House of Commons Hansard #73 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was homes.


11:05 a.m.


The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The Chair would like to take a moment to provide some information to the House regarding the management of Private Members' Business.

As members know, after the order of precedence is replenished, the Chair reviews the new items so as to alert the House to bills which, at first glance, appear to infringe the financial prerogative of the Crown. This allows members the opportunity to intervene in a timely fashion to present their views about the need for those bills to be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

Accordingly, following the February 22, 2021, replenishment of the order of precedence with 15 new items, I wish to inform the House that there is one bill that gives the Chair some concern as to the spending provisions it contemplates. It is:

Bill C-265, an act to amend the Employment Insurance Act with regard to illness, injury or quarantine, standing in the name of the member for Salaberry—Suroît.

I would encourage honourable members who would like to make arguments regarding the need for a royal recommendation to accompany this bill or any other bills now on the order of precedence to do so at an early opportunity.

I thank hon. members for their attention.

The House resumed from December 8, 2020, consideration of the motion.

Diversity and InclusionPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


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

Mr. Speaker, what a pleasure it is to be able to address this very important issue for all Canadians. Often members move different motions or bills in recognition of important dates. This is one of those motions that is really necessary for the House to recognize and support. The motion calls for August 1 to be recognized in Canada as emancipation day.

As I wanted to provide some thoughts on this issue, I thought I would do a quick Google search to provide something very concise. I was really quite impressed with the BC Black History Awareness Society and wanted to cite something that is right on its website. The most interesting thing I saw really said a lot. We often hear that a picture is worth a thousand words, and there is an image of a poster indicating that here in Canada, in Halifax, there was to be a public auction on November 3, 1760: “To be sold, a boy and girl, about 11 years old”.

I want to read the first couple of paragraphs to share with members. On the site it states that:

August 1 is important in Canadian history because the Slavery Abolition Act affected the lives of those enslaved and the lives of their descendants.

The first colony in the British Empire to have anti-slavery legislation was Upper Canada, now Ontario. John Graves Simcoe, the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada (1791–1796), passed an Act Against Slavery in 1793, which ended the importation of slaves in Upper Canada and manumitted the future children of female slaves at age twenty-five. Unfortunately, it did not free a single slave. It was superseded by the Slavery Abolition Act 1833.

Ontario was not the first of the British and former British possessions to enact legislation against slavery. Vermont abolished slavery outright in 1777, a full 16 years before Upper Canada’s partial abolition. And Vermont was followed quickly by Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and several other northern states, well ahead of Upper Canada’s 1793 law. In 1787, the United States Congress outlawed slavery in the territories that would become the Midwest states.

The Slavery Abolition Act 1833 abolished slavery throughout the British Empire….

That comes directly from the BC Black History Awareness Society website.

I watched a movie a few years back that was called Amazing Grace. It was about William Wilberforce. I loved the way in which the movie was put together to assist people in reflecting on the many horrific events during slavery when it was, I suggest, at one of its peaks when slaves were being captured and brought into the United States and other areas of the world.

I believe that there are so many stories that could be told, but I see that I have run out of time. Suffice to say that I really appreciated reading the information on the BC Black History Awareness Society website and would encourage others to do so.

Diversity and InclusionPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Denis Trudel Bloc Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to speak to this important issue this morning.

It is hard for us to imagine now what it might have felt like to experience slavery in the past. It was a tragedy of untold proportions. Sophocles said, “of all human ills the greatest is slavery”.

Today I am talking about Motion No. 36, which recognizes the past and present contributions of people of African descent and proposes designating August 1 of every year as emancipation day. Naturally, I support this motion.

Designating a commemorative day sends two important messages. First, we recognize the harm caused by the practice of slavery in North America and clearly state that slavery was wrong. Second, we signal to the world that slavery is never acceptable, regardless of time, place or circumstance.

Despite what people might think, slavery has not been abolished. Contemporary forms of slavery still exist. For example, we have talked a lot about the Uighurs recently. They are being subjected to forced labour in camps in China.

Older forms of slavery are even re-emerging. According to a CNN news story from four years ago, African migrants in Libya were being auctioned off like cargo. This has also been observed in recent years in Syria and Iraq, where thousands of Yazidi girls and women have been held captive by Daesh and subjected to slavery. I think everyone agrees that slavery, whether in older or modern forms, must be abolished.

As the motion points out, the British Parliament abolished slavery in its empire as of August 1, 1834. This is an important event that needs to be commemorated, which is why the government should designate August 1 of every year emancipation day.

