House of Commons Hansard #355 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pilots.


Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and CommunitiesPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, to start off, we are supporting Motion No. 177. That should come as no surprise as I have had previous conversations with our hon. colleague across the way.

However, I am also disappointed. When this motion was first discussed, I had put forth a friendly amendment, as I wanted Parliament to look at some of the causes of pilot shortages and the deterrents that are perhaps stopping the next generation from enlisting to become pilots.

Through my intervention tonight, I want to give some of my thoughts about why there is a pilot shortage. I also want to talk about the serious void that we have of pilots coming in, not only in Canada, but globally. There is a global pilot shortage. There has been a whack of numbers offered. Boeing recently stated that global aviation will need 790,000 new pilots by 2037 to meet the growing demand. The biggest issue right now facing aviation is time, which we do not have as many of our pilots currently fit into the baby-boomer demographic. They are aging out and retiring. We do not have that next generation who are able to take over and become pilots.

For 22 years I was in aviation. I worked on all sides of the industry. I was an owner. I owned an aviation company that worked with airlines in servicing both the back end in terms of baggage handling and ground support, as well as the front end, which was customer service. I was also an owner of a carrier. I was one of the original management and owners of WestJet. Then, I went over to the regulatory side and worked with Transport Canada for a number of years on the airport side and, finally, I was a consultant working all over the world in pursuit of aviation opportunities, security opportunities and trade opportunities for Canada.

I am very familiar with this issue of pilot shortage. As a matter of fact, one of last files I worked on was with one of the largest international carriers in the world that was here doing a job fair, looking for Canadian pilots or Canadian-trained pilots for its major network. Colleagues will be shocked to hear that they were so desperate they were looking for pilots who had even fewer than 100 hours of flight training, which speaks to the seriousness of the pilot shortage issue. The baby-boomer pilots represent almost 50% of the pilots flying today who are about to retire. Over the next 20 years, our commercial passenger market is going to double.

However, this is our real issue. The pilot shortages are now forcing carriers to make route decisions. Air service is such a vital component. It is critical to our northern communities. It is critical to the rural way of life. It connects people. It connects cargo. It provides critical care or critical medical transport.

With air service comes business. In a small community with a daily air service connecting to a larger market, one can be guaranteed that when a business is looking to relocate or invest in that community, it will be looking to connect their executives and employees to and from that area, as well as their goods.

We are seeing a number of issues in terms of the pilot shortage. The duty hour issue is coming in. We are seeing carriers having to make some serious decisions with respect to their route network.

Also, it is becoming increasingly more expensive to operate. Whether it is our uncompetitive environment regarding our tax system or the fee structure that airlines and passengers face when they are flying through our Canadian airports, it is getting harder for carriers to turn a buck.

It is really important to look at this when we deal with Motion No. 177. I know our hon. colleague from Lake Country also shared my point of view with respect to looking at the pilot shortage, not just with respect to the flight school program. Why are we not getting more students to the flight school and how can we develop the Canadian flight schools? Perhaps we could become a centre of excellence. We have some of the best flight instructors in the world.

In my former career, we always talked about what Canada wanted to be when it grew up, if we could look to harness some of the expertise we had with respect to our transportation, our intermodality and the things that we did right in Canada. Would it not be a great opportunity for Canada to have a global centre of excellence for flight training? Would it not be great for Canada to have a global centre of excellence for trucking, rail or marine? These are things we could do if we really opened our minds and became progressive. However, we first have to take away the deterrents and entice the next generation to put their names forward with respect to this industry.

I am wondering if there are things we could do. Could we look at industry as well, working and partnering with training schools to ensure new pilots are being trained for specific gaps in the system? The costs are prohibitive. It costs a new pilot anywhere from $75,000 to $150,000 to become licensed. When they are done their training, very often they have to become what we call either a Tier 3 or bush pilot. They spend a lot of time in Lac La Ronge or a lot of northern communities, flying small aircraft and getting paid probably around to $20,000 to $25,000. Many of my friends have spent a lot of time bunking together and working in rural and remote communities just trying to boost their hours so they can get on to the next carrier.

That is another challenge for carriers. Once pilots are trained, they are going to look for that bigger and better job. I am wondering if there are incentives that schools can offer to encourage a larger enrolment. Can we partner to make it easier for that next generation of pilots to really get into this critical industry? Costs are very prohibitive for that.

I am going to end with this. I want to again echo my support for our hon. colleague. I hope I have a chance to participate in the study. I would offer this regarding the economic impact that our aviation industry and airports have on Canada. There are around 194,000 direct jobs and 355,000 jobs within Canada's aviation sector. Airports handle about 140 million passengers. For every one million passengers, there are about 1,400 jobs, about $93 million in wages, $137 million in GDP and $342 million in economic output.

Aviation is a critical component of our trade and transportation network. We should do what we can to ensure we strengthen Canada's aviation sector. Furthermore, we should be dreaming big and figuring out what Canada wants to be when it grows up.

