House of Commons Hansard #317 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-71.

Topics

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

9 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

9 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

9 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

9 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

(Motion agreed to)

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

9:05 p.m.

Liberal

Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure what is going on with the clocks in here, but I think if you ask members, we could agree that the clock reads midnight.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

9:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Is it agreed?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

9:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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

EmploymentAdjournment Proceedings

9:05 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to have an opportunity tonight to address the attacks on religious liberty and freedom of conscience that we see from the current government. The Liberals have altered the Canada summer jobs program to require that any applicants check a box indicating their agreement with certain propositions. That affirmation is about the private convictions of those groups, not about their activities or their willingness to comply with the law.

Governments always make determinations about what activities they wish to fund, but it is unconscionable in a free society to say that people should be denied the ability to access government services or programs on an equal basis simply because of their private convictions. However, that is the contention of the Liberal government, that faith-based and secular organizations alike should be denied access to public services on the basis of their wish not to positively state their agreement with certain propositions that happen to be important to the government.

This policy responds to no problem or need. It is a mean-spirited attack on the private convictions and liberties of organizations that do excellent work helping the most vulnerable across this country. We are seeing the impact of this policy. Over 1,000 organizations were denied funding this year, with at least one secular not-for-profit organization announcing that it will close its doors as a result of funding lost through this policy.

We are seeing perverse outcomes. We have an organization openly advocating hate against minority groups that did receive the money and organizations that do uncontroversial good work being denied the money. Those who are genuinely hateful apparently do not have a problem lying when they check the box. The only effect of this policy, then, is to screen out the genuinely good and honest who refuse to violate their convictions for 30 pieces of silver.

What is striking to me about this debate, as well, is that we have a government in this country that finds the very idea of conscience to be baffling. The Liberals have said, and the parliamentary secretary, I suspect, will say again in response to my question, something to the effect that faith-based organizations are eligible, and many have received funding, and by the way, there is more money in the program than ever before. The Liberals genuinely do not understand that people of conscience will not check a box that contradicts their convictions, even if they are told that it is meaningless and to check it anyway.

The many Catholic organizations, in particular, that provide help to refugees, prisoners, the sick, the elderly, and children honour St. Thomas More, who preferred execution to signing an attestation that violated his conscience. More's friends tried to persuade him to change his views or cede to compromise, but at least they understood the idea of conscience that informed his actions.

The government, as it is about to reveal in response to this question, has so lost its moral ground that the members cannot conceive of people refusing to sign something they do not agree with to get some money. The Liberals not only lack the constraints of conscience in this case, they fundamentally fail to understand what conscience is. The problem is not one of immorality but of amorality. The idea of firm, unrelenting convictions exceeding self-interest is simply not part of their comprehension.

This has, I believe, wider consequences beyond the particulars of this issue. It is not a surprise to me that the first prime minister in Canadian history to have broken ethics laws while in office is also one who seems so confounded by the notion of conscience.

Whether groups are theoretically eligible, the demand that they sign a form attesting to things they do not believe is an unavoidable impediment to groups that disagree with the particulars of this attestation. Free societies do not demand to know what my private convictions are before I receive public services, and it does not matter how much money is in the program. It matters that the government is hell-bent on discriminating against people of conscience and conviction.

In 2019, we will give Canadians a better option, a party made up of people who disagree with each other on a range of different issues but who fundamentally respect the section 2 guarantees in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; who respect freedom of conscience; and who believe that great societies are those in which people are free to disagree, to countenance unpopular opinions, and to stand on their convictions.

EmploymentAdjournment Proceedings

9:10 p.m.

Parkdale—High Park Ontario

Liberal

Arif Virani LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage (Multiculturalism)

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan's robust contributions today and indeed on many days in this House.

It is a pleasure to rise to speak about a program, the Canada summer jobs program, that our government has indeed doubled, creating 70,000 paid-work experiences for Canadian youth. The Canada summer jobs program is an integral part of our plan to support Canada's young people so they can get the education and experience they need to get a quality job. It helps young people start off on the right foot toward building their careers, and it helps keep our economy growing and our middle class thriving.

The program benefits students and employers alike, and it helps move our economy forward.