On August 1, 1834, the British Empire capitulated and ordered the emancipation of slaves, following many years of debate on the issue. In fact, the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada was the first British legislature in North America to propose the abolition of slavery.

People will not remember that. From the very first sitting of the first Parliament of Lower Canada in December 1792, MP Pierre-Louis Panet introduced legislation to abolish slavery, nothing less. The bill was introduced on March 8, 1793, and in principle was to be passed on April 19. Unfortunately, it died on the Order Paper. Still, this bill illustrates how concerned Quebeckers were about this issue once they had a Parliament to express their opinions.

Another example of Quebeckers' concern for the equality and liberty of all is the emancipation of Jews in 1832. That year, the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada, presided by the great Louis-Joseph Papineau, passed legislation that was unprecedented in the British Empire to recognize the full civil, political and religious rights of Jews, finally allowing them to sit in Parliament, which previously had not been the case.

A few years later, in 1838, after the violent suppression of the Lower Canada Rebellion, the patriots enshrined in Quebec's declaration of independence that all individuals, including indigenous peoples, enjoyed the same rights. The patriots demonstrated their commitment to human rights and equality for all communities on their land. They went even further than abolishing slavery.

Obviously, August 1, 1834, is a significant date. It is important to understand that the abolition of slavery did not come out of nowhere, nor did it happen because of a sudden humanist awakening on the part of politicians of the day. Not much about this aspect is taught in history classes, but it should be noted that slavery was abolished as a result of decades of struggle by humanists and, more importantly, by slaves themselves.

Let us talk about that struggle. Today, we talk about the social struggle for human rights. This brings to mind things like petitions, protests and appeals to politicians and authorities. How can slaves fight for their cause when the very institution that wants to get rid of them deprives them of all their freedoms? Given that slavery deprives slaves of the possibility of open assembly or petition, how can they resist? It is not complicated. They disobey, flee, break their chains, sometimes literally. They suffocate the oppressor who denied their humanity, and they rebel violently.

Nelson Mandela said that “it is the oppressor who defines the nature of the struggle, and the oppressed is often left no recourse but to use methods that mirror those of the oppressor.”

There were dozens of revolts by slaves in America. The most well known is definitely the revolt that led to the independence of Haiti and the end of slavery in that country. Haitians suffered the horrors of war to free themselves from domination and gain their freedom. Other slave uprisings did not meet with the same success, but that does not mean they were in vain, including those revolts that led to bloodshed. I am thinking, for example, of the Stono rebellion, which took place in what was then the British colony of South Carolina.

In 1739, slaves gathered, took up arms and organized a great march. The word “Liberty” was written on a banner. This uprising was crushed, but it inspired another uprising in the neighbouring colony of Georgia the following year, and yet another in South Carolina the year after that. The colonial authorities ended up imposing a 10-year moratorium on slave importation in the region. It was a small victory, but a victory nonetheless.

Open rebellion was not the slaves' only form of resistance. When an unjust system forces a person to work for an owner, without compensation and without rights, the act of fleeing constitutes a heroic act of resistance. Many American labourers fled north after slavery was abolished in the British Empire, but before that, slaves would flee under both English and French rule.

Today I would like to talk about a Black slave from Montreal named Marie-Joseph Angélique. In 1733, she asked her owner to free her. When her request was denied, she fled with a companion towards the ports of New England, hoping to make it back to Portugal, where she was born. She was captured in Chambly two weeks later and returned to her owner. Not long after, in April 1734, Marie-Joseph Angélique was blamed for a fire that destroyed Montreal's merchants' quarter. She was accused of setting the fire to create a diversion so that she could escape once again. She was convicted, tortured and hanged. It is still not known whether she was responsible for the fire, but we can be sure that Marie-Joseph Angélique was right to want her freedom, to reject slavery and to flee.

Open revolt and flight were acts of resistance that hurt the system that was in place and contributed to its abolition. By resisting, slaves made it more costly to maintain repressive systems. Keeping the system in place was less profitable for merchants and slavers since they had to deal with escapes and the risk of violent uprisings. Slaves were the victims of this major historic crime, but, in a way, their resistance also made them agents of change. Obviously, they had to resist in order to overcome this injustice.

Militant abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass clearly illustrated the need to fight. He said, and I quote:

If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.

This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.

The bottom line is that, in the end, resistance and struggle pay off, even if the process sometimes takes time. Quebeckers are all too familiar with that fact: 200 years of oppression, struggle, fighting and two lost referendums. Our thirst for freedom is still present, still intact. In the end, every little contribution that is made to the cause of freedom bears fruit. It may not happen right away, but every contribution bears fruit in time.

