House of Commons Hansard #190 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was isil.


Military Contribution Against ISILGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.


Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I certainly share the concerns of the people of Guelph.

Going into Syria poses a number of problems with respect to international law. To say that a group that poses a threat to Canada is a good reason to bomb another country, even though that group is not even a recognized state, creates a dangerous precedent, so the people of Guelph have every reason to be concerned.

Military Contribution Against ISILGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Ajax—Pickering Ontario


Chris Alexander ConservativeMinister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to present what I hope are some new perspectives on this very important debate. We are talking about Canada's mission against the Islamic State in order to combat terrorism, which we all know is a threat to Canada.

It is a threat not only far from our borders, for civilians living in the Middle East and other regions of the world, but also within our Canadian borders and in our communities, where these networks and individuals who have been radicalized to believe in this harmful ideology are present. Luckily they are very few in number in Canada.

I would like to begin by reflecting, as we often do in this place, on the historic context.

A hundred years ago, in March of 1915, the men of the 1st Canadian Division were already in France, at the front line. They were waiting to move from France into Belgium where they phased into the Ypres salient and faced their first major action at St. Julien later in April. That battle, as we recall, included the first use of chlorine gas.

In 1940, it was election day, 75 years ago. Prime Minister Mackenzie King was re-elected with the support, however, of a Conservative leader and Conservative Party under Manion. It called itself a national government because it believed in the importance of what Canada was doing and obviously Canada was already at war. It had declared war, forces were deployed, pilots were in the air and we were facing a major threat. It was one we hoped would remain unprecedented and one that led to the peace of 1945 and the institutions, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It has maintained order on our shores and in much of the world since that time.

These were fights against forces of disorder, in the context of world wars, in order to bring about a stronger order. In one case it led to the League of Nations, which lasted barely a couple of decades, and is not seen as a terribly successful exercise in the management of international affairs. Then there was the United Nations and the UN charter, with the support of NATO, the Bretton Woods organizations and all of the trading relationships, the WTO as it is called today. It made the international system much more successful today than it was in 1945 and much more a home for peace, order and good government, for freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law than we ever dared to hope in 1945.

We have only to turn on our television sets or tune in to the Internet media stream to see that this order is under threat in many parts of the world, from Boko Haram in Nigeria, from the Taliban, still, in Afghanistan, from Putin in Ukraine. However, the scale of the conflict in Iraq and Syria today is without precedent in the world today. The scale of the threat from terrorists to both regimes in Iraq and Syria is without parallel in the annals of terrorists, which itself is a hideous litany of atrocities and conflicts in which Canada has been involved, on the larger scale in Afghanistan, but elsewhere in the world.

In Syria, of course, a vulnerable population faces a double threat because even before terrorism became the hydra headed monster it is today in both countries, its own president, Bashar al-Assad, was repressing the population and inflicting excruciating casualties, which now number well over 200,000 deaths. Many of the deaths were inflicted by the government of Syria.

We have a situation where terrorism and terrorists have been both a threat and part of a larger proxy war involving regional powers, jockeying for position. Iran and Russia obviously want to prop up Syria. Others have unfortunately lent their support in the early stages to groups associated with al Qaeda, to groups that now call themselves the Islamic State. The result is a massive humanitarian crisis, the likes of which this world has not seen since at least Rwanda, the genocide there and the ensuing crisis in the Great Lakes and in eastern Congo, but perhaps a crisis without parallel since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which led to one of the largest exoduses of humanity ever recorded.

In Iraq and Syria, we see Sunni and Shia being victims, especially when they are in minority positions on the territory of the other, on the territory of their armed enemies. We see Alawites and Ismailis suffering, having to protect themselves, vulnerable. We see Kurds and Jews being slaughtered in indiscriminately.

These are only the cases where it is documented. There are very few journalists in Syria. It is increasingly difficult for journalists to cover what is happening in Iraq unless the ISIL media make a video and post it on YouTube. We know that the atrocities are on a much larger scale than we have even recorded so far.

Whether it is Assyrian Chaldeans, Chaldeans, Mandeans, Cyrillic Orthodox, Circassians, Turkmen, Armenians, Yazidis or Shabaks, Kizilbashs, humanity and all the populations of these countries are under threat of indiscriminate violence, and hundreds of thousands of them have lost their lives. The diversity of civilization left by all three Abrahamic faiths in these countries over millennia is under threat. That threat—we know from documented sources that no member of the House is going to challenge—includes a threat to those who would help these minorities, like the United States and our Europeans allies, but explicitly including Canada. That threat needs to be addressed.

The opposition response is to sit on the sidelines and watch the slaughter continue. That is what we are hearing, both from the Liberal Party and the NDP, and it is unacceptable to us and unacceptable to most Canadians. Even in the face of this scale of challenge, the other parties in this place choose to do nothing. The NDP is opposed in principle to military. The Liberals are opposed by stealth and ambiguity, ignoring the principles they articulated earlier in the 20th century, the responsibility to protect which they said would protect vulnerable populations. Now they are honouring in the breach more than the observance.

Our response is military. Our response is humanitarian. Our response is generous. However, it also includes the resettlement of refugees. Let us remind ourselves that this response by Canadians, by private sponsors and by our government has been extremely generous and on a large scale, thanks to the great work of my colleague, the Minister of National Defence, when he occupied this portfolio.

Since 2009, Canada has resettled 21,000 Iraqis, more per capita than other country outside of the region, unheralded by the opposition, unacknowledged most of the time by those on the other side. We are well beyond the commitment we made to Syria and are on our way to resettling 10,000 Syrians. That is the largest publicly announced commitment to refugee resettlement, not to accepting asylum seekers or to accepting people across the borders, because we do not have borders with these countries. It is the largest commitment to resettling refugees from a long way away by any country. In addition, we will continue to work to resettle 5,000 refugees from Turkey, Syrians, Iraqis, Iranians who have been there for a long time, and we will accommodate 3,000 more Iraqi refugees this year.

