to this data was a deliberate attempt to mislead the House is preposterous. This was nothing more, quite frankly, than an honest mistake, not of his own doing, and I hope this addresses entirely the matter pertaining to the hon. minister.

In your May 7, 2012 ruling, Mr. Speaker, at page 7649 of the Debates, the chair established a three-part test for establishing contempt in relation to misleading the House. In these circumstances, the claim by the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands fails in two respects. The incorrect statements were not known to be incorrect, and they were certainly not made with any intention whatsoever to mislead the House.

As for the response to Question No. 1169, it is well established that the chair does not intervene with respect to the quality of an answer.

In any event, I would submit that the government went above and beyond its obligations by indicating that a revised report was received after the fact despite the question asking about the drafting of Bill C-54.

For his part, this afternoon the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley cited examples of committee matters. It is another well-established principle here that the chair does not typically concern itself with committee proceedings, except upon a report from the committee itself.

In this case, this morning the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights reported Bill C-54 with amendments. No other report has come from the committee nor do I anticipate one will.

In drafting legislation, the government relies on a wide array of information. It is because of errors in statistics, such as what came to light in this situation, that the government cannot rely on any one source or any one study. It is a good example.

It is critical that the government collect a broad cross-section of information in drafting legislation, and that is exactly what we did with Bill C-54. In developing Bill C-54, the government relied on a number of sources, including relevant jurisprudence, doctrine, available research, and consultations with provinces and territories.

Indeed, at our last federal-provincial-territorial meeting in October 2012, ministers recognized the importance of public safety being the paramount consideration in the Criminal Code Review Board decisions.

Ministers also discussed proposals to make the process more responsive to the needs of victims, including further consideration for the appropriate term for reviewing decisions in serious personal injury offence cases.

I believe profoundly that the measures contained in our legislation are balanced, reasonable and carefully drafted. We want to ensure that those who are mentally ill and who pose a serious danger to the public and indeed those who pose a danger to themselves get the treatment that they need.

In conclusion, I believe that my submission provides a response to the matter in question and that there in fact is no prima facie case of privilege.

In addition, and in response to the request of the member for Kingston and the Islands, I am seeking unanimous consent to table the amended version of the Crocker report as received by the Department of Justice in March 2013.

Data Used by Government With Respect to Bill C-54PrivilegePrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Does the hon. minister have the unanimous consent of the House to table this report?

Data Used by Government With Respect to Bill C-54PrivilegePrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Some hon. members


The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill S-16, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in contraband tobacco), be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the motion that this question be now put.

Tackling Contraband Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

6:35 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

When this matter was last before the House, the hon. attorney general had the floor. If he wishes to continue with his remarks at this time, he has twelve and a half minutes remaining.

The hon. attorney general.

Tackling Contraband Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

6:35 p.m.

Niagara Falls Ontario


Rob Nicholson ConservativeMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I was very pleased in the time I had to conclude all the remarks that I wanted to make about this legislation, but I certainly want to be available in case there are any questions. I feel I probably have answered all the questions that could possibly come forward on this bill, but just in case there are any, I want to make myself available.

Tackling Contraband Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.


Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the minister if he would give us some indication of the organizations that he and his department consulted with in order to develop Bill S-16.

The whole question of contraband tobacco affects other jurisdictions and a number of organizations. How this legislation was conceived and how it will be carried forward are important.

In that respect, I wonder if he could give the House some indication of the consultations that were conducted in order to get to this point.

Tackling Contraband Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.


Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, interestingly enough, we have brought in many pieces of legislation covering various aspects and different issues within the Criminal Code and indeed all issues as they relate to crime in this country and to the role that victims play.

One of the issues that is continuously raised with me is the question of contraband tobacco. I have heard it, quite frankly, from my constituents going back a number of years and in my discussions with law enforcement agencies over the years and when I have been at round tables and discussed justice issues. People have brought it to my attention when I have gone across the country. This is one of those subjects that has certainly received a lot of attention, and I have had a lot of representations made to me.

Coming forward with this legislation is entirely appropriate. That is why I believe this legislation will be so well received. Having extra options for the police and crown attorneys, concurrent jurisdiction between the federal and the provincial attorneys general with respect to prosecution, putting it in the Criminal Code and sending out the message that this kind of activity will not be tolerated in Canada are entirely appropriate.

I was pleased with all the input that we had on this, and this legislation is a result of all that input.

Tackling Contraband Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.


Dan Albas Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, in regard to this bill, obviously there are provisions that are currently within the Excise Act that are being added to the Criminal Code. He mentioned how the federal and provincial attorneys general could work better to fight against organized crime to tackle some of these joint jurisdictional issues.

I do serve on the justice committee. Certainly, there would be a lot of process for further consultation and discussion about the merits of the bill. I would like to hear the minister speak to why this needs to get to committee, why the committee needs to examine the bill and why this legislation needs to go forward as soon as possible.