House of Commons Hansard #85 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was election.


Meat Inspection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-571, An Act to amend the Meat Inspection Act and the Safe Food for Canadians Act.

I will begin by stating that the Liberal Party supports this bill. I would also like to recognize and thank all those who have written letters and shared their thoughts and concerns with me about this piece of legislation. I have heard from many of our American neighbours who also want to see this bill enacted.

Bill C-571 amends the Meat Inspection Act and the Safe Food for Canadians Act to ensure that any horse slaughtered for human consumption has a medical record containing all treatments over the course of its lifetime.

There are serious health concerns regarding horsemeat that may contain harmful substances if that horse was not raised primarily for human consumption. Horses sent for slaughter come from various backgrounds, and because they are not raised as food animals, they often receive medications that are banned from the food chain.

Currently, record keeping for horses bred and raised in Canada or the United States is not mandatory. The transfer of information regarding the substances a horse has received is not required when that animal is sold. This bill seeks to provide a reliable system for recording medications given to horses throughout their entire lifespans to prevent forbidden substances often found in horsemeat from entering our food chain.

Before we came here to vote tonight, I spoke to the member for British Columbia Southern Interior, who introduced a similar piece of legislation last year, Bill C-322, which did not have the parliamentary support needed to withstand a vote at second reading. Bill C-322 would have prohibited the transportation, import, or export of horses or horsemeat for human consumption altogether.

This new draft, Bill C-571, is an extension of the previous bill, which now provides for an exemption to that prohibition. Only horses raised primarily for human consumption that are accompanied by a complete medical history will be transported for slaughter for meat. This expansion of Bill C-322 better confirms the trade regulations and would fulfill Canada's food safety requirements.

Most Canadians do not realize how much horsemeat we sell all over the world. In 2013, more than 72,000 horses were slaughtered in Canada. That is nearly 1,400 killed each week. It is important to reiterate that Canada has a horsemeat industry worth $19 million, 85% of which is for export, and employs 500 Canadians. We do not want to take any livelihoods away from the people who make a living from it.

The U.S. eradication of its horsemeat industry in 2007 now leaves only two countries in North America that use horses for slaughter, Mexico and us. There are only five processing plants across Canada. Two are in Quebec, two are in Alberta, and one is in British Columbia.

While the consumption of horsemeat is not very popular with Canadians, there is a growing interest in Quebec, where it is often sold in supermarkets. Horsemeat is also eaten in many other countries around the world, over 15 that we export to, including France, Russia, all the “stans” in the Russian orbit, China, and Italy.

I believe that this bill achieves the necessary boundaries to sustain the horsemeat processing sector while respecting those who choose to incorporate this type of meat into their diets.

Bill C-571 proposes that we continue with this industry and that we breed horses the way we breed other livestock, such as cows and pigs, to ensure that these animals are not injected with chemicals that might hurt the food chain, because the rest of the animals in our livestock industry are not. These animals would not be injected or fed anything that would render the meat unsafe. All the bill is saying is that there needs to be some sort of assurance so that we do not endanger human health.

Some argue that this is an overly emotional debate. It is not, actually. There is a lot of evidence showing that horses not bred for slaughter carry medications that could harm people. A couple of years ago, Belgium authorities notified the European Commission about the reported presence of two forbidden substances in horsemeat imported from Canada.

The whole issue of the humane treatment of horses sent to slaughterhouses is another issue, but it is important to address it here.

I am a horse owner. My parents were from the Netherlands in Europe, and horsemeat was a staple of their diet. Sometimes it can be emotional for me also, but it is an industry, and it is very important.

We also have to address how we treat these animals before they are slaughtered. There have been many documented cases of cruelty and neglect in Canadian slaughterhouses. The larger issue is that when these great creatures are with us, they should be treated in an humane manner, which is not currently the case in many instances. The reality is that our current transportation regulations for horses are poor, allowing for horses to be transported for up to 36 hours, without food, water, or rest, in confined trailers.

