House of Commons Hansard #374 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was child.


Divorce ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, I acknowledge the horrific cases involving Aubrey and Chloe Berry on Christmas Day of last year and what has happened to the Azer children. Alison comes from St. Albert, and her older children went to school in St. Albert while they were there. I met teachers who taught her kids. I have had the opportunity to meet with Alison many times. She came here to fight for the return of her children. Her incredible determination is inspiring in the face of such adversity. It is so tragic that, unfortunately, she has not been reunited with her children.

I want to ask the member about the issue of changing some of the language in terms of custody and access. On balance, it is a positive, but there was some concern raised by some witnesses about the impact it might have on matters in which there is an international component. For example, for a father who abducted his children in Pakistan, it was said that the court in Pakistan was very insistent, or said it would be very helpful, to have the term “custody”, that the mother had “custody”.

I wonder if the member might speak to that and also to the fact that in terms of child support and immigration domestic legislation, “custody” and “access” are the terms that are used.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I had not realized the connection the member for St. Albert—Edmonton had directly with Alison Azer and the children in St. Albert. I always thought of them as children from Vancouver Island. It remains heartbreaking, especially when one is close to them. Alison is an amazing woman.

I think we are making progress by calling it parenting time. I had a horrific case of a child who was kidnapped by a non-custodial parent and taken to New Hampshire, where the courts looked at a custody order from the Province of British Columbia as if it had come out of a Cracker Jack box. They did not give a fig what the courts in British Columbia said. They said that the non-custodial father breaking the orders of the Province of British Columbia had no bearing for them.

There are international conventions, and I had B.C. involved with them, on the return of children in this kind of situation. It is very difficult. My point is that I do not think the wording will be definitive. It is a matter of the Canadian government getting behind the treaty and working to get children who have been kidnapped by a non-custodial parent and getting the reciprocal government to recognize that right under the treaty. The clarity the Minister of Justice or the Prime Minister could use in a situation like that would be to say that in the context of our Divorce Act, “parenting time” conveys rights that the other parent does not have.

I think we will work through it just fine. The benefits of not using the word “custody” and “access” in our family law legislation federally far outweigh the risks of another jurisdiction not understanding our law. If we could not get the United States of America to understand that British Columbia's Supreme Court was actually a responsible court, with jurisdiction, knowledge and clout, and the language at that time was the same, I think we are going to have problems whenever we have transboundary issues with children.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.

I was happy to vote in favour of most of the amendments she proposed, if only as a symbolic gesture.

I would like to read out a short quote from a woman who appeared before our committee. She was speaking on behalf of the association she represents, but she was also speaking for a large coalition of women's groups. She said:

In addition, we also recommend that a definition of violence against women be added, which acknowledges that it is a form of gender-based discrimination that's experienced by women in multiple ways and shaped by other forms of discrimination and disadvantage. This intersects with race, indigenous identity, ethnicity, religion, gender identity or gender expression, sexual orientation, citizenship, immigration or refugee status, geographic location, social condition, age and disability.

I would like to know what my colleague thinks about the fact that this amendment, which sought to add a clearer definition of violence against women, was rejected. Does she think that including it could broaden the scope of this legislation?

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

I completely agree with her. That was a profound testimony. However, I think that Bill C-78 vastly improves the legislation regarding families. We always need to improve and strengthen women's rights, and I think that the definition of family violence will do just that.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


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

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if my colleague could provide her thoughts on custody issues during a family breakup. The costs are becoming fairly prohibitive for family members. Really, the biggest disadvantage is to the children, when so much has to be paid in terms of courts.

From a personal perspective, this is one of the reasons it is good to see this proposed legislation, because it at least starts to deal with the issue in a much broader sense and brings more attention to it.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, when we are looking at the economic impact of family breakdown, especially in light of the last conversation about the impact on women, it is very much the case empirically that women suffer more economically in a family breakdown. Most of the single-parent households in Canada are single-parent households in which the woman is raising the children and is responsible for economic support and has all the additional burdens. If we add to that the spoils of war approach to divorce, with legal bills, court bills, bills for having one's own lawyer, sometimes an accountant, and these costs are large, and, when it is time to actually make court appearances, child care costs, these costs mount up.

One of the advantages the bill attempts to achieve is more efficiency, speedier handling, and wherever possible, moving to mediation. As well, of course, there is the fact that a judge could give an order to force resistant parents to provide information about their financial situations. All of this should reduce the overall burden of costs in a family breakdown.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today for the first time in this new House of Commons. I must admit that it is much bigger. There is a lot of space. It will likely encourage us to give impassioned speeches. All sorts of nice surprises await us over the next 10 years.

I would first like to acknowledge the excellent work that was done by the members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I would particularly like to thank our justice critic, the member for St. Albert—Edmonton, for his work on this file and for the much-needed assistance he provided to each of our colleagues in understanding the issues related to Bill C-78. I thank him for his valuable advice.

For those watching at home, we are talking about Bill C-78, an act to amend the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act and the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act and to make consequential amendments to another act.

I will get into the nitty gritty of the bill a little later on, but I would like to take a moment to share something relevant to this topic. I am very fortunate to have never had personal experience with the Divorce Act. I am so blessed to have had such an extraordinary woman by my side for more than 27 years. We have been through good and not-so-good times. There have been many ups along with the downs.

Caro and I have three children, who have always been our pride and joy. Like most parents, we have tried to make every decision in the best interests of our children. There have been hits and misses, but no one can say that we have not tried to always act in the best interests of our children. The longevity of our relationship can be attributed to communication, dialogue and co-operation. Like many of my colleagues, I plan to keep investing in our family in the years to come.