We are defending Canada's values in doing this. We are defending the international order, both by supporting Iraqi forces and by opening our doors and our hearts to those who need and deserve protection.

We have no illusions on this side about terrorism. We have no illusions about the kind of protection victims of terrorism need, and that has to include the kind of response the House is preparing to endorse with this motion: a humanitarian response, a refugee response, and a military response.

Military Contribution Against ISILGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Craig Scott NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my hon. colleague whether he has any concerns at all that the Minister of National Defence is going out there and usurping the role of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and making completely erroneous claims about the state of international law. The Minister of National Defence said yesterday:

I would further state that Canada has an independent right of self-defence here insofar as this organization has explicitly targeted Canada.

The idea that threats from a terrorist group give us the right to use military force in another country is a completely erroneous and ridiculous statement of the state of international law. I am wondering, as someone who comes from the foreign affairs field, whether my colleague has any concerns at all that we are looking at a kind of reverse takeover by the Minister of National Defence of an area the foreign affairs department should be leading on.

Military Contribution Against ISILGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Chris Alexander Conservative Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, what we are witnessing is a takeover of the opposition by some of the most eccentric, unsound thinking that has ever been pronounced in a western democracy on an issue as important as this.

The United States, Canada, and others went to war against al Qaeda in Afghanistan under the authority of the right to self-defence, as guaranteed and formalized by the UN charter. The government of Iraq, our partner in this venture, is under attack by a terrorist organization that wants to take over that country.

Terrorism, if the hon. member would take the trouble to read the dozens of resolutions on this score, is illegal. Terrorists are subject to international forms of punishment as well as to some of the most hard-edged national forms of punishment, and rightly so.

There is no legal question in other democracies, even among socialists, about the authority for undertaking this military operation, including its combat aspects, including aerial bombardment of ISIL. Why do other socialists get it but not the NDP?

Military Contribution Against ISILGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, at the beginning of the minister's speech, I was hopeful that a speaker was finally going to bring forth some thoughtful ideas on this situation in Iraq and the choices facing us and actually discuss the issues on the ground and the options. However, sadly, it was not long before he was trotting out the same sad clichés and the myth that opposition members either agree with the government's efforts to deepen this combat mission and expand it into Syria, with unclear objectives and no exit plan, or do nothing. Nothing could be further from the truth, as Liberals have laid out in their remarks today.

The Liberal Party is for doing a number of things and is for being part of the coalition against ISIL. It is specifically talking about the need for more trainers to work with Iraqi troops to prepare them to defend their own peoples and territories. However, I notice that there is nothing about more trainers in this motion, and indeed, the minister has said that it is not in the cards. I wonder if it is because of the Conservatives' budget cuts.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer has confirmed that the government is approaching the time when it cannot maintain the structure and function of the Canadian Armed Forces, the way the budget has been declining. I would like to ask the minister if that is why this very important work of training Iraqis is not going to be expanded. Instead there is bombing in Syria. Is that because the budget is not—

Military Contribution Against ISILGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

There needs to be some time remaining for the hon. minister to respond.

The hon. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

Military Contribution Against ISILGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Chris Alexander Conservative Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is from the party of the decade of darkness. That is from the party that jokes about CF-18s, and certainly would never have deployed them in this context, and certainly is not supporting a motion to continue their deployment. That is from a party whose leader, in speaking to this motion, could not even bring himself to pronounce the word “terrorism” or “terrorist”, not once in his speech, nor did I hear it from the hon. member.

If we had a situation where this debate and this motion were in any way governed by Liberal thinking, we would be discussing all night. Meanwhile, ISIL is beheading people. ISIL is victimizing people. ISIL has caused two million people inside Iraq to flee. Four million who have left Syria are now refugees, and six or seven million are displaced inside Syria, many of them by ISIL's allies and ISIL itself.

Inaction and sitting on the sidelines is not an option, but that is exactly what the Liberal Party of Canada has now fallen into, its lowest point in history, advocating. It is shameful.

Military Contribution Against ISILGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Selkirk—Interlake Manitoba


James Bezan ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, this is one of those times when as parliamentarians we take on one of the greatest debates. Something that happens only under the Conservative government is that we debate deploying our troops and putting them in harm's way. It is a practice we began with the Afghanistan mission. We did it with Libya, and this is the second time we are doing it with Operation Impact.

I know that our troops are always prepared to go into harm's way. This is a mission they volunteer for. This is a life career they choose. I know that their training, skill, and bravery will serve them well as they carry out the mission in Iraq and Syria.

With that, I would like to pay tribute to Sergeant Andrew Doiron for his sacrifice for his country. He unfortunately was killed in a friendly fire accident that occurred in the Kurdish region, where he was working alongside our Kurdish peshmerga partners training them, advising them, assisting them, and essentially making sure that they can execute their battle plans, win back territory, and liberate villages that have been taken by ISIL.

At the same time, we have to remember some of the first casualties ISIL was able to inspire. They included Corporal Nathan Cirillo, who died at the National War Memorial when the attack on Parliament Hill occurred on October 22, days before we ever deployed any air force, and Warrant officer Patrice Vincent, who was targeted October 20, in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, when he was getting a cup of coffee at Tim Hortons, of all things.

ISIL is an incredible threat. It has been said that they are using 21st century social media and 20th century weaponry to carry out 13th century barbarism. This is a threat we have been witnessing on television as they have promoted their genocide. This jihadist terrorist organization has documented the crucifixion of Christians and how the death cult trapped so many Yazidis on the mountain.

They sell women and girls into sexual slavery. We have seen them behead all other ethnic minorities, including Shias and what they call apostate Sunnis. They have not stopped with the adults; we have watched them murder children.

This ethnic cleansing was horrific and gut-wrenching for anyone who saw it. Of course, it was played in the media.