Bill C-571 would impose certain limits on the horse slaughter industry that did not exist before. The main objective is to have safer horsemeat to export around the world. The legislation will help modernize regulations in the horsemeat processing sector in terms of food safety. It may also pave the way to adjusting the transportation of these animals when they are sent to slaughter for human consumption.

In conclusion, as the agriculture critic, I believe that Bill C-571 is a step in the right direction. The question today is not whether we should we be using horsemeat or disposing of horses in this way. The question today is whether horsemeat is safe. We have to make sure that it is safe and that there are no chemicals or medications in the meat when we sell it or consume it ourselves in this country.

The bill is a step in the right direction for maintaining and improving the horsemeat processing sector in Canada, which is still a big industry. We support the bill.

Meat Inspection ActPrivate Members' Business

May 13th, 2014 / 6:15 p.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank my colleague from British Columbia Southern Interior, whom I have known for many years as a very great member of Parliament in the House, for bringing forward this bill. I know that the member is very diligent in his work. He is a member who has a long history in the agricultural industry. He was the agriculture critic in the NDP for many years, and I know the riding he represents has a number of agricultural producers, so it is an issue he is very familiar with.

I also know he is a member who is very diligent in the research he does and the issues he brings to the House. I was very interested when he first brought forward Bill C-571, an act to amend the Meat Inspection Act and the Safe Food for Canadians Act concerning the slaughter of horses for human consumption. I know he brought forward this bill because of the research he has done, the people he has spoken to, and the concern he has that the status quo in Canada is very unsatisfactory. Indeed it is not safe and is something that needs to be debated in the House and looked at. It is very meritorious that this bill has been brought forward and we are having the debate in the House. We will vote on it, I believe, tomorrow.

I would like to agree with my hon. colleague from the Liberal Party who spoke before me that for many people it is an emotional issue. He articulated very well the fact that he himself is a horse owner, his family comes from a community where horsemeat is eaten, and yet there are issues that we have to sort out. For parliamentarians, the primary issue is to ensure that the safety of Canadians is paramount, that it is our first priority, and that the food chain is safe in this country.

Due to some of the quite shocking cases of contamination in various plants across the country, we know this is something the federal government must not only have oversight of; but strict laws, regulations, and inspections must be in place to guarantee safety. It is not a chance thing; there has to be a guarantee that our food supply system, the production system, food processing, from beginning to end, is something Canadians can rely on. Our faith in that system has been shaken on a number of occasions, which is all the more reason that, with this bill, we need to look at this issue in the cold light of day and examine whether the provisions we have in Canada that supposedly provide the required protections are actually working.

Having read the material that has been sent to us from many different perspectives, certainly by the member for British Columbia Southern Interior but also by others, I would say this bill is needed. It is a bill worthy of being sent to committee for further examination. We have to recognize that the system in Canada in terms of horses going to slaughterhouses is not foolproof. There are many loopholes. We have an industry where horses, particularly those used in racing but in other activities as well, contain all kinds of medications and drugs that are unfit for human consumption. For those medications to be in our food chain is very serious.

I agree with the underlying and fundamental premise of the bill that it is critical that we ensure there is a separation of streams. If horses are being raised primarily for the food chain, accompanied by a lifetime record such as we see in the European Union, in chronological order with all the medical treatments, that is fine. The issue is not about whether there is consumption of horsemeat and if it is good or bad. That is a matter of choice, and it is a consumer choice, as it is globally. The issue here is whether or not there is a separation and a prohibition to absolutely guarantee that horses being conveyed to slaughter that do not have that full medical record are not then being used for human consumption.

On this issue, we do have to err on the side of caution. We have to take the precautionary principle and ensure that the measures that are in place are foolproof and transparent, not just random sampling, and that there are proper inspections that take place. We have to ensure that these lifetime records, such as those we have seen in the European Union, are valid documents that can be counted on.

I am the health critic for the NDP, and I am very proud to do work as the health critic. I can tell the House that every day, when I speak with constituents, stakeholders, and organizations, the issues of food safety, labelling, transparency and ensuring that our food industry is working in a way that puts Canadians' safety first are things that I hear about very frequently. There is a lot of concern in the country about the fact that the federal government has retreated and we do not have the kinds of inspections, for example, under the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

In fact, we know that there are no laws or restrictions in place that exclude racehorses from entering the slaughter system. There is no law that prevents that. Supposedly, we have something called an equine ID document that requires the medications that the horse has been on within the previous six months to be shown. However, that is something that has been so easy to get around.

