House of Commons Hansard #276 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was firearms.


Net NeutralityPrivate Members' Business

March 27th, 2018 / 5:30 p.m.


John Oliver Liberal Oakville, ON


That the House: (a) recognize that the Internet has thrived due to net neutrality principles of openness, transparency, freedom, and innovation; (b) recognize that Canada has strong net neutrality rules in place that are grounded in the Telecommunications Act and enforced by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC); (c) recognize that preserving an open Internet and the free flow of information is vital for the freedom of expression and diversity, education, entrepreneurship, innovation, Canadian democracy, and the future economic and social prosperity of Canadians; (d) express its firm support for net neutrality and the continued preservation of an open Internet, free from unjust discrimination and interference; and (e) call on the government to include net neutrality as a guiding principle of the upcoming Telecommunications Act and Broadcasting Act reviews in order to explore opportunities to further enshrine in legislation the principles of neutrality in the provision and carriage of all telecommunications services.

He said: Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House today to start debate on Motion No. 168. At the outset, I would like to thank Mr. Andrew Quinn for his diligence, hard work, and excellent research on this topic, and also my colleague from Laurentides—Labelle for seconding the motion.

Motion No. 168 is a motion to strengthen and protect an open Internet in Canada by ensuring that net neutrality is a guiding principle in the Government of Canada's upcoming review of the Telecommunications Act and the Broadcasting Act. The object is to further enshrine in legislation the principles of neutrality in the provision and carriage of all telecommunications services.

Net neutrality is an issue that has become increasingly important to Canadians, and it is imperative for the Government of Canada to reaffirm our commitment to preserving a fair and open Internet for Canadians. I also believe it is time for Canadians to have a robust conversation about this issue.

While some may be unfamiliar with the term net neutrality, every Canadian has experienced its benefits. Net neutrality is the concept that all web traffic should be given equal treatment by Internet service providers, or ISPs, a term I will be using a lot. Under net neutrality rules, ISPs should be prevented from blocking or slowing down access to lawful content, nor should they be allowed to create fast lanes for content providers willing to pay extra. For example, net neutrality laws would prevent an ISP from slowing down one's access to a content provider such as Netflix to encourage one to move to a rival content provider that pays the ISP more money for faster streaming speeds. The concept of net neutrality is ingrained in the way we consume and exchange information in Canada and has contributed to the success of Canada's economy.

It is important to note that the term net neutrality is not expressly used or defined in the Telecommunications Act. As it currently stands, Canada has demonstrated a commitment to net neutrality, and we enjoy some of the protections through the concept of common carriage.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, or CRTC, defines net neutrality as:

the concept that all traffic on the Internet should be given equal treatment by Internet providers with little to no manipulation, interference, prioritization, discrimination or preference given.

Interestingly, the sections of the Telecommunications Act that deal with the idea of net neutrality predate the term itself and predate the Internet. It has been pointed out that the concept of common carriage in Canada dates back to the Canadian Railways Act, 1906. Chris Seidl, executive director of telecommunications for the CRTC, states:

It turns out that the same principles are effective whether we're referring to cargo transported on railway cars or data carried over telecommunication networks. It is important to keep in mind that net neutrality is focused on carriage rather than content.

Because these sections were written in a technology neutral manner, they have allowed the CRTC to protect the idea of net neutrality in its policies. However, I do not think it is enough to accept the status quo. The CRTC has defined net neutrality, and it is clear that it understands and agrees with this concept. Therefore, the government should modernize the legislation by enshrining the definition and the concept in the Telecommunications Act.

In speaking to residents in my riding of Oakville, I heard loud and clear that this is a priority. In my riding of Oakville, whether is was CEOs, entrepreneurs, business leaders, youth on my constituency youth council, or just everyday Oakvillians, they all supported net neutrality.

I introduced this motion at Sheridan College to a room full of computer, applied sciences, and Internet communications students and faculty. Collectively, the students and faculty were engaged and were significantly worried about this issue. They had thoughtful and in-depth questions about how this motion would work and how much net neutrality is needed in today's Canada. It is very fulfilling to see a younger generation passionate about a topic and engaged with our democratic processes. This is clearly an issue that transcends traditional divides and has strong support across Canada.

Let me outline some of the reasons for strengthening net neutrality. So much of how we live our lives now happens online. It is important that the Internet remain an open forum for us to express ideas, reach new markets, and preserve the opportunity for democratic conversations. The Internet has thrived due to the net neutrality principles of openness, transparency, freedom, and innovation. This needs to be continued and protected.

Net neutrality allows every Canadian to access lawful content on the Internet without interference from third parties. It underscores our freedom to express and share ideas. Net neutrality prevents third parties, like ISPs or telecommunications providers, from choosing which content Canadians see. It prevents corporations from becoming censors, which has dangerous implications for Canadians' fundamental right to freedom of expression. Further, our digital economy is built on the foundation of net neutrality.

Let me expand on some of these points a bit more. Consumers, everyday Canadians, stand to be most affected if there was the loss of net neutrality. I introduced the motion because I believe it is our government's role to protect consumers from unfair circumstances and to promote competition in the Canadian economy. Reaffirming net neutrality in Canada would do just that. We need to preserve an environment online that favours consumers' freedom instead of corporations' profits and that promotes diversity and entrepreneurship instead of monopolies.

Mobile carriers and ISPs should provide a platform through which consumers are able to access and share content without intervention. Consumers should be concerned if ISPs are able to prevent what they are able to access online. The ramifications of that interference are part of why I am asking our government to reaffirm its commitment to net neutrality. We need to be on the side of the consumers.

Net neutrality also promotes competition in a way that allows for better quality products and services for Canadians. Consumer-oriented competition is valuable for Canadians and for our economy. Competition between ISPs will continue to lead to innovation and excellence. ISPs can and do compete on the price of their packages, the quality of service, and data plans. I think all Canadians would applaud continued investment in infrastructure, better connection speeds, and better service.

The loss of net neutrality would also affect our rights and freedoms. Canadians cherish our right to express our ideas and beliefs openly, so much so that we enshrined our freedom of thought, beliefs, opinions, and expression in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Without a firm commitment to net neutrality, the freedom of Canadians to express themselves online could be undermined. If net neutrality was repealed or scaled back, the possibility that third parties could essentially censor content for financial or ideological gain would be a real possibility.

This is alarming, and it should raise concerns for all Canadians. The Internet is a forum for Canadians to exchange ideas, get exposure to new and different points of view, and explore new and unfamiliar concepts. It is imperative that we keep it that way.

Let us talk about politics. In this day and age, most Canadians get their news online. Much of people's perceptions and world views are based on the articles they read, many of which are online. Access to a wide range of information, from a variety of sources, is a valuable tool for developing a well-rounded, informed view on political issues.

I know that every member of the House understands the value of discourse and debate in politics. Our democracy is deeply tied to our freedom of expression, and net neutrality is the foundation of our democratic expression online.

Third parties like ISPs and mobile carriers should not have the ability to limit Canadians' ability to see content from political parties or to access media from all political leanings and viewpoints. This allows for a wider conversation and ensures that Canadians have access to arguments on all sides of political issues. Reaffirming our commitment to net neutrality would preserve open democratic discussion from all perspectives and make sure that Canadian democracy remains healthy, open, and strong.

One of the most important reasons to ensure continued longevity and support for net neutrality in Canada is our vast and quickly growing digital economy. According to the Information and Communications Technology Council, the digital economy accounted for $71.5 billion of Canada's GDP in 2015, and it has been increasing each year since.

We all hear and read stories of the next best product or service coming from a Canadian company or entrepreneur. It is vitally important that we make sure that this continues. Net neutrality allows for an even playing field for everyone. A young entrepreneur, fresh out of university with the next big idea, is relying on opportunities afforded by a fair and open Internet to get into business.

Let us say that some entrepreneurs are building a bigger and better video streaming service. Imagine that they have raised the money, built out the product, launched it into the world, and are getting their first customers. They are doing well and are starting to grow, but the next thing they know, their ISP comes along and says that unless they pay a substantial fee, it is going to slow down their content to their customers. They do not have the money to pay for that.

Customers are not going to select their product to get slow service. Nobody wants constantly buffering videos. They know that they have built a product that is better than the competition, but they cannot afford to pay the additional fees just to distribute the content.

