House of Commons Hansard #173 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was 2017.

Topics

Framework on Palliative Care in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Framework on Palliative Care in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I am so pleased to be standing in the House today at third reading of my private member's bill, Bill C-277, an act providing for the development of a framework on palliative care in Canada.

The need for palliative care is increasing in our country. What began as a seed with the all-party parliamentary committee on palliative and compassionate care that studied this issue in the 2011 session and brought forward a report, recommendations, and motion to the House, grew into this bill, which has been supported both here and at committee, and is now ready for final consideration in the House.

Canadians need palliative care services now more than ever. Less than 30% of Canadians have access to this vital service, which allows them to choose to live as well as they can for as long as they can.

Bill C-277 is the next action required to define the services to be covered, to bring standard training requirements for the various levels of care providers, to come with a plan and mechanism to ensure consistent access for all Canadians, and to collect the data to ensure success. Through the amendments at committee, it will also consider re-establishing the palliative care secretariat.

A growing number of individuals of all ages in Canada suffer from chronic pain or deadly diseases. Palliative care services can replace a wide ranges of services, such as short-term care, home care, crisis care, and psychological or spiritual assistance services.

A palliative care philosophy is needed to meet all sorts of needs through a process that is adapted and patient-centric. Increased demand for home and palliative care will split the cost of health care in four, compared to the cost of short-term care or palliative care in hospitals.

The creation and implementation of a palliative care framework would provide consistent access to high quality palliative care in hospitals, at home, in long-term care facilities, and in nursing homes.

The bill is timely, since the special committee that studied the Carter decision on medical assisted dying legislation said that without good quality palliative care there would be no true choice. We want Canadians to have a choice.

During discussion in committee, we heard testimony from some of the outstanding Canadians who pioneer in palliative care, people like Dr. David Henderson, a lead physician in palliative care, and Dr. Pereira, another pioneer in palliative care. We heard from national organizations of nurses, hospices, and other palliative care experts. As a result of their testimony, several amendments were brought.

The first amendment tasks the federal government with developing a palliative care framework though the provinces are responsible for implementing it. Of course the federal government will support the provinces in this, and I was pleased to see the $11-billion investment in palliative and mental health care in budget 2017.

The second amendment clarifies the wording of the provision dealing with the training of palliative care providers. Many individuals are active in this field, including health care providers, volunteers in a variety of settings, and family caregivers. The committee felt it was important to better define training for health care providers and other people involved, so it amended the wording of the provision accordingly.

The committee also requested that the provision amending the Canada Health Act to include palliative care as a protected service be removed.

From what the witnesses told us, there were clearly other mechanisms that the federal government was already considering, such as health accords, infrastructure spending reviews, and programs for palliative care and home care.

The focus of the bill was on developing a plan, and there are many ways to do that.

One of the amendments brought forward at committee was that the proposed framework designed to support improved access for Canadians to palliative care evaluate the advisability of re-establishing the Department of Health secretariat on palliative and end-of-life care. In June 2001, the secretariat on palliative and end-of-life care was established as the first step in Health Canada's work to co-ordinate a national strategy on palliative and end-of-life care.

Nearly a year later, the secretariat brought together over 150 national, provincial, and territorial specialists in the field. This included practitioners, researchers, and those making decisions in palliative and end-of-life care. This summit, the national action planning workshop on end-of-life care, resulted in the establishment of the main priorities or working groups deemed as essential for quality palliative and end-of-life care in Canada.

These five working groups led to the beginnings of the Canadian strategy on palliative and end-of-life care and focused on best practices and quality care, education for formal caregivers, public information and awareness, research, and surveillance. I am very interested to see what an entity similar to the Department of Health secretariat on palliative and end-of-life care could look like today.

The bill now outlines the advisability of re-establishing this secretariat, which could be discussed at length. However, I would like to elaborate on what such a secretariat or regulatory body might look like.

It would be known as the central entity for palliative care information, education, and accessibility in Canada. Setting a national standard, or a national framework, would create consistent care across the country through a variety of mechanisms. Virtual care, home care, palliative care, and hospice care are only a few of the current possibilities.

Working all of these types of different care into community networks would be beneficial to all Canadians and would facilitate the process of finding and transitioning into palliative care. At the heart of these operations would be our health care workers, our nurses, doctors, palliative care physicians, and all the many other caregivers that exist.

An amendment to improve the wording of the need to provide research and collect data on palliative care was approved, as well as an amendment to remove ongoing responsibility for measuring the performance of the framework, since the provinces would have metrics in this regard.

The committee felt that the wording of the bill was adequately clear to cover all Canadians and, as such, no further amendments were required. I want to thank the committee members for their diligent consideration of the bill.

I was able to tell the committee what I would like to see happen when the framework was implemented. In terms of covered services, I would like to see the covered services include pain control, crisis intervention, spiritual and emotional counselling, as well as all services provided in home care and hospice. In an overall patient-oriented palliative care approach, these things are brought forward when needed and do not necessarily apply to the circumstances of every patient.

I would like to see the government leveraging training on palliative care that is already available through organizations like Pallium Canada and many universities. I would like to see us encourage more palliative care specialists to work in Canada, since we only have 200 versus the current need of 600.

I have heard a lot of innovative ideas that have been implemented to accelerate getting palliative care in more remote parts of Canada. For example, there are places where they have trained paramedics and home care workers, and then they are connected to a virtual call centre with palliative care specialists who can guide the care providers. Training at this level really accelerates the actual care that can be provided in remote communities, which is currently a real challenge.

An excellent example of palliative care done right can be found right at home in my riding of Sarnia—Lambton. With an increasingly aging population, Sarnia—Lambton has done incredible work by creating and continuing to expand its senior care network in our communities. With 20 palliative care beds, five palliative care physicians, and our integrated network of home care and hospice care, I believe Sarnia—Lambton is ahead of the pack.

I am proud to say that St. Joseph's Hospice in my riding survives on fundraising currently of $1 million a year, so hopefully we can have the government provide support for these hospices, which provide such a great service. I would like to thank Dr. Glen Maddison who, along with his many colleagues at St. Joseph's Hospice, provided input on this bill.

I believe all Canadians should have access to consistent and quality care, such as is available in my riding. I would like to thank Sarnia—Lambton's many institutions and groups that support and deliver palliative care, such as the St. Joseph's Health Care Society, Bluewater Health Palliative Care Unit, the Erie St. Clair Community Care Access Centre, and of course, St. Joseph's Hospice. Unfortunately, these resources are not abundant everywhere, so I am doing everything in my power to create them in the rest of Canada.

