House of Commons Hansard #195 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was consent.

Topics

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

8:05 p.m.

Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to follow my colleague's remarks on Bill C-51 and join the debate today. I am going to be expressing my concerns with respect to the bill. Once again, I cannot resist dwelling on the lack of priority to our public policy of the government, specifically justice policies. The lack of ambition in some areas is striking.

The Liberals' use of time allocation motions is equally striking, and we have before us a bill that is much ado about nothing in many ways. It is an omnibus bill on which they are using closure. They are time-allocating, ending debate, on a very large justice bill that contains one very important area that is critical for us to discuss in this Parliament. It is also critical for us as parliamentarians to discuss the elements contained in this specific part of the bill outside of this chamber in our communities, in consultations with victims groups, with law enforcement, and with students, and that is the zero tolerance toward sexual assault in our society. There are clear rules on consent and that consent cannot be given when someone is intoxicated, an approach that most of us think would be common sense but has been confirmed in this legislation, but it has already been confirmed by our common law and the outrage that occasionally happens when some judges have not followed that approach to our common law.

There are various provisions in Bill C-51 related to the important work on consent, on evidence in sexual assault trials. I would like to commend the MP for Sturgeon River—Parkland, our former interim leader of the Conservative Party, for her exceptional work on judicial training. I am highlighting that because it shows that, while the bill is well intentioned on this provision with respect to sexual assault consent and evidence at trial, our common law should actually take care of this. While it is good for Parliament to clearly weigh in and amend the code with respect to this, our judges are on the front lines and they should be approaching this with zero tolerance with respect to sexual assault cases in which the victim has been intoxicated, in some cases by the person who then perpetrated the attack.

All members here have no patience for that type of conduct in our society. I am certainly very proud that our government passed the Victims Bill of Rights and, for a time in Canada, put victims at the core of our justice system. That one part of this omnibus bill is important for us to talk about, even though the common law is addressing the issues that this bill purports to address.

The other aspects of this are unnecessary. With respect to the charter statement to be attached to all bills, there are already opinions given on the charter application, with respect to legislation, by justice lawyers as part of the legislative process. Other groups outside Parliament can weigh in with their thoughts with respect to the charter. However, there is no need for this sort of charter stamp to come with each bill, because Parliament is supreme. If the court determines down the road that there is a provision that needs clarification as a result of the charter, it is up to this Parliament then to provide that clarity.

As you know better than most, Mr. Speaker, because you are someone who is a champion of our parliamentary democracy, no Parliament is held to the laws of a previous Parliament. That provision with respect to charter opinions or the charter statements in the bill is unnecessary and is being done for political posturing.

Finally, the last part of this omnibus bill is the so-called removal or amending of no-longer relevant Criminal Code provisions or seldom-used Criminal Code provisions. Some would call this a clean-up part of the omnibus bill. Is that so pressing that we are here using closure on debate to ram this through?

I am not sure when the last time was that there was a duel in Canada. I know there is two sword lengths separating the government from the opposition, but I do not suspect they are planning on us calling for a duel.

As for witchcraft, these are provisions that are historical curiosities. What is outrageous is that the government, and I am glad the government House leader is here, has passed 19 bills in its time in this Parliament. Nineteen have achieved royal assent, yet the government is hitting around the 30th time that it has limited debate in this chamber on such a low record.

I tried to highlight this in a previous speech last week. It is startling, the hypocrisy of the government. The government House leader who is mildly heckling me now, her deputy was the one who would feign outrage in the previous Parliament if time allocation was used or if omnibus legislation was used. In fact, the member for Winnipeg North, who has now joined in her heckling, called it “an assault on democracy”. That is how he referred to omnibus legislation.

The last week in the House, all I have seen is omnibus legislation, shepherded by the MP for Winnipeg North. The hypocrisy is stunning. The government House leader is using closure more times than the government has passed bills. The denominator is not matching up to show that the government is actually being productive. It is limiting parliamentary debate and really getting nothing done. It is startling.

I will remind my friend from Winnipeg North, because he is so verbose in this place, that he just gives me a wealth of information to draw on. When it comes to time allocation, what did he say? In November 2012, he said:

...never before have I ever experienced a government that is so persistent in using time allocation, a form of closure, using it as frequently as this particular Government House Leader does.