They did not stop there with their ethnic cleansing, with their genocide, with their jihadist, warped ideology and screwed up ideas on religion. They captured aid workers and journalists. They sold some off for ransom. Ultimately they beheaded most of them on national television and bragged about it. Then we witnessed the barbaric and sadistic burning of the Jordanian pilot.

This really did establish what was happening in Iraq and Syria and the threat they represent to the region. We also saw them inspire westerners, including Canadians, to sign up and travel to Syria and Iraq and become jihadist warriors. We saw them inspire people around the world, including here in Canada, to become terrorists in their own countries. We saw what happened in Copenhagen, France, and Australia.

This organization, this jihadist genocidal death cult called ISIL, the Islamic State, has to be stopped. It is in Canada's national interest to go to Iraq, as we have for the last six months, and expand this mission to include Syria to ensure that ISIL does not establish its caliphate, headquartered in the so-called capital of Iraq.

If they do that, they will continue to bring their terror to Canada, to our allies, and continue to have their genocide grow in the region.

It has never been the Canadian way to sit on the sidelines. It has never been the Canadian way to take a pass when we have these types of brutal regimes gaining ground, and because of our intervention, along with our allies, 25% of the territory in Iraq now has been won back.

The aid and assist role that Canada and our coalition partners have played with our special operations forces in training Iraqi and Kurdish militias and security forces has been so far successful. Our air strikes have supported them and have degraded the capability of ISIL within Iraq, but they are coalescing and consolidating their fighting team in eastern Syria. It is a lawless land in the east, and ISIL has control.

The terminology and, really when it comes down to it, the reason we need to go to Syria to uproot ISIL and degrade them so they are not a threat to us here in Canada is no different than when the Liberals first deployed Canadian Armed Forces, without debate in this House of Commons, to Afghanistan because of the safe haven that the Taliban was offering to Al Qaeda for allowing them the ability to go out and attack our allies, which included killing Canadians in the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington.

Of course, Al Qaeda had been perpetrating these types of attacks around the world against predominantly U.S. interests and U.S. facilities, but those targets were ultimately nailed by the terrorist activities. However, that principle, that objective, which the Liberal government of 2002 saw as being necessary and committed us to a war that lasted 12 years, was done without any debate, without any transparency. That national interest is no different today than it was back then.

Through this whole process, we have been extremely accountable. Today I have been hearing the opposition criticize us for not being accountable. We are the first government to bring forward resolutions for full debate and full disclosure on these missions before we deploy or extend. We are the first government to have held ongoing technical briefings with the media and with parliamentarians on what is happening on an ongoing basis. Over 15 technical briefings have been held in the last six months on our activities, plus the ministers of National Defence and Foreign Affairs have been appearing before committees of both foreign affairs and national defence, ensuring that parliamentarians were informed.

We talk about the Liberals and how they have abandoned their values. I listened to the Minister of Veterans Affairs very closely, how he clearly documented the Liberals' proud history of ensuring that Canada always does the heavy lifting when we needed to be in military interventions, which they have totally abandoned today. The Liberals do not replicate or resemble themselves in any way, shape or form from a decade ago.

I do not understand why New Democrats would not want to participate. Social democratic parties in Europe, like that of the leader of France, are involved in Operation Impact with our allies. The Danes and the Dutch are all involved, and New Democrats are prepared to sit back and watch this genocide taking place. They are prepared to sacrifice more lives, and that is not acceptable.

We will go forward into Syria under the UN charter, article 51, which clearly states that for self-defence or collective self-defence, we have a right to go into another nation where attacks are being launched. The Government of Iraq has made the request. The United States has already reported to the UN that they will participate, as they already have for several months, and we will do the same to ensure that we degrade the capability of ISIL to carry out their terrorist attacks and brutality in the region, and of course prevent them from being able to do it here in Canada or any other allied nation.

We will continue with our humanitarian aid because it is important. Canada has been very generous. The taxpayers of Canada, via the government, have already been charitable and donated over $700 million to help feed 1.7 million refugees in the region. They have helped clothe and shelter 1.25 million and allowed half a million kids to get to school.

In closing I will say that we will continue to do that in the long term, as the Prime Minister has said, to ensure that once we achieve peace and stability in the region, we will help rebuild it as Canada has always done because we are a generous nation.

Military Contribution Against ISILGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for giving us his interpretation of the events here. When we look at the situation in Syria and Iraq, we see that ISIL is the most well-funded and most well-positioned terrorist organization that we have seen in the world to date.

What has the government done in terms of working diplomatically through its allies to reduce the financial resources of ISIL, to close off the exchange of oil from its territories that it is occupying now, so that we can actually stifle the ability of this group to do the type of aggressive action that it is doing right now?

Military Contribution Against ISILGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, as you know, Canada and our allies have been working very hard to ensure that terrorist organizations like ISIL do not have the ability to raise revenues nor make it possible for people to donate money to them through financial instruments that are available to them. We are always searching out through intelligence agencies to figure out how money and transactions are being made.

On the issue of oil, we realize that there are ships that leave ports with oil from ISIL that come back empty and nobody ever knows where they dock. There has to be more surveillance on that standpoint. We have to prevent terrorists from actually having the ability to pump oil and make money off other natural resources. They control the lawless lands of eastern Syria.

If we are going to be effective, we have to stop the caliphate. We have to stop it from being able to establish an area from which it can generate revenue, train fighters and stage its war and terrorism around the world.

Military Contribution Against ISILGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary and many of his colleagues would have the listeners and the Canadian public think that this debate is about whether the opposition members are concerned about the risks and threats of ISIL. That is not what this debate is about.

On this side of the House, we understand how egregious the behaviour and how unacceptable the behaviour is of that terrorist organization and we have said so all along. Rather than misleading the public, I would encourage the parliamentary secretary to be clear that the debate is on how best to help that situation. We have different ideas than the Conservative members do. That is what this debate should be about.