There is a term for this. It is called highway robbery. ISPs make their money from selling Internet access to consumers. They should not be charging companies at the other end of the pipe as well.

How could any new company get started if it could not compete? Without net neutrality, we would stifle innovation and undermine our digital economy.

Let us take it one step further. These entrepreneurs have built the video streaming service. Canadians all over the country are flocking to their program. A big ISP sees this. It has a competing video program, and it does not like that it is losing customers to the new service. Rather than competing, that ISP just blocks the service entirely so that no one can access it.

That is exactly what happened in the United States in 2012, when AT&T blocked FaceTime, a video chat service created by Apple. It was blocked to all of its U.S. customers, because it was competing with AT&T's own service.

Some will say that this is Canada and it would never happen here. It has happened, and without net neutrality, it will happen again.

In 2015, Bell made a complaint against the wireless carrier Videotron. Videotron had launched a feature in August of that year enabling customers to stream music from specific music streaming services without it counting against a monthly data cap. It was a way to entice people to subscribe to Videotron's Internet service. In 2017, the CRTC ruled in favour of Bell so that all data used by a consumer had to be treated equally and no inherent favour could be given to an ISP's in-house services.

This differential pricing practice, known as zero-rating, allows Internet providers to charge different prices depending on the type of app or service a person uses. Once ISPs and mobile carriers are able to exempt data from a data cap, they can start to favour and prioritize content. That is unacceptable, and we can never let it happen again.

Every ruling on net neutrality is a concern when the concept is never expressly defined in the Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act.

For all these reasons, it is clear that net neutrality is vitally important for Canada. Our democracy, our economy, and even simple social interactions are reliant on a neutral and open Internet. We need to support Canadians, whether entrepreneurs, political advocates, or online consumers.

I hope this motion is a catalyst for all stakeholders, businesses, consumers, the government, ISPs, and Canadians to come together to discuss net neutrality as part of the upcoming review of both the Telecommunications Act and the Broadcasting Act. A conversation needs to happen, and now is the time.

The House must provide leadership on this important issue. We must call on the government to include net neutrality as a guiding principle in the Telecommunications Act and the Broadcasting Act reviews in order to explore opportunities to further enshrine in legislation the principles of neutrality in the provision and carriage of all telecommunications services.

Canada needs to reaffirm its commitment to net neutrality. I have no doubt that Canadians will say loudly that they want net neutrality strengthened and protected. That is why I have brought forward Motion No. 168. I look forward to hearing debate on it.

Net NeutralityPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Oakville for his strong defence of net neutrality, something I support very much and that is important to a number of my constituents as well.

I am wondering if the hon. member could elaborate on the current protections. What is the current situation? I noticed in his speech that he talked about reaffirming net neutrality in Canada. In what ways would this bill strengthen net neutrality in Canada?

Net NeutralityPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


John Oliver Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, today the CRTC defined net neutrality, and it will take action to defend net neutrality in the Internet space.

The Telecommunications Act does not specifically mention net neutrality. It deals with the concept of open carriage. I provided a quote during my speech about the origins of open carriage, which dealt with freight transportation and content versus carriage in freight cars. That is the concept that is in place today. I do not believe that it is strong enough.

I believe that we need to specifically address and approach the Telecommunications Act with a net neutrality lens and attempt to enshrine those principles in the act itself. The CRTC has been doing a great job defending that position. As a House and as a government, we should work to see this enshrined in legislation.

Net NeutralityPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Matt Jeneroux Conservative Edmonton Riverbend, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for bringing this motion forward. I want to highlight a bit of the hypocrisy that pertains to this debate. We see a motion like this speaking of something like net neutrality, where it ensures that freedom of speech is allowed and encouraged. However, I wonder how the member reconciles that with something like the Canada summer jobs program where the government is telling Canadians what they should and should not be able to accept as part of an attestation.

Net NeutralityPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


John Oliver Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is all about protecting our rights and freedoms. We need net neutrality to protect our rights and freedoms. We want to enshrine them in our Constitution, and open and frank dialogue on the Internet is an important element of that. I would note that the opposition members and others have been in full debate on the Internet on the concept of whether the attestation has been a fair and applied principle. We can have that debate and we can have discourse in this House on that issue and online because of net neutrality. Therefore, the member actually speaks very well in defence of this motion.

Net NeutralityPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, net neutrality is a core essence for New Democrats and we continue that to today. The member for Timmins—James Bay has been on this file for a number of years.

Net neutrality is critical, but the member needs to shed some light on fair practices on the use of net neutrality with regard to Facebook and some of the activity that is taking place. We have seen serious manipulation of people's information and data that undermines democracy. I wonder what the member's comments on that are. Does he not think that part of the problem we face is abuse of circumstances like that, which defeats the whole principle of net neutrality?

Net NeutralityPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


John Oliver Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to personal data, people are making their own choices and decisions about what they would like to put on the Internet. That to me is a fundamental principle of net neutrality. We are not censored. We can put information out there as we see fit. In terms of the motion, there are other issues around mining that data and how they are used by large companies like Facebook. It is a secondary debate to this one. I still stand by the principle that Canadians should be entitled to put their views or their opinions out there, put whatever personal data they think is appropriate out there, and there should be no censorship or blockage of that information.

Net NeutralityPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Dane Lloyd Conservative Sturgeon River—Parkland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the motion by the member for Oakville regarding net neutrality in Canada.

This is an important issue for all Canadians as they navigate through the complexity that is the digital marketplace. This debate has come to the fore due to the decisions made south of the border. As all Canadians know, whatever happens with our American neighbours is likely to reverberate in Canada.

Net neutrality is a principle that has been respected in Canada for quite some time. The CRTC has been proactive in enforcing the principles of net neutrality through a number of decisions. Canada has also had a robust debate on the merits of net neutrality among stakeholders, and it is important that we raise this issue in the House today.

I am proud that we have a number of telecom companies and ISPs that provide first-class service across Canada. This competition promotes innovation and ensures that consumers have a wide variety of choices and the power to make free decisions on what content they wish to access.

We can all marvel at the changes that have taken place in the digital sphere in the past decade alone. Former start-ups such as Amazon, Netflix, Facebook, and Google are now household names and impact our lives every day. Growing up, we had a VCR and then a DVD player. Now my generation is unlikely to have either, as we rely upon the Internet through our hand-held devices to provide us with media content.

The explosion of content and the ease with which consumers can access it can be significantly attributed to our principled stand that Internet content be shared at an equal speed. Without the equal opportunity to be a content creator on the Internet, the diversity of choices would be significantly restrained to the detriment of start-ups and consumers.

Net neutrality does not mean that Canadians have the right to view Netflix content at 100 megabytes per second wherever they may be. What it does ensure, however, is that whatever content consumers wish to access will be provided at the same speed. This is very important because, as members can imagine, the prospect of having one website slowed down in favour of another could have a dramatic impact on the success of that website and, by extension, that business, regardless of the quality of service provided by that business.

For example, a travel page that has consistently provided a competitive price with great service may be at a massive disadvantage to a competitor sponsored by an ISP with preferential speeds, even though that competitor may provide consistently higher prices and poor service. Merely slowing down the time that it takes for a consumer to navigate a website can be the deciding factor in whether that service is used or not.

The implications of this slippery slope can be seen in the history of trusts in the 20th century. Steel and oil trusts with overwhelming market share have acted as monopolies, not merely in their own industries but in any related industries, such as transport and retail. As our economy becomes increasingly digital, it quickly becomes apparent that allowing ISPs to have unfettered control of the speeds at which websites can be accessed will allow them to wield a disproportionate amount of power. In the end, this will lead to less efficient outcomes, as consumers are forced to pay higher prices and companies with overwhelming control can get away with providing lower quality service.

As a Conservative, one of my fundamental beliefs is that government must do all it can to ensure that we have equality of opportunity in this country. Everyone should have the opportunity to succeed, and the government should stay out of picking winners and losers. That is the job of the free market.

When it comes to net neutrality, it may seem that the government is encroaching too far into the realm of the free market. However, the government must ensure that free competition takes place in order to protect the integrity of the market.

Net neutrality is one of those areas where the government, with minimal intervention, can ensure that consumers, entrepreneurs, and major companies operate on a playing field that is beneficial to all players, particularly start-ups and consumers.

