House of Commons Hansard #217 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was finance.

Topics

Carbon PricingPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, October 25, 2017, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, on October 4, I rose in my place to ask the Prime Minister to justify why Omar Khadr, a convicted terrorist, got a rushed $10.5 million payout while the Liberal government refused $6,000 worth of dental surgery for Josey, a young Cree girl, and continued to fight her in court. These are very different kinds of cases, but as members hear my argument they will understand why the question was so important and the answer so unsatisfactory. There are times when we need courts to make decisions and times when compassion and common sense should reign, especially when smaller dollar amounts are at stake.

To talk specifically about the Omar Khadr case, in 2010 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Khadr's rights had been violated while he was detained in a U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he was held after being captured as a suspected terrorist. As a remedy in response to the Supreme Court of Canada's ruling, the Conservatives brought Khadr back to Canada and, of course, he kept his citizenship. The current Liberal government then provided a $10.5 million compensation package to Omar Khadr for abuses he suffered while detained in that U.S. military prison for captured and suspected terrorists. The federal Liberals stated that the funds were given because of the 2010 ruling by the Supreme Court on the violation of his rights.

It is important to say what the Supreme Court did and did not say. The Supreme Court did not instruct the Prime Minister to financially compensate Khadr. As Howard Anglin wrote in the National Post on July 6, “There was no court order requiring payment and the government could have continued defending the claim for years to come.”

It is also important to remember that Khadr was found assembling IEDs, a fact that has been reported widely in the Canadian media, including by The Globe and Mail, Macleans, and Global News. Also, in 2010 he plead guilty to killing U.S. medic Sergeant Christopher Speer. Here we clearly have no obligation. Certainly there was a court process under way, but I would argue that the government should have let that court process play itself out before it just awarded $10.5 million, and not only that, before it rushed to make the payment to prevent the widow of Sergeant Christopher Speer from having any recourse.

Then we have the case of Josey Willier. She is a Cree who was living in Calgary. She was nine years old. Her teeth began to emerge sideways in her palate. Many of us in this House have children and have seen the different things that happen as children grow and that we need to remedy those things. Over a number of years, it is important to note, she experienced ongoing problems with her teeth that resulted in headaches and a chronic aching pain in her lower gums. Moreover, she was not able to chew properly and had difficulty opening her mouth. There was significant discomfort associated with the impacted teeth and overbite, and she was taking over-the-counter medications daily. An orthodontist recommended braces, without which she would need to have invasive jaw surgery in the future and her jaw, of course, would have to be broken.

The government ended up fighting Josey in court. It—

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Thunder Bay—Rainy River Ontario

Liberal

Don Rusnak LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to address the concerns raised by the member in relation to the federal health benefits coverage for first nations and Inuit children, and orthodontic coverage, in particular, as it relates to the specific case in question.

We recognize that there are unacceptable gaps in the outcomes that continue to exist for first nation and Inuit children in Canada. This is why our government is committed to providing first nation and Inuit Canadians with access to the health services that they need, including coverage for medically necessary health benefits provided through the non-insured health benefits program, or NIHB.

Health Canada's NIHB program is one of the largest supplementary health benefit programs in the country. The program is national in scope and provides needs for approximately 839,000 eligible first nation and Inuit clients, both on and off reserve. Last year, the NIHB program spent over $1 billion to provide access to these benefits, including prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, medical supplies and equipment, medical transportation, vision care, and dental care. In recent years, the NIHB program has paid for dental claims made by a total of approximately 300,000 first nation and Inuit clients annually.

First nation and Inuit children should have access to the same health care services that are available to non-indigenous children. In Canada, orthodontic services are not covered under universal provincial and territorial public health programs. The NIHB program, therefore, provides coverage for orthodontic services for eligible first nation and Inuit clients when it is medically necessary. The program's policies and criteria have been established on the advice of health professionals and reflect best practices in health services and evidence-based standards of care. Decisions are made based on clear criteria and are published on Health Canada's website. With regard to the case reported in the media recently, like all requests for coverage of orthodontic treatment, this case was reviewed by a licensed orthodontist when it was initially submitted for approval, and subsequently reviewed by three other licensed orthodontists during the appeals process, all of whom agreed with the initial assessment.

Having said that, we know that more can be done and better is always possible. We acknowledge that there is room for improvement in the NIHB programs and services delivered through the government. As we move forward with the creation of the new Department of Indigenous Services, we will work with all partners to ensure that NIHB is improved and reflects the needs of first nation and Inuit children. Our goal is that benefit plans will be planned and delivered by indigenous people for indigenous people. Until that is a reality, we will continue to look for ways to improve the services that we deliver.