In his discussion, the parliamentary secretary asked why we are saying that his government is not accountable. I would say it is because the Minister of National Defence has a bad habit of being creative with the truth. The Prime Minister sent special forces into the front-line combat when he explicitly said that he would not. This is a mission with no clear objectives, no plan and no exit strategy.

The Department of Foreign Affairs top people in this area say that they encouraged the Iraqi leaders to move away from militias and put their efforts into a strengthened, professional and inclusive Iraqi army. They say that the Iraqi army is insufficient but it is becoming stronger because of training like Canada is doing. The Liberals want more of that training, more Canadian trainers to train more peshmerga. Why is the—

Military Contribution Against ISILGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence.

Military Contribution Against ISILGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, nobody is more creative with numbers or the truth than the member for Vancouver Quadra.

She has gone after the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration about the issue of the Parliamentary Budget Officer's report today on military spending. In the Parliamentary Budget Officer's report, on page 10, it says that, by far the most devastating cuts to the military happened from 1995 to 2004. Who was in government at that time? It was the Liberals who were in power during that time. They gutted our military. It corresponded completely with the decade of darkness.

In eight out of ten years, spending by the Liberals on the GDP percentage was 1% or less. For the other two years, it was 1.1% GDP. We cannot fight the numbers or the truth in that matter.

Unlike the Liberals, who sent our troops to Afghanistan without the proper equipment and with very little notice, and who committed us to a battle that lasted for 12 years, I can tell members that our troops are going in well equipped, well trained and with all the backing that they need to get the job done as quickly as possible.

The House resumed from February 25, 2015, consideration of the motion that Bill C-643, An Act to establish National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.


Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon, I am pleased to express my support for Bill C-643, An Act to establish National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day.

Bill C-643, which was introduced in the House of Commons for the first time on December 8, 2014, designates the third Friday of September in each and every year as national spinal cord injury awareness day. Like my NDP colleagues, I want to voice my support for this legislative initiative.

In Canada, there are 86,000 people with spinal cord injuries and, unfortunately, 4,300 new cases are added each year. These injuries cost almost $2.67 billion per year and cause a great deal of physical and psychosocial suffering for those who sustain them. This national day is important to raise public awareness of the reality of people living with these injuries and the difficulties they have to face, as well as the work done by their caregivers and the scientists who are trying to improve their lives.

In my riding of LaSalle—Émard, many organizations work not only with people who have spinal cord injuries, but also with people with reduced mobility, people in wheelchairs, in short, people with any type of disability. Many organizations work to try to help people with disabilities integrate into society and especially to raise public awareness in order to make that integration easier.

I want to mention the organization Handicap Action Intégration and its director, Mody Maka Barry, who also has reduced mobility and uses a wheelchair. He wants to use his organization to help people with reduced mobility find their inner strength and have a healthy and fulfilling life and to prove to them that a physical limitation does not have to hold them back, because it is courage and determination that count.

Handicap Action Intégration also raises awareness among employers to encourage them to hire people with a disability. A recent report in The Globe and Mail talked about the benefits of hiring a person with a disability. That diversity is often very rewarding for a workplace. It creates bonds and allows people with a disability to work, whether or not their disability is due to a spinal cord injury that forces them to use a wheelchair.

Those who are integrated into the workforce will not only benefit from a well-paying job and, often, get out from under financial difficulties, but will also be able to contribute a great deal to society. The article mentioned a number of cases where employers benefited from the rewarding experience of hiring people with a disability. I would like to quote the article:

The article is entitled “Working wisdom: How workers with disabilities give companies an edge”. It says:

Opportunity for many people like him [a person living with a disability] is still scarce.

It means that there are not a lot of opportunities, as not a lot of employers are bold enough to hire people with disabilities.

It continues:

More than two million Canadian adults, or 11 per cent of the population, have some sort of disability and only about half of them participate in the labour force. Of those who do look for work, the jobless rate is 40 per cent or more for some groups. Underemployment is higher and even if they hold a job, incomes among adults with disabilities are typically far lower than the rest of the population.

I think a day like the one proposed in Bill C-643 could raise awareness about what life is like for people with a disability and how vulnerable many of them are. It could also help us see what we might do to help them integrate into the workforce and improve not only their financial situation, but also their physical and psychological condition.

I will share an example of an employer who hired someone with a disability. These are the benefits he discovered.

The benefit for the [employer], he added, is that it has a work force that more closely resembles its customer base. And its workers can give insights into how to reach different customers and keep them happy.

In other words, someone who has a disability or who uses a wheelchair to get around can bring new ideas to an employer such as a bank, for example. If the employer provides services to a broad clientele, the employee with a disability will be more in tune with the clientele's needs. What other employers have found is that many of these employees are very loyal and are also hard workers. They pour their hearts into their work and diversify a company's workforce. This article also shows very clearly that employers who recognize the strength of their employees and hire people who live with a disability, have reduced mobility or use a wheelchair gain a clear advantage.

The day of awareness proposed by Bill C-643 will promote all these benefits. First and foremost, it will shed light on the situation and the vulnerability of many people with disabilities and show how society in general can benefit from their integration.

I would like to reiterate the NDP's support for initiatives that foster the employment of people living with a disability and make our society even more accessible. The NDP is also a strong champion of the fight against poverty, whether it affects people with disabilities or people in precarious situations in general.

We continue to support people with disabilities and to work towards a more open and inclusive society. We also want to make our workplaces more inclusive.

I reiterate my support for Bill C-643.

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to speak to the private member's bill, Bill C-643, an act to establish a national spinal cord injury awareness day, put forward by the hon. member for Montcalm. It is important that she has brought this issue of spinal cord injury before the House.

Bill C-643 recognizes the courage and determination of Canadians living with spinal cord injury, and raises awareness of the importance of creating environments that encourage an active return to an inclusive society.