I know that the member for British Columbia Southern Interior has information from horse owners that shows that the documentation that they get is sometimes non-existent. It certainly does not contain the kind of information that is required to give someone a sense of the record of that particular animal's life. I know this because I just talked to the member a few minutes ago before the debate here tonight.

I am glad that we are debating this bill. There are different perspectives, but it comes down to the need to make sure that there is a clear separation when it comes to horses that are raised specifically for meat. There should be very clear rules around that. For other horses that have been used for other activities, we have to make absolutely sure that they do not end up being part of our food chain and our food system.

I would like to thank the member for British Columbia Southern Interior for having the courage to bring forward this private member's bill to allow us to have this debate. I hope that members will consider the principle on the bill and, on that basis, agree that it should be supported to go to committee. I am sure that there will be all kinds of interesting witnesses who will want to come forward. There will be questions. There will be amendments. That is what our process is about here. That is why we have it.

At this point, we are here debating this bill in principle. On that basis, I support the bill, and I congratulate the member for the work he has done in bringing forward this important issue.

Meat Inspection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to participate in the debate on the bill introduced by my colleague from British Columbia Southern Interior concerning the horse slaughter industry.

As my colleague from Welland, who is the NDP agriculture critic, already stated, this bill would essentially put an end to the horse slaughter industry in Canada. It would require that horses be raised for slaughter and that they have a medical record. However, we know that horses in Canada are not raised for slaughter. The majority of them are raised for other purposes, including racing or recreational use.

We have to put this in context. The United States cut all funding to the United States Department of Agriculture for inspections. Meat could then no longer be exported given that the industry was no longer subject to federal inspections. Since the market for slaughtered horsemeat was primarily an export market and not an internal market, slaughter facilities were shut down. The horses still had to be slaughtered, so they were transported to Canada. Since then, more horses have been abandoned in the United States when they could be sent to slaughter facilities.

My riding has one of the few slaughterhouses in the country for horses. The plant is called Les Viandes de la Petite Nation and it employs about 70 people in Saint-André-Avellin, a town of less than 4,000 residents. Therefore, it is a very important employer in the RCM of Papineau.

The handling of horses at that facility is viewed as one of the best in North America. The slaughtering is conducted according to government regulations. The meat is tested, examined, and batches are identified to avoid any problem. If there is contamination, the whole batch is traced and pulled out. That plant's modern system for the handling of animals was designed by Temple Grandin, a professor at the University of Colorado who is a professor of animal science and an internationally renowned expert in animal husbandry. The goal is to respect the animals and ensure their well-being to reduce their stress.

All the meat from the horses slaughtered at Les Viandes de la Petite Nation is exported to Europe. That meat is not for our domestic market. The plant is not responsible for buying horses for slaughter. European companies buy the horses and have them slaughtered and packaged at the plant.

I should point out that there is already legislation on health and safety for that industry. We have regulations about transport, about how horses should be slaughtered, and about the types of drugs that are allowed or not allowed. All this is regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

I agree that it is always possible to improve inspections—it is clear, as we can see and as we know—to ensure that horses in auction houses have correct documentation and that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency meet standards and respect animals.

Some people are also very concerned about phenylbutazone, and rightly so. In fact, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency takes those concerns very seriously. The name of that product is on the list of controlled substances, and the CFIA has made sure it is not allowed. The evidence on phenylbutazone is clear. No one challenges the fact that it is a dangerous substance and that we must be careful. I do not think any member would question that.

Finally, the rules must be followed to ensure that we can continue exporting this meat. These are jobs in my region. The United States has already gone further in that direction and, when done properly, slaughtering actually reduces the mistreatment of horses.

To duly represent my constituents of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, I must oppose the bill put forward by the hon. member for British Columbia Southern Interior. Therefore, I will not be supporting it.

