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House of Commons Hansard #140 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-37.

Topics

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations among the parties and I believe you would find agreement for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, the hours of sitting and the order of business of the House on Tuesday, February 21, 2017, shall be those of a Monday.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Does the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

(Motion agreed to)

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

It being 6:31 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill S-201, an act to prohibit and prevent genetic discrimination, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Speaker's RulingGenetic Non-Discrimination ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speake Liberal Anthony Rota

There are eight motions in amendment standing on the Notice Paper for the report stage of Bill S-201. Motions Nos. 1 to 8 will be grouped for debate and voted upon according to voting patterns available at the table.

I will now put Motions Nos. 1 to 8 to the House.

Motions in amendmentGenetic Non-Discrimination ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill S-201 be amended by deleting the short title.

Motion No. 2

That Bill S-201 be amended by deleting Clause 2.

Motion No. 3

That Bill S-201 be amended by deleting Clause 3.

Motion No. 4

That Bill S-201 be amended by deleting Clause 4.

Motion No. 5

That Bill S-201 be amended by deleting Clause 5.

Motion No. 6

That Bill S-201 be amended by deleting Clause 6.

Motion No. 7

That Bill S-201 be amended by deleting Clause 7.

Motion No. 8

That Bill S-201 be amended by deleting Clause 8.

Mr. Speaker, I will use my time to address Bill S-201, an act to prohibit and prevent genetic discrimination, and the amendments that were tabled yesterday, which propose to delete clauses 1 through 8 of the bill.

I will begin by noting that the proposed amendments were neither the subject of discussion nor debate before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights during its consideration of the bill. It is important to take this opportunity to address some critical concerns arising from the proposed legislation.

I will first clarify that I fully support the intent of Bill S-201, which is to protect Canadians from being discriminated against on the basis of their genetic characteristics. I agree wholeheartedly that no one should be singled out solely on the basis of a genetic predisposition to a particular disease or condition. That is why I believe fundamentally that the amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act should remain in this bill as a matter falling squarely within the federal jurisdiction.

As all members of this House are aware, it is our duty as parliamentarians to ensure that we fundamentally respect the Constitution before passing any laws. Part of that duty means that we must remain vigilant of the constitutional division of powers between the federal Parliament and our provincial counterparts. In particular, clauses one through seven of Bill S-201, which would enact the genetic non-discrimination act, or GNDA, intrude into provincial jurisdiction over contracts and the provision of goods and services.

This is not about abstract or academic concerns, nor is it about solely co-operative and respectful federalism, which forms the bedrock of democracy in this country. This is a matter of our fundamental obligation, as members of Parliament, to ensure that legislation complies with our Constitution.

I share the concerns previously expressed by the government. Cabinet is certainly not alone in this view, as a number of the provinces have written to the government in opposition to the GNDA portion of Bill S-201. I will return to these letters shortly, but first I will offer some background on the constitutional responsibilities we have with respect to our provincial partners.

The Constitution Act of Canada calls for a separation of powers between the federal Parliament and the provincial and territorial legislative assemblies by theme. Based on these shared jurisdictions, the Parliament of Canada can only legislate on the powers included in the Constitution and residual powers, while provincial legislatures have their own areas of jurisdiction.

To determine whether the federal legislation respects this division of powers, the courts look to whether the law's “pith and substance”, what the law is really about, relates to a federal area of power.

The act to prohibit and prevent genetic discrimination prohibits any person from requiring an individual to undergo a genetic test or disclose the results of a genetic test as a condition of offering or maintaining specific conditions in a contract or agreement, and of providing goods or services.

When we look at this context, it is clear that the legislation in question, in its wording and substance, regulates contracts and the provision of goods and services. These things fall fully under provincial legislative jurisdictions over property and civil rights.

The Constitution engages concerns that are bigger than any one piece of legislation, no matter how laudable its intent. As written, the GNDA impedes on a critical set of powers which belongs exclusively to the provinces.

I will now focus my attention to the responses from the provincial governments. Over the past few weeks, our government has received a series of letters from the provinces of Quebec, British Columbia, and Manitoba on the matter of Bill S-201. Every one of these letters suggest that the act to prohibit and prevent genetic discrimination would encroach on an exclusively provincial jurisdiction.

In one letter co-signed by three Quebec ministers, the Hon. Stéphanie Vallée, minister of justice and attorney general of Quebec, the Hon. Carlos Leitão, minister of finance, and the Hon. Jean-Marc Fournier, minister responsible for Canadian relations and the Canadian francophonie, opposed the act to prohibit and prevent genetic discrimination.

They said that by virtue of the subject matter of the bill, it constitutes a clear intrusion in exclusively provincial jurisdictions. They add that the regulation of contracts and the provision of goods and services are in fact matters that fall under provincial jurisdiction. They say that, like us, they refer to the jurisdiction of the provinces and the Supreme Court's position in Reference re Assisted Human Reproduction Act, whereby the extent of Parliament's power to legislate criminal law must not upset the balance of the division of powers.

The ministers concluded by suggesting that there should be a more collaborative and respectful approach to the federal-provincial division of powers in order to address the issue of genetic discrimination.

Next is a letter from the Hon. Cameron Friesen, the Minister of Finance in Manitoba. Minister Friesen expresses similar concerns to those of his Quebec colleagues, stating, “We have consulted with other governments and among my staff, and we agree that there is considerable potential for this act to stray into areas of provincial jurisdiction over insurance. As you might expect, provinces are not inclined to relinquish our constitutional authority, and certainly not without discussion. Provinces will likely be forced to seek judicial review on the validity of this legislation if it receives royal assent.”

Minister Friesen also draws attention to the broader policy discussion regarding disclosure of genetic information that ought to occur between the federal and provincial governments before comprehensive legislation is passed.