I understand that, unfortunately, no two relationships are the same and that stories do not always have a happy ending. Children are often at the centre of these stories that end badly. Some divorces can be very difficult. There are fights over the children, domestic violence and children who become fought-after pawns because of the law. Parents fight for custody of their children. Any couple who turns to the courts must embark on this long and difficult process.

Throughout this process, people experience strong emotions. Some are hurt, others are angry. There are all kinds of factors that make it difficult for them to go through this legal process. There is also the whole financial aspect. In the past few years, when the time came to discuss custody and determine who was the better parent, the courts used a win-lose approach. One parent would get custody of the children and the other had to settle for weekends. It was time to overhaul this legislation.

The bill does a number of things. First, it replaces the terminology pertaining to custody and access with terms that reflect the parental role to try to minimize these wars where there is a winner and a loser. The bill establishes a list of criteria concerning the interests of the child. It will create obligations for the parties and legal counsel to encourage the use of family dispute settlement mechanisms. I know that we already have such a process in Quebec, but incorporating it into law will make it official. It is absolutely essential. It is often hard enough to make a marriage work. There is no need to make divorce even more difficult.

It is not always necessary to involve the courts. It is not always necessary to pay exorbitant lawyers' fees and spend weeks, months or years arguing in court. There are other ways. That is what this bill will help with. It will also introduce measures to assist the courts in addressing family violence. I will come back to that. It will establish a framework for the relocation of a child and simplify certain processes, including those related to family support obligations.

Those are the key principles. Based on what has been presented, this bill should help attain certain fundamental objectives.

The first is to promote the best interests of the child, by emphasizing the importance of ensuring that the child's best interests are always the primary consideration in family law when parental decisions are being made.

The second objective is to address family violence by requiring the courts to take into account parental violence, its seriousness, its impact on the child, and future parenting arrangements.

The third objective is to reduce child poverty by offering more tools for calculating child support and for enforcing support orders.

Finally, the bill should make Canada's family justice system more accessible and efficient by simplifying the various definitions and processes, giving provincial child support recalculation services more flexibility, alleviating the courts' workloads by allowing provincial administrative child support services to carry out some tasks for which the courts are currently responsible, and requiring legal professionals to encourage their clients to use means other than the courts to resolve disputes.

As I mentioned, all of these measures seek to put the best interests of the child first. In the case of separation or divorce, children are always the victims of their parents' relationship. As we all know, children do not get to choose what family they are born into. Some are lucky, while others are less so. Unfortunately, in an emotional situation like a separation, life can easily become increasingly difficult for children. We all know of children whose parents went through difficult divorces and who had a lot of problems after that, who took years to recover from the experience and who will always carry the emotional scars of that difficult period.

Thirty years on, it makes perfect sense to me that the courts should put the child's best interests first in all their decisions. What makes no sense is why it took so many years to make these changes. Neither the Divorce Act nor any of the other acts I mentioned earlier have been changed to any significant extent in over 30 years, even though the reality of Canadian families has changed a lot in the past 30-plus years. Divorce is more common now than it was when the act initially came into force in 1968.

I would like to share some statistics. According to the 2016 census, five million Canadians separated or divorced between 1991 and 2011. Of those, 38% had a child together at the time of their divorce. I will point out that the act we are discussing today relates only to divorce. It does not deal with common-law partners, only legally married parents. The 2016 census showed that over two million children were living in separated or divorced families. Over a million children of separated families were living in single-parent families, and another million were living in step families.

I want to point out that a separation creates single-parent families. The statistics show that single-parent families, and in particular ones in which a woman is the custodial parent, are more likely to be poor than two-parent families. This is a fact. It is understandable, then, in these cases, that the parent would not have a lot of money to spend on legal fees to assert her rights, for example. We cannot lose sight of this reality in our jobs as legislators.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the reasons we support this bill is that it puts the best interest of the child first. Promoting the best interest of the child, helping to address family violence, fighting child poverty and making Canada's family justice system more accessible and effective are all features that we as parliamentarians must stand up for.

Of course, I hope those folks over there do not expect us to agree with everything in Bill C-78. There are certain items that need a closer look. I know my colleagues on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights had recommended some amendments to the bill, but they were rejected. There was one that really stood out for me. I would have liked Bill C-78 to provide for the possibility of shared parenting in the consideration of determining factors in the best interest of the child.

This is not always true, but I do know some people who were better at getting a divorce than they were at being married. They exist. This change would make such situations legal, when people can reach an understanding. Shared parenting would give them more flexibility. It can work, although I realize it does not work in every situation. This would have given judges the authority to consider that as a determining factor.

I would be remiss if I did not mention one important amendment to the bill made by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. On December 5, the committee unanimously adopted an amendment to include the right to testify, plead, make observations and receive a judgment in the official language of one's choice. I believe this is very important to all Canadians.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The hon. member for Mégantic—L'Érable will have eight minutes to finish his speech the next time we study this bill.

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

January 30th, 2019 / 5:30 p.m.


Simon Marcil Bloc Mirabel, QC

moved that Bill C-420, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Official Languages Act and the Canada Business Corporations Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to introduce my bill, Bill C-420, in the House today. This bill would strengthen the rights of workers under federal jurisdiction. First, I must point out that labour relations in Quebec are regulated by Quebec labour laws, except in the case of workers in federal sectors. All workers in ports, airports, banks and interprovincial or international transportation companies, like the STO, are subject to a different set of laws and, as I will show, different standards that are unacceptable in the 21st century.