Meat Inspection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this bill, since it bears some explanation in our current situation.

I want to make it clear that the bill is not designed to determine whether or not horses should be slaughtered as a general practice. Personally, I agree that if a horse is healthy and its meat is healthy then it can be slaughtered and its meat can be consumed. It would not bother me in the slightest to eat it. I would be pleased to do so if I knew it was safe.

The problem identified by my colleague's bill is the safety of horsemeat. Currently, food safety inspection systems do not allow us to be sure that the meat we are eating is safe. The various food crises we have gone through testify to that. No one here would want to eat meat that was likely to make them sick.

That said, the horses slaughtered in Canada have often not been raised for the end purpose of human consumption. This includes slaughtered race horses. They are given injections of a number of medications, treatments and analgesics. Several of those products can end up on our plates.

Unfortunately, some drugs are impossible to detect. So, even if the meat is tested to find out whether it has been contaminated by such and such a product, it could test negative because the substance in the meat is not there in sufficient quantity to be detected. However, it would still be toxic for a human consuming it. Even at levels that are undetectable by conventional tests, substances of that kind could be dangerous. That is the problem we currently face.

What my colleague is specifically saying is that, while we wait for food inspection systems that are safe, especially for horsemeat, we cannot continue to do nothing, knowing that the meat is not only consumed in Canada, but is also exported. We have to consider this bill in the context of food safety.

We can all understand that a person who raises a horse for consumption will not give it the same substances as a person who raises a horse for performance purposes. That is why certain products end up in that meat.

As far as raising animals in general is concerned, if I raise cows or cattle, I know they are going to end up on someone's plate. I will therefore pay a lot more attention to what my animals consume. I will obey the rules.

Standards are established based on scientific research, among other things. They help determine exactly how the meat of another type of animal may be safe for humans and what we must do to ensure food safety. Very detailed inspection systems are in place and people may lose the right to raise animals. There are very specific rules in place for the other types of meat.

As far as horse is concerned, not many people raise horse for consumption.

That being said, if someone decides to do so and has the medical reports for his horses, we totally agree that he can use them. We can be assured of the safety of the horsemeat. Unfortunately, that is not the case at this time.

If the government is prepared to pass my colleague's bill and implement measures to ensure the safety of horsemeat, then my colleague's bill will become law. If the law becomes unnecessary, the government could choose to repeal it and that would be entirely appropriate.

However, in the meantime, we cannot continue to allow people to eat meat that is not safe. Often, food products that are not so healthy, cost very little at the grocery store. The risk is that people who are especially vulnerable will buy this meat believing that it is safe.

For most people, it is logical to believe that if a product is sold in Canada, then it must be safe. That is what most people think. They believe that if the product is on their grocery store shelf, then it is a safe product. People with health problems may be more vulnerable, as may be single mothers who have to feed their children. They may say to themselves that the meat is less expensive. However, if they feed it to their children, it could cause health problems, especially if the children are more sensitive to certain substances.

I would like to remind members that this bill does not take a stand on the slaughter of horses. This bill is about the safety of horse meat, and we must vote accordingly.

I believe that there is enough literature available to realize that, at present, it is not safe to eat horse meat. That is why the United States took action. It understood the problem.

At present, the horses that the United States does not want are sent to Canada to be slaughtered. That makes no sense.

Food safety should be one of the government's priorities. That is why I urge my colleagues to vote in favour of this bill. I urge them to do so, but I also particularly urge my Conservative colleagues and the critics associated with agricultural issues to adopt the bill. If they refuse to act now, the NDP will act in 2015.

We need to find solutions to make horsemeat safe. We need to work on this right away and introduce a more comprehensive bill. Some flexibility is needed, but there is less flexibility when dealing with a private member's bill. Government bills can include budgetary measures, but this is not possible with private member's bills.

I therefore urge them to think about this and to pass my colleague's bill in the meantime. We cannot stand by when there is a health risk. We cannot wait for people to die or become seriously ill. We need to take action. We need to look at this issue to resolve, once and for all, the problem with the safety of horsemeat in our country.

