House of Commons Hansard #103 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was veterans.


Status of WomenAdjournment Proceedings

7:30 p.m.

Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle Québec


Anju Dhillon LiberalParliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in the House today to the issue of pay equity.

Our government believes that this is not a partisan issue. While we are working to advance social policies on pay equity, equality, and diversity, we have to stand together and involve all hon. members instead of working in a vacuum as the government or a political party in order to build a better and fairer Canada.

We believe that equal pay for work of equal value must be considered a fundamental human right. I do not disagree with my colleague across the way. This is unequivocal, and this principle was enshrined in the Canadian Human Rights Act, framed by constitutional guarantees of equality.

The goal of pay equity policy and legislation is to ensure that pay is based on the value of the work, not the gender of those doing the work.

In 1977, the Government of Canada became the first Canadian government to adopt legislative provisions on pay equity, which are found in section 11 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Under these provisions, pay equity complaints could be filed, which was considered progressive at the time. However, the context has changed and now it is time for the Government of Canada to reevaluate how pay equity is addressed.

We are committed to resolving pay equity in a balanced and responsible way, which is why the government supported the creation of the special committee on pay equity. The committee heard from a number of different witnesses, and much of the discussion focused around the pros and cons of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Bilson report, and the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act.

These systems attempt to address the pay equity issue, each by implementing different solutions arising from various decision points. Our government is taking action in response to the recent report of the special committee on pay equity. However, before we can implement pay equity in the federal sector, we need to undertake a careful review of the issue. This is why we need to hold meaningful consultations and carefully study the pay equity issue.

The government will then be able to table proactive pay equity legislation for federally regulated workplaces by the end of 2018. The committee's findings and recommendations will play an important role as we move forward to develop a new approach to pay equity.

I thank my colleague for raising this very important question, and I look forward to my colleague across the way supporting our upcoming legislation regarding pay equity.

Status of WomenAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.


Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, not a single witness at the pay equity committee asked for the timeline the government has suggested and not a single witness asked for consultation. This legislation was written in 2004, the last time a Liberal government was in power. No reason has been given to delay until 2018.

A further frustration is instead of actually making equal pay for work of equal value for all women across the country, the government has chosen to table legislation that deals with pay equity in a strange way, among its cabinet ministers. There is nothing more elite than that.

I was at a conference the other weekend where I heard speakers say that trickle-down feminism did not work any better for women of our country than any other trickle-down economic theory did. It is very much the wrong priority to bring in Bill C-24 instead of bringing in an act now. We could do it next month.

Again, what is so special about 2018? What will the government learn that it does not already know?

Status of WomenAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.


Anju Dhillon Liberal Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is concrete work that is being done at the present moment. We are taking the time needed to ensure this legislation is meaningfully analyzed, and it will be presented to this Parliament. We will all get to vote on it, my colleague included.

We understand that Canada is better off when the talents and skills of women are represented in every sector of society, in government at every level, and from the grassroots all the way up to the boardroom. We are setting the tone at the top.

The Prime Minister committed to an equal number of women and men in cabinet, and the Prime Minister delivered on that commitment, demonstrating his belief that our country is stronger and more effective when decision-makers reflect Canada's diversity.

In 2016, women expect and have the right to be full participants in the economic, social, and democratic life of Canada. Let there be no doubt. The Prime Minister's actions on gender parity demonstrate tangible progress, and we plan to work closely with all parliamentarians to make real progress on the issue of pay equity. It will happen.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

7:40 p.m.


Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, before medicare, Canadian families were on their own when they got sick or injured. New Democrats understood then that this was profoundly unjust and that it ran counter to Canadians' most deeply held values.

That is why the NDP's founding leader, Tommy Douglas, set out to build a pan-Canadian public health care system rooted in the simple notion that we all have a responsibility to take care of each other and that access to health care should never depend on the size of one's bank account. Under medicare, the health of Canadian families was put before profit for the first time in our country's history, and by 1984, the Canada Health Act secured a national public health care system that has since become an essential part of our collective identity.

The Canada Health Act is legislation that puts in place conditions for the provinces and territories to receive federal funding for health care, which is within their jurisdiction. There are five key principles enshrined in the act: public administration, comprehensiveness, universality, portability, and accessibility.