Essentially, there are two classes of workers in Quebec. I could not tolerate this, as a former union representative, as a father and as a proud representative for the people of Mirabel, who are also workers.

With Bill C-420, the Bloc Québécois wants to fix three major flaws that violate workers' rights and put people in danger.

First, Bill C-420 would prohibit the use of scabs during a labour dispute. It is an anti-scab law like the one passed in 1977 in Quebec and wherever there is social justice. That is obviously not the case here.

Presently, at the federal level, all an employer has to do to show good faith and to have the right to use scabs is to appear as though he is continuing to negotiate with the union. That is appalling. You can say whatever you want, but we know who still has the upper hand. The use of scabs makes labour disputes last two and a half times longer. Not only is that appalling, but it is detrimental to social peace. It makes for more violent and longer disputes.

What happens after these long labour disputes, when everyone ends up hating one another to the point that it is impossible to get along? A special law is imposed on the workers, which is what happened at Canada Post. Hurray for the Liberals who are really pathetic. A special law is imposed on the workers to force a collective agreement down their throats.

This is not exactly the first time such changes are being proposed here. This is the twelfth time the Bloc Québécois is introducing a bill on this. In fact, the dean of the House, my colleague from Bécancour—Nicolet—Saurel, introduced anti-scab legislation during his very first term. That was in the 1980s when there was no Internet or cell phones. It was a very long time ago. Even then, he could not get his bill passed. Anti-scab legislation is a big deal. My colleague has been a member of the House for 35 years and the federal government still uses strikebreakers. Quebeckers have been calling for a ban on the use of scabs for 35 years, but Ottawa will not budge. Nothing ever budges around here anyway.

As recently as 2016, the federal government used strikebreakers during the labour dispute with the employees of the Old Port of Montreal. We have not forgotten that.

We are also amending legislation to ensure that pregnant women can use preventive withdrawal when necessary and with decent benefits. We are amending the legislation to ensure that all female workers can avail themselves of Quebec's legislation when they work in Quebec, even if they are working under federal jurisdiction.

That applies to Canada too because Canada's labour law is 40 years behind Quebec's. Canada is a throwback. No woman should ever have to put herself or her unborn child in danger by working too long because she does not have the means to take time off for health reasons. It is a pay issue, but it is also a health and safety issue. Such archaic labour laws in a G8 country—or rather, a G7 country—are outrageous.

Lastly, we will ensure that Quebec's Charter of the French Language applies in federally regulated workplaces. In Quebec, French is the language of work, of culture and of politics. It is our common language, and it should be the language used everywhere, including in sectors governed by Ottawa. We hear from countless people in federally regulated organizations where employees are required to speak English and everything is done in English. These organizations are in Quebec, where the common language is French. Love it or hate it, our language is French.

In short, we want to force the federal government into the 21st century because it is 40 years behind when it comes to labour law. Most people are workers. The Liberals may get around in limousines, but ordinary people are workers. I know that the Liberals have not seen much of that. They have never really had to get their boots dirty.

Quebec has been changing and evolving, but the federal government has not taken meaningful action in decades and is stuck in the past. The gap between Quebec society and Canadian society has not shrunk but widened, and not just on this issue but on many others as well. However, in terms of labour law, the federal government is really 40 years behind. I want to reiterate that because it is truly appalling.

While Quebec was implementing a real parental leave program to allow families to be together when they welcome a new child and while it was setting up reasonably priced child care centres so that women do not have to make the difficult choice between their careers and having children, Ottawa was doing nothing, as usual. This means that, when people in Quebec take a federally regulated job, they are getting into a time machine and travelling 40 years into the past.

As I said at the outset, there are two classes of workers in Quebec today: those who are subject to Quebec laws and those who have the misfortune of being stuck in the past because they are subject to federal laws. Since there are not two classes of citizens in Quebec, there cannot be two classes of workers. For decades now, Ottawa has refused to correct this injustice. No matter who is in power, whether Liberal or Conservative, nothing gets done.

Even the federalist parties that are never in power, like the NDP, are incapable of offering Quebeckers subject to federal regulations the same rights as other workers. Even they do not have the courage to make all federally regulated businesses subject to the provisions of Bill 101.

It is practically inexplicable that the federal government could be so narrow-minded. It is practically inexplicable that workers are being denied rights as basic as being able to work in one's own language year after year, for decades now. It is practically inexplicable, but it is also a clear reflection of the fundamental differences between our respective societies.

Quebeckers stick together. We did not always have the choice. We had to stick together to keep from disappearing. We had to stick together in order to successfully assert each one of the rights we have. Quebeckers have never had anything handed to them. Everything we have, we had to fight for and defend. That is why we stand in solidarity with our workers, because they are our family, our friends and our neighbours. They are our nation.

We have passed legislation that is more favourable to workers because we want the government to serve us, the workers. We want work-life balance. We want to work with dignity, in our own language, in an environment that reflects us and that we are comfortable in.

We believe that work should never put honest women and children at risk. We also believe that all necessary steps should be taken to ensure that having a family is not an obstacle to our personal ambitions. We want a work environment where we can thrive. We spend a huge portion of our lives at work, so we should do whatever it takes to make sure that work is not a grind.

The federal government clearly thinks otherwise. Someone in Ottawa obviously has a problem with letting people work in French, because the federal government has been refusing to allow this for decades.