I want to repeat that this bill is not against the slaughter of horses. If someone were to offer me horsemeat and could guarantee that it was safe, I would be happy to eat that meat.

Meat Inspection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Resuming debate. Accordingly, I invite the hon. member for British Columbia Southern Interior for his five minute right of reply.

The hon. member for British Columbia Southern Interior.

Meat Inspection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking all of my colleagues who will be supporting my bill, especially those who have taken time today to speak out in favour of it, and also especially the official party support from the leader of the Green Party and the health and agriculture critics of the Liberal Party.

Bill C-571 is about the safety of our food supply. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture in his speech on March 31 said, “While this bill is being presented as such, in fact it is not.” This is false. He also stated, “This bill includes preventing horses from moving from one province to another within Canada”. This is also false.

Annex E: Equine Information Document of the CFIA, on page 20, clearly states that phenylbutazone is one of the long list of veterinary drugs not permitted for use in equine slaughter for food, meaning that no safe limits have been established. On page 21, there is a list of drugs permitted with a six-month withdrawal period; bute is not on this list. Therefore, we can conclude that the parliamentary secretary was incorrect in his comments regarding the Equine Information Document when he said, “The six-month period exceeds the recommended withdrawal period for a number of veterinary drugs, including bute”. This is more false information.

Let me turn to the speech from my hon. colleague from Welland, the agriculture critic for our party. He stated that the CFIA takes concerns about bute seriously and has ensured it is not allowed. A couple of years ago, The New York Times printed an explosive exposé on the problem of doping in the horse-racing industry, which prompted the U.S. government to conduct a committee study. The transcript of testimonies by veterinarians, breeders, trainers, and owners at all these committee hearings were shocking to me in their revelations regarding the overuse and abuse of a wide variety of legal and illegal medications on American racetracks. The CFIA has no laws or restrictions in place excluding racehorses from entering the slaughter system. In fact, Canada's horsemeat industry is deriving a significant portion of its product from racehorses, which should alarm us.

It has been shown time and again that our EID system is fraught with loopholes. In fact, the European Commission's veterinary office has deemed these documents to be frequently fraudulent.

I received an email today from a woman who recently purchased three horses at a horse auction. She did not receive any information about previous owners, nor were there any EIDs accompanying the animals. She also found out that the previous owner was not required to fill out an EID. She said:

If I were a kill buyer this casual transaction would please me greatly. I could then obtain fresh EIDs and fill them out as I pleased, while stating with complete honesty that “to my knowledge” the horses had not been given any substances banned for human consumption.

Henry Skjerven, former director of Natural Valley Farms in Saskatchewan, said:

The system as it stood when we were killing horses was in no way, shape or form, safe, in my opinion.

He went on to say:

We did not know where those horses were coming from, what might be in them or what they were treated with.

Equine Canada has upset many of its members over its lack of consultation before taking a position against Bill C-571 and issuing a lobby letter to me and my hon. colleagues. Many members of this organization are strongly opposed to horse slaughter.

Furthermore, the position Equine Canada has taken seems to be based on a few misconceptions. It states in its letter, quite incorrectly, that record-keeping such as would be required by Bill C-571 does not take place for horses in other countries, whereas in fact in the EU, Canada's main market for horsemeat, it is required that all horses, not just slaughter horses, have a passport within six months of the horse's birth or by December 31 of the year of its birth, and with this passport the horse's comprehensive lifetime medical record must be maintained.

I find it striking that by presenting arguments based on food safety, science, and legal accountability, renowned international equestrian Victoria McCullough and Florida state senator Joseph Abruzzo recently effected a nearly unanimous and non-partisan decision in the U.S. Congress to keep American slaughterhouses closed to horses.

Should we not be holding ourselves at least as accountable to food safety as the U.S. when it comes to slaughtering horses for human consumption? Should the same high standards that we require for all animals not also apply to equines?

Let us get Bill C-571 to the committee and to the debate it deserves and Canadians are expecting.