I offer our humble support for Motion No. 177 put forward by our hon. colleague across the way from Kelowna—Lake Country.

Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and CommunitiesPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to congratulate the member for Kelowna—Lake Country for bringing forward this motion today.

Motion No. 177 would instruct the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities to undertake a study of flight training schools in Canada, basically to identify the challenges they are facing in providing trained pilots to the industry but also to determine whether the infrastructure available to flight schools meets the needs of those schools and the communities they are located in, and to, hopefully, present its report no later than seven months from the adoption of this motion.

The 42nd Parliament does not have too much time left. We have three more weeks following this one before we go for Christmas, and then, of course, January to June. Therefore, I hope the committee is able to produce some recommendations, but it does not seem that it would leave much time for the government to act upon them.

I hope that the Minister of Transport, if he sees this as a worthwhile study, a worthwhile motion, pays attention to what the committee is doing. Maybe he can direct his officials in the ministry to pay attention to the witness testimony at that committee and preemptively act on some of the recommendations they hear from witnesses so that we do not need to wait for some of the significant recommendations.

I also want to take the time to recognize the member for Trois-Rivières, who has been doing great work on the transport file for our NDP caucus. He sits as the second vice-chair on the transport committee. During the first hour of debate on this motion, he offered some substantive commentary, and he has also been doing some great work in other areas. I was very pleased to see this member move an amendment that would add a study on the effects of noise pollution on public health, because that is often a recurring issue with flight schools, and that would have Transport Canada be more transparent in how it handles all the data collected.

During the course of that first hour of debate, the member for Kelowna—Lake Country seemed to indicate that he supported that amendment. I hope he will continue to honour that. Nevertheless, if Motion No. 177 does proceed to the transport committee as originally written, I am still sure that there is plenty of room within the original wording to hear from people who are concerned about some of the negative impacts flight training schools have.

Personally, I do not have much direct experience with airplanes other than being a member of Parliament who relies on Air Canada to get back to the amazing constituents of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford. I try to do that every weekend. However, there was a time in my life when I had a job as a tree planter. I did that job for eight long years in the wilds of British Columbia. I often had to rely on the services of some amazing helicopter pilots who would not only carry our trees up to blocks that were almost above the cloud cover but who would also transport us, as tree planters, to get to our blocks.

The skill set of these pilots is really something to behold. For most of us, when we see a helicopter flying, it is usually from pretty level ground, where they take off nicely and go off into the distance. However, when we were flying in a helicopter in the mountains of British Columbia, these pilots, under adverse weather conditions, with low visibility, who were trying to place trees in a specific location, sometimes with a very badly drawn map and a full load of tree planters, would not only drop us in a precise location but, with the rotors going full blast, would just touch one of their landing rails on the side of a mountain while we all hopped off, while trying to get our equipment. Therefore, I can speak to the quality of the pilots this country produces.

I very much agree with the fact that if our flight training schools are producing that calibre of pilot, we certainly know that there is a great demand. I think we can be proud of the job our flight trainers do on behalf of this country.

In terms of the wording of the motion itself and what we are specifically looking for, we acknowledge that there is a worker and labour shortage. Communities are very much in danger of losing air transportation service, because private regional air carriers could curtail or even discontinue some regional connections. Of course, the main reason for this is a pilot shortage.

In terms of accessibility, many communities and remote areas need an air transportation service for medical and various other reasons. Studies show that air fares are far too high for regional markets. In fact, in February of this year, the NDP filed a complaint with the Competition Bureau to shed light on Air Canada's practices in the regions. The pilot shortage, I think, is going to drive up airfares and further restrict access to air service.

In the area of public health, which I have talked about, the repeated daily exposure to aircraft noise is a threat to the health of Canadians. We want the government to introduce more effective noise management measures for all airports, specifically those that have flight training schools, because the level of traffic is a lot higher. Instead of an aircraft taking off and going to its desired destination, flight training often takes place in a specific region that is revisited multiple times.

If we look at the statistics, they very much show the need explained in this motion. Forecasts indicate that the industry will need about 7,300 new pilots between now and 2025. Currently, fewer than 1,200 new licences are being issued each year, and nearly half of those, 45%, are going to international students. Whether or not we are going to retain their services in this country is a big open question. The source of those statistics is the Canadian Council for Aviation & Aerospace. Furthermore, the Air Transport Association of Canada expects there to be a shortage of 3,300 pilots by 2025, and Boeing has indicated that the global demand is expected to be 790,000 pilots over the next 20 years, double the current demand.

If I look at my own riding, and I am sure this is the same for a lot of members, over the last decade there has been an enormous increase in the number of low-flying training exercises over people's homes. It is an issue that I have become very well aware of as the local member of Parliament. Many residents are losing their wits.