In closing, our government is committed to a renewed relationship with indigenous peoples to make progress on the issues that are most important, including health.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I did not get to finish my story. It is important to recognize that the government spent $110,000 fighting Josey in court when it had a $6,000 orthodontic bill. Someone who had examined her directly recognized that she was having chronic pain and needed medication on a regular basis. I contrast the government choosing to fight, spending $110,000 on an orthodontic case, when it agreed to give $10.5 million to a convicted terrorist without seeing it through the court process and, in spite of what the government has alluded to, had no obligation to do

If we compare these two cases, everyone can certainly see the significant concerns that Conservatives have and will continue to raise with the government.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Don Rusnak Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, again, our government believes that all first nation and Inuit children receive the care they need through the NIHB program. We believe it is absolutely unacceptable that there continues to be socio-economic gaps between indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians. That is why we created the Department of Indigenous Services. We know we must continue to work with partners to close the gaps, and that includes working together to improve the NIHB program.

I have to say that I find it odd that the Conservatives are suddenly questioning this government's commitment to reconciliation and improving the NIHB program. After all, it was in fact the previous Conservative government that cut numerous services to indigenous peoples across this country, and it was actually the previous Conservative government that first denied the claim in question.

We know that more must be done. We must continue to work with partners to ensure that the NIHB program is improved and reflects the needs of our first nation and Inuit children. As we continue to work on our journey of reconciliation and work toward a future—

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The hon. member for Mégantic—L'Érable

EthicsIndigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House this evening to talk about a question period from last May.

It was a question period for the history books. During that question period, we had occasion to ask the same question 17 times, 18 if you include the last question that I had the opportunity to ask the Prime Minister.

Let me provide some context. It is important to know that the Prime Minister is the first sitting prime minister to be scrutinized by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner for his actions. He is being scrutinized, as hon. members will recall, for taking his family on vacation to the Aga Khan's private island.

That question period was memorable because we asked the Prime Minister the same question 18 times. The question was simple: how many times did he meet with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner? The same question was repeated 18 times during one question period, but not once did the Prime Minister see fit to answer it.

To sum up the response I got from him at the time, the Prime Minister told us repeatedly that he was very pleased to work with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner and answer all of her questions. All we wanted to know was how many times he had been required to answer questions from the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. However, despite being asked the same simple question 18 times, not once was the Prime Minister able to answer.

He behaved the same way he did during question period today, when we asked him another question about ethics. We wanted to know how long he had known that the Minister of Finance had not put his family fortune in a blind trust. Today, the Prime Minister used the same technique as he did on May 5. It was not that he could not answer the question, but that he would not. I was very disappointed because I had some friends visiting me here in Ottawa who came to watch question period and listen to the back and forth between the political parties. They expected that a question asked by this side would be answered by that side.

Again today, the Prime Minister avoided the question seven or eight times, if not more, and he failed to address our concerns. It is no wonder Canadians are feeling cynical about what goes on in the House of Commons.

The Prime Minister thought it would be a good idea for him to take all of the questions from the opposition every Wednesday. That is an excellent initiative. The only problem with the Prime Minister's decision is that he is supposed to actually answer all the questions, and not simply say whatever he wants any time a member asks a question. That is what happened again today, and that is what happened back in May when the Prime Minister failed to answer a simple question on 18 separate occasions, the question being how many times he had met with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.

I hope the parliamentary secretary will finally be able to answer that question this evening, once and for all. How many times did the Prime Minister meet with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner?

EthicsIndigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I wish I had more time to expand on the remarks of my colleague and friend from across the way.

I can somewhat recall the incident back in May. I know there was at least one and possibly even a couple of opportunities where the official opposition had been offered the opportunity to ask question after question of the Prime Minister. When I think of those days back, there was a lot of discussion about many different topics. It is unfortunate that the Conservatives would ask the question once, hear the answer and because they do not like the answer, they ask it again and again. It is not like we are not answering the question. They might not like the answer they are receiving, so they persist on asking the very same question. They might tweak it a bit here or there, or something of that nature.

It is important that we put this into perspective, so let me give a different perspective for the member to hopefully appreciate.