I would also like to have the data we need to take improved action on palliative care over time. We know, for example, that palliative care in home care settings costs about $200 a day versus $1,200 a day for an acute care hospital bed, but we do not know how much the true cost of palliative care averages. Because of the numerous ways people receive palliative care, and the many who have no access, there is a clear lack of information about what the true demand is. Knowledge about which treatments are more effective or are more cost-efficient are also needed. Knowing how many hospices we would need to adequately address the demand is equally important. There are only 30 hospices in Canada versus 1,300 in the U.S., so there is definitely a need.

Using some of the infrastructure money that the government has announced, I would like to see it spent to create Canadian jobs and to build palliative care infrastructure. That would certainly be money well spent. The palliative care framework in Bill C-277 will contain the plan, and the government will then determine the pace of spending and where it will be focused.

There has been so much interest in this subject, and such great support from the many arenas, I hope that when I thank people I will not forget anyone.

I want to thank the many organizations that have supported this bill through its journey, such as the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Nurses Association, the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians, Pallium Canada, ARPA, The Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association, with many of their member hospices, like Bruyère continuing care, St. Joseph's Hospice in my own riding, and West Island Palliative Care Residence. I want to also thank the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Kidney Foundation, the ALS Society, the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists, the more than 50 organization members of the Quality End-of-Life Care Coalition, and the interfaith groups, including the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Canadian Council of Imams, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, the Armenian Prelacy of Canada, the Canadian Conference of Orthodox Bishops, the Ottawa Main Mosque and the Ottawa Muslim Association for their ongoing promotion and support of this bill. It is through organizations and groups like these that we can integrate palliative care into the current health care system and make a true difference in the lives of Canadians.

I also want to thank my colleagues on all sides of the House who have spoken passionately, and in support of this bill.

I want to thank the thousands of Canadians who have written letters to MPs and the Prime Minister, and who sent more than 84 petitions to this House asking for palliative care.

I want to thank the Minister of Health for her advocacy on this issue with the provinces, and for putting dollars into the budget to begin the journey to ensure that all Canadians have access to palliative care so they can choose to live as well as they can for as long as they can.

The time is right. This bill has been another fine example of how political parties can come together and work for the common good of Canadians, and it has been an amazing experience being part of it.

With that, I encourage each member of this House to support this bill. People in their ridings and people all across our nation desperately need access to good quality palliative care. This bill is another step in the right direction.

Framework on Palliative Care in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, palliative care is something that all members of Parliament are concerned about. We have a government that has allocated a considerable amount of resources, and the Minister of Health has raised the issue with her provincial counterparts. I recall the fantastic work that a very good, dear friend of mine, Sharon Carstairs, a former senator, did on this file.

I compliment the member on bringing the bill forward, and being open to the amendments. I would ask her to provide some thoughts on how it is this issue has brought many of us together, because we do recognize the importance of palliative care in Canada.

Framework on Palliative Care in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader for his question and for his support on this issue. As he has said, this is an issue that is timely because of the assisted dying legislation, but even more so, because of the aging population in Canada. We see the incredible need out there. It is daunting to think about remote communities and how we going to get access for the 70% of Canadians who currently have no service.

We are going to require some innovation. There are pockets of innovation that have already started to happen. The provinces are all starting to march along in their own ways. The government can have a role in bringing standardization to the whole thing. With that, there is an opportunity for the government to partner.

We have infrastructure dollars we want to spend. We know that we need hospices. We know that acute care is not the way to go, so I appreciate the Minister of Health putting money in the budget for home care, recognizing in budget 2017 home care and palliative care and some mental health funding, because as people go through these end of life issues, quite often there is an emotional and spiritual component and a mental health component to address.

I see that all parties recognize that people need this. It is something we need to do, and we need to begin that journey.

Framework on Palliative Care in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dianne Lynn Watts Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for the tremendous amount of work she has done to bring the bill forward. I think every member in the House is proud of the fact that we can come together, especially on a topic such as this.

I want to ask my colleague, in terms of the assisted dying legislation, how this plays an important role and what her thoughts are on that.

Framework on Palliative Care in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to the assisted dying legislation, the important thing to note is that the committee that studied the Carter decision said that without good palliative care, we do not have a real choice. For many Canadians who are in places where they have nothing, they are suffering horribly in pain, and they really do not have a choice.

We want people to have a choice. We have heard many examples and testimonies. I have heard stories that would make us cry, of people who went into palliative care and were able, in a pain-free way, to enjoy their last moments with their families, living much longer than many had anticipated and much better than many had anticipated.

Although Bill C-14 was more to address the Criminal Code with respect to assisted dying legislation, I think this bill brings the framework for palliative care and starts to build on the various aspects of that.

I appreciate the minister working with the provinces, because that will be key. We know that the provinces implement the work and the government funds the work, so there is an opportunity to partner with them to get a really great result for Canadians.

Framework on Palliative Care in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Louis-Hébert Québec

Liberal

Joël Lightbound LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be here today to express support for Bill C-277, an act providing for the development of a framework on palliative care in Canada.

Our government believes that Bill C-277 provides us with a timely opportunity to take a leadership role on this issue. I would also like to recognize the efforts of the member for Sarnia—Lambton, who had the class and the elegance to send flowers to the minister with whom I feel fortunate to work. I would like to return the favour. I think she did an excellent job on this issue and has put forward a very thoughtful proposal. I sincerely congratulate her.

I also want to congratulate the members who served on the Standing Committee on Health and who studied this bill with a great deal of attention and care.

Our government understands that palliative care is a critically important part of our health care system, providing much needed support to patients and their families at one of the most difficult times of their lives. We also know that Canadians overwhelmingly support a palliative approach to care at the end of life.

Still, studies have reported that as few as 16% to 30% of Canadians have access to palliative care, depending on where they live in Canada.

There is no question that we must improve palliative and end of life care so that Canadians, irrespective of where they live, have access to timely, high-quality care at the end of their lives. If we are going to be successful in achieving this goal, however, it is paramount that the federal government collaborate with the provinces and territories and draw on the considerable expertise that key stakeholders, health care providers, and caregivers have to offer.

