House of Commons Hansard #240 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was money.


Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I also draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the south gallery of the recipients of the 2017 Governor General's Literary Awards: Oana Avasilichioaei, Serge Bouchard, Cherie Dimaline, Véronique Drouin, Louise Dupré, Julie Flett, Jacques Goldstyn, Christian Guay-Poliquin, Richard Harrison, Hiro Kanagawa, David Alexander Robertson, Joel Thomas Hynes, and Graeme Wood.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Pursuant to the order made on Monday, November 20, 2017, I invite the representatives of each party in the House to make a statement.

The Right Hon. Prime Minister.

LGBTQ2 CanadiansRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Papineau Québec


Justin Trudeau LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, one of the greatest choices a person can make in their life is the choice to serve their fellow citizens. Maybe it is in government, in the military, or in a police force. In whatever capacity one serves, dedicating your life to making Canada, and indeed the world, a better place is a calling of the highest order. Imagine, if you will, being told that the very country you had willingly laid down your life to defend does not want you, does not accept you, sees you as defective, sees you as a threat to our national security, not because you cannot do the job or because you lack patriotism or courage, but because of who you are as a person, and because of who your sexual partners are. Imagine being subjected to laws, policies, and hiring practices that label you as “different”, as “less than”. Imagine having to fight over and over again for the basic rights that your peers enjoy. Imagine being criminalized for who you are.

This is the truth for many of the Canadians present in the gallery today, and many more listening across the country. This is the devastating story of people who were branded as criminals by the government, people who lost their livelihoods, and in some cases their lives. These are not the distant practices of governments long forgotten. This happened systematically in Canada, with a timeline more recent than any of us would like to admit.

Today we acknowledge an often overlooked part of Canada's history. Today we finally talk about Canada's role in the systemic oppression, criminalization, and violence against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and two-spirit communities. It is my hope that in talking about these injustices, vowing to never repeat them and acting to right these wrongs, we can begin to heal.

Today, we acknowledge an often overlooked part of Canada's history. Today, we finally talk about Canada's role in the systemic oppression, criminalization, and violence against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and two-spirit communities. It is my hope that in talking about these injustices, vowing to never repeat them, and acting to right these wrongs, we can begin to heal.

Since arriving on these shores, settlers to this land brought with them foreign standards of right and wrong, of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, and of suitable and unsuitable partnerships. They brought rigid gender norms, norms that manifested in homophobia and transphobia, norms that saw the near-destruction of indigenous LGBTQ and two-spirit identities. People who were once revered for their identities found themselves shamed for who they were. They were rejected and left vulnerable to violence.

Discrimination against LGBTQ2 communities was quickly codified in criminal offences like buggery, gross indecency, and bawdy house provisions. Bath houses were raided. People were entrapped by police. Our laws bolstered and emboldened those who wanted to attack non-conforming sexual desire. Our laws made private and consensual sex between same-sex partners a criminal offence, leading to the unjust arrest, conviction, and imprisonment of Canadians.

This criminalization would have lasting impacts for things like employment, volunteering, and travel. Those arrested and charged were purposefully and vindictively shamed. Their names appeared in newspapers in order to humiliate them and their families. Lives were destroyed, and tragically, lives were lost.

This did not end in 1969 with the partial decriminalization of homosexual sex. Up until 1988, a twenty-year-old gay man who had sex with another man could still be convicted of a crime.

The imprisonment and criminalization of LGBTQ2 individuals was not the end of it. Other methods of oppression have been rampant throughout our society for generations. Homophobia during the time of the AIDS crisis generated hysteria and propagated fear of gay men.

Books and magazines were stopped at the border under the guise of obscenity offences and customs regulations, the content, words, and images deemed unacceptable. LGBTQ2 families have had to fight their own government for the right to benefits and the freedom to marry, often at great personal cost.

Over our history, laws and policies enacted by the government led to the legitimization of much more than inequality. They legitimized hatred and violence and brought shame to those targeted.

While we may view modern Canada as a forward-thinking, progressive nation, we cannot forget our past. The state orchestrated a culture of stigma and fear around LGBTQ2 communities and in doing so destroyed people's lives.

A purge that lasted decades will forever remain a tragic act of discrimination, suffered by Canadian citizens at the hands of their own government. From the 1950s to the early 1990s, the Government of Canada exercised its authority in a cruel and unjust manner, undertaking a campaign of oppression against members and suspected members of the LGBTQ2 community. The goal was to identify these workers throughout the public service, including the foreign service, the military, and the RCMP, and persecute them. The thinking of the day was that all non-heterosexual Canadians would automatically be at increased risk of blackmail by our adversaries due to what was called “character weakness”. This thinking was prejudiced and flawed.

Sadly, what resulted was nothing short of a witch hunt. The public service, the military, and the RCMP spied on their own people inside and outside of workplaces. During this time, the federal government even dedicated funding to an absurd device known as the “fruit machine”, a failed technology that was supposed to measure homosexual attraction. Canadians were monitored for anything that could be construed as homosexual behaviour, with community groups, bars, parks, and even people's homes under constant watch.

When the government felt that enough evidence had accumulated, some suspects were taken to secret locations in the dark of night to be interrogated. They were asked invasive questions about their relationships and sexual preferences. Hooked up to polygraph machines, these law-abiding public servants had the most intimate details of their lives cut open.

Women and men were abused by their superiors and asked demeaning, probing questions about their sex lives. Some were sexually assaulted.

Those who admitted they were gay were fired, discharged, or intimidated into resignation. They lost their dignity and their careers, and had their dreams and indeed their lives shattered.

Many were blackmailed to report their peers, forced to turn against their friends and colleagues. Some swore they would end their relationships if they could keep their jobs. Pushed deeper into the closet, they lost partners, friends, and dignity. Those who did not lose their jobs were demoted, had security clearances revoked, and were passed over for promotions.

