House of Commons Hansard #58 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was honduras.


Second ReadingCanada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that question from the Liberal Party. It gives me an opportunity to talk about the fact that the Liberal Party supports the trade deal with Honduras, that the Liberal Party does not identify with the kind of precision I would suggest that we do in this caucus, regarding the pros and cons of any particular trade deal.

The members of the government of this day feel that any trade deal is a good deal. When the Conservatives bring forward good deals that benefit our country, trade deals that recognize the way we are going to conduct business in the world and deal with the terrible trade imbalance we have in this country, then we will begin to look favourably on those trade deals.

The Liberal Party has not done that. It has not brought trade deals that have benefited Canada in that way, nor has the Conservative Party. As soon as it does, then we will vote for those deals.

However, let me say that we will see better trade deals after 2015 when the New Democratic Party forms the government.

Second ReadingCanada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for sharing his time with me this morning, because many of us who wanted to speak on this trade deal are going to be denied that opportunity as a result of the government's time allocation motion. I really appreciate the member's sharing his time.

I am, of course, speaking to oppose this bill at second reading. I want to address something that keeps coming up again. I know that the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour addressed it as well. The NDP has said there are three criteria for assessing trade agreements. When those criteria are met, we will support these agreements.

First, we should ask ourselves if the proposed trading partner is one who respects democracy, human rights, adequate environmental and labour standards, and Canadian values generally. Second, is the proposed partner's economy of significant or strategic value to Canada? Third, are the terms of the proposed agreement satisfactory?

I believe this agreement fails all three of these tests. That is the reason I plan to vote against it.

I want to focus on the first criterion and the appalling human rights record of Honduras. International human rights organizations have documented serious human rights abuses, killings, arbitrary detentions of thousands of people, severe restrictions on public demonstrations and protests and freedom of expression, and interference in the independence of the judiciary. These are all well-established facts about the Honduran human rights record.

Honduras, as many have mentioned, has the highest murder rate in the world and is considered the most dangerous country in the world for journalists. Transparency International ranks it as the most corrupt country in Central America. We all know it is a major drug smuggling centre, and it has the worst income inequality in the region.

Why has Canada chosen to negotiate a trade deal with Honduras, a country with a seriously flawed human rights record and a history of repressive, undemocratic politics?

The democratically elected government of left-leaning president Manuel Zelaya was overthrown by a military coup in 2009. The Honduran army carried out this coup under the pretext of a constitutional crisis that was actually a dispute about the president's progressive social and economic policies. This move was widely condemned around the world, including by all other Latin American nations, the European Union, the United States, and the UN General Assembly.

Canada has refused to consider any sanctions against the regime that succeeded president Zelaya, and has refused to condemn the systematic abuses of human rights that occurred in its aftermath. Instead, we have chosen to pursue a closer economic relationship with Honduras without conditions. It is interesting to note that the same time we are pursuing free trade with Honduras, we broke off free trade talks with El Salvador when it elected a progressive government. I think there is an agenda here that seems quite clear: we will do deals, but not with people who are too progressive.

In January 2010, the current leader, Mr. Sosa, assumed the presidency through what almost all have called undemocratic and illegitimate elections. Most foreign governments and election monitoring agencies refused to even send observers to these elections, and almost all countries, I guess apart from Canada, have rejected the results of these elections.

The leading Honduran human rights group has documented the killings of at least 16 political activists and candidates from the main opposition party since June 2012 and attacks on 15 more. On August 25, 2013, three leaders of the indigenous Tolupan of Honduras were shot and killed. There are extensively documented cases of police corruption and documentation of 149 ex-judicial killings of civilians by the police reported between January 2011 and November 2012 alone.

Earlier the Minister of International Trade suggested that Honduras is coming out of a difficult period, but the facts paint a very different picture.