Unlike the previous Conservative government, whose policies drove youth unemployment to its highest rates since the nineties, we on this side of the House are investing in young people. Budget 2018 invests an additional $448.5 million over five years to support our youth employment strategy. This funding will help to continue to double the number of job placements funded under the Canada summer jobs program in 2019-20.

On the issue of freedom of conscience and religion raised by my colleague, we have had many robust discussions about this both in this House and outside of this House. Let me be very clear. The changes we have made are not at all, in any way, about excluding faith-based groups. My friend raised the issue of the charter protections. As a constitutional lawyer, I will advise him, but also he will know quite clearly, that subsection 2(a) protects freedom of conscience and religion under the Canadian Constitution put in place by Pierre Trudeau when he was then prime minister of this country.

More importantly, the attestation clause, as has been discussed at length in this chamber, is not about changing doctrine, ideology, or belief with respect to any faith-based group. We recognize the important work that faith-based groups do around this country on a daily basis. We are saying if a Catholic church, a synagogue, a mosque, or a Hindu temple runs a soup kitchen, God bless them for running the soup kitchen. However, if in running that soup kitchen they say that an LGBTQ2+ youth cannot be employed working in that soup kitchen, that is an exclusive policy, and not something that we will fund as a government. That is what the attestation clause is meant to do.

I do not think we see differently on either side of this House. We believe clearly in freedom of conscience on both sides, but we also believe in inclusion on both sides of the House, and “inclusion” means ensuring that people such as an LGBTQ2+ youth have the ability to work in an inclusive environment, including one being run by a faith-based institution.

We are not here to dictate the faith or tenets of various faith groups around this country. As the parliamentary secretary for multiculturalism, who works under the Minister of Canadian Heritage in promoting those very faith-based groups, religious groups, and diverse cultural groups that make up this country, it would be abhorrent for us to even purport to do so.

What we are trying to do is ensure that government funding addresses the needs of Canadians, addresses young people, and gets them employed in jobs that are related to the careers that they are seeking to pursue, but doing so in a manner that protects that fundamental founding document, which is our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the rights contained therein. It is a critical facet. Employers continue to understand this. They have applied in record numbers. There are 3,000 first-time funding recipients for this program. That is why we are proud of the implementation of the Canada summer jobs program. We are proud of the fact that we expanded the program and the funding, and that tens of thousands of young people are currently employed.

EmploymentAdjournment Proceedings

9:10 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, with all due respect to my friend across the way, I think the refutation that I am about to give is probably unnecessary since it is obvious from what he said that he does not fundamentally understand the question. He said not to worry because the Liberals are spending more money on the program. It is a program that they have structured in a way that discriminates. He said that faith groups are still eligible. They are only eligible if they check a box that attests to particular propositions that many faith groups and other organizations may either not agree with or simply not see wading into as part of their mandate.

My friend across the way I think clearly misdescribes what this attestation does. The wording of the attestation is clear. In order to get the funding, people have to check a box stating their particular doctrinal agreement with certain particular propositions. It does not speak to the way they will treat people in their interactions with them. Rather, it speaks to their particular—

EmploymentAdjournment Proceedings

9:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The parliamentary secretary.

EmploymentAdjournment Proceedings

9:15 p.m.

Liberal

Arif Virani Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the comments by my friend opposite, I will reiterate that what we are doing is enhancing the program. We are providing more funding for more jobs right around the country, as compared to the record of the previous government, which drove down youth employment. What I would say to the member opposite is that if the Conservatives are so concerned about jobs for Canadian youth, then why did he and his caucus colleagues vote against the youth employment strategy, student work, integrated learning, and apprenticeship grants in the votes that took place just on Thursday evening of last week?

Again, it would be abhorrent for any government to try to purport to dictate to a religious or a cultural group what they should believe or what tenets or doctrine they should believe in. What we are doing with this program is simply indicating that when they run a program and they are seeking governmental funding to employ students, they must do so in an inclusive manner, such as the example that I gave earlier: when they run a camp or a soup kitchen, God bless them for running it, and running it out of a synagogue, church, temple, or mosque, but when they do so they must make those jobs available for employment to include people like LGBTQ youth.

Official LanguagesAdjournment Proceedings

9:15 p.m.