His government House leader is using it far more than the Conservative House leader did. I hope that at least behind closed doors he is expressing to her the same amount of outrage and indignation that we used to hear regularly in the last Parliament. Between the assaults on democracy and the limitation of debate, it is stunning that he can stand in this place and speak without a smile. It really is startling.

I will use the remainder of the time I have to show why this is hurting public policy development in Canada. We have an omnibus bill that is full of removing critical parts of our Criminal Code, like witchcraft, yet the government is not passing Bill S-3, in response to the Descheneaux decision of the Quebec Superior Court. The Liberal government's indigenous affairs minister did not even call Mr. Descheneaux to the Parliament to consult on the bill. It had until July 3 to pass legislation with respect to that court.

However, this government House leader puts froward omnibus bills full of witchcraft and other historical curiosities, a motion on Paris that was meaningless, and other motions, but it is not getting its own work done. If it wants to do an omnibus bill on justice, how about addressing the Jordan decision. Victims have seen accused murderers and accused sexual assault criminals being released as a result of judicial delays. That is the reform we need to see to justice. We have been asking, for a year and a half, for the minister to appoint judges. We have been pushing to get delays down.

The government is allowing accused criminals to be released because of its inaction, and its so-called justice omnibus bill is addressing duelling and witchcraft but not the Jordan decision. That speaks to the priorities of the Liberal government, a lot of talk on victims while it is not funding a registry for dangerous sexual offenders, while it is not addressing the Jordan decision. It talks about nation-to-nation dialogue with our first nations, yet does not even call Mr. Descheneaux to help pass important legislation.

I hope that, when we all go back to our ridings in the summer, the government House leader and her deputy reflect on the decline of our parliamentary democracy under their watch and that we come back in the fall to a full apology from them.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

8:15 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know that my colleague ran out of time to talk about some of the issues relating to the removal of the protection for clergy and faith groups who join for worship, funerals, or those sorts of ceremonial activities.

Could my colleague comment on the wisdom of removing that section from the Criminal Code?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

8:15 p.m.

Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend from Kitchener—Conestoga, a very thoughtful member of this chamber, for raising that.

As I said in my remarks, I mock the historical curiosities of duelling and witchcraft, but the Liberals have also been very selective with what else they have taken out. They are removing rarely used but specifically important sections with respect to the freedom of religion and clergypersons in the implementation of their faith, their job, and their role in the church. Why address that?

The member for Niagara Falls reminded us today that there was abuse and vandalism in a church in Ottawa, where charges were laid just today. The Liberals have also removed the action of intending to cause harm against Her Majesty, our head of state, the Queen, in the 65th year of her reign. We know that is rarely used, maybe never. Sometimes, the symbolism of what they are doing shows their motive, their lack of respect for religious freedom. They eliminated the ambassador for religious freedom in their first months as government. They are attacking provisions showing respect to clergy and to our head of state, while they are not even passing Bill S-3 in time, having to go to court begging for more time, yet they are dealing with witchcraft and duelling. It is a government that is lost and not respecting our democracy.

I am tired of the sunny ways. It is time for the Liberals to get serious and pay the respect to this place that is needed.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 8:15 p.m.

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, the member talks about respect for this place. The member says big words, but his actions do not demonstrate the same. It is unfortunate, because this week the member articulated such great words about our member and about being by-election buddies, something that our member would never do.

Today, just like every Thursday, the official opposition House leader asked me for the business for the rest of this week as well as next week. Perhaps the member would like to withdraw some of his comments. My answer, on the record, was that on Tuesday the House will debate Bill S-3, Indian registration, at report stage and third reading. To be in the House and mislead the Canadian public is a disgrace to democracy.

I encourage the member to perhaps correct the record, because his comments were not the truth.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

8:20 p.m.

Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have respect for my friend the hon. House leader. She is having trouble with my reciting her record to the House. The Superior Court of Quebec has given the Government of Canada until July 3 to address that decision. The Liberals are putting witchcraft and silliness, and motions like the Paris motion that was meaningless, ahead of substantive legislation. While she might bring it to the House, and I recognize she is bringing it to the House, it will not pass. They are writing the court to ask for more time because they have put politics and gamesmanship before public policy development.