Clearly, someone has a problem with allowing preventive withdrawal for women in the absence of hazardous conditions because the federal government has been refusing to allow it for decades now.

Some mucky-muck obviously has an issue with preventing the use of strikebreakers to replace employees during labour disputes, because the federal government has been refusing to deal with that for years.

These are not the only times Ottawa has abandoned workers. Here in Ottawa, the parental leave system is called unemployment. What can a person do with 55% of their salary when they are expecting a baby? One would have to be totally clueless to think that is a great plan.

When a woman loses her job when she returns from maternity leave, the federal government tells her that it cannot pay her employment insurance benefits. The woman is wished the best of luck and told to leave. We have seen that. We are not the federal government. The federal government has always been all about the financial interests of our neighbouring country and Bay Street. This is the way it has always been.

When it comes to labour law, workers are not the priority. The priority is to prevent workers' rights from inconveniencing management too much. Workers who stand up for their rights during a strike or a lockout are a nuisance to management. That is bad for business. Pregnant women or new mothers who want to not only take leave but also collect a salary are a huge nuisance to management.

Do not even talk to them about workers who want to work in their own language, those annoying people who demand respect and demand to be treated as equals. How difficult. This is how Ottawa sees ordinary people. Ottawa looks down on them, as usual. This is how the federal government acts, no matter which party is in power. It acts as a dutiful servant to the major financial interests. If someone owes the federal government $20, the government will put this person through hell to get it back. However, corporations and the banks are able to legally send their money to tax havens. The government has refused to combat tax havens. When it comes to labour and taxation, Ottawa remains always a dutiful servant to the banks.

Ottawa forces taxpayers and businesses to file two tax returns for no reason, since Quebec could take care of it. Quebec has even asked to take care of it. The National Assembly made this request. This would cut accounting bills in half for honest workers who have to file two tax returns. Our small businesses would only have to pay half of what they pay to deal with one extra tax agency every year. Quebeckers could demand that the banks be held accountable for the billions of dollars in profits stashed away in Barbados.

You all refused to debate it. You all voted against the motion moved by my colleague from Joliette.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I would like to remind the member that he must address his comments to the Chair and not use the word “you”. I am certain that the member's comments do not refer to me.

I ask that he address his comments to the Chair and not to the members.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Simon Marcil Bloc Mirabel, QC

I was not speaking to you, Madam Speaker. Actually, yes, I was, but since you have a head on your shoulders, you would never have voted in favour of tax havens.

Ottawa would never subject the banks to such an outrage. As we know, the federal government serves the banks. The Bloc Québécois believes that the laws should address the needs of the people and the workers. We believe that workers should be able to work in their language, that is, in French. We believe that speaking French on the job allows us to create stronger bonds. We believe that the workplace is a key component of living together.

The Bloc Québécois believes that young single mothers deserve the support of their colleagues and bosses, and also that of the state. We believe that, collectively, we must do everything we can to foster work-life balance. We believe that the right to strike is a fundamental right. We believe that people have the right to defend their working conditions. We believe that employers should not be able to replace them at a moment's notice with workers who would be illegal in any other service or company in Quebec, except for those that are federally regulated.

The Bloc Québécois cares about what Quebeckers want. We stand with the people, not the pencil pushers who hide behind archaic laws to justify treating their employees like second-class citizens. All Quebec workers are entitled to dignity. They have the right to be represented in Ottawa by Quebec MPs who vote and legislate according to what the middle class and workers want. Whatever Quebec wants is what the Bloc wants. It is as simple as that.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Madam Speaker, we just debated the Divorce Act.

Liberal, Conservative and NDP members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights unanimously agreed to amend this bill to guarantee the right to divorce in French or English anywhere in Canada. We want minority language communities to flourish.

This bill does exactly the opposite. It takes away linguistic rights from one community, the English-speaking community of Quebec, the one community the Bloc Québécois could not care less about, the community it believes should not have the same rights as everybody else.

The Official Languages Act states that civil servants working for the federal government have the right to work in English or French across the country. In the eyes of the Bloc Québécois, French-speaking Quebeckers should have the right to work in French and French-speaking people outside Quebec could work in French and English-speaking people outside Quebec could work in English; it would be only English-speaking Quebeckers in the federal civil service who would no longer have the right to work in their language. What a disgrace.

The Bloc wants to take rights away from a minority language community that was there when Quebec was founded.

Why does the member feel that Quebec's anglophone community should be denied rights enjoyed by all other Canadians?

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Simon Marcil Bloc Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, that is not even the topic of my bill.

The member opposite has it all wrong. What we are calling for is anti-scab legislation. That is what we want. We want our workers to be able to work in French in federally regulated businesses. The member is talking about the previous government bill. That is not what we are talking about. We are talking about an anti-scab bill, the opportunity to work in French, and preventive withdrawal for pregnant women.

If the member had been listening carefully, perhaps he could have asked a relevant question.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened very carefully to what the member said. He said that he wants the Quebec Charter of the French Language to apply to federal employees in Quebec. That would mean that the only federal employees governed by the Charter of the French Language would be those working in Quebec. In the federal public service, employees have the right to work in English or in French. They have the right to work in the language of their choice.

Everyone works in their language: francophones outside Quebec, francophones in Quebec and English-speaking people outside Quebec. What the member is saying is that English-speaking Quebeckers no longer have the same rights as every other federal civil servant to work in their language.

