House of Commons Hansard #6 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pandemic.

Topics

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

6:50 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I remind the hon. member to address his comments to the Chair and not to the individual member or to the government.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Fleetwood—Port Kells.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Madam Speaker, for a second I almost thought the hon. member might have to be re-educated like the finance critic for the Conservative Party, because I hear compassion and hear about getting things done from the Conservative leader, but now I hear true austerity.

We hear that national unity seems to be wrapped up in the energy sector, and we can understand the angst being felt in Alberta. However, the new Conservative leader has spent time in Quebec saying that he will honour Quebec's view that no new pipeline should go through there. It sounds like the Conservative Party is going through a transformation, but it has one foot on the boat and one foot on the dock and I think they are going to end up in the water.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Greg McLean Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, as members know, I arrived in Ottawa after the last election, so I have been here almost a year. I have been through much of the re-education that is part of the Liberal government's strategy to show us how Canada really runs. However, I represent a great riding and I arrived here with an education. I have life experiences, and I do not think I need to be re-educated on what happens in the economy across Canada, especially in some of the resource-producing regions.

I appreciate that the member on the opposite side would like to re-educate me on how I should be thinking about jobs in Canada and the Canadian economy. I suppose he and I can have that debate as long as we want.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

6:55 p.m.

Bloc

Martin Champoux Bloc Drummond, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Calgary Centre for his very thoughtful and well-documented speech.

Whenever the Conservative Party gets a new leader, the wooing of Quebec begins. It is usually a brief dalliance, but we will make the most of it before the passion fades.

There are some issues on which the Bloc Québécois will never see eye to eye with the Conservative Party. One of them is oil, which is not worth talking about because we are against it. However, there are glimmers of hope on several fronts, including what they have said about jobs and diversity.

I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on the aerospace industry, a sector that provides Quebec workers with 43,000 excellent jobs. Montreal's aerospace sector ranks third in the world, but it did not feature prominently in the throne speech or the government's plans, so I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on this subject, with is particularly important to Quebeckers.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

September 30th, 2020 / 6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Greg McLean Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Quebec.

I agree with him about the aerospace sector, which is vital not only to Quebec's economic activity but also to Canada's, I believe. This sector is important to the whole country. I do not know if it was mentioned in the throne speech, but I know it is important to my colleague and his fellow Quebeckers.

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

Veterans AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Madam Speaker, I am very happy to be here to speak on behalf of the veterans who have served our country so well.

Last week, on September 25, I asked a question of the government about the 40,000 veterans who continued to be on a wait-list for their disability pensions. The response from the government was very much the same, which was to look at how much it had done and not to look at the fact that over 40,000 veterans in the country had been waiting for months and in some cases close to two years for their benefits.

I also want to take this opportunity to remind Canadians that in 2018, the member for Courtenay—Alberni moved a motion that was supported unanimously by every party in the House. That motion simply stated that any money left over at the end of the fiscal year would be reinvested into Veterans Affairs. Last year alone, $103 million were left on the table, money that was not reinvested in Veterans Affairs.

This year, the PBO came out with a report. I want to first take this opportunity to thank the Parliamentary Budget Officer for taking this on. It was a report I had requested. I really wanted to understand what was happening to the veterans who were on the wait-list. We heard about the 300 new temporary workers. This is an important part of this conversation. When we see a wait-list this big, I do not think we should see temporary workers. People should be employed full time, working and staying with Veterans Affairs. We heard that 40,000 folks, who had served our county, were on the wait-list and that they would have to wait another two and a half years before the list was even addressed.

The report said that if we wanted to see all of these veterans get the benefits they well deserved, the government needed to hire a further 392 full-time people to work at Veterans Affairs. This is very important. It lets us know how big the need is, that even with the 300 they have hired temporarily, they need to hire another 392 just to get all of those veterans the services and supports they well deserve and have been waiting for.

The other part of this reality is a lot of veterans across the country are in desperation because of the lack of supports they are getting. They have applied for the CERB. They are very concerned they will get in trouble for that. I have asked the veterans minister to address this issue to ensure that veterans who are waiting for a disability pension do not get in trouble in any way for desperately asking the government to stand up and help them.

I want to let everybody across Canada know that the Parliamentary Budget Officer also confirmed that an investment of $128 million between now and 2025 would get rid of that backlog within one year and then maintain that level of service. Therefore, veterans who are now going through the process will not be part of a big backlog and having to wait a significant amount of time. Last year alone, $103 million were unspent in Veterans Affairs and that money did not get reinvested. Think what it could have done. The government needs to account for that.