Taking a step back, it must be said that in Canada we have not faced a significant challenge to the principle of net neutrality. It is not a law that is enshrined in the Telecommunications Act nor the Broadcasting Act. With that knowledge, I do not want any of my comments to malign the industry players who have done a great job of ensuring that Canadians have access to the latest digital innovations.

With that being said, with the prospect of our American neighbours repealing net neutrality, I believe it is likely that major changes could have an effect on Canadians. With empowered consumers backed by responsible legislation and a healthy respect for the free market, Canada should not face a significant challenge to the principle of net neutrality. Any company that would attempt to slow down access to a website like Netflix in favour of its own provider would face a significant backlash that would hurt its brand more than benefit it. It is that fear and that respect for consumers and respect for the principle that all players have an equal opportunity in the digital marketplace that will ensure the success of our digital companies. Their content and services should be delivered free of discrimination, and this will ensure that Canada maintains its status as a competitive jurisdiction.

My remarks have been primarily focused on the role that net neutrality plays in the digital economy. Additionally, though, net neutrality is vital in preserving the free marketplace of ideas, which is one of the most powerful qualities of the Internet. Canada has a strong record of protecting freedom of expression and no government or business should be able to throttle the opinions and the views of its citizens. The Internet must continue to be a forum of expression where people can freely voice their dissent and concerns. Fundamentally, supporting the principle of net neutrality and defending it from the possibility of significant challenges will have a positive impact on our economy and our society. Businesses, especially start-ups, will have confidence in knowing that they can invest in creating the best product or service without the fear that they will be effectively shut out of the marketplace. This will ensure that the best companies can effectively compete with the major players, the kind of competition that has proven time and again to be the lifeblood of an efficient economy.

I know Canadians can rest assured that our system respects net neutrality, and they can use Internet services free from undue interference from ISPs and government regulations. Net neutrality is not just about holding companies accountable. It is about holding government accountable as well. By holding government to the standards that we hold businesses when it comes to respecting consumer choices, we can ensure that Canada continues to be the free and competitive jurisdiction that it is today.

With that, I want to thank the member for Oakville, who brought this motion forward. This is an important conversation to be having in this House. All too often, we take it for granted that the way of life and the services we are accustomed to will be available forever, and that is not the case. The price of freedom is constant vigilance, and although there does not appear to be a threat to net neutrality in Canada at this time, we must have these conversations so that we are ready to tackle the challenges we will inevitably face in the future.

Net NeutralityPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the motion on net neutrality, which is very important for a number of reasons for Canadians.

Net neutrality is important to how we set our mark in the world, especially with regard to the United States and its decision under President Trump to move away from net neutrality toward the telecommunication giants for the management of Internet traffic. This is very important for so many different things, not only the business aspect, but also the personal and democratic aspects of it and the innovative side of using the Internet.

The previous member highlighted one of the more important aspects of this, that perhaps we have taken this for granted in Canada. Many countries in the world do not have net neutrality like we have today. The mere fact that we do have Internet service providers, ISPs, that rely upon American servers and infrastructure will mean we are affected no matter what. In fact, there is also a consumer-driven element to this of cost, which no doubt will be borne by the consumers. In fact, we have some of the highest prices right now.

However, we receive some solid services. Therefore, it is not necessarily just a one-way street to the customers here. For a country of our size, our demographics, and the challenges we have, there has been a footprint of the industry that is very important for all Canadians, and it has been successful in many respects in employment and moving net neutrality and services to Canadians.

We just came from the industry committee in which we are studying the issue of rural broadband. We will have recommendations to table in the House very soon. Although I cannot get into the full report right now as it has yet to be tabled, it does get to the heart of the matter, which is the fact that net neutrality is important not only for urban areas but rural areas as well. We also have the obligation of moving online government services to that area.

Net neutrality and the spectrum it travels on is a public service. It is owned and part of a national asset. The previous Conservative government and the current Liberal administration, through spectrum auctions, have received over $8 billion in revenue. However, there is a responsibility of the government and the providers to Canadians who own this natural resource. Canadians have supported net neutrality from the birth of the service in Canada, and we would like to see that continue.

We have seen so many challenges in this file, but net neutrality will affect more things in the future. I will point to one of the more practical things we have, which is streaming users to certain services, products, and marketing. Some of that, without net neutrality, would also incur a cost. For example, if an Internet service provider wants to stream users to a particular advertisement, or a particular page, or a download, or something of that nature, that will part of the data package and that will cost. The users will then have to break out of that or have that incurred cost of data management in their system. Alternatively, they could seek a different product by going to different sites, which would use more data, just to try to find what they are looking for. It could be anything from online shopping, news information, sports entertainment, or a series of different things. It affects not only our democracy, but our purchasing habits as well.

It also affects small and medium-sized businesses, which should not be forgotten in this debate. They will get eclipsed by the larger operations, some of them international conglomerates, and that will stymie small business. As we try to include small business as a more innovative part of our Canadian society and business strategy, they will have trouble in a dominated non-neutral market.

This will affect everything, from people looking for entry into the business market, such as our youth, as well as people with second careers and those who have just developed work in an industry, to more sophisticated operations, where we have some of our creative and well-known talent in Internet web design services and other things that would, in many respects, be put at a disadvantage trying to compete.

The U.S. decision to follow in this vein as well gives us a strategic opportunity to capture some of that technology and workers in that area, as well as an economic advantage. Although we have a much smaller market to deal with, it does provide an opportunity for us as Canadians to take advantage of that type of restrictive and planned market, where access is going to be dominated by the dollar and not necessarily by the principle of being on the platform.

There are a number of things that are happening with this motion. Because the government, in budget 2017, reopened the discussion on this, the motion is appropriate to speak to today. It is something that is beneficial for the House. It is something that we as New Democrats will support. Having never wrestled with the concept of net neutrality, we believe that it is important not only for consumers but for our democracy.

It goes further and deeper. Very soon, I will be working on and launching a digital strategy platform that covers several different aspects. One of the things that connect to net neutrality here, as was implied in my previous question for the author of the motion, is the example of Facebook. There are different ways to undermine the principles of net neutrality. Where we really want to see a difference right now is in the enforcement through the CRTC board, which is more like a reactive model. We would rather see a proactive approach so that the CRTC could enforce the different types of penalties against ISP providers if they decided to throttle, skew, or change things. That is important, because it allows for a less defensive approach, where the onus is on one to play the game with one's competitors in that field, and at the same level.

Going back to Facebook, and how this connects with that, its activities and manipulation not only affect our democracy, but provide an example of how a business can purchase and get around net neutrality in many ways. However, generally, at least there are some rules out there for that. They have now been identified, and Christopher Wylie and unfortunately the Liberals were caught for this, with several operators who come from their war rooms and different types of operations now being connected to this and using data simulation and data models, and we are not even sure where they are being sold, how they are being used, and what third party involvement there is.

All these things are critical, especially with an Ontario election coming up, as we do not even know the crossover effect to the fullest degree. These things are critical, because we have a skewing of the net neutral model in the sense that Facebook is using data assimilation, collection, and so forth to stream people into different brackets, to be sold for marketing.

Where I would take issue with the author of the motion is that when something is put out there, basically it is a free-for-all. The reality is that the use or the eventual purpose of this information or data is sometimes not known when it is collected. What they do is keep a reservoir of collected information, and unfortunately we see the abuse that is taking place right now. Basically, people are being categorized and inventoried, and their behaviour is set, and that information, collectively, becomes a great economic tool, and also a management tool for streaming them toward a certain content. That is the problem we have. The crossover to net neutrality starts there. If we do not have that as a foundation for the use of the Internet, then we are at a loss to begin with. That is the most important thing. If we are going to play fair in the system, everything needs to be done, at least in the beginning, on a fair and equitable level. That is one of the things that are important for Canada.

In conclusion, we can show a divergence from the United States on this by further enshrinement of that model.

I thank the hon. member for bringing this motion to the House of Commons.

Net NeutralityPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Ali Ehsassi Liberal Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today in support of Motion No. 168, which seeks to strengthen net neutrality and protect an open Internet in Canada.