I would now like to take this opportunity to speak to some of the amendments made by the Standing Committee on Health, which I believe strengthen the bill.

The Standing Committee on Health received a number of briefs from key stakeholders on Bill C-277, including the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians of Canada, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Nurses Association, and Pallium Canada. All of these organizations expressed strong support for the implementation of a federal framework on palliative care. However, they also indicated that a significant amount of work had already been done and should be leveraged in the development of any federal framework on palliative care.

For example, most provincial and territorial governments already have a palliative care strategy, plan or framework in place to support palliative care. Several of the briefs submitted to the committee also identified the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association’s “The Way Forward: Towards Community-Integrated Hospice Palliative Care in Canada” as a key resource that could be built upon.

Funded by Health Canada, “The Way Forward” Framework was developed through an extensive consultation process with health care providers, experts, key stakeholders and all levels of government. It provides guidance, best practices, and other resources to help communities and organizations adopt a palliative approach across all settings of care.

Organizations across Canada, including the Government of Alberta, the Canadian Home Care Association, the Canadian Nurses Association, the Canadian Medical Association, have used the framework to guide their efforts to implement an integrated palliative care approach.

I was pleased that the members of the Standing Committee on Health acknowledged this significant body of work and that it will be studied when developing any future framework.

A number of stakeholders also expressed their support for the priority areas identified in the framework, including palliative care education and training, support for care providers, and data collection and research. Each of these elements is widely understood to be essential in improving access to high-quality palliative care services by patients and their families.

Our government has been very clear in expressing its support on these issues. For example, the government has provided $3 million in funding to Pallium Canada to support training in palliative care to front-line health care providers. This initiative has developed a range of educational materials, trained trainers, and facilitated sessions to increase the palliative care capacity of health care providers.

We also recognize the critical role that unpaid caregivers play in the care of so many Canadians.

As announced in budget 2017, the introduction of the new Canada caregiver credit and a new EI caregiving benefit will provide additional support to Canadians caring for critically ill or injured family members.

Supporting the development of a solid evidence base has also been a clear priority for our government. Through the government's research funding arm, the Canadian Frailty Network centre of excellence is receiving $23.9 million in support over the next five years to facilitate evidence-based research, knowledge sharing, and clinical practices that improve health care outcomes for frail older Canadians, their families, and caregivers. It is my sincere hope that these foundational investments can be leveraged to guide future work in this area.

Our government is also committed to working co-operatively with provincial and territorial governments to improve the quality and availability of palliative care for Canadians.

While the federal government can provide leadership through the implementation of a framework to help support and unify efforts to make positive change, it is the provinces and territories that have primary responsibility for the delivery of health care services, including palliative care.

When first introduced in the House, Bill C-277 called on the Minister of Health to develop and implement a framework designed to give Canadians access to palliative care provided through hospitals, home care, long-term care facilities, and residential hospices. The bill is significantly strengthened by the changes made at committee to indicate that the federal framework on palliative care developed through Bill C-277 would support improved access to these services by Canadians. While the federal government is well positioned to complement and bolster the important work under way across the country by provincial and territorial governments, this wording better reflects the constitutional realities of the Canadian health care system, as it is the provinces that deliver the services on a daily basis.

The amended bill being considered by the House today no longer requires an evaluation of “the advisability of amending the Canada Health Act to include palliative care services provided through home care, long-term care facilitates and residential hospices”.

While this would no doubt highlight the importance of palliative care within the health care system, I would agree with the briefs sent to the Standing Committee on Health by the Canadian Nursing Association and the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians, expressing concern over potential amendments to the Canada Health Act as part of this bill.

Given the complexity of the Canada Health Act, there is a real risk that this measure would lead to lengthy delays in the implementation of the framework, when more immediate action is needed. That is definitely not our objective, nor that of the member for Sarnia—Lambton, I am sure.

These organizations also expressed concern that the review on the state of palliative care, as prescribed by section 4 of this bill, may not necessarily result in increased access to community and home-based palliative care services, services for which Canadians have expressed the greatest support.

With these considerations in mind, the removal of this point will focus attention to where it is most needed, the development of a framework which would support provinces, territories, and stakeholders in their front-line efforts to improve palliative care.

I would like to thank the House for the opportunity to reflect on some of the important changes that were made to Bill C-277, which I believe significantly strengthen the proposed framework.

I will conclude as I started by thanking the member for Sarnia—Lambton for putting forward such a well-considered proposal, and offer my support and the government's support for the amended bill currently before the House.

Framework on Palliative Care in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-277, an act providing for the development of a framework on palliative care in Canada. I would like to thank the sponsor of the bill for her work and the members of the Standing Committee on Health for this new version.

The New Democrats have long supported and advocated for the idea of a Canadian palliative care strategy to provide end-of-life care to Canadians. With Canada's aging population taxing our health care system, the need for a coherent, coordinated, nationwide palliative and end-of-life care strategy is becoming more acute. This issue affects and will continue to affect us all directly or indirectly.

I was pleased to see these words in the new version of the bill:

2(1)(g) evaluates the advisability of re-establishing the Department of Health’s Secretariat on Palliative and End-of-Life Care.

I would remind members that we are in this situation because, when the Conservatives were in power, they decided to abolish the secretariat on palliative and end-of-life care and stop work on the palliative and end-of-life care strategy. We therefore missed an opportunity to make incredible advances for the well-being of patients, their families, and our society. Those decisions, combined with 10 years of inaction on this issue, have had a negative impact.

I hope that, with this bill, the Liberals will take this opportunity to restore the secretariat on palliative and end-of-life care and that it will be given adequate funding. I also hope that health care professionals will have the resources needed so that they can provide services across the country, because as we all know, there is a great and ever-increasing need.

I was able to gauge the extent of these needs when I had the opportunity to sit with my colleagues from the House and the other chamber on the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying. At the hearings, the vast majority of witnesses and experts told us how vitally important accessible and good quality palliative care is to Canadians. I was made aware of the fact that across the country only 16% of Canadians have access to quality palliative care. Thus, one in ten Canadians have access to quality palliative care. One in ten is too little, far too little.

The NDP respects the fact that a good part of health services are provided by the provinces. However, the federal government has a fundamental role to play when working with them. For that reason, we have been asking for a long time for a national palliative care strategy that respects provincial and territorial jurisdiction, but that seeks to find way to provide adequate palliative care services for everyone.