The bill also recognizes the dedication of their caregivers, which may include their families, friends, and professional health care workers who provide them with the vital support they need.

It also acknowledges the important contributions of leading Canadian scientists, whose research has improved the lives of hundreds of people with spinal cord injuries.

Bill C-643 aims to establish the third Friday in September every year as national spinal cord injury awareness day.

This would seek to reduce the risk of spinal cord injuries through increasing awareness and prevention, and it would also benefit those currently suffering from a spinal cord injury by shining a light on this important health issue across our country—with local government, non-government organizations, volunteer groups, and the private sector.

Spinal cord injuries include damage to any part of the spinal cord and may be traumatic or non-traumatic in nature.

Traumatic spinal cord injuries can result from many different causes including falls, traffic accidents, occupational and sports injuries, as well as violence.

Non-traumatic spinal cord injuries typically involve an underlying cause, such as an infectious disease, tumour, a muscle or bone disease such as osteoarthritis, or spina bifida

Regardless of how spinal cord injuries occur, both traumatic and non-traumatic injuries can be devastating for individuals and their families.

In terms of how traumatic spinal cord injuries occur, based upon hospitalization records from 2010 to 2011, there were 577 hospitalizations in Canada attributed to spinal cord injuries. Of these, 54% were the result of non-sport related falls, while 31% were attributable to vehicle accidents, and 4% were a results of a sport injury.

To gain a better understanding of neurological conditions in Canada, our government made a $15 million investment in 2011 to initiate the national population study on neurological conditions. It was led by the Public Health Agency of Canada and Neurological Heath Charities Canada in collaboration with Health Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The study was composed of thirteen research projects, three national surveys, and seven simulation models.

After the study was completed, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and Parkinson's disease were all added to the existing Canadian chronic disease surveillance system, which is managed by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The study has improved our understanding of the incidence and prevalence of neurological conditions such as spinal cord injury. It has also shed light on the impact of neurological conditions on individuals living with these conditions, their families, and their communities.

Through this bill, we can create greater awareness for spinal cord injuries and their impact on the lives of those affected. We can highlight federal injury prevention efforts and showcase advancements in spinal cord injury and stem cell research in Canada, so that we as a country can make further gains.

Our government recognizes the impact spinal cord injuries have on Canadians and has directed significant financial investment into research to generate new knowledge and technologies to improve patient outcomes and quality of life.

Through our support for research on the functioning and disorders of the brain and spinal cord, I believe we are making a difference. With federal support, the work of top researchers has contributed to our understanding for the changes in nerve cells that could prevent and alleviate chronic neuropathic pain syndrome and improve recoveries of limb function following spinal cord injury or trauma.

Through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, our government funds research that covers the full spectrum of spinal cord research. This includes basic biological and clinical research to population health, health services, and quality of life and health determinants.

Since 2006, our government has invested $57 million toward spinal cord injury research to generate new knowledge and technologies to improve patient outcomes and quality of life. We have also invested $470 million in stem cell research since 2006 and over $53 million in 2013-14 alone.

Research in stem cell clinical therapies has the potential to revolutionize the treatment of degenerative diseases, such as spinal cord injury, and greatly improve the quality of life of many Canadians.

In September 2014, the Minister of Health announced a federal investment in support of 32 new research projects under the Canada Brain Research Fund. One of these included the development of the Rick Hansen Alberta Spinal Cord Injury Registry through the University of Calgary.

As some may recall, the Rick Hansen Foundation was founded in 1988 after Mr. Hansen so bravely and with such determination completed the Man in Motion World Tour in Vancouver. The foundation works toward removing the barriers that limit the participation of people with disabilities in society. Our government proudly supports the Rick Hansen Foundation, an organization that is inspired by the dream of creating an accessible and inclusive world, and driven to finding a cure for spinal cord Injury.

An investment of $30 million was provided by our government to the foundation from 2007 to 2013, to implement a spinal cord injury data system across Canada, support spinal cord injury research and promote best practices in spinal cord injury care. This investment aims to improve health care and quality of life for Canadians living with a spinal cord injury.

In order to maintain the momentum of the Rick Hansen Foundation, our government announced a further investment of $35 million to this foundation until 2018.

Bill C-643 would add to significant efforts already under way in Canada for people living with spinal cord injury.

In Canada, other jurisdictions such as Saskatchewan and Manitoba have commemorated spinal cord injury awareness. In 2009, the government of Saskatchewan, in collaboration with the Canadian Paraplegic Association, proclaimed May 2009 as Spinal Cord Injury and Physical Disabilities Awareness Month to raise awareness about spinal cord injuries and other physical disabilities. Manitoba declared a similar Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day in May 2011.

I hope my comments today have given everyone an understanding of the impact spinal cord injuries has in our country.

I would encourage each member to lend their support to Bill C-643 to establish the third Friday in September as the designated day for national spinal cord injury awareness day across Canada to increase awareness of spinal cord injury.

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Djaouida Sellah NDP Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the bill we are debating this evening would establish a national spinal cord injury awareness day. I support this bill and I encourage all of my colleagues to support it, since people with spinal cord injuries face daily challenges, and the public needs to be made aware of that.

We need to increase awareness of what these individuals go through. They face many problems in dealing with their disability. It is not just a matter of highlighting the dangers of high-risk activities, as is often the case in awareness campaigns. We also need more awareness about the needs people with spinal cord injuries have and the obstacles and challenges they face.

A spinal cord injury cuts communication between the brain and the body and leads to full or partial paralysis of the limbs and torso. The extent of the paralysis depends on the location of the injury on the spinal column and its severity. A low injury causes paraplegia, which refers to paralysis of the lower limbs, while a high injury would cause quadriplegia, paralysis of all four limbs.