All 338 members of Parliament are obligated to meet with or have discussions with the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, including me and the member across the way. Individual members of Parliament will correspond with that office. They might be in communication in different ways. I suspect it is a very busy office, not only because of the Liberals but because of the Conservatives and New Democrats as well. On any given week or month, MPs are advancing issues or the commissioner might be looking into an MP. It is not just the government of the day. This one happens to be the Prime Minister as has been the case of others members on all sides of the House.

The member is saying, “We want this.” Yesterday, those members were saying that they wanted everything the Minister of Finance ever provided to the commissioner. Before they wanted to know everything about the Prime Minister. Where does the questioning stop? It could be endless. Why does the opposition not say let us skip the commissioner and get everything possible tabled in the House so Canadians can go through every document of the 338 representatives?

We have faith in the Ethics Commissioner. That is her job. Mary Dawson has done a good job of ensuring there is a sense of independence. We know the Conservative Party does not like it when this government does positive things for Canada's middle class. When we increased the taxes on Canada's wealthiest, what did the Conservatives do? They got mad and voted against it. When we gave a tax break to Canada's middle class, what did the Conservatives do? They got mad and voted against it. It was the same over the last number of weeks with respect to the issue of tax fairness. The Conservatives do not want tax fairness, so they continuously yell and scream from their seats, saying that they do not like it.

Therefore, why would we have confidence and trust in the Conservatives calling for something when we have an independent officer who has the confidence of at least the government of the day, and I would like to think of all members?

EthicsIndigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, if the Liberals have faith in the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, why will the Prime Minister not meet with her? Why will the Prime Minister not tell us how many times he has met with her?

I will now be able to say that we asked this question 19 times. It was 18 before, but this makes 19 times now that the government has refused to tell us how many times the Prime Minister met with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.

Once again, we see that this government's hallmark is avoiding the question. When we ask how many meetings took place, the answer should not be about taxes or other such things. We expect the response to be a number, such as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 or zero.

EthicsIndigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, what it all boils down to from my perspective is whether the member has confidence in the commissioner. Does he have confidence in Mary Dawson doing what she has been charged to do?

EthicsIndigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

We do.

EthicsIndigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

We do, Mr. Speaker, and the member said that he does too. I am glad to hear that. We should respect the process in place to deal with the types of issues the opposition has been raising. Therefore, if one has confidence in it, as the member across the way said he does, then let us accept the process and move on to talk about the issues Canadians want us to talk about.

What is more important than serving Canada's middle class and those aspiring to be a part of it, and all of those individuals who will benefit from fantastic program enhancements, whether the guaranteed income supplement, the Canada child benefit program, or the CPP enhancement over the coming years, not to mention all of those other issues? This is what Canadians want us to be talking about.

Foreign AffairsIndigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise to follow up a question that I had an opportunity to ask directly of the Prime Minister on May 10 about the crisis affecting the Rohingya. At the time, of course, it was before this issue had entered into the media and public discussion to the same level it has since then. However, even then, and in fact even a year before that, we were calling for a strong response to the escalation, which could well have been called “ethnic cleansing”. We have now described the situation as a genocide.

I asked the Prime Minister at that time if he was prepared to personally contact Aung San Suu Kyi and push her to step up, allow access to Rakhine, and stop the ongoing slaughter of Muslim Rohingya. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister did not respond to that question but said:

Mr. Speaker, this government is extremely concerned with the human rights abuses in the news coming out of Myanmar. We know we have a tremendous amount of work to do around the world to promote values Canadians stand for so strongly. Making use of the connections we have with Canadians around the world is going to be an effective way of continuing to impress upon the world the values Canada stands for. The values of openness, respect, tolerance, and defence of human rights remain a priority for all of us.

Oftentimes, and certainly at that time, we get these kind of general statements, expressions of aspirations, but it took until this fall, as far as we know at least, for that direct contact to be made. Of course, we also need to see direct engagement with Min Aung Hlaing, the commander in chief. Burma has a divided government system, but, nonetheless, we continue to contend that Aung San Suu Kyi needs to do more.

Following up this question of mine from May reminds me, and I think it should remind the House, of the fact that we did not get a response from the Prime Minister and the government at the time to our direct and important questions on the need to engage. We have seen more action this fall, since the current escalation of the problem, as well as the attention paid to it, but our view is that it has been much later than it should have been and much more action is still needed.

I would ask the parliamentary secretary a number of follow-up questions. Technically speaking, these are not specifically the earlier questions that we asked, but ones I have asked in question period more recently with respect to Rohingya that have not received answers thus far.