Under the harsh glare of the spotlight, people were forced to make an impossible choice: their career or their identity. The very thing that Canadian officials feared, blackmail of LGBTQ2 employees, was happening. However, it was not at the hands of our adversaries. It was at the hands of our own government. The number one job of any government is to keep its citizens safe, and on this we have failed LGBTQ2 communities and individuals time and time again.

It is with shame, sorrow, and deep regret for the things we have done that I stand here today and say we were wrong. We apologize. I am sorry. We are sorry.

For state-sponsored systemic oppression and rejection, we are sorry. For suppressing two-spirit indigenous values and beliefs, we are sorry. For abusing the power of the law and making criminals of citizens, we are sorry.

For government censorship and constant attempts to undermine your community-building, for denying you equality and forcing you to constantly fight for this equality, often at great cost, for forcing you to live closeted lives, for rendering you invisible, and for making you feel ashamed, we are deeply sorry. We were so very wrong.

To all the LGBTQ2 people across the country, whom we have harmed in countless ways, we are sorry.

To those who were left broken by a prejudiced system, and to those who took their own lives, we have failed you.

For stripping you of your dignity, for robbing you of your potential, for treating you as though you were dangerous, indecent, and flawed, we are sorry.

To the victims of the purge who were surveilled, interrogated, and abused, who were forced to turn on their friends and colleagues, who lost wages, lost health, and lost loved ones, we betrayed you. We are so sorry.

To those who were fired, to those who resigned, to those who stayed at a great personal and professional cost, to those who wanted to serve but never got the chance because of who you are, you should have been permitted to serve your country, but you were stripped of that option. We are sorry; we were wrong.

Indeed, all Canadians missed out on important contributions you could have and would have made to our society. You were not bad soldiers, sailors, or airmen and airwomen. You were not predators. You were not criminals. You served your country with integrity and courage. You are professionals. You are patriots. Above all, you are innocent. For all your suffering, you deserve justice and you deserve peace.

It is our collective shame that you were so mistreated. It is our collective shame that this apology took so long. Many who suffered are no longer alive to hear these words, and for that, we are truly sorry.

To the partners, families, and friends of the people we harmed, for upending your lives and for causing you such irreparable pain and grief, we are sorry.

As we apologize for our painful mistakes, we must also say thank you to those who spoke up.

To those who pushed back when it was unpopular and even dangerous to do so, to people from across the country, from all walks of life, and of all political stripes, we stand here today in awe of your courage, and we thank you.

We also thank members of the We Demand an Apology Network, our LGBTQ2 apology advisory council, and the Just Society Committee of Egale, as well as the individuals who have long advocated for this overdue apology.

Through them, we have understood that we cannot simply paint over this part of our history. To erase this dark chapter would be a disservice to the community and to all Canadians.

We will work with the academic community and stakeholders to ensure that this history is known and publicly accessible.

We must remember, and we will remember. We will honour and memorialize the legacy of those who fought before us in the face of unbearable hatred and danger.

It is my hope that we will look back on today as a turning point, but there is still much more work to do ahead of us. Discrimination against LGBTQ2 communities is not a moment in time, but an ongoing centuries-old campaign. We want to be a partner and ally to LGBTQ2 Canadians in the years going forward. There are still real struggles facing these communities, including for those who are intersex, queer people of colour, and others who suffer from intersectional discrimination.

Transgender Canadians are subjected to discrimination, violence, and aggression at alarming rates. In fact, trans people did not even have explicit protection under federal human rights legislation until this year.

Mental health issues and suicides are higher among LGBTQ2 youth as a result of discrimination and harassment, and the homelessness rates among these young people is staggering.

There is still work to do on blood and organ donation, and the over-criminalization of HIV non-disclosure. The government needs to continue working with our partners to improve policies and programs.

That said, there are important and significant changes coming. The repeal of section 159 of the Criminal Code is working its way through the House of Commons.

I am proud to say that earlier today in the House we tabled the expungement of historically unjust convictions act. This will mean that Canadians previously convicted of consensual sexual activity with same sex partners will have their criminal records permanently destroyed.

Further, I am pleased to announce that over the course of the weekend we reached an agreement in principle with those involved in the class action lawsuit for actions related to the purge.

Never again will Canada's government be the source of so much pain for members of the LGBTQ2 communities. We promise to consult and work with individuals and communities to right these wrongs and begin to rebuild trust. We will ensure there are systems in place so these kinds of hateful practices are a thing of the past. Discrimination and oppression of LGBTQ2 Canadians will not be tolerated anymore.

With dialogue and with understanding, we will move forward together, but we cannot do it alone. The changing of hearts and minds is a collective effort. We need to work together, across jurisdictions, with indigenous peoples and LGBTQ2 communities, to make the crucial progress that LGBTQ2 Canadians deserve.

Canada's history is far from perfect, but we believe in acknowledging and righting past wrongs so we can learn from them. For all our differences, for all our diversity, we can find love and support in our common humanity.

We are Canadians and we want the very best for each other, regardless of our sexual orientation or our gender identity or expression. We will support one another in our fight for equality, and Canada will stand tall on the international stage as we proudly advocate for equal rights for LGBTQ2 communities around the world.

To the kids who are listening at home and who fear rejection because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression, and to those who are nervous and scared but also excited about what their future might hold, we are all worthy of love and deserving of respect.

Whether you discover your truth at six, 16, or at 60, who you are is valid.

To members of the LGBTQ2 communities, young and old, here in Canada and around the world, you are loved and we support you.

Canada gets a little bit stronger every day that we choose to embrace, and to celebrate, who we are in all our uniqueness.

We are a diverse nation. We are enriched by the lives, experiences, and contributions of people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and two-spirit.

To the trailblazers who have lived and struggled and to those who have fought so hard to get us to this place, thank you for your courage and thank you for lending your voices. I hope and I know that you look back on all you have done with pride. It is because of your courage that we are here today together reminding ourselves and each other that we can and must do better.