At the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying, we made informed and necessary recommendations on palliative care that called for reestablishing the secretariat on palliative care and funding, creating a properly funded national palliative and end-of-life care strategy, and support for family caregivers and better compassionate care benefits.

These recommendations have to be considered. They respond to the concerns of Canadians. As everyone probably knows, National Palliative Care Week is from May 7 to 13. It is happening right now.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all those who work with our constituents day after day. I am talking about health professionals and volunteers who devote their time to this. Their commitment is essential and I thank them from the bottom of my heart. I want to take this opportunity to specifically thank the health professionals, agencies, and organizations, and the many volunteers in the riding of Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot who work directly or indirectly with the patients. The role these people play in providing high quality palliative care cannot be measured. They provide patients and their families the support they so desperately need during one of the most difficult times in their lives. The palliative care that they provide whether at home, a palliative care centre, or a hospital, is indispensable.

In my riding, Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, countless organizations do exceptional work.

These organizations offer palliative and respite care. Others raise funds to ensure that those who need quality palliative care can get it. One of these is the Hôtel-Dieu-de-Saint-Hyacinthe. The centre's palliative care team has been providing palliative care for 30 years. Hundreds of people go to the nursing home to live out their last days. It is around 500. The hospital has hundreds of beds, but only 12 palliative care beds.

In Acton Vale, the Centre d'hébergement de la MRC-d'Acton has just one palliative care bed. All of the people who work with patients and their families, on user committees and elsewhere, are doing exceptional work, and I am deeply grateful to them.

In support of Hôtel-Dieu residents, the Fondation Aline-Letendre will be holding a spaghetti supper and “Rock à la Sylvain Lussier” party on Saturday, May 13, at 7 p.m. in the Centre communautaire Douville in memory of Lucie-Anna Gaucher and Jeanne Palardy, who both received palliative care at the Hôtel-Dieu-de-Saint-Hyacinthe.

This Saint-Hyacinthe organization does crucial work in our community. I want to recognize the incredible work of its executive director, Christine Poirier, its volunteers, and its board members. Since it was created over 20 years ago, Fondation Aline-Letendre has given over $7 million to the Hôtel-Dieu-de-Saint-Hyacinthe. I am also thinking of the staff and volunteers at Les Amis du crépuscule, a community organization that provides assistance to people receiving palliative care and later to their grieving families. We also have the Maison Marie-Luce-Labossière, which provides support and assistance, as well as accommodations, in a safe, peaceful environment to people suffering from “preterminal” cancer, among others. The Maison Marie-Luce-Labossière also has spaces for short-term stays in order to allow caregivers a period of respite during the summer months.

Like me, the members of these organizations believe that a national palliative care strategy would have a positive impact on patients and their families, and that it is high time Canada developed such a framework for palliative care.

The growing demand for palliative and end-of-life care poses a major challenge for our society. The bill before us today encourages us to think about existing frameworks, strategies, and best practices in palliative care. In that regard, I would like to acknowledge the exceptional work that Quebec has been doing for the past several years to deal with this reality and provide appropriate services to Quebeckers. Quebec created a palliative and end-of-life care development plan in 2015, which builds on other existing measures, such as the end-of-life palliative care policy. Quebec is a leader in this area and we should learn from its example. There is also another inspiring initiative in this regard, and that is Motion No. 456, which was moved by my NDP colleague on October 31, 2013. The motion sought to create a pan-Canadian strategy on palliative and end-of-life care in co-operation with the provinces and territories.

New Democrats have been working with many stakeholders and organizations for a long time in order to develop and implement a palliative care strategy. We are proud that the member revisited the NPD's motion on palliative care, which was adopted in 2014. The motion was adopted in the House three years ago, but no real progress has been made on this vitally important issue since then.

That is why it is high time that we move forward without delay. The federal government must demonstrate leadership and take immediate action to establish a palliative care framework that will give all Canadians better access to quality palliative care.

I would like to once again thank the sponsor of this bill, which I urge all of my colleagues to support. We should be in unanimous agreement in the House on this subject.

Framework on Palliative Care in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Mr. Speaker, it truly is an honour to rise in the House today to speak to an issue about which I am very passionate. I wanted to have the opportunity to speak to this important legislation, brought forward by my colleague the member for Sarnia—Lambton, who is seeking to develop a framework for palliative care in Canada. This is an extremely important issue.

I enjoyed listening to the speeches from my colleagues, but I would like to start my speech off on a different tangent. I would like to look back to a very crisp winter day in 2012. In my previous career, I was the editor of a local community newspaper. I distinctly remember getting a phone call one afternoon asking if I would be willing to come down to the Foothills Country Hospice to cover an interesting story that was unfolding. It was a story about a man, Greg Garvan. He was in the Foothills Country Hospice, unfortunately, with a rare form of cancer. Knowing he was in his final days, he was really hoping to have one thing before his life ended. He was hoping to have one last visit with two of his favourite companions. Mr. Garvan was a horseman. He enjoyed the country living in rural southern Alberta, and certainly as any rancher and cowboy would know, he wanted to spend some time with his friends. His two friends were his two horses, Kiwi and Russell. The Foothills Country Hospice staff on that very cold winter's day wrapped Greg up in a blanket, rolled his bed out into the parking lot of the hospice, and there were his two horses, Russell and Kiwi.

It was very difficult, I must admit, to take photos that day and talk to the staff without having a tear in my eye. There are certainly not too many other staff or institutions that would have taken that kind of effort and passion and shown how much their patients and patients' families meant to them, to ensure they were able to make the dying wish of one of their friends come true. We have photos of Russell and Kiwi snuggling right up to Greg, wrapped in his blanket in his bed, in the parking lot of the Foothills Country Hospice.

To cap off the day, Greg's mother, who is from New Zealand, was staying in Okotoks. This was in early December. The staff at the hospice held an early Christmas dinner for Greg and his family, at the hospice. I am sure that was a memorable day in what was a difficult time for his family. It certainly was not one they will soon forget.

Those of us who do not have the fortune of having a hospice in our communities certainly would not have the opportunity to understand the wonderful things that hospice staff can do. I am very honoured that we have the Foothills Country Hospice in our community.

That really highlights the debate today. When we have an opportunity to have a facility like a hospice, with the ability and the things it is able to do for its community and its patients, I find it unfortunate that not everyone in Canada has the opportunity to experience that as an end-of-life option. The stats I have seen show less than 30% actually have access to a hospice facility. That is truly unfortunate.