The third letter comes from the Hon. Suzanne Anton, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of British Columbia. Minister Anton begins by noting that the B.C. government is “very supportive” of the intention behind Bill S-201. She underscores her government's commitment to the protection of basic human rights, and raises significant concerns with Bill S-201.

Minister Anton states, “However, we share the view...that the proposed Act may go beyond Parliament's legislative jurisdiction. In fact, we would identify the following considerations relative to the issues raised by this Bill: 1...the proposed Bill has the potential to encroach in a number of areas of provincial jurisdiction, and as such, would benefit from a more comprehensive review and amendment prior to passage; and 2. Proportionality: In reviewing the potential consequences for an act of prohibited discrimination under the Bill relative to a comparable discrimination under human rights legislation, it appears that the consequences of this Bill would be significantly greater and arguably disproportionate relative to the consequences of actual discrimination.” The minister concludes by stating that as a result of these concerns, the Government of British Columbia opposes Bill S-201 in its current form.

In reviewing these letters, there is no doubt that as a government we are running the risk of provoking and impeding upon the jurisdiction of our provincial partners. That is why we have proposed the deletion of clauses 1 through 7 of Bill S-201. It is not because of disagreement with the stated goal of the bill. In fact, the contrary is true. It is because of a sincere belief in upholding the fundamental balance of federalism, without which our country cannot function. This issue is too important to not get right.

In my remaining time, I will briefly address reasons for proposing the deletion of clause 8 of Bill S-201, which contains the amendments to the Canada Labour Code, CLC. Employment-related discrimination in Canada is typically addressed by human rights legislation like the Canadian Human Rights Act, not by labour legislation. There is concern about singling out one specific form of discrimination for protection in the CLC, and about establishing a separate complaints mechanism under the CLC that would only consider complaints of genetic discrimination. By amending both the CLC and the Canadian Human Rights Act, we would be creating two parallel and overlapping avenues for redress. This would be confusing for employers and employees, and could result in conflicting decisions and an inefficient use of public resources. In Canada, addressing discrimination falls squarely under the purview of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, and that is where it must remain.

Bill S-201 also departs from the traditional and respectful approach to labour law reform, which involves consultation and consensus building between employers, labour unions, and the federal government. For these reasons, clause 8 of this bill should be deleted.

While recognizing the tremendous work that has gone into the development of Bill S-201, only the amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act should be supported by the House.

In closing, I wish to emphasize that all Canadians should be protected from genetic discrimination, a matter that requires ongoing co-operation between federal and provincial governments. Such important intergovernmental co-operation must and will continue to protect the rights of all Canadians.

Motions in amendmentGenetic Non-Discrimination ActPrivate Members' Business

February 14th, 2017 / 6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very surprised, quite frankly, at the comments by my colleague.

When this was before committee, those who testified generally agreed that it was within the Constitution of this country. We heard evidence completely on that. The hon. member said he is completely supportive of all the efforts behind this, but when the bill has been gutted, that gets called into question. I am very disappointed on that, quite frankly. I would have been interested in hearing what they heard from the Province of Ontario. I am sure, when those members were out soliciting legal opinions, the Province of Ontario told them it was okay. Did it? I can imagine that is what it said.

Despite that, I am pleased to support this bill because it is important. It would prohibit requiring any individual to take a genetic test or to disclose the results of that genetic test.

The time has come for us to do something about genetic discrimination. It can take many forms, all of which are unjust and feed the Orwellian mentality, which can be destructive to the welfare of a free and open society.

Genetic testing is routinely used as a tool for medical diagnosis, which is a positive thing. As the science of genetic testing has evolved into a multi-billion dollar industry, so too has the possible misuse of this information in ways that are contrary to patients' best interests. Canada, unlike most other western nations, has not kept pace with the rapid growth of the genetic field and thus has no laws provincially or federally that protect Canadians from having their own genetic information used against them.

This bill would ensure that Canadians are fully protected against employers or insurance companies that would deny employment or ensure coverage.

Studies indicate that there are also grave social consequences to the misuse of genetic testing. It is a dangerous precedent, as certain groups may encounter discrimination based on their race. For instance, people could be evaluated not on the basis of their merit and abilities, but on predictions of future health and/or their performance based on ethnicity. For instance, in the United States, African Americans statistically do not live as long as Americans of European descent, even when there are no socio-economic factors present. Scientists have also discovered that Jewish people can have a propensity for Huntington's disease. They too could be denied insurance.

Increasingly, and rightly so, patients are reluctant to agree to have their medical genetic testing done for fear the results may be used against them, thereby putting their own health at risk even when such testing might prevent disease and give the patient the opportunity to adopt lifestyle choices to avoid medical complications.

Recently, The Globe and Mail reported on a case of a 24-year-old professional who was dismissed after sharing with his employer that he had tested positive for Huntington's disease, although his symptoms would not manifest for approximately 20 years. Canada is the only G7 nation not to have protections in place for citizens like him.

Currently, there are 38,000 genome tests that can be done, and that number is growing exponentially, daily indeed. Canada has not kept pace with the science, and it is imperative that we do so now. It is our duty.

Bill S-201 would prohibit service providers from demanding or requiring a person to disclose past results of genetic testing in order to exercise prejudice. Insurance companies and employers are not the only ones in this area that can be affected by forced disclosure.

If we do not pass this bill, it will become exponentially harder to pass in the future, in my opinion, but it would do the right thing in protecting people from possible discrimination.

We have to get involved with this. There are legal opinions. The bill fits perfectly within federal jurisdiction. I am sure the hon. member and others in the government in their solicitations were looking for reasons to defeat this legislation. As I pointed out to them, the provincial jurisdiction with the largest justice department in Canada happens to be in Ontario. What did Ontario say? Ontario said it is okay with this. It does not have any particular objections to this bill.

This is an opportunity for all members of Parliament, regardless of which political party they are a part of, to stand up and do the right thing. I hope this gets passed by all members of the House.