For the oppression of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and two-spirit communities, we apologize. On behalf of the government, Parliament, and the people of Canada, we were wrong. We are sorry. We will never let this happen again.

LGBTQ2 CanadiansRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Regina—Qu'Appelle Saskatchewan


Andrew Scheer ConservativeLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to join my colleagues in the House to reflect on a terrible moment of injustice in the history of the Canadian federal government.

It is our responsibility, as parliamentarians, to defend the fundamental freedoms and rights of all Canadians.

Among those rights is that of equal treatment before and under the law without unjust discrimination, and to be free of any cruel or unusual treatment or punishment.

We are here today because many years ago and for too long the government of Canada failed in its duty to protect the basic rights of hundreds of the very Canadians who had dedicated their lives to public service.

These men and women, these citizens, lost their jobs because they were suspected of being gay.

At a basic level, Canadians can perhaps picture what losing your livelihood can do to your self-esteem, to your family, to your own quality of life.

However, it is nothing when compared to the fear and intimidation that many women and men experienced in dealing with their own government and the institutions that they selflessly served.

For a dark chapter in its history, the Government of Canada perpetuated this injustice. It took upon itself the mantle of judge, jury, and set the private lives of its citizens in its sights. Too often and in too many cases around the world we have seen the terrible consequences of overreaching governments.

We need to have an honest discussion with the people who were targeted by the terrible campaign that sought to expose and humiliate LGBTQ2 individuals in the public service.

In this country, we deplore and condemn injustice towards the innocent, the oppressed, and the persecuted.

Interrogation and harassment based on fear is its own injustice. We must not fail to mention the toll this campaign of intimidation took on the brave women and men in uniform who found themselves the target of their superiors.

For those who serve our country, the government's accusations regarding their personal lives were made even more offensive by the insinuation that they were acting against the interests of the country they were devoted to. This type of insult is difficult to imagine and impossible to measure.

The women and men who dedicate their lives to defending Canadians at home and abroad were subjected to a secret and unfair trial: they were arrested and chastised and they were humiliated in front of their families, friends and colleagues; many livelihoods were destroyed and many lives were cut short. I firmly believe that we have to acknowledge that this country is only getting better.

Hard work has been done over generations to ensure Canada remains a champion of justice, human rights, and liberty. All of us here continually strive to be better, as elected officials, as a people, and as a country.

The Conservatives deeply believe in these principles. All human beings have the same value and the same dignity and deserve respect, and women and men who have differing views respect each other as human beings.

The government cannot, the government must not deny the dignity or freedom of those citizens who seek to make Canada a better place. How you treat your fellow Canadians, how you work every day to make the country stronger, how you give of yourself to your families, to your communities, and to your loved ones, those are the true measures of one's love for Canada.

Today’s apology must be an opportunity for all of us to recommit to defending human rights, not only here, in Canada, but around the world. Too many countries around the globe, today, have despicable policies that officialize the harassment of gays and lesbians. Too often, the consequences are not only job loss and public shame, but torture and death.

Canada is better than that. We must do more to stand up for the LGBTQ2 community in places like Iran, Russia, and other countries where it is the target of brutal violence. I am personally proud of the work done by the previous government to prioritize these and other refugee groups who are particularly vulnerable.

We all have a duty, here, today, to ensure that Canada is the best for everyone, no matter who they are. For those who were forced to abandon a career they spent years building and for those who were rejected without recourse, we hope that today’s apology offers some justice.

It cannot undo the wrongdoing and pain they have endured, but it is another important step toward leaving the next generation a Parliament that more fully embraces its duty to protect the rights and freedoms of every person it was built to serve.

LGBTQ2 CanadiansRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.


Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, New Democrats welcome and support today's apology. We join the government in acknowledging the harm that was done to the entire LGBTQ community, but especially the severe impacts that prejudice, discrimination, and persecution have had on individuals. We also want to honour today those many activists who resisted these campaigns and fought back against social prejudice. Today is the vindication of your struggles.

It is high time that we recognized that the careers and lives of thousands of Canadians were ruined, not only through the endemic discrimination, homophobia, and transphobia of the past, but also by government policies and campaigns to single out members of the LGBTQ community for persecution.

It could take several forms. There were countless criminal prosecutions for consensual same-sex activity. Special units were created in the Canadian Forces to ferret out gay and lesbian members and to drive them out of the Forces, either by forcing them to resign, by offering an honourable discharge for their co-operation, or by imposing various forms of less-than-honourable mentions on those who were hounded out.

There was even a secret committee of senior public servants and RCMP officers in Ottawa who sometimes met weekly to conduct a campaign of dismissals from the public service and the RCMP.

Despite the fact that consensual same-sex activity had been legalized in 1969, with the support of both the Liberals and the NDP, these government activities targeting the LGBTQ community continued well into the nineties. Anyone who doubts the relentlessness of these campaigns has only to read Gary Kinsman's book, The Canadian War on Queers, for the proof that these campaigns had devastating consequences: careers cut short, and family and social lives ruined because of the impact of being outed as a result of a firing or an arrest.

As time went on, members of the LGBTQ community began to resist. Long-serving New Democratic member of Parliament Svend Robinson worked tirelessly for change as the first, and for many years only, openly gay member of Parliament in the House of Commons. Among all the issues he tackled, perhaps most significant was his success in having sexual orientation added to the hate crimes section of the Criminal Code with a private member's bill that became law in 2004.

Let us also remember that James Egan and John Nesbit fought in the courts for recognition of equal spousal pension rights, and won, when sexual orientation was added to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a prohibited ground for discrimination by the Supreme Court in 1995.

Some 25 years ago this October, a very brave member of the Canadian Forces, Michelle Douglas, challenged her dismissal from the forces in court and won a judgment outlawing dismissal from the Canadian Forces on the basis of sexual orientation.