Let us look at what international human rights organizations have to say about the situation in Honduras now. Let me quote from Amnesty International's written statement to the 25th session of the UN Human Rights Council just a few days ago. The statement was called “Honduras: Deteriorating human rights situation needs urgent measures.” It says:

Amnesty International is increasingly concerned about the human rights situation in Honduras, in particular about human rights violations against human rights defenders, women and girls, Indigenous, Afro-descendant and campesino (peasant) communities, and LGBTI people. These violations take place in a context where impunity for human rights violations and abuses is endemic and where organized and common crime is high. In 2011, according to UN figures, the homicide rate in Honduras was the highest in the world.

It is a pretty damning indictment of the current human rights situation and not an indication that Honduras is coming out of some dark period.

Human Rights Watch recently issued a similar report. For the sake of time today, I will not read through that report but it says essentially the same things as the Amnesty report.

I want to draw attention today to two groups that continue to be subject to extreme levels of violence in Honduras, journalists and transgendered Hondurans. According to Honduras' own National Human Rights Commission, 36 journalists were killed between 2003 and mid-2013. That is about one journalist every four months, and many others have suffered threats, attacks, and kidnappings, including the kidnapping and murder of the most prominent TV news anchor in June 2013.

The authorities have consistently failed to investigate all of these crimes. No charges have been laid in the murder of the TV news anchor. Attacks on journalists and opposition candidates are of course attacks on democracy and should be a serious concern when they take place in a country with whom Canada is contemplating signing an international agreement of any kind.

There has been less publicity about attacks on the other group I want to draw attention to, but who have been subject to even higher levels of violence in Honduras. This is the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community, but in particular the transgendered community. Again, why would Canada seek an agreement with Honduras in view of its appalling record of violence against the LGBTQ community, especially when the Minister of Foreign Affairs has made strong statements in defence of gay rights in other forums?

In May 2009, Human Rights Watch published a report on human rights abuses against transgendered people in Honduras called “Not Worth a Penny”. This report documents the murder of 17 transgendered people in public places, in broad daylight, in Honduras in the five years leading up to its report. Not one of these killings led to a prosecution or a conviction.

Lest we be misled by the Minister of International Trade's assertion that things are getting better, let me provide some updates on how things are actually getting worse for transgendered Hondurans.

Since the release of the 2009 human rights report, 34 more members of the LGBTQ community have been murdered in Honduras. The one bright spot is that there has been one prosecution and one conviction: 39 more attacks, one prosecution and one conviction.

On January 31, 2011, Human Rights Watch sent a letter appealing to President Porfirio Lobo Sosa to investigate the murders of six transgendered women in a 60-day period. None of those deaths has been investigated and, obviously, there have been no arrests.

Transrespect, the group that intends to document violence against the transgendered community around the world for the annual Trans Day of Remembrance, has documented eight more trans murders in Honduras in 2012, and 12 more in 2013. This gives Honduras the distinction of having the highest per capita transgender murder rate in the world. Not only is it the highest rate in the world, but it is also twice the rate of the country with the second highest rate, and three times that of the country with the third highest rate.

This brings the total number of trans murders up to 60 in six years. This includes the January 9, 2009 assassination of Cynthia Nicole Moreno, a widely known Honduran transgender rights leader who worked as a spokesperson for Colectivo Violeta, the transgender rights organization. She was often seen on the streets helping to provide information about HIV and AIDS and basic human rights to transgendered sex workers, and she often represented the transgender community in the media. There has been no prosecution of anyone for her death.

The North American Congress on Latin America, another observer of the sad events in Honduras, also documented the murder of Walter Trochez , a young health promoter for the Association for a Better Life for Persons Infected and Affected by HIV/AIDS in Honduras. Again, he was shot in broad daylight by two men on a motorcycle. Although human rights groups have demanded an investigation, no one has been prosecuted for his killing to this date.

What is most disturbing is that pattern of transgender murders indicates that security forces have often been involved, and that even where they have not been directly involved, they have consistently failed to investigate and follow-up with prosecutions of those responsible.

I have chosen to focus on that first criterion of the three that the NDP says are those ones by which we must evaluate countries before entering into trade deals. Honduras is by any measure an undemocratic country, a serious human rights violator.