What a disgrace. I listened carefully to what the member had to say, and he and his party do not care about the anglophone community in Quebec.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Simon Marcil Bloc Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, I find it shocking that a member from Quebec, where Bill 101 and French as a common language have universal support, would rise in the House to tell me in English that people should not be able to speak French at work. I find that a bit ridiculous.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Madam Speaker, as a member from Quebec, I am very proud to be Canadian. I am very proud to be part of a country where people can speak in the House of Commons of Canada in English or in French, whether they are from Quebec or any other province.

I as an English-speaking Quebecker will defend both languages in the same way I did when I ensured that French-speaking people in British Columbia and French-speaking people in Newfoundland would have the right to divorce in French when I chaired the justice committee and brought that amendment to that bill.

I am proud that we stand with the other three parties for both official languages all across Canada. Only your party does not.

What a disgrace.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I would remind the member that he is to address the Chair, not the other members.

The hon. member for Mirabel.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Simon Marcil Bloc Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, I am getting worried.

Could somebody give the member opposite some chocolate? He looks like he is about to have a heart attack. His face is really red. He is way off the mark.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Dan Ruimy Liberal Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank the House for permitting me to be a part of the debate on Bill C-420, tabled by my colleague the hon. member for Mirabel.

First of all, I would like to remind the House what this bill is about.

Bill C-420 would amend the Canada Labour Code, also known as the code, in order to accomplish three things.

First, it would prohibit employers from hiring replacement workers to perform the duties of employees who are on strike or locked out.

Second, it would authorize the minister of labour to enter into an agreement with the government of a province to provide for the application to pregnant and nursing employees of certain provisions of the provincial legislation concerning occupational health and safety.

Lastly, Bill C-420 would amend the Canada Labour Code, the Official Languages Act and the Canada Business Corporations Act to clarify the application of the Charter of the French Language in Quebec.

Tabling the bill gives us the opportunity to review the Government of Canada's actions in regard to labour relations especially, as well as in regard to working conditions for pregnant and nursing employees.

I want to use my time today to go over some of the actions that have been taken.

Let us talk first about what Bill C-420 proposes to do with regard to replacement workers and labour relations reform in Canada.

The bill seeks to amend the code to make it an offence for employers to hire replacement workers to perform the duties of employees who are on a lawful work stoppage. Any contravention of this provision would entail a fine of up to $10,000 for the employer. The bill would also permit an employer to not reinstate any locked out or striking employee at the end of the work stoppage.

We have to keep in mind that amending the code can have an impact on labour relations if it is not done properly. Any proposed amendment requires a broader comprehensive review of part I, as well as a tripartite consultation process that involves the government, the labour movement and, of course, employers. In fact, all concerned parties, including academics and external stakeholders, should be consulted since these reforms would affect a great number of Canadians across the country.

It is a long-standing practice not to amend the code in a piecemeal fashion or without soliciting the input of affected stakeholders. The current provisions in the code are the result of such a review and represent a carefully crafted compromise between the interests of employers and trade unions.

Let me provide an example. In 1995, a working group, mandated by the minister of labour, led an extensive public consultation on part I of the code. Workers, employers and government stakeholders were consulted, as well as external stakeholders, such as academics and others, who could provide relevant insight. The working group's report, entitled “Seeking a Balance”, formed the basis of the significant changes to part I of the code that came into effect in 1999.

The consultation process is critical to any legislative changes made to industrial relations at the federal level and our government has always respected that.

Since our government took office, we have been committed to re-establishing a fair and balanced approach to labour relations in Canada. Re-establishing a climate of collaboration and developing evidence-based policies is our objective. The very first step we took in that direction was to table Bill C-4 to repeal Bill C-377 and Bill C-525. We did this because Bill C-377 and Bill C-525 were both adopted without having been through the aforementioned tripartite consultation process typically applied to labour law reforms. This process is an essential part of the foundation that supports free collective bargaining.

Let us talk now about pregnant and nursing employees. The health and safety of all workers, including pregnant and nursing workers, is a priority for our government. Let us not forget that federally regulated workers everywhere in Canada are very well protected by the strong provisions on preventive withdrawal provided for in the code. In fact, the code contains provisions on reassignments and leaves of absence for pregnant and nursing employees. These provisions provide protective measures to help them to pursue their employment in a safe environment.

In addition to provisions already in place, our government has taken a number of actions to ensure the health and safety of all employees, including pregnant and nursing employees. First, we have put forward new compliance and enforcement measures for occupational health and safety standards and labour standards. These measures include monetary penalties and administrative fees for employers who are repeat offenders, the authority to publish the names of these employers, greater power for inspectors, new recourse against reprisals, and improvements in the wage-recovery process.

Next, we have introduced amendments to the code to give federally regulated private sector employees the right to request flexible work arrangements. We have also put forward a series of new leave provisions, including a five-day personal leave, of which three days are paid, and five days of paid leave for victims of family violence, out of a total of 10 days of leave.

In addition to these provisions, other recently introduced amendments to the code would provide eligible working parents with improved access to maternity and parental leave once these amendments come into effect.

On top of all that, I must remind everyone that the government supported Bill C-243, an act respecting the development of a national maternity assistance program strategy. The bill is now in the other House for review.

Let us now turn our attention to the Charter of the French Language in Quebec. The 1982 Constitution Act, which enshrines English and French as our country's official languages, provides that both these languages be given equal status in all governmental and parliamentary institutions. Additionally, two separate statutes, the Quebec charter and the federal Official Languages Act, regulate the language of work in Quebec. Active companies in Quebec, including those incorporated under the Canada Business Corporations Act, are already required under provincial law to comply with the Charter of the French Language. That includes being registered under a French name.

