House of Commons Hansard #239 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was finance.

Topics

National Security Act, 2017Government Orders

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The motion is adopted. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

(Motion agreed to and bill referred to a committee)

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

Government AppointmentsAdjournment Proceedings

November 27th, 2017 / 7:20 p.m.

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise again in the House to speak about the position of the Commissioner of Official Languages, which is very important for Canadians across Canada and for official language minority communities.

On June 19, I asked the Minister of Canadian Heritage a question about this. I challenged the Liberal approach to this file, which unfortunately is a real travesty. It was no laughing matter to hear about the appointment of Madeleine Meilleur. I have nothing against her, but this process has been a real farce, and we were not pleased at all. Things were bleak for official language communities. This is what I said on June 19:

...the Liberals' approach to official languages is a joke. The Minister of Canadian Heritage forgot to extend the interim commissioner's mandate. As of Saturday [it had been four days at that point], we no longer have an official languages watchdog. Before that, the Liberals announced the partisan appointment of Madeleine Meilleur with absolutely no regard for the law or Parliament. This is all the doing of a minister who tells us every day that official languages are a priority for the government.

I concluded by asking the following question:

When will the government get serious and respect the Official Languages Act?

Then I had to rise in the House of Commons on a question of privilege because the Minister of Canadian Heritage knew who was going to be the Commissioner of Official Languages, while members of the House and Canadians were kept in the dark as to the identity of the country's official languages watchdog.

Here is why I raised a question of privilege:

...I wish to point out that my parliamentary privileges, and those of the other members of the House, have been violated. The Commissioner of Official Languages reports not only to the government, but also to Parliament. As a result, Parliament must know who the Commissioner of Official Languages is so it can address this individual, ask questions, and receive information. Today, I asked the Minister of Canadian Heritage who the current Commissioner of Official Languages is and at what time we will know when a new Commissioner of Official Languages is appointed. We currently do not know who the official languages commissioner is. Perhaps the government knows, but if we parliamentarians do not know...

Does the government think it is acceptable that Parliament and Canadians were kept in the dark for four days regarding who would be our official languages watchdog?

Government AppointmentsAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

Charlottetown P.E.I.

Liberal

Sean Casey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Madam Speaker, on February 25, 2016, the Prime Minister announced the introduction of a new approach to Governor in Council appointments. The new approach is more open and transparent, representative of Canadian diversity, and merit-based.

The Government of Canada considers the function of the Commissioner of Official Languages to be very important since the incumbent is responsible for enforcing the Official Languages Act across Canada.

Ghislaine Saikaley was appointed acting commissioner on December 19, 2016, to ensure the normal and continued operations of the office of the commissioner until a new commissioner is appointed. Her interim appointment was renewed on June 22, 2017.

On July 28, 2017, the Government of Canada relaunched the recruitment process for the next Commissioner of Official Languages.

We will ensure that we identify the best candidate for this position.

This government sees promoting our official languages from coast to coast as a priority that defines our country and its great diversity.

Government AppointmentsAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Madam Speaker, the Liberals say this is an open and transparent process. However, we were kept in the dark for four days about the identity of the future official languages commissioner.

We demand to know who paid the Boyden recruitment agency to find the new commissioner. Was it the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages that paid, rather than the government? We also demand to know who is on the final committee. Who are these people? Do they have any ties to particular candidates? We do not have their names.

Finally, if this is an open and transparent process, why were the opposition leaders not given the short list of the final candidates? I am not asking for it to be released to the Canadian public at large. The Liberals must answer these questions in order to be open and transparent.

Government AppointmentsAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Madam Speaker, the Government of Canada sees the function of the Commissioner of Official Languages as very important, since it ensures the enforcement of the Official Languages Act in Canada.

We will ensure that we identify the best candidate for this position.

A new commissioner must be appointed before Ms. Saikaley's term as acting commissioner ends, later in December.

Status of WomenAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Speaker, we are now at the beginning of the 16 days of activism to end violence against women.

New Democrats urge the Liberal government to lead a national coordination of policies to end campus sexual assault. More than eight months have passed since the status of women committee unanimously recommended federal action and leadership to end sexual violence on campus.

However, after two years, the government's feminist rhetoric has not translated into action to prevent campus sexual assault, and most recommendations have not been implemented. The government's responses were mostly that these are matters of provincial and territorial responsibility, and maybe they will talk to each other. That is not the kind of action we have seen in other countries and that a truly feminist government would take.

Why is national leadership important? Women and girls continue to face very high levels of violence across the country and, at the same time, front-line organizations have had budget cuts. They do not have reliable operating funding, something we continue to advocate for so they can do their work.

At Nanaimo's Haven Society, since 2014, crisis calls have increased by 53%. As we remove the stigma around women reporting sexual assault, we need to have the concomitant supports for them so they feel supported in coming forward.