Canadians expect our federal government to set a good example on the world stage by seeking out partners that respect fundamental human rights and share our sense that all citizens are entitled at the very least to the right to life and not being subject to attack by their own security forces.

This deal fails to defend fundamental Canadian values on the world stage and fails to aid Hondurans who are seeking to protect their fundamental human rights.

Second ReadingCanada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my hon. colleague with great concern because I realized how far Canada has fallen internationally. Canada was seen as a champion of democratic development and human rights around the world, but we are now in a position where the Conservatives and Liberals laugh at the issue of human rights abuse.

Looking back on our tradition, we had Brian Mulroney stand up against apartheid. Canada could have been there to make a buck but that government said no, that making a buck off the backs of such a corrupt system was not right. We saw previous Liberals regimes speak up against the murders and killings that were going on in El Salvador.

However, today the present Conservative government and the Liberal opposition are of the position and mindset that anyone who raises concerns about the killing of people speaking up for their democratic rights is somehow speaking pie-in-the-sky silliness, and that to make buck off such a corrupt and illegitimate regime is how business is done.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague how he thinks that places Canada, which once had such a stellar reputation for speaking up for on basic human rights, but now has this kind of cynical abuse from the Conservatives and Liberals.

Second ReadingCanada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Timmins—James Bay for that question because it brings us to the heart of the matter. Canadians believe that we should still be pursuing those traditional policies, seeking to support the best in the world and not aiding the worst in the world.

As I pointed out in my speech, we have a very interesting case in Central America. We were pursuing a free trade agreement with El Salvador when it elected a progressive government committed to improving public health and income distribution in the country. However, we broke off those talks and instead have continued to seek a closer relationship with Honduras, which, as I said many times, has the worst record in Central America and one of the worst human rights records in the entire world.

I think Canadians would be ashamed to think that this is the role we are now playing on the international stage.

Second ReadingCanada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed my hon. colleague's speech focusing on some very difficult human rights abuses in Honduras.

However, I find the current Conservative government very hypocritical, in that it will rush to defend human rights in certain cases and at the same time negotiate free trade agreements with countries with the worst human rights records.

The government knows how serious that situation has been since 2009, when the Government of Honduras suspended the right to free speech and right to liberty. These are fundamental rights that we enjoy here in Canada. However, the supposition in the catechism of the Conservative Party is that if one has a free trade with a bad regime, somehow the regime will become good. The thing is, there is no evidence for that. This is taken on faith by the Conservative Party. In fact, it could have the effect of propping up an undemocratic and, frankly, totalitarian regime.

I wonder what my hon. colleague has to say on that point of faith of the Conservatives.

Second ReadingCanada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Pontiac for his question because, again, it brings us back to the heart of the matter.

The Conservatives on the other side like to say that the NDP always oppose trade agreements. We know that is not true. However, we are demanding that there be standards for those trade agreements and that those standards reflect the values of all Canadians.

It is important to remember that this is not an attack on the people of Honduras; this is an attack on a government that was not democratically elected but placed in power by the military.

Instead of working with people who are trying to build democracy in Honduras, signing this trade agreement would make us partners with a corrupt, human rights violating government. I do not think that is what Canadians expect of our country on the international stage.

Second ReadingCanada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Kitchener—Waterloo Ontario


Peter Braid ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Communities

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak in support of the bill. I will be splitting my time with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and for International Human Rights.

This afternoon it is my great pleasure to speak about Canada's development program in Honduras. I wish to demonstrate how our Conservative government's development program provides a positive platform for the Canada-Honduras free trade agreement. I welcome the opportunity to present to members the development context in Honduras and our development program there, and to highlight the many results achieved to date.

We are confident that our government's development program will support and promote economic opportunities in Honduras in a way that will allow trade between both countries to grow steadily over time.

Canada has a long-standing development relationship with Honduras, and it has provided official development assistance to the country since 1969, contributing over $450 million to date.

Through the years Canada has become a key donor in that country, a well-respected and influential partner for the Government of Honduras and for other donors. Honduras is one of the 20 countries of focus for Canada's development assistance. It is Canada's largest bilateral program in Central America and the second-largest in the hemisphere. In 2011-2012, Canada provided over $39 million to the country through all development channels. This makes Canada the third-largest bilateral donor in Honduras and the sixth-largest overall donor in the country.