Consider also that the labour program has never received any complaints from federally regulated private sector employees in Quebec concerning an inability to work in French. This is backed up by a 2013 government report that concluded that these employees in Quebec seem generally able to work in French in their workplaces. If we look at Quebec's 2016 census, there are, in fact, an increasing number of workers using French as their main language, or equally with English, while on the job. Between 2006 and 2016, the rate of workers whose mother tongue was English and who mainly used French at work rose from about 23% to 25%. Meanwhile, workers whose mother tongue was a language other than English or French and who mainly used French on the job increased from 46.5% to 48% during this same period.

As members can see, our government is proactive not only on the issue of labour relations, but also on the issue of working conditions for all Canadians, including pregnant or nursing women, as well as on the issue of language of work for federally regulated employees in Quebec.

In conclusion, I would like to congratulate my colleague, the hon. member for Mirabel, for his important work on Bill C-420.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Rosemarie Falk Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in today's debate on Bill C-420, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Official Languages Act and the Canada Business Corporations Act.

At the outset, it is important that as we debate the bill it should be with the intent of striking the best balance between workers and employers. That should be our intent when we consider any legislation or policy reforms relating to our labour relation laws. Striking that balance is in the interest of all Canadians.

Bill C-420 would make a number of changes to Canada's labour laws, and I appreciate the opportunity to comment on these proposed changes.

Among these changes are amendments to the Canada Labour Code relating to occupational health and safety for pregnant and nursing employees. While it was before I took my seat in the House, the suggested change in this section of the Canada Labour Code had been debated in this Parliament when it considered Bill C- 345. That bill, as does a portion of the bill we are studying today, sought to rectify an imbalance that existed for women working in the same province but under a different jurisdiction.

A woman who is pregnant can request modified work in the event that her job may be putting her health or her baby's health at risk. When a workplace cannot be adapted or modified to allow a pregnant woman to work without risk, it might then become necessary for her to preventively withdraw from work. Some provinces offer pregnant women income during preventive withdrawals, but if women working in that same province are employed in a federally regulated industry, they are not eligible for those provincial benefits.

Employees under federal jurisdiction can still preventively withdraw from their work with job protection, but it is unpaid. I am certain that everyone could appreciate that this would be a difficult decision for an expectant mother to make. There is question of fairness to be considered, given that the employee in a federally regulated position is subject to the same provincial and municipal taxes but is not eligible for the same benefits in such a case.

There is merit to the measure in the bill that would allow the federal Minister of Labour to negotiate an agreement with the government of the provinces in these cases. As I noted, this measure was debated in Bill C-345 and it had the support of the Conservatives in the House.

The bill we are considering today, however, contains much more than just this measure. It includes a measure that would not strike the best balance between workers, unions, employers and employees.

The measure I am referring to is of course the section of this bill that would make it an offence for employers to hire replacement workers to perform the work of employees who are on strike or locked out. This debate is not a new debate. It is one that has been debated before in the House as well as in other jurisdictions.

The only provinces that have adopted and kept this approach to labour laws are Quebec and British Columbia. However, this is not a new idea and it has been studied and evaluated over and over. Empirical evidence would suggest that there are negative consequences to the imbalance created by banning temporary replacement workers in the event of a labour dispute. These adverse effects impact everyone. It impacts unionized workers, employees, employers and investors.

Banning temporary replacement workers creates a significant imbalance in the process. That imbalance is created because without the ability to hire temporary replacement workers, a business could be significantly challenged in its operations or could even be unable to continue operations during a labour dispute. This would result in lost revenue and profits for that business.

Depending on the nature of a business and the competitiveness of the market, a business could even permanently lose customers to a competitor, and despite less productivity, many of a business's costs would remain.

A labour dispute can also be devastating for employees and even their families. However, it is necessary to consider that workers who are not working because of a labour dispute might be provided with strike pay by their union. Alternatively, or even in addition, they could even seek temporary employment themselves.

That is a clear imbalance. It significantly, and arguably unfairly, increases the bargaining power of unions. That increased power would expectedly result in higher labour costs, or in other words, a higher share of a company's profits going to unionized workers.

The other side of that reality is that there is then a lower return for investors. That expected outcome would discourage investment into the business. Decreased investment is not a gain for unionized workers. Investment is in their interest. Among its benefits, greater investment could net better tools, more innovation, a healthier work environment or greater market access. That in turn would lead a company toward greater productivity. Greater productivity would result in greater profits, which could then result in greater wages or even better job opportunities. That is the power of the market.

Unfortunately, this policy that we are considering today in the House would impede that power. It would artificially inflate the wages of unionized workers, resulting in less investment, lower economic growth, fewer jobs and ultimately lower wages. It would create a long-term reality in which there is no real winner.

As I stated at the outset, any reforms to Canada's labour laws should be made with the goal of creating the best balance of interests. Because labour laws that create balance are in the interests of workers, employees, unions, employers, investors and ultimately all Canadians, the measure to make it illegal to hire temporary replacement workers in federally regulated industries in Canada is not a balanced approach. Therefore, it is not a win. It would inevitably result in some lose-lose situations. That is not in the interest of all Canadians, and I would strongly caution all members of the House in going down that path.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be able to speak in this new House of Commons. As the NDP's labour critic, I am always pleased to talk about workers. Today, I will be speaking to Bill C-420, which was introduced by the member for Mirabel.