I will read into the record some of the emails I have received from constituents. I have one from February 4, 2017, which states:

The last 10 years have been bad but the last 7 years got even worse since a farmer near us cleared his trees and made a hay field these planes found to be the perfect practice field for their touch and goes and stalling their engines, so when they have to full throttle out of these stalls and starts, that will cause excessive noise which is 10 times louder than when a plane just flies over us. It has ruined our quality of life here.... We feel that it is our right as taxpayers that this has to change as it is effecting our health, we both have been diagnosed with high blood pressure and it is elevated from this constant barrage of excessive noise from these airplanes.

Another email from October 3, 2018, states:

I can't even explain how bad this summer really was, 8 a.m. til 9 p.m. all day long, as they are here flying low-gunning their throttles over our homes to even make more purposeful noise. The thing that gets me is that they are still intentionally hitting us hard as they know that we are trying to fight them off. It was so bad trying to torture us up here that they are going to kill or injure another person....

Another one talks about how a constituent and his wife had to work, but they kept being woken up.

This is causing real pain and suffering to people. People who have bought homes in rural areas to enjoy the peaceful countryside are being bombarded by these constant manoeuvres.

I have raised this issue with the Minister of Transport. It is very much within the minister's powers to designate new airspace for flight training, and we have to look at the population growth in areas like Cowichan—Malahat—Langford. When class F airspace was designated decades ago, there were hardly any people living there, but the population has grown and now these flight manoeuvres go right over people's homes, often buzzing the tops of trees.

I hope the transport committee will look at the minister's power to designate new airspace. I acknowledge the importance of training new pilots, but at the same time, we have to look at the quality of life of the people on the ground to make sure they are not adversely affected by our efforts to meet this growing demand.

I am happy to vote in favour of this motion.

Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and CommunitiesPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Sherry Romanado Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Seniors, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak in support of Motion No. 177 brought forward by my colleague from Kelowna—Lake Country.

My colleague is seeking to direct the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities to undertake a study of flight training schools in Canada to identify the challenges that flight schools are facing in providing trained pilots to industry, to determine whether the infrastructure available to flight schools meets the needs of the schools and the communities where they are located, and that the committee present its final report no later than seven months after the adoption of this motion. The content of this motion is both timely and welcome.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, much has been said recently about the pilot labour shortage in Canada and the rest of the world.

The demand for air travel is at an all-time high and, aside from military operations, so is the demand for pilots. There is every indication that this demand will only increase.

Boeing and Airbus may be commercial competitors, but they agree that the growing shortage of airline pilots for their aircraft and for all commercial aircraft will be acute by 2036. They base their forecast on the need to double the number of commercial international flights to meet a record demand for airline travel and tackle the growing shortage of workers.

Airbus's 2017 global forecast projects that 534,000 new pilots will be needed by 2036 just to fly passenger airliners of 100 seats or more.

Boeing recently released its 2018 Pilot and Technician Outlook. lt is projecting a demand for 635,000 commercial pilots, 790,000 if we add business aviation and helicopter pilots, over the next 20 years.

If we use the Boeing number, this means that meeting global pilot demands will require 108 newly trained pilots each day, or one every 14 minutes.

Think about the Boeing number for a moment. That means more pilots, just pilots—and I am not talking about cabin crew or mechanics—will be needed globally than the population of Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island combined. lt is staggering.

In Canada, the need is for roughly 7,300 pilots by 2025. While this number is small by comparison, meeting this demand will be a challenge.

We have already identified a number of factors that have contributed to the commercial pilot shortage in Canada.

Expensive training and low entry-level wages for commercial pilots means that fewer people are choosing careers in aviation. In addition, more competitive salaries abroad means that a portion of those who do choose this career path end up leaving Canada.

There is a shortage of qualified instructors to train new pilots, in part because of low wages for instructors that deter many graduates from staying in these positions for extended periods of time.

And finally, there are fewer ex-military pilots who have historically taken up flying duties on the civilian side.

When it comes to training new pilots in Canada, the output of qualified commercial pilots to serve on domestic carriers hovers at approximately 550 per year. This is half of what will be required by 2025 if retirements and pilots leaving for opportunities with international carriers are considered. The fact that the number of flight schools in Canada has declined from 230 schools in 2001 to 169 in 2016 only compounds the problem.

In fact, in my riding of Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne, we are right next to the L'aéroport de St-Hubert, where we have many pilot training schools. I know how important it is to continue to support them.

As I said, meeting our need for commercially trained pilots will be a challenge. lt is clear that a shortage of pilots in Canada is an issue. lt is something that must be addressed if we are to avoid the negative economic and social impacts of an undersized domestic air transportation system.

The importance of our aviation industry cannot be overstated, especially because reliance on, and demand for, air transportation services continues to grow with our population and the emergence of new technologies.

In a competitive global marketplace, Canada relies extensively on aviation to connect people and move goods in an efficient and reliable manner. From an economic perspective, the aviation sector currently employs approximately 140,000 Canadians and contributes over $35 billion in GDP annually and $12 billion in federal and provincial taxes.