If I may, I would like to take a few minutes to talk about Honduras and what our Conservative government is doing to help address that country's development needs.

Honduras, as we know through discussion today, is a lower-middle-income country with a small, open economy that relies heavily on trade and remittances. The country is highly vulnerable to hurricanes and floods. Most of the population rely on agriculture for their livelihood, a sector that accounted for 14.8% of Honduras' GDP in 2012.

Sixty per cent of the population is living in poverty, 18% of whom are considered to be living in extreme poverty. What is particularly alarming is that the situation has shown little improvement since 2009 as the country has felt the effects of the global economic downturn. This is particularly true for rural areas of Honduras, where the most vulnerable and marginalized segments of the population live.

Although the Honduran government has made efforts to reduce poverty, economic and social progress has been slow. A big concern is the state of youth, because 52.4% of the population of 7.8 million are under 19 years old. Honduras' young population faces major obstacles in their everyday life.

Youth face limited employment and economic opportunities, limited access to social services, and limited access to land and infrastructure. These factors, coupled with the difficulty of escaping or evading the lure of criminal activities, constrain their ability to improve their lives. It is no surprise, then, that crime and insecurity in that country continue to be of great concern.

Hondurans in general face a dire economic situation. They are confronted with high unemployment, dangerous and unsafe working conditions, and limited protection of their rights. Canada's bilateral development program is therefore helping to improve the lives of Hondurans by focusing its investments in sustainable economic growth, food security, access to social services, human rights, and the rule of law.

Our investments from all development channels help contribute to the strategy's three goals: to increase Canadian and hemispheric economic opportunities; to address insecurity and advance freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law through capacity-building; and last, to build a stable foundation for Canada's engagement and increased influence in the hemisphere.

Since 2007, our government has pledged to make Canadian assistance more relevant and effective. Development assistance in Honduras is a testimony to these commitments. Programming focuses on delivering poverty reduction results based on the Honduran national development plan.

What have we accomplished so far?

We are proud to say that our Conservative government has achieved significant results in the areas of food security and sustainable economic growth. As a result of our programming, close to 530,000 people have increased access to nutritious food, including pregnant women and primary school-age girls and boys.

Canada has helped to improve agricultural productivity. Over 15,000 people are benefiting from improved water systems, and 2,800 families have crop storage facilities, greatly reducing post-harvest losses.

Over 1,500 hectares of land have been rehabilitated for the improved production of cocoa and coffee. Eighteen coffee co-operatives now have access to credit to support the production of certified coffee. Honduran coffee is well recognized and appreciated around the world. Coffee production is also an area of comparative advantage for that country, as Honduras has been reintegrating into the global coffee market.

We are also working to improve access to social services by supporting initiatives that seek to reduce preventable diseases and infant mortality and improve the health care system. Canada has contributed to important advancements in these areas. We have contributed to reducing the percentage of child mortality by 11% in two provinces and have provided health care counselling to 85,000 adolescents.

In the education sector, we are investing $20 million in the Education for All program, a multi-donor pooled fund to support the Honduran national education program. To date, primary graduation rates have reached 91% from a baseline of 69% in 2008, while dropout rates for grades 1 to 6 have declined during that same period.

This Conservative government strongly believes that continued engagement in development in Honduras is the best way to help that country address its development, security, and human rights challenges. I think we would all agree that trade and development have converging interests in promoting sustainable economic growth and that these interests can serve the people of both Canada and Honduras.

By building on the successes achieved, Canada's development assistance will continue to increase the productivity of small rural producers, connect farmers to markets, and create employment opportunities for the people of Honduras, in particular for women and youth. Canada is well positioned to provide assistance to improve the lives of those most in need, to promote sustainable economic growth, and to encourage synergies between trade and development. Our goal is to create shared prosperity for both of our countries.