Meat Inspection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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

Meat Inspection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Some hon. members



Meat Inspection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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

Meat Inspection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Some hon. members


Meat Inspection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

Meat Inspection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Some hon. members


Meat Inspection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, a recorded division stands deferred until tomorrow, Wednesday, May 14, 2014, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

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

Public SafetyAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, on March 31, I asked the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness about neglecting to ensure that Canada's laws are maintained by the Canada Border Services Agency. I referred to a directive by a director general who stated, in part, “...export examinations...including outbound smuggling of narcotics...should not be undertaken”.

Imagine, a directive from the agency under the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to not look for narcotics.

I asked if the minister could come clean and explain how this directive was put out there and if he was going to maintain Canada's laws. The question I posed to the minister on March 31 has yet to be answered, although the minister had ample opportunity to answer the question. I see his parliamentary secretary and I hope she will answer that question tonight.

I will go back to the quotation, which is in a document dated June 29, 2012. It was to the regional directors general from Maureen Tracy, director general, border programs, and the subject was “Export Program Examination Priorities”. I will read the quote, which is very worrisome.

Given the significant role the CBSA plays in the GC export community and the limited number of resources available for export examinations; other commodities, including outbound smuggling of narcotics, unless there is an intelligence lookout, should not be undertaken.

That is a directive to not look for narcotics coming from an agency that the minister is responsible for. There can be no more serious an issue related to the minister's file than that of ensuring our borders are secured and that illegal narcotics are intercepted.

When I asked the minister on March 27 if he accepted responsibility for this directive, which instructs CBSA officers not to take proactive action with respect to the interception of narcotics, the minister stated that he would get back to me.

I repeated the question on March 31, and on that occasion the minister again failed to respond as to whether he was aware of the instructions given, and if so, what action, if any, did he take to have that order rescinded.

When I asked at the public safety committee on May 1 to respond to the memo circulated within CBSA, the minister again failed to respond as to whether he was familiar with the memo, had in fact approved it, and if the contents of the memo with respect to ordering CBSA officers not to take proactive initiatives related to narcotic smuggling remained in effect.

On that occasion, the minister responded by pointing to the efforts of CBSA in intercepting contraband tobacco. The memo did not say “tobacco”. The memo talked about narcotics.

Does the minister know what is going on in his department? He has had three opportunities to respond now. I would hope tonight that the parliamentary secretary on his behalf responds, and responds directly.

The memo is out there asking that narcotics not be looked for in a serious manner unless there is almost an emergency. Does it remain in effect? Is CBSA doing its job?

Public SafetyAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

Scarborough Centre Ontario


Roxanne James ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, first, contrary to the suggestions of the member for Malpeque, I can assure the House and all Canadians that CBSA did not make any cuts to front-line officers. In fact, it is quite the contrary. We have increased front-line border officers by 26% since being elected in 2006. This government, our government, has been and continues to be steadfast in its protection of Canadians and ensuring the laws are upheld.

Let us look at some of these facts. The original directive did not instruct front-line officers to stop doing their job. What it did was outline the top priorities of the agency and introduce an intelligence-led approach.

Criminals do not follow rules. Border-related criminality often starts inland and requires the CBSA to work with its domestic and international law enforcement and intelligence partners to identify and interdict illicit drugs and take the necessary actions against those who seek to break the laws.

As a matter of fact, the CBSA plays a key role in the national anti-drug strategy's enforcement action plan, in partnership with the RCMP, Health Canada, and the Public Prosecution Service of Canada. The action plan increases the capacity of law enforcement agencies to proactively target organized crime involved in illicit drug production and distribution operations.

CBSA is doing great work to keep our borders safe and secure, without impacting legitimate trade and travel. The numbers speak for themselves. Let us talk about some of these numbers.

Canada Border Services Agency has a proven record of intercepting illicit drugs, having made more than 9,000 seizures since April 1, 2013. This is valued at nearly $300 million. In fact, this is even a 4% increase over the previous year.

Our government will take no lessons from the Liberal Party. In fact, this is the party, the Liberal Party, that had a previous member refer to our front-line border security officers as “a bunch of wimps”. Who said that? Derek Lee said it in 2006.

It also had a member who said the border officers are “glorified bank tellers”. That was said by former minister Elinor Caplan.