Motions in amendmentGenetic Non-Discrimination ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand here and add my voice in strong support of Bill S-201, an act to prohibit and prevent genetic discrimination.

I want to recognize the hard work of Senator James Cowan, recently retired, who has been shepherding this legislation in one form or another for several years now. In light of his retirement, it would be a tremendous gesture on the part of the House to honour his work on this legislation and pass the bill without amendments.

I also want to acknowledge the hard work of the member for Don Valley West who has sponsored this bill in the House of Commons and has provided convincing and sustained arguments for its passage every step of the way.

Finally, I want to thank my colleagues on the Standing Committee of Justice and Human Rights who I worked with on this bill through five meetings. I especially want to thank my Liberal colleagues on that committee for having the courage to stand up against the wishes of their government and help pass the bill through the committee without any significant changes.

I support the need to protect Canadians from genetic discrimination through strong federal legislation. We believe all Canadians should be afforded the best health care possible, and genetic testing is increasingly part of health care prevention. Accordingly Canadians should have a right to know their genetic characteristics without fear of discrimination by employers or insurance companies.

Indeed, with few exceptions, the vast majority of witnesses said that the passage of the bill with all of its main clauses intact was vital to protect against genetic discrimination. My Liberal colleagues on the committee did well to listen to the evidence during the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill to pass it in its present form.

There are three main pillars to Bill S-201, which my colleague for Don Valley West refers to as the three legs of a stool, all are necessary to keep the stool from falling over.

First, the bill would enact a new genetic non-discrimination act to prohibit any person from requiring an individual to undergo a genetic test or disclose the results of that test as a condition of the following: either providing goods or services to an individual, or entering into and continuing a contract or agreement with that individual. These changes are detailed through clauses 1 through 7 of the bill.

Second, the bill would amend part III of the Canada Labour Code to protect employees from being required to undergo or disclose the results of a genetic test and would provide employees with other protections related to genetic testing and test results. These changes are detailed in clause 8 of the bill.

Finally, the bill would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of genetic characteristics. That is part of clause 9.

I want to make it very clear for all hon. members that the bill must pass with all of these provisions in place in order to make it effective.

During the witness testimony, we heard from a variety of witnesses. We had the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, the Canadian Coalition for Genetic Fairness, the Canadian Association of Genetic Counsellors, the Canadian Medical Association, and the Canadian College of Medical Geneticists. We had several constitutional experts, including Bruce Ryder, Peter Hogg, Hugo Cyr, and Pierre Thibault. We also heard from the Canadian Institute of Actuaries, and had moving testimony by Dr. Ronald Cohn, the pediatrician and chief at the Hospital for Sick Children.

In particular, there are a few examples of the testimony that I want to include in my limited time.

Representatives from the Canadian Human Rights Commission have testified that if this bill were amended to contain only the clause to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act, we could not responsibly tell Canadians that they could feel free to have genetic testing without the fear of genetic discrimination. In fact, Ms. Marie-Claude Landry, none other than the chief commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, underlined this when she stated, “While changing the Canadian Human Rights Act will be a positive step for human rights, it cannot address all the concerns surrounding genetic discrimination.”

Dr. Ronald Cohn gave particularly moving testimony at the committee about young children whose conditions required genetic testing for diagnosis, but whose families felt they could not consent to the testing for fear of genetic discrimination. Without the testing, he could not properly treat these very sick children.

Dr. Cohn and over 100 genetic scientists, medical doctors, genetic councillors from universities across Canada wrote to the Prime Minister in November of last year and urged him to retain all of the key provisions of the bill as it was passed by the Senate.

The committee also heard captivating testimony from the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Association of Genetic Councillors, and the Canadian College of Medical Geneticists about the medical promise of genetic testing and the revolution in medicine it presented. However, the full potential of genetic testing will not be realized if people are legitimately worried about discrimination.

I want to turn to the constitutional issues. I see that the member for Edmonton Centre, who has recently joined us on the justice committee, has moved several report stage amendments to Bill 5-201. His motions call for the deletion of clauses 1 through 8, which will effectively gut the bill and turn it into nothing less than a paper tiger when it comes to protecting Canadians against genetic discrimination.

The deletion of these clauses will leave the bill with nothing more than an amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act, which will give Canadians a false sense of security that they will not be discriminated against because of genetic testing. I pointed to this fact earlier in my speech from the testimony of the commissioner of that commission.

I have respect for the member for Edmonton Centre, but this action on his part makes me more than a little angry. These amendments flagrantly ignore the recommendations of the committee and they are an insult to the witness testimony and the hard work of that committee.

One of the main concerns of the legislation was the constitutionality of the proposed genetic non-discrimination act. In fact, the minister in a letter to the justice committee, dated November 17, 2016, outlined the government's concerns with the aforementioned clauses. She felt that it intruded into the provincial jurisdiction over the regulation of contracts and services.

Our committee consulted with a variety of constitutional experts, one of whom was none other than the great Professor Peter Hogg. He is probably the most consulted constitutional scholar in Canada. These eminent scholars clearly held the view that the prohibitions listed in the first clauses of the bill were a clearly justified use of the federal criminal law power.

In previous rulings, the Supreme Court of Canada has held that a valid criminal law power requires (1) a prohibition; (2) a penalty, and (3) a criminal law purpose such as peace, order, security, morality, and health. Federal criminal law power against a public health evil relies on the fact that it is directed against human conduct that has a injurious or undesirable effect on members of the public.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has stated that “acts or conduct that have an injurious or undesirable effect on public health constitute public health evils that may properly be targeted by the criminal law”.

Discrimination based on genetic testing does have an injurious and undesirable effect on public health. When people are too afraid to go for genetic testing because of the fears of discrimination, this does not allow physicians to do their job properly. Taking a test that could help someone's life should not be a calculated risk.

