House of Commons Hansard #7 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pandemic.

Topics

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

LaSalle—Émard—Verdun Québec

Liberal

David Lametti LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy).

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Conversion TherapyRoutine Proceedings

October 1st, 2020 / 10:05 a.m.

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalMinister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise in the House. I want to start by recognizing that the House is located on the traditional lands of the Algonquin Anishinabe people.

Today I rise to present our government's plan for banning the destructive, harmful and deadly practice of conversion therapy.

There should be no place for the destructive, harmful and deadly practice of conversion therapy in Canada. When we ask a young person what they want be when they grow up, they answer an occupation. We do not ask about who they want to be or who they think they might be. Imagine a young person trying to come to terms with their identity, wondering what others will think and having questions about what makes them happy, what makes them feel like themselves and what they see when they look in the mirror.

If they are lucky, some young people may have these conversations with their parents. Some will turn to their friends, to religion or to scripture. Many may seek out help from those who they believe are professionals with credentials and therefore must know best. The answers to these questions help shape a future; they help shape a life. Imagine individuals at their most vulnerable putting all their trust in these people for help. While the pandemic has made us all feel vulnerable at times, imagine living that way every day and carrying that weight. Telling someone they are not who they think we are or that who they are is wrong, abnormal or unnatural has devastating consequences.

The limited Canadian studies we have on this practice confirm that this so-called therapy is happening right here in Canada. It is estimated that over 20,000 LGBTQ2 Canadians have been exposed, and 11% of trans individuals in Canada are survivors. We are indebted to survivors and advocates for their strength in speaking out and shining light on this dark practice.

It is our duty to do everything we can to make a better future for all Canadians.

I hope all members of the House agree with this viewpoint.

That is why within a week of coming back to Parliament we have reintroduced the bill, an act to amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy), to abolish conversion therapy in Canada. On this side of the House we focus on advancing and protecting LGBTQ2 rights and addressing all forms of discrimination, including hetero-cis–normativity and systemic racism. Under the leadership of the Prime Minister, we believe that with this legislation we are building a society where one accepts people for who they are. We are stating to all people in Canada that it is okay, and they can follow their heart, their faith and be true to themselves.

On this side of the House, we believe that acceptance and diversity are absolute. There are those who refuse to accept that sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression have been enshrined into Canadian law as part of the Canadian Human Rights Act. It is unfortunate that in 2020 we continue to have to have this debate. LGBTQ2 rights are human rights, full stop.

Together, we can help to create a country where everyone is free to be who they are. LGBTQ2 people are valued members of Canadian society, and we must ensure that Canada is a country where everyone, regardless of their gender expression, gender identity or sexual orientation, can lead a happy and authentic life and be loved.

Conversion TherapyRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Durham Ontario

Conservative

Erin O'Toole ConservativeLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, service in the Canadian Armed Forces is a commitment to defending our country, its institutions and the rights enjoyed by our citizens. My service in the military taught me many lessons, but the importance of respecting the rights of my fellow citizens was paramount.

I completed my military service and worked in the private sector for a decade before becoming a member of Parliament. I have always had deep respect for the rights of Canadians. My record speaks for itself: I have always voted in favour of LGBTQ community.

In my first four months as a member of Parliament, my vote was one of a handful of Conservative votes that helped an NDP bill on gender identity to pass. I stood and was counted for rights that day. As a parliamentarian, I am here to secure the rights of every Canadian, including those in the LGBTQ community, and to build an inclusive and prosperous country for all. Now, as leader of the Conservative Party, I pledge to continue this work. I will also hold the Liberal government to account when it falls short and when it prefers to contrast its virtue in a way meant to castigate others.

Once again, let me be crystal clear: Conversion therapy is wrong. In my view, it should be banned.

This is particularly the case when it could be threatened against someone against their will, or when it is used to denigrate or demean someone for who they are.

Sadly, the Liberals are once again playing politics. Instead of working hard to get things right and make life better for Canadians, they seem intent on scoring political points. Why do members think this bill is here on day two for me as a new leader in the House? Better yet, why do they think the Liberals have reintroduced the exact same bill they did last year, having totally ignored the well-known drafting failures of their first bill? They did this not because they want to get it right for the LGBTQ community. They did this because they want to force the Conservatives to seek amendments or possibly even vote against this bill.

As usual, the Liberals are playing petty politics in an attempt to scare Canadians. They want to divide us.