This government remains committed to working with the Honduran government to promote sustainable economic growth and a sound, dynamic, and stable Honduran economy. The Canada-Honduras free trade agreement is one of the best ways to support positive change and growth in Honduras.

As a result, I urge all members to support the ratification of the Canada-Honduras free trade agreement.

Second ReadingCanada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.


Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am absolutely shocked that this government, with the complicity of the Liberals, is so actively endorsing the urban legend that economic measures can correct the democratic deficit.

Earlier, I asked if there really was a good example of economic measures resulting in enhanced democracy and respect for human rights. The previous speaker, the parliamentary secretary's Conservative colleague, refused to answer and responded again with a smokescreen.

Can the parliamentary secretary cite for the House an actual example of a real success story resulting from the proposed measures?

Second ReadingCanada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.


Peter Braid Conservative Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, on this side of the House we strongly believe in the promotion of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law as principles of Canada's foreign policy. We promote those principles vigorously in our foreign policy throughout the world.

In addition, we have a very aggressive trade promotion agenda, because in addition to fighting for human rights, we believe that economic opportunity and prosperity come through trade. When societies are grown and enhanced, opportunities are created, and human rights situations, the quality of governance, and the stability of government institutions are increased and enhanced. That is what we fundamentally believe, and we will continue that important work.

Second ReadingCanada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.


Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary obviously refused to answer my question. He prefers to stay stuck in his daydream.

In the House at this time, Bill C-20 on the Honduras free trade agreement is not even an economic issue. It is a moral issue because in light of the total lack of respect and the crimes committed in Honduras, the government, with the complicity of the Liberals, is supporting a government that tolerates the reign of criminal groups.

It is shameful for the people of Honduras and for Canadians to see this complicity and this support for the type of situation prevailing in Honduras right now. That is incredible.

How can the parliamentary secretary justify this position?

Second ReadingCanada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.


Peter Braid Conservative Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am somewhat shocked and dismayed that the NDP is happy to have countries such as Honduras simply drift and to not have their development needs, their human rights requirements, and their opportunities for economic growth addressed.

We on this side of the House are focused on each of those important pillars through our development assistance programs, through our focus on human rights, and through this important free trade agreement. This agreement would enhance economic opportunity and, as a result, create improvements in the social, democratic, and human rights conditions in Honduras as well.

Second ReadingCanada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.


Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe NDP Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, there are still some things that I simply cannot understand. When an agreement like this is said to be good, even though no one really wants to talk about the human rights situation in the country with which we are about to sign an agreement, that makes absolutely no sense to me.

An agreement with these potential economic gains cannot simply ignore the country's social problems. My colleague mentioned this earlier. We are trying to incorporate this into the debate, because to the NDP, it is an integral part of it.

Is my colleague aware of the human rights problems? Is he at least willing to recognize here in the House that they exist? If so, can he tell me what this agreement does to show Canada's leadership role in helping the people of Honduras and to demonstrate that Canada takes the issue of human rights very seriously?

Second ReadingCanada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.


Peter Braid Conservative Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have spent much of the time during both of my responses and much of the time during my speech speaking about Canada's development assistance program in Honduras and about the economic, social, and human rights conditions in that country. We are focused on those important issues. We are working very hard, both bilaterally through NGOs and as well through multilateral organizations, to improve the situation in Honduras.

In addition, we want to see greater economic hope and opportunity for the people of that country. Through greater hope and opportunity will come jobs and prosperity, an enhanced society, an enhanced democracy, and an enhanced human rights situation. Why does the NDP not understand that?

Second ReadingCanada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order. The time for government orders has expired. This matter will return after question period.

International Women's DayStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Maria Mourani Independent Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, March 8 will not be a day of celebration for all women in Quebec.

The Pauline Marois government has decided to make an election issue out of a charter that will cost women their jobs if they choose to wear a head scarf, even though one of the gains of the women's movement has been greater access to the labour market.

Until that shameful partisan bill is repudiated once and for all, let us think about all the women who suffer because they have chosen to wear a head scarf. Let us affirm the right to express our diversity. We are all Quebeckers and Canadians, without exception.