I want to congratulate my colleague the member for Oakville for his determined defence of a free and accessible Internet. In his speech we heard him refer to the need to be a catalyst and I can think of no better catalyst than the member for Oakville himself. His work and the motion he has put forward today will do much to protect net neutrality in Canada.

When we speak about net neutrality, Internet traffic management practices, and differential pricing practices, it can seem like we are grappling with new frontiers in the ever-expanding world of technology. In fact, however, the principles at the core of net neutrality are in many ways similar to the foundations on which our country was built 150 years ago.

When we defend net neutrality, we are preserving principles as foundational to our democracy as freedom of the press and freedom of expression. Indeed, values of diversity and freedom of expression are fundamental to what we celebrate about being Canadian. One hundred years ago, views were exchanged, debated, and challenged in our town squares. Today, the Internet is our town square and it is vital that we ensure it remains open, diverse, and accessible.

However, free access to the Internet is not just important because we are committed to protecting basic rights and freedoms. It is also absolutely crucial because access to an open Internet where everyone enjoys a level playing field is integral to creating Canadian jobs, supporting innovation, and allowing our businesses and entrepreneurs to reach markets around the world.

In my riding of Willowdale, I am proud to have vibrant and cutting-edge businesses that employ people in good-paying jobs and put Toronto on the map for innovation. One notable industry leader is Square. Square's Canadian headquarters are located in Willowdale. Square employs dozens of people locally and even more people in Kitchener-Waterloo. The office in my riding has hardware engineers who contribute to the design of products that are used globally and a business team that brings integrated payments and business tools to Canadian sellers. Square's innovative tools are used across Canada by everyone from contractors and professional services to cafés, local stores, and vendors at farmers markets. It is a testament to the truth that when everyone has equal access to the Internet, local businesses and charities have the tools they need to succeed.

Protecting a free and open Internet means standing up for the innovators who drive growth in all of our communities.

Not only do we need to protect the Internet for today's businesses, but we also need concrete action on behalf of tomorrow's generations who will be working in an increasingly online workforce. This government understands the importance of getting our youth the skills they need for the labour market of the future.

I was thrilled to help launch Canada Learning Code in Toronto this past January, where our government invested $7.9 million in coding and digital skills through CanCode, which is a $50-million federal program that gives children from kindergarten to high school the chance to learn coding and other digital skills. While our children are learning how to thrive in tomorrow's economy, it is our duty to ensure that their innovations and entrepreneurial spirit are provided the free and open Internet they desire.

In Canada, we are not starting from scratch when it comes to protecting the Internet and promoting access from coast to coast to coast. I am proud that our government is already working to increase access to the Internet with initiatives like connect to innovate, where we have pledged to invest $500 million by 2021 to ensure that 300 rural and remote communities in Canada have access to the high-speed Internet so they can be connected to new opportunities. Protecting net neutrality is another facet of ensuring that Canadians are able to be connected for success.

I am also encouraged that we already have powerful tools at our disposal to defend net neutrality. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is committed to supporting and enforcing net neutrality because it understands that Canadians must have access to choice and the free exchange of ideas. The CRTC makes sure that Internet traffic management practices comply with our laws. In April 2017, it established a new framework to deal with differential pricing practices. Furthermore, Canada has some of the world's strongest legislation in this area. The Telecommunications Act treats Internet service providers like utilities, which means they cannot give preference to certain services or influence the content transmitted on their networks. However, we still need to be vigilant in protecting this vital right.

We are at a pivotal moment in the defence of net neutrality. Today, we face an environment where decisions are made in international markets to back away from net neutrality. The world may be made up of countries spread across seven continents, but we are one global community tied together by shared culture, media, and businesses that thrive online.

At the same time, Canada is also approaching reviews of the Telecommunications Act and the Broadcasting Act. The Minister of Canadian Heritage has launched a review of both acts as part of a greater effort to ensure that Canadian content is celebrated and has an international audience. I applaud this initiative. Digital technology is a most rapidly changing field, and for this reason we must review Canada's legislation to ensure that our laws remain up to date. These reviews also present an ideal opportunity to explore avenues to further strengthen the laws that protect net neutrality.

In summary, I would like to once again thank my colleague for bringing this important issue to the attention of the House. As we consider the importance of net neutrality, let us reflect on the fundamental question of what it means to live in a free and open society. In the words of Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, “I am a to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong.”

Net NeutralityPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Matt Jeneroux Conservative Edmonton Riverbend, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member opposite for moving this motion. I think it is extremely important to be talking about this topic today especially in light of recent events. It is an honour to stand today and support this motion which is important to me and many of my constituents.

The free flow of information is important to all Canadians. Access to all sources of information allow citizens to form and articulate their own opinions, a fundamental pillar of our democracy. That is why I am supporting private member's Motion No. 168, to affirm my support for net neutrality and the protection of an open Internet in Canada.

Our neighbours in the United States recently decided that Internet service providers will no longer be regulated as utilities like they currently are in Canada. Instead, these service providers will now be designated as information services. This new information service designation means that providers can purposely impact the speed at which websites load based on how much users and content creators are paying them or if the content belongs to a competitor.

Although there is no formal move to give Internet service providers in Canada the same power, the American case highlights the importance of protecting net neutrality here. It is an issue that has many Canadians concerned and rightfully so. The Internet has become an essential service in Canada and it must remain a freely available utility. Service providers should not dictate how people use the Internet.

According to Canada's Telecommunications Act, Internet providers in Canada, such as Bell and Rogers, are explicitly treated as providing a utility, ensuring they practise common carriage. Common carriage stipulates that these providers cannot influence or give preference to content passing through the distribution networks, such as the website a user is trying to access.

There will be a review of the Telecommunications Act in the near future. I'm honoured to have a seat at the House Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, where l presume I will have the opportunity to formally engage in this review process. In that capacity, I will push for the continued protection of common carriage in the telecommunications industry.

The fight for net neutrality is extremely important right now. A few months ago, Bell and several other media conglomerates announced a proposal to create a mandatory blocking system for websites that they have arbitrarily determined are inappropriate. Bell's proposal asks Canada's Internet service providers to block websites they deem as piracy. The blocking process would take place with little to no oversight by our courts. Obviously, this plan has Internet and net neutrality experts concerned. This plan would seriously harm open Internet access for users and also violates freedom of expression rights.

Michael Geist, the Canada research chair in Internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa, warned that agreeing to this proposal is a slippery slope:

The CRTC should be particularly wary of establishing a mandated blocking system given the likelihood that it will quickly expand beyond sites that "blatantly, overwhelmingly or structurally" engage in infringing or enabling or facilitating the infringing of copyright. For example, Bell, Rogers, and Quebecor last year targeted TVAddons, a site that contains considerable non-infringing content, that would presumably represent the type of site destined for the block list.

Canadians should be concerned about this proposal. In fact, more than 6,000 people complained directly to the CRTC. Advocacy group OpenMedia's Stop Canada Censorship campaign logged almost 30,000 comments. Clearly, maintaining net neutrality is important to many Canadians. I have heard personally from many of my constituents in Edmonton about how important net neutrality has become to them.

I am passionate about free speech, a freedom promised to all Canadians in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We have already seen attacks on our free speech and freedom of conscience, including the Liberals' values test, which blocked hundreds of charitable and religious organizations across the country from receiving Canada summer jobs funding.

As well, free speech on university campuses is under attack. Controversial speakers are frequently uninvited when a minority of students complain because they do not want to be exposed to ideas they do not agree with. This is plain and clear censorship happening on university campuses across the country. Students enrol in universities to learn to think critically, and part of thinking critically is to be able to dissect and decide their positions on certain issues. How can students develop this crucial skill if universities are not allowing discussion on different viewpoints?

Lindsay Shepherd, a teaching assistant at Wilfrid Laurier University, was recently disciplined for showing a debate that aired on public television which featured a commentator with a viewpoint that made a student in Lindsay Shepherd's class uncomfortable. In her words, “Universities are no longer places where one can engage with controversial ideas. They are echo chambers for left-wing ideology.”

Being exposed to different ideas may be uncomfortable, but learning and respecting the viewpoints of others is essential to our democracy, a democracy that we can be proud of, and one that is at risk of deteriorating. We cannot stop healthy debate and discussion from happening just because it might make someone feel uncomfortable.