In 2017, Statistics Canada reported 146,641,672 passengers boarded and deplaned at Canadian airports. That was nearly 26 million, or nearly 21%, more than what was reported in 2013. We saw a 21% increase over four short years, and this upward trend is not expected to change.

Between 2010 and 2017, Statistics Canada reported that the amount of air cargo handled at Canadian airports jumped by nearly one-third, from 1.05 billion kilograms to 1.31 billion kilograms. Again, this upward trend is not expected to change.

Capitalizing on this anticipated growth requires a domestic aviation system that can meet the demand.

Capitalizing on this anticipated growth requires a domestic air transport system that can meet the demand.

Air transport is the lifeline that gets people into and out of communities. It ensures they have access to emergency medical care. It is essential for food security. It brings in building materials, clothing and other necessities of life. It also brings in valuable tourist dollars. In short, the loss or reduction of air service to these communities could very well lead to their demise.

This brings me back to the motion at hand, which seeks to direct the standing committee to look specifically at flight training schools in Canada to see what can be done to increase the output of commercial pilots. We want to use all the tools at our disposal to address this very real and pressing issue.

For this reason, the government supports Motion No. 177, the motion put forth by the member for Kelowna—Lake Country, himself, a pilot.

Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and CommunitiesPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am really pleased to be here this evening talking to Motion No. 177, which directs the transportation committee to study flight schools and their infrastructure. I want to talk about a few different things and I am going to be brief as I have a lot to talk about.

I want to talk about my personal experience in getting my pilot's licence. I remember as a young child going to air shows and being fascinated with the concept and the whole idea of flight, the freedom of flight, the wonder of flight. Growing into my adult years it continued to fascinate me, but I was scared to fly. I had never been in an airplane until I was a young adult. I was frightened to take that first move and my wife played a bit of a trick on me. She bought me an introductory flight lesson for my birthday and I had to do it. It was something that I needed to overcome and it was a wonderful experience and I let it go at that.

However, some time later I was reading the paper and she pointed out ground school training. She told me that I enjoyed airplanes so much and the whole concept of flying, why not take ground school, as I did not have to fly. It was reasonably inexpensive at $400 or $500 and I understood the whole theory and concept of flight. She tricked me again. I think she knew that once I was at ground school there would be tremendous peer pressure to actually fly the airplane. Of course, I succumbed to that peer pressure and I did go up with an instructor. It did not take long until I got the bug.

I took my training at Harv's Air Service, in my riding. It is based out of Steinbach and operates a flight school just outside of St. Andrews, Manitoba at the St. Andrews Airport. Harv and Betty Penner, together with their sons, Adam, Luke and Greg, operate the flight school. They have operated it for 30 or 40 years. They have trained thousands of pilots, many of whom fly for a lot of our commercial airline companies today. They do a wonderful job and have a fantastic safety record. I look at some of the challenges they faced at the flight school, such as staffing challenges, getting and retaining qualified instructors, but they also faced challenges with sourcing students.

I can attest to that because when I started the ground school training, it was relatively inexpensive. Once I began flying, the costs per hour to get training in an airplane were quite significant and this was some 18 years ago. By the time I completed my training, the cost was probably about $5,500 or $6,000. To become a private pilot today is north of $10,000, so it is not an inexpensive exercise.

This is a challenge for our flight schools. They need to attract students at a reasonable cost. Not everyone can afford to take flying lessons. When I go to air shows today, I see boys and girls lined up at the fence watching the airplanes and wishing they could fly them. There are a few things I need to point out that a study would do. A study would determine what the needs of flight schools are. We know there is a pilot shortage. We know there is going to be an increasing pilot shortage in the years to come and we need to address that shortage somehow. A good way to do that is to encourage folks to get into pilot training and to ensure it is affordable. One way we can do that is to look at ways of decreasing costs.

Flight school operators have all kinds of costs. They have the cost of airplanes, which is based on the American dollar and we know how that fluctuates. Right now it is to our disadvantage in Canada. They also have to buy fuel, which is very expensive. With the proposed Liberal government carbon tax, the cost of fuel is going to go up and that is going to negatively impact flight schools. We need to make sure that does not happen.

We need to make sure that we provide them with the facilities that are required to operate a safe and effective flight school. We need to make sure there is infrastructure money available for municipal airports, but also for flight schools to take full advantage of that to make sure we can get pilots trained.

The other aspect I want to touch on briefly is the whole aspect of training military pilots. A lot of them have come through flight schools, but a lot are also trained directly by our military. We know, based on the Auditor General's report that came out recently, that we have a significant shortfall in technicians and pilots. In fact, we do not even have enough pilots to fly the airplanes we have. That is a big concern to me.

We need to ensure we do not underfund our military, like the government has been doing. We need to ensure we get on with our fighter jet replacement program, that we get that contest happening sooner than later, that we do not buy old, rusty airplanes from Australia but look at current technology so we can attract people into our military who will want to fly the latest and greatest. We need to ensure we also provide our troops adequately with the best equipment available for them to do their job.