Veterans AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook Nova Scotia

Liberal

Darrell Samson LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, veterans' issues are of the upmost importance to our government. Like other departments, Veterans Affairs was quick to adapt to the pandemic to ensure that veterans and their families would keep receiving the services and benefits they count on.

For months, the minister actively consulted Veterans Affairs representatives through the ministerial advisory panel. He also spoke to many veterans about how they and their families were managing during the pandemic and the support that the department could provide. Since the beginning of this crisis, Veterans Affairs Canada has made many changes to ensure that veterans can access the support they need.

Coverage has been extended to include telehealth and virtual health services, which has allowed veterans to gain or maintain access to mental health treatments, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and other treatments, while respecting social distancing measures. The need for renewed prescriptions required to obtain health care services was temporarily waived and the cost of personal protective equipment needed to receive treatment can now be reimbursed.

Throughout the pandemic, our message to veterans did not change, and indeed it was the same as before: We are there for those who did so much for Canada.

In fact, we have now delivered over half a billion dollars in benefits directly to veterans since the pandemic began.

This includes continuing our efforts to reduce delays and manage the volume of applications for disability benefits. In June, we presented a strategy to reduce wait times for veterans. This strategy includes transforming how teams are organized, making better use of technology and streamlining the process by eliminating certain steps.

I am very proud that we recently invested nearly $200 million in additional funding to speed up and support the disability decision-making process. The PBO's report shows that the new hires made as part of this investment will have a significant impact on reducing the backlog, but it does not take into account the many steps that Veterans Affairs has taken to make this process even faster and more efficient. These steps include streamlining the decision-making process on benefits and programs so that less complex cases can now take less time. Claims for disability benefits are also now being triaged so that the department can expedite applications for those of higher risk. Of course, there is the hiring of hundreds of new employees, including case workers and other workers, directly to support veterans to process disability applications and to administer pension-for-life benefits, which came into effect on April 1.

I want to point out that Bill C-4 provides $20 million for these organizations that support veterans.

As a result, during this pandemic, Canadian Forces and RCMP veterans and their families continue to receive the assistance they need while VAC continues to take the steps needed to reduce the wait time.

Veterans AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Madam Speaker, for the member to say in the House that veterans are the most important relationship that the government has, well, add them to the list.

The reality is that the Parliamentary Budget Office was very clear. With the work that the government has done, veterans will still be waiting two and a half years for just this 40,000 to be addressed, and not the other people who are climbing on board and doing their applications. I still do not understand why the government did not follow the motion that the Liberals unanimously supported in the House to take the money that was left and reinvest it, and there was no answer on CERB. What about veterans for CERB?

We have to stand up for Canadians. We have to stand up for the people who stood up for us, and that is what veterans did. I will not stop until this is addressed.

Veterans AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Madam Speaker, the Government of Canada is grateful for its veterans and their service in defending peace, freedom and the values that we, as a country, hold dear. We express this gratitude not simply with our words but also in our actions, which is why this government is making sure that veterans know what benefits are available to them and are receiving them as quickly as possible. It is why this government is making sure that veterans have access to everything they need to live a healthy post-career life. It is why this government is making sure that the concerns of our veterans are heard and addressed.

We will never stop working to improve the lives of veterans and their families.

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, I am rising today to speak about the horrific crimes facing Uighur Muslims in China. More and more Canadians, and certainly parliamentarians, are becoming aware of the situation. We have clear evidence of Uighur Muslims in China being sent to concentration camps. One expert told the Subcommittee on International Human Rights that it is the largest mass detention of a minority community since the Holocaust.

This is a high-tech-enabled, systematic effort to destroy Uighur culture, Uighur faith and, indeed, Uighur people. We have seen evidence brought before the subcommittee and other fora, that what is happening includes a systemic effort to prevent births within the Uighur community through forced abortions, forced sterilization and forced insertion of IUDs. These horrific, unspeakable crimes that the Subcommittee on International Human Rights heard about are becoming more and more known around the world.

Canada has to act. Canada has a responsibility as a party to the international convention on the prevention of genocide, but also simply by virtue of the fact that we are all human beings. We have a responsibility to respond when we hear this information about these horrors being inflicted on Uighur Muslims in China.

I asked our foreign affairs minister many times about this issue. I have asked him to name the crime and to commit to action, to recognize Canada's obligations under the genocide convention, to recognize a genocide when it is taking place and even to recognize the responsibility to protect in cases where there is credible evidence, even short of certainty. When there is credible evidence the genocide is taking place, Canada's obligations under that convention, in terms of a responsibility to protect vulnerable populations, are invoked. This is clear in terms of our international commitments.