This apology, nearly 25 years after the end of the discharges from the military and the firings from the public service, and 50 years after the legalization of same-sex activity, comes none too soon for those who were its victims.

Simply the idea of an apology has been on the agenda for a very long time. Long-time NDP member Libby Davies, the first openly lesbian woman in this House, tabled a motion over three years ago calling for a meaningful apology for those fired from the public service.

Today we should also acknowledge the work of those who helped make this apology possible, especially the advisory council that worked with the government to get this apology before us today and the activists from We Demand an Apology Network and Egale's Just Society Committee, which not only made the case for justice but kept up the pressure on the government to act.

Most of all we should thank those survivors of the anti-LGBTQ campaigns who have come forward to tell their heart-wrenching stories yet one more time.

Apologies are in themselves a form of justice. The New Democrats are pleased that the apology was delivered today by the Prime Minister and inserted into the House of Commons record. The New Democrats were afraid that today there would be only an apology, without any mention of restitution. We were pleased to see movement on the part of the government in recent days to include measures that begin to deal with the substance of the harms for which the apology was given.

The New Democrats are committing today to work with the government to ensure that this legislation is passed quickly by the House and that it is exhaustive. We are also committing to continue working with the LGBTQ community to ensure that the legislative changes will become a daily reality, since there is still too much work to be done in terms of justice for the LGBTQ community.

We hope that today will mark a true change of gears for the government on LGBTQ issues, and that it will bring about a renewed climate of co-operation on these issues in Parliament.

New Democrats are also pleased to hear that the government has reached an agreement in principle with the plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit against the government. The lawsuit sought restitution for specific harms to individuals resulting from the government's campaign of firings from the public service, the RCMP, and the Canadian Forces. While the damage suffered was never limited to just financial losses, just compensation is an important part of any effort toward restorative justice.

We acknowledge the openness the Minister of Justice showed in working with the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke on passing his former private member's bill as a government bill.

There is still much to do to change government policies and practices so they honour the new legislated right to be free from discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression. Let us get to work, starting today, with transgender and gender variant Canadians on implementing Bill C-16.

When it comes to ending the legal discrimination against the LGBTQ community, there is no question as to what needs to be done.

We are pleased today to see the introduction of a bill to expunge the criminal records of gay men who engaged in consensual sexual activity with same sex partners. However, it is not as though we do not know what such a bill might look like.

Philip Toone, an NDP MP from Quebec during the last Parliament, introduced such measures in 2014 under private member's business. Similar measures were introduced that same day by way of apology by the Australian government in Queensland, by New Zealand, and by Scotland.

Measures to counter this injustice should have been in place decades ago. We must not forget that this bill is not only symbolic. Every day, gay men with unjust criminal records are prevented from travelling or volunteering, and face discrimination when it comes to employment.

We hope to see authorization to proceed in addressing the cases of those kicked out of the Canadian Forces with something less than fully honourable discharges. After all, more than a year ago, the national defence committee unanimously approved a motion from the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke calling on the Minister of Defence to authorize the military ombudsman to begin revising the service records of those who were driven out of the Canadian Forces based on who they loved. We understand that aspects of dismissals from the forces will be covered in the settlement of the class action law suit, but the revision of service records still needs to happen.

The NDP welcomes the government's promise to move forward with removing section 159 from the Criminal Code, a section under which the age of consent for anal intercourse is different than it is for heterosexual relations.

Although the government introduced a bill to that effect, it has been held up at first reading stage for several months. A similar bill was already introduced in the House in the last Parliament, in 2014, by former NDP MP Craig Scott.

There is, of course, one sense in which this apology risks ringing hollow. That will be if this Parliament fails to act expeditiously to end discriminatory laws and policies that continue to penalize and stigmatize the LGBTQ community. As some have said, this would be a good time to stop doing things the government might have to apologize for in the future.

The discriminatory gay blood ban remains in place, despite the fact that almost every health professional agrees that there is no science behind the ban. This is a policy that not only stigmatizes gay men but continues to restrict the supply of blood and organs at a time when the need is so great.

Members of the LGBTQ community have waited decades for our government to acknowledge the systemic nature of the injustices perpetrated against their community.

Therefore, today is an important day marked by an apology presented on behalf of all Canadians and the government's commitment to make amends.

What we have acknowledged today is that the injustices perpetrated against, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Canadians by the government were both egregious and systemic.

New Democrats hope that today will mark more than simply turning the page on this regrettable part of our history. Instead, this apology should be the springboard for action both here in Parliament and in Canadian society. We must begin by removing the last vestiges of institutional discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex, and transgender Canadians. We must also eradicate the prejudice that lives in our communities and affects our siblings, children, parents, friends, and neighbours.

From Svend Robinson to Libby Davies to the members for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke and Saskatoon West, and so many more, the NDP consistently stood with the LGBTQ community and followed its lead on these vital civil rights issues. It is our hope that all Canadians take today as an opportunity to move forward and continue to build the inclusive, accepting country that we all know we can be.

LGBTQ2 CanadiansRoutine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.


Monique Pauzé Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we are revisiting a dark chapter in the history of Canada. It is an opportunity to remind ourselves how far we have to go in the fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation. We still have a very long way to go.

Up until 1992, not only was there discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and two-spirited government employees, but it was tolerated. It was an official policy. Until 1992, discrimination based on sexual orientation was a reason of state.

Canada violated human rights under the pretext of its best interests and security. It was not enough to violate the rights of LGBTQ2 people. It was not enough to insult them, to treat them like second class citizens, and to treat them like a threat to their country. The federal government placed investigative units at the service of discrimination. It even created a device, which I will not name because it is insulting, to help determine people's sexual orientation.