However, I know that Canadians are smarter than the Liberals think they are, and I know that the LGBTQ community sees through this too. I therefore want to use my time to talk for a moment to those in the LGBTQ community.

Some of them grew up in a home that did not understand or support them. Many of them faced persecution at school, at work, out in public at a restaurant, on a date, riding the subway, living life. For too many LGBTQ Canadians, that persecution may have even involved the threat or use of conversion therapy. To be forced to change who they are is not okay. That is something I hope no Canadian ever endures again, and if that is the intent of this bill, it needs to be clearly written that way.

In fact, clarity is one of the goals of legislative drafting, but the Liberals know that clarity and sincerity do not always make for good wedge politics in the age of Twitter. The Liberals know that if the bill is more clearly drafted they might lose the gotcha effect, which is becoming far too common in the politics we see to the south of us.

The Liberals know that by ignoring the thoughtful advice they already received from parents, teachers and faith leaders, they create a situation that allows for people who ask a simple question about this bill to be shamed into silence or cancelled on social media in the age of cancel culture. How is this fostering inclusion? In fact, many Liberal operatives are likely on social media right now claiming I am being divisive because I would prefer that we get this bill right and not work to divide Canadians.

The Liberal government knows that most Canadians do not want to see conversion therapy continue, but it also knows that most Canadians do not want conversations between a parent and a child or a religious leader and a young person to be criminalized either.

I know that my LGBTQ+ friends want everyone to be treated with dignity and respect.

They want vulnerable members of their community to be protected, and they want people who try to use conversion therapy to denigrate others to be prevented from doing that. I know they do not want to criminalize the conversations of others, because a community that has been unfairly persecuted for generations does not want to start unfairly persecuting others.

People need to be free to talk openly to people they trust in their families or communities. That could be about coming out. That could be about their orientation or their gender identity. It could also be about their own faith or their own personal life journey. They should feel free to talk to others without the fear of a public prosecution.

Kids need more support from adults, not less. In an age when young people are swiping and texting more than talking and connecting, we should not be criminalizing talking. Some very simple amendments could fix this, if this bill is truly more than a political wedge. Conversion therapy should be banned to protect young people coming out as LGBTQ.

I repeat: Conversion therapy should be banned to protect young people who identify as LGBTQ+. I want everyone to feel accepted in our society.

Let us do this in the right way and make sure their support networks are not jeopardized in the process. We will be seeking reasonable amendments to try to get to yes on this. I challenge the government to be reasonable as well.

LGBTQ Canadians deserve a bill that can ban conversion therapy and remind Canadians that the rights of their fellow citizens are important to defend. They also deserve respect and honesty from their elected officials. I hope they see that from me they can always count on honesty and commitment to their rights.

Conversion TherapyRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government has finally decided to not only ban but actually criminalize the practice of conversion therapy. According to several witnesses, some of these practices are more like torture than therapy.

I will be very blunt. This practice, promoted and carried out primarily by religious groups, is based on the idea that homosexuality is wrong. According to such groups, it is more than just disturbing; it is wrong to the point that they think these people are evil and are going to hell. I am not the only one who disagrees with such groups, since this practice has been largely discredited by Quebec and Canadian psychologists and specialists in human sexuality.

Homophobia exists; expressions of it can be seen practically every day. It is unacceptable that it has been institutionalized like this by religious groups. It is one thing to feel uncomfortable or to not understand; it is quite another thing to subject human beings to goodness knows what kind of therapeutic process to become someone they are not. We have many historical examples of this, but this is another matter that merits its own debate.

These therapies perpetuate myths that should no longer exist in 2020. The WHO declared as far back as 2012 that these practices have never turned exclusively homosexual people heterosexual.

The media recently reported on the case of a boy who underwent conversion therapy. To read his story, I do not understand how anyone could inflict such anxiety and deep self-hatred on their own child. I am trying not to judge. I refuse to believe that the family of this beautiful boy did not have good intentions. Motivated by religion and an intense desire not to disappoint his loved ones or his God, he paid out of his own pocket for therapy to make him normal.

The words he used to describe the process are quite apt, describing conversion therapy as social support for self-rejection. That is painfully accurate. Unfortunately, this story echoes that of many children and adolescents who want their parents to be proud of them and to love them.

It is for young men like this that I commend and thank the government for introducing legislation. The government can obviously count on my support and that of all my colleagues in the Bloc Québécois.

Many countries have led the way in criminalizing conversion therapy. Quebec has also committed to it. The former British Prime Minister described this therapy as abhorrent.