Given that the spinal cord controls the functioning of the lower and upper limbs, people with spinal cord injuries often must use a wheelchair. The consequences of this type of paralysis lead to very costly care. The cost of traumatic spinal cord injuries is estimated at $2.7 billion a year for every newly injured person. In addition to the costs for care, the costs of reorganizing one's daily life need to be factored in. When you are in a wheelchair, you need to reorganize your home or space to have access to everything without too much difficulty. That is very expensive.

Awareness days are a useful tool to educate people and raise funds. We must not overlook that.

Making the third Friday of September national spinal cord injury awareness day will help the cause of organizations that run campaigns across the country to raise funds for research, care and financial support for victims. Even a small contribution from the general public would make it possible to change the lives of those affected by spinal cord injuries, their loved ones and their families as well.

In 2013, about 86,000 people and their families were affected by spinal cord injuries in Canada, and some 4,300 new cases are added each year.

Investments in the health care system are necessary. The government must show leadership and must not abandon the provinces. This bill reminds us just how much we need investments in our health care system. An awareness day makes it possible to highlight the needs of people with disabilities in terms of both health care and resources. We need to be able to count on a federal government that is willing to work with the provinces and territories and make long-term investments to ensure that our public health care system meets the needs of all Canadians.

Health care is a priority for all Canadians, and it should be a priority for their government too. However, the Conservatives are undermining our cherished public health care system.

They have unilaterally imposed cuts of $36 billion in transfer payments to the provinces for the next 10 years. These cuts are undermining our health care system. Currently, Canadians are not receiving health care in a timely fashion when they need it. Our seniors, for example, are receiving inadequate levels of health care. Most federal government expenditures are dropping alarmingly at the very time when the population of Canada is aging. As a result, the provinces and the territories are inheriting a huge financial burden.

Concretely, we are seeing medical clinics close their doors. In my constituency of Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, three clinics have closed already and a fourth will do so in 2015. This is unacceptable. The government must adhere to the principles of the Canada Health Act.

If the Conservative government is not capable of maintaining a funding formula that will allow the provinces and territories to fund universal access to quality services, it should step aside and let us do it. We on this side of the House will listen; we will sit down with the provinces and territories in order to find appropriate solutions. The NDP has a plan to strengthen our health care system because we all deserve to have access to care, regardless of where we live.

In fact, the NDP will fill the gaps that the Conservatives are leaving in health, especially the health of those with disabilities. The Conservatives have had five years in which to come to grips with the problem of the real poverty that many people with disabilities are experiencing. They have done nothing to improve the workplace accommodation measures for persons with disabilities who are trying to be part of the workforce. The caregiver tax credit is of no use to many people with disabilities, since they do not even have a taxable income. It does not even apply to the spouses who care for their disabled partners. As we can see, much remains to be done to help those living with disabilities in our country.

In conclusion, I invite all my colleagues to support designating the third Friday in September as national spinal cord injury awareness day. Let us not forget that most accidents happen in the summer and the third Friday is a busy time for spinal cord rehabilitation centres. This is the reality surrounding this bill that we should keep in mind. I hope that, for once, the Conservative government will consider it.

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to say that the Liberal Party will be supporting Bill C-643, which, as we know, seeks to establish a day to recognize the impacts that spinal cord injuries have on Canadians, the health care system, and the economy.

This bill would bring awareness to this serious and debilitating condition. We support that idea because not a lot of people understand and know about spinal cord injuries. They think it is something that happens after a car accident and do not understand the full nature of it, the costs to the health care system, and the long-term residual effects on its victims.

The front end of a spinal cord injury is acutely traumatic and places great costs on the acute health care system, such as long-term hospitalization. A lot of care is necessary, depending on the severity of the spinal cord injury.

Then there are the long-term health implications. People who have suffered spinal cord injuries tend to have very reduced mobility and life expectancy. They also have impaired neurological recovery and are unable to recover some of the use of their central nervous system.

What is surprising to a lot of people is that currently 95,000 Canadians are living with spinal cord injuries. This number is expected to rise with the increasing age of the population, because age, interestingly enough, is a factor in spinal cord injuries.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal is predicting 4,300 new cases each year. The number of persons suffering with spinal cord injuries will increase as the population ages. Approximately 51% of spinal cord injuries are a result of trauma, such as car accidents, skiing injuries, and so on. We know that is true. Most people think that is the only reason, but there are also non-traumatic injuries, such as ALS, cancer, and degenerative diseases of the neurological system that cause the spinal cord to be severed or damaged so that the spinal cord is not continuous and does not work.

The Rick Hansen Foundation estimates that the economic costs for newly injured Canadians is approximately $2.7 billion. That is a huge amount of money. This cost includes not only acute, long-term, or chronic health care but also new equipment and modifications made to people's homes to enable them to live with the long-term injury they have sustained. For instance, the lifetime medical costs for a quadriplegic exceed $3 million in the lifetime of that one person. With respect to a paraplegic, we are looking at $1.6 million in lifetime costs. For many Canadian families the average cost of a simple manual wheelchair is $4,000 to $5,000, and the average cost of a power wheelchair is about $10,000 to $15,000. Those costs are not currently covered under the health care system.

We also know that people who are confined and unable to move because of long-term injuries, such as spinal cord injuries, suffer from higher levels of depression and ill health consistent with a changed ability to cope with life. Depression in people with spinal cord injuries is one of the biggest reasons they tend to go to see family physicians.

With respect to awareness of spinal cord injuries, people do not know or realize that while 51% are from trauma, the other 49% are from other effects, such as seniors becoming older and falling or as a result of basic neurological defects such as ALS and the like. People think the spinal cord has to be severed to cause a traumatic injury.

Therefore, if we do anything this day, we need to bring awareness of this problem to Canadians with respect to the costs to the health care system, to families, and to society, as well as the loss of person-days of work. Many people are not able to work in the system or can only do certain jobs. It is important for people to understand this and to realize the importance of research on spinal cord injuries with respect to how we can bridge that damaged spinal cord to allow people to live with some quality of life. We are now finding out that research is showing that if a spinal cord injury is caught early enough, some regeneration of the spinal cord is possible.