Again, we will take no lessons from the Liberal Party on this particular issue.

Public SafetyAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, now that the parliamentary secretary has had her little rant against Liberals who have not been here for about six years, let us get to the facts.

The question was not about cuts to front-line officers. That was not the question.

She said they introduced an intelligence-led approach. That is fine. Nobody is arguing with that.

However, we have a memo on the record that she has not refuted, and she has not said whether it remains in effect or not. That memo says, and again I quote:

...other commodities, including outbound smuggling of narcotics, unless there is an intelligence lookout, should not be undertaken.

Is that still the policy of CBSA? Are the minister and CBSA upholding the laws of Canada or not? Does that memo remain in effect?

Public SafetyAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.


Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, again, we will not apologize for taking an intelligence-based approach to border security.

CBSA carries out its responsibilities with a workforce of approximately 13,000 employees, including more than 7,200 uniformed officers. CBSA provides services at approximately 1,200 points across Canada and at 39 international locations.

The magnitude of modern border management is vast. Border officers cannot open every suitcase or container, nor should they. Appropriate application of smart risk management is key.

I would, however, like to point out to the member for Malpeque an article, which was highlighted today and which I read, about the good work of CBSA officers. With the help of a canine used to detect drugs, officers searched a truck and found 105 packages of cocaine in the side panels, weighing roughly 123 kilos.

Therefore, when we talk about a mandate to continue doing this type of work, I hardly think that this story equates to a directive to stop doing their job.

The member opposite from Malpeque should stop his smear of front-line officers, should support CBSA, and should work with our Conservative government to keep our borders safe and effective.

EmploymentAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.


Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this evening and pose a question for the minister. I note it is not often in adjournment proceedings that a minister is in the House to respond to a question. This is an important question on the important issue of temporary foreign workers. The minister's presence this evening deserves merit.

The international exchange program is part of the issue surrounding temporary foreign workers. This issue has really taken off. We have been ringing alarm bells for four years with respect to the temporary foreign worker program.

In 2009, a lot of the checks and balances that were in place in that program were cast aside when the current Minister of Public Works declared that she was accelerating the LMO process. Businesses would be allowed to pay their temporary foreign workers 15% less than Canadian workers. The minister was quite proud of the fact that she was speeding up access to temporary foreign workers. Since that time, the program has ballooned.

The international exchange program was initiated by a Liberal government in 1967. The whole purpose of the program was to give Canadians an opportunity to go to other countries and learn all that could be learned about those countries and peoples. The program allowed youth from other countries to come here and learn about Canada and Canadian culture.

The program was intended to be positive, constructive and reciprocal. The program was supposed to benefit visiting students and Canadians going abroad. It was supposed to be workplace neutral and a program with balance. It was clearly identified as a reciprocal program.

In its rush to take in temporary foreign workers, the Conservative government removed some of the checks and balances in this program and that really opened it up. We are not sure of the impact as a result of that.

There are 375,000 unemployed youth in our country. The last job figures show that there are 27,000 more unemployed young people in Canada. When there is a disproportionate number of young people from other countries working in Canada compared to Canadians working offshore, Canadians deserve to be told what is going on with this program.

In light of what has transpired recently with respect to this program and considering there are 60,000 visiting youth in Canada now and less than 18,000 Canadians offshore, could the minister explain to me the reciprocal aspect of that?

EmploymentAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

Ajax—Pickering Ontario


Chris Alexander ConservativeMinister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso for his continuing interest in this topic. I would first like to pay tribute to my parliamentary secretary, who is usually here at this time answering all manner of questions far better than I will be able to tonight. However, because this conversation began between the member opposite and me in question period, I am here to carry it on. It is an important one.

To give the short answer to the question, the reciprocity is there. In principle, we have opportunities, up to 60,000 places for young Canadians, in the 32 countries that are part of this international experience Canada program.

There have been times when we have achieved reciprocity, or virtually reciprocity, across the entire program. Those were times, to be very blunt, and the member well knows this, when the economic prospects, or the economic reality, in those countries in the job market was as strong as it was in Canada. Right now, it is not as strong in those countries as it is in Canada.