Happy International Women's Day to women everywhere.

PED VirusStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Gary Schellenberger Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, my riding of Perth—Wellington is among the greatest pork producing regions in the country. Pork producers are rightly concerned about the PED virus, which has spread throughout southern Ontario. I commend the pork producers for their strong efforts to contain the disease.

Our government-supported strong biosecurity measures on farms remain the best line of defence against PED. As provincial veterinary authorities continue to lead in investigating and tracing the cause of this disease, our government has instructed the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to support these efforts.

In addition to the iPED+ vaccine, approved last month, the CFIA is leading an investigation into any possible links to animal feed.

I thank our pork producers, the Minister of Agriculture , and our government's ongoing efforts, vigilance, and dedication to protecting our farms, an integral part of our economy.

International Women's DayStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Paulina Ayala NDP Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, International Women's Day is this Saturday. I would like to congratulate all women in Canada, especially those in my riding, Honoré-Mercier.

Today, the Rivière-des-Prairies women's centre is celebrating its 30th anniversary. As much as I would like to celebrate with them, I am here in the House, because my constituents gave me a mandate and I am proud to represent them.

Speaking of our role here, 77 of the 308 members of Parliament are women. That is just 25%. Canadian parliamentary democracy has a long way to go.

Still, there is hope. In the 2011 election, the NDP fielded a record number of female candidates. Of the party's 308 candidates, 123—40%—were women. The NDP now has 36 female MPs, which makes ours the caucus with the most women in Canadian history. Our party walks the talk. With the NDP, women have a real opportunity to help build our democracy and to make gender equality a reality.

Black History MonthStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Kyle Seeback Conservative Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, black Bramptonians have a rich cultural history and one that I had the pleasure of experiencing during Black History Month at a number of local events.

Praise Cathedral Worship Centre offered an evening of education and entertainment in honour of Black History Month. The theme of Praise Cathedral's celebration was “Dream, Dare, Do”. It was an exceptional event. I want to extend special thanks to Bishop Lennox DaCosta Walker, Lady Dorett Walker, and Karen Cunningham, who all played important roles in making the event such a success.

I also attended a Black History Month concert put on by the Brampton chapter of the Congress of Black Women and the United Achievers' Club. It was a great night that included musical and dance performances.

I want to thank Fiona McNeil, the president of the Brampton chapter of the Congress of Black Women and Lucinda Sloley, the president of the Brampton United Achievers' Club, for inviting me to participate in this great evening. These events epitomize the pride that black Bramptonians have in their cultural heritage, and I was proud to be part of their celebrations,

Festival of NowruzStatements By Members

2 p.m.


John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, while we are in our ridings meeting with our constituents over the next two weeks, Canadians from many different cultural communities will be celebrating Nowruz, the new year festival.

Nowruz falls on March 21, the equinox, and represents the beginning of spring. The coming of a new spring represents renewal. In preparation for spring, many Canadians will clean their homes and visit with their neighbours. On the day of Nowruz, families gather to enjoy each other's company and celebrate the new year.

The festival of Nowruz exemplifies a wealth of ancient rights and customs and symbolizes the community of a culture that has survived thousands of years. It is celebrated across the Middle East, Central Asia, and right here in Canada.

There is a proud history of celebrating Nowruz in Canada. On behalf of the Liberal caucus, I want to wish those celebrating Nowruz across Canada a very happy new year.

Service Club Council of Cornwall and DistrictStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Guy Lauzon Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in the House once again, so proud of the constituents in my riding of Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry. I would like to acknowledge the great work being done by a unique organization in my community, the Service Club Council of Cornwall and District.

The city of Cornwall is home to a wide array of service clubs that play a huge part in making our community a better place to live, work, and raise a family, but many of them face the same challenges: difficulty raising money, recruiting new volunteers, and getting the next generation of Canadians interested in volunteerism.

The Service Club Council of Cornwall and District has been active for nearly 70 years, working together on projects and annual events like the Santa Claus parade and the Children's Christmas Fund. Each year they have an annual dinner where the 14 member clubs gather to celebrate their successes. I have had the honour to attend several times.

