House of Commons Hansard #144 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was parks.

Topics

JusticeAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his congratulations. I, too, look forward to working with him.

Part of the process requires careful consideration and in the context of that careful consideration, it would be premature to identify the exact sections or criminal offences which our government at this stage is going to be revisiting mandatory minimum sentences.

Before we get to that point, we would want to consult with the criminal law profession, which we are doing. We would want to consult with other stakeholders, including the families and the victims and those who are negatively impacted by crimes. We would want to consult with communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system. We would want to do that so we can take a balanced approach, a measured approach, one that is not vulnerable to the same kind of constitutional challenges which we have seen successfully brought before the Supreme Court of Canada in the last 10 years.

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

February 21st, 2017 / 6:45 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am rising today on a question that I originally put to the Minister of National Defence on November 16 last year to talk about the peacekeeping mission and specifically to raise concern over the danger in this mission and the number of heavy weapons that the militants, whether they be ISIS terrorists, Boko Haram, al Shabaab, or even separatist forces that are fighting against the UN peacekeepers in west Africa have access to.

November 16 was just after Remembrance Day. We witnessed the Minister of National Defence use Remembrance Day as a platform to explain that he was going to extend the mission for our UN peacekeeping troops in Canada to be in Mali or be someplace in Africa for up to three years. Remembrance Day is not the time to be making those types of policy announcements. Remembrance Day is the day we commemorate those who have served this country and the many who have fallen in defending our rights and our values and fighting all sorts of atrocities, oppression and tyrants around the world.

The Prime Minister wants us to be back in the peacekeeping theatre because he is trying to get a seat for himself at the UN Security Council.

I have to make sure that everyone is aware that the Mali mission, where it is rumoured Canadian troops are going to be stationed, is the most deadliest mission for UN peacekeepers anywhere in the world. Over 100 peacekeepers have already died since 2012 in Mali. That is not counting the number of troops that have been killed that are there as part of the French forces which are not part of the UN peacekeeping mission, or the Germans, who are part of the European mission. In 2016 alone, 26 UN peacekeepers died. The Mali mission represents only 15% of the entire UN peacekeeping troops around the world, yet the Mali mission represents 90% of the death rate. That is unacceptable.

The Minister of National Defence has said that he would be laying out the UN peace operations that Canada was going to be involved in by the end of 2016. Here we are almost two months into 2017 and the Liberals are still waffling and dithering, and delaying this announcement.

The question that I raised back on November 16 was in reference to a report that was put together by the Conflict Armament Research group, which is based out of the United Kingdom and France. It was able to identify a pile of weapons that had previously been in Libya but were now in the hands of ISIS terrorists as well as militants in Mali. We are talking about Russian-manufactured surface-to-air missiles, man-portable air defence systems, MANPADS, Polish assault rifles, Belgian- and French-manufactured mortar rounds, 60 millimetre and 81 millimetre, which do a pile of damage, and ammunition that was found in Burkina Faso and the Ivory Coast. Chinese-type assault rifles that were manufactured only in 2011 were seen all throughout west Africa. This makes it incredibly dangerous for our troops that have to be stationed in the UN mission in Mali.

Again I come back to the government. When is it going to release the details? Is it going to be putting our troops into harm's way under a UN mission with convoluted chains of command and heavily bureaucratic systems that make it impossible to do the actual job of peacekeeping?

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

Saint-Jean Québec

Liberal

Jean Rioux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his question and for the opportunity to discuss this important subject.

Our government is resolutely engaged at the international level and contributes in many ways to ensure that the world is a safe place. In accordance with the mandate given to the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Foreign Affairs last August, the government has committed to participating in UN peace support operations.

Last August, Canada made a commitment to deploy up to 600 Canadian Armed Forces members to assist with UN peace operations. The three-year deployment is part of a government strategy that has a budget of $450 million and involves a number of departments.

Canada has also offered to host this year's UN peacekeeping defence ministerial. The Minister of National Defence travelled to Africa twice last fall to gather information and gain a better understanding of local and regional needs and issues. He met with representatives of various African governments, diplomats, UN representatives, and people working on the ground with government organizations. However, no decisions have been made regarding the location or length of the deployment. No deadline has been set for making that decision.