This is good. It is helpful for all of the people for whom the tragedy of a spinal cord injury is not only one of cost and loss of productivity but also of loss of ability to do things they used to do before, as well as the depression and the mental health problems that come with it.

If this day would improve awareness for Canadians, then we can get the political will to do the necessary research in prevention of spinal cord injuries, treatment of spinal cord injuries, and recovery from spinal cord injuries.

We learn. I was one of the Chair-Leaders on the Hill trying to get around in wheelchairs and suddenly realized that ordinarily I should not use the disabled section of the women's washroom. I had this realization because I was waiting there in a wheelchair while someone who was able was using it. Lack of consideration in that simple area was enough to show how difficult mobility is for people with spinal cord injuries.

Motor vehicle accidents, including those involving all-terrain vehicles, account for 31% of spinal cord injuries, so we might want to look at how we regulate the use and safety of all-terrain vehicles. Seniors and age are issues, as 46% of injuries result from falls, while 5% result from acts of violence and 18% result from sports and recreational injuries and other unknown and degenerative diseases.

New methods for treating spinal cord injuries are being worked on, but we need to ramp it up, because the ability to continue with life the way one knew it is invaluable. We cannot even weigh the cost of not being able to do that to the human person.

Work is being done at UBC, my home province, and in 2012 CIHR gave a grant for research on cardiovascular health in persons with spinal cord injuries. The main cause of death of persons with spinal cord injuries has become cardiovascular disease, because of their inability to be mobile and the inactivity that followed, so work is being done now to see how we can prevent cardiovascular disease in persons with spinal cord injuries. There is hope for that.

We can improve the quality of life and save the health care system up to $70 million annually, but the most important thing is to give back to persons with spinal cord injuries the ability to regain their lives, do the things that they formerly could do, and have a full quality of life.

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to speak to Bill C-643, An Act to establish National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day. We have a number of awareness days in the House, and for me, this is one of the more important ones we have had since I have been here, which is nine years.

I would first like to congratulate the member for introducing this legislation. It is obviously an important issue to the member for Montcalm, but it is also important for members from ridings across the country. Spinal cord injuries are happening all over Canada because of accidents and other things. As the previous speaker mentioned, disease can cause issues with the spinal cord.

My spouse works for an organization that helps young people with physical disabilities, and spinal cord injuries is one of them. It is a tremendous burden, if that is the right word to use. “Challenge”, I think, would be a better word. Such an injury is a tremendous challenge not only to the individual who is suffering from a spinal cord injury but also to the family members and friends who are asked to look after them.

The previous speaker from the Liberal Party mentioned that about 95,000 Canadians live with neurological conditions caused by spinal cord injury. My research shows that it is actually likely that in 2011 it was closer to 120,000. There are a significant number of people in this country suffering from issues due to spinal cord injuries. They are often life-altering, of course, to individuals and their families. We see that in the House with our colleagues. We have been very fortunate that our colleagues who have spinal cord issues overcame those challenges, ran for office, and were elected to the Parliament of Canada. It took a tremendous amount of courage on their part to make that happen.

These injuries also have a significant impact on the Canadian economy. It sounds cold for me to say that, but there is a loss of opportunity both for individuals who suffer from spinal cord injuries and for their families, who have to take time and effort away from what they might otherwise be doing in terms of being productive in jobs or other areas and instead look after their loved ones. That is a loss.

In 2013, a study supported by Health Canada and the Rick Hansen Institute estimated the following:

...the lifetime economic burden per individual [with traumatic spinal cord injuries] ranges from $1.5 million for persons with incomplete paraplegia to $3.0 million for persons with complete tetraplegia....

Bill C-643 reminds us of the importance of recognizing the courage and determination of those with spinal cord injuries as well as the perseverance of the scientists whose research has improved the lives of hundreds of people with spinal cord injuries.

We have a lot of bills these days. This one in particular is important, because it would bring attention at least once a year to the challenges that individuals face and would also bring awareness to the public. We need to leverage these days that we have and not just pay lip service to the issue.

That particular day of the year would be an opportunity for all organizations, individuals, and families to rally together to make sure that governments, organizations, not-for-profit organizations, communities, and even community planning have an understanding of the issues and challenges facing people who suffer from spinal cord injuries. It would be an opportunity to make sure we have the resources and opportunities for those who have suffered from a spinal cord injury, whether those resources are in finance, research, or a physical plant, as was previously mentioned.

I think the mover of this bill should be fairly excited, because I think the vote is going to be unanimous in the House. I certainly support it. I know that our government supports the actions we need to take to help prevent these injuries in the first place and supports research for the development of innovative treatments for those who are suffering from spinal cord injuries.

From 2006 to 2014, the Government of Canada invested close to $57 million in spinal cord injury research, including more than $6.5 million in 2013-14 alone, through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, which we all know is a great organization. It provides support in a number of areas of health research for the betterment of Canadians.

Research projects supported through this investment cover a broad range of issues related to spinal cord injuries, from regeneration to repair of damaged nerves and nerve fibres in the spinal cord to the development of new guidelines on best practices for the treatment of patients. This investment also contributed to improving our understanding of how the spinal cord transmits neural signals between the brain and the rest of the body.

For example, last June, CIHR announced an investment of $1.7 million for a research project at Dalhousie University on mapping how a family of neurons in the spinal cord controls subconscious movements. This fundamental knowledge is an important first step in the development of new tools to restore movement in patients suffering from neurological injury or disease.

As we learn new things that are brought to us, it always amazes me the importance and quality of scientists we have in this country. We are proud as a government to be supporting those scientists who are doing great work, which is way beyond my comprehension. I am very thankful that we have people with that skill level, knowledge, and commitment to finding health solutions, including for spinal cord injuries in this country.