Service clubs and volunteers are the backbone of a successful community. The Service Club Council of Cornwall and District is a perfect example of that statement.

Employment Resource CentreStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, access to the job market and job retention are still major challenges and concerns, particularly for youth. However, I would like to acknowledge the exceptional work of PLACE Rive-Sud, an organization in my riding that is holding its annual job fair today.

This year, PLACE Rive-Sud is celebrating 30 years of excellence and success. It has provided guidance, training and labour market access to over 50,000 people aged 16 and over who live in Longueuil. Last year alone, 4,000 people benefited from the outstanding service provided by the 50 employees who are dedicated to this cause.

This example demonstrates the quality and success of Quebec's youth employment centres. I wish continued success to PLACE Rive-Sud and the work it does in social and economic development.

Canadian CitizenshipStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Devinder Shory Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to join our hard-working Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in Toronto and Calgary a few weeks ago to announce our Conservative government's Bill C-24, the strengthening Canadian citizenship act, which will strengthen the immense value of Canadian citizenship and ensure that a Canadian passport remains highly regarded around the world.

I also want to personally thank the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration for working with me and transferring the contents of my private member's bill, Bill C-425, into his new act. Once this bill becomes law, Canada will fall into line with virtually every other western democratic nation. It will have the ability to strip the citizenship of convicted terrorists. According to a national poll, this measure has the support of over 85% of Canadians from across Canada, including 80% of NDP supporters, 87% of Liberal supporters, and 83% of those who immigrated to Canada.

I call upon the opposition to represent the will of their constituents and support this bill.

Yarmouth LightstationStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Greg Kerr Conservative West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, cap Fourchu, at the mouth of Yarmouth Harbour in Nova Scotia, has been welcoming visitors since 1604, when Samuel de Champlain landed and named the area cap Fourchu. By 1870, Yarmouth was the second largest port of registry in Canada and the cap Fourchu Lightstation had become a very important shipping beacon.

By the 1990s, lighthouses were becoming obsolete. Local citizens of Yarmouth County formed the Friends of the Yarmouth Light Society to preserve this important piece of nautical history. In 2003, the Province of Nova Scotia registered the cap Fourchu Lightstation as a heritage property. cap Fourchu Lightstation is featured on this year's cover of the Tourism Doers' & Dreamers' Travel Guide issued by the Province of Nova Scotia.

Congratulations to the amazing volunteers in Yarmouth County who have preserved this icon and have reminded us of our connection to the sea.

Employment InsuranceStatements By Members

March 6th, 2014 / 2:05 p.m.


Marie-Claude Morin NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, community groups and unions from across Canada are gathered in Ottawa right now to share their terrible problems caused by the changes that the government made to the employment insurance program.

Everyone is concerned that these changes are destroying the economy in many regions and taking a terrible toll on workers in the seasonal industry. Among those workers, women are particularly vulnerable. Since women take on most of the family responsibilities, they will have to resort to withdrawing from the job market altogether rather than taking a job that offers lower wages.

Everyone is concerned about the delays in processing files, the dysfunctional Social Security Tribunal, the way the Conservatives keep disparaging the unemployed, and the way every organization that assists the unemployed is being pushed out.

The NDP hears those concerns and shares them. We will come up with the means to implement a program for workers that gives them back their right to employment insurance.

Veterans AffairsStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I regret to inform this place that the senior Liberal spokesman for veterans affairs did the unthinkable at committee on Tuesday. Members from across the political spectrum know that the member for Scarborough—Agincourt will stoop low to play cheap partisan games. As a veteran, I condemn his behaviour.

His games on Tuesday, however, backfired, and he indirectly insulted a veteran who was appearing at the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. This member's partisan games must stop, particularly when they insult or demean witnesses appearing at a parliamentary committee.

I call on the member for Scarborough—Agincourt to apologize to the witnesses who appeared on Tuesday. Anything less will demonstrate that the member is simply unfit for the role he has been assigned, and I would urge his leadership to re-evaluate his position.