We submitted an Order Paper question on this today and I hope that we will at least get an answer in writing, but I would like to know if the government's much-vaunted Office of Human Rights, Freedoms and Inclusion has been at all engaged with the situation. We had an office of religious freedom in place that was actively engaged. Former ambassador for religious freedom, Andrew Bennett, despite no longer being with the Government of Canada has continued to be vocal on this issue. The government has said that this new office was notionally replacing in some ways the function of the previous office of religious freedom. Therefore, I would like to know what this office is doing to engage with and promote a change in direction in Burma.

I would also like to know if the government has been willing to engage China directly on its obstruction of progress on this issue at the UN Security Council. Again, I have asked this question before and have not gotten an answer to it in question period. Therefore, I would like to know about the engagement with China. Also, I had asked earlier about why the Prime Minister did not raise this issue at the UN General Assembly.

However, if we can at least get some response with respect to the Office of Human Rights, Freedoms and Inclusion and with respect to engagement with China, I think it would be very helpful—

Foreign AffairsIndigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Foreign AffairsIndigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

October 18th, 2017 / 7:30 p.m.

Mississauga Centre Ontario

Liberal

Omar Alghabra LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Consular Affairs)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for raising this important matter. I share his deep concern. Every human deserves dignity and respect for their rights. What is happening right now in the state of Rakhine in Myanmar is horrendous. About 600,000 Rohingyas have been displaced and have now moved into neighbouring Bangladesh. There is an ongoing humanitarian disaster.

There is ongoing violence, and our government has been out in front of this issue. We have called this crimes against humanity and we have called it ethnic cleansing. We have been seized by the matter, and we have been active on this file.

Let me also respond to my hon. colleague and correct one thing. When Aung San Suu Kyi visited Canada in June, the Prime Minister met with her and raised the issue of the Rohingyas and other minorities in Myanmar. He expressed to her the concerns of many Canadians, including the concerns of my hon. colleagues in the House of Commons, about what is happening there. I agree that things have escalated since August. We have been a global leader in calling this ethnic cleansing for what it is.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs has spoken with like-minded countries, with her colleagues, with other ministers around the world, working together on finding ways to address this. The Prime Minister directly also called Aung San Suu Kyi to remind her that the responsibility for ending this violence lays squarely on the shoulders of the military and the civilian government, and that we, as government and Canadians, are very much concerned about what is happening there. We want to see the violence stopped. We also want to see access to the Rakhine state and to the region by humanitarian aid organizations, by fact-finding missions, so they can tell us what is happening on the ground.

Our ambassador recently joined a delegation of other ambassadors to visit the region of Rakhine, again to emphasize and to clearly indicate that Canada is interested in what is happening there. We want to see an end to the violence. We have also committed more than $30 million this year to offer humanitarian aid to the Rohingyas in Bangladesh and in Myanmar.

The Prime Minister has written an open letter to Aung San Suu Kyi reminding her of her moral responsibility and grave responsibility to end the violence. The Minister of Foreign Affairs has spoken to the military commander of Myanmar to tell him that Canadians expect the violence to end, that our government will continue to push for an end to this disaster and to get to the bottom of the root causes and resolve them.

Foreign AffairsIndigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to highlight a number of points in terms of questions that I would like to see addressed. I know that the minister has spoken about crimes against humanity, and I know she has used the words “ethnic cleansing”. Certainly one of the things I have heard from Canadian communities on this issue is people using the word “genocide”, because it carries a particular legal meaning. I think the evidence is quite clear in this case. We have every indication of an effort by a government to remove a population from an area, and that is the definition of genocide according to the convention.

I wonder if the government or the parliamentary secretary is prepared to use that word. I want to ask about what engagement there has been from the Office of Human Rights, Freedoms and Inclusion. I want to ask about engagement with China on this issue and about the willingness of the Prime Minister to speak about this at the United Nations. These are important points that will help us move forward on this issue.

Foreign AffairsIndigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.

Liberal

Omar Alghabra Liberal Mississauga Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, we will continue to push for access to the state of Rakhine for independent, fact-finding missions to tell us what is happening and what is going on. We need to rely on their testimony. We need to rely on their findings. As the hon. member knows, the label “genocide” carries legal consequences. We need to take that seriously. We are certainly looking at this and we want to see facts. We want to see independent bodies have access to the region.

I totally sympathize with my colleague's desire to find out a lot of details about what is going on. I have the privilege of being part of a government that is doing a lot of work. Sometimes speaking publicly about the work we are doing may undermine our efforts.

I ask my hon. colleague to stay tuned. More is coming.

Foreign AffairsIndigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

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 7:37 p.m.)