I will remind the House leader of something her deputy said in the last Parliament about working with the other side. He said:

Why has the Government House Leader not recognized the value of sitting down with opposition House leaders and trying to work through House business in a fashion in which the government would not be so dependent on having to bring in time allocation on virtually every piece of legislation?

They are using time allocation on virtually every piece of legislation.

The MP for Winnipeg North should huddle with the House leader and share his annotated speeches from the last Parliament.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

8:20 p.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to be splitting my time with the member for Kootenay—Columbia.

Today I rise in the House to talk about a justice housecleaning bill. Our courts and justice system are facing an unprecedented crisis. Before moving to the specifics of the bill, I feel obliged to address this issue, because it is through justice that fairness is administered. I say this because I have no difficulty believing that recent events have had victims cast serious doubt on the fairness of the Canadian justice system.

Last July the Jordan ruling unleashed a flurry of uncertainty, confusion, sheer indignation, and outrage. The ramifications are still being being felt today. In this ruling, the court said that Jordan's charter rights had been violated due to an unreasonable 49-month wait for a trial. The drug charges against him were stayed. Since then, this confusion has led to hundreds, if not thousands, of criminal cases being stopped simply because they took too long to come to trial. We have seen at least two murderers go free. The decisions have widespread implications for victims and their families. These people have had experiences for which they will never get the chance to see justice done.

This breach of public safety was caused by a number of factors. Recently, a Senate report urged the federal justice minister to take the lead in changing the Criminal Code to reduce procedural and other barriers to a speedy trial and to fill judicial vacancies as soon as judges retire. This is perhaps the most important step the government could take.

It is not normal for criminal cases to take between five to 10 times longer to be tried in Canada than in the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand. Worse still, the delays are getting longer and the legal costs are going up even as the overall crime rates are dropping. It is time for the minister to get serious about filling judicial vacancies. There is an almost record-breaking number of vacancies on the superior courts, 53 at time of this speech. We also need the Liberals to provide proper resources for support staff and courtrooms. This is so important. The national judicial vacancy rate has more than tripled since this government took office. The lack of judges has increased access problems and court delays that were already posing a threat to a fair process and public safety.

There is no reason intelligent appointments cannot be made in an open way while Ottawa works on a more formalized process. Good government, public safety, and the rights of those caught up in the justice system depend on it. This brings me to the current bill we are debating. The problems addressed are important, but they are comparatively piecemeal changes to the Criminal Code, knowing that the justice system is in a full-blown crisis.

Let me be very clear. We should be doing this exercise. Updating the Criminal Code will lead to less mistakes and a clearer comprehension of the text. Many of these provisions are like time capsules, chronicling other times, but they certainly do not belong in our Criminal Code any longer. These are often referred to as zombie provisions. Legal scholars have been calling for a very long time for them to be removed from the Criminal Code, and it is past time for Parliament to act.

However, this housecleaning bill is not the government's first. In fact, it is the third. Bills C-32 and C-39 precede it. The trouble is that they are still in second reading with very little movement, leaving many Canadians wondering whether they are a priority. Is this bill even going to be a priority?

I am encouraged by elements in the bill. The important sections that clarify the sexual assault laws would have significant benefits for survivors and work toward preventing sexual assault. That is so important in this country. However, there needs to be legal aid funding that allows for victims to exercise their rights. The bill would clarify that an unconscious person is incapable of consent. It expands the rape shield provisions to expressly include communications of a sexual nature or communications for a sexual purpose.

The code's rape shield provisions already provide that evidence of a complainant's past sexual history cannot be used to support an inference that the complainant was more likely to have consented to the sexual activity at issue or that the complainant is less worthy of belief. It would create a regime to determine whether an accused could introduce a complainant's private records at trial that the accused had in his or her possession. This adds to the existing regime governing an accused's ability to obtain a complainant's private records, such as diaries, medical records, psychological counselling records, and school records, when those records are in the hands of a third party.

The bill provides that a complainant has a right to legal representation in rape shield proceedings.

