House of Commons Hansard #211 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was businesses.


The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill S-232, An Act respecting Canadian Jewish Heritage Month, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canadian Jewish Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the member for York Centre for sponsoring Bill S-232 to establish Canadian Jewish heritage month.

Preparing for this debate has made me think about what we would be celebrating, how we would be doing that, and that it would mean different things for different people, which is what I find so exciting about having Canadian Jewish heritage month. It would give us an opportunity to explore and learn more about our rich Jewish heritage here in Canada. When I think about Canadian Jewish heritage, I think about our history, food, and some strong Jewish women who have paved the way for us.

On the history, I recently discovered that only a few blocks away from my home are two of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in Toronto. These are two small, fairly nondescript cemeteries we might not normally notice, but I am hoping that having a month like Canadian Jewish heritage month will give us an opportunity to learn more about these hidden spaces. One of the cemeteries is located on Pape Avenue, just south of Gerrard, behind the Matty Eckler Recreation Centre. This was the first Jewish cemetery in all of Toronto. It was established in 1849, before we even had the first synagogue in the city of Toronto. Its administration was taken over by the Holy Blossom Temple, and it has been closed since 1930. However, if members are walking along Pape Avenue behind the Matty Eckler Recreation Centre, they should take a peek, because it a little piece of our history.

The other historical cemetery is on Jones Avenue just south of Strathcona Avenue. As we walk along Jones Avenue, we can see some Hebrew writing on a wall, but otherwise we might not notice it is there. This is the second oldest Jewish cemetery in the city of Toronto. It was bought as farmland in 1883, and it was consecrated in 1896. It is where the city's first Orthodox Jewish rabbi, Joseph Weinrib, is buried. This cemetery is still in operation but on a very limited basis. In fact, the last burial was in 2008.

There are parts of our history that are also going to take us a moment to challenge the way we see our Canadian history and our path forward. When I say this, I think about the St. Louis, on which more than 900 Jewish refugees fleeing the Second World War were seeking refuge in Canada in 1939. This story is fairly well known. We have talked about it here. The boat was turned away, because the feeling at the time in Canada was that none was too many. This is a dark moment for Canadian history, but I would like to bring us back to my community. There is a beautiful narrative arc to this story.

I recently learned that one of the survivors of the St. Louis made it to Canada and had a family, and members of her family are part of the Danforth Jewish Circle in my community. I see beautiful light in this story, and where we can learn lessons from our history is that the Danforth Jewish Circle has been active in sponsoring a Syrian refugee family. Therefore, we see this wonderful story of our own history of many Jewish people coming here as refugees and now returning that circle in sponsoring people and welcoming them to our country. I had the opportunity to meet the family that was sponsored, and they are flourishing due to their own hard work but also because of the support they are receiving from the community. Therefore, in retelling our history as part of Canadian Jewish heritage month, we also have an opportunity to learn from our lessons from the past and see how we can pave a better future going forward.

As a Canadian Jewish woman, I am proud of some of the strong Jewish women who have come before me and formed part of our heritage. The heritage committee, on which I sit, recently did a study on women and girls in sports, and that was tabled in the House quite recently.

When we look at women and girls in sports, we owe a lot to the leadership of female Jewish athletes. I recently got the updatedBook of Lists,, and in it I was happy to see that Abby Hoffman was included in Lanni Marchant's seven gritty and groundbreaking athletic performances by women. She says that when Abby was nine, she wanted to play in a boys' hockey league, so she cut her hair short and registered as Ab Hoffman. She was known for her speed, skills, and determination that matched her better than those of the boys with whom she played. She went on to compete in four Olympic Games between 1964 and 1976, and medaled at the Pan Am Games.

Abby's efforts helped to open the University of Toronto's Hart House to women after initially being an all-male facility, and that was a big change. She is part of the reason women can now be at Hart House. At the 1976 summer Olympics in Montreal, she was also the first woman to carry the Canadian flag in the Olympic opening ceremonies.

I would like to do a shout-out to take a moment to recognize some strong Canadian Jewish women who have contributed. I would like to talk about another strong Jewish woman, Justice Rosalie Abella of our Supreme Court of Canada. She was born as a refugee in Germany, coming to Canada following the Second World War, and now she serves on our highest court. Her story is inspirational. This year, she was named the Global Jurist of the Year for her defence of human rights. We need to recognize some of the strong Jewish women whom we have in our community, and that will be at the centre of so many of our stories when we are looking at Canadian Jewish heritage month.

It might be because of the hour of this debate and feeling a bit peckish at the moment, but I cannot talk about Jewish heritage without talking about food. Food is at the heart of any culture. One of my favourite Jewish foods, one that has an important part in Canadian Jewish heritage, is bagels. All through university when I studied at McGill, my late-night snack was at St-Viateur Bagel down the street. It was right around the corner from me. To this day, I love Montreal bagels.

Bagels are a Canadian Jewish treat. I tried to track down the history of the Montreal bagel, only to discover that it is shrouded in mystery and controversy. Who knew? The Canadian Encyclopedia says:

The Montréal bagel is one of Canada's most iconic and coveted snacks. Its origins are contested and murky.

Food and controversy: that piques my interest. I am not going to be able to resolve that controversy tonight, but I can let members know a bit about the history.

Some say that bagels were brought to Montreal by Chaim Seligman, who helped to set up St-Viateur Bagel bakery. That was where I bought my bagels during my university years. Others say it was Isadore Shlafman, who was the person who started the Fairmount Bagel bakery, another popular bagel shop, which continues to be managed by the same family. For the record, I also enjoy Fairmount bagels. It is just that they were a little farther from my apartment.