We also have a government that recently promised to give, over five years, $50 million to save local newspapers. As a Conservative, I wholeheartedly support a strong, free, and independent press, because local news sources strengthen communities. However, I do not support government funding and the level of control that comes with government funding. In order to be free and unbiased, the press must not have, or even have the perception of, government interference. The Prime Minister cannot be trusted to pick and choose the organizations that will administer funding to news outlets. Such a process will compromise the independence of a free press and lead to skepticism from the general public.

As well, the Liberals are now involved in a scandal involving the possible misuse of Facebook users' data. A Canadian, Christopher Wylie, went public about how his company mined Facebook data during the recent election in the United States. We later learned that he was employed under two separate Liberal leaders and was also awarded a $100,000 contract by the Prime Minister just two years ago. He allegedly helped the party refine its data analytics practices. We do not know what else he did because the government will not tell us. As well, it will not go public about its data collection practices, though we know it stepped up spending on data analytics for the 2015 election. I hope the government will be honest with Canadians about what data it collected and what it used it for.

Data mining allows companies to collect information about people online and learn what they like and do not like. Companies can then release targeted ads and control what people see based on their online profiles. We know that targeted ads on Facebook played a huge factor in the U.S. election, and we do not want to see that happen in Canada. We want Canadians to be able to formulate their own opinions about elections and who to vote for without influence from companies or political parties.

Net neutrality fits into this complex debate. No one has the right to arbitrarily decide what people can and cannot access, not the government, not Internet service providers, and certainly not the Prime Minister and his cabinet. Doing so would be blatant censorship. Allowing companies like Bell and Rogers to slow down Internet speeds when users try to access certain websites is a slippery slope.

The government has clearly shown a laissez-faire attitude about Canadians' privacy online and our rights to freedom of speech. When we have a government that may have been involved in data mining, it makes protecting the Internet and the privacy of Canadians even more important. It is vitally important that we support net neutrality in Canada and continue to ensure that all web traffic is given equal treatment by Internet service providers.

Given the government's record on attacking free speech and freedom of conscience, I am a bit surprised this motion was brought forward by a government member. However, I think this is a very important motion as it recognizes that the Internet has thrived due to net neutrality and its principles of openness and transparency. Supporting the motion is the right thing to do for my constituents and for all Canadians.

As shadow minister of science, I am keenly interested in research, innovation, and technology. I support loosening regulation where appropriate to encourage innovation. However, the belief in equality is a fundamental principle of conservativism and, as such, I do not believe that Canadians' access to information should be arbitrarily disadvantaged.

Freedom of speech, and with that the free flow of information, is important for all Canadians. Large media conglomerates should not have the ability to arbitrarily decide on Canadians' behalf what they can and cannot see online. These are guiding fundamental principles of our society. That is why I am grateful to have had the opportunity to stand today and support Motion No. 168.

Net NeutralityPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to applaud the member for Oakville's initiative on bringing forward a motion to defend net neutrality, and it gives me great pride to be able to second this motion.

As has been noted a number of times already, the core concept of net neutrality already exists strongly in Canadian law without being specifically named. It is an important principle.

Net neutrality is a significantly bigger issue than limiting the speed of Netflix, and I am somebody who is quite sensitive to being asked to slow down. It is also a far broader discussion than we give it credit for. I will dive into all of that over the next few minutes and into next month.

At its core, net neutrality means that Internet service providers and the backbone providers that ISPs are connected to do not judge, limit, or control the content, speed, or nature of Internet traffic. Any packet, the basic unit of an Internet connection, coming in is relayed to its destination provided it meets basic security requirements. Net neutrality need not extend to blindly permitting distributed denial of service attacks, for example, nor the forwarding of packets with spoofed headers. Indeed, a DDoS is a third-party attack on neutrality by negatively affecting another service, but I digress.

The point is that if we take away net neutrality, what we take away is the network provider's obligation to pass on a packet without judging it. At its simplest, not having net neutrality means that any ISP can rate-limit, which means selectively slow down a bandwidth-intensive service like Netflix, without affecting the rest of the connection. That is how the big Internet service providers will sell this to us, as a fundamental question of fairness.

It sounds reasonable. Netflix alone represents about 35% of Internet traffic in North America today. It is not, of course, actually reasonable. If an ISP is not capable of sustaining the capacity it has sold someone, it has oversold it. I will come back to that the next time this is up for debate in a few weeks.

Unfortunately, this position by net neutrality-opposing ISPs means that providers are given the right to look at the traffic of individuals, a right they do not currently have except in aggregate. Once they have this right, this right also comes with obligations. ISPs, for example, will no longer be able to claim neutrality if a customer is looking at illegal content. Good, one might say, but no, not necessarily good, and here is why.

Once the ISPs are required to monitor the traffic of individuals, because without neutrality they become effectively required to, because they can no longer claim they could not should they be sued or charged and are also no longer required to be neutral about the transmission of this traffic, the door is wide open for ISPs to decide what we can and cannot do on the Internet. This then becomes a fundamental rights issue.

Without net neutrality, there is nothing stopping, for example, Bell Canada, the country's largest Internet provider, one of three roughly equally large-sized cellphone providers, and the plurality owner of Canada's domestic content creation market, from limiting people's Internet access on their Bell Canada connection or phone to Bell Canada content, which includes CTV news, The Movie Network, Crave TV, the sports network, and so forth, nor preventing them from accessing, say, CBC content. In fact, Bell already does this to an extent. People cannot watch Discovery channel online without a login to either a Bell service or a television provider that subscribes to it. It is clearly keen to have this power.

I am looking forward to finishing this in a few weeks.

Net NeutralityPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The hon. member will have seven minutes and 10 seconds coming to him when the topic comes up again.

The time provided for consideration of this item of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

It being 6:30 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 37 the House will now proceed to the consideration of Bill S-232.

The House resumed from February 13 consideration of the motion that Bill S-232, An Act respecting Canadian Jewish Heritage Month, be read the third time and passed.

Canadian Jewish Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was really happy to be able to previously speak to Jewish heritage month, and so it is a pleasure to once again have a chance to rise and speak about this important private member's bill, which is going to give the opportunity to all of us to celebrate our Jewish heritage here in this country.

As someone who is proud to now live in Toronto, one of the parts I really enjoy is the opportunity this bill would give people as an encouragement to discover our heritage and history of Jewish Canadians living in Toronto. Jewish people have been in Toronto since the early 19th century, but since the 1970s we have become the largest Jewish community in the whole country. We now number about 200,000 people. We have made our mark in the city, showing all the things we can contribute in so many ways through our cultural centres, art, and food, which I will get to. The last time I spoke about bagels, and we have so much more tremendous food in the city.

One of the parts I really enjoy is the music. For me, Jewish music, klezmer music, is something that really makes me happy. Being 2018, this year will mark my 20th wedding anniversary in August, and at our wedding we had the Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band. We had klezmer music, and it was a really wonderful way for us to celebrate the day. It was 20 years ago, and I get to bring back memories of great music.

The Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band just celebrated its 30th anniversary with a concert at Hugh's Room in Toronto. It is just a chance for us to get out there and listen to the music we have in our city. There is an Ashkenaz festival that has often happened down at the harbourfront. It is a place people can go to listen to music and really enjoy and celebrate together. When I think about Jewish heritage month, I get to think about things like that, chances to get out and really enjoy our music and celebrate.

I also like to think about things like film. Many years ago, I went to the Jewish Film Festival. In fact, this year it will be held May 3 to May 13. People can go out and get their tickets. The film I remember from the last time I went to the movies is Havana Nagila, which is a film that is very topical for the moment because we are on the eve of Passover. It is a film about Jewish Canadians who went to Cuba to help Jewish Cubans celebrate Passover by bringing matzo and haggadot, and to have the chance to celebrate and see the different ways different countries celebrate the holiday.

It is opportunities like that, going out and seeing movies, listening to the music, and telling the stories, where we can really hear about and experience our Jewish heritage. When I was thinking about films, we do not just have the Jewish Film Festival. There is also a Jewish Film Society that is located at the Miles Nadal Centre. This is a year full of anniversaries, apparently. In fact, this year the society is celebrating 40 years. It is the longest-running Jewish film society in all of North America, and it is based in Toronto. The Jewish Film Society was founded in 1978, and it has eight Jewish film events throughout the year. These include discussions, where people have the opportunity to learn more about these films.