I have a lot more to say about freedom, but I would like to close by saying that Motion No. 36 is an important one. I support the motion, as do all members of the Bloc Québécois.

Diversity and InclusionPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Tony Baldinelli Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to add my voice in support of the motion put forward by the member for Richmond Hill, which calls upon the government to designate August 1 of each year as emancipation day.

As the member of Parliament representing the riding of Niagara Falls, it is indeed my pleasure to speak on this motion and share the incredible local history and important stories of our Black communities, which need to be heard. In my colleague's motion, as part of his rational on having this date designated as emancipation day in Canada, he references the British Parliament's decision to abolish slavery as of August 1, 1834.

I would like to build on this reference and actually take us a bit further in our country's history to the time of the first lieutenant governor of Upper Canada, John Graves Simcoe. In many places across Ontario, the August civic holiday has become known as Simcoe Day. However, this holiday has also been referred to by many within our Black communities as emancipation day as well.

Prior to running to become a member of Parliament, I had the pleasure of serving as the senior manager of communications and stakeholder relations for the Niagara Parks Commission. The commission is an Ontario government agency responsible for the environmental and cultural preservation of the lands located along the Niagara River corridor, which stretches from Lake Erie all the way to Lake Ontario.

One of the commission's holdings is the Mackenzie Printery, which contains a piece of important history in its collection: the Louis Roy printing press. According to the Niagara Parks, this 1760s press was operated by the king's first printer, Louis Roy, who was responsible for printing all official government documents in Upper Canada.

One of these documents included the printing of an act to prevent the further introduction of slaves and to limit the term of contracts for servitude, which is also known as the act to limit slavery in Upper Canada, printed in 1793. On March 14, 1793, Chloe Cooley, a Black slave in Queenston, Ontario, was forcibly returned by her owner to the United States.

Army veteran Peter Martin, a former soldier of Butler's Rangers and a free Black, bravely and rightly reported the incident and Cooley's protests to the lieutenant governor, John Graves Simcoe. This led Simcoe to introduce the 1793 act, which attempted to make slavery less common by allowing children born to female slaves to be freed at age 25 and prohibiting additional individuals to be brought into Upper Canada in servitude.

While the act did not abolish slavery out right, it was an early challenge against the legal status of slavery. It was also a critically important step in the fight to abolish slavery in Canada and the British Empire, which happened in 1834. For some, this is the reason Simcoe Day and emancipation day are celebrated together in many parts of Ontario.

Ms. Cooley's story and the resulting introduction of an act against slavery in Upper Canada was recognized by the Ontario Heritage Trust on August 23, 2007. Fittingly, it was former Ontario lieutenant governor Lincoln Alexander, Canada's first Black federal parliamentarian and first Black federal cabinet minister, who attended and unveiled this plaque in his capacity as chair of the Ontario Heritage Trust.

This plaque dedicated to Ms. Cooley is one of many specific markers and monuments within Niagara parks that commemorate the significant contributions and impacts that Black Canadians have had on the development of rich history in Ontario and our country. On the site of Queenston Heights, there is a plaque dedicated to those Black Canadians who fought in defence of Canada from American invasion and for their own personal freedom during the Battle of Queenston Heights on October 13, 1812.

In the southern part of my riding there is another plaque that recognizes the starting point of Niagara's Freedom Trail. Slaves escaping the northern states would be ferried across the Niagara River from Buffalo to Fort Erie, where they would land on shore. They would then temporarily reside in a series of safe houses until permanent accommodations and jobs could be found. These communities and safe homes were major conduits of the Underground Railroad, and the landing site in Fort Erie was the point where many hundreds of escaped African-American slaves experienced freedom for the first time in their lives.

This leads me to part (c) of this motion, which recognizes that abolitionists and others who struggled against slavery, including those who arrived in Upper and Lower Canada by the Underground Railroad, have historically celebrated August 1 as emancipation day.

Again, the region of Niagara is rich in history and stories of significance to many in the Black community. Recently, the Niagara Parks Commission unveiled two interpretive plaques honouring Harriet Tubman and her efforts to end slavery and advance the rights and freedoms of all people. From 1851 to 1861, Harriet Tubman was a guide for freedom seekers making their way to Canada.

