House of Commons Hansard #145 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pre-clearance.


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, March 8, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

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

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

February 22nd, 2017 / 6:35 p.m.


Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, on February 8, I posed a question to the government on behalf of Warrant Officer Roger Perreault, a member of the Canadian Armed Forces, regarding his eligibility for the critical injury benefit.

Warrant Officer Perreault is an Afghanistan veteran who has served his country honourably. In addition to serving in Afghanistan, Warrant Officer Perreault served twice in Bosnia and in three special duty areas over a span of 27 years.

Warrant Officer Perreault enlisted at the age of 19 and is a combat engineer. He is due to be medically released from the military later this year. He was injured in 2006 in a blast from an improvised explosive device, IED, while serving in Afghanistan. He has had three back surgeries, two hip replacements, and other complications.

Now in the process of being released from the military, Warrant Officer Perreault is being denied the critical injury benefit by Veterans Affairs, being told that at age 46, his injuries are the result of just his body wearing out, as opposed to the injury he received in the IED blast.

Rejected by the Department of Veterans Affairs for the critical injury benefit in March 2016, Warrant Officer Perreault appealed that decision to the Veterans Review and Appeal Board. On January 24 of this year, Warrant Officer Perreault was denied his appeal by the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, which upheld the decision by Veterans Affairs to refuse him the critical injury benefit that he had applied for on the basis of the injuries he received from an lED blast in Afghanistan.

The critical injury benefit provides a tax-free lump sum award for Canadian Armed Forces members and veterans who, after March 31, 2006, sustained a service-related severe and traumatic injury or developed an acute disease caused by a sudden and single incident which resulted in an immediate and severe impairment and interference in quality of life.

On the evening of October 7, 2006 while on mission in Afghanistan, Warrant Officer Perreault was on a routine patrol in a LAV Ill. He had stopped behind another LAV III, and dismounted when a large explosion ripped the left side of the LAV, throwing him to the ground.

In shock from the explosion, Warrant Officer Perreault prepared for an ambush attack. Once he had rested from the shock of the explosion, he started to experience pain through his body. Eventually he was medevaced by helicopter to Kandahar, and later was repatriated to Canada.

I hope the Minister of Veterans Affairs agrees that getting blown up by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan is a sudden and single incident that is service related. Since being medically repatriated back to Canada, Warrant Officer Perreault has undergone numerous urgent surgeries from the time of the explosion.

For the record, I now quote from the letter that Warrant Officer Perreault's military doctor wrote on his behalf to the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, “Warrant Officer Perreault's clinical course has been complicated by numerous hospital admissions, recurrent DVTs, numerous hip surgeries, including a total right hip replacement, radicular neck pain, chronic intractable pain, a large meniscal tear, PTSD and major depression. And this is only a partial list of his medical history. In summary, Warrant Officer Perreault has had extensive physical and mental injuries directly related to the IED blast in Afghanistan in 2006. In my opinion, he qualifies for the critical injury benefit.”

I also note for the record, Warrant Officer Perreault's military medical doctor provided pages and pages of supporting documentation that were included with his supporting letter to Veterans Affairs.

Contrast the doctor's professional medical opinion to that of the appeal board, which claimed that the best they could read from the doctor's report, was that Warrant Perreault sustained, and I quote the appeal board, “a back injury, which had some pre-existing elements,” and that their definition of “complex treatments that are related to the incident in 2006,” had not been met, claiming that the opinion of the attending military medical doctor was not credible.

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne Québec


Sherry Romanado LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her question.

Our government recognizes the notable contributions that veterans and Canadian Armed Forces members have made and continue to make to preserve the peace and protect the safety of Canadians here and around the world. Our top priority is to ensure that veterans and their families get the support that they need.

As the member knows, we cannot comment on specific cases for privacy reasons. However, I can discuss how Veterans Affairs provides many programs and services for the mental, as well as physical, health of our veterans.

Canada's veterans now receive more local, in-person government services, as well as better access to case managers than under the previous government. Last summer, Veterans Affairs Canada began reopening the nine Veterans Affairs offices that had been closed across the country by the previous government. We are on track to have every office reopened by spring 2017.

Moreover, we will also open a new office in Surrey, B.C. in May of this year.