There has been criticism from legal and feminist groups that have wondered how effective the measures of having a lawyer would be if the complainants cannot afford representation. Legal aid funding needs to be provided, as there is currently simply not enough.

As Michael Spratt, vice president of the Defence Counsel Association of Ottawa, said when speaking on the bill, this “is another half-hearted attempt to reform the justice system by grabbing the lowest of the low hanging fruit.” The crisis that is under way is a manifestation of the need for deeper structural changes within our judicial system.

This is one step, but I hope to see some more positive steps to deal with the issues that are greatly inhibiting our legal system in the country. I most definitely want to see more resources so the victims of any kind of sexual assault get the support they need and have the funding to do so.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

8:25 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for North Island—Powell River for her concerns, especially around legal aid for victims of sexual assault.

I would like to ask the member to speak about the importance of the federal role with respect to legal aid for victims of sexual assault. We know some people believe there is not federal responsibility when it comes to the importance and significance of legal aid for victims of sexual assault. Could the member speak to that?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

8:25 p.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, we know a lot of these issues belong under provincial jurisdiction. However, we have identified a major issue. We know so many people are stepping forward. They are facing these challenges and simply do not have the resources they need. There has been a continuous call from service providers and from victims across the country for these resources. The government says it is a feminist government. It could absolutely step up and provide some resources for this much-needed plan and ensure those people are never without the representation they deserve.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

8:30 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to start by clarifying for the people of Kootenay—Columbia and those watching across Canada that this Bill C-51 is not Bill C-51 from the 41st Parliament, which was called the anti-terrorism bill. That bill led to widespread protests across my riding of Kootenay—Columbia. People were concerned about the potential to make peaceful protests illegal and the potential impact on their personal privacy rights. Because the NDP is going to support this Bill C-51, in the 42nd Parliament, I did not want there to be any confusion back home.

Regarding the bill before us, we are pleased to support this legislation. We believe that it would provide many overdue protections, particularly for victims of sexual assault. One of the most important provisions in this legislation would clarify the definition of consent. Some of this should be obvious. It should be common sense. In fact, I am appalled that we need to entrench this in law, but here it is. With this amendment, an unconscious person could not be considered to have given consent. There it would be now, spelled out in black and white in the Criminal Code of Canada: someone who was passed out from intoxication, from a blow to the head, or for whatever reason would not be able to consent to sexual activity. Good. While it is outrageous that any other interpretation was ever understood, at least we, as lawmakers, are now making it perfectly clear.

The bill also takes another important step on the issue of consent. A person who is passive during sexual assault, that is, does not scream, “no”, or fight or otherwise resist, cannot be considered to be automatically giving consent. This is necessary and it is overdue. Too often, an individual, unduly pressured or even physically overcome during a sexual assault, will feel fear, confusion, or even peer pressure and will be unable to enunciate his or her refusal. This amendment shifts the burden to the other person to get clear and active consent. To quote University of Ottawa associate professor of law Carissima Mathen, “Passivity is not consent. Consent has to be communicated to you in some meaningful way, not from being quiet.”

That statement is borne out by statistics in a Global News/Ipsos Reid poll. The most recent common reason women gave for not reporting a sexual assault to the police was feeling young and powerless; 56% of victims said so. Forty per cent of respondents said they stayed silent because of the shame they felt, and 29% said they blamed themselves for the assault. Others worried that reporting would bring dishonour to their families, feared retaliation from their attacker, or said they did not have faith in the criminal justice system. New definitions will help clarify the term for the courts, but they do not do enough.

Too often, victims of sexual assault find themselves isolated by the courts. They have no one to protect them from aggressive questioning by a defence attorney and no one to be their advocate. Sometimes there are poorly trained judges, as we learned last year when a judge demanded of a victim why she could not just keep her knees together while she was sexually assaulted. That horrific and shocking statement led to condemnation across the country and the resignation, rightfully, of the judge who made that statement.

Rather than treating victims with care and compassion, our justice system sometimes victimizes them all over again. The solution would be to ensure that victims have access to legal aid as they go through the court process. The current Liberal government must not choose to ignore that essential element in protecting victims.