The abhorrent thing is that, in most cases, these people turned away from religion, left their families and even started a new life somewhere else. They went through all that before finally deciding to accept themselves and live in a way that is true to themselves. I simply cannot imagine the time and courage needed to decide to stand up to all that pressure and say, “No, this is not working. That is not me.”

We all know that, when we are young, we are very dependent on our family and friends and we care a lot about what they think of us. We are not always able to make our own choices, to decide to find ourselves or to make peace with ourselves.

Many of us, who did not have to ask ourselves all of these questions, sometimes have a hard time finding inner peace. I cannot even imagine what it must be like for these people. Many of them have spent decades trying to fight against themselves, against their true nature and against what they are, wondering why they were born like that, why this had to happen to them or why they are unable to change. They end up hating themselves. They come to hate who they are and those they love. It is terrible.

People who have undergone this type of therapy are survivors. Now that conversion therapy is illegal, it sends a clear, if somewhat minor, political and social message. My wish for all members of the LGBTQ+ community is to not only survive, but also to live in a way that is true to who they are, how they feel and who they love.

Conversion TherapyRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Mr. Speaker, this morning I want to start by congratulating the government on the prompt reintroduction of this bill to ban conversion therapy in Canada, despite some members being in their early days in the House.

At this ungodly hour in British Columbia, I want to stick to three simple points.

First, this is very welcome legislation. No one in the SOGIE community needs fixing because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In fact, attempting to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity is impossible, and the attempts themselves do great harm to those fearing or already suffering from rejection by family, friends and their community. Again, this is welcome legislation, and I am glad that the Liberals in this Parliament have changed their position to support the ban on conversion therapy.

The topic was first brought before Parliament by Sheri Benson, former NDP member for Saskatoon West, with an e-petition more than two years ago that received more than 18,000 signatures. The government's response at that time was that this simply was not a matter for federal jurisdiction, so I was glad to see the Liberals change their position during the last federal campaign, and I was glad to see Bill C-8 introduced on March 20, which I know to all of us seems an eon ago. Now COVID, combined with prorogation, has put us back to square one on this bill today. When it comes to the practice of conversion therapy, which attempts to change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity through counselling or aversion therapy and does great harm to those subjected to it, we need protection from harmful attempts to get us to deny who we are. The practice must end. Again, no one in the SOGIE community needs fixing.

Second, on all issues of importance to the SOGIE community, progress has been achieved as the result of brave advocates from our community stepping forward. In terms of protecting our rights, nothing has ever been given to my community without a struggle. I want to give a particular note of thanks to conversion therapy survivors who have stepped forward to tell their stories, two of whom have had a particular impact on me in terms of focusing my attention on this issue. They are Matt Ashcroft and Erika Muse. Just a couple of days ago, three conversion therapy survivors organized an online summit entitled End Conversion Therapy. I want to thank the co-founders of CT Survivors again for their important work: Rocky Tishma, Michael Ferguson and Matt Ashcroft. The conference focused on preventing anyone else from having to suffer the harm of conversion therapy by discussing how to defend, strengthen and heal our communities. Participants heard first-hand accounts of the damage that conversion therapy does, from people who had lived it, and heard how conversion therapy survivors are now working to support each other.

Third, I want to emphasize again that the NDP will support the bill before us, but I have said all along that we need to listen carefully to the SOGIE community, and in particular to conversion therapy survivors, as we work to strengthen the bill at committee. The Liberals have suggested a legal strategy that falls short of the real demand of survivors and the SOGIE community: a complete ban on conversion therapy in Canada. There is also concern that the ban does not capture the full range of conversion therapy practices and that there needs to be more attention to those practices directed at the transgender and non-binary community. Thousands of Canadians have been subjected to the harmful practice of conversion therapy, and it is something that is still with us. Studies have shown that, even more than the minister suggested, nearly 50% of trans and non-binary Canadians have been subjected to some form of conversion therapy, instead of being affirmed and celebrated for who they are.

It is past time to ban this practice in Canada, but as we do so, we must also remember that it is necessary to strengthen the capacity of the SOGIE community to work with survivors to repair as much of that harm as possible. I will be watching to make sure that the federal government makes a significant contribution to that effort.

I look forward to working with the government to make sure that we get both parts of this job done soon.

Conversion TherapyRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Green

Jenica Atwin Green Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, in Canada we have the right to live free from discrimination. Across the nation we are setting the example of what it means to live freely, to be who we are and to love who we want.