Veterans Affairs Canada is currently hiring 400 new front-line employees to help veterans, Canadian Armed Forces members, and RCMP members and their families to get the best possible service in their own community.

This includes new caseworkers, which will allow us to get to a 25:1 ratio.

In budget 2016, we kept our promise to improve benefits for veterans, including by providing them with better compensation, more choices, and more support for planning their financial future.

We are giving more money to veterans who are sick or injured by increasing the disability award to a maximum of $360,000.

We increased the earnings lost benefit to 90% of an eligible veteran's salary at the time of his or her release to ensure stable financial security during rehabilitation.

We also expanded access to the permanent impairment allowance to better support veterans who had their career options limited by a service-related illness or injury and renamed the benefit the career impact allowance to better reflects its intention.

The Department of Veterans Affairs service standard for disability benefits is to process the first application within 16 weeks, and it is taking a hard look at the disability application process to expedite decision-making and to respond to the needs pf veterans promptly. Delivering timely benefit decisions is an area where we can and we must do better. In 2016, we saw a 19% increase in the number of disability claims. This is actually a good thing. It means more veterans are coming forward for help.

We are working at putting in measures to decrease the backlog, simplify decision-making processes, and transfer of medical records.

Veterans Affairs Canada is working diligently with the Canadian Armed Forces to ensure that all veterans and their families receive the support and the programs they deserve.

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.


Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, veterans are not interested in hearing how many new bureaucrats have been hired or that empty offices are being opened in government-held ridings. Veterans want action. I request a thorough review of this case.

The documentation submitted by Warrant Officer Perreault's military doctor should not have been summarily dismissed by the Department of Veteran's Affairs, or the appeal board the way it was. In the professional medical opinion of the attending military doctor, Warrant Officer Roger Perreault meets the criteria for the critical injury benefit.

What happened to the election promise to draw from all the circumstances of a veteran's case, and all the evidence presented to the government, every reasonable inference in favour of the applicant?

Warrant Officer Roger Perreault is a Canadian hero. Let us start treating him like one.

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.


Sherry Romanado Liberal Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canada's veterans deserve the full, constant support of their government and of society.

The government is determined to ensure that all Canadian Armed Forces members and all veterans who are injured in the line of duty receive the support and care they need, when they need it.

I invite the member opposite and any member of the House to meet with me with any concerns they may have and to work together to support our troops, our vets, and their families.

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to address a question I first raised in the House back on November 2. I asked the defence minister to lay out what Canada's interest was in participating in a UN mission in Africa.

As members know, we have been saying for some time that the only national interest we can figure out is the Prime Minister's own interest in getting a seat at the UN Security Council.

We know this dialogue has been taking place, but only from one side. There were some premature announcements by the minister of sending over 600 troops to Africa, $450 million, and 150 members of the police forces going to help in UN missions in Africa. That could be in Mali, the Congo, Ethiopia, or Uganda. There are a number of different places where UN missions are currently under way in Africa. However, all fingers seem to point to our troops being deployed to Mali.

Mali is an incredibly dangerous mission. It is one that we question whether it serves Canada's national interest. We know many different nations are providing peacekeeping troops to the Mali mission, over 13,000. We also know it is the deadliest mission out of all of the UN missions, accounting for over 90% of UN peacekeeper casualties last year alone.

When ISIS members heard that Canadian peacekeepers could be deployed to Mali, they said that they would love to use the blue helmets for target practice. We also know this is a mission where the UN is spending a great amount of resources on force protection, not on the protection of civilian populations.

The problem is that the minister and the Prime Minister seem to be hell-bent on ploughing ahead on a mission that is not in the national interest of Canada. At the end of the day, it will not provide the type of relief we hope to see for the people of Mali and other nations of Africa.

More and more veterans are concerned that Canada has not learned from its past. The lessons learned in Somalia, Rwanda, and Bosnia never really paid off until the UN mission ended and other forces were brought in to make peace.

The minister wants to talk peace operations. We know that if we are to be successful, there are other way Canada can do this, and there is still a great risk of the spread of ISIS, even though it is currently on the run in Mosul, in Raqqa, and in Iraq.