I am happy to support the motion.

Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and CommunitiesPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Stephen Fuhr Liberal Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, the aviation sector serves a variety of crucial roles in Canada and a requisite number of trained and experienced pilots will be required to facilitate a healthy industry.

As I mentioned in my previous speech on my Motion No. 177, Canada is facing a severe pilot shortage and it has lost the ability to generate the pilots it needs today or that it will require tomorrow.

ln fact, Canada will need 7,000 to 10,000 new pilots by 2025, resulting in a projected shortage of at least 3,000 pilots, given the current rate of production. To this point, Canadian flight schools produce about 1,200 commercial pilots each year. Of these, only about 500 join the Canadian aviation industry each year due to international student pilot graduates returning home or international entities that purchase Canadian flight schools and subsequently prioritize their home markets.

Some of the biggest challenges to pilot production in Canada are the high cost of training for new commercial pilots, the low starting salaries and an industry that has evolved a non-linear career path. Those who are fortunate enough to navigate the existing barriers to becoming a pilot are almost always focused on the quickest path to a left seat at a flag carrier. The pilot shortage we face has accelerated that process, leaving the interim paths in considerable chaos.

Traditionally, pilots would spend years building flight time and experience as either a primary flight instructor, a bush pilot or as a military pilot in Canada's Royal Canadian Air Force. All three of these paths service an important purpose in our aviation ecosystem. When the industry faces a pilot shortage, they are usually the first sectors to suffer.

Pilot shortages in these sectors decrease our ability to train the next generation of pilots, reduce or remove air service to rural and remote communities and degrade our country's ability to generate air power with our Canadian Armed Forces. As the pilot shortage percolates up, both scheduled and non-scheduled commercial air service will be negatively affected, disrupting the travelling public, a position that we have already started to see occur.

A further strain that will most certainly exasperate the Canadian pilot shortage is a global one. lt is projected that the international transport industry will double the number of aircraft and the amount of passenger traffic by 2036. This will require 620,000 new pilots to fly large commercial aircraft internationally. Eighty percent of these pilots have yet to be trained and Canadian-trained pilots are an attractive offer to many overseas flight operations.

Motion No. 177 only highlights one aspect of the pilot shortage in Canada. Flight schools and pilot training are a critical component of the pilot generation machine. However, it is certainly not the only issue Canadian aviation is facing from a broader perspective.

The industry also has a growing need for experienced aircraft maintenance engineers. lt is projected the industry will need a minimum of 5,300 new aircraft mechanics by 2025 to keep up with growth and retirements. Occupations with the largest hiring needs in the industry include pilots, mechanics, avionics technicians, flight attendants, assemblers, air traffic controllers, managers, machinists and engineers.

While discussing the Canadian pilot shortage, it would be remiss of me not to mention the importance of our airports. They too play a critical roll, and I encourage the Government of Canada to continue to work with organizations like the Canadian Airports Council to ensure our airports are properly resourced.

Canada has the third-largest aerospace sector in the world, generating nearly $30 billion in annual revenue and supporting 211,000 direct and indirect jobs. Aviation connects Canada and Canadians in ways no other form of transportation does or can. Our country's economic prosperity will be highly influenced by the health and well-being of the Canadian aviation sector.

lt is my hope to receive the support of the House on my Motion No. 177, which would task to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities to determine the most effective way to support our Canadian flight schools and pilot production in Canada.

As was mentioned earlier, there was a motion from the NDP. When I last spoke about this, I was asked to consider adding the study of the issue of noise pollution to my motion. I subsequently found out that the committee was already doing it, so although I was agreeable to it at the beginning, I will not be supporting it moving forward.

Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and CommunitiesPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

It being 6:35 p.m., the time provided for debate has expired.

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

Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and CommunitiesPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members



Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and CommunitiesPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

All those in favour of the amendment will please say yea.

Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and CommunitiesPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and CommunitiesPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

All those opposed will please say nay.

Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and CommunitiesPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and CommunitiesPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, November 28, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

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

Agriculture and Agri-FoodAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, on June 18, I asked a question about genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, a topic that is of great concern to Canadians. More specifically, I asked a question about something that happened in Alberta, where genetically modified wheat had been found along the side of a road.

This is all the more shocking because the cultivation of genetically modified wheat for commercial purposes is not authorized in Canada. Canadians are naturally asking questions, since this is not allowed.

The Liberal government and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency must take this situation very seriously. It is so concerning that Japan and South Korea even said that they would suspend their tender and sale of wheat from Canada.

Canadians are very concerned about GMOs because there is no mandatory labelling and because banned products are popping up, like the genetically modified wheat found in Alberta.

While we are on the subject of agriculture, I would like to mention that the NDP was in Montreal last weekend to support farmers. The NDP's position on fully protecting supply management has always been clear: our food supply must be safeguarded.