We must not forget that globally more than 70 countries still criminalize consensual same-sex acts, countries in which people experience violence, discrimination, harassment and are victims of hate-motivated violence, including physical attacks, torture and murder.

In Canada, our constitution and our laws protect people from discrimination based on grounds such as sex, religion, disability, sexual orientation and sexual identity. Through the years, the scope of these protections must evolve. Looking through the historical lens, we can be proud of when the former prime minister, the Right. Hon. Pierre Elliott Trudeau, affirmed that what is done in private between adults does not concern the Criminal Code, and when marriage between two partners of the same gender became legal in 2005. Through this evolution in our society, we witnessed the power of the rising tide of freedom and love, but to say that these rights were recognized without any suffering would be to blind ourselves to the constant fight for justice that achieving equality requires.

Even with our laws and protections providing a safe haven for many, when compared to other nations, the reason we are here today is evidence that for many Canadians, being who they are is still not a safe option. The cruel practice of conversion therapy is a practice aimed to change, by employing various approaches, an individual's sexual orientation to heterosexual, or their gender identity to cisgender.

The World Health Organization issued a statement almost a decade ago, saying that this type of therapy poses a severe threat to the health and human rights of the affected person. The Canadian Psychological Association warned in 2015 of the numerous impacts on the health of an individual, from depression and anxiety to self-harms and suicide. It is more than time that we act and criminalize this inhumane practice.

I want to strongly affirm my support to the proposition to criminalize conversion therapy, completely and utterly. We must protect Canadians from the harm of this practice and not leave any stone unturned to ensure a future where no one will have to undergo such pain.

We must also understand that for many, the realization of their true identity only comes once they have the opportunity to experience and explore life. Criminalizing the practice for minors is essential, although we must go further to ban the practice for everyone and not legitimize any loophole. Assuming that people, even if they are not a minor person, will not hope to try to please family members who offer their love only on the condition that the person goes through conversion therapy ignores the human need to receive parental and family support, freedom and affection. Many adults would accept to undergo the procedure in the hope of erasing who they are, to finally receive the love that they need. That is why allowing the therapy to simply exist in any shape or form is unacceptable.

Beyond the criminalization of conversion therapy, we need to invest in services that support people. Discovering oneself in an accepting family environment can still come with challenges for many people. Everyone should have access to the affirming and caring support that they need to thrive.

Educators and health care providers must receive training to ensure that they are providing the best support to the people who they are supposed to help. That means learning about gender identity, respecting pronouns and not further fostering an environment that assumes heterosexuality as the norm. That means supporting, financially, community organizations and health care providers, such as Clinic 554, whose work has had life-saving impacts for many patients.

Canada must continue to stand up for the protection and promotion of the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, two-spirit and intersex people globally. All of us here in this chamber must ensure that we pass legislation that effectively protects that community, but also support any measure that would fund services and ensure that anyone who needs support can easily access it.

To the parents, teachers and coaches out there, many of our children are hiding their truest selves from us because they are still afraid that they will not be loved for who they are. Join me in celebrating this bill for what it is: a chance to explain to all our children that they are worthy of love just as they are.

I would like to give a shout-out as well to journalists, who have done the important work of bringing many of these voices forward.

I am eager to see the bill passed in the House.

AgriculturePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am here to present three petitions today.

The first petition is from constituents in my riding who are concerned about access to cereal grain seeds. They have a campaign called “Save Our Seeds”. They are looking for Parliament to enshrine the inalienable rights of farmers and other Canadians to save, select, exchange, condition, store and sell seeds.

Sex SelectionPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is on sex-selective abortion. The people who have signed this petition are concerned that this practice is happening in Canada, and they are asking Parliament to quickly pass my Saskatchewan colleague's bill on this subject.

Conversion TherapyPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, the third petition today is timely, as the petitioners are calling for the government to fix the definition in the conversion therapy ban bill. They are calling for the government to ensure that parents can speak to their own children about sexuality and gender, set house rules about sex and relationships, and allow for free and open conversations.

Human RightsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Marwan Tabbara Liberal Kitchener South—Hespeler, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to present an e-petition signed by 515 residents of Ontario calling upon the government to seek special sessions of the UNHRC to conduct an independent inquiry into human rights violations in Iran since November 15, 2019. Academics and those speaking out have been wrongfully imprisoned.

PharmacarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to introduce e-petition 2649 today, signed by thousands of Canadians and spearheaded by the wonderful Colleen Fuller in British Columbia, calling for safe, affordable and effective prescription medications.