Some of my colleagues have talked about how this really came to a head, and it is how I became more interested in the hospice facility and its lack of access for other Canadians. This was a very prominent issue during the debates on doctor-assisted dying. It was a very difficult issue for my constituents. I held four town hall meetings throughout my riding in Foothills and southwest Alberta. I had hundreds of people attend the town halls. I also sent out a survey to my constituents asking them how they felt about the doctor-assisted dying legislation. I had 4,000 responses to that survey, which was a very high response rate, along with the carbon tax.

My constituents were very torn on how they felt about doctor-assisted dying. It was a very difficult issue. Some were adamantly opposed. Some were adamantly in favour. The one theme that went through all my town halls and through those surveys was the importance of offering palliative care as part of that legislation.

If the government was to provide doctor-assisted dying, my constituents wanted to ensure there were resources in place and that a framework for palliative care would also be a part of that legislation.

It was very clear that my constituents wanted some options. One of those options, if we were truly going to have doctor-assisted dying, was that Canadians had to understand that they had another option, and that option was end-of-life care through hospice.

What has made this so profound and so loud and clear in my constituency is that we have the Foothills Country Hospice. Many other constituents and many other Canadians do not have that.

We are certainly blessed in my constituency to have the hospice, but also to have the people who work so hard to make it a reality. It has been about 10 years since the hospice was opened, but it has been almost 20 years since my constituents worked hard to make this project come to fruition.

I really want to take the opportunity to thank a few people who were instrumental in ensuring this hospice became a reality in rural Alberta, people like Dr. Eric Wasylenko and his wife Louise, David and Leslie Bissett, Jean Quigley, Dr. Jim Hansen, Doug and Susan Ramsay, Beth Kish and Dawn Elliott, Mark Cox, and the Council of the Municipal District (MD) of Foothills in the town of Okotoks. These people worked extremely hard to make this project a reality.

The annual budget for the Foothills Country Hospice is about $2.8 million. The province has picked up a significant part of that budget, but the community is also being asked to raise close to $1 million or more each and every year to ensure the hospice is able to operate. One of the wonderful stories about the hospice is to see the community buy into it and each year come forward to raise that type of money. It also shows that this is not an easy task, when it comes to having a hospice in a community.

We cannot have these types of facilities and the wonderful people who work in them without support from all three levels of government. That is why this private member's bill is so important. We need to develop a framework to ensure we can have the resources there to offer hospice care to Canadians, but also to ensure we have the resources there to make it a reality. That is what we are missing.

I know on both sides of the floor, during the doctor-assisted dying debate, many of us wanted an amendment as part of that legislation to ensure there was funding available for hospice. I am encouraged to see support among all parties in the House to ensure this becomes a reality. It is one thing to talk about it, but we have to ensure we provide the resources and the commitment as a federal government. As we proceed with doctor-assisted dying, one of the most important parts of that is also to ensure we have a framework for hospice care and a commitment that it is funded.

I spent a lot of time talking about the Foothills Country Hospice in my riding. I thought it was important to put a personal face on this service. I know many of us talk about hospice care and that it is an important option for that end of life. I have been through it many times, I have toured, and talked to the nurses, the doctors, and the many wonderful volunteers and staff that take their time to work there. It is hard to explain a hospice unless people have had an opportunity to experience it. Unfortunately, that is not something many of us want to experience, but it is a life-changing option.

As parliamentarians, we have to get across the fact that this truly brings a new definition to end-of-life care, that there are ways to make those difficult times as comfortable as possible for people and their families. If we are truly to have doctor-assisted dying, we must also have that other option, palliative care.

I want to again thank my colleague from Sarnia—Lambton for all the work she has done, which has been yeoman's work, to make this a reality. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the floor to ensure this becomes a reality.

Framework on Palliative Care in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.

Liberal

Ron McKinnon Liberal Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be here today to address Bill C-277, an act providing for the development of a framework on palliative care in Canada and to discuss our government's commitment to improving palliative and end of life care for all Canadians.

This bill comes at the right time in our national dialogue on palliative care, and I would like to recognize the efforts of the member for Sarnia—Lambton in moving this discussion forward.

I had the opportunity to review this legislation with my seniors council in Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam at our last meeting. I want to thank the members for their input and for helping me better understand just how important it is for this bill to proceed.

Our government knows that the quality and availability of palliative care is an issue of great importance to Canadians. A Harris/Decima survey found that more than 90% of Canadians believe that palliative care improves the quality of life for both patients and their family members. Studies have shown that patients who receive palliative care services are happier, more mobile, and, in some cases, live longer than patients who do not.

The recent legislation on medical assistance in dying has amplified the public conversation on options for care at the end of life. While medical assistance in dying is only one potential option at the end of life, experiences in other countries suggest that only a fraction will seek it.

It seems that many Canadians who could benefit from palliative care do not receive it. For example, Health Quality Ontario found that two in five Ontarians had not received palliative care services at the end of life in 2015.

Palliative care is a priority for our government, and I support the creation of a framework to guide our work. I was pleased to see the amendments made by the Standing Committee on Health so that the framework takes a more targeted and integrated approach and builds upon the important work already under way to improve palliative and end of life care in Canada.

There is a wide range of promising initiatives established in provinces and territories as well as in stakeholder organizations in the health care sector. These initiatives touch upon many of the elements put forth in this bill, including identifying training and education needs for health care providers and other caregivers, providing supports for care providers, facilitating access to care, and promoting research and data collection.

The federal government recognizes the advantages of and the growing need for palliative care and has funded a series of strategic initiatives in order to establish key fundamental approaches and to address key issues.

For example, the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, an independent national cancer organization funded by the government, has convened a group of palliative care experts from across the country to create the palliative and end of life care initiative. The network includes representatives from every province and territory, officials from provincial ministries of health, representatives from both professional medical organizations and patient advocacy groups, and patient and family representatives.

Through this venue for national conversations, the palliative and end of life care initiative is working to improve coordinated support for patients and families through the education of health professionals, patients, and caregivers. The network is also increasing access to evidence-based, integrated, high-quality palliative care services that align with patient preferences.