Many farmers from in and around Drummond participated in “Garde-manger en danger”, a major demonstration organized by the Union des producteurs agricoles, the Quebec farmers' union. One of the participants in that march against threats to our food security was Karina Poudrier, vice-president of the local branch of the union and a dairy farmer in Notre-Dame-du-Bon-Conseil. Here is what she said during the march:

Every time there is a new free trade agreement, we get the short end of the stick. It's a real shame. ...We feel like we are constantly being shoved aside and being told it won't be so bad. Sooner or later, people are going to have to realize that we are the ones producing food for everyone else.

She also said she would like the government to develop a food policy that encourages people to buy local foods. The NDP has been urging the government to adopt just such a policy for a long time now, but the government has not done it yet.

Getting back to the subject at hand, we have repeatedly called for mandatory GMO labelling. The member for Sherbrooke even introduced a bill on our behalf to make it mandatory. Unfortunately, the Liberal government rejected it.

Why is it against transparency and our right to know what we are putting on our plate? What does it have to hide? We have the right to know plenty of things. Farmers are already being asked to put certain labels on their consumer products, but GMOs are a strong exception.

What will the government do to prevent a repeat of a situation like the one where genetically modified wheat was found in Alberta despite it being banned?

Agriculture and Agri-FoodAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

La Prairie Québec


Jean-Claude Poissant LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, Canada has one of the best food safety systems in the world. It is built on internationally recognized scientific regulations.

At the end of January 2018, the Canada Food Inspection Agency, the CFIA, was informed that genetically modified wheat plants were discovered in southern Alberta along the side of an access road after it had been sprayed with herbicide and those plants survived. When the CFIA was informed of this discovery, its scientists immediately began conducting tests to determine why the wheat had survived. The results of the CFIA's tests showed that the wheat that was found had been genetically modified and was tolerant to herbicides. Since genetically modified wheat is not authorized in Canada, the CFIA worked together with its partners at all levels of government on gathering further information, as complete, precise, and credible information as possible on this discovery.

Based on extensive scientific testing, there is no evidence that the genetically modified wheat is present anywhere else other than the isolated site where it was found. It has not entered the human or animal food supply.

We can be certain that the genetically modified wheat does not pose any risk to public safety, animal health or the environment. What is more, we are convinced that the genetically modified wheat did not leave the isolated site, which is being monitored.

Here is another equally important fact. When the extensive scientific testing was complete, our government worked diligently to ensure that our international trading partners had all the information they needed to make informed decisions and to limit market disruptions. To that end, the CFIA developed a test to detect genetically modified wheat. This test was made available to our trading partners so that they could analyze the wheat they imported if they so desired.

Although two of our trading partners, Japan and Korea, temporarily closed their markets to Canadian wheat, they did so only for a short time and it did not have any impact on our trade relations or our partners. It is essential that we ensure that our markets remain open and that Canadians and buyers from around the world continue to have confidence in our top quality Canadian wheat.

As a trusted science-based regulator, the CFIA is committed to being transparent and accountable to Canadians and the international community.

The CFIA understands the importance of Canadian wheat for Canadians and our international trading partners. The CFIA is currently looking into the isolated incident to identify targeted areas for continued improvement. The site will be monitored for a number of years and mitigation measures have been implemented to prevent any genetically modified wheat from persisting.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.


François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford on his work on the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. He asked a lot of questions to try and get some answers on genetically modified wheat.

Why are we having this problem today? We are having this problem because we approved some trials in the 1990s and 2000s. That wheat, which was supposed to be carefully regulated, was found in Alberta, in places where it never should have been. When we say that we need to stop fiddling with our health and our food supply, this is what we are talking about.

When we talk about recklessly fiddling with our food supply and our health by playing around with GMOs, we have to think of genetically modified salmon. Canada is the only country in the world where genetically modified salmon can be bought, sold and distributed. No other country allows it. It is ridiculous.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.


Jean-Claude Poissant Liberal La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I repeat, Canada has one of the safest food systems in the world. It is based on sound scientific regulation that is recognized internationally.

This strong, rigorous regulatory system also covers genetically modified crops along with the food and livestock feed that come from those crops. They all must undergo a comprehensive, science-based approval process involving both Health Canada and CFIA.

There are strict requirements regarding the types and quality of the data that must be submitted by applicants. We continue to work with federal departments and provincial ministries, as well as the industry and farmers, to ensure regulatory compliance and to protect Canadian wheat.

The government supports farmers and their families and is working hard to ensure prosperity for Canada's agriculture and agrifood sector now and for years to come.

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipAdjournment Proceedings

November 21st, 2018 / 6:45 p.m.


Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, after receiving a boiler-plate response last night on this topic, the safe third country agreement, that failed to even address the substance of the issue before us, I thought I would make it easier today.

Experts at the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration have been clear for a year.

For example, Seidu Mohammed, a refugee who lost all his fingers crossing irregularly into Manitoba to have his asylum claim heard, said that “the safe third country agreement, that's what causes a lot of damage to most refugees and immigrants, so we would like it to be suspended.”