In November of 1856 she crossed the Niagara River with some of her charges in a train travelling over the new and very first railway bridge, the Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge, an international bridge at the site of what is now the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge in Niagara Falls. Her courage and unwavering commitment to helping people escape slavery leaves one in awe. She truly was a remarkable woman and a role model for us all. It is in tribute to these actions and her role as the most famous conductor of the Underground Railroad that the Canadian federal government bestowed the honour of designating Harriet Tubman as a person of national historic significance in 2005.

In part (e) of my colleague's motion, he speaks to, “the heritage of Canada’s people of African descent and the contributions they have made and continue to make to Canada”.

As part of this, I want to quickly highlight the efforts and contributions of the Niagara Military Museum in my riding for creating an absolutely marvellous travelling exhibit, funded in part by Veterans Affairs Canada, that highlights the major role and contributions of Black Canadians in our country's military history. With a focus on those who serve from Niagara and local surrounding communities, the exhibit features the personal stories of service and commitment from Black Canadians from the various military conflicts Canadians have participated in throughout our history. The sharing of these important stories would not have been possible without the involvement of the families, local historians and contributors who came forward to see that the stories and legacies of these families' ancestors would never be forgotten.

As we speak to this motion and its reference to Canadians of African descent who have and continue to make Canada a great place to live, I would be remiss if I did not mention the late Wilma Morrison, the nurse, community volunteer and historian we all came to rely upon for her expert knowledge. Wilma worked tirelessly in our community promoting and preserving the culturally rich and important history of Black Canadians residing in Niagara.

In April of last year, Wilma passed away at the age of 91 after a courageous battle against COVID-19.

Wilma was a member of the Nathaniel Dett British Methodist Episcopal Church, which is now a designated national historic site. When the church was threatened with being sold and destroyed in the 1990s, Wilma helped save the chapel and the significant volumes of heritage, the genealogical books and records that document the many contributions of Black residents in our community. The church is now a focal point of the Niagara Freedom Trail tour, which Wilma played a large role in helping to develop.

I last saw Wilma in February of 2020 at the launch of the newly created Black military history exhibit at the Niagara Military Museum. In meeting her, one could not help but feel better because of the time spent together. One would also come away from discussions with Wilma realizing that there is so much more for us to accomplish as a community and country.

Wilma Morrison is greatly missed, but her legacy and contributions will live on forever in Niagara Falls and across our Niagara region. I believe Wilma would have been quite supportive of this motion, as it would have been an opportunity for us to share in our collective and rich history, which we all need to learn and celebrate.

For those reasons, I am pleased to support this motion. I thank my colleague for bringing the motion forward for our consideration.

Diversity and InclusionPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be participating in this important debate with my colleagues this morning on a motion to designate an emancipation day. I would like to congratulate the member for Richmond Hill and thank him for moving this important motion, which gives us all an opportunity to discuss and debate not only recognition of Black history in Canada and Quebec, but also the history of slavery.

Typically, and with good reason, discussions about the enslavement of people of African descent focus on the United States, where the widespread use of Black slaves on cotton plantations and in other economic sectors left its mark on our collective psyche. It involved the cruel and violent exploitation of tens of thousands of people, who were ripped from Africa and the Caribbean and crammed onto ships under appalling conditions to go work in the United States. That is why there is such a strong association between slavery and the United States.

We tend to forget that we have our own history of slavery, a history that has left its mark on Quebec and Canada too. I think that the motion moved by my colleague from Richmond Hill gives us an opportunity today to remember certain facts and take a closer look at that history. Over the years, we have, in a way, erased that part of our history, as though it never existed or did not really have anything to do with Canadians, only with our neighbours to the south. Slavery in Canada may not have been practised as pervasively or with the same intensity, but it existed. It was allowed, it was legal, it was public, it was open. Human beings could be owned, sold, traded or treated as spoils of war. I think we need to be aware of that so we can do the right thing now.

Before getting into the history of Quebec and Canada more specifically, I would like to remind my colleagues of a basic phenomenon that can lead a person to commit enslavement or even genocide. It is a mental and intellectual process called dehumanization. It is when a group of human beings are stripped of their humanity and described as being other, inferior, more animal than human, or even vermin. We saw that with the anti-Semitism of 1930s Europe, when such comparisons were made about Jews. We have seen that in Quebec as well.