I ask all hon. members in the House, especially my Liberal colleagues across the way, to please summon the courage to do what is right, support the bill without these amendments, listen to the hard work that the committee did, and let us do something right for Canada. Let us get rid of these amendments and pass the bill as it was passed by the Senate.

Motions in amendmentGenetic Non-Discrimination ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Liberal Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin my remarks today echoing the previous speaker, who was thankful for the tremendous work of the recently retired Senator James Cowan, who put his heart and his soul, his head, and his hard work into getting this bill to us today.

I also thank the members of the Senate human rights committee who spent hours getting the bill right so that it could pass there unanimously and get to this, the other place, in their words.

I thank the patients and the doctors, the parents and researchers, the advocates, legal scholars, the many health groups, and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs that persisted in making sure that this bill passed at second reading and got to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, so ably chaired by the member for Mount Royal.

I thank all the members of that committee, and also the former justice minister and the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, both for their remarks and for their work on the committee; and the whole committee for sending it back to this House unchanged so that we could consider it, pass it, and start making a difference in the lives of Canadians this very day. It is a rare opportunity that we in this House can actually pass a bill that will change the lives of millions of Canadians and change it for the better for sure.

Unfortunately the amendments presented by the member for Edmonton Centre would essentially gut this bill. If they are passed, they would rob it of its ability to help all Canadians and limit its effect to very few. For me, the bill as it stands right now is the only way to ensure that all Canadians, regardless of where they live, where they work, where they receive health care; and where they may face discrimination in family law, labour law, or with respect to the provision of any good or service, will not be discriminated against because of their genetic characteristics. This is a bold law. It is a 21st century law designed to combat a 21st century problem new to us since the discovery of the human genome. The proposed amendments would, as I said, make the protection envisioned in this bill so narrow and so small as to make it impotent in the face of a problem that any Canadian could be challenged with. Unfortunately, the member for Edmonton Centre is new to the justice committee. He did not have the advantage of being part of it when, after very careful consideration, the committee chose to return the bill to this House with full and complete support for every one of its clauses.

The committee considered the medical necessity of the bill, the horrendous choices faced by adults and particularly parents of young children who have to decide whether to undergo a genetic test in the face of possible discrimination. The committee members saw the social evil of failing to protect every Canadian, ensuring that we all get the best health care possible. They also considered the jurisdictional questions, and came to an all-party conclusion. I am so happy to have brought together the NDP and the Conservatives. It does not happen often enough, but it is Valentine's Day and I am sensing some love there. This is an all-party conclusion that it is indeed within the right and the responsibility of the federal government to enact this bill.

Legal scholars appearing before the committee did not all agree, but the majority said without hesitation that they believe it is within our powers, the powers of everyone here, to pass this bill. The committee considered the concerns of the insurance industry and its fears that rates for life insurance would go up if the bill passes. The committee, however, also learned from the Privacy Commissioner, who undertook two studies and determined that “the impact of a ban on the use of genetic information by the life and health insurance industry would not have a significant impact on insurers and the efficient operation of insurance markets.”

The justice committee could have chosen to vote down each of the eight clauses that are proposed to be deleted, but it did not. The members of the committee chose to protect the integrity of all three aspects of this bill, what I have referred to as a three-legged stool, and they did that after very careful consideration of all the evidence.

Now the government is proposing to delete almost every section of the bill, including the title. How could it have reached such a different conclusion than those of our colleagues on the justice committee? The arguments that they heard at committee were different. We have heard that the argument the government has is jurisdictional, but according to Professors Bruce Ryder of Osgoode Hall; Pierre Thibault of the University of Ottawa; and the most distinguished constitutional scholar in our country, Peter Hogg, who has been cited over 1,000 times in Canadian courts including the Supreme Court of Canada, Bill S-201 is a valid constitutional exercise of federal criminal law power.

The Supreme Court of Canada has repeatedly emphasized that the criminal law power is very broad and can apply to areas that would normally be under provincial jurisdiction, especially to counter social evil.

There are many examples of the Supreme Court, which has upheld this doctrine for food and drugs, tobacco, firearms, security training, assisted human reproduction, and more.

Is genetic discrimination a social evil?

Just ask the parents who go to Toronto's SickKids hospital. Just ask them what it is like when, as Dr. Ronald Cohn has said, parents of very sick children have been paralyzed by the fear of genetic discrimination. If a fear of discrimination is so great that it prevents a parent from having their child receive a genetic test that could save their life, is that not a social evil? This is not anecdotal. The CMA told committee that it ,“strongly supports the enactment of Bill S-201 in its entirety.... Canadians deserve to have access to the best possible health care without fear of genetic discrimination”.

Peter Hogg said, “The only conceivable purpose of [the bill] is to prohibit and prevent what Parliament would regard as the evil of genetic discrimination”.

To sum up, the Canadian Human Rights Act changes are simply not sufficient to do the job at hand. That is the only part the government would save. The act only applies to sectors and industries within federal jurisdiction.

Amending the Human Rights Act would be of little, or even of no, assistance to most Canadians who encounter or fear genetic discrimination. In fact, it could be dangerous. People could have the false assumption they are being protected, but could lose their job, could lose in a family law case, could lose benefits, could be denied insurance, or anything else that we assume should be protected under Canadian law.

Canadians want strong laws to protect their rights. They want to ensure that the federal government is taking action to protect them. The government claims that federal action alone cannot ensure the protections that stakeholders are calling for.

I support the call for additional provincial legislation, but almost every witness that the committee heard from told them that strong federal action is absolutely necessary. The federal Parliament can take action and can do so while respecting our Constitution. That is our job.

I ask members of this House to defeat these amendments, pass the bill as it stands, make a difference in the lives of Canadians, and ensure that all Canadians have the health care they deserve.

Motions in amendmentGenetic Non-Discrimination ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening in strong support of Bill S-201, an act to prohibit and prevent genetic discrimination, and in strong opposition to the amendments brought forward by the hon. member for Edmonton Centre and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, which would have the effect of gutting this important piece of legislation.