Alex Neve of Amnesty International said that “from a human rights's vital that the agreement be suspended.”

Anne Woogler from Matthew House said that “for half of my career there was no safe third country agreement, and I would have to say that things worked so much more smoothly.”

Professor Jamie Liew of the University of Ottawa recommended that we “suspend the safe third country” agreement.

Peter Edelmann, an immigration and refugee lawyer, said, “I think it's worthwhile to suspend the agreement.”

The Hon. Allan Rock, now with the World Refugee Council, stated, “I think that agreement should be suspended and that we should no longer regard the United States as safe for those purposes.”

Dr. Patti Tamara Lenard said, “We can save lives and fingers by suspending it quickly.”

Jin Chien from the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic said, “we call on Canada to rescind or suspend the safe third country agreement with the U.S.”

Prof. Audrey Macklin, quoting a 2002 report by the citizenship and immigration committee that outlined the conditions the committee believed would justify suspending or terminating the agreement, said, “I would just encourage this committee to consider heeding the recommendations of its predecessors.”

Prof. Anna Purkey of St. Jerome's University said that “As a leader, Canada should reaffirm its commitment to the international legal regime that not only ensures and protects the rights of refugees, but ensures and protects the right of all human beings. This includes....rethinking the safe third country agreement.”

Dr. Megan Bradley of McGill University said that “the safe third country agreement should be suspended.”

Doug Saunders, international affairs writer with the Globe and Mail, pointed out that “The safe third country agreement is what is causing irregular crossings between entry points on the Canada-U.S. border. There is no other factor. If people could present themselves at a legal crossing point for an asylum claim, they would do so.”

Experts have been just as clear about this issue in public. It is time for the government to heed their advice.

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

La Prairie Québec


Jean-Claude Poissant LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to answer the question from the member for Vancouver East.

As my hon. colleague knows, the safe third country agreement was reached with the United States in 2004. This agreement's objectives are to enhance the orderly handling of refugee claims, strengthen public confidence in the integrity of asylum systems and help reduce abuse, and share responsibility for protecting people who need protection.

The fundamental principle of this agreement is that people must claim asylum in the first safe country they reach. People who have a legitimate need for protection have the right to claim asylum. This is why we must make sure we are fulfilling our international obligations regarding refugees and why processes must be effective.

To satisfy the requirements of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, Canada is constantly reviewing the countries designated as safe third countries. We take our responsibility to monitor the United States as a safe third country very seriously. The Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction sent a letter to the American Secretary of Homeland Security to ask her to address this issue as soon as possible.

Canada has analyzed recent developments in the United States, including orders pertaining to immigration and refugees, and considers the United States to be a safe country for asylum seekers. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is of the same opinion.

Consequently, the safe third country agreement remains an important agreement with the United States that ensures the orderly treatment of asylum seekers. That said, we continue to raise the issue of the agreement at meetings with our U.S. counterparts and we look forward to discussing options that will improve this agreement.

With all the measures taken by the government to help deter irregular migration, we hope to reconcile two objectives: Canada must remain a safe place for those truly in need of protection, but we must also maintain the integrity of our immigration system and the safety of our citizens.

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.


Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, every time the Trump administration blatantly disregards international and human rights law, the government is publicly supporting it by continuing to say that it is a safe country for asylum seekers. The hon. Lloyd Axworthy, now with the World Refugee Council, said:

If the United States returns to a place where refugees can get a fair hearing, then fine, but right now, they are engaged in a total and complete reneging on all the fundamental commitments of refugee law and treaties and agreements and we should not be part of it.

The former minister of immigration, the hon. Chris Alexander, said:

I've been calling for [the Safe Third Country Agreement] to be suspended for over a year: current US policies & practices for refugees & asylum seekers violate international humanitarian law. Suspend [the Safe Third Country Agreement]

Even the former Conservative minister of immigration is calling for the same. When will the government act?

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.


Jean-Claude Poissant Liberal La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the fundamental principle of the safe third country agreement is that people must make their claim in the first country they arrive in.

Canada has analyzed recent developments in the United States, including the orders pertaining to immigration and refugees, and considers the United States to be a safe country for asylum seekers.

That said, we continue to raise the issue of the safe third country agreement with the U.S. and we look forward to discussing permanent ways to improve this agreement. Canada must remain a safe place for those truly in need of protection, and we must also maintain the integrity of our immigration system and the safety of our citizens.

Public SafetyAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.


Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, about two weeks ago, every member in this House stood up and agreed on one thing, that the decision of Canada to have a “none is too many” policy and turn away Jewish refugees who were fleeing genocide was something worth an apology.

The Prime Minister invoked the phrase “never again”. To me, if we are going to truly mean never again, we should not be undertaking actions for which Parliament is going to have to apologize in terms of failing to prevent genocide in years to come.