When we look at the history, we see the story of the establishment of the St-Viateur Bagel bakery is not at all murky, and it tells a touching story. The history draws a story of moving from a place of adversity to building a better future in Canada. The shop founder, Myer Lewkowicz, grew up in a shtetl near Krakow, Poland. He was sent to Buchenwald concentration camp in 1942. Heartbreakingly, he apparently told a high school class about his experience at the concentration camp by saying, “At Buchenwald, all I dreamt of was a piece of bread.” After the war, he remained in Germany until 1952, when he was discovered by Jewish Immigrant Aid Services of Canada and moved to Montreal. In Montreal, he got a job at a bagel bakery on Saint-Laurent, and in 1957 he set up the St-Viateur Bagel shop with Mr. Seligman. That is how we have the shop today.

When we celebrate, we celebrate people, we celebrate food, we celebrate moments in our history, and we take our lessons forward. There are so many aspects of Canadian Jewish heritage that we could focus upon once this bill passes to recognize Canadian Jewish heritage month. I touched on a few parts, but the magic to me is that the establishment of this month would allow us to learn so much more. I would like to take a moment to thank the member for York Centre once again for bringing us this opportunity. I look forward to it.

Canadian Jewish Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of Bill S-232, a bill that proposes to establish the month of May as Jewish heritage month.

I want to discuss the Jewish history in Edmonton and particularly in my riding of Edmonton West.

I want to thank Debbie Shoctor and the Jewish Archives and Historical Society of Edmonton for their work in gathering together the history of Jewish Edmontonians. It is from this work that much of my speech is drawn or plagiarized.

This legislation is important to me as the member of Parliament representing Edmonton West, because two of the Jewish congregations in Edmonton, Beth Israel Synagogue and the Chabad Lubavitch, are in my riding. The two rabbis, Rabbi Friedman at Beth Israel and Rabbi Ari Drelich at Chabad, I count as two of my closest friends.

It is important to recognize as well the work of Rabbi Friedman as the council chair of the National Holocaust Memorial that just opened. Rabbi Friedman, who is the grandson of Holocaust survivors, chaired the National Holocaust Monument Development Council, which raised $4.5 million for the design and construction of the monument.

Of the museum, Rabbi Friedman said, “It has been a very long work in progress, but we have reached the goal: It’s something I’m very proud of. It really symbolizes who we are as Canadians.” I thank Rabbi Freidman for his work.

Given the history of the Jewish people in Edmonton and the prominent role that Beth Israel and the Chabaud play in the community, I am pleased that this legislation passed the Senate unanimously, and I hope that my colleagues will do the same here.

Now, on to the history.

Abraham and Rebecca Cristall, Edmonton's first Jews, arrived in 1893, just a year after Edmonton was incorporated as a town. Their children, George and Rose, were the very first Jewish children born in Edmonton. Abe became a successful businessman and helped to bring more Jews over from his native Bessarabia.

Right from the beginning, the Jewish people played an integral part in the growth of Edmonton, dating back almost to the city's founding over a century ago.

In 1905, William "Boss" Diamond came to Edmonton after coming to join his brother Jacob, Alberta's first Jewish citizen, in Calgary. Even back then we had a rivalry with Calgary, and I will grant Calgary that point.

Together with eight other men, Boss Diamond and Abe CristaIl formed the Edmonton Hebrew Association in 1906. They hired Rabbi Hyman Goldstick of Pilton, Latvia to be rabbi for both the Edmonton and Calgary Jewish communities.

In 1907, Abe Cristall purchased land on the south side for a Jewish cemetery and the Chevra Kadisha was formed.

In 1912, the foundations were laid for the Beth Israel Synagogue on the corner of 95th Street and Rowland Road. Abe CristaII served as the first president, and William “Boss” Diamond served as the second, a position he held for 31 years.

In 1912, the Edmonton Talmud Torah Society was founded, with classes being held in the basement of the synagogue.

In 1925, the society erected its own building on Jasper Avenue, and it was incorporated as the very first Hebrew day school in all of Canada.

Note that it was not in Calgary.

One of my good friends Jamie and her husband Jonah have a young son named Benjamin. Jamie and Jonah plan on sending Ben to Talmud Torah for his education at this century-old institution, an example of the continuation of the work begun by Abe CristalI so long ago.

In 1928, a second congregation was started in the basement of the Talmud Torah building, which later became the Beth Shalom congregation.

A few years later, it was formally organized and they engaged Rabbi Jacob Eisen, who became the first English-speaking rabbi west of Winnipeg.

Also at that time, the new Yiddish school was opened in downtown Edmonton, enjoying a brief heyday before it had to close just before the war.

In 1938, just before the start of World War II, a 13-year old boy named Peter Owen became the only Jewish child let into Canada alone during the war years by a special order in council. He was sponsored by Edmonton lawyer H.A. Friedman, and was adopted by the family, eventually becoming a prominent lawyer himself and a permanent resident of the city.

By 1941, Edmonton's population had increased to 94,000, and the Jewish population stood at just below 1,500.

During World War II, 120 men and women from Edmonton's Jewish community served, with 11 of them giving their lives for our country.

The post-war years saw rapid growth in both the Jewish and general population of Edmonton. As a result, a new Beth Shalom Synagogue was built on Jasper Avenue. A new Beth Israel Synagogue building was constructed in 1953, as well as a new Talmud Torah building that same year, reflecting the population shift of the Jewish community from downtown to the west end.

In 1954, the Edmonton Jewish Community Council was formed as an umbrella organization for the community and served as such for the next 28 years. Later it merged with the Edmonton United Jewish Appeal and became the Jewish Federation of Edmonton, which still serves today.