Canada hunted down these people in order to fire and disgrace them, as though they were criminals. They continue to suffer today. It was systemic discrimination of LGBTQ2 people and the majority used every political and institutional means to impose its values on others. This did not happen in the middle ages, it happened up until 1992.

The Bloc Québécois fully supports the essential apology the government made today. We expect that apology to be accompanied by fair and equitable compensation for the victims of this systemic discrimination. It is absolutely essential that the Canadian government and Parliament send a strong message.

We want to tell members of the LGBTQ2 community that we are proud to have them with us, as our family members, friends, colleagues, entrepreneurs, artists, scientists, successors, retirees, and, yes, soldiers and public servants. In short, we are proud to have them in our society.

It is essential to send a strong message because, although there has been some progress in the fight against discrimination since 1992, that progress is built on a shaky foundation. The fight for equality will never be entirely won. Women know something about that. We must never lose sight of the fact that we are not immune to setbacks. Women know something about that too.

It is essential to send a strong message as parliamentarians because a wave of intolerance has been spreading across the world and we need to fight it together. We must present a united front in the fight for equality for all when faced with an extreme right that is increasingly vocal, powerful, and closer to home. When faced with the growing influence of religious and doctrinal currents in state affairs, we must present a united front in the fight for equality for all.

We must always remain steadfast in the fight for equality and not make any compromises. If there is one principle that we are prepared to defend, it is our freedom to be who we are, and live and love as we see fit, no matter who we are.

This apology should be a time for reflection and should send a strong and determined message that the time for discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and two-spirited individuals is over, period.

LGBTQ2 CanadiansRoutine Proceedings

4 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, what wonderful speeches from my friend from Repentigny and from all the other leaders and party representatives in the House.

I am honoured to speak today. I would like to thank our Prime Minister for the official apology he made today. He is a great man, and the day of heartfelt official apologies has finally come.

This is an important day, and I thank the Prime Minister, the Government of Canada, the member of Parliament for Edmonton Centre, the member of Parliament for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, and all those who have gone before, like Libby Davies and Svend Robinson, all of those in this place who recognized there has been a historic injustice, one that touched all aspects of the lives of our friends, brothers, sisters, parents, and cousins.

Throughout this society, people have suffered: the trailblazers, and we know them, those who first achieved equal marriage, the first same-sex couple to marry in British Columbia, my friends Tom Graff and Antony Porcino, and my friends and constituents, Robin Roberts and Diana Denny, whose fight was so deeply personal, so difficult, after being told they could not marry and raise their children together. However, today's apology focuses on something in some ways that was even more brutal, no less personal, the drumming of people out of the jobs they earned because of their partners, the people they love.

I want to specifically say that I am very honoured that two of my constituents are here for this apology, Emma Smith and Mary Lou Williams, who were fine soldiers until the military discovered they loved each other. They ended up in military prison. People know how hard it is to go through the decision to tell their parents. The last thing they imagine is that the military police will tell them for them. They are brave and, like many in this room, we acknowledge and thank the We Demand an Apology Network, without which I think many of these people would have gone through years of feeling shame, feeling isolated, thinking it was only they.

Anyone who served with Emma would say she was the best soldier in that platoon. Canada not only punished, shamed, ostracized, and violated the civil and human rights of Canadians, we also deprived ourselves of excellent soldiers, terrific members of the RCMP, and people who would have been wonderful diplomats in our foreign service. Our stupidity, blindness, and ignorance punished our society while bringing grievous injustice and long-lasting pain to people who had done nothing wrong but want to serve their country, and this apology matters.

I think there are cynics among us who would say at one point that surely Canada's government has apologized enough. We apologized for residential schools, we apologized for the Komagata Maru, and we will probably apologize for turning the St. Louis around in Halifax harbour, and we now apologize to the LGBTQ community, and somehow someone might wonder if apologies matter. I want to say clearly that I know they matter. They matter to the people who have suffered injustice, they matter to the families of those who have died and never got to hear this apology, they matter to all Canadians who know that we recognize that we have wronged our fellow citizens and that we will never do it again.

We have been here a while and this is an emotional thing, but it needs to be said that this is a wonderful moment for all those who are oppressed, wherever they are and for whatever reason. I think transgender people really need our support now. I lost a friend just in October. Dr. Susan Roddy took her own life. She was a wonderful mathematics professor at Brandon University in Manitoba. She was still suffering discrimination and injustice as a trans woman.

We are not there yet. We have not righted all of the wrongs, we have not eliminated all of the discrimination, but we stand here today and the quote that comes to mind is from a speech by Martin Luther King: “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

LGBTQ2 CanadiansRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

As Speaker, as a member of Parliament, and as a Canadian citizen, I am honoured to have been in this chamber to hear the powerful words spoken over the past hour by my hon. colleagues.

Those whom we have wronged, those to whom we have caused great suffering, whether by commission or omission, do not owe us their forgiveness. Acknowledging our nation's past injustices does not wipe the slate clean.

I can only hope that our statements today in the House will convey to the LGBTQ2 community our sincere regret for the great wrongs perpetrated against it. Together, we will move forward to build an ever more just society.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-63, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017 and other measures, as reported (without amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

4:10 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Pursuant to order made on Monday, November 20, 2017, I wish to inform the House that, because of the statements, government orders will be extended by 61 minutes.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

4:10 p.m.


Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Mr. Speaker, as always, it is an honour to rise in this chamber and engage in debate on substantial issues.

Before I begin my speech today on Bill C-63, I would like to briefly share a comment with all members. Some time ago, a now-retired provincial cabinet minister shared a comment with me. After a 16-year career in a provincial legislature, his advice was simple. He said that, whenever a government attempts to resolve a problem through legislation, it must be careful to avoid inadvertently creating a series of new problems in the process. That sounds so very simple, and I believe all governments, including the current one, are certainly well intended. People put their names forward to serve and to try to help build a better, stronger, and more prosperous society. However, as my former and now-retired provincial cabinet minister friend pointed out, it is not always that easy. I suspect that, over the past few months, few members on the government's bench would disagree with this sentiment.