The petitioners point out the obvious fact that drugs do not work if Canadians cannot afford them. They note that the number of patented medicines costing over $10,000 per year has tripled since 2006 and accounted for 40% of all drug sales in 2017. The PMPRB has proposed regulations and guidelines to reduce drug prices and increase transparency in the pricing process. They are calling on the government to enact these overdue changes, reduce prices for Canadians and ensure that all Canadians can get the medications their doctors prescribe when they need them.

PharmacarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise to table yet another petition on behalf of my constituents who have been asking for the Government of Canada, in particular the Prime Minister, to take note that they would like a national pharmacare program. They are calling upon the Government of Canada to work with other provincial and territorial jurisdictions to make that happen.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Is it agreed that all questions be allowed to stand?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I wish to inform the House that because of ministerial statements, Government Orders will be extended by 28 minutes.

The House resumed from September 30 consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session, and of the amendment.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Raquel Dancho Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to put my thoughts on the record today with respect to the 2020 Speech from the Throne.

There was a lot of hype generated from the Liberal benches for the speech, particularly because the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament with the excuse that his government needed six weeks off from parliamentary duties to formulate it, but in reality, there was not a whole lot new in this throne speech. It was mostly recycled Liberal promises from the past 30 years. For example, if we take child care and pharmacare, I was but a very small child in the 1990s when the Liberals first announced they were going to do this. That was 30 years ago, so from that perspective the Liberals really have no credibility on any of the priorities they have promised in the throne speech. I am certain many Canadians would agree.

Perhaps the six-week prorogation in the middle of the worst health and economic crisis in a century was really to avoid the billion-dollar WE scandal, the resignation of the former finance minister or possibly the Prime Minister’s third ethics violation investigation, or maybe it was a pre-election strategy to announce massive spending in order to court votes for the next election. Regardless of the reason, the Liberal government had the responsibility to introduce a plan for Canadians to get them back to work safely and failed to do so.

Shamefully, the throne speech failed to even mention Manitoba, and it was nearly an hour long, which really shows the priorities of the Prime Minister with respect to the concerns of Manitobans. There were so many opportunities for the Liberals to support Manitoba, in particular, our critical infrastructure needs.

I have personally called on the Minister of Infrastructure to support the partnership between the Province of Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg and approve the $321 million in federal funds required for the north end wastewater treatment plant upgrade project in my riding. Manitoba needs this project in order to support the health of Lake Winnipeg, which as all Manitobans know has been severely impacted by algae blooms due to too much phosphorous. It is a green infrastructure project, a no-brainer for the government, and I have asked and urged it to please approve this funding.

Additionally, some of the hardest-hit people in my riding have been small business owners who employ thousands of Manitobans, and these jobs are in jeopardy. Many of these businesses were not eligible for any support from the Liberal government. There are still issues with small business owners qualifying for the CEBA loan, where business owners used personal banking accounts rather than business banking accounts and as a result were not eligible. The Liberals promised this change months ago to much fanfare and it has yet to be delivered. Many other businesses in my riding were not able to access the commercial rent assistance program, which has been widely regarded as a dismal failure, despite the desperate need for its success.

One area in which Canada cannot afford to be anything less than successful is with rapid testing. Possibly one of the most frustrating things about this throne speech is the failure of the Liberal government to prioritize the desperate need for rapid testing in this country. It is not as if the Liberals did not know it was a priority. The Prime Minister himself mentioned it back in March, six to seven months ago.

If we fast-forward to today, my constituents are sitting in long car lineups on Main Street in Winnipeg because of the Prime Minister’s lack of leadership on this and the apparent inability of the health minister to pick up the phone and call our trusted allies in Germany, the U.K., Japan and many others, to ask how they brought about these rapid tests for their citizens months ago.

Rapid at-home testing would be a game-changer for Canadians, especially in parts of Canada that are entering a second shutdown, like in Manitoba where we are no longer allowed to gather in groups larger than 10 people, even if we are outside, which has been really tough for Manitobans. Rapid testing would allow Manitobans to safely visit their elderly parents in care homes or send their kids to school with the all-too-common runny nose, and our front-line workers could feel assured that their dry cough is not a death sentence to those around them. Importantly, for the immigration file, rapid testing could give Canadians confidence that families separated due to the Liberals' border closures could safely reunite. Safety is key. The Liberal delay on rapid and at-home testing is unacceptable. Canadians deserve far better from the Liberal government.