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to stand in the House to continue debate and to promote official languages across the country.

On March 28, I had the honour of asking the Prime Minister a question after the tabling of the Liberal government's action plan on official languages. From an investment point of view, this action plan does not meet the aspirations of the communities. The FCFA and QCGN had asked for a lot more money. Unfortunately the action plan does not make up, as the Liberals had promised, for the 10-year backlog created by the Conservative government.

However, the government promises more action for francophone immigration outside Quebec and for early childhood, two areas considered essential by our official language minority communities. We still have a long way to go in these areas, however, though they are critical for the survival of our communities. We expect many more initiatives on the part of the government. I would like to know what the government intends to do in these two areas.

I introduced another bill today, one that improves the Official Languages Act. The Liberals voted against Bill C-203 on bilingualism for Supreme Court justices, so I introduced a bill to amend the Official Languages Act. If it is passed, the government will have to commit to appointing bilingual justices to the Supreme Court. That would be a major step forward. Unfortunately, all we have is a policy that is not enshrined in law. That policy has no teeth and can be ignored at will. We need to do something about that fast.

I am vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Official Languages. The committee submitted a unanimous report on community media serving official language minority communities. There again, the committee asked the Liberal government to act quickly.

In the past decade, advertising revenues for media serving OLMCs, official language minority communities, have dropped by 70%. That has made it hard for them to survive. Unfortunately, the Liberal government is investing more and more in Facebook, Google, and other such media, leaving our community media high and dry.

That is why we tabled the report entitled “Media in the Digital Age”. This report recommends that the government take funds previously allocated for national media advertising in the current budget and use them to immediately establish a special $2-million emergency fund, which will be disbursed promptly through national advertising contracts to media serving official language minority communities across the country. This is extremely important to community broadcasters that serve official language communities. For the sake of our radio stations and newspapers, it is vital to act now. I hope the government will respond to this request from the committee.

I would like to know what the government plans to do. Will it respond favourably to the very important request contained in this unanimous report?

The Liberals, the Conservatives, and the New Democrats all agree. Will the Liberals agree to award a contract post-haste—

Official LanguagesAdjournment Proceedings

9:20 p.m.

Liberal

Official LanguagesAdjournment Proceedings

June 19th, 2018 / 9:20 p.m.

Parkdale—High Park Ontario

Liberal

Arif Virani LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage (Multiculturalism)

Mr. Speaker, we are very proud of the work we accomplished after consulting Canadians, especially official language minority communities. The result was the new action plan for official languages 2018-23, which meets the needs of our communities. The action plan provides a historic investment of nearly $2.7 billion to strengthen our communities, strengthen access to services, and promote a bilingual Canada.

Leadership, governance, and coordination in the area of official languages are important matters which our government takes very seriously. We have shown a great deal of leadership in the area of official languages since the fall of 2015, and the concrete actions we have taken are a testament to that very commitment.

We have made it a priority to regularly meet with official language stakeholders to listen to their concerns and understand their needs and priorities. This deepened dialogue paved the way to key commitments upon which the action plan for official languages 2018-23 rests: strengthening collaboration with official language stakeholders and communities; extending new funding for official languages to address key challenges and trends, some of which were outlined by the member opposite; favouring evidence-based and grassroots-driven policy decisions; and demonstrating greater transparency and accountability in government funding. These commitments will continue to guide our approach, which fundamentally and above all things is focused on community-driven results.

The Minister of Canadian Heritage will continue to improve the coordination of official languages issues in co-operation with the Privy Council Office, the Treasury Board Secretariat, and the Department of Justice. As well, the Prime Minister has announced that we will be modernizing the Official Languages Act.

With regard to governance, the government can count on a high-level committee, the Committee of Assistant Deputy Ministers on Official Languages, currently being co-chaired by representatives from Canadian Heritage, Treasury Board Secretariat, Justice Canada, and the Privy Council Office. This committee helps promote concerted government action on official languages. It opens the way to sharing best practices in a spirit of inter-departmental collaboration.

The committee's mandate was recently broadened to include three priorities, the horizontal federal strategies on official languages, including the action plan, language of work in the federal public service, and managing other issues related to the Official Languages Act.