We have carefully examined the various options for missions led by the UN and other international organizations. Our analysis is still under way, with very clear objectives. The safety of our men and women in uniform is increasingly important, and this aspect alone greatly affects our planning and decision-making processes.

Our actions will always be aimed at reducing as much as possible the level of risk our Canadian Armed Forces personnel are exposed to. We want to ensure that any troops deployed as part of a peacekeeping mission have the appropriate equipment and the training needed to carry out the mission they are tasked with.

It is our duty to ensure that, before deploying our troops, we seek always to maximize the impact of our presence and our actions.

We also believe in the need to establish firm rules of engagement to ensure the success of our missions. These rules of engagement enable troops to defend themselves and the people they are working with. Even if it is a United Nations peacekeeping mission, the chief of the defence staff will always be fully in command of our troops.

We must also ensure that our friends fully understand our approach in order to maximize its impact on the ground.

At a conference in Ottawa last week, defence experts applauded Canada's wise and pragmatic decision to assess situations thoroughly before deploying troops.

As I said earlier, this decision will also depend on an assessment of where Canada can optimize its military, security, humanitarian, and paragovernmental contributions.

In accordance with the mandate Canadians gave us, we are committed to taking concrete action and playing a constructive role to make Canada safer. We are proud to demonstrate our renewed commitment to the United Nations and to being a responsible member.

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Mr. Speaker, although I appreciate the parliamentary secretary's comments, I would like to remind him that Canada's experience in UN peacekeeping missions in Africa in recent history, like Rwanda and Somalia, have been terrible. There are reasons why so many of our NATO partners are no longer participating in UN missions. The command structures have continually fallen apart, populations are still left on their own to protect themselves, and the rule of law is always abandoned.

What comes back is that we are not getting transparency from the Liberal government. Just like Operation Impact in Iraq, we are not getting the right technical briefings. The minister said that he would tell us what was going to happen before the end of 2016. Here we are at the end of February, and still no details.

We have to ensure that before our troops are deployed on this mission, he comes into this chamber for a full debate and a vote to ensure our troops know that Parliament stands behind them. I demand the government do just that.

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Jean Rioux Liberal Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, our government is determined to take concrete action and to play a constructive role in order to make the world safer.

Almost 70% of Canadians support the deployment of Canadian Armed Forces to conflict zones as part of UN peacekeeping missions. Almost 80% of Canadians believe that participating in such missions is a good or even very good use of the personnel and equipment of the Canadian Armed Forces. Canadians across the country support this.

Canadians understand the importance for Canada of supporting peace operations and being responsible members of the United Nations.

I will repeat that we are carefully examining all options to see how the Canadian Armed Forces can best contribute to maintaining peace and security.

I thank my colleague for his interest in and concern for the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces.

YouthAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rose in the House two weeks ago, on February 6, to ask the government, and particularly the Prime Minister, who is also the minister of youth, if the government was going to urgently reinvest in Katimavik.

Katimavik is an organization that provides youth across Canada with an incredible opportunity to participate in community work, among other things. I will expand on that a little later.

The organization directors approached us to tell us that Katimavik will have to close its doors by March 31 because of a lack of funding. In his answer to my question, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour said that helping young Canadians gain work experience was a government priority, but he made no mention of an imminent investment.

Since then, we have heard nothing. The Liberals have been in office for 18 months and they have not invested a cent in Katimavik. Meanwhile, the organization is celebrating its 40-year anniversary this year, in 2017. Unfortunately, this could be Katimavik's last anniversary, even though it has helped 35,000 young people in its 40 years of operation.

In less than a few weeks, in days really, the organization will have to close its doors because no announcement has been made. In 2012, the Conservatives reduced federal subsidies to Katimavik. The Prime Minister, who was the member for Papineau at the time, and still is, was outraged and asked the Conservatives to be honest enough to admit that they do not care about young people.