ISIS is a genocidal death cult. There is no other way to describe it. Its members have raped, tortured and systemically eradicated ethnic and religious minorities. This place has declared that ISIS has committed genocide against the Yazidi people. Therefore, I just do not understand why the government has essentially acted as an apologist for Canadians, or people with affiliations to Canada, who have travelled abroad to take up arms to fight with ISIS. The Prime Minister cannot stand in this place, with flowery words and a Kleenex in hand, and say “never again” and then allow ISIS fighters, terrorists, to roam free in Canada as if nothing has happened. I refuse to use the term “fighters”. They are people who are complicit in genocide.

This is so wrong. The government refuses to issue peace bonds to people they suspect have gone and taken up arms and are complicit in genocide. The Prime Minister has stood up and essentially defended giving poetry lessons to these people as opposed to bringing them to justice. The government has introduced Bill C-69, which actually increases the intelligence-to-evidentiary gap in terms of being able to prosecute these people within our own courts of justice. The Prime Minister refuses to go to the United Nations and make changes to the International Criminal Court process.

The reality is that there is no such thing as a big bad guy or just one leader in terms of ISIS being complicit in genocide. As Nadia Murad said in her book, every person who spread propaganda or turned a blind eye to the sex slave trade that she was forced into are complicit in genocide and should be treated as such.

There is a Canadian, someone who is in Canada, who has confessed to having killed on behalf of ISIS. His name is Abu Huzaifa. He told this to a New York Times journalist, yet the government has been silent on what it is doing.

My question to the government is very simple. Where is Abu Huzaifa, and why has he not been brought to justice?

Public SafetyAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Orléans Ontario


Andrew Leslie LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Canada-U.S. Relations)

Mr. Speaker, we condemn the horrendous crimes and atrocities perpetrated by Daesh against minorities in Iraq and Syria. We have been clear the persecution of Yazidis in Iraq and Syria is genocide. The perpetrators of these crimes must be brought to justice and to achieve this, Canada has taken action on multiple fronts, and I would like to go over them with the member.

We co-sponsored the UN Security Council resolution that led to the establishment of a mechanism to investigate violations of international law by Daesh, including genocide, to ensure accountability for these crimes.

We co-sponsored the UN Security Council resolution that led to the establishment of an investigative team, Boots on the Ground, to collect evidence of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed by Daesh in Iraq. The team will collect, preserve and store evidence of acts that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed by the terrorist group in Iraq. Canada continues to actively support the UN and the Government of Iraq in this investigative work.

Furthermore, on the ground, Canada is funding work in Iraq and Syria aimed at collecting and preserving the evidence of Daesh war crimes, including sexual and gender-based violence committed against the Yazidi population for use in eventual legal proceedings.

Our government is also calling on the Security Council to recognize sexual violence as criteria for UN sanctions, so that perpetrators of sexual violence can be held to account for their crimes.

We understand that fighting incitement, pursuing accountability and supporting the reduction of community tensions remain critical for long-term reconstruction and stability and Canada supports such efforts. That is why we have committed $9.7 million for community-level initiatives to resolve disputes peacefully and foster better social cohesion amongst communities in Iraq.

Through our Middle East strategy, we are also committing $840 million in humanitarian assistance to meet the needs of the most vulnerable in Syria, Iraq and the region.

Canada is a party to the genocide convention article V, which requires state parties to enact the necessary legislation to implement the convention on domestic law. We are on track to do so.

Let me reiterate and let me be clear, Canada is there on the ground. Canada is providing resources such as expertise and large amounts of funds. We are taking concrete action that will make a meaningful difference to the people in Iraq and Syria, especially the Yazidis.

Public SafetyAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.


Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, what that translates to for those who are watching this is “blah, blah, blah, we have done nothing”.

The reality is that confessed ISIS terrorists are loose in Canada. No peace bonds are being issued. The government cannot tell us where Abu Huzaifa is or when he is going to be brought to justice.

The Liberal government is the government that pulled our armed forces, our men and women in uniform, out of the fight to contain ISIS and spoke against that mission to do so.

The Liberal government likes to have photo ops but when the rubber hits the road, it does not do anything.

The reality is that in order to say “never again” and mean it, we have to prevent genocide as it is happening. Genocide is happening by ISIS right now and we need to bring these people to justice. The government will stand up here and give talking points and litany after litany, but it cannot say “here is how we are bringing these people to justice”. That is wrong.

Where is Abu Huzaifa?

Public SafetyAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.


Andrew Leslie Liberal Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, this government has great soldiers, boots on the ground and training forces to counter these terrorists. We are providing $840 million to assist in the reconstruction and resettlement and also to ameliorate violence within the communities. We have been a very strong supporter internationally for accountability for Daesh crimes.

As I mentioned, we are taking concrete action on multiple fronts. We have provided extensive support to the United Nations' partners and to our friends and allies.

We are taking action on the ground. We are taking action in the courts. We are taking action within the United Nations. Our troops are helping to train those who are hunting down the terrorists.