Official LanguagesAdjournment Proceedings

9:20 p.m.

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, my colleague did not answer my question. I wanted to know whether the government was going to release $2 million in emergency funds for media in official language minority communities.

However, he talked about his Prime Minister's desire to amend the Official Languages Act. I hope that they will do that before the end of this 42nd Parliament. They absolutely must address the issue raised by the Fédération des francophones de la Colombie-Britannique regarding part VII of the act, on positive measures. Following the federation's defeat in its case against the Liberal government, the judge said that part VII of the Official Languages Act on positive measures needed to be amended.

Will the government commit to doing that next year and not wait for the next election?

Official LanguagesAdjournment Proceedings

9:20 p.m.

Liberal

Arif Virani Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Our goal is always to support both official languages across Canada. As for the question raised by the member about the media, I can assure him that we are there for local media, print media, and media that serve francophone communities.

In addition to providing official language minority communities with money in key areas such as community development, culture, immigration, and early childhood, our government is also planning initiatives to further promote both official languages.

Furthermore, we will invest $3 million to enable Statistics Canada to meet the official language data needs of communities and of all orders of government. This intervention will allow for enhanced data-driven decision-making and the improved assessment of the results of our actions.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

9:20 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, In 1999, there was a drug crisis in Portugal. Use of hard drugs was rampant, and approximately 1% of its population reported a drug addiction. Therefore, in 2001, Portugal decided to treat the possession and use of small quantities of drugs as a public health issue, not a criminal one. It decriminalized the use of all drugs, even heroin and cocaine, and unleashed a major public health campaign to tackle addiction. Though possession is still legally prohibited, violations are treated as administrative infractions and removed completely from the criminal realm. That means getting caught using or possessing drugs could result in a small fine or a referral to treatment where appropriate, but not jail time or a criminal record.

The crisis in Portugal soon stabilized, and the ensuing years saw dramatic drops in problematic drug use, infection rates, overdose deaths, and drug-related crime. Portugal's mortality rate from drugs is now four times lower than the European average; the number of teenagers who have experimented with drugs has fallen, and the number of people in treatment has increased. Ninety per cent of public money spent fighting drugs is now channelled toward health care goals. Just 10% is spent on enforcement.

In contrast, in Canada, 70% of funding spent combatting drug use is spent on enforcement. We have the second highest rate of cannabis use among young people in the world, and an opioid overdose crisis that is staggering. Four thousand Canadians lost their lives to overdoses in 2017, up from 3,000 in 2016. We are on track in 2018 to exceed that death toll, with as many as 6,000 Canadians dying from overdoses.

In British Columbia, overdose deaths spiked in March, marking the province's second highest monthly total in history. At the Liberal Party's recent policy convention, delegates voted overwhelmingly to back Jagmeet Singh and the NDP's position on decriminalization and medical regulation as a means of responding to drug overdose deaths. A coalition of 200 family, friends, organizations, policy experts, including former Liberal leader Bob Rae, impacted by the overdose crisis, wrote an open letter urging the Liberals to:

...be the progressive government you promised to be, choosing human rights and evidence-based policy over ideological relics.

We need you to listen to our voices as we call for the essential next step: decriminalization. The example of Portugal and other European countries illustrates that this policy works.

We ask you to prevent thousands of more unnecessary deaths by supporting this resolution.

However, both the Liberal Minister of Health and the Prime Minister responded by unequivocally ruling out action.

The Liberal government has also refused to launch an investigation or initiate legal action to recover damages from opioid manufacturers for the tragic consequences and public costs of this crisis. Instead, Liberals have left victims to seek recourse through a private class action lawsuit. This resulted in a proposed settlement of $20 million, with a paltry $2 million allocated to provincial health authorities. Thankfully, the settlement was rejected because no steps were taken to ensure that past and potential future public health care costs were identified. This stands in contrast to aggressive action from U.S. government authorities, which has led to almost $700 million in damages and criminal convictions for improper marketing.

What message does it send when thousands of Canadians die from overdoses and our government fails to seek justice? We owe it to the memory of those lost to this crisis to hold those who profited to account. We need significant federal money for addiction prevention, education, treatment, and harm reduction. We need to stop treating the most vulnerable members of our society like criminals.