This legislation also includes the removal of some so-called zombie laws. Those laws, which have become redundant because of other laws that cover the same subject or because they have been overturned by the courts, are an interesting collection. As a former mayor, I know that there are many municipalities with zombie bylaws that need cleaning up as well. Federally, we now no longer have to worry about the detrimental effect of crime comics on our youth. We have many other negative influences to worry about. Similarly, a law banning Canadians from offering a reward for the return of stolen property, no questions asked, seems unnecessary and even detrimental in its own right. I know I personally used that approach to get back my son's stolen mountain bike once, without even knowing it was against the law, as is the case, I am sure, for many Canadians.

One must wonder about the existing laws regarding the practice of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment, or conjuration. In addition to the fact that it impinges on the rights of some religions, and would confuse the U.S. President who is certain that he is the target of a witch hunt, this might also hurt Harry Potter cosplayers; Dungeons and Dragons "larpers", which I do not know much about but which my staff assure me is a thing; and others for whom sorcery is an entertainment. This is a good law to be rid of.

My favourite among this group of zombie laws is the prohibition on duelling. After all, we stand in a place where the two sides of the House are separated by two sword lengths to ensure we fence only with words and not with rapiers. Still, the last public duelling in Canada took place not far from here in Perth, Ontario, in June 1833, when 23-year-old law student John Wilson shot and killed his friend Robert Lyon, age 20, during a duel over the honour of Elizabeth Hughes, a young school teacher.

Wilson successfully pleaded his case in court, had a lengthy law career, married Miss Hughes, and eventually became a member of the legislative assembly of the Province Of Canada, the precursor of the House of Commons. In case some members of the House or the public believe that duelling will now be legal, it is worth noting that our homicide laws still apply.

The bill offers some good amendments to the Criminal Code. My biggest concern with the bill is not with its content, but with what is missing.

Across Canada, the Supreme Court decision known as the Jordan ruling has allowed many indicted suspects to go free because of the length of time it has taken to bring them to trial.

Just this week, a judge in Quebec City freed a man accused of sexually assaulting his adolescent stepdaughter. Last November, an Ottawa judge freed a murder suspect under the same terms. In fact, across Canada dozens of suspects, people who have been charged with crimes ranging from first degree homicide to sexual assault, have been freed because our courts do not have the capacity or the will to ensure a speedy trial.

While eliminating zombie laws is important, the government's first priority should be to ensure that our existing criminal laws are upheld by the courts. This means more federal and provincial resources and it may mean new laws to reverse the Jordan ruling.

Another item missing from the bill is a long-promised review of damaging and disingenuous amendments introduced by the previous government. The Conservatives' belief that mandatory minimum sentences will somehow reduce crime has been ridiculed by members of the justice system, from lawyers to judges. We have seen over and over the mandatory minimums getting tossed by judges as unworkable and unconstitutional, just as the New Democratic Party's justice critic warned them would happen during debates over those amendments.

Let us look at recent news.

In 2013, a Manitoba judge heard the case of a young man who lashed out at his bullies. The judge refused to apply the mandatory minimum sentence, saying:

A four-year term would clearly place the accused in the heart of the federal penitentiary system normally reserved for hardened criminals. To say that the conditions of a federal penitentiary would be harsh for someone of the accused’s background is an understatement.

(Court of Queen's Bench, Justice John Menzies, October 2013)

In 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada threw out mandatory sentences for repeat drug dealers, concerned that the harsh penalties applied to:

the addict who is charged for sharing a small amount of drugs with a friend or spouse, and finds herself sentenced to a year in prison because of a single conviction for sharing marihuana in a social occasion nine years before.

Just this week, in British Columbia, a judge refused to apply mandatory minimum sentences in the case of a young man who was found employed at a small marijuana farm.

All these decisions took the view that judges must have the flexibility to apply their experience, their knowledge, and, their judgment on a case-by-case basis.

We are glad the government intends to review these unconstitutional sentences, and we look forward to the day that the justice minister keeps her promise. If only the Liberal justice minister would, at the same time, expunge the criminal records of those who had been convicted of carrying small amounts of marijuana in the past, we could see true justice done.