Edmonton's booming oil-based economy brought increased Jewish immigration over the next two decades, with major influxes from other provinces in Canada as well as from places such as Hungary, Russia, and South Africa. The Jewish population tripled in size from 1951 to 1991 and now stands at about 6,000 people, many of whom reside in my constituency of Edmonton West.

All these new immigrants brought with them the organizations that contribute to Edmonton's vibrant Jewish community. The community's third congregation, Temple Beth Ora Reform congregation, was founded in 1979 and is housed in the Jewish Community Centre. Beth Tzedek, a new conservative congregation and offshoot of Beth Shalom, was started in 1989 and holds services at the Talmud Torah. In 1999, a new building for the Edmonton Talmud Torah was built in west Edmonton, and the very next year, a new Beth Israel Synagogue was built nearby, reflecting a further shift in the population of the Jewish community from downtown to west Edmonton.

In the fall of 2004, Edmonton elected its first Jewish mayor, Stephen Mandel. Mr. Mandel had previously served as a city councillor, continuing a long tradition of Jewish city councillors, including Dr. Morris Weinlos, Helen Paull, Mel Binder, Karen Leibovici, Tooker Gomberg, and Michael Oshry.

There has always been a strong tradition of civic involvement in the Edmonton Jewish community, with members serving on the boards and executives of many local arts, cultural, educational, and fundraising organizations as well as in the judiciary. Notable community leaders over the years include Tiger Goldstick; Joe Schoctor; the Ghermizian family, of course, of the West Edmonton Mall; and Darryl Katz, owner of our beloved Edmonton Oilers.

The Jewish Archives and Historical Society of Edmonton and Northern Alberta was founded in 1996 to preserve and promote the history of the vibrant Jewish community. I must thank it again for supplying much of the history I have just walked the House through.

I would also like to address the specific importance of a Jewish heritage month to acknowledge not only the contributions of Jewish Canadians to Canadian society but also the importance of teaching Jewish history to our younger generations, who will now be at least two generations removed from the horrors of the Holocaust and the Second World War. I make these comments in light of the recent anti-Semitic rallies in Charlottesville, which my Jewish friends described as sad but not surprising, as well as the growing strength of the BDS movement on our university campuses.

Hate crimes against those of the Jewish faith are still the highest per capita in Canada. A hate crime is a hate crime is a hate crime, and any number of hate crimes greater than zero is too many. We must not ignore crimes committed against one group. Otherwise, we normalize the hatred.

We see evidence of this attitude in the treatment of the BDS movement in this place. When a motion was brought forward to condemn the BDS movement in Canada, I was shocked that many in the House refused to vote for the motion to condemn BDS. The boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement makes little effort to separate the Israeli government from those of the Jewish faith, and consequently, treats them as one and the same. It is fair to criticize the policy decisions of the government of the day, which we do in this place all the time. It is unacceptable to treat those of a certain faith as the same as a certain government. BDS fails to make this distinction and encourages unchecked hatred across Canada.

This summer I travelled to Auschwitz and saw first-hand this monument to human tragedy. I want to share with the House the overwhelming emotion I felt when I visited the death camp. I was struck by the simple mechanics of the Holocaust, the cold and mechanical efficiency of the Nazi genocide machine.

My son and I travelled to Warsaw as well, and we visited the site of the old ghetto. The destruction was so thorough that no buildings remain, just a small portion of the wall the Nazis built around the ghetto. My son has just entered university to study poli-sci, and I am glad he will be able to gain a necessary perspective about world history and the capability of humankind to commit truly unspeakable atrocities.

The BDS movement is particularly active in Canadian universities, and I am glad there will be one more educated voice on campus fighting this insidious form of anti-Semitism.

We cannot allow the atrocities of the past to be repeated. Remembering the contributions of the Jewish people to our country is a good step toward combatting anti-Semitism today. I am thankful for the contributions to Edmonton and to Canada by those of the Jewish faith. I am proud to stand today to support this motion to establish the month of May as Jewish heritage month.

Canadian Jewish Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

October 3rd, 2017 / 6:45 p.m.


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Mr. Speaker, I, too, want to start by thanking the member for York Centre for sponsoring this bill to recognize May as Canadian Jewish heritage month.

Perhaps it is a surprise to some listeners that one of the three Victoria MPs is speaking to the bill. When it comes to thinking about Judaism in Canada, Greater Victoria is not often the first place Canadians think of, given the very large Jewish communities in both Toronto and Montreal. It may surprise listeners to learn that Victoria has both the oldest and the newest synagogues in Canada.

Congregation Emanu-El Jewish synagogue located in downtown Victoria, while not technically the first synagogue in Canada, is certainly the oldest in western Canada. Having been founded in 1863, it is the oldest synagogue in continuous operation in Canada, now more than 154 years.

Congregation Emanu-El marked its 150th anniversary in 2013, with the return of its Torah scrolls which had been sent to London for restoration. These two scrolls, which contain the five books of Moses written on calf skin in Hebrew, are known to have originally arrived in Victoria via San Francisco more than 150 years ago, but their origin has remained a mystery.

When they were sent out for restoration, analysis of the scrolls, especially features such as the stitching and the thread work, as well as the calligraphy, helped scholars determine they were more than 300 years old, and the style of calligraphy meant they were likely produced in Germany.

An interesting side note on the restoration of the Victoria Torah was the key role of Avielah Barclay, who grew up in Victoria, and was inspired by the age of the Torah in her local synagogue. As a result, she went to Israel to find a Hebrew ritual scribe, known as a sofer, who would mentor her as a woman.

In doing so, she thus became, not the first woman sofer, but perhaps the first in 250 years. I understand there are now 10 women studying to become a sofer, accepting the challenge not only to learn the more than 4,000 rules for writing a Torah, but also to understand the import of those rules and annotations, and the background that accompanies each of the handwritten Torah.