I share the advice of my friend because within one of these sections contained within the bill is precisely such a measure that is likely well intended but would certainly cause harm. The specific measure I am talking about is a new provision proposed to eliminate the use of billed-basis accounting by designated professionals. I will credit the Liberal government for resisting the temptation to call this one “billing fairness for lawyers and accountants” because, much like the attack on small business, this particular measure would create some serious problems.

Allow me to explain. At the moment, we know that in professions such as accounting and in law firms, until they actually get paid for their billable hours they do not have any income. This concept does not take much for anyone in this chamber to understand. However, if this measure were to go through, for example, it would mean that once a lawyer has billed his or her billable hours, those hours are considered income for tax purposes. To be clear, this even means that, although the said lawyers have yet to be paid for those hours, they would be taxed on them.

On the surface, it may not seem like a big deal. At the finance committee, we heard from officials. They said that, after this measure is implemented fully, it is about $500,000 to the treasury, which is not a big sum for this place. However, like most things, we need to look away from the Bay Street law firms. I mean no offence to them in saying that, but in rural parts of the country, in fact in many small to mid-size communities, law firms are not so large. I suspect many in this place know full well that the reality is that not many even middle-class Canadians can afford a lawyer anymore, let alone those who are most vulnerable, without legal assistance. On the same note, I suspect members would not meet a provincial bar representative anywhere who would not share with them what a crisis legal-aid funding is going through throughout this great country. We all know that the vast majority of our provincial treasuries are running deficits and few, if any, are putting more money into things like legal aid. As I mentioned, even for the upper middle class income earners, still the cost of legal representation is exorbitant.

It is easy to blame lawyers for this, but as some in this place will know full well, running a law firm carries a huge amount of overhead: bills, expenses, staff, making draws. These things need to happen weekly. In some cases, it can take years before they see a resolution. I mention these things of course because the proposed measure in this bill would ultimately increase the costs that lawyers would have to carry. In other words, it would increase the overhead. In the big firms, this may or may not be a big deal. However, in smaller firms and in particular in those rural areas, these added costs could well be crippling, and they would make the availability of legal representation that much more difficult for middle-class Canadians let alone those scraping by.

These are the very same middle-class Canadians that have become a favourite talking point of the Prime Minister and his finance minister, but what is more frustrating about this is that there is really no public benefit here. Ultimately once a lawyer bills those hours and finally gets paid, the tax revenue is coming to Ottawa anyway, unless of course, someone is one of those wealthy friends of the Prime Minister who banks in the Bahamas.

For the most rank and file Canadians and their attorneys, this tax money would make its way here to Ottawa, but that is not good enough for the government. The Liberals do not want to wait for that money. They want the cash upfront, now. I do not know about everyone else, but I think an estimated half a million dollars inevitably pushes smaller firms to take less marginal cases; for example, a grandmother who has been hit, not offered proper compensation from my own province, ICBC, which is a provincially regulated monopoly, will not be able to find that same representation in the rural areas because people will say they are sorry, they would like to take her case, but the rules are here and they cannot subsidize her case on the backs of the other ones. Unless she pays a full retainer upfront, they will not be able to take her case let alone help her.

Again, I am hoping that government members hear this and start to ask a few more questions. The government members will say they have consulted with the provincial bar associations and they are fine with this. They said they would it put in place over five years, so every year it would go up 20%, but that does not negate the harm this would be doing to those seeking representation in those marginal rural areas. Sometimes a consultation is asking to hear what people say and then making a response. In this case, the government said it did a consultation but it is going to go ahead regardless of what people say. What kind of a consultation is that?

Is it really so unreasonable that the government should wait for people's income until they have actually been paid for a service that has been performed? I would suspect many people in this chamber would say that expectation is not unreasonable, and I am hoping that members across the way agree.

I'll now turn to taxing employee benefits, denying disability status for type 1 diabetes, and something I raised in this place earlier: the case of a mother whose Canada child benefit has been withheld simply because she has an unco-operative spouse. These are people who need those supports, and the government, whether through laws like this or whether through finding them ineligible by technical grounds on the administrative side, is harming the material life of these vulnerable people.

In my view, this agency is overreaching at the behest of the government, and there will be consequences for that. I do not simply mean political consequences. I mean that, for those who need legal advice, it might become that much harder to reach. Also, here in Ottawa we could have that money a little sooner.

Meanwhile, if people can afford lawyers, they might be paying them to sit in court only to find out that there is no judge because the government is well behind in judicial appointments. I raised that directly with the Minister of Justice, that we saw for the first time in 35 years a section of the family chambers court in Vancouver closed because there were no judges. That is a shame, and frankly, for a party that has always been so revered by so many in the legal profession, I am surprised that it is only the opposition members who are standing up for the profession in this case.

Before I close, I will say that at times the government has surprised me by changing directions. That would be only a very small change in direction, but if the Liberals were to make this change and remove this section, it could hugely help out those facing legal challenges and help the legal profession in general throughout rural Canada. For that matter, I am hopeful that the members opposite will give my comments some consideration and look to see this provision removed.

On that same note, I would like to thank the members in this place, particularly the government, for listening. I appreciate everyone's time today.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

4:20 p.m.


Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Madam Speaker, the member said something that I want to clarify and get his thoughts on. He said that any work-in-progress account is going to be subject to income tax. The members opposite know that is not true. In fact, bill-based accounting rules are the lesser value of fair market value and/or cost. Perhaps the member could explain to the Canadian public why his previous statement was incorrect and the importance of that distinction.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

4:20 p.m.


Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member's sincerity here. I asked this over and over of the lawyers who were at committee. I asked the officials about this concern. The way the government is proceeding to do bill-based accounting, with 20% every year, is going to cause that harm. I had lawyers from the provincial bar association in British Columbia come and talk to me about this case. This is not something made up by one member of Parliament; this is something that is out there and being heard. I just hope that the people on the other side really ask those questions, because the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance actually said in this place that he believed it was a challenge and that more could be done to make this better. I sincerely hope the member goes and talks to the parliamentary secretary and asks his advice.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

4:25 p.m.


Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

Does he not see a strange parallel between our constant feeling that the government is not going after tax havens and the sad spectacle we have been witnessing for weeks now involving the Minister of Finance? Is there not a curious discrepancy between what is being said and what is unfortunately not being done?

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

4:25 p.m.


Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Madam Speaker, this is a tale as old as time. What often happens is that those who are well connected are able to take advantage and, whether it be through social connections, work relationships, or formal political lobbying, are able to get their message heard. I am fearful that we are starting to see a two-tier approach to taxation in this country, where those who have very little power, influence, or political ability to get in front of the government are being disregarded and are being nickelled and dimed.

This is the opposite of what the government says it wants to do. It says it wants to have an inclusive economy. Part of an inclusive economy means including people and thinking of them, not thinking for them. In this case, I have to say the government is putting the onus on these small marginal cases, these grandmothers and family members of ours who are hurt, who need help, who need representation, and who are told no because of economic decision-making that is forced upon them by the government.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

4:25 p.m.


Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure to see my colleague drill down on a particular shortcoming in a piece of Liberal legislation.

It is true that the receivables are considered by accountants as assets. However, taxation before payment is yet another example of the theoretical application of the grasping that we have seen from the government. I think my colleague was quite correct in mentioning the abortive consideration of taxing benefits of retail employees.

This brings us back to the question that has been asked a number of times in the House. Given the government's focus on those who struggle most to perform a job, to raise families, and to pay their taxes, is this a case of a finance minister and a Prime Minister who have lived such rarified lives that they simply do not consider the impact they are having on those who have not?

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

4:25 p.m.


Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Madam Speaker, we heard from officials who said they likened the billable hours to inventory, and that the fair market value, as the previous Liberal member raised, would be representative of that, and Canadians would be paying taxes on that per share. The problem with that is, if grocers had inventory that went bad, as in the case that one did not win, they would be able to write that inventory off against their income and not be taxed on that. That is not the case here. I think it is because officials are basically giving examples that make sense at the surface. However, when we start asking if it would apply to other forms of business or if other forms of business could write off inventory that spoils on the shelf, it is obvious that no one on that side is going deeper into the issue. That is what I am asking these members to do, go deeper.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

November 28th, 2017 / 4:25 p.m.


Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a great honour to give my thoughts on Bill C-63 on behalf of the hard working and amazing constituents of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford. I have to once again note, on their behalf, how unfortunate it is that we have to debate this bill under the yoke of time allocation. This bill, like so many others, is being railroaded through the House. It seems like it is the only way the government can get its legislation through, rather than having meaningful dialogue with the opposition parties.

I want to start off by underlining some key facts and figures, and they are not pretty.

Over the last 30 years, workers have helped grow our economy by over 50%. In spite of this, their salaries are stagnating and their retirements are becoming less secure. The inequality gap in Canada between the richest and the majority of Canadians is growing faster and wider than in other developed countries. The 100 richest Canadians now have the same wealth as the combined wealth of the 10 million less fortunate.

Employment insurance is becoming harder to access. Statistics show that less than four in 10 unemployed persons qualify for insurance when they need it. That statistic has not changed. In fact, none of these statistics have changed for quite some time now.

Closer to home, in my riding of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford and in my beautiful province of British Columbia, since the House of Commons passed a resolution in 1989 to eliminate child poverty in Canada, the child poverty rate has increased from 15.5% to 18.3% today. The richest 10% of B.C. families with children receive 24% of the total income, while the poorest half of families share 27%.

My own home town of Duncan has extremely alarming child poverty rates. It is especially severe in the city where almost three in 10 children live in poverty. As I said, these are not new statistics. Continuous Liberal and Conservative governments have been aware of these. We are now two years into the government's mandate and we still have some of the most disadvantaged families in the country, waiting for meaningful action to tackle many of these dreadful statistics.

A lot has been made of the Minister of Finance of late. It is worthwhile to talk about him because he is the sponsor of this bill. The opposition represents most of Canadians, given that about 60% of them voted for the parties on this side of the House, and most of them do not have any confidence in the minister.

Yesterday, and continuing through today, he has been unable to provide yes or no answers to simple questions from the member for Carleton. He will not reveal his assets in other numbered corporations so the House may have confidence in his abilities as the finance minister.

The real sticking point for our members in the NDP is that he sponsored Bill C-27, an act that would allow federally regulated sectors to change their pensions to targeted benefit programs, while he had shares in Morneau Shepell, a company that stands to benefit in extreme ways from the passage of that legislation. I would like to see Liberal members of Parliament have the courage to bring that bill forward for second reading debate and hear the arguments they put forward on how it would affect the retirement security of the middle class they claim to stand for each and every day in the House of Commons. I am so looking forward to that day.

Budgets are about choices. I want to go through some of the choices that exist in the bill and that the government has made.

One of its provisions will allow the Minister of Finance to transfer some $480 million to the Asian infrastructure bank, which was mentioned in the 2017 budget. Many members of the opposition have expressed concern about why Canadian money is flowing to that bank and about the good it could have done here in Canada. For those of us who represent rural communities, $480 million is untold riches of what it could do and build in our local communities.

This fits with the pattern of the government's spending choices. Right outside these doors, we have a hockey rink which cost $5.6 million. I know the government likes to talk about it as a legacy project, but it will be dismantled after February and it is only a block away from the largest skating rink in the world. Therefore, $5.6 million is a princely sum of money to be spending on something that will make the front lawn of Parliament look better for three months.