The next one is coming up on April 8, and it is called Hanna's Journey. It might be a bit of a spicy film. I was looking at the description, and it might be a little controversial. It might be an interesting choice for people who are looking for a film. If people cannot make the April 8 film, the next one after that is on June 3, and it is called Melting Away. It is a Jewish film, but in celebration of pride because it is also happening during pride month.

These are ways we see how Jewish history is evolving in our city through the arts, with our music and films, and there are opportunities to enjoy them every day in our city. However, with a Jewish heritage month, it would give us an extra impetus to go out and seek those opportunities.

There is a lot more that happens at the Miles Nadal Centre as well. It is located right on Spadina and Bloor, a downtown hub location. It is somewhere people can take Yiddish lessons. Maybe because of Jewish heritage month, people will want to go out and renew the Yiddish language.

I have to say it is one of those things that I have noticed in my own family. My grandparents spoke Yiddish perfectly well, my father a little less, and with me, they used it as a secret language to talk about things when they did not want me to understand. I do not really understand Yiddish at all. When I saw that there are Yiddish lessons at Miles Nadal, I thought that it was a chance to understand what my dad is talking about when he is talking to others in Yiddish. I might seek out some of these lessons.

They also do Shabbat together. I particularly like the “no-shush Shabbat”. That Shabbat is noisy by design, for people who otherwise might not feel welcome, those with families, with young kids, and it is loud. It is an opportunity for people to rediscover Shabbat, and the community meal that brings people together.

What I really love about the vibrancy of the Jewish community in Toronto is that it has so many different aspects like that. There is such an inclusive feel, with opportunities for people who maybe have not really thought about their Jewish heritage or who want to learn more about it, to be able to jump in and learn more. It is kind of an exciting thing.

When I think about Jewish heritage in Toronto, though, I think about the King of Kensington. Many may have watched it on CBC in the past. If I thought about the one person who I saw on TV who was a Jewish person, and what that meant as part of our cultural history, our television history, it was the King of Kensington. Just down the street from the Miles Nadal Centre is the Kensington Market. That is where the TV show was based.

There are walking tours that people can take if they are interested in Jewish history. If during Jewish heritage month members are interested in getting out there and learning more, they can in fact take a walking tour through the Kensington Market to learn about how the Jewish community really came together at Kensington Market in the 1920s and built up the market.

It has changed. It is not a largely Jewish community anymore, but there are still parts of the history to be found there, including some synagogues. It is a chance to really see how the life continues to be vibrant in the changeover. I recommend it. May is a nice warm month. People should get out there, take a walking tour, go walk around in Kensington Market, and think about the King of Kensington.

Last time I closed off speaking about food, and again we are at that hour of the day when I start thinking about food. I would like to close by talking about some Jewish food.

In Toronto, we now have NoshFest, which I think is a wonderful idea. It happened in October last year, at the Artscape Wychwood Barns. There were cooking demonstrations and kids' activities, and klezmer music.

There was also a chance to eat all sorts of Jewish foods, like dill pickles, knishes, even new twists on knishes, bagels, rugelach, and because Passover is around the corner, I have to mention that they had gefilte fish, which is not my favourite Jewish food but they had it there. It was something for people to go and check out.

One of the things that I think about when I think about heritage is mementoes in the kitchen, things that bring back childhood memories. For me, it is a cookbook called Second Helpings, Please. Lots of Jewish households across the country have that cookbook. They actually had a signing at NoshFest. They have a renewed Second Helpings, Please, and they had a signing by the authors of the cookbook. I am going to have to go check it out, and try some of the recipes during Jewish heritage month. That brings a particular smile. I can remember my mom going through the pages of that book.

I know that my time for debate is coming to an end, so I will just close by mentioning that we are heading into Passover. It is just around the corner. To me, it is one of the most important holidays. It is a chance to slow down, spend time with family, share stories, and to talk about our heritage. It is when we build our heritage and our future. As we head into Jewish heritage month, I really want to thank the member for York Centre for bringing this to us. This is going to be a chance to celebrate so much of what we have, and it is so vibrant in the Jewish community across Canada, but in Toronto in particular.

Canadian Jewish Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on Bill S-232. Ultimately, the bill proposes that throughout Canada the month of May be known as Jewish heritage month in recognition of the many contributions Jewish Canadians have made toward helping to build a stronger, more prosperous Canada.

Prior to the bill coming from the other place, I was unaware that Canada has the fourth-largest Jewish population in the world. Likewise, on the list of major cities worldwide with the highest percentage of population with a Jewish origin, Canadian cities appear on the list eight times.

In my time in the House we have known great parliamentarians, such as Irwin Cotler and Joe Oliver, who were elected from some of these very same communities. These gentlemen are well respected on both sides of the House. In this Parliament, I will recall the passionate words from the member for Mount Royal who spoke against the BDS movement. In my view it was a proud moment in the House when 229 members of Parliament on both sides opposed and condemned the BDS movement. The BDS movement serves as a reminder that those who are Jewish still face challenges here in Canada to this very day. In fact, we know of the groups most frequently targeted for hate crimes in Canada the Jewish population is among them. I know all members of this place are concerned about that.

Does the bill fix that? No, it does not. However, the bill serves as an important reminder. Here in Canada, we have always known it is our diversity that makes us unique, but despite that diversity, we all have a common love for this great country we call Canada, because collectively, we are all part of Canada. We are what makes our country so unique and so special.

We may not always agree on how best we can build a stronger Canada, but we are almost universally admired at how respectfully we can agree to disagree with each other. As parliamentarians, we are well versed in the art of disagreement, and we often do so daily. However, at the same time, we recognize our role and we respect our differences.

We also understand the importance of showing leadership on issues. In this case, it is important to recognize that Jewish Canadians have been very important in helping build a stronger Canada. I did some research on this subject. I am sure some people are shocked that I did some research on this. In virtually every Canadian endeavour, in virtually every decade since the 1930s, Jewish Canadians have made significant and important contributions to virtually every area of Canadian life. In fact, there are literally too many to mention in this speech. Of course, I would be remiss if I did not point out that to this very day, Jewish Canadians continue to make important contributions toward our Canadian fabric in cities, towns, and communities all across Canada.

As a member of Parliament, I believe pointing out and honouring this proud part of Canadian history in the month of May through the declaration of Canadian Jewish heritage month is a small and important step toward increasing tolerance and acceptance.

Before I close, I would also like to recognize the member for York Centre, a Liberal MP who has worked with a Conservative senator, Linda Frum, to bring the bill forward. This constructive bi-partisanship in a small way symbolizes what the bill can achieve by bringing people together in recognition of an important contribution here in Canada.

I would also like to recognize former member Irwin Cotler, who first introduced this idea through a motion. It is always rewarding when members of Parliament from all sides come together in support of a common cause. It is something that does not always happen, particularly last week, but it is nice to see it here tonight.

On a slightly different note, I would like to recognize the good work of many Jewish Canadians in my region who operate the Okanagan Jewish Community Centre. This unique facility helps promote an inclusive atmosphere of understanding and respect in the Okanagan.

I would like to personally thank all the Jewish Canadians who graciously invited me to attend events in other parts of British Columbia. These meetings have always been meaningful to me. They have been very rewarding, insightful, and helpful in my work as a member of Parliament. In particular, I value the positive, welcoming, and non-partisan relation that has been formed.

Some of the best conversations happen around a dinner table or in a living room, and as I mentioned earlier, with disagreement and challenging opinions. Some of these conversations that I have had have been very helpful to me here in this place.

I know that an inclusive, respectful, and tolerant approach is how we can contribute to building a stronger Canada. This bill shares in those values, which is why I am pleased to support it and to stand up tonight to speak about it. I encourage all hon. members, if they cannot speak to it, to stand up for it when it is put forward in a vote, and see it go straight through this place.

Canadian Jewish Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to have this opportunity to stand in support of Bill S-232 which would establish May as Jewish heritage month. In 2006, a similar bill was passed in the United States to celebrate the contributions of the American Jewish community and Ontario established May as Jewish heritage month in 2012.

Bill S-232 is an important statement of recognition for the Jewish community of Canada and its many contributions. In London, Ontario the Jewish Community Centre provides adult Jewish education for those wishing to learn about philosophy, art, culture, and the history of Jewish Londoners.