The first Jews came to Victoria with the gold rush in the 1850s, and by the end of that decade, there were more than 200 Jews living in Victoria. Their first community project, as in many communities, was the establishment of a Jewish cemetery in 1860, a cemetery which still serves the community to this day.

The Congregation Emanu-El came together in 1862, and shortly thereafter, in 1863, purchased the site for the synagogue and began construction. Congregation Emanu-El has been on the same site since 1863. The building was restored in a five-year project from 1978 to 1983, and then expanded with a new addition in 2004, all the while keeping its very prominent place in downtown Victoria and its status as the oldest house of worship of any kind in British Columbia.

Rabbi Harry Brechner has been the rabbi at Congregation Emanu-el since 2001. It has been a great pleasure and privilege for me to get to know him and his congregation better over my time as an MP, although the synagogue is located in the adjoining riding.

Today, perhaps, I am going to focus a bit too much on bricks and books history, but having returned just recently from Eastern Europe, where so many million Jews died in the Holocaust, I cannot help thinking how all the great post-war accomplishments of Jewish society and culture have come in the face of the enormous challenges of ongoing anti-Semitism and in the shadow of the Holocaust.

As I mentioned, as well as having the oldest synagogue in Canada, Greater Victoria is home to Canada's newest synagogue, located just on the boundary of my riding. I was pleased to attend the cornerstone laying for the Chabad Centre for Jewish Life and Learning. on August 24, 2016. I was awed to see the $3 million project completed just one year later, with the opening of the centre which contains a synagogue, Hebrew school, library, kosher kitchen, and much-needed day care.

As Rabbi Meir Kaplan came to Victoria to establish the Chabad congregation, based on Hasidic traditions and an outreach model, only 16 years ago, the accomplishment is truly amazing. As well as being the newest synagogue in Canada, the Chabad Centre will soon have the newest Torah in Canada.

In June of this year the community held a ceremony to celebrate the beginning of the writing of a new Victoria Torah, a very special ceremony which I was privileged to attend. The process will continue in Jerusalem and is expected to be completed sometime in 2018, as a result of generous financial support from the community, and in particular, generous support from Dr. Stan Shortt and Mrs. Lindy Shortt, who have dedicated this Torah in memory of their grand grandparents, Herschel and Sarah Gassner, and Moshe and Rushka Kleinwachs.

As their member of Parliament, I was very honoured to be asked to contribute to the project by writing one letter in this new Torah, though this took place under the firm guidance of a sofer who allowed me to place my hand on his as we wrote the letter together, because if I made a mistake, I would have to start over.

It may seem strange that I am saying so few words today about the contributions of the Jewish community of greater Victoria when there have been so many. Every place I go in the community, where there is a need, the Jewish community is present, whether in the charitable or volunteer sector, or public life where Jews serve as elected representatives, or work as teachers, professors, scholars, artists, or business people.

I know that one of my colleagues pointed out that Victoria MP Henry Nathan, elected in 1872, was the first Jewish MP to take a seat in the House. Not only does Victoria have the oldest synagogue, but also had the first Jewish MP.

Let me take a moment to draw attention to three contemporary members of the Jewish community in Victoria. First, I want to acknowledge former B.C. Premier Dave Barrett, the first Jewish premier in Canada and first MP to hold the federal seat I was first elected to, Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.

Second, I want to mention the woman who I think is the greatest painter Victoria has ever produced, Phyllis Serota, and no, I have not forgotten Emily Carr.

Last and less likely to be famous, as he is a teacher, is my friend and former colleague at Camosun College, Peter Maidstone, who mentored and inspired hundreds of students in sociology and Pacific Rim studies in a teaching career spanning three decades at Camosun.

I will stop with these three examples of contributions to our community both because my time in the House is, as always, limited and because this to me is the purpose of Jewish heritage month as we go forward, to celebrate the many contributions of Jews to our communities and Canada as a whole.

Again today I have emphasized the long presence of the Jewish community in Victoria. Just as mainstream Eurocentric views of the building of Canada almost always leave out first nations, they also cause us to think of all ethnic groups as somehow newcomers and as other than Canadian and, therefore, as somehow less important or less legitimate. Whether we are talking about the Victoria synagogue that predates Confederation or the more than century old Victoria Sikh temple, greater Victoria has always been a multi-ethnic, multicultural community, even if we have not always succeeded in being a fully inclusive society.

It is my hope and belief that the creation of Jewish heritage month will help contribute to better understanding of just how diverse we Canadians are, and in doing so contribute to building a Canada free from hatred and division.

Canadian Jewish Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Resuming debate.

I invite the hon. member for York Centre for his right of reply. The hon. member has up to five minutes for his remarks.

The hon. member for York Centre.

Canadian Jewish Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


Michael Levitt Liberal York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to reflect on the importance of the Canadian Jewish heritage month act in the closing minutes of this debate. I would like to thank colleagues from all sides of the House, particularly the members for Thornhill and Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, for their strong support of this bill. I also want to thank members of the Jewish community across Canada who have approached me and expressed their gratitude for presenting this bill in the House. Lastly, I want to thank my co-sponsor, Senator Frum, who did the invaluable legislative legwork shepherding this bill through the other place so it could be before us tonight. None of this would be possible, though, without the groundwork laid by the former member for Mount Royal, the Hon. Irwin Cotler, who originally introduced the substance of this bill in 2015. I dedicate my efforts on this bill in his honour.

This is the time of year that is very special for Jewish Canadians. Last Saturday was Yom Kippur. Two weeks ago was Rosh Hashanah, and this week will mark the festival of Sukkot. I cannot think of a better time for us to be debating this bill, as Jewish Canadians in communities across Canada come together to celebrate with friends and family.