The Prime Minister promised to reinvest, to ensure that Katimavik is restored. In fact, to allow 1,700 young people to live the Katimavik experience every year, the organization needs $11.9 million. During the election campaign, the Liberals promised $105 million over five years. We have not seen a red cent for Katimavik since the Liberals came to power.

Katimavik's mission is to develop youth as engaged citizens and capable leaders and to foster respect, understanding, and reconciliation with indigenous peoples and with people from other cultures and regions.

Every day we hear the Liberals say that one of their priorities, if not their top priority, is to work on reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples. This could be a concrete example of investing in that very reconciliation. One of the basic concepts of Katimavik is to provide young people with the opportunity to do an internship or volunteer in an indigenous community. Every dollar spent on Katimavik brings $2.20 to the community.

Young people between the ages of 15 and 29, the age group most affected by unemployment and precarious work, participate in Katimavik. This program also serves young indigenous youth. We know that the suicide rate is five to seven times higher in indigenous communities and that Katimavik addresses recommendation 66 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada which calls on “the federal government to establish multi-year funding for community-based youth organizations to deliver programs on reconciliation”.

What will the Liberals do by March 31 to save Katimavik? We would need to have—

YouthAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

Liberal

YouthAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

Cape Breton—Canso Nova Scotia

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague from the NDP for bringing this important matter forward. Again, I would like to reiterate that this government understands the significance, the importance, and just the role that Katimavik has played in the lives of so many young Canadians over the years, and so many communities have benefited from the program as well. I want to single out the efforts of my colleague, the member for Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs, who has worked hard on this file. He has worked with the Katimavik organization over the last while to try to find a resolution to this issue.

My colleague mentioned something that was absolutely accurate in that the previous Conservative government put a cap on funding for Katimavik back in 2012. I know my colleague is an experienced member of the House now; I believe she is in her sixth year. She would know that, over the past Conservative governments, over that 10 years of governance by the Conservatives, funding for youth programs continued to decline, and Katimavik was one of those areas. If we look at funding for youth summer programs, we see that particular envelope was frozen in 2007. There was not any increase for student employment from 2007 until our last budget, when the Liberal government doubled the amount of investment that was made in summer students, and we almost doubled the number of jobs. Obviously, what we saw over the period of Conservative rule was that the pool of money stayed the same and minimum wage allocations grew in each of the provinces, so that pool of money was carved out and cut up differently with the minimum wage responsibility. Therefore, fewer and fewer students were able to benefit from that investment in student programming.

The other thing that we invested in, and I know the member would have seen the merit in this, was student grants. For low-income students, who struggle in this country, we saw a significant investment in student grants. Low-income students who were eligible went from a $2,000 grant ceiling to $3,000 for full-time students. For part-time students it went from $1,200 to $1,800, certainly making education more accessible for young people, because they are not getting work if they do not get the education. Therefore, we know that accessibility to education is key and central.

In this government, we believe in providing young Canadians with an opportunity to join the workforce, start that resumé off, and get the important skills they need to be a constructive member of the workforce. We are committed to that, and we will continue to make those key targeted investments so that young Canadians can benefit.

YouthAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, my colleague did not answer my question about Katimavik at all. If the Liberals do not act, Katimavik will be shut down on March 31. It is now February 21, so there is just over a month left.

The Liberals have been in power for 18 months. They promised $105 million over five years, but we have not seen any of that money yet. According to the people in charge of Katimavik, it costs $11.9 million to give 1,700 young people this experience. What are they going to do? The parliamentary secretary in no way answered the question. If nothing is done, Katimavik will be shut down.

The Prime Minister once chaired the Katimavik program. Does Katimavik not matter to him at all? If it does, will he invest to save it?

YouthAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, in the last election the number of young Canadians between the ages of 18 and 24 who turned out to vote to support this Prime Minister and his ambitious agenda increased by 20% because they believe that he understood what was important to those young Canadians. He absolutely does, and he is committed to them.

With regard to Katimavik, the NDP is yet to form government. The New Democrats had a cup of coffee in official opposition, but they have yet to form government. Things are being done on the file, and I guess my best advice for the member is to stay tuned.

YouthAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted.

Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:07 p.m.)