The stakes have never been higher. Our economy and the finances of our country are facing desperate circumstances. We have spent $380 billion of deficit so far in this pandemic, which as we have learned from our shadow minister of finance would be roughly $40,000 per family of four. We are only seven months into this pandemic since the first lockdown, so imagine where we are going to be in a year at this spending rate. More than that, our national debt has reach over $1.5 trillion under the Liberal government’s watch. I do not even understand how much money that is because it is so gargantuan. While the Liberals continue to tell Canadians that it is all fine because interest rates are low, Canadians have the right to know that there is no guarantee interest rates will remain low.

The Liberals seem to have no intention of ever balancing the budget, and conceivably, Canadians alive today may never see another balanced federal budget if these Liberals remain in power.

Conservatives recognize that it was the government that forced Canadians to stay home and businesses to shut down, stopping their ability to earn an income, and so it was the government’s responsibility to compensate for them for that.

However, now Canada has the highest unemployment rate in the G7, with 10% of our working population unemployed, and many more working at a reduced capacity. In fact, compared to our G7 allies, we have spent the most on the pandemic recovery, yet we have the worst economic outcomes. How is that possible? It is far from over.

Our beloved neighbourhood businesses are at risk. For example, we know that three out of five of our restaurants may close permanently. It really is terribly sad to think about what Canadians are going through during this very difficult time.

The Liberal government needs to be doing a far better job on many things, and one of those things is immigration. I am honoured to serve as the shadow minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship. I sincerely thank our leader for entrusting me with this incredible responsibility on behalf of all Canadians.

As I peel back the layers of this $4-billion department, I am finding that the Liberals have severely mismanaged many areas of immigration, particularly family reunification. COVID-19 is the greatest challenge Canada has faced in 100 years, yet the Liberals have asked some Canadians including and Canadian children to navigate this challenge alone, without the support of a spouse, a parent or a close sibling.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer has told Canadians that the virus may be with us until 2022. What message does the Minister of Immigration have for families currently separated in response to this warning? The status quo has been cold-hearted and unsustainable. The emotional well-being and financial realities of separated families must be addressed immediately by the Liberal government.

Conservatives believe in a non-partisan, welcoming and well-managed immigration system for Canada based on a fair, transparent and efficient process that earns the respect of all of Canadians. We firmly believe in compassionate measures to assist in family reunification and to uphold Canada’s humanitarian tradition as a safe haven for refugees. I will work diligently to hold the Liberals to this standard.

Canadians expect Conservatives to face this unprecedented challenge head on and to put forward a robust and inspiring vision for the future of this country that ensures national unity, prosperity and regaining respect on the world stage.

We understand the suffering of working people, because we are working people, and we will champion their ambition to be successful and support their families in a free society. Canadians deserve a government that will lead them through the difficulties we face. They deserve a government that is steady, reliable, responsible and ethical, and a government that thinks outside the box and allows the choices of Canadians to reign supreme in their lives.

I love our new caucus mantra, given to us courtesy of our leader. It is Per ardua ad astra, which means “through adversity to the stars”. Conservatives will show Canadians that we are a government in waiting. As a shadow minister, I have been entrusted with the responsibility to fulfill my role with respect, professionalism, the pursuit of excellence and the duty to fight for everyday Canadians. That is exactly what I plan to do.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thought the member was appealing to her own audience. When I reflected on what she said about balancing a budget, I thought of how the last time the Conservatives ever balanced the budget was during Bennett's time. This is an interesting one. Mr. Harper inherited $13 billion in surplus from the Paul Martin government. He whittled it away before the 2008 financial crisis and left us with $3 billion in deficits and $700 billion in debt. He increased it.

Where is the member getting her figures from?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Raquel Dancho Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the strange question from the Liberal member opposite. However, I wish to take this time and use the privileged position I am in and speak to Liberal governing members of this country and urge them to consider family reunification, particularly that of Charie Santiago. Her husband has alerted the public that Charie is facing stage 4 cancer. She is on her death bed and she is pleading with the Minister of Immigration to allow her sister, who is her best friend, to enter from the Philippines to hold her hand on her death bed.

I see the member for Winnipeg North, who is the president of the Filipino friendship group for Parliament. I urge him to use his incredible position of privilege as the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister to allow Charie to be reunited with her sister before she dies.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

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

I am a little dismayed to see the government members playing a kind of partisan politics. They claim that the opposition's comments are always partisan, yet this government shut down the House for five weeks and then forced us to pass legislation at breakneck speed.