At the outset, echoing the comments from the hon. member for Don Valley West, I want to acknowledge the tremendous work of Senator James Cowan, who recently retired after serving in the other place for 12 years with distinction. I also want to acknowledge the hon. member for Don Valley West for his tireless advocacy on this important issue.

The hon. members for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, Niagara Falls, and Don Valley West very ably set forward the arguments that were heard before the justice committee in great detail about the constitutionality of Bill S-201. Simply put, it is not in question. The constitutionality of Bill S-201 is clear, and I do not intend to elaborate any further on that point. However, I want to talk about why Bill S-201 is a good bill, and why it is so important that we see this legislation passed, and why we stand up against the government's effort to gut the bill.

In recent years we have seen a tremendous transformation in medicine as a result of genetic testing. As recently as three years ago, there were some 2,000 genetic tests. Today, there are more than 48,000 genetic tests. That number continues to rise each and every day.

Advances in genetic knowledge and technologies and their resulting applications present tremendous opportunities in medicine. Information from genetic testing can help patients seek early treatment and modify lifestyle choices, to minimize the impact of a genetic mutation. Genetic testing guides the selection of pharmacological therapies. Genetic testing can help prevent disease and illness. With early detection and treatment, genetic testing can save lives.

While there have been tremendous advancements in genetic testing and in genetic medicine, absent robust safeguards, genetic information can be misused and abused. As a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I along with the members of the committee heard very clear evidence that genetic discrimination occurs in Canada. We heard evidence of genetic discrimination in the provision of insurance, evidence of genetic discrimination in the area of employment, and evidence of genetic discrimination in housing, among other areas.

We heard evidence of a young mother who had her life insurance policy rescinded because she told her insurer that her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer and that her mother had a BRCA mutation. We heard evidence of a young man who lost his position of employment because he told his employer that he had a genetic mutation. We heard evidence of a landlord who required that tenants provide medical information, including genetic information, failing which they would lose housing privileges.

We heard evidence from Dr. Cohn, the chief pediatrician at Toronto's Sick Kids Hospital, who gave compelling evidence of parents, literally with tears in their eyes, refusing to have their children undergo genetic testing, even though that testing was the best way forward in terms of identifying the right treatments for those children, all because they feared genetic discrimination.

Despite the fact that genetic testing is real, when it happens in Canada, there are literally no safeguards. There are no laws on the books to protect Canadians from genetic discrimination. Consequently, Canadians are faced with two choices. They can either undergo genetic testing and face the risk that they will experience some form of genetic discrimination, or they can forego genetic testing, foregoing an opportunity for early detection, early treatment, and the potential to save their lives. That is a choice that no Canadian should have to face.

Bill S-201 closes the legislative vacuum by doing three key things. The hon. member for Don Valley West has referred to the bill as a three-legged stool. What the government is doing is removing two critical legs of that stool.

As a result of the amendments being brought forward, the government would be gutting a section of Bill S-201 that would amend the Canada Labour Code to establish a complaints process for federally regulated employees to bring forward complaints about genetic discrimination by their employers.

The government is leaving intact the amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act, which would establish and expressly incorporate into the Canadian Human Rights Act that genetic characteristics constitute a prohibited ground of discrimination. That part of Bill S-201 is an important component of the bill in terms of updating Canada's human rights laws and making it absolutely clear that genetic discrimination is unacceptable and clearly constitutes a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act. However, make no mistake, the burden falls on the complainant to advance a Canadian Human Rights Act complaint.

That is why the most important section, which is being gutted by the government, would prohibit someone who is providing a service or entering into a contract with another person from requiring someone to take a genetic test or to provide genetic test information. Further, it would prevent someone from sharing the genetic information of an individual without their consent. It is that part of the legislation that is so critical. That part of the legislation would give Bill S-201 teeth. It is that part of the bill, the essence of the bill, that is, shamefully, being gutted by the government.

Bill S-201 is comprehensive. It is robust. If it is passed, and the government's amendments are rejected, Canada would go from having no laws, being the only country in the G7 without laws to protect Canadians from genetic discrimination, to having some of the strongest and most robust anti-genetic discrimination laws in the world. Let us pass Bill S-201, and let us reject the amendment brought forward by the government.

Motions in amendmentGenetic Non-Discrimination ActPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in very strong support of the bill as reported back by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which I chair.

I rise today in fervent opposition to the amendments brought forward by the member for Edmonton Centre. When the member for Edmonton Centre put forward these amendments, he stated that they had not been considered by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which is true. They had not been considered because they would have been non-receivable at committee.

One does not move at committee to strike a clause. One votes against the clause when it is before the committee. Members of the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party, and the NDP on the committee heard the evidence and all of them decided to vote in favour of those clauses, thus rejecting the proposed amendments being put forward by the member for Edmonton Centre. I can only say that I hope the House considers the hard work done by the committee and the testimony of the witnesses who appeared before committee who told us how important this legislation is.

Do members know that 12% of Canadian women will one day be diagnosed with breast cancer? That sounds horrible, but if a woman has the BRCA1 mutation, she has a 65% chance of developing breast cancer by the age of 70. If a woman has the BRCA2 mutation, she has a 45% chance of developing breast cancer by the age of 70. There is also more than a 30% increase in the chance of ovarian cancer. These are dangerous things.

Imagine, if we can, that a 35-year-old woman's 40-year-old sister was just diagnosed with breast cancer and told that she has the BRCA1 gene. There is a history in their family of breast cancer. Their grandmother died of it, and so did their aunt. They are of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, which means they have a one in 40 chance of having this mutation, as opposed to a one in 800 chance in the general population.