There is a disproportionately larger attraction for foreign students to come here than perhaps for Canadian students to go to some places.

We are looking at this program with a long-term perspective. I appeal to the member opposite to think of his own party's record in starting this program in 1951 and expanding it in 2003, for reasons that we all recognize are important.

Let us remind ourselves of the objectives of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act: to permit Canada to pursue the maximum social, cultural, and economic benefits of immigration, not just the economic but the social and cultural benefits as well; to enrich and strengthen the social and cultural fabric of Canada; to reinforce minority language communities; and to promote visitors, students, and temporary workers for the purposes of trade, commerce, tourism, and international understanding.

These are among the goals of our act. I would submit that the international experience Canada program is among those components of our overall immigration program that does the most to achieve those objectives.

These are really not temporary foreign workers. These are students, young people, often with high skills, with an interest in Canada. Of those who self-identify and tell us about the employment they receive, 87% have high skills. They come on exchange. They create opportunities for Canadians to go abroad. As other economies recover, we are convinced that Canadians will seize those opportunities.

They also perform some very important additional purposes for immigration in Canada. Let us keep in mind that 44,000 of our new permanent residents in 2013 were people who were already here as temporary foreign workers, including as members of the international experience Canada program. They were people who proved themselves here, studied here, worked here, and chose to stay here.

Second, we are looking to reinforce francophone immigration outside of Quebec in this country. This is one of the objectives we have as a government. It is no surprise that France is the biggest player in international experience Canada, and France is also the biggest source of francophone immigrants outside of Canada. In 2013, over 600 stayed as immigrants in provinces and territories outside of Quebec.

Finally, there is the question of good will and building trade relationships. We are being told on all sides that we need to do more to ensure that companies, sectors, and governments have people with international experience and international connections to help us seize the opportunities afforded by CETA in Europe, free trade with Korea, the continuing opportunities of NAFTA, and new opportunities in Latin America.

That is why we have these agreements to bring young people precisely from those countries, for the most part, to Canada in large numbers, to keep them here as immigrants, and to maintain connections with them over their lifetimes for the benefit of our country and the reciprocal benefit of those countries as well.

EmploymentAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.


Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am sure that all the member in the House tonight recall when the minister stood the other day and tried to dismiss the issue around this particular program, saying that it was only a couple of Aussies pouring beer in Whistler.

I am sure the members would remember as well the minister's trip to Ireland, where he was saying “Come on over, use the program, come to Canada”. They do not need a labour market opinion to come over on this program.

When we left government, there were 30,000 visitors to Canada and 22,000 Canadians visiting other countries. That is fairly close. Now it is about 60,000, to 18,000 Canadians who are working offshore.

In the meantime, since the recession started we have lost a quarter of a million jobs for young people in this country.

My question for the minister, with all due respect, is this: Is it not time to take some time to review this program and to try to build back in some semblance of reciprocity and some sense of marketplace neutrality?

EmploymentAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.


Chris Alexander Conservative Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, we will continue to review this program, as we review all of our immigration programs. We will continue to encourage and, in some cases, oblige our partners to do more publicity here in Canada in front of the audience that is Canadian youth, to tell them about the opportunities that exist in Asia, Europe, and Latin America for Canadians. Those opportunities are there, and sometimes they are not seized because of a lack of understanding and a lack of knowledge.

However, let us be very clear why so many foreign students are coming here under this program and relatively fewer Canadians are going abroad, for now; we think many more will go, over the long-term. It is because youth unemployment in this country is 1% lower than it was when the Liberals left office. Moreover, that is even after the worst global crisis in our lifetime. Youth unemployment is much higher in many of our partner countries than it is here, certainly in Europe, certainly in the United States. That is an advantage for Canada.

We are not going to apologize for the relative success of the Canadian economy, but we are doing everything in our power through the Canada jobs grant, through apprenticeships, through our planning for an immigration program, which is on target, to ensure young Canadians get first crack at today's opportunities and help us to build the sectors and the exciting regional opportunities of the future that are happening across this country.

EmploymentAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:09 p.m.)