It came as no surprise that the previous Conservative government failed to enforce the Canada Health Act. After all, in his previous job as vice-president of the National Citizens Coalition, Stephen Harper went on record saying, “It’s past time the feds scrapped the Canada Health Act”, but when Canadians voted for change in the last election, they thought they would finally have a government in Ottawa willing to protect their public health care from creeping privatization.

Unfortunately, from upselling in Ontario to private MRIs in Saskatchewan, to private clinics in British Columbia, violations of the Canada Health Act are still on the rise all across Canada. Let us examine some examples.

In November 2015, the Saskatchewan government, the Conservative government of Brad Wall, voted to introduce pay-per-use MRI services, which allow wealthy individuals to jump the queue. Premier Wall himself had noted in 2009 that these clinics violate the principles of accessibility in the Canada Health Act, but he permitted the extra fees anyway.

In Ontario, there have been dozens of examples of independent health facilities charging extra fees for so-called upgraded services already covered in the public system. An example is cataract lenses, where people go to doctors for cataract surgery, a publicly covered medically essential service, and are told that if they spend an extra $400, they can get a superior lens. That is happening every day in Ontario. Despite these contraventions, Ontario has never been penalized by the federal government.

In Calgary, the Copeman private health clinic has been giving preferential treatment to fee-paying patients and raising questions about double billing the Alberta medical plan. People in British Columbia have witnessed the Cambie medical clinic openly flaunting the Canada Health Act by selling preferential access to surgeries and charging user fees prohibited by law.

In New Brunswick, draconian regulations force women to get two doctors to declare an abortion medically necessary before it is publicly funded at one of the province's two hospitals. If a woman seeks an abortion in a private facility in New Brunswick, she has to pay for it herself.

The Canada Health Act exists to guarantee universal and equal access to essential health care services for all Canadians. New Democrats believe that it is the federal government's responsibility to enforce it all across the country.

My question is this. Will the Liberal government put an immediate stop to these unacceptable violations of the Canada Health Act or will we just see more ignoring of the principles of the Canada Health Act, as with the previous Harper government?

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

7:40 p.m.

Brampton West Ontario


Kamal Khera LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague has raised an extremely important issue. Our government has shown time and again that we stand behind the core Canadian values of equality and solidarity. These are the very values that underpin the Canada Health Act. This is why we will continue to work collaboratively with our provincial and territorial colleagues to ensure that citizens across the country can depend on our health care system.

Canadians believe in the equality of citizens and our health care system reflects that fundamental belief. This belief is also reflected in the five principles of the Canada Health Act, which include comprehensiveness, universality, accessibility, portability, and public administration. Guided by the principles of the act, Canada has a publicly funded health care system where access to services is based on medical need and not on the ability or willingness to pay.

The Canada Health Act is clear. Under the act, provincial and territorial health insurance plans are required to cover medically necessary hospital and physician services for their residents on a prepaid basis and on uniform terms and conditions. Permitting payments for faster access to medically necessary services such as MRIs or CT scans at private diagnostic clinics, what has often been called “queue jumping”, contravenes both the spirit and accessibility criteria of the Canada Health Act.

The concern is not only that a patient might pay for faster access to medically necessary diagnostic scans, but that they can also then gain faster access to any necessary follow-up care. That is to say queue jumping occurs on two fronts: both for the initial diagnosis and also for any required subsequent surgery or procedure within the publicly funded system. This is not access based on medical need. This is access based on ability or willingness to pay and it runs counter to the underlying principle of Canada's health care system. It is our government's belief that medically necessary diagnostic services like MRIs and CT scans should be covered by provincial and territorial plans, whether provided in a hospital or a clinic.

Canadians are justifiably proud of our publicly funded health care system. In fact, a Stats Canada report on Canadian identity, published in October 2015, found that almost 80% of Canadians express pride in the Canadian health care system. We want to ensure that they continue to be proud of our system.

When Canadians elected our government, they chose a government that promised to focus on new and more collaborative relationships with provinces and territories. Therefore, our government's approach to the administration of the Canada Health Act will emphasize transparency, consultation, and dialogue with our provincial and territorial colleagues. When issues of concern arise, we are committed to dealing with them in a fair and even-handed manner. The hon. member may be assured that our government is committed to preserving the fundamental principles of our health care system. We will continue to work with provinces and territories to ensure Canadians have access to publicly funded health care services based on need and not on their ability or willingness to pay.