In any discussion on the Canada Labour Code, we cannot forget to talk about the health and safety of federally regulated workers, both in Quebec and in the rest of Canada. However, one important aspect has been ignored, and since I returned to the House of Commons, I have been quite worried and upset. No one is talking about protecting good jobs.

Bill C-420 talks about health and safety, but this aspect is part of protecting good jobs. There are federal employees in my riding of Jonquière. We have been home to a taxation data centre since 1983. More than 1,000 workers provide good service to all Canadians. In fact, there is even a taxation services office in Chicoutimi. These are good jobs, and the Bloc Québécois needs to remember that.

I have not seen anything about protecting these good jobs over the past few days in the House of Commons or on social media. This aspect does not seem to be taken into consideration. This is important to a region like mine, to Jonquière. One thousand jobs represents 1,000 families. This is the equivalent of thousands of jobs in Montreal, for example.

Let us return to Bill C-420, which is comprised of three bills introduced by the NDP in this parliamentary session. First, there is Bill C-234, which I introduced and deals with the issue of scabs. There is always a double standard in negotiations. I do not like to say this but, unfortunately, the parties are not on an equal footing in negotiations. I will speak about this more later on in my speech.

The second part of the bill is based on Bill C-345 , introduced by my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue, which proposed changes to the Canada Labour Code for pregnant or nursing employees. The third part reflects a bill that was introduced by Thomas Mulcair, but which unfortunately was never debated in the House of Commons. It called for the application to Quebec companies of the provisions in the Official Languages Act with regard to Quebec's particular linguistic characteristics. I will get back to this point in a few moments.

Let us come back to the first part of the bill on anti-strikebreaker legislation. It is time to reform the Canada Labour Code to have it reflect the reality of new technologies, automation, and telework. Why not take the opportunity to include these bills in the modernization of the Canada Labour Code, but also to protect workers during negotiations?

In November, special legislation was imposed on postal workers. Both parties cannot negotiate as equals if the company is able to hire replacement workers every time. The Canada Labour Code does not include any standard prohibiting the use of strikebreakers. It is time to remedy that problem. Labour legislation in both Quebec and British Columbia includes standards on this, so could we not include some in the Canada Labour Code? There is a lot of talk about consultation, but it is important to consult the employers, the government and workers on a set of standards. These are people who wake up every morning and perform miracles across the board.

Why not take care of them and amend the Canada Labour Code?

I could go on and on about this. However, the bill is divided into three parts, and I really want to talk about protections for pregnant or nursing workers.

I was working as a letter carrier when I was pregnant, and there were no protections. I had to work with my mail bag on my back and climb several stories. That was part of my job. However, pregnant women who do high-risk work need measures to lighten their workload, to keep them and their unborn babies safe. It can be really hard. It is normal to have a valid medical certificate. It is also normal for the doctor and employer to work together to come up with ways to ensure the safety of mother and baby. However, the Canada Labour Code does not allow for that.

I think there is room for improvement, like Quebec's preventive withdrawal. The Minister of Labour should make sure that mothers who wish to nurse and return to work are able to do so, as is the case in Quebec. Of course, working conditions must be taken into account to ensure that women are safe and able to nurse.

There is a real push to make it easier for women to access the workforce. Women should never be penalized for deciding to have children. Unfortunately, that is often what happens.

A number of similar bills have been introduced in the House of Commons. When my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue introduced hers, it was summarily rejected. Now we have an opportunity to make amendments, and I hope that, this time, the government will show some consideration for pregnant and nursing women and vote in favour of Bill C-420. At this point, the Canada Labour Code is in dire need of an update.

I would like to spend the rest of my time talking about the part that deals with language of work in Quebec.

Quebec has two different language of work regimes. Each applies to different categories of organizations and workers. One is the Official Languages Act, which governs all federal institutions, that is, all Government of Canada and parliamentary institutions. The other is Quebec's Charter of the French Language, the Quebec charter, which applies to all provincially regulated workplaces. Quebec has about 135,000 federally regulated employees in roughly 760 private organizations.

Often certain companies will send documents in English only. Of course, some employees in Quebec businesses speak English. However, it is not right that they are receiving the documents in English only. Quebec workers speak French and their language is French, so they should be receiving the information in French and being served in French. We need to pay special attention to that. I believe that the Canada Labour Code could include requirements and protect francophone workers in Quebec who fall under federal jurisdiction.

As I mentioned several times, the Canada Labour Code is due for a major reform. There have been some bills, including Bill C-65, that have made amendments to the Canada Labour Code. Bill C-420 makes further amendments. I hope that the government will consider a comprehensive reform and modernization of the Canada Labour Code.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


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

Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise and address the House on what are important issues. There is no doubt we have seen, virtually from day one of this House, a great deal of effort by the Government of Canada to deal with labour-related issues. When I say “this House”, I am also referring to the other House, prior to our coming here, the traditional Parliament building and the House of Commons.

I say that because I can recall offhand talking about some of the first pieces of legislation that we introduced after forming government, which were attempts to recognize the true value of and appreciate the importance of labour and management relationships. That is something we have never taken for granted here on the government benches.

I can recall the days of being the third party in the House, when the Conservatives were successful at changing labour laws. Many members argued, including me, that this was done through the back door, through private members' hour. We had some members virtually taking the Stephen Harper approach to labour relations, which we know were not very successful. In fact, as a whole, organized labour was quite offended by the manner in which the Harper government treated labour relations.