Last week we saw the Prime Minister inaugurate the national Holocaust monument here in Ottawa. The monument serves to honour the victims of the Holocaust and to remind us of the important lessons it so painfully taught us all. As the Prime Minister noted in his remarks, the history of the Jewish community in Canada has not always been bright. In 1939, under Canada's infamous “none is too many policy”, the Government of Canada turned away the MS St. Louis. There were more than 900 Jewish refugees on board seeking sanctuary here in Canada. Government sanctioned anti-Semitism forced them to return to Europe, where 254 of them were murdered in the Holocaust, many at the infamous Auschwitz death camp. This uncomfortable truth is part of our history, and one we cannot turn away from.

However, the Holocaust monument stands for so much more. It also stands as a testament to the resilience and courage of Holocaust survivors. Many found a home in a more tolerant Canada and profoundly shaped our country and society. It is a source of pride that my riding of York Centre became home to so many Holocaust survivors who built new lives there.

By enacting a Jewish heritage month, we can preserve their legacies as a lesson to all Canadians, from all faiths and backgrounds, of the consequences of hate and intolerance. Canada and the Canadian Jewish community serve as a testament to the values of tolerance and pluralism. These lessons were not learned the easy way, but tragedies like the MS St. Louis demonstrate to us the need for compassion and understanding.

Even today our society faces the challenges brought by bigotry and xenophobia. Canada is not immune to anti-Semitism, the oldest hate of them all. Anti-Semitism does not affect just the Jewish community. It affects all communities and all Canadians. When it comes to hate crime, Jews are the most targeted religious minority in Canada, but Canadians of all backgrounds suffer when their fellow Canadians are targeted for no reason other than their faith.

Our great country, from coast to coast to coast, is an example of how we can build a successful society through inclusion and diversity. Canada itself is a rebuttal to those who would spread hate and intolerance. This year, the 150th anniversary of Confederation, gives Canadians an opportunity to reflect on the society we have built together and to honour the many cultures, traditions, and beliefs that underpin the very foundation of our country.

Jewish Canadians from across Canada have greatly contributed to our nation's successes over the last 150 years, and they will continue to play an important role as our country continues to grow. Their stories are many. As a Scottish Jew who arrived here in 1983, I have met Jewish Canadians from all corners of the world: South Africa, Russia, Israel, Morocco, India, Iran, Argentina, and many other countries. Their histories and experiences shape the Canadian Jewish identity and add to the very fabric of our nation, which is why a bill like this is so important.

The enactment of Canadian Jewish heritage month would ensure that these stories and contributions of Jewish Canadians are recognized, shared, and celebrated across this great country, inspiring all Canadians to build a better, more tolerant Canada for generations to come. This bill demonstrates the principles for which all of us in the House stand, and that is why I ask for all hon. colleagues to stand and support this bill.

Canadian Jewish Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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

Canadian Jewish Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Some hon. members



Canadian Jewish Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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

Canadian Jewish Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canadian Jewish Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canadian Jewish Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canadian Jewish Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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 4, 2017, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

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

TaxationAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.


Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am always very pleased to rise and speak in the House. On September 19, I talked about taxation and the new Liberal tax, as I was calling it. I must say that today, considering some of the meetings I have had since September 19 in my riding and elsewhere, I realized that the government is in a hurry. It is in a hurry and wants to pass legislation. We held a vote earlier to extend the consultations. They voted against the motion, although it made a lot of sense.

This morning we met with the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec, and its representatives are very concerned, just like all chambers of commerce everywhere in Canada.

We were told this morning that the legislation that the Liberals want to bring in will make it harder to transfer businesses from one generation to the next and to keep head offices in Canada. The Minister of Finance said he was open, that he was listening and paying attention to the comments being made. However, that is not what we heard this morning, and I quote:

We have met with the minister several times, but the government seems to be in a hurry to pass this legislation. So far, it has been rather resistant to the suggestions and comments made by entrepreneurs.

It is worrisome. When people come to see us in our ridings or meet us on the street, they do not know what party we belong to and that is just fine.

That is just fine because we were elected to listen to the public. This is a bill that the Liberals want to pass and it is making people anxious not just in Quebec, where I am from, but across the country. On that score, I find that when we ask questions, and I have been in the government, they always answer with the same meaningless talking points.

Could the government, for once, realize that the consultations should have continued because people do not really understand everything that is in this legislative measure? Could the government explain it to the Canadians, SMEs, and entrepreneurs who are scared and give them time to digest and understand this bill?

That is not what the government is doing. It is too bad, but if this keeps up, businesses back home, and I met with about a dozen of them, will move to the United States.

Why? Because they will not be taxed as much there as they are in Canada. We will lose the very businesses that are our bread and butter, the ones that create jobs. That is what I am asking the government to consider.

When the government wants to pass legislation, it has to explain what it is and not just on July 18 at a barbeque when everyone is on vacation and farmers are in the fields. That is unacceptable.

TaxationAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Louis-Hébert Québec


Joël Lightbound LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d'Orléans—Charlevoix for raising this tax equity issue. We held consultations with Canadians, which gave us the opportunity to hear a variety of opinions, from coast to coast to coast.

On the important topic of tax planning using private corporations, the proposals put forward by our government on this issue are at the heart of our plan to help the middle class.

I can hear my colleague complaining, but I have the right to respond in either language. The member will notice that I always answer in French during question period because it is important to me. I will make an effort to speak French since she is asking me to.