At the status of women committee, an overwhelming number of witnesses said there is a particular need for uniformity of policies, justice, and access to service for victims of sexual assault on campus. Students are especially likely to move from province to province at a young age, and especially across the country, and should have an expectation of equal safety. One in five women will experience sexual violence while studying at a post-secondary institution. That is one in five. Young women in Canada continue to face an out-of-touch legal system, fragmented, and often with inaccessible services, as well as inconsistent or non-existent policies in their schools and workplaces.

As the #Me Too campaign continues to show the magnitude of sexual assault in our country, there is Our Turn, which is a fantastic national student-led association advocating for an action plan to end campus sexual violence. This group, Our Turn, graded Canadian universities as a C- for their campus rape policies. We met with them last month, and were very impressed with their work.

The lack of federal leadership to address the inadequacy of sexual assault university policies continues to have devastating impacts for young women on campuses across the country. Our Turn's report highlighted the wide spectrum of trauma experienced by survivors of sexual assault. These are mental health impacts, including depression, anxiety, PTSD, and suicidal thoughts; physical injury; sexually transmitted infections; flashbacks and triggers; changes in how they view trust, and a sense of vulnerability.

We need to re-emphasize the federal government's responsibility here. It would be a national shame for the government to break its promise to make Canada safer for women and girls.

Again I ask, when will this self-proclaimed feminist Prime Minister truly stand up for women and lead this campaign?

Status of WomenAdjournment Proceedings

7:30 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Liberal

Terry Duguid LiberalParliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Madam Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to participate in this adjournment debate during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.

This past weekend, our government teamed up with the Canadian Football League to engage Canadians and highlight the pledge to end gender-based violence. This pledge provides an opportunity for Canadians to amplify their voice on social media and raise awareness for the need to end all forms of gender-based violence, our government's commitment to ensure that all women and girls can live free of violence, which is why we have put in place a multi-faceted approach to deal with this critical issue.

For example, with the implementation of budget 2016 now under way, $89.9 million is being invested over two years to enhance Canada's network of shelters and transition houses through the construction or renovation of over 3,000 shelter spaces off-reserve, with an additional $10.4 million over three years allocated to support the renovation and construction of new shelters for victims of family violence in first nations communities. A further $33.6 million over five years will support shelter operations on-reserve.

These funds were supplemented in budget 2017 by investments in a new national housing fund, with $300 million invested over the next 11 years for northern housing and $225 million invested over the next 11 years for off-reserve indigenous housing, as well as expanding the homelessness partnering strategy, both of which prioritize vulnerable populations, including survivors fleeing family violence.

In June, our Minister of Status of Women announced a plan entitled, “It's Time: Canada's Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence”. This strategy is based on three pillars that will improve Canada's overall response to violence: prevention, support for survivors and their families, and promotion of responsive legal and justice systems. The minister's announcement included important investments as part of a government-wide approach. This includes $100.9 million over five years and $20.7 million per year thereafter to support implementation.

Of this funding, money will go directly to programs that front-line service organizations provide. There will be $77.5 million over five years to Status of Women Canada to include the creation of the gender-based violence knowledge centre, which will collect new data and serve as a hub for sharing information. Additionally, this funding will enhance the ability of service providers to support diverse groups of survivors through funded projects and launch a national dialogue, which engages Canadians in changing the social culture that allows gender-based violence to exist.

Our government has also introduced important steps to address harassment in federal workplaces through proposed amendments to the Canada Labour Code. Each of these actions will help women and girls and, in fact, all of society from coast to coast to coast live violence-free lives.

Status of WomenAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Speaker, I would be interested in hearing the member's numbers on how much of sexual violence shelter renovation money has actually flowed. We have not seen evidence of it yet and I would like to know what has been spent and where.

Organizations in Nanaimo—Ladysmith are doing very powerful work during the 16 days of activism to end violence against women and girls. There is a shoebox program which I know is played out across the whole country. The Nanaimo Women's Resource Centre, Haven Society, and Samaritan House are all beneficiaries when people donate toiletries and other basic supports in a shoebox.

At Vancouver Island University, there is a vigil on December 6 to recognize the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. I applaud those groups and urge the government to work with them and support them in every way it can.

Status of WomenAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.

Liberal

Terry Duguid Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Madam Speaker, again, this government is working in many ways to prevent and address gender inequality and tackle issues like gender-based violence. This includes the women's program at Status of Women Canada by engaging stakeholders at the national, regional, and local levels as they carry out projects that directly impact the lives of women and girls. Many of them are front-line service providers. In fact, 50 projects with $18 million in funding support were recently approved as part of a call for proposals entitled, “funding to advance gender equality”. New funding, under “It's Time: Canada's Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence”, will also go toward grants and contributions to enhance the ability of service providers to support diverse groups of survivors through funded projects.

Many of us on this side of the House will be participating in the shoebox program.

Rail TransportationAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, it is my turn to rise to come back to a rather important subject for the people of my riding of Mégantic—L'Érable, particularly those who live in Lac-Mégantic. As everyone in the House knows, in 2013, they suffered a very serious tragedy, the worst rail disaster in Canadian history.

I am rising to ask the government what it plans to do next, what concrete action it intends to take, to support the people of Lac-Mégantic.