Charitable giving is sponsored by the London Jewish Community Foundation, a community garden behind the Shalom Synagogue welcomes local gardeners. Come in Out of the Cold hosts lunches and clothing donations for those in need.

Each year, there is a Hanukkah party for families to celebrate the Festival of Lights. There is also a seniors complex adjacent to the community centre and a friendship club for seniors to share in a stimulating variety of educational and recreational activities.

As I reflect on the importance of the Jewish community to the fabric of our country, I must also reflect on another reality. It is not so long ago that Canada had an unofficial anti-Jewish immigration policy of “none is too many”. Anti-Semitism in Canada's immigration policy ultimately led to the refusal to admit Jewish refugees between 1933 and 1948.

While anti-Semitism goes back centuries, it is important to recognize its existence in Canada. Historian David Rome, wrote:

The reluctance of the Canadian government to admit Jewish refugees...was a fair reflection of public opinion. ...the Canadian Jewish Congress was prepared to sponsor the coming, and guarantee the financial support of 10,000 Jewish refugees to Canada. Yet the government of Canada rejected this proposal. The reason was simple: not only was immigration unpopular in the context of the Great Depression, but, as well, anti-semitism was rife in Canada.

The end result was that many who could have been saved, perished in the Holocaust.

In May 1939, the St. Louis, a ship carrying 907 German Jews, was refused permission to dock in Halifax because of pressure from high-ranking Canadian politicians and 254 of the Jews turned away by the Mackenzie King government did not survive the genocide.

It is the sincere hope of many in the House that passing this declaration and promoting the month of May as Jewish heritage month will allow us to ensure never again. The tragedy of the Holocaust is part of our Canadian heritage.

I do not believe we can have this discussion without understanding the tragedy of the Holocaust, the Shoah, a dark time in our collective history. In remembering those events, we can recognize the strength and resiliency of Holocaust survivors and the need for a Jewish heritage month.

In London, Ontario, the Jewish community commemorates survivors of the Holocaust each spring with its Shoah project, Voices of Survivors. The survivors and their descendants tell the stories of those who somehow miraculously escaped the slaughter.

Nearly 11 million innocent people were murdered during Nazi Germany's reign of terror. Hitler's final solution, a plan to systematically rid the world of Jews, resulted in the deaths of six million Jews.

In the years following World War II, nearly 100 survivors found their way to London, Ontario, seeking a place to live without fear or discrimination. London was their refuge and provided them with opportunities to contribute to the community. Many of these survivors became active in the life of London as business leaders, doctors, academics, retailers, developers, and political activists. They also developed religious organizations, corporations, and charities.

The Shoah project launched in 2006, by the Jewish Community Centre at the annual Yom HaShoah, the Holocaust remembrance day commemoration, sought to record and preserve the personal stories of those survivors. The objective is to raise awareness and allow Londoners to hear about the wartime hardships of London's survivors and all those who perished. It encourages understanding and the hope that the Holocaust will not be forgotten. The stories are heartbreaking and they remind us to never forget the reality of Auschwitz, Sobibór, and Babi Yar.

The voices of survivors are heard in London, Ontario, their stories haunting.

Eva Dykstein said:

Today is my worst nightmare. I had already lost friends, my father's entire family, and our life had literally been bombed out of existence. But today is more difficult than anything I have ever had to face. Today, I have to say goodbye to my home, my village, my mother and my father. They are being sent to Uzbekistan while I am being sent to Siberia, deep in the bowels of mother pulls my precious eight month old daughter...from my arms.

Is there anything more cruel than this?

Bill Nightingale said:

My brother David and I were summoned for selection. They had already taken our other brother away and we never saw him again. Now they came for both of us. David told me to go to the end of the line and just “disappear”. I slipped away from the end of the line and ran back to the House to hide in the attic. I saw them take David away with the rest of the group. I'm saved, but for how long?...until they call my name again and I follow, like a sheep, to my slaughter?

Jerry and Fanny Goose survived the ghetto and death camps.

I taught Holocaust literature in my English classes in London for 25 years and I did so because I had discovered that many of my senior students had no idea about the Holocaust. I was very concerned that ignorance of those horrific events could prevent my students from understanding the consequences of prejudice, hatred, and racism. I wanted them to be informed so they could reject and push back against the ugliest of anti-Semitism, Islamaphobia, ageism, misogyny, and homophobia. We must work to end racism and xenophobia because the truth is that we are not always the kind and tolerant nation we believe ourselves to be.

The recent horrific killing of six Muslim men during evening prayers at their Quebec City mosque speaks to the reality of racism in our midst, and while thousands of Canadians attended vigils and sent messages of goodwill, there is still that fear of 'The Other'. We need to come to terms with that as surely as we have to realize that as long as women are susceptible to violence because they are women, and indigenous peoples are denied the recognition of their contributions and key role in our nation, and the LGBTQ2 community is looked upon with fear and suspicion, we have not created the nation we should aspire to build.

In 2018, one might ask what action can we take today. First and foremost, we must remember the contributions of those who are members of our multicultural communities.

I mentioned the civic involvement of the Jewish community in London and wish to also mention the charity of others.

Zakat is a special charitable donation that Muslims give every year before Eid al-Fitr prayers. It is given on behalf of every member of the family to ease the suffering of millions around the world.

Many in our communities contribute to women's shelters and programs to help women fleeing violence. The LGBTQ2 community holds Pride festivals across Canada to remind us of our common bond of citizenship and support for each other.

If we truly wish to acknowledge that we will not stand by in the face of another genocide, we need to honour our international obligations and prioritize the resettlement of those who are faced with genocide today. People targeted for their race, religion, culture, and sexual identity continue to be vulnerable. It would be a great mark of respect for the survivors of the Shoah and their families if all violence were removed from our society and we were to make every effort to combat anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, misogyny, racism, and homophobia in Canada.

We must be aware of the reality of hate crimes and the need for the training of police forces, so when there is a hate crime, it is recognized, reported, and acted upon.

The Jewish community, like so many others, has beautiful customs from which we can learn. In a rich and diverse multicultural society like ours, it is truly our good fortune that we have the opportunity to learn from our communities. As a parliamentarian, I have seen the resiliency and compassion of Canadians.

I, along with my NDP caucus, will vote in favour of recognizing May as Jewish heritage month in Canada. We believe this will give Canadians an opportunity to reflect on the great contributions of Canada's diverse communities.

The passage of Bill S-232 will provide us with the opportunity to reflect on our history and redouble our efforts to ensure “never again”.

Canadian Jewish Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my turn to join those of my colleagues who have had the pleasure of speaking to Bill S-232. My regards to the member for York Centre, who is sponsoring this bill in the House seconded by my colleague from Thornhill.

The bill designates a Canadian Jewish heritage month, and what a rich heritage it is. When asked if I was interested in speaking to Bill S-232, I said yes right away. Then I realized I would have to read up extensively on that heritage.

Unfortunately, I have only 10 minutes to speak in favour of this bill, even though there is so much to say about all of the good things the Jewish community has done since arriving in Canada.

I will try to focus on what happened in Quebec and the Jewish community's contribution to that province. I think there is a lot to say, and I plan to say a lot.

I was both proud and impressed as I read about their fascinating history. I hope this bill will give all Canadians and Quebeckers a chance to learn more about Jewish history in Canada.

Before I begin, I want to quote something that Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said before the Senate regarding the creation of a Canadian Jewish heritage month. When I read what he said, I thought to myself, this is exactly what the bill seeks to achieve. I cannot say it any better than he did:

The concept of heritage months offer a proactive approach to peeling back the ignorance that really serves as the engine or driver of the kind of intolerance that all of us would wish to see diminish and eradicated. It is in this context that I think they play an important role in helping other Canadians appreciate the shared values of specific communities....They bring down that sense of suspicion and hostility that is born from a sense of ignorance about other faith communities.

I think that what he said perfectly encapsulates why Bill S-232 has my full support.

Canada is not the first country to create a Jewish heritage month. In 2006, President George W. Bush and the U.S. Congress passed a resolution proclaiming the month of May as the time to celebrate the contributions of the American Jewish community. In Ontario, Jewish heritage month was established in 2012.