Also half a million, $555,000, was spent on a building wrap, while Canada Post headquarters gets renovated. The government spent over $200,000 developing the illustration on the cover of budget 2017.

When we start to see spending patterns and choices like this, it raises legitimate questions about the government's priorities.

This leads me to the second part. When we talk about those choices, what invariably comes up are the missed opportunities. The budget implementation bill, because it would implement certain measures of the budget announced earlier this year, gives members of Parliament a large amount of latitude to talk about some of the choices that were not made.

For example, we asked the Minister of Finance if he could include provisions to cap CEO stock options, CEOs who make use of this loophole to shelter some of their income. We asked him to actively fight tax havens. We asked him to establish an all-important $15 minimum wage for federal workers to show that kind of leadership to our provincial counterparts and to show that we actually cared about the workers of our country. We could have made huge investments in energy efficiency home renovations. We could have addressed accessibility problems linked to housing, drinking water, mental health services, and education in first nation communities. More important, we could have established a universal pharmacare program, a program that the parliamentary budget officer conservatively estimated would save Canadians over $4 billion. Unfortunately none of these provisions were implemented.

In March 2017, the government supported our party's motion to tackle tax havens and place a cap on those same tax loopholes for CEOs, as I just mentioned. However, while the government supported it, we are still waiting for that concrete action to address the problems caused by tax measures benefiting those at the top.

The previous Conservative speaker talked about a tax system that increasingly treated some at the top differently from those at the bottom. He used the term “nickel and diming”, and I could not agree more. Vulnerable sectors of our Canadian society, such as those suffering from diabetes, are unable to access the disability tax credit. I have seen the cost to these families to treat their diabetes. Meanwhile, high-flying millionaires, Liberals friends at the top, can use tax havens and measures about which none of us at the bottom could even dream.

This goes to a sense of fairness. We need to institute that fairness in our tax system. We need to see that the government is supremely confident and serious about tackling this widespread problem. The paradise papers have only released the tip of the iceberg of how deep this problem goes, how deep the rot goes, and it really needs to be addressed.

The government likes to talk about the child benefit. Of course, families receiving money is a good thing, but it still does nothing to address the chronic shortage of available child care spaces. I have families talk to me about this all the time. The fact is that they cannot afford to get a second job because the cost of child care is so high and the spaces are simply unavailable.

At least one party in the House consistently and constantly talks about these issues, whether standing up for minimum wage, adequate retirement security for our workers, or ensuring families get real breaks, and that is the NDP. It is why I joined this party. I will continue to stand with it to raise these issues on behalf of my wonderful constituents of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford to ensure we get the true progressive policies our country deserves.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


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

Madam Speaker, the member concluded his thoughts on standing up for Canadians. The member is correct in one sense. He did stand up and say no to the Canada child tax benefit. He did stand up and say no to the middle-class tax cut. He did stand up and say no to the tax that was being applied to Canada's 1%. When it comes to the whole issue of tax evasion, I have news for the member. Chances are there are fairly wealthy New Democrats also out there, as there are wealthy Conservatives.

There is a need for us to look at the way individuals avoid paying taxes. That is why the government has put in close to $1 billion to look at that and prosecute, where we can, tax evaders.

Would my colleague support that initiative brought forward by the government? We have allocated close to $1 billion to go after rich tax evaders, whether they are New Democratic wealthy, Conservative wealthy, or Liberal wealthy? Does the member support that initiative?

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

4:40 p.m.


Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, I have to address the misleading information that the parliamentary secretary just uttered right now.

When he talks about New Democrats voting against the tax measures, I want it to be known that every Liberal member of Parliament gave themselves the maximum tax bracket raise in that budget. The median income in Canada is around $41,000 a year; those people got zero. He can argue with me all he wants but that is a fact. That is why we voted against the measure, and he knows that to be true.

When we give tools to the CRA to ensure it cracks down on tax avoidance, we want to ensure it goes after the people who deserve it, not nickel-and-diming the people at the bottom. We are very concerned that the CRA's level of service and the way it goes after Canadians is completely misguided. The Minister of National Revenue needs to stand in the House and be accountable for her agency's actions.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

4:40 p.m.


Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, the budget implementation bill is important because it puts forward the measures the government will enact through its budget.

One of the key issues Canadians are deeply concerned about is universal pharmacare. Theoretically, we have universal health care, but the government, with the Conservatives, voted against an NDP motion to bring forward universal pharmacare.

Could the member explain to me if there is anything in the budget implementation act that speaks to universal pharmacare for Canadians?

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

4:40 p.m.


Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, when it comes to universal pharmacare, health care has been consistently listed by Canadians as the number one priority.

The supposedly progressive Liberal government likes to talk the good talk, but when it comes to real action, when we gave it the opportunity to implement a national pharmacare plan to really save money for Canadians on their prescriptions, the Liberals were nowhere to be seen.

I want it to be known that there is one party that will keep fighting the good fight. It is right here, the NDP. My constituents in Cowichan—Malahat—Langford can count on me to continue raising this issue on their behalf and ensuring the most disadvantaged members of our Canadian society get the help they deserve.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

4:40 p.m.


Peter Fonseca Liberal Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Madam Speaker, the member knows full well just how hard families work in his riding, in my riding, and in ridings right across the country. For our part, we have to ensure we support those families and those children. That is why the first budget brought forward the Canada child benefit. Now, with our economy doing so well, it is providing those investments back into our communities so our communities can continue to grow.

Does the member not believe that his community, and all communities, deserve this funding, this plan that is working, that is driving our economy, creating jobs, and taking 300,000 kids out of poverty?

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

4:40 p.m.


Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, speaking of investments, I would like to refer the hon. member to the national housing strategy. Most of that money will not come into effect until after 2019. The last time I checked, some communities are in crisis right now. We have known about the housing crisis for decades, and still Canadians have to wait until they elect another Liberal government in 2019. The NDP will ensure the job gets done immediately.