Let me conclude by confirming that our government believes that any trend toward privatization that results in two-tiered access or queue jumping to publicly funded health care is not compatible with the principles of the Canada Health Act. Our government will continue to defend the principles of the act and Canadians can continue to have pride in a health care system where access is based on individuals' health needs and not on their ability to pay.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

7:45 p.m.


Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, those are encouraging words from the government. The NDP will be watching very carefully to make sure that those words are backed up by action.

This is a far more serious and widespread problem than the government has admitted to date. Health Canada's most recent annual report to Parliament on the Canada Health Act uncovered a number of disturbing trends. It noted that private MRI clinics in British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Saskatchewan are charging user fees for patients today; hospitals are avoiding the ban on charging for drugs by routing the sick through outpatient clinics that do charge; the portability requirements of the Canada Health Act, which allow Canadians to access care anywhere across the country, are routinely ignored; and Prince Edward Island still has refused to provide medically necessary reproductive health services to women in P.E.I.

From pharmacare to mental health to meeting the needs of our aging population, it is time to renew medicare for the 21st century. Will the Liberal government commit to fulfill its responsibility to protect and enhance our public health care system under the Canada Health Act?

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

7:45 p.m.


Kamal Khera Liberal Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to reiterate that our government is firmly committed to the principles upon which our publicly funded health care system was founded. We will ensure that Canadian citizens continue to have quality health care in accordance with the principles enshrined in the Canada Health Act.

We recognize that sustaining a strong universal health care system requires the collaboration and co-operation of federal, provincial, and territorial governments. Our government will work collaboratively with our provincial and territorial counterparts to realize the Canada Health Act's goals of ensuring that access to necessary health care in Canada is based on medical need, and not on one's ability or willingness to pay. As a government, we take that goal extremely seriously, and our administration of the Canada Health Act will reflect that.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:50 p.m.


Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am humbled to rise the day after the House voted to support an NDP motion calling on the government to recognize and remediate the historical discrimination faced by indigenous children across Canada. I would like to thank the government for finally acknowledging that it is inexcusable to short-change kids, and I hope it will begin to work with all of its partners to address the huge gap in services that exists for first nations children.

There are now three compliance orders issued by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. Will the government now stop fighting families in court and start working with experts and representatives from indigenous communities to get the help where it is needed as soon as possible?

During the debate on the motion, the member for Labrador was very indignant about this issue and accused the NDP of pulling numbers out of thin air. I would like to take this opportunity to point out to the hon. member and, by extension, the government that the numbers were not pulled out of thin air, but were based on the very numbers provided by the government itself. The same numbers the member disputed were given by Cindy Blackstock to the government six months ago. It did not dispute the numbers until it was asked to spend the money on kids on the ground.

Ms. Blackstock also pointed out that there is a stack of reports from the last 50 years that the government can draw on to implement some much needed services right away. However, the government preferred to appoint its own consultant, also called a special representative, to repeat much of the work that has already been done, instead of implementing solutions it already has.

In my home province of Saskatchewan, there have been six youth suicides in the last four weeks. These young people and their families need support and services in their communities now.

Last week, the NDP held a press conference in Saskatoon to call on the government to end the band-aid approach and to turn our culture of deniability into a culture of accountability that puts kids first. Chief Tammy Cook-Searson of the Lac la Ronge First Nation and FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron have called for all levels of government with overlapping jurisdictions to “work together to develop a plan of action to prevent future tragedies of this kind among aboriginal youth”.

Instead of stable funding for social workers and support programs in communities, the government has cut 25% of front-line workers in recent years. Then, when there is suicide crisis among young people, emergency workers are flown in for a few weeks, but these workers cannot stay and the cycle begins again.

The same goes for communities where there is no medical centre. Patients and at-risk youth have to be flown out of their communities, instead of being helped and treated at home close to their families.

What the tribunal has ordered is an immediate remediation of this situation. Indigenous kids are being underfunded, and this has to stop. It is a national shame that today, in 2016, there are as many children in care as during the residential school era. Why is this happening? It is because there are not enough support services to allow families to stay together through a crisis.