Our plan seeks to reduce inequality because we have noticed that some inequities have found their way into our tax system. Our government recognizes that small businesses are at the very heart of our economy and that they create a lot of jobs for the middle class. We are committed to always supporting business owners, no matter what the size of their company, so that they can continue to stimulate the Canadian economy as they have been successfully doing for years.

Our government supports these small businesses, but our tax system is very competitive. We have the lowest small business tax rate in the G7, and that will not change. However, we want to ensure that our tax system is fair.

In budget 2017, the government indicated that it intended to address the issue of tax planning strategies using private corporations. These strategies give wealthy individuals access to tax benefits that are out of reach for the vast majority of Canadians. We have seen that a growing number of Canadians, often high-income individuals, are using private corporations to unfairly reduce their income taxes.

For example, an individual who earns $300,000 per year and has a spouse and two adult children can use a private company to save tax roughly equivalent to the average Canadian income, which is $48,000 per year. We think that is unfair. It was legal and legitimate for Canadians to use this private company provision in the past, but that does not mean it was fair. We want to fix this inequity in our tax system.

That is why, in July, the Minister of Finance launched consultations about tax planning strategies used by private companies. The government's proposed solutions have been the subject of much public comment and debate, and, as we all know, some business owners and incorporated professionals have expressed concern they might be penalized by these measures.

That is why the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Small Business and Tourism went on a cross-Canada tour. They wanted to meet with Canadians to hear about their concerns first-hand. I was a part of that too.

Our government listened to small business owners, middle-class entrepreneurs, professionals, and experts during our consultations and we will take action based on what we heard and people's concerns.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the Canadians who contributed to the conversation. I would also like to thank the member for Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d'Orléans—Charlevoix for her question.

TaxationAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.


Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, when the government launches a consultation in the middle of July, while everyone is on vacation, it is because it has something to hide.

In order to be as transparent as this government claims to be, one would have to hold consultations for much longer than 75 days and make at least some attempt to listen to everyone. Our farmers were out in their fields. They did not have time to attend consultations.

Our constituents have come to us with concerns about this bizarre way of reforming the tax system. I live in the Quebec City area, and I know the Liberal members from my region have been approached on this subject. However, they did not listen to what people told them. I am not making this up. People came and told us this.

There is a problem here. If you want to have an open discussion, you need to be open to what people have to say, whether you agree with it or not. Now these people are scared. I am not talking about one or two people who voted Conservative. I am talking about Canadians across the country, not just in my area.

If the government members went out on the ground, I want a list of everyone they met with, because that is not what people are telling us.

TaxationAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.


Joël Lightbound Liberal Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have to say that I find it a bit rich for a member to criticize us for that while defending a government that held hardly any consultations for 10 years. We held consultations to bring greater fairness to our tax system, to make sure we were doing things properly, and to avoid any undesirable consequences. We heard from farmers, fishers, and business people because we want to make sure we do things right. For example, we want to make sure that intergenerational transfers will not be unfairly affected.

At the same time, we have to understand that our current tax system has incentives that allow some of the wealthiest Canadians to use private corporations to gain tax advantages that the vast majority of Canadians cannot access, such as those I mentioned earlier in my example. I think we can all agree that we want a fairer tax system.

Medical Assistance in DyingAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.


Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, on May 2, I rose in the House to ask questions about the impartiality of the working group set up by the government to study the issue of advance requests and broadening eligibility for medical assistance in dying.

The appointment of Dr. Harvey Schipper as chair of the working group was accepted by the minister, even though Dr. Schipper opposed medical assistance in dying and advance requests.

This appointment was also criticized by several stakeholders. Even though Dr. Harvey Schipper stepped down from his position and was replaced by Marie Deschamps, the issue of medical assistance in dying, and especially advance requests, is still current.

The former health minister, the hon. member for Markham—Stouffville, promised to strike committees to study the issue of incapacity and advance requests, cases where medical assistance in dying was denied and not administered in the past year, and the issue of mature minors, to determine if a minor suffering from an incurable or painful illness can request medical assistance in dying. However, once again, there has been no decisive action from the Liberal government.

Once again, Quebec is ahead of the federal government on this issue. In 2013, it tabled a working group report on incapacity and struck a committee to handle advance requests and broaden eligibility for medical assistance in dying. However, Quebec's efforts are hampered by its compliance with federal legislation, even though it is essential that provinces and territories work in close collaboration with the federal government to avoid an over-hasty approach, as is the case in this situation.

I sat on the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying, and many of our recommendations were not taken into consideration when the federal law was drafted.

I am also concerned about people who are ill and suffering but are no longer able to request medical assistance in dying because they have a mental illness or dementia, such as Alzheimer's-related dementia. A decision needs to be made on the issue of advance consent and whether a person with dementia or mental illness can make an advance request while they are still in full possession of their mental faculties, before the disease progresses.

That is a critical issue that the government must address, particularly following the compassionate killing of Jocelyne Lizotte by her husband. It is also vitally important that citizens have faith in the system and feel as though they have the guidance they need to avoid any possible abuse.

According to Bill C-14, there are many criteria that a person must meet in order to be eligible for medical assistance in dying. For example, they must be at the end of their life, have a serious and incurable illness, be in an advanced state of decline, be enduring physical or psychological suffering, and so on. The most shocking is the criteria of reasonably foreseeable death. The government must clarify that provision, which does not make any sense.

Obviously, we are all going to die one day. The Liberal government is not telling us anything that we do not already know. It is unacceptable that people who are ill have to go back to the courts to assert their right to die in dignity because they do not clearly meet all of the criteria. We must not forget that medical assistance in dying is a right and that those who are ill and suffering and who want to die in dignity do not have the strength to fight for that right.