I just want everyone to understand what happened this week when we were forced to vote so quickly. Based on the total spending set out in these bills, we were voting on more than $200 million per minute. That is a mind-boggling figure, considering the agricultural industry as a whole got a paltry $252 million during the entire pandemic. This is so wrong.

I would like to hear what my colleague thinks about this, and especially about the compensation for supply-managed sectors that was mentioned in the throne speech. This is the umpteenth promise from the government. I would like her to tell us about her concerns and whether she is worried. Is it actually going to happen this time?

Could she also talk about all the supply-managed sectors and processors that did not get mentioned?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Raquel Dancho Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to say that I appreciate the very fervent support of the member and his party for their province of Quebec. I also support my province of Manitoba.

I appreciate that his party has been standing up for the province's desire for autonomy on health care and child care, and the many other areas where the Liberal government is trampling over provincial jurisdiction. I greatly respect the member and his party for their ardent support for their province's constitutional rights to health care.

I would also urge the Liberal government to ensure it is not trampling on those rights. I urge the government to allow the province of Manitoba to do what it needs to do with health care, and get those transfers done.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member mentioned small businesses. Living through this pandemic, in New Westminster—Burnaby and right across the country, one of the saddest moments we are seeing is when people, who have given their lives to keeping their businesses going, close the door to that small business for the last time and walk away, leaving the key in the lock. It is sad.

We have pressed the government to put commercial rent relief in place, but the commercial rent relief process is so complicated and it goes through landlords. What we have been saying to the government, which does not seem to want to listen, is that commercial rent relief needs to be something that commercial tenants can apply for directly, making it easier to access.

Would the member not agree that the government has a responsibility to make the commercial rent relief program work so that small businesses can stay alive during this pandemic?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Raquel Dancho Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, that is a very important question. I have raised this issue on several occasions in the House of Commons to a deafening silence from the Liberal members.

In my riding, female-owned businesses are suffering under the lack of support from the Liberal government, and, in particular, the commercial rent assistance program. I doubt very much that this program was put through the government's GBA+ analysis because, if it had, we may have seen that the difficulties of small business owners to approach their landlord to plead and negotiate for this commercial rent assistance is a problem for many businesses.

It seems to be a problem for female-owned businesses in my riding, likewise with the CEBA loan. Many small business owners use personal bank accounts. The Liberal government promised they would be eligible for that loan, yet that change has yet to happen. It is very disappointing for my riding.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:50 a.m.

London West Ontario

Liberal

Kate Young LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (FedDev Ontario)

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague, the member for Châteauguay—Lacolle.

I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to the recent Speech from the Throne. As Her Excellency the Governor General said, each of us, as parliamentarians, has a duty to work within the constraints of these challenging times.

The members of this House are not only tasked with addressing a once-in-a-century health crisis, but also a devastating climate crisis, long-standing social and economic inequalities, and unrest around the globe. COVID-19 has highlighted existing inequalities in our society and the urgent need for these to be addressed. Although the past few months have shocked our systems, this is not the first time we have been called to address a quickly changing world amid social and economic unrest and a devastating global health crisis, but we have to go back 100 years to find anything quite like what we are dealing with today.

Much has changed in Canada since the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 and 1919 swept over a nation already strained by the unprecedented impacts of one of the first truly global wars. This House was a very different place then. It would be another two years before Agnes Macphail would become the first woman elected to the federal Parliament. In that same year, Canadian women were given the right to vote.

During this Women's History Month, it is important to remind ourselves of these facts. The idea that it was important for the government to step up and help its citizens in times of difficulty, and support them when they needed it, was new and radical at the time, but it would not remain so. After losing 60,000 Canadians in the First World War, we were to lose another 50,000 while politicians in the House said public health was not their concern but that of the provinces, or the municipalities, or hospitals and charities, or the individual. Canadians were not prepared to accept such heartless indifference from their elected officials and were not going to take it. They demanded change, as they would again and again during times of crisis. Our predecessors in the House of Commons listened. It is our turn to listen now.

We are the delegates of the people and, as Agnes Macphail said, “The first thing to be considered by...the delegates of the people...is: what do the people want?” I quote the words of the first woman elected to this House because the people want gender equality; the people want us to support the most vulnerable in our society, including seniors and persons with disabilities; the people want social and economic justice; the people want us to fight climate change and leave a healthier planet for our children; the people want us to fight discrimination and bigotry; and, the people need support from their federal government.