I mentioned the other Bill C-51 when I began speaking. As soon as the election was over, the Prime Minister became silent on Bill C-51 after saying his government would make changes to it. Canadians truly hope the Liberal government keeps its word and does revoke sections of that act soon. Thousands of Canadians, including many of my constituents in Kootenay—Columbia, demanded change and they expect this promised on the former Bill C-51 to be kept.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

8:40 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Kootenay—Columbia for speaking to this important bill, and for speaking about the important role men play in standing up for victims of sexual violence, making sure we have laws to protect the most vulnerable. It is often women who are subjected to acts of violent crime today. I am wearing the moose hide, and it is a men-led campaign to remind men of the important role we play and our responsibility for ending violence against women and children.

The bill is a reminder to me as a parliamentarian about the important role we have when it comes to making sure that victims of crime have the adequate resources to represent themselves when they are victims of crime. It is often a provincial jurisdiction, but a reminder here in this House that it is the duty of all of us to fill the gaps and the holes for the most vulnerable, and the victims who may not have that protection in the province where they live.

Could the member speak about the important role the federal government needs to play to ensure the most vulnerable are protected and get the adequate resources they need?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

8:40 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his consistent interest in protecting the rights of women, indigenous groups, and other disaffected groups. I, too, have worn the moose hide very proudly on a number of occasions in the House, because we all have a responsibility to make sure there is adequate protection in place and proper behaviour and attitude toward these very serious issues. In terms of the court situation, I know legal aid is becoming a real problem in many provinces, so we need to make sure there is adequate funding, federally and provincially, to ensure legal aid is available.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

8:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Questions and comments? Is the House ready for the question?

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8:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

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8:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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8:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yes.

On division.

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8:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I declare the motion carried on division. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

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8:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kamal Khera Liberal Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe you would find unanimous consent to see the clock at midnight.

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8:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Is it the pleasure of the House to see the clock at 12:00 a.m.?

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8:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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

The BudgetAdjournment Proceedings

8:40 p.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be very happy when the crowd disperses and the joy of being able to leave school early is expressed.

Last March, during budget session, I asked the government why its budget offered so little for seniors. This was not being humorous on my part. The Canadian Medical Association said that it failed Canadian seniors. CARP said that financial security for seniors was not on the agenda. The government told seniors to keep waiting for more funding and resources, but last week we learned that seniors will now be waiting indefinitely for a plan, waiting indefinitely for a national seniors strategy.

Just weeks ago, there was a glimmer of hope. This House passed Motion No. 106, the motion from the Liberal MP for Nickel Belt. His motion, now being studied in HUMA, the human resources committee, states the following in part (c):

ask the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities to study and report back to the House on important issues such as increasing income security for vulnerable seniors and ensuring quality of life and equality for all seniors via the development of a National Seniors Strategy

The Liberals supported this motion and celebrated its passing, which allowed them to look good, but when I asked point-blank if the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development would commit to having a national seniors strategy after this study, the minister was very noncommittal.

Seniors are looking for answers. HUMA was asked to study this issue, and for what? Are the member for Nickel Belt and his caucus happy with just another report with recommendations that will surely go unanswered, like so many before? Recommendations are already out there, plenty of them. Most simply need to be implemented.

Seniors deserve better. They deserve action. The government does not seem to comprehend the considerable consequences of our changing demographic. We need to make sure that our institutions and vital public services are strong and ready to meet the challenge of providing necessary services efficiently and effectively for our seniors.

All partners need to be working together on this: the federal government, provincial governments, territories, municipalities, care providers, seniors organizations, and most importantly, seniors themselves. No one in this country should have to age in poverty, insecurity, and isolation. As the number of Canadian seniors increases, we urgently need to have a plan in place to meet their needs and ensure that everyone can age with dignity.

We fully support the Canadian Medical Association in their reasonable demands for a plan. In fact, the NDP has been proudly fighting this fight in this Parliament for years. Over 50,000 Canadians have added their voices to call for a national seniors strategy to meet the growing and evolving needs of our aging population. The Alliance for a National Seniors Strategy joins together people with first-hand experience, people we should be listening to. If they are asking for a plan, it is not politics; it is because we need one. This is very serious.

I will ask my question again: will the government commit to a national seniors strategy, yes or no? If it is noncommittal, that means no. If so, did it purposely mislead this House when passing Motion No. 106?