Let's talk about Quebec. I have read quite a bit, and there is one book in particular that caught my attention. The book, edited by Pierre Anctil and Simon Jacobs, is entitled Les Juifs de Québec: Quatre cents ans d'histoire, or 400 years of Jewish history in Quebec City. I will read a few passages from the book because Jewish history in Quebec is the Jewish history in Canada, and hon. members will see why:

In 1738, a young woman by the name of Esther Brandeau arrived in Quebec City. She was officially the first person of Jewish descent to set foot in Canada. She arrived ashore [believe it or not] disguised as a young man and was [quickly] exposed and handed over by the authorities to a religious group, with the clear intention of [having her convert].

She stood her ground and may have been the first person to be deported from Canada as a result. According to our research, she was in fact the first Jewish woman to settle in Quebec City.

I will read another excerpt:

In 1761, Aaron Hart settled in Trois-Rivières and over the next few years convinced members of his own family to join him, or to lay down roots in other small towns along the St. Lawrence. Aaron Hart's son, Ezekiel, decided to run in an election to represent Trois-Rivières in the Parliament of Lower Canada. Hart was elected twice, in 1807 and 1809, but was barred from the House of Assembly because he was Jewish.

To think that a Jewish man would allow others to control his destiny is to underestimate the Jewish people. Ezekiel took legal action. Members of the community took legal action. They continued to fight. In the end, their efforts paid off.

In 1832, the Parliament of Lower Canada enacted legislation granting Jews the same rights and freedoms as the rest of the country's citizens, including the right to sit as a member of the legislative assembly. When the law was enacted in 1832, there were only about 20 Jews in Quebec and fewer than 100 in all of Canada. This goes to show that they were very influential and very determined to carve out a place for themselves here in Canada.

I could go on at length because the book is full of examples. I recommend that all my colleagues put this book at the top of their reading list for the first Canadian Jewish heritage month. The books is Les Juifs de Québec: quatre cents ans d'histoire, edited by Pierre Anctil and Simon Jacobs.

Montreal's Jewish population grew in the early part of the century and again later. At 90,000, it is now the second-largest Jewish community in Canada and the fifteenth-largest in North America.

In the 1930s, the government did not have a comprehensive social welfare system. Religious communities were responsible for managing institutions such as hospitals and orphanages. The Jewish community took charge of its own affairs and developed its own support network that included schools, hospitals, and community support clinics. The Jewish General Hospital is known to all Montrealers and Quebeckers. Over 70% of the patients treated there are not Jewish; they are Quebeckers. They are people like us, ordinary citizens who benefit from an institution created by our fellow citizens of Jewish origin.

The Jewish community actively and proudly participated in the development of Quebec and Canada. I am going to read out some names, and I know I will forget some because there are so many. My colleagues will immediately realize that these members of the Jewish community had a major impact on Quebec: Leonard Cohen, who is a household name; Sonia Benezra, a television host; Alan B. Gold, the first Jew to be appointed chief justice of the Court of Quebec in 1970 and chief justice of the Superior Court in 1983; Dr. Victor Boldbloom, the first Jew to be appointed to a cabinet position; Maurice Pollack, every Quebecker of a certain age knows Pollack's department store, an institution in Quebec City; Marcel Adam, from Quebec City, a pioneer in the shopping centre world; Sam Steinberg, the businessman who headed up the Steinberg food empire; and the Reitman family, owners of the largest women's clothing chain in Canada, to name a few. Of course there are others I could name, and I apologize to all those I did not mention. There is also the first MP, as my colleague noted. There are so many, that the first 10 minutes I have for my speech would not be sufficient to name them all.

I will conclude with another quote, this time from Michael Mostyn, the chief executive officer of B'nai Brith Canada:

This act is most welcome. It will recognize the many achievements of Canada's Jewish community, the members of which faced many hurdles from the outset of Canada's original existence as a colony and yet were able to greatly contribute to the fabric of Canadian society. Despite facing systematic racism, our community has never seen ourselves as victims, viewing roadblocks as opportunities rather than obstacles. It is because of our perseverance and our willingness to stand up to adversity and better ourselves that the Jewish community was able to help build this country up, despite our small numbers.

In light of the Jewish community's significant contribution to the development of our country, it is crucial that we emphasize how important the Jewish community's heritage has been to Canadian society by designating May as Canadian Jewish heritage month. I join my colleagues in supporting Bill S-232.

I hope that the House will come to an exceptional consensus so that we do not need to wait until May 2019 for our first Canadian Jewish heritage month. I hope that we can proceed as quickly as possible to make May 2018 the first Canadian Jewish heritage month.

Canadian Jewish Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.


Michael Levitt Liberal York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to conclude the debate on Bill S-232, the Canadian Jewish heritage month act.

It has been an honour to sponsor the bill in this House, and I would like to thank my colleagues from both sides of the aisle for their strong support. I also want to thank Senator Frum, who co-sponsored this bill with me and guided it through the other place.

Since its introduction in December 2016, this initiative has been welcomed by members of the Jewish community from across the country. None of this would be possible, though, without the groundwork laid by the former member for Mount Royal, the hon. Irwin Cotler, who originally introduced the substance of this bill in 2015.

I have thanked Professor Cotler each and every time I have spoken to this bill, and I have dedicated my efforts in his name. I do not do it just because he is my dear friend and mentor, but because he is an inspirational leader who exemplifies the very best of what it means to be a Canadian and a member of the Canadian Jewish community. I would like to spend my time remaining honouring and paying tribute to this exemplary man.

Professor Cotler is one of the world's pre-eminent international legal minds and human rights advocates. For 26 years, he was a law professor at McGill University and the director of its human rights program. During that time, he served as counsel to prisoners of conscience from around the world, including Natan Sharansky, Nelson Mandela, and Jacobo Timerman. He was a member of the international legal team for Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, and he serves as international legal counsel to imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi and Venezuelan political prisoner Leopoldo López.

Irwin has been described as “counsel for the oppressed” and “freedom's counsel”. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

In 1999, when lesser persons would have begun thinking of retirement after an esteemed legal career, Professor Cotler ran for office. For 16 years, he served Canadians as the Liberal member of Parliament for Mount Royal. He brought his insatiable appetite for justice and human rights work to his work in government. During that time, we were privileged to have him as our minister of justice and attorney general.

Among many accomplishments, he initiated the first ever comprehensive reform of the Supreme Court appointment process; crafted the Civil Marriage Act, the first ever legislation to grant marriage equality to LGBTQ Canadians; and quashed more wrongful convictions in a single year than any prior minister.

He did not slow down in opposition or lose his drive to advance Canada as a beacon of justice and human rights. He advocated and oversaw the creation of the House of Commons Subcommittee on International Human Rights, which I am now privileged to chair. He chaired the Inter-Parliamentary Group for Human Rights in Iran and the Justice for Sergei Magnitsky Inter-Parliamentary Group, and I should add that he was a driving force behind Canada's adoption of a Magnitsky act.

As colleagues in the House who worked with Irwin well know, he was less a politician than a parliamentarian scholar. He was among the most very respected members of this House, and his legacy is felt across party lines to this day.

Now, despite his supposed retirement in 2015, it turns out that Irwin's political career was more of a sabbatical from his real job: the defence of human rights around the world. Without pause, at 75 years of age, he returned to the struggle for international justice as the founder and chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights. He now travels and works just as hard as he ever did as a member of Parliament.

Last September, he was appointed to the OAS independent panel of international experts on possible crimes against humanity in Venezuela, and he has not stopped or slowed his unmatched advocacy for prisoners of conscience around the globe.

Why does his story matter? It is because for over a half century, Professor Cotler has been bringing great pride and honour to the Canadian Jewish community. On a personal note, I am constantly inspired by the example he has set. My own journey as an MP, including my work on human rights and this bill, are entirely due to his ongoing legacy. Let my closing words on this bill be a thanks to Irwin for all of his contributions and to the great pride he brings to the Canadian Jewish community each and every day.

I am thankful for the opportunity to close the debate on Bill S-232. I look forward to this May being the inaugural Canadian Jewish heritage month, when we can all celebrate together.

Canadian Jewish Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

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

Canadian Jewish Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Some hon. members



Canadian Jewish Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

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

Canadian Jewish Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canadian Jewish Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canadian Jewish Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Some hon. members