First, we have an obligation, first and foremost, to our troops to use them appropriately. Second, we have to ensure we put them in a position that when we do call upon them as the Government of Canada, they are there under the right chain of command with the right rules of engagement. That does not happen under the bureaucracy of the United Nations. It happens under other joint operations through NATO, through international security forces that are set up from time to time to deal with things like terrorism and the atrocities that we are witnessing in Mali and other African nations at this time.

I would ask the parliamentary secretary to finally answer the question. How does this serve Canada's national interest?

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

Saint-Jean Québec


Jean Rioux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for the opportunity he is providing to discuss this important issue for a second time in two days.

On November 16, my colleague opposite asked what was the point in Canada deploying soldiers to UN peacekeeping operations. We plan on deploying troops to peacekeeping missions because we made a commitment to do so in our election platform.

This commitment is part of the mandate of the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Consequently, last August, the government made a commitment to participate in UN peacekeeping operations. Why? It is because our government is firmly committed at the international level and wants to contribute in many ways to ensure that the world is a safer place. We have developed a three-year strategy with a budget of $450 million involving a number of departments.

Canada has also offered to host the next UN peacekeeping defence ministerial in 2017. This will be a defining event for us. It is important more than ever before that Canada be heard around the world. The former U.S. president said in the House last June that what the world needs is more Canada.

My colleague opposite also alluded to the possibility of Canada obtaining a seat at the UN Security Council. That would be a good way for Canada to actively promote Canadian values. It would allow us to achieve very noble objectives, especially in terms of governance, respect for diversity, and respect for human rights, especially those of women and refugees.

However, no decisions have been made regarding the location or length of the deployment, and no deadline has been set for making that decision. What I can say is that we have carefully examined the various options for missions led by the United Nations. Our analysis and consideration are still under way, with very clear objectives. I repeat: the safety of our men and women in uniform is the most important thing, and this aspect 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 also 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 always seek to maximize the impact of our presence and our actions. We 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. We are also committed to expanding the role women play in peacekeeping operations at all levels, particularly in key positions.

As I said yesterday, the chief of the defence staff will always be fully in command of our troops. Before we commit, we also have to ensure that our allies and primary partners fully understand our approach. As I said yesterday, our approach is considered wise and pragmatic, and rightly so.

In accordance with the mandate Canadians gave us in 2015, we are committed to taking concrete action and playing a constructive role to make the world a safer place.

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Mr. Speaker, I know that the parliamentary secretary is new to the job. He said that there is no deadline for making the announcement on when Canada is going to deploy our troops on a UN mission. I would like to inform him that the Minister of National Defence said that he would make that announcement before the end of 2016. Here we are, two months into 2017, and we still do not know where our troops are going or why they are going.

The minister and the government need to define what is the national interest for Canada to be involved in a UN mission. We know that the UN structure has not provided the results recently, or in the past, in Africa as to peace outcomes in protecting vulnerable populations. We also need to have this debate in the House of Commons, with a vote, once the mission is defined, before we deploy any troops.

Canadians deserve to have some transparency. We are not getting it from the government. We are not seeing it in any way, shape, or form. It is time we actually had all the details so that our troops know where they are going, we know what the mission is, and we can actually have an intelligent discussion.

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.


Jean Rioux Liberal Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, our government has taken concrete action to fight terrorism and has made a concrete commitment to help make the world a safer place.

Canadians understand the importance of supporting peacekeeping operations, and they support us in our approach to playing a more substantial, constructive, and inclusive role in the world. By participating in peacekeeping missions, Canada will contribute to defending and protecting civilian populations, especially women and children, who all too often are the hardest-hit victims of armed conflict.

We are determined to do everything in our power to fight sexual violence and all forms of human rights abuse.

As I said, we will carefully consider all of the options to determine how the Canadian Armed Forces can best contribute to peace and security.

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

EthicsAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.


Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House this evening for tonight's adjournment proceedings.

I want to come back to a question I had the opportunity to ask the government back in November about ethics. It is in a truly collaborative spirit that I wish to begin this evening's adjournment proceedings.

I want to remind everyone of what was happening at the time. We were asking questions regularly about the fact that people could attend cash-for-access events where $1,500 would get you access to various Liberal government minsters.