Given the severity of the opioid crisis, and that we expect more deaths this year, why will the Liberal government not even consider these evidence-based proposals?

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

9:25 p.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick

Liberal

Alaina Lockhart LiberalParliamentary Secretary for Small Business and Tourism

Mr. Speaker, our government is deeply concerned about the opioid crisis. This is a national public health crisis that is affecting Canadians across regions and from all segments of society.

Our government has taken significant actions to respond to the opioid crisis. These actions complement the Government of Canada's overall approach to drug policy, which is collaborative, compassionate, comprehensive, and evidence-based. Our government has responded through supporting a public health response, enacting new legislation, fast-tracking regulatory action, and significant new investments.

Budget 2018 proposed more than $231 million over five years and $13.5 million per year on an ongoing basis to support new cross-cutting initiatives to address the crisis. This commitment includes one time emergency funding of $150 million for provinces and territories to improve access to treatment services across Canada.

Indeed, we have moved the bar tremendously in the face of the crisis. All the actions that we have taken, including enforcement actions, are to protect and improve the health of Canadians.

For instance, we have taken action by making a greater variety of treatment options available to respond to the opioid crisis and other emergency situations. This includes the implementation of regulations to address urgent public health needs. We have also facilitated access to methadone and medical-grade heroin for the treatment of opioid use disorder.

Our response to the opioid crisis also includes significant actions to reduce harms associated with problematic substance use, for example, by making naloxone available to Canadians without a prescription.

One of the most important ways we can help reverse the trend of increasing opioid-related overdoses and deaths is by informing Canadians about the risks associated with legal and illegal opioids.

The reality is that the impact of this public health crisis has devastated individuals, families, and communities, and continues to affect far too many Canadians. Canadians are demanding that we do more to turn the tide on this crisis and that we do more to hold the pharmaceutical industry accountable for its role in the opioid crisis.

Our government is encouraging all organizations to take action and contribute to the response to the opioid crisis. This includes the pharmaceutical industry. I note with interest that Purdue U.S. has voluntarily decided to not promote prescription opioid products in the United States as its contribution to limiting the potential harms of opioid medications. I would like to see these kinds of actions from Canadian pharmaceutical companies as well.

In the meantime, our government is pursuing strong actions to address industry advertising of prescription opioids to health professionals and organizations. We acknowledge that the pharmaceutical industry's advertising of opioids can provide health professionals with useful information, but it can also create bias and potentially influence prescribing practices. That is why, as part of the comprehensive federal response to the crisis, the Government of Canada is exploring federal options to increase transparency of industry's marketing of opioids. All appropriate options to hold the industry accountable for its continued role in this worsening opioid crisis are being explored.

We are committed to working in co-operation with provinces and territories as well as health practitioners toward greater transparency. Ultimately, together, we will continue to bring forward solutions to save lives and address this national public health crisis.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

9:30 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that the Liberal government refuses to declare a public health emergency, and while it is talking the, the death toll goes up.

The arguments for legalization of cannabis are precisely the reasons that underpin decriminalization and regulation of other drugs. It helps with harm reduction. It eliminates the criminal element. It provides safety of product. It protects children and vulnerable Canadians, It unclogs our criminal justice system to deal with real crime. It treats addiction and substance use as a health issue, not a criminal or moral one.

My question to my hon. colleague is this. The arguments for legalizing cannabis are probably not even as compelling as those for other drugs since they are more dangerous. Would she not agree with me that the government should at least look at decriminalizing and regulating all drugs like it has done for cannabis?

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

9:30 p.m.

Liberal

Alaina Lockhart Liberal Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to addressing this unprecedented health crisis. We will leave no stone unturned in rooting out the causes of the opioid crisis. We are monitoring advertising, assessing evidence, and seeking views on restricting opioid advertising in Canada.

We will continue to work with health professionals, experts on problematic substance use, stakeholders, provinces and territories, municipalities, and other partners to respond to the opioid crisis.

Our government remains committed to reducing harms related to problematic opioid use and addressing the epidemic of opioid-related overdoses in Canada.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

9:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Pursuant to order made Tuesday, May 29, the motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 9:35 p.m.)