Although COVID-19 has negatively impacted Canadians of all races and genders, it is women who have been hardest hit. At the height of the pandemic, 62% of job losses impacted women. Many had to make the difficult choice between their jobs and their children, leading to what has been called a “she-cession”. Over the past five years, our government has made historic investments to promote gender equality. We cannot afford to lose the ground we have gained, and we must do more. In building back better, our government plans to create an action plan for women in the economy, guided by experts whose diverse voices will help power a whole-of-government approach.

I am pleased to see the government's commitment to make a significant long-term investment to create a Canada-wide early learning and child care system. According to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce's she-covery project report, by supporting women's participation in the workforce, by 2026, Canada could add up to $150 billion to our annual GDP. To achieve this, we must offer Canadian families both day care and before- and after-school programs. We are talking about helping more families, helping more women join the workforce and be treated equally to men. I am surprised that I have to say it in 2020, but women are still fighting and we cannot give up now.

Supreme Court of Canada Justice Rosalie Abella recently wrote an opinion piece on the death of her friend, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Abella said Ginsburg spent her life explaining that being fair to women is not being unfair to men, it is simply catching up.

Young or old, our government remains committed to helping the most vulnerable Canadians. Supporting people with disabilities has always been a passion of mine, and I continue to encourage our government to do more for people with disabilities.

I was very happy to discuss the throne speech with disability advocates like Professor Jeff Preston at King's College in London. Our intent to introduce a new Canada disability benefit along the lines of the guaranteed income supplement as well as reforming the eligibility process for Canadians with disabilities is being well received by the disability community. However, Jeff is worried about what will happen after a vaccine is found and people with disabilities try to get back into the workforce. Our government recognizes this problem and has committed to a robust employment strategy for Canadians with disabilities.

While some of us are getting tired of doing business by Zoom, many people with disabilities see this as a lifeline. We must harness this new way of doing business to help everyone.

Over the last six months, we heard about many long-term care facilities that had been ravaged by COVID-19. The tragic scenes that we have watched unfold across Canada these past few months should never have happened. Of all of Canada's deaths related to COVID-19, a staggering 85% of them occurred in long-term care homes. Now with the second wave, we have to do more.

On this National Seniors Day, Canadians have demanded we do more. This is why we will work with our partners in the provinces and territories to implement national standards for long-term care homes, so all Canadian seniors can live securely and with peace of mind. The Prime Minister said recently that he remained unapologetic for doing everything we could to support our seniors, that they deserved nothing less.

While COVID-19 has been raging around the world, fires on the west coast, so massive the suffocating smoke has reached Ontario, remind us of another insidious threat that imperils our world, climate change. Canadians are joining people around the world who are saying we must act and we must act quickly. We cannot put aside our plans for a cleaner environment because we are fighting a pandemic.

I wish this was not a political issue, but regrettably some of my colleagues have turned it into one. They ignore the economic opportunity that creating a greener, more sustainable economy can provide Canadians, including those in the natural resource sector. They ignore the long-term savings for individuals, businesses and governments in transitioning to a net-zero economy. We have not. Our government will utilize the expertise and know-how of the energy sector and the natural resource sector to reach net zero.

A key part of this plan will be continuing to support innovation and help businesses grow and grow green. As the parliamentary secretary for economic development for southern Ontario, I spent the last number of months speaking to mayors, chambers of commerce and business leaders across sectors. They were all very supportive of the government's quick action to support the many businesses that had been adversely affected by COVID. Whether it was the Canada emergency wage subsidy or the Canada emergency response benefit, they knew we had the best interest of workers and businesses in mind.

Just before the throne speech, I spoke with the manager of the London International Airport. He said that they were really hoping CEWS would be extended so they could keep staff on the payroll and be ready when travellers came back, and they will come back. He of course was very happy to hear that our government was proposing the emergency wage subsidy be continued until the summer.

Other businesses were kept afloat during COVID-19 because we offered close to $1 billion nationally with the regional relief and recovery fund, or RRRF, through our economic development agencies. Many of these businesses would not have survived even six months without this support, particularly in rural and remote communities.

Countless Canadians are in sectors like the performing arts and the hospitality or tourism whose livelihoods have been especially hard hit. That is why Destination Canada is investing $30 million to support the recovery of communities. We know the hotel industry is the backbone of tourism in our country and we are working tirelessly to help affected workers and entrepreneurs.

I look forward to supporting even more initiatives. I hope my colleagues of all parties will work with us constructively as we rise to meet the challenges we face today. We are privileged to meet in this chamber. Canadians are calling upon us to meet the times we face. It is our duty to meet them.