The BudgetAdjournment Proceedings

8:45 p.m.

Spadina—Fort York Ontario

Liberal

Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Mr. Speaker, the answer to whether this government is prepared to step up for seniors in this country, and commit to a strategy was evident in the vote that was taken in the House just a few weeks ago. Motion No. 106 is being studied at committee now, and this government is committed to making sure a national seniors strategy comes into existence. We are not waiting for gestures or symbolic statements, or even criticism from parliamentarians who seem more intent on criticizing than producing for seniors based on their voting record.

When this government took office, significant improvements were made to the quality of life for seniors right across the country, in particular, vulnerable seniors living in poverty. The first thing we did was move toward the guaranteed income supplement increase, and targeted in particular seniors who are single, the majority of whom are women. We lifted them straight out of poverty with a 10% increase to the GIS.

The second thing we did, against all predictions and expectations, is negotiate a national framework to improve the Canadian pension plan, not just for now but for generations to come. That move is historic, and was predicted to fail by all the opposition parties. They told us not to even try, yet we did it.

The third thing we did, which is just as important, is recognize the move by the previous government to change the age of retirement from 65 to 67 with no consultation, no input from Parliament, let alone Canadians and seniors. We reduced that, because that particular move put seniors in the most vulnerable category even further into an area of precarious income. We helped seniors live out their retirement in a positive way with support from the government, support from the country, the country they helped to build.

Those three measures alone would be good enough for most people, but we did not stop there. The next thing we did, as part of our movement toward the national housing strategy, is we did not wait for the strategy and agreement with the provinces, we moved immediately to put $200 million into new seniors housing. Why? Because seniors need to be cared for and to live in safe environments, supported in those safe environments primarily through shelter support.

That is why this government moved on the seniors housing file immediately. We did not wait for two years or 10 years, we did it in the first budget. That money was put into last year's budget 2016. It was a two-year commitment that now leads to an 11-year commitment to provide a permanent, and for the first time in this country's history, national housing strategy. It is not just extending past the next election, it extends past the next two elections, and is bound with legal agreements with the provinces.

The parties opposite think that somehow when we sign agreements with the provinces, some election can rip it all up. The Martin health accord showed how extraordinarily effective federal-provincial agreements are at sustaining core funding, base funding, and new funding for the period of a decade. The national housing strategy will also move toward supporting seniors in their vulnerable years.

In this year's budget, we have also committed to renewing the operating agreements for public housing. We know, particularly in the co-op sector, that many people who started co-ops 10, 15, and 25 years ago are now seniors. They are on fixed incomes. As their incomes drop, these operating agreements are becoming even more critical in order to support their lives.

We also augmented the health accord, again opposed by the opposite side, a health care accord that guarantees funding for palliative care and home care. We have invested real dollars into housing supports, service supports for home care, as well as mental health care. We know that seniors, with the onset of Alzheimer's and dementia, are increasingly finding themselves in that situation. We have put additional dollars into health accords targeted specifically, binding provinces to spend in terms of priority areas of requirement, a policy to make sure that those needs are met, not just with medical dollars but also with housing dollars.

When it comes to seniors and taking care of Canadians in precarious situations, and Canadians with low income dynamics, this government is not just committed to removing poverty, it is committed to making sure that seniors thrive in our society, and that we care for them, because that is our duty as parliamentarians.

The BudgetAdjournment Proceedings

8:50 p.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, recently, a constituent of mine said he would like to see the government with a little less conversation, and a little more action. I want to remind the member that the Canadian Medical Association said it failed Canadian seniors. It was CARP that said financial security for seniors is not on the agenda. That was not just our party, that was also from legitimate organizations that serve seniors across this country.

I had the privilege of travelling across my riding talking to various sizes of communities, and participating in 11 town halls. One of the most shocking things was how many times I heard seniors talk about how they were put into care facilities, and then having to legally separate or divorce because they could not live off the 20% of the pension they received.

The reality is that we need a national seniors strategy. I asked the minister point-blank. I am happy to do this research. I can show the minister all the research, and the Senate report that said we need a national seniors strategy. We need a national seniors strategy, because there are so many gaps. Only through having a national strategy, with all levels working together, will we fill in those gaps. A little less conversation, and a little more action for seniors, please.