Apart from the network, the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer has also funded a series of studies focused on the experience of palliative care from the patient and family perspective. This patient-centred approach focuses on the importance of early and ongoing assessments of the expressed wishes of the patient and family for symptom management and quality of life. The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer has been expanding the visibility of its work by distributing its findings widely so as to bring this evidence to the broader health care community. By emphasizing the centrality of the patient and family, the Canadian health care system can provide end-of-life care that is responsive to patient needs and provide an improved experience for patients and families going through the most trying moments of their lives.

The Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement is another national organization funded by our government to help identify proven health system innovations and accelerate their spread across Canada. In recent years, one of its priorities has been to evaluate and disseminate data on best practices with respect to palliative care services. The Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement's programming in palliative and end-of-life care is well under way and focuses on identifying and validating high-impact innovations and practices ready to be spread and scaled up across the country. For example, in February it launched a pan-Canadian call for innovations to identify and validate high-impact palliative care models, practices, and tools. Projects identified as having the greatest potential impact will be featured at a forum of experts, decision-makers, and health administrators in June to discuss how these innovations can be scaled up and spread to other organizations and jurisdictions.

I would also like to highlight the important work being undertaken by Canadian researchers to understand the current status and potential of palliative care in Canada. Since 2011, the government has invested over $546 million with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to support research on aging, including palliative care or related late-life issues. One area where the Canadian Institutes of Health Research is supporting a wide variety of research is through its team grants in late-life issues. In the past, these research projects have examined some of the most pressing issues on palliative care in Canada, including improving knowledge uptake across providers and institutions, appropriate protocols for transferring patients between different levels of care, and developing ways to measure the quality of patient experience.

Another example of CIHR research is the improving end-of-life care in first nations communities project. Led by Dr. Mary Lou Kelley from Lakehead University, this project was designed to improve the end-of-life care in four first nation communities through developing a culturally appropriate approach to palliative care. Providers in each of the communities chose a series of clinical, educational, or administrative interventions to build local capacity, with each activity being evaluated for its contribution to developing palliative care. The four communities created locally designed and controlled palliative care programs. This demonstrated the feasibility of providing local palliative care at home in first nation communities, the effectiveness of first nations community capacity, and the associated benefits of enabling among first nations people the choice to receive palliative care at home. Furthermore, the project produced a series of reports and resources for first nation communities and the government, with recommendations that will be critical for the improvement of palliative care in first nation communities and nationwide.

To build on this work, our government has now provided funding to work with Lakehead University to provide coaching and mentoring support to 24 first nation communities in Ontario who want to implement palliative care services within their community. The message is clear: Canadians want access to high-quality palliative care.

Based on these existing foundations and accomplishments, our government is poised to play an important role in helping Canadians receive the most appropriate, timely, and compassionate care at the end of their lives.

I am proud of the work our government has already supported in this area and the significant strides we have seen in the provinces and territories, as well as among stakeholders in the health care sector. I look forward to continuing to work toward improving access to quality palliative care services for all Canadians.

The member for Sarnia—Lambton should be commended for her work on this and for bringing this legislation forward. I also appreciate the work my seniors' council did to prepare me for this debate.

Framework on Palliative Care in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

7:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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.

EthicsAdjournment Proceedings

7:40 p.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to follow up on the issue of lobbying. I had originally raised this issue in the context of a PMO staffer going to work for consultants.

The issue has come up again around the so-called infrastructure bank, or the privatization bank as some like to call it. Essentially, industry experts are being allowed to write rules for what will ultimately be a benefit to them. People in my community are concerned that something similar happens in the rail industry, where people go from working in government to working in the company, then go from working in the company to working in the government, and then from working in the government back to working in the company. This kind of intermingling of lobbyists making government policy or moving between companies and the regulator undermines the integrity of the regulatory process.

With respect to the example I gave on rail safety, for instance, I wonder what the government will do to ensure Canadians can have confidence that regulators will not be undermined by too much industry presence.

EthicsAdjournment Proceedings

7:40 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, the most important thing to recognize is that we do have a Lobbying Act. We have legislation and protocols in place to ultimately ensure that there is a lot of common sense, that individuals who are leaving government offices have cooling off periods, where the need to be at arm's-length is applied. We have to recognize that we have amazing talented individuals both in the public sector and the private sector. As long as it is managed in a transparent fashion and ensures accountability is what has been very important to the government and we will continue to push on that.

The member made reference to the private infrastructure bank that has just been established. It is important to acknowledge that as a government we have seen the benefits of investing in Canada. It is important that it not be distorted in any fashion. The government has invested historic amounts in Canada's infrastructure for the coming years, well in excess of $100 billion. It is difficult to imagine $1 billion, let alone $100 billion.

The member would be sympathetic to this time of the year in Winnipeg. There are a lot of potholes in our community. Whether it is pothole or different capital infrastructure, there is a need for government to get engaged and to assist. We would have to go back 50, 60, 70 years before we could see a government such as ours that has recognized how important it is to support that.

When we make reference to the infrastructure investment bank, that is over and above that historic amount. I do not know who is going to be eligible or want to put that package together, but it is yet another tool for potential projects. It is important to recognize that this is not happening alone, but takes into account the municipalities and provinces. The minister made reference to different stakeholders such as unions. Some of the greatest investors will be unions. We will ensure that there is a high sense of accountability and transparency.

The Prime Minister and this government take the issue very seriously. I would try to provide assurances to my colleague and friend across the way that the government is on the right track. We do have legislation and there are protocols in place so that we can avoid as much as possible any appearance of a conflict of interest.

EthicsAdjournment Proceedings

7:45 p.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member says we need to go back 60 or 70 years in order to find a comparable government. I would say we would have to go back to the 19th century to find a government that is so unabashedly willing to use taxpayer dollars to line the pockets of global capitalists. I would go back further than the member suggested we do.

As the member is from Winnipeg, I am sure he will recognize the names of Sam Katz and Phil Sheegl. Those are the names that come to mind when we talk about people in the private sector who come into the public sector and are not clear about how the public sector relates to the private sector. As Winnipeggers, we know what the outcome for us was in terms of the use of tax dollars. We saw a lot of that money go to waste. There were investigations about who that money went to and under what circumstances and why.

In order not to repeat those kinds of errors, it is important that we be clear from the start as to what role private investors are going to have when it comes to setting public policy for the infrastructure bank. I have to say that the current rules do not satisfy me that taxpayers are going to be protected.