That should not come as any surprise to the members opposite. All one has to do is look at some of the negotiations, or lack thereof, with many of the federal unions. We are talking double digits-plus where agreements were never achieved by the Harper government. Within a couple of years, we were very successful at achieving many different agreements with our national unions. That is something that does need to be noted.

We brought in legislation to reverse some of the wrong-headed legislation that was passed by Stephen Harper in the years prior to our forming government, legislation that made it more difficult to unionize, for example, and called into question the whole issue of democracy within unions, which the Conservatives attempted to paint in a negative light.

Those were the types of things that we were looking at going into the federal election. I am glad to say that as a government we responded very positively to it.

Members across the way talked about labour in general. About a month ago I mentioned the 1919 general strike in Winnipeg. I suspect all members are familiar with that. On I believe May 18, I will be hosting a very special event in the Ukrainian Labour Temple in Winnipeg's north end, on McGregor Street, to recognize that historic building where many of the organizers of the 1919 strike actually met and convened. They talked about the importance of the working person, how important it was that our labour movement, even back then, recognized the value of looking for ideas on how to improve quality of life for Canadians, not just for the workers but much beyond that.

That is something I think we need to recognize. Often when people talk about unions, they think of union representatives sitting at a table negotiating wages, when it goes far beyond that. They could talk about the labour conditions or working conditions of those employees.

We can also go beyond that and talk about many of the social programs we have today. Whether the programs have been put in place by the national government, provincial governments or municipal governments, unions have been at the forefront of advocating strong, healthy programs. All one needs to do, as a good example, is look at the pharmacare issue. I have had the opportunity to meet with union reps in regard to their concerns about a pharmacare program. This is something one of our standing committees, a few years ago, was looking into. I believe now we have had more discussion and a lot of advocacy on that file and a government, in particular a Minister of Health, that has really taken the issue. We are hoping to be able to see some advancement of it.

When we have legislation that affects labour, one of the most natural questions that could be asked, and unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to ask, is to what degree the member across the way has worked with unions, not only in one sector but in other sectors, both inside and outside Quebec. Did the member have any discussions? If so, maybe he could share some of the outcomes of those discussions.

My colleague from Mount Royal emphasized quite passionately one of the concerns brought forward in this legislation. The member for Mount Royal is owed a detailed explanation as to why the Bloc would be moving in that direction. Labour legislation should be something achieved through consensus building. We have to work with the union movement and work with management and look at what is in the best interest of providing harmony. If we are successful in doing that, we will have a healthier economy.

I do not take this lightly at all. In fact, when I was first elected in 1988, we had a controversial issue called final offer selection. It was something the NDP provincial government brought to Manitoba in the 1980s. There was a leader of the New Democratic Party who promised to bring in anti-picket or anti-scab legislation. Once the New Democrats got into government, they backed away from that but then brought another form of arbitration, final offer selection. It was a huge debate. I can remember sitting in committees in the Manitoba legislature until two o'clock in the morning. We attempted to salvage that legislation as the Conservatives and the New Democrats fought, one on the management side or the business side and the other not really taking into consideration what the businesses were saying. We actually brought forward amendments that would have saved the legislation. We would still have some sort of final offer selection in the province of Manitoba had they agreed to what the Liberals were suggesting at the time. However, the real core of the problem, whether they were the New Democrats or the Conservatives, was that they did not work with the stakeholders. As a result, their approaches were flawed on both sides.

I have not had the opportunity to go into great detail on the current legislation that has been proposed by my Bloc friends, but listening to some of the debate this afternoon, I suspect that this is not legislation brought forward with a great deal of consensus building. Whenever we attempt to change legislation that would impact labour relations, we should go out of our way to ensure that there is a sense of fairness on both sides, labour and management.

Our government set the stage virtually from day one when we took office. We recognized the injustices that had been put in place by the Harper regime and we made some changes that were very well received.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Mario Beaulieu Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for introducing his bill, which is very important. We know that there are more than 200,000 workers who are not subject to the Charter of the French language in Quebec because they work in federally regulated organizations. Contrary to what my colleague stated earlier, there have been complaints. Last week, a worker at a federally regulated private transportation company came to see me. He was unable to work in French. He received documents on safety that were written in English only. He tried to do a whole lot of things about this. He met with several MPs, even some of my Liberal colleagues. He was told that the Official Languages Act did not apply and that they were looking for a solution. Bill 101 aims to guarantee the right to work in French. Quebec is the only francophone state in North America, and it is very difficult to obtain services in French in the rest of Canada. Just about everything operates in English.

Even in federal institutions, where there are enough francophone employees to warrant French services, they are sometimes unavailable. Every census shows the growing assimilation of francophones. This was entirely predictable, given that research on language planning methods around the world demonstrates that systems based on institutional bilingualism and individual rights, like the system imposed on Quebec by the federal government, invariably end with the assimilation of the minority languages. The only places that have multiple national languages and no such assimilation employ models based on collective and territorial rights, like the Bill 101 model. Belgium, Switzerland and Israel have very stringent language legislation, more stringent than Bill 101. Bill 101 does not ban people from speaking English or learning a second language. Its purpose is to ensure the future of French in Quebec and the right to work in French, which is very important.

In Quebec, I have encountered a few cases where employees were banned from working in French even in federal institutions. There was even a recent case where a lawyer arguing in immigration court was barred from speaking French. He had to make complaints and raise objections before he was allowed to argue in French, even though he was doing so at his client's request.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I must interrupt the member. He will have seven minutes the next time this bill is before the House.

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

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