The BudgetAdjournment Proceedings

8:50 p.m.

Liberal

Adam Vaughan Liberal Spadina—Fort York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I just spoke in the previous 10 minutes about concrete, real action, real dollars, real investments, real commitment, and real progress on the seniors file.

The member opposite talks about CARP, but I do not think she has actually read the entire response to the budget CARP presented. If she reads the real response from Wanda Morris, what she will see is that they were pleased that five of the seven recommendations CARP made to the government were acted upon. They were not spoken about; they were acted upon, with real dollars, real delivery, and real movement on seniors' issues.

We will see if the NDP supports the budget or votes against it. The one thing that bothers the NDP the most in this House is not when we talk about the issues it thinks about. It is when we act on them and the NDP fails to get credit. This side of the House is actually delivering real results to seniors: CPP reform, GIS increases, making sure that the age of 65 is the retirement age, seniors' housing. It is real dollars for real houses to house real seniors in real vulnerable situations. We have not only acted, we have delivered. I will put my record up against the NDP's language any day, because we have delivered. The NDP talks.

Persons with DisabilitiesAdjournment Proceedings

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Wetaskiwin, AB

As I have been doing the last few nights, we are going to do this on Facebook Live again just so Canadians have a chance to see the discussion going on about the Canadian autism partnership. We would ask people who are watching this and seeing it on Facebook to please share it so that more people can see the conversation.

It is interesting. This is the fourth time we have done this in the last week, and we have had four different parliamentary secretaries answer questions here. We had the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health. We had the Parliamentary Secretary for Sport and Persons with Disabilities. Interestingly, the other night we had the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, and tonight we have the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue, which is interesting. I am not sure if it is strategic, but the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue is a very good friend of mine, so it makes it a bit more interesting in terms of the approach. I am not sure if that is a strategic thing, but it will be interesting to hear her answer today.

First, a bit of background on the Canadian autism partnership. In budget 2015, our government put together an expert working group. It did work, along with a self-advocates advisory group and the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance of organizations from across the country. They heard from almost 5,000 stakeholders during their consultations. They had 19 meetings, specifically with the provinces and territories, every single province and territory, to talk about this. They worked for two years on this, then they came to the Liberal government with a budget ask of $19 million over five years, which is $3.8 million per year or, as I said, a dime per Canadian per year.

The budget put forward by the Liberals is over $25 billion in deficit this year alone. I did a bit of math. They rejected the Canadian autism partnership in that budget, a budget with a deficit more than 6,500 times what was asked for by the Canadian autism partnership. The deficit alone is more than 6,500 times the amount they rejected for the Canadian autism partnership, and there was not a single mention of autism in that budget.

The Canadian autism partnership's purpose is to help Canadians living with autism and their families. Many of the challenges are provincial in nature, but what the partnership would do is bring together a true partnership of experts from across the country: people with autism, families, organizations that do work, researchers, and scientists. It would bring together this partnership of experts to advise governments in their jurisdictions on what the best way forward policy-wise is on issues directly affecting families, such as early intervention, education, housing, employment, and transition to those years when the parents have passed on. One of the biggest concerns for families is what is going to happen to their loved ones once they are gone. They would advise governments to make the very best evidence-based decisions.

We moved a motion on this on May 30, and every single Liberal, except one, voted against it.

I have called on Canadians to take some action steps, because we live in a democracy. It is important to note that members from all parties, I think, get involved because they want to make a difference. Certainly, the most important thing Canadians can do right now who are concerned about this is reach out to their Liberal MPs through Twitter, through Facebook, and through emails and phone calls to let them know, respectfully, why the Canadian autism partnership is important to their families.

Of the member opposite, I am going to ask the same question I have asked many times during question period, the same question I have asked four times during these late shows.

On May 30, every Conservative member of Parliament, every New Democratic Party member of Parliament, the Green Party member of Parliament, the leader, stood in this House in favour of the Canadian autism partnership. My hope is, today, that my good friend, the parliamentary secretary, will put the script aside and explain why she and her Liberal colleagues chose to put the political interest of their party ahead of Canadians living with autism.