I am well aware that this is sensitive issue, but doing nothing is not going to solve the problem. When will the Liberal government truly take into account the issues of advance requests, mature minors, and people who are not capable of asking for medical assistance in dying? When will it actually set up those committees? We look forward to seeing results.

Medical Assistance in DyingAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Scarborough Southwest Ontario


Bill Blair LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot for the opportunity to speak on this important issue.

Legislation on medical assistance in dying received royal assent on June 17, 2016. The act is designed to strike a balance between personal autonomy for those seeking access to medical assistance in dying and protection of the vulnerable. We believe our legislation achieves the right balance.

At the same time, our government committed to initiate independent reviews on a select set of complex circumstances that currently fell outside the purview of the existing act.

Specifically, the legislation obligates the ministers of justice and of health to initiate independent reviews of issues relating to requests for medical assistance in dying in relation to advance requests, requests by mature minors, and requests where mental illness is the sole underlying medical condition. As the member opposite has noted, these are sensitive and complex issues that require careful consideration.

On December 13, 2016, our government announced the selection of the Council of Canadian Academies to conduct these reviews. This decision was based on the organization's extensive expertise and demonstrated experience in conducting reviews on complex issues in an objective and rigorous manner. The Council of Canadian Academies is addressing these questions from an independent, authoritative, and evidence-based perspective. This is being done through an expert panel comprised of three working groups, one on each topic. Panel members are experts on the issues raised by the three review topics. Strong leadership is being provided by the chair of the panel, former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Marie Deschamps, and the working group chairs. This includes the new chair for the advance request working group, Dr. Jennifer Gibson, who was selected when the previous chair stepped down.

The objective of the reviews is to gather and analyze relevant information and evidence on the diverse perspectives and issues surrounding the three types of requests not dealt with in the legislation. This evidence will facilitate an evidence-based dialogue among Canadians and decision-makers. To this end, the reports will not provide recommendations but will communicate the findings of the reviews to inform that conversation.

The legislation requires that reports on the reviews be tabled in Parliament within two years of initiation. Our government will fulfill this mandate by making the reports available by mid-December 2018. The time frame identified for these reviews is intentional. These issues raise very serious questions, requiring thoughtful consideration from legal, ethical, medical, and social science perspectives, just to name a few.

Evidence is being considered from national and international experts, all levels of government, health care providers, and others impacted by the issues. In fact, to inform its deliberations, the Council of Canadian Academies put out a call for submissions from interested groups. At the start of the fifth year after coming into force, the legislation calls for a parliamentary committee to undertake a review of its provisions. The findings of the independent reviews will be available for consideration by this parliamentary committee, along with information on the state of palliative care in Canada.

In addition to initiating the independent reviews, our government is also in the process of preparing regulations for the purpose of establishing a system for monitoring medical assistance in dying. We are committed to creating a system in which Canadians have accurate and timely information regarding the implementation of this legislation. Federal officials, in consultation with our provincial and territorial colleagues, are working on the parameters of the monitoring system. This mechanism will provide Canadians with a nationwide picture of medical assistance in dying.

Until a permanent monitoring system is in place, federal, provincial and territorial governments are working collaboratively to produce interim reports with available data. The first report was released in April, and a second report will be released this month.

The well-being of all Canadians is of paramount concern to our government. For this reason, it is important we proceed carefully when determining if and how requests for medical assistance in dying in the three specific circumstances will best fit within the federal framework. These are sensitive issues. We need an approach that supports eligible individuals seeking medical assistance in dying, while also ensuring safeguards are in place. Our primary objective is a system that aims to serve the best interests of all Canadians.

Medical Assistance in DyingAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.


Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, having sat on the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying, I am well aware that it is a sensitive and complex issue. We heard from hundreds of witnesses and I read thousand of pages on the topic. Of course these are sensitive and complex issues.

When the legislation was passed 15 months ago, many people who are suffering were disappointed to learn that they are not eligible. People who are suffering who want to have access to medical assistance in dying are being told they are not entitled to it.

Calls for advance requests from citizens are getting louder, and they are being told to wait even longer. That response was much too theoretical for these people who are suffering and have to wait indefinitely for the government.

Striking a committee to examine advance requests must be made a priority, and we need to hold the government to account now. It is important to realize that we are talking about human lives, people who are sick and suffering, who want to exercise their right to die with dignity. The government must act as soon as possible on the issue of advance requests.

Medical Assistance in DyingAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.


Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge the member opposite and all members who participated in the committee that examined medical assistance in dying for their tireless work, which was very useful in the preparation of the government's legislation on this matter.

Our government believes that the legislation permitting medical assistance in dying strikes the right balance between honouring the choices of eligible individuals while protecting the vulnerable. In keeping with the requirement set out in our legislation, our government initiated independent reviews on three topics that were identified as particularly sensitive and complex and required further examination. These reviews are being conducted by the Council of Canadian Academies. This is an organization with a great deal of expertise and experience in conducting such assessments to support and inform public policy development in Canada. The council has established a panel of skilled and credible experts with the appropriate leadership to ensure there is a comprehensive and rigorous process.

I am confident that the council's assessments will present objective and impartial findings that will support an informed dialogue in this country. We look forward to receiving the results of these reviews by December 2018, and will continue to work on this important issue.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.


Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, when the Liberals formed government, they made a great number of promises with regard to indigenous peoples. They spoke of taking action to address government injustices that have gone on for decades and, in some cases, even centuries.

With the previous government, a great deal of work was done to advance the rights of aboriginal people, including Jordan's principle, which was put in place with unanimous consent across all party lines in the House in 2007. It has been over a decade ago since that was put into place. The current Liberal government has been in power now for more than two years, so the question is what has been done to advance the rights of aboriginal people and uphold Jordan's principle? The answer is quite simple: nothing.

The Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs thought that the best use of her money was to hire the former Liberal candidate for York—Simcoe, Ms. Wesley-Esquimaux, to write a report. One might ask the excellent question of how much she was paid to write this report. She was paid $430,000 for a mere eight months of work on the report. Quick math tells me that that is $53,000 per month, which is not a bad salary. In fact, $53,000 is twice the average yearly salary of most aboriginal people in Canada.

When the head of the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada, Cindy Blackstock, questioned this decision, Ms. Wesley-Esquimaux, the one who was paid $430,000 for eight months of work, accused Ms. Blackstock of using “lateral violence”. She said it would be more respectful to support and congratulate her rather than question the use of the money. She went on to say that if Cindy and her bunch would work together and stop attacking, they would all get along and get more done. That statement is rather rich coming from someone who was paid $430,000 for a mere eight months of work only because she was a Liberal insider.

More than anything, though, this is what I am hearing from Canadians. Canadians are absolutely fed up with the hypocrisy of the current government. The Prime Minister claims to stand up for the middle class, but all he as done for them is increase their taxes and made life far more difficult for them. Most recently, the Liberals have increased taxes on the hard-working women and men who have had a dream, developed a plan, and taken a risk to start a new business and create jobs.

According to Statistics Canada, two-thirds of small business owners in Canada are taking home less than $73,000 per year. This firmly places them in the middle class, the class that the Prime Minister claims he represents and takes a strong stand on. Dan Kelly, the president of the CFIB, states, “The notion that most small business owners are rich, or part of the ‘one per cent’, is pure fiction.”

The Liberal small business tax hikes are, in fact, a direct attack on entrepreneurship and, as such, are a direct attack on the 8.2 million Canadians who are employed by local businesses. What makes this worse is that the Prime Minister had the audacity to refer to small businesses as “tax shelters” and label their owners as “tax cheats”. In truth, most small business owners are within our neighbourhoods. Local businesses are the backbone of our economy. Without their vision and leadership, Canada's economy would stop thriving as the place it is today.

Privately run businesses not only provide jobs to the large majority of Canadians, but also support local charities and play a significant role in supporting the social programs that we enjoy in this country. They are the local accountants, hairdressers, tradespeople, landscapers, coffee shop owners, and farming families in my community of Lethbridge. These individuals are trying to earn a living and provide jobs for others while pursuing a dream and using their talents.

It is rare for someone to be hypocritical, cruel, and blatantly ignorant at the same time, but I am afraid that the Prime Minister and his government have accomplished just that. Whether it is failing to follow through on its promise to stand up for aboriginals or failing to defend the middle class, the government insists on saying one thing and doing another. Why is the government so hypocritical?

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

Labrador Newfoundland & Labrador


Yvonne Jones LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs and the Minister of Indigenous Services

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to recognize that I stand on traditional territory of the Algonquin nation this evening as I respond to the question raised by the member for Lethbridge.

I am somewhat taken aback by the fact that the late show question presented was not regarding tax reform, but rather the overhauling of the child and family services within the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs.

However, I will respond to the original question that was listed on the Order Paper, and that was the question regarding the minister's special representative, Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, who was mandated to conduct a nationwide engagement and to consult on comprehensive child welfare reform. She was mandated to do so because of her expertise within the field.

Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux is a very strong and well-respected indigenous advocate in Canada. She is the very first chair on truth and reconciliation at Lakehead University and has spent her career working tirelessly with and for indigenous people in the country.

During the time she spent working on this important file, she engaged with those who had in the past been typically marginalized in the decision-making process, including first nations youth and families, processes that affected them, as well as grassroots indigenous organizations and advocates. Those are the voices that need to be heard, and that needs to be leading this engagement process.

Dr. Wesley-Esquimaux spent nearly 60 days travelling to communities in Canada. She heard from more than 250 elders, experts, chiefs, families, youth, and individuals who had lived the experience of moving through the system.

We all need to work together to end the cycle of children being taken into care and removed from their communities. It is very concerning that there were perverse incentives in the system where agencies would get the money the more children were apprehended. It should be up to the communities to decide where the money for the system should go. More money for prevention means more money for communities to keep their children within the community, while their parents focus on getting well. The only way to design a system that truly responds to the needs of the communities is by going out and listening to that very community, which is exactly what the special representative did.

In terms of the contract itself, it could not be more straightforward. The Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs followed all of Treasury Board's guidelines and rules. The contract included paying out travel expenses and all the costs associated with the consultations in very northern and remote communities in Canada. The special representative did not ask for, nor did she receive, any payments that were above the norm under the Treasury Board rules.

It is vital that we listen to citizens in our country, no matter where they live. That means going to them and listening r what they have to say, which is exactly what the minister's special representative did. We look forward to seeing her upcoming report and how we can build on those recommendations to create a better child welfare system that supports and reflects the needs of first nations children in Canada.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:30 p.m.


Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, the government sure likes to talk a lot, but when it comes to actually getting work done, its record is not that great.

The Liberals talk a lot about taking action and having plans put in place, but so far all this has meant is spending a whole lot of money in inappropriate ways, in a way that has not had a direct benefit on the people to date. There is no reason why $430,000 should have been given to the Liberal insider, Ms. Wesley-Esquimaux, in the name of so-called consultation. Meanwhile, first nations people continue to go without the adequate support they require for quality of life.

What is particularly troubling about this example is the top-down elitist attitude that is adopted by the former Liberal candidate who was given an extravagant amount of money; again, $430,000 for eight months worth of work.

Does the member opposite then agree that other aboriginal activists should also be congratulating the Liberal insider for her success in using her Liberal connections to land a paycheque worth nearly half a million dollars?