However, Canada's foreign affairs minister has always stopped short in terms of the response on these issues. He has told us that he is deeply disturbed, that he feels deeply in response to these events. He noted in response to my last question a declaration that he had co-signed, where he notes that he has consulted with various UN officials about if there might be opportunities to do more. He knows full well that his failure to recognize and respond in terms of a responsibility to protect and take real concrete action is missing.

We will continue to call on the government out of a sense of our international obligations, but also out of a sense of basic human decency in recognizing the commitments we made after the Second World War, saying never again. We should make good on our commitments to ensure never again will we see a people face this kind of mass extermination effort that is going on right now in East Turkestan targeting Uighurs.

Our government needs to recognize the crime taking place. I asked the minister if he would use the word “genocide” or would he use the words “crimes against humanity“, and we have not heard that recognition.

We need the government to be willing to use Magnitsky sanctions and impose real consequences through targeted sanctions against individuals involved in these vile atrocities. I know the government is capable of using the Magnitsky Act. They have used it in the case of Belarus, but they have yet to use it in the current case of what is happening to Uighur Muslims in China.

To the minister or whoever is answering on his behalf, will the Magnitsky sanctions be used? The minister said a few months ago that it was on the table. It has been months and the atrocities are continuing. Will he use Magnitsky sanctions? We need to see reforms to our supply chains to ensure that we are not importing products made through Uighur slave labour. Will he take these concrete steps? Feelings are not enough. We need action in keeping with our international obligations.

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook Nova Scotia

Liberal

Darrell Samson LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, the promotion and protection of human rights is an integral part of Canada's foreign policy and the Government of Canada is engaged with China.

The Chinese authorities' widespread violation of the rights of the Uighurs in the Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region, under the pretext of fighting terrorism, is very worrisome.

The government is concerned about mass arbitrary detentions, generalized repressive surveillance, torture and mistreatment, reports of forced labour and forced sterilization, and the mass arbitrary separation of children from their parents.

These actions are contrary to China's own constitution and are in violation of its own international human rights obligations and are inconsistent with the United Nations global counter-terrorism strategy.

Canada has voiced its concerns on numerous occasions, publicly and privately, in multilateral forums as well as in bilateral dialogues with Chinese authorities.

We have made several statements at the UN. For example, in June 2020, Canada joined a statement with more than 20 countries raising concerns over the situation of Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang. We jointly called for unfettered access to Xinjiang for independent observers, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. We made a similar call in a statement co-signed by over 20 countries at the UN General Assembly in October 2019. We continue working with other countries to raise this issue internationally at every opportunity.

Canada continues to raise this matter with Chinese authorities at every level.

Canada tailors its responses to the specifics of each unique situation. We are judicious in our approach regarding when we choose to deploy sanctions or draw on other courses of action in our diplomatic tool kit.

I want to assure my colleagues that the promotion and protection of human rights are core priorities of Canada's foreign policy.

The Government of Canada will continue to raise its concerns regarding the human rights situation in Xinjiang and all of China, and will continue to call on China to live up to its international obligations.

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, in the government's response to this file, I vacillate between anger and disappointment. I do not blame the parliamentary secretary. He is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence. This is not even his file. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Foreign Affairs are not here and they have sent a parliamentary secretary whose file is not—

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I would remind the hon. member not to indicate who is or is not in the House.

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, I am not indicating whether someone is in the House, but the responses are being read by a parliamentary secretary who does not have this file. I do not blame him for not being able to answer the specific questions, but I wish the government would give responses from the people responsible and explain why Magnitsky sanctions are good enough for Belarus, but not for the situation in China, where we have these horrific crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity. We do not even have the people responsible answering the questions.

If he is able, could the parliamentary secretary try to provide us with some greater clarity? Why can we not hold people responsible for deportations to concentration camps and systemic forced sterilization? Why can we not hold those people responsible?

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Madam Speaker, the government continues to be alarmed by widespread human rights violations on Uighurs by Chinese authorities in Xinjiang.

The actions by the Chinese government are contrary to its own constitution, in violation of international human rights obligations and inconsistent with the United Nations' Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

The government has raised its concerns on numerous occasions publicly and privately in multilateral forums and bilaterally.

Please be assured that the promotion and protection of human rights are an integral part of our engagement with China. Canada will continue to raise this matter with Chinese authorities at every level.

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The motion that the House do now adjourn is deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:16 p.m.)