The first 2,000 days of a child's life is when their most critical phases of development take place. What happens in the first 2,000 days can have a lasting effect, for better or worse. It is unconscionable for any government to postpone help when it is so urgently needed.

How is it acceptable to postpone 54% of the announced funding until the last year before an election, or the year after the next election? Will the government revise its planned five-year roll-out of the funding it has announced to get funds to where they are needed right away, instead of in another four years? Indigenous children cannot wait.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:50 p.m.

Labrador Newfoundland & Labrador


Yvonne Jones LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member for Saskatoon West indicated, our government is committed to making the desperately needed investments in indigenous people and communities, including those in infrastructure, social services, and child welfare.

Indeed, the budget is very different from those we have seen in Canada in the previous decade. We are making historic and record investments in indigenous children and indigenous communities. We are taking this fundamentally different and concrete approach, because we know it is time to chart a new course for Canada, for indigenous people, and for the northern region. These changes are long overdue.

The member spoke about the motion that the NDP brought forward in the House of Commons this week. It was a motion that reflected the very actions that this government is taking and will continue to take.

However, it is an unfortunate reality that many first nations people on reserve continue to live with inadequate housing and overcrowding. We are all saddened by the number of suicides we have seen in indigenous communities right across this country. Our hearts go out to the families in Saskatchewan today who are mourning a tremendous tragedy with the loss of young indigenous lives.

We know that children and family services on reserve must also be overhauled. We would ask members of the NDP and all members of the House to support the efforts of government as we overhaul that system. We know that chronic underfunding of the first nations education system has held students back, and we know the time is here to make those changes.

We are committed to transformational change when it comes to our relationship with indigenous people in Canada, and we want to build that relationship on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership. This is why the historic investments in budget 2016 helped us turn the page in Canada to open a new chapter in that relationship with our first peoples.

We are delivering on these funds quickly and working as quickly as we possibly can to get them out the door. The new funding that we have already approved will support the construction, service, or renovation of over 3,000 housing units, as well as 195 on-reserve water or waste-water projects, including 25 that will address 34 long-term drinking water advisories in 24 communities. We have funded 130 school-related infrastructure projects and 159 culture and recreation projects. We have committed $635 million to address the funding gaps in first nation child and family service programs. In addition to this, the Government of Canada committed, in July, to provide up to $382 million over three years to support an expanded approach to Jordan's principle.

When the member talked about the fact that we were reluctant to support numbers in a motion in terms of dollar investments in children on reserve or indigenous children in this country, it was only because we know that the investment is far greater. We know that more money will be required, and we are prepared to make the investments as they are needed.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

November 2nd, 2016 / 7:55 p.m.


Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Mr. Speaker, there is a mental health crisis faced by indigenous youth, and the government's response needs to equal the scope of that crisis. As my colleague and friend, the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, has said, not only do these communities “need immediate support to address this mental health crisis, they require”, and “We cannot continue to stand by and watch our Indigenous youth fall through the cracks.”

Will the government follow through on its commitments to stop subverting Jordan's principle? Will it provide adequate funding for medical and mental health services for indigenous children now?

When our government stops fighting families in court over dental care and provides funding for decent, secure housing, then we will all finally see the change so desperately needed on the ground in these communities. I do hope the government will match its rhetoric with actions and honour its commitment to first nation peoples everywhere.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:55 p.m.


Yvonne Jones Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, I understand the points the member is making. However, the member must also understand that, as a government, we have made record investments in indigenous governments and communities in Canada. We are the first government to step up with massive housing investments. This year, we have made investments for over 3,000 housing units to be constructed, serviced, or restored on reserves across Canada. We have made specific funding available in the North for Inuit housing.

To date, of the funding that we have allocated in budget 2016 for indigenous peoples, we have been able to move nearly 90% of that funding out the door in either commitments, or delivery to indigenous communities across Canada.

We are moving as quickly as the system allows us to move to address these long-standing inadequacies that exist in both infrastructure, child welfare, youth, health, and all of the other growing needs that exist in indigenous communities across Canada.

We ask for the support of all colleagues in this House to continue that good work and those good efforts.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

8 p.m.


The Deputy 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 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 8:01 p.m.)