The Eastern Townships public health department has done a lot of research centred on the people of Lac-Mégantic, which has shown they are having a hard time recovering from the tragedy. This is particularly true for young people, who were the focus of the most recent study. We have learned that, unfortunately, more and more young people in Lac-Mégantic are talking about suicide. That was very unexpected, since four years have now passed since the rail disaster, and yet that is what is happening.

The Minister of Transport repeatedly reiterated his support for the people of Lac-Mégantic. We know that every member of the House wants to support the people of Lac-Mégantic.

Members of all parties have asked questions. I collaborated with members of the government on the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities on coming up with solutions. However, what the people of Lac-Mégantic expect today is concrete action.

We have to translate words into a meaningful commitment to build a rail bypass in Lac-Mégantic, and soon. It is time we stopped saying that it is a priority and that we want to find a solution.

Why is this commitment so important? The people need this in order to truly start the healing process. That is where we are right now. As long as we keep saying that we have a priority or that we are waiting for the results of studies, those people will not be able to fully recover from the situation.

If the Liberal government could promise that there actually will be a bypass, no matter how and when it will be built and who will pay for it, that would be a good thing. We are hoping for a commitment that will allow the people of Lac-Mégantic to move forward, work on rebuilding this line, and move the train out of the downtown core.

This would ensure that the people of Lac-Mégantic would no longer hear the train whistle reminding them of this awful tragedy three, four, five, even eight times a day. We want to be able to say that there is finally light at the end of the tunnel because a bypass will be built.

I will repeat my question for the government member and I do so on behalf of other MPs as well. I have been trying to work on this file in a non-partisan manner with government members. However, time is of the essence. The time for civility and co-operation has almost run out. Someone has to make a move, someone has to make a commitment, and the government must stop playing ping-pong with the Government of Quebec and decide who is going to pay and how much.

It is time for someone to make a commitment. I believe the federal government should make a clear announcement as soon as possible that there will be a rail bypass in Lac-Mégantic. This is not for the sake of MPs or politicians, but for the sake of those who survived this disaster, the worst rail disaster in Canada.

Rail TransportationAdjournment Proceedings

7:40 p.m.

Charlottetown P.E.I.

Liberal

Sean Casey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Mégantic—L'Érable for his question.

As the Prime Minister said, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims and all those whose lives were changed because of this tragedy. Four years later, this very tight-knit community continues to show remarkable resilience in the wake of the scars left by these awful events and their traumatic consequences. We are not wavering from our commitment to improve the rail system and to make it safer for similar communities across Canada. This is the top priority of the Minister of Transport.

We are aware of the recent study that was conducted and that shows the long-term impact of the tragedy on the adolescent population. I want to say that our hearts go out to these young people and the entire community. The resilience and strength of this community is remarkable and Lac-Mégantic continues to rebuild itself as a vibrant place to live, work, and visit.

Earlier this year, the Minister of Transport launched a statutory review of Canada's Railway Safety Act a year ahead of schedule. The review will focus primarily on the effectiveness of the federal legislative and regulatory framework around rail safety. On October 26, we closed another chapter of this tragedy following Irving Oil's guilty plea. As part of the court settlement, sanctions will be imposed on Irving, including a $3.6-million investment in safety improvements to ensure that this kind of tragedy never happens again. We are still in the midst of active discussions with the Government of Quebec and the City of Lac-Mégantic regarding plans for a rail bypass. That is why the minister met with the Quebec premier to discuss the rail bypass and the next steps on that file as an equal partner, we hope.

In closing, I want to reiterate that our government is committed to supporting the people of Lac-Mégantic to ensure their well-being and help revitalize their community.

Rail TransportationAdjournment Proceedings

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, I implore the parliamentary secretary to speak on behalf of the people of Lac-Mégantic and give his government the message that, yes, this is a number one priority, and that, yes, the government may be investing in rail safety across Canada, but Lac-Mégantic's situation is unique. What happened in Lac-Mégantic deserves more than a one-line answer saying that rail safety must be improved all across Canada. The situation in Lac-Mégantic needs to be addressed. That is what we want, and that is the kind of commitment that we want from the government. We do not want to know who is going to pay for what, and we do not want the federal and provincial governments arguing over this at the expense of the people of Lac-Mégantic.

I know that everyone supports the people of Lac-Mégantic, but now it is time for the government to put words into action and commit so that the people of Lac-Mégantic can finally heal.

Rail TransportationAdjournment Proceedings

7:45 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Madam Speaker, the people of Lac-Mégantic are always in our thoughts and prayers. Improving rail safety is the Minister of Transport's top priority. That is why we have allocated $143 million to rail safety and the transportation of dangerous goods. That is why we accelerated the removal of the least crash-resistant tank cars. That is why we launched the Railway Safety Act review a year ahead of schedule. We have taken concrete measures that show how seriously we take rail safety and due diligence in the transportation of dangerous goods through Lac-Mégantic and across Canada. We will be doing more stil.

Rail TransportationAdjournment Proceedings

7:45 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The motion to adjourn the House is deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:48 p.m.)