There is a test available, easily accessible, to determine whether a woman has the BRCA mutation. It would stand to reason, would it not, that a woman would have this test done. After all, if she found out she was negative, she would breathe a huge sigh of relief, and if she found out she was positive, she could take preventive action. She could get enhanced screening. She could go on the birth control pill, which reduces the chance of developing breast cancer. Alternatively, she could have a radical mastectomy, which drastically reduces a woman's risk of getting breast cancer. There are other types of surgery as well.

It would stand to reason that it would be an easy decision, but in Canada, the decision is not so easy. The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and the Senate committee before it heard testimony from people in this situation who chose not to have the screening. Among the reasons was that if a woman was looking for a job, she was afraid that a future employer would not hire her if she disclosed the result of this genetic test. A woman may have young children and be worried she would not get life insurance, disability or long-term care insurance or the insurers would charge her prohibitive rates which she could not pay. Women would worry knowing they have this gene merely because of discrimination, not only for them but close family members, perhaps their children.

Canadians should never have to worry about a decision that could save their lives. Medical professionals who testified before the justice committee said that a significant number of people in this situation refuse to be tested, like the 35-year-old woman I just described in getting a job, getting insurance, and then dying of breast cancer at age 40 because she was not screened for the gene and did not take preventive measures.

People should not die in Canada because they are afraid to take a genetic test. This does not happen in other countries. Laws exist to prohibit genetic discrimination in most of the western world. Criminal sanctions exist to prevent this in France, Austria, Germany, Norway, and Israel, among other countries.

The law before us seeks to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canada Labour Code, and to attach criminal penalties to require someone to submit to a genetic test or disclose results of a genetic test. The goal here needs to be to protect people across the country. The amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act that the government supports are very nice, but they only apply to federal matters. This would leave the vast majority of Canadians unprotected. We need to be able to reassure Canadians from coast to coast to coast that they should not be afraid to get genetic testing for diagnostic or predictive reasons.

In order to prevent the social evil of genetic discrimination, we need to make use of Parliament's criminal law powers. Protecting people here is not an insignificant issue. As of November 2014, there were over 24,000 tests for over 5,000 conditions, and these are increasing exponentially.

Genetic tests will allow Canadians to live longer and healthier lives. Of all the witnesses that came before our committee, the vast majority were in favour of the law: medical associations, genetic associations, the Privacy Commissioner, and the Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The only ones who disapproved were the insurance industry and the actuaries. Yet they have known about this concern for years and have done nothing to help resolve it.

Those who vote to defeat the amendments and support the law as drafted will be doing the right thing when it comes to policy.

Of course, the government has raised a separate issue that I want to deal with. It argues that the law is unconstitutional, as it seeks to regulate contracts and insurance companies, which fall under provincial jurisdiction. This position has been refuted by the majority of experts who testified before both the Senate and House committees, which included such luminaries as Bruce Ryder, Pierre Thibault, and Canada's foremost constitutional expert, Peter Hogg, who has been cited in over 1,000 court decisions.

Federal criminal law power falls under section 91(27) of the Constitution Act of 1867. The leading case to define the criminal law power was the Margarine reference of 1949. In that case, Justice Rand, of the Supreme Court of Canada, said that a law passed using Parliament's criminal law powers has to have as its dominant characteristic the putting in place of prohibitions coupled with penalties for a criminal public purpose, such as preserving peace, order, or security, or promoting health or morality. The court, importantly, recognized that social evils change over time and that Parliament has to be able to deal with them under the criminal law power.

In fact, over the last several decades, the court has emphasized that this is the broadest and most flexible of Parliament's powers, and we have used it in such varied areas as the Food and Drugs Act, the Tobacco Act, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, and securities legislation. In the Assisted Human Reproduction Act reference several years ago, the court upheld very similar provisions criminalizing cloning or payment to surrogates.

I want to say that I saw the letter from the Province of Quebec, which cites only this one case to say that it may be unconstitutional, when in fact, that very reference came to exactly the opposite conclusion where the criminal law powers were upheld.

It is clear to me that the pith and substance of this law is to prevent the evils of genetic discrimination and not to regulate the insurance industry, which is not even referenced in the bill.

I want to cite Peter Hogg's brief, where he states:

A valid criminal law involves three elements: (1) a prohibition, (2) a penalty, and (3) a typically criminal purpose. In the proposed Genetic Non-Discrimination Act, all three ingredients are present. There is a prohibition of genetic discrimination, a penalty for breach of the provision, and the only purpose is to prohibit and prevent the evil of genetic discrimination.

Mr. Hogg concludes: “I agree completely...that the proposed law would be a valid exercise of Parliament's criminal-law power”.

When there is a dispute or debate about constitutionality related to criminal law in Canada, I would prefer to cite Peter Hogg over anyone else.

In conclusion, I strongly support the bill. I think it is right when it comes to policy. I think it is right when it comes to the question of federal-provincial relationships. Someone needs to take the lead in this country to prevent genetic discrimination. Let it be this Parliament.

Motions in amendmentGenetic Non-Discrimination ActPrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jennifer O'Connell Liberal Pickering—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill S-201, an act to prohibit and prevent genetic discrimination. Many of my comments will be similar to those members have heard today, but I thought it important to add my voice to this debate.

I want to thank the hon. member for Don Valley West for sponsoring the bill in the House and for his important work and advocacy on this issue.

The study of genetics is a complicated one. In my conversations with stakeholders and constituents, it was fascinating to learn about a field that remains a mystery for many Canadians.

A genetic test, according to the federal medical devices regulations, is a test that analyzes DNA, RNA, or chromosomes for the purpose of prediction of disease or vertical transmission risks, or monitoring diagnosis or prognosis.

In Canadian health care institutions, tens of thousands of genetic tests are conducted each year to diagnose disease, guide treatment, inform reproductive planning, and to test for influences and drug responses. As of this moment, if a Canadian has a genetic test, there is no law, federal or provincial, that provides protection against a third party demanding and attaining access to those test results.