EthicsAdjournment Proceedings

7:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, at times we will have to agree to disagree. One of the things I know is that we have pension funds. Many of those pension funds are union member pension funds. There are all sorts of investments there. I believe I read a while ago that one of the biggest investors in Canada is the teachers' pension fund in Ontario. We are talking about millions of dollars. A lot of that money leaves Canada and is invested in other infrastructure around the world.

This is just an option for municipalities and provinces to look at. It also provides an option for pension funds. Why not allow for it? It is not as if this is the only pot. Remember, this is a secondary pot. The primary pot is one of public finances of over $100 billion, which is a historic amount of money.

I do not believe the member across the way should be as fearful as he tries to portray. There is a lot of good in this, and we need to start looking for more good in things.

Public Services and ProcurementAdjournment Proceedings

7:45 p.m.

NDP

Erin Weir NDP Regina—Lewvan, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise to discuss the Phoenix payroll system, which has burdened federal employees in our country for well over a year now. People who are delivering important public services all across Canada continue to be paid incorrectly and to have problems accessing benefits. This is really a travesty.

If we look at the advanced economies around the world, their national governments are able to pay their workers correctly and on time. Provincial and municipal governments in Canada do not seem to have a problem with this, so it is really quite an embarrassment that our federal government still has not fixed the Phoenix payroll system.

This program started out as a Conservative scheme to cut costs and cut corners by merging the payroll systems that existed in different departments and agencies. There were a couple of major flaws with the idea. One was the notion that this new centralized payroll system could be run using off-the-shelf software from IBM. Another mistake was to locate the new pay centre in Miramichi, New Brunswick. The only reason it was put there was to replace the jobs that were lost when that former government eliminated the firearms centre. It was not put there because there was a population there that had expertise in managing federal government payrolls. We had the Government of Canada laying off people who had experience in federal payrolls and moving this new centre to Miramichi for political reasons.

The current Liberal government rushed ahead with the implementation of Phoenix, despite many indications of problems and despite many warnings that the system was not ready to go. The government had to admit this summer that there were some 80,000 public servants who had been paid incorrectly or not at all.

The federal government set for itself a deadline of October 31, 2016, to fix Phoenix. That seemed like a long time. However, that deadline came and went, then the end of the year came and went. As a result, many federal employees received incorrect tax information. Some 50,000 T4 slips had to be recalled as a result of Phoenix problems.

That original backlog has not totally been cleaned up. Worse yet, there are more Phoenix cases cropping up every day. Indeed, there are some 280,000 payroll cases currently that have been in a queue for three weeks or more.

The government's solution to this has been to appoint this dream team of half a dozen Liberal cabinet ministers to tackle Phoenix. I hope this is an indication that the government is finally taking it seriously. I hope that it will not lead to a situation where none of these ministers are actually responsible for what happens. I think that is one of the risks with a committee of six people.

I am hoping that we will receive some clearer answers from the parliamentary secretary this evening. I also hope that he will finally provide an answer to the question I asked a couple of months ago about setting up a dedicated phone line for MPs' offices to deal with Phoenix so that at least we, as parliamentarians, can help our many constituents who have been impacted by these payroll problems.

Public Services and ProcurementAdjournment Proceedings

7:50 p.m.

Gatineau Québec

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague. Basically, we are political adversaries, but I believe that he brings a constructive attitude to this debate. I truly appreciate his concern with respect to the Phoenix pay system.

I would take issue, however, with a number of the comments made by my hon. friend. The first is that this government never took seriously, until recently, the issues surrounding the Phoenix pay system. In fact, those issues were identified very early when the Minister of Public Services and Procurement opened satellite pay centres across the country, put some $50 million back into the system in terms of aiding with financial and human resources, and was able to work with public sector unions, our partners, to work out categories that would be addressed in priority order, such as maternity or parental leave, acting appointments, and disability. In a couple of those cases, we have reached the steady state of which the member speaks.

Of course the Prime Minister recognized that the situation required a more whole-of-government and coordinated approach, one that brought together central agencies: the Privy Council Office, with its co-ordinating ability; the Treasury Board Secretariat; of course, Public Services and Procurement; and some experienced political insight, such as the member described. Yes, we are deliberating on ways that the system can be improved, that measurable improvements can be made, and that we get to a situation where we are improving our service levels on our service standards all of the time.

I would end by saying that, as the member of Parliament for Gatineau, I am perhaps the member in this House who is the most touched by this situation. If not, I am pretty darn close. I have seen first-hand the impact on families and the insecurities, annoyance, and inconvenience of the problems with the Phoenix pay system. The member, this House, Canadians, and public servants can be assured that there is no one more motivated in this government, but there is no government I can think of more motivated to solve the problems with the Phoenix pay system than is this government. We understand what people are going through, the challenges, and we are bringing the resources and the people to bear on this problem to give all members of this House, and in fact all of those who get up every day and work very hard for the people of Canada in our fine public service, the reassurance that these problems will be resolved

Public Services and ProcurementAdjournment Proceedings

7:55 p.m.

NDP

Erin Weir NDP Regina—Lewvan, SK

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary mentioned the resources being brought to bear on the Phoenix pay system, but we have never really received a proper accounting of what this boondoggle is costing. The parliamentary secretary mentioned $50 million to keep temporary pay centres open, but what we do not know is how much the government will ultimately need to spend over and above that amount to compensate federal employees who have incurred interest and penalties as a result of not being payed the money that they have earned.

As part of announcing this task force, the government has talked about spending $140 million to fix Phoenix. I do not think that is based on an actual accounting or estimate of cost. The government said that Phoenix was forecast to save $70 million a year, so if we use the supposed savings from Phoenix for two years, that comes to $140 million and will be enough to solve the problem.

That is kind of fun with numbers, but I think we need an actual audit and accounting of the specific and tangible costs of cleaning up this mess.

Public Services and ProcurementAdjournment Proceedings

7:55 p.m.

Liberal

Steven MacKinnon Liberal Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I assure my hon. members that the Public Accounts of Canada are published every year. That will provide a reliable accounting of all the costs incurred by the Government of Canada.

It is important to remember the history of this, as the member did earlier. Some of the member's diagnosis was in fact correct. The previous government decided that it would summarily fire 700 people, experts, and compensation advisers, and send them home and then consolidate pay operations in one location, to account for, before it realized, $70 million annualized in savings. Those were all wrong assumptions, wrong actions, wrong management. Anyone who reads up on IT best practices would recognize that as a disastrous way to kick off such a massive project.