My question was also about the sponsorship scandal. We learned that the Liberals would not be paying back one cent of the $600,000 still missing thanks to the dirty tricks of a certain Jacques Corriveau, who was very involved in the Liberal Party at the time.

Before the holidays we thought we were done with these ethics cases. We thought that the Liberals got the message, but that was not so. During the holidays, we found out that the Prime Minister decided to stay the course and keep breaking his own rules, paying no heed to the suggestions he himself made to his colleagues. He accepted an invitation from one of his friends, as he put it, the Aga Khan. It was an all-expense paid trip. This had people talking. The hon. member for Regina—Qu'Appelle filed a complaint with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. I will not read the entire letter. I will just read an excerpt:

...Prime Minister Trudeau and his family travelled on a Canadian Forces jet to the Bahamas during the holiday season to stay at His Royal Highness the Aga Khan's privately owned Bell Island.

The hon. member for Regina—Qu'Appelle pointed out that the code governing conflicts of interests of members of the House of Commons is very clear: neither a member nor any member of a member's family shall accept, directly or indirectly, any gift or other benefit, except compensation authorized by law.

The Aga Khan Foundation Canada has been the beneficiary of tens of millions of dollars in government contributions to international development projects and received $30 million from the Government of Canada for its Ottawa headquarters. The Aga Khan is a member of the board of directors of the Aga Khan Foundation Canada.

The letter indicates that the Prime Minister himself noted, in his open and accountable government document, that public office holders have an obligation to perform their official duties and arrange their private affairs in a manner that will bear the closest public scrutiny, and that that obligation is not fully discharged by simply acting within the law.

I think that is a fairly clear statement. The member for Regina—Qu'Appelle sent the letter to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.

On February 13, the member received a letter back from the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, who was following up on the request for an inquiry. I would like to read some excerpts from that letter.

In my letter of January 10, 2017, I indicated that I would notify you and [the Prime Minister] of my decision as to whether an inquiry is warranted within 15 working days either of receiving [the Prime Minister]'s response or after the expiration of the 30-day response period.... At this time, I have received a response from [the Prime Minister], which I have reviewed.

Based on the information contained in the request and the response, I have determined an inquiry under the Code is warranted.

In light of all of that, I would like to ask the members opposite the following question: do they intend to follow the rules set out by the Prime Minister regarding government members' ethics in the House?

EthicsAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

Gatineau Québec


Steven MacKinnon LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague opposite for his questions.

First, the government clearly stated its intention to move forward with amendments to the Election Act in order to provide better oversight and to better manage a system that works very well and is ethically sound—the benchmark for political party financing in Canada, and indeed the entire western world.

Therefore, I can assure my hon. colleague that we firmly intend to continue to try to do better and we ask the parties opposite, as well as our own, to conduct themselves in an exemplary manner that Canadians can be very proud of.

As for the second issue that the member raised, the Prime Minister clearly stated many times his intention to co-operate with the commissioner in any investigation or request for information regarding conflicts of interest. I am convinced that the Prime Minister will do so in the time allotted and with the co-operation expected by the commissioner.

EthicsAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.


Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, what is frustrating about the responses we keep hearing over and over again in the House is that the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons keep repeating that the Prime Minister will answer any questions the Ethics Commissioner asks him.

We are here to represent Canadians, who have given the Ethics Commissioners a mandate. What we are asking the Prime Minister is whether he will admit that he broke the rules, and what concrete action he plans to take to ensure that it never happens again. Will he put an end to the serious ethics violations being committed by his government ministers, once and for all?

By promising a bill to better regulate and better govern a system that is already in place, the party opposite is acknowledging that it did break certain rules and that it plans to change them to ensure that they are followed.

Amending legislation to make legal what was previously illegal is not improving one's ways.

EthicsAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.


Steven MacKinnon Liberal Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have always complied with all relevant laws and regulations.

Personally, as the former national director of the party, I have a lot of experience in prescribing rules and ensuring that the rules and laws governing political financing are followed to the letter. I can assure my hon. colleague that the elected members on this side of the House comply with the statutes and rules governing political financing both in their actions and behaviours.

EthicsAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.


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 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:05 p.m.)