Bill S-201, if passed, will provide much needed protection for Canadians against discrimination on the basis of genetic tests or characteristics. It will do so by, among other measures, prohibiting the collection, use, or disclosure of genetic test results without prior consent. It will also add genetic characteristics to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

The bill, if not amended, would also provide employees with the right to refuse undergoing genetic testing and/or disclosing the test results to their employer. Employers would also be prevented from dismissing or retaliating against an employee for exercising those rights.

If our government is committed to protecting Canadians from the possible misuse of their genetic information, then this bill is an important step toward helping prevent genetic discrimination, while safeguarding their privacy. The fact is that as genetic testing technologies become more accessible and sophisticated, access to online genetic information has become widespread. Protecting Canadians from genetic discrimination is a pressing issue now more than ever, as genetic testing for both diagnostic and predictive purposes has become a normal part of medical practice.

Factors such as family history or one's ethnicity can increase the chances of certain genetic mutations. Genetic testing can quite literally save lives as it allows Canadians who suspect they might be of high risk to take preventative action.

Motions in amendmentGenetic Non-Discrimination ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

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

The EconomyAdjournment Proceedings

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise this evening. You have a worried Canadian before you today. I am worried about the future of this country's economy, and I am especially worried about the debt that my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will have to pay one day.

Right before Christmas, on December 23, the Minister of Finance tabled a very troubling document, which indicated that, if nothing changes, Canada is headed toward a $1.5-trillion debt by 2050, and, if nothing changes, we would only return to a balanced budget by 2055. The government was so proud of this document that it only released it a few hours before Christmas. Even worse, it was kept from Canadians for 10 weeks.

If I should have the good fortune one day of becoming a minister and a member of cabinet, and I have a document that is to my advantage, I will quickly release it. However, if it is not to my advantage, I will put it in my desk and try to forget about it. That is what the government tried to do when it sat on the document for 10 weeks.

When we were in government just barely 16 months ago, we left the house in order. We had a $2.9-billion surplus, the best debt-to-GDP ratio of the G7, and the lowest tax burden for Canadians in 50 years. That is our record.

The Liberals got elected by promising small deficits of $10 billion for three years, but we now know that these deficits are likely to be three times higher than that. The Liberals also promised to balance the budget in 2019. However, the Department of Finance has shown that the Liberals are going to miss their target by 36 years. Any lowly accountant working for a small business who was off by 36 years would be quickly shown the door. Let us hope that Canadians will do the same two and a half years from now.

The Liberals also promised revenue-neutral tax changes. That is untrue. The changes they proposed are going to cost $1.8 billion more than the taxes we are asking Canadians to pay. In addition, 65% of Canadian workers are not affected by this government's so-called extraordinary tax changes.

Humble people who earn $45,000 a year or less will not see any changes to their taxes. Those who earn $65,000 a year will see a little more money in their pockets, namely $2.50 a week. That is not exactly an extraordinary tax change. In fact, those who will benefit the most from these tax changes are Canadians who earn between $145,000 and $200,000 a year. That is hardly the middle class.

The same goes for money for children. Again today, the minister very proudly stated that this generosity toward Canadian children was unprecedented. The Liberals can certainly afford to be generous. They are giving away money they do not even have. It is easy to give away money one does not have. That is known as a deficit or a debt, but what it really is is bad management.

The government is also going after businesses by imposing the Liberal carbon tax, hiking their Canada pension plan outlays, maintaining the high business tax rate despite pledging to reduce it to 9%, and moving to eliminate business tax credits.

As a Canadian, I am very worried because the government's spending appears to be completely out of control. Fifteen times now, I have asked the government when it will balance the budget, but it has never been able to answer me. I rise in the House every day to ask which tax credits it is planning to cut next, but it cannot tell us. Things are being kept hidden that should be brought to light.

The EconomyAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.

Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe New Brunswick

Liberal

Ginette Petitpas Taylor LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, our government is making careful and necessary investments to ensure sustainable economic growth, in order to benefit the middle class and those working hard to join it. Our approach has been recognized around the world, by the IMF, among others.

We must ensure that the benefits of growth are shared on a large scale. That is the only way to go. That is why we have taken a number of significant measures to strengthen the middle class.

We have increased support for families by lowering taxes for the middle class and implementing the more generous and better targeted Canada child benefit. We have also worked with the provinces and territories on improving the Canada pension plan and ensuring that Canadians have a more secure, stable, and dignified retirement.

We are also adopting important measures to help Canadian businesses grow and create good, well-paying jobs for Canadians. These measures help lay the foundation for more dynamic, viable, and sustainable economic growth.

Our government is also making meaningful investments in infrastructure that will create good jobs for Canadians, as well as foster a cleaner environment and more prosperous communities for years to come. Infrastructure plays a key role in strengthening the middle class and fostering welcoming communities, as well as ensuring access to clean drinking water and clean air.

With these strengths, we are restoring trust and optimism among middle-class Canadians, we are supporting communities, and we are creating the conditions needed to ensure shared economic growth nourished by hope and hard work.

I will briefly address one of the points raised by the hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, namely, the retirement income system.

Our government wants to ensure that Canadians who work hard their whole lives are rewarded with a secure and dignified retirement. We will help them achieve that goal. That is why we increased the guaranteed income supplement and strengthened the Canada pension plan, or CPP.

Once fully implemented, the CPP enhancement will increase the maximum retirement benefit by about 50%, which in today's dollars will represent an increase of nearly $7,000 a year, to a maximum benefit of about $20,000. In other words, more Canadians will be able to spend more time with their grandchildren instead of worrying about how to pay their rent.

The government is making smart, necessary investments that will improve the lives of all Canadians.

The EconomyAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will talk about three points. First, we are not against the infrastructure plan. Our government, under the leadership of the member for Lac-Saint-Jean, had an $80-billion infrastructure program. It was not $120 billion like the current government's program. The difference is that we had no deficit whereas the Liberals will have a colossal deficit.