We are now recovering from all those mistakes, the poisonous legacy left to us by the previous government. We will come to the end of this issue. That is the commitment we would give our public servants and all Canadians.

Human RightsAdjournment Proceedings

7:55 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is good to see my friend, the parliamentary secretary here, ready to answer the question. I look forward to continuing to work with the government on this issue, which is so important and should transcend party lines.

I have spoken out regularly in the House and elsewhere about the human rights violations confronting the Muslim Rohingya people in Burma. The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights released a report into the situation three months ago. I would like to read an excerpt from the press release. It states:

Mass gang-rape, killings – including of babies and young children, brutal beatings, disappearances and other serious human rights violations by Myanmar’s security forces in a sealed-off area north of Maungdaw in northern Rakhine State have been detailed in a new UN report issued Friday based on interviews with victims across the border in Bangladesh. Of the 204 people individually interviewed by a team of UN human rights investigators, the vast majority reported witnessing killings, and almost half reported having a family member who was killed as well as family members who were missing. Of the 101 women interviewed, more than half reported having suffered rape or other forms of sexual violence. Especially revolting were the accounts of children – including an eight-month old, a five-year-old and a six-year-old – who were slaughtered with knives. One mother recounted how her five-year-old daughter was trying to protect her from rape when a man “took out a long knife and killed her by slitting her throat.” In another case, an eight-month-old baby was reportedly killed while his mother was gang-raped by five security officers.

Two days ago, Aung San Suu Kyi said that she would not allow a UN fact finding mission on the ground in Rakhine State, saying, “we do not think that the resolution is in keeping with what is actually happening on the ground.” To claim that these atrocities are not happening, while denying anyone the capacity to investigate, is despicable and is complicity.

At present, Aung San Suu Kyi is choosing to be complicit in these abuses. She should either allow international access to Rakhine State now or she should give back her Nobel Peace Prize.

In Canada, we need to up the diplomatic pressure on the Burmese government and on Aung San Suu Kyi in particular. She is, after all, an honorary Canadian citizen, honoured in the past for human rights activity, yet we have this deplorable situation, with her in particular saying that they will not allow the investigation to proceed in Rakhine.

Having reflected on these atrocities, there can be nothing more important than saving these women, children, and men who are facing horrific abuses in Rakhine.

I want to ask the government specific questions. I know we have had statements in the House, and I appreciate those statements. However, will this be raised directly with Aung San Suu Kyi and the government of Burma? Will the government direct our embassy to speak out and do clear, public advocacy on the issues facing Rohingya, Kachin, and other minorities in Burma?

I believe we need a stronger voice from the Canadian embassy, speaking clearly and publicly on behalf of our values.

Human RightsAdjournment Proceedings

May 9th, 2017 / 8 p.m.

Mississauga Centre Ontario

Liberal

Omar Alghabra LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Consular Affairs)

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for having a strong voice on this issue. When we talk here, we are not really debating. It is really important to make sure that the Canadian Parliament goes on record in commenting on our frustration concerning the ongoing situation over there and in condemning the violence against ethnic minorities, particularly the Rohingya, who are facing violence day in and day out. Our government continues to monitor the situation and has not missed an opportunity to raise this case.

I agree with my colleague. The situation the Rohingya are facing is incredibly troubling, and it is complicated further by the fact that the state of Rakhine has been completely closed off to the media and international monitors. This is making it a troubling situation.

Our government has never missed an opportunity to raise our concerns with the Burmese government, whether with the president, with Aung San Suu Kyi, or with the commander and chief. We have never missed an opportunity to express our concerns on behalf of our government, but frankly, also on behalf of Canadians, who are watching what is happening over there and are expressing deep concern about the targeting of ethnic minorities, including the Rohingya.

We also note the instability it is causing in the region. The Rohingya today are becoming the largest stateless group in the world. There is a refugee crisis over there, and neighbouring states, like Bangladesh, are having to deal with the situation.

Last month, I visit the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, and I had the opportunity to meet with the UNHCR Asia desk, where they briefed me on the situation in Burma. I heard directly from them their concerns about stateless Rohingya and their situation, whether it is inside Myanmar or in Bangladesh. This was important for me to hear on behalf of the Canadian government. We have offered close to $4 million in humanitarian aid to help people in need in that region.

When the former minister of foreign affairs, Stéphane Dion, visited Burma last year, we directly expressed our concern. We publicly supported a United Nations fact-finding mission. I know that the Myanmar government is rejecting our calls for this and international calls for this, but we will continue to push for that and will work with like-minded countries to push for it.

We know that the special commission, led by Kofi Annan, has issued an interim report, and we are encouraged that the Burmese government has endorsed the findings. However, that is not enough. We will continue to call on the Burmese government to find a way to end the violence and to help those in need, particularly the Rohingya.

Human RightsAdjournment Proceedings

8:05 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, this push for a proper inquiry that would involve the Burmese government allowing access to Rakhine is extremely important. Of course, I have been critical of the government on some of these issues in the past, but I recognize that Minister Dion did tweet calling for that access. That was important, but now we need to continue the pressure.

I do not expect that the parliamentary secretary will have an immediate answer to this proposal, but I want to propose that the Prime Minister directly contact Aung San Suu Kyi. We know that the Prime Minister has an international profile when it comes to issues of inclusion. We recognize that, and this would be an opportunity for him to contact Aung San Suu Kyi directly and strongly express Canadians' concerns on these issues and push for that necessary access. That advocacy is so important.

I strongly encourage the Government of Canada to look for further opportunities to increase that pressure, because it clearly has not been enough up until now. There needs to be more pressure from the international community.

Human RightsAdjournment Proceedings

8:05 p.m.

Liberal

Omar Alghabra Liberal Mississauga Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I commit to working with my hon. colleague. I know the Minister of Foreign Affairs will work with him and our colleagues in the House of Commons to ensure the voice that represents all Canadians who are concerned and troubled by what is happening there will be conveyed to the Burmese government. We will ensure that human rights are defended and protected abroad, particularly in this troubling situation. It has been going on for too long and all international voices have been calling for a fact-finding mission and opening up the state of Rakhine. We will continue to do that.

I appreciate the support from the hon. member on this issue and welcome his ideas and input. Canadians are a voice around the world that people look up to, that defends human rights, inclusion, and pluralism.

Human RightsAdjournment Proceedings

8:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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 8:09 p.m.)