Another good example of research supported by CIHR is the project of Dr. Yves De Koninck of Laval University. It aims to improve our understanding of how nerve cells regulate pain and how this process is altered in the spinal cords of individuals with nerve damage. This research will contribute to designing treatments for preventing and alleviating chronic neuropathic pain or increased pain sensitivity in people with traumatic spinal cord injuries.

This fantastic scientist received the Barbara Turnbull award for his contribution in this important area. The annual award has been presented since 2001 by CIHR, the Barbara Turnbull Foundation, and Brain Canada to raise awareness of the thousands of Canadians who are living with a spinal cord injury and to promote research in this area.

CIHR is also supported by a number of research initiatives that have contributed to advancing knowledge on the effects of spinal cord injuries and the most effective treatments to address them. For example, from 2004 to 2010, CIHR and its partners invested more than $82 million to support a major strategic initiative called the regenerative medicine and nanomedicine initiative. Research supported through this investment focused on the renewal of bodily tissues and organs, the restoration of function with natural and bioengineering means, and the development of new materials to diagnose, treat, and repair damaged tissues.

Many of us have a friend, a neighbour, a family member, or a colleague right here in this House who have suffered a life-altering spinal cord injury. While there have been many scientific advancements to help in treatment and sometimes in recovery from these injuries, there is still much to be done. Bill C-643 will help raise awareness so that everyone can learn how they can play a role in preventing spinal cord injuries.

I would like to thank hon. colleagues for their attention and invite them to support this legislation when it comes to a vote.

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Manon Perreault Independent Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, my thanks to all the members who participated in this debate. Everything I have heard here this evening is truly heartwarming. This debate was held in an exemplary fashion and with the utmost respect for our function.

Creating a national spinal cord injury awareness day will make a positive contribution to Canadian society. I would like to tell all my distinguished colleagues that persons with disabilities from all over Canada have contacted my offices to express their gratitude, and I have to share their thanks with my colleagues.

Let me also thank all those who made the study of this bill possible, all those who helped design and draft the bill, and all those who helped move it forward. The seriousness of their commitment shows an exemplary level of concern with prevention and with raising awareness not only of the challenges facing those with spinal cord injuries, but also of the treatments and research in this area of expertise.

By going through the many stages that led to this bill, which I am honoured to put before the House today, I think I have gained a better appreciation of the real needs of those living with spinal cord injuries. Let me explain.

I have gained a greater understanding of what an initiative like this special day can contribute. This bill is representative of the purpose of the political work we are all here to do because it helps us better ourselves as a society in meaningful ways.

Sometimes we get the feeling that we are not doing enough, but in this case, even though this bill seems like a modest initiative at first glance, it is an incredible tool that leads us to a new stage in our progress toward accepting people with disabilities in Canada. This step forward will lead to others and so on.

The quality of life of all our fellow citizens, whether they are affected by spinal cord injuries or not, will improve. The goal is to make social acceptance more universal and to raise awareness among employers of the unsuspected qualities of those with spinal cord injuries, thereby making our communities more effective, productive and just.

The practical nature of this reality and the idealism of these principles work well together in this much-needed bill. We have to promote acceptance within social networks and value inclusion because it is both compassionate and for the common good.

In my opinion, one of the foundations of our work is ensuring that the best decisions are made to help our society progress, that the best policies are employed for the common good and that our measures are effective when they are implemented.

I truly believe that this bill to create a national spinal cord injury awareness day is a step in the right direction, and of course I will continue to speak in support of this bill until it passes in the House of Commons.

To back my point of view, I turned to a number of stakeholders. I asked a lot of questions and tried to get some answers, and I listened to the opinions of many experts and workers on the ground. I also learned about many approaches and initiatives in the area of spinal cord injury.

There is still a tremendous amount of work to be done, but we have reached a consensus regarding the best actions to take. Creating a national spinal cord injury awareness day seems to be the approach that best meets the various needs of that community. This measure has the potential to be extremely beneficial to a broad cross-section of Canadians, all without any cost. We simply cannot do without this crucial bill. The ball is now in our court. We have examined the issue and reached our conclusions, so now let us make it happen.

There has been so much brainstorming, collaboration and passionate discussion; so many people have invested in a common goal; so much effort has been made and energy spent selflessly. Let us follow the example of these often anonymous people who, by doing their small part, have managed to put together a simple, yet effective bill. We must take this opportunity to do our part and vote in favour of the bill to create a national awareness day.

I want to mention two organizations: Spinal Cord Injury Canada, whose director, Bobby White, has supported me from the beginning, and Moelle épinière et motricité Québec, with Walter Zelaya.

I am sure we will get there. We can, we must, and we will. Canadians are dignified and proud. Let us create a spinal cord injury awareness policy that reflects that.

Let us see this bill as a positive reflection of our society, a commendable unifying effort that everyone can stand behind. On behalf of people with disabilities in Montcalm, Quebec and Canada, I want to sincerely thank my colleagues. I am deeply touched by everything they had to say about spinal cord injuries.

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

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

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Military Contribution Against ISILGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Before we resume debate, I would just like to remind all hon. members that in this debate, members have 10 minutes for their speeches and five minutes for questions and comments. It was noted earlier today that sometimes the questions have been a little long and the answers have been a bit long. Unfortunately, this will ultimately lead to not as many members being able to participate in the debate. If members will bear with the Chair, with five-minute questions and comments, to have two, that would be two-and-a-half minutes per turn, which would be about one minute and 15 seconds for the question and the response.

The Chair will give an indication at around a minute. At a minute and 15, members ought to be finished. At one minute 30, even if members are at mid-sentence, the Chair will interrupt in order to move on to the next question.

The Chair would certainly appreciate the co-operation of all members. The purpose of this is to allow as many members as possible to participate in the debate.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for B.C. Southern Interior.