With regard to working with the provinces, I do not think I need to remind the minister that there is currently a major dispute between the federal government and the provinces with respect to health—not to mention that the Liberal government pledged exactly the same amount as we did to support health, even though they criticized it at the time.

As for a clean environment, I would like to remind members that, once again, the government used the exact same targets that our government had set, and presented them in Paris. Yes, we are for the environment, and the proof is that the government used the same targets as we did.

I will end on a positive note: we agree with the support they are providing to individuals—

The EconomyAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

The EconomyAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.

Liberal

Ginette Petitpas Taylor Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I want to once again thank my hon. colleague for his comments.

The government has been working hard for over a year now to make real changes for Canadians. A lot of initial progress was made during that time, but we still have a lot of work to do.

The global economy is changing and the rate of change is ramping up. As a result, Canada must look to the future and give middle-class families the confidence, tools, and opportunities they need to have a real and fair chance of success.

Our government continues to implement important measures to create a better future for Canadian families, and we will continue to make the sound investments needed to improve the economy, stimulate sustainable growth, and strengthen the middle class.

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

7:40 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to rise on a question I raised back in October.

Before I start, I want to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence on his new portfolio. I got to know him quite well, working on the national defence committee. It is good to see him in this new role. This is my first chance to publicly congratulate him on this, and I look forward to working closely with him as we go forward.

In the question I raised on October 27, we were looking at having discussions with the former parliamentary secretary about the peacekeeping mission the Liberal government wanted to undertake. Here we are in February, and no details of the plan have been released.

We can talk about how the Liberals want to return to UN peacekeeping. We can talk about how they finally committed our troops to a mission in Africa, which is incredibly dangerous. We can talk about how they committed 600 troops, plus police officers to go over there, and committed $450 million over three years. However, we need to talk about the mission itself. We still have no details. The Minister of National Defence told the House he would come back to us with the plan by the end of December. We are six weeks into the new year and we have nothing.

We know the mission that is rumoured to be in Mali is incredibly dangerous. We understand the mission is going to put our troops in harm's way in a UN mandate that is all too often convoluted, overly controlled by bureaucrats, and too often ineffective.

We on this side of the House support fighting terrorism. We support going into a mission that is in our national interest. We support trying to protect those who cannot protect themselves. However, unfortunately, we are dealing with a situation in Africa where organizations like al Qaeda and ISIS are running rampant. We know for a fact they have said they are going to target the blue helmets of peacekeepers. We know for a fact that well over 100 peacekeepers have already been killed in the Mali mission. We also know that too often when we go into these UN missions, the rules of engagement and the chains of command are so convoluted that it does not serve the interests of our soldiers who are on the ground.

When is this mission going to be announced for Canadians to know? When will this UN mission come to the House for a full debate and a vote? Why has the government been so silent after campaigning on this, after the Liberals promised we would send 600 troops and police officers to do this peacekeeping? After it committed $450 million, why do we not know what the plan is? Our troops want to know. Canadians want to know. More important, they want to know how this is in Canada's national interest and whether it is the best use of Canadian resources and our troops when we face so many problems in so many other places around the world.

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

7:40 p.m.

Saint-Jean Québec

Liberal

Jean Rioux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to compliment the member for his work on the Standing Committee on National Defence. We all benefit from his sound knowledge of the defence file.

Canada has an important role to play in the fight against Daesh. That is why our government decided to invest $1.6 billion in security, stabilization, humanitarian aid, and development assistance in the region. Of that amount, just over $300 million has been allocated to extending and refocusing Operation Impact.

Just over a year ago, the House debated at length the refocusing of the mission and voted in favour of doing so. Our special forces personnel are performing a train, advise, and assist mission for Iraqi forces. We have also deployed Griffon helicopters to transport troops and equipment. Our troops have been very successful in their efforts to train Iraqi forces.

Since the fall of 2014, our special forces personnel have trained approximately 2,000 Iraqi security force members. In October, Iraqi forces launched their campaign to liberate Mosul. So far, they have taken back approximately 62% of the territory initially controlled by Daesh in Iraq and have cleared 115 towns and villages. The campaign for Mosul is large scale and we expect it will be a long and difficult fight. However, it is moving forward according to plan and on schedule.

The Canadian Armed Forces have also assumed the lead of the Coalition Role 2 medical facility in Northern Iraq. Approximately 50 military personnel are currently working at the facility with a mandate to provide medical and surgical care to support coalition forces. A total of 364 patients have been treated there so far. Members of the Canadian Armed Forces who have received care were treated for illnesses or injuries sustained outside the battlefield. We are very proud of the contribution of our medical teams.

We understand that Canadians want to know what our troops are doing and that is why our government has always been open and transparent about this mission. When we have information, we will be pleased to inform the opposition on the peacekeeping mission in Africa. A lot more information is needed. When decisions have been made and the requested information is available, the House will be notified.

Contrary to what my colleague opposite said, our government is working hard to keep Canadians informed in many different ways. There have been several technical briefings about the mission in recent months, one of which was broadcast on social media. A technical briefing was held on January 26 to provide updates on what Canadian troops are doing and what Iraqi security forces have accomplished in the operation to liberate Mosul. At another technical briefing, this one in November, officials discussed what our military men and women were doing in the campaign for Mosul. The minister and the chief of the defence staff also appeared before a parliamentary committee to talk about the mission.

The Canadian Armed Forces also made it possible for journalists to visit operations, as they did in November 2016, and we will continue to do so regularly. Journalists were able to observe first-hand how Canada is supporting the coalition.

We will continue to demonstrate transparency, but we will do so while constantly taking into account any risk such actions could pose to our troops. We have made major progress, and Canada remains fully committed to supporting the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people on their journey toward becoming a stable and secure country.