When a segment of the population is described by the colour of their skin, their religion, their gender or their sexual orientation and called by names that essentially deny their personhood, this dehumanization opens the door to viewing them as property, meaning slaves, or as people to get rid of. This in turn opens the door to genocide, such as the Shoah, the Armenian genocide and the events that occurred in Rwanda and Ukraine. It is also what we are currently seeing with the Rohingya in Myanmar. We must be aware of dehumanization and look out for cases where a segment of the population is being described and generalized as less than human, leaving them open to attack. It is a practice that is still used a lot by the extreme right. Let us all be aware of that. We must fight against dehumanization, the process that opens the door to abuse and anti-humanist or disrespectful acts.

In New France, slavery was introduced with colonization. It was not imposed or instituted afterwards. Although no slave ships stopped at Quebec City, Montreal or Halifax, there were slaves in New France from the outset, and the use of slaves continued under British rule.

It is important to know that the first slaves in New France were indigenous people from the Pawnee Nation, later known as the Panis, who were captured and sold. Throughout history, there were thousands of Black slaves, but the first slaves were indigenous, and the majority of slaves in New France were always indigenous. I believe it is important to remember that.

At the peak of slavery in New France or under British rule, a total of approximately 4,200 slaves were being used on our land, including about 2,700 indigenous slaves. It was a very cheap source of labour because they were not paid, but whereas slaves in the United States were used in labour-intensive economic sectors, such as cotton plantations in the southern states, slaves in Canada were generally used as household servants. They tended to work in homes rather than in the fields.

We are told that the first non-indigenous slave was a child from either Madagascar or Guinea, who was brought here in 1629 and went by the name Olivier Le Jeune. He was the first slave to be recorded in New France. Later, in 1689, Louis XIV authorized the importation of slaves into New France, and the purchase and possession of slaves became legal in 1709.

In 1760, the conquest of New France and its transformation into a British colony changed very little about how slaves were owned and used. Article 47 of the Articles of Capitulation clearly states that the same rules continue to apply in relation to the possession, trade and sale of slaves. Later, the Imperial Statute of 1790 explicitly authorized United Empire loyalists fleeing the newly independent American territories for Canada to bring their Black slaves, furniture, utensils and clothing, all duty free. Between 2,000 and 3,000 Black slaves came to Canada with those Loyalists.

Canada has a long history of slavery, with the last notice of a slave sale in New Brunswick dating back to 1816, and the last sale of a slave in Quebec taking place on September 14, 1799, at the end of the 18th century. It involved the sale of a nine-year-old boy. I want to remind the House that slavery is deeply embedded in our history. Unfortunately, we do not talk about it very much, but it has always been with us. There are many people among us today who are descended from indigenous or Black slaves. This emancipation day is extremely important, and I am so proud to say, on behalf of myself, the people of Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie and the NDP, that I support this motion, which is essential to our future. If we do not remember our past, we run the risk of repeating the same mistakes. I therefore congratulate my colleague from Richmond Hill.

Diversity and InclusionPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Hull—Aylmer Québec


Greg Fergus LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Motion No. 36, which seeks to designate August 1 of each year as emancipation day in Canada. Motion No. 36 reminds us of August 1, 1834, the symbolic day when slavery was abolished in the British Empire.

However, that critical date in Canadian history also reminds us that slavery did in fact exist in Canada for over 200 years. We know that Black and indigenous people were enslaved, but unfortunately, we do not know their names or their stories. The first African slave was named Olivier Le Jeune. He was only six years old when he arrived in Quebec. Were there other children? What were their lives like? The celebration of emancipation day requires a knowledge of the past, and this aspect of the past in particular. Acquiring such knowledge is a collective task and a societal duty.

That is why the motion moved by the hon. member for Richmond Hill points out that it is important for our country to commemorate the past, remember sometimes painful events, such as slavery, and educate people by telling this story. Celebrating emancipation day in Canada is a step toward recognizing the positive contributions that people of African descent have made to Canadian history.

Historians report that on August 1, 1834, at the Port of Montreal, a group of staunch abolitionist Black Montrealers celebrated the implementation of the Slavery Abolition Act. One beautiful ritual that has emerged is that Black Canadians across the country have continued this celebration and have created their own traditions to commemorate this historic event. Our Black communities have adopted different customs for honouring the great passion of their ancestors who were forced into slavery.

Our history is a rich one, with its ups and downs, and I had the huge honour of learning about one important part of that history during a symbolic march on emancipation day last summer, organized as part of the campaign to reclaim and rebuild the Negro Community Centre in Montreal. This event started with a gathering at Place D'Youville, in honour of the Black Montrealers who met there to celebrate the abolition of slavery in 1834. Hundreds of us then marched through the streets of Montreal towards Parc Oscar-Peterson, a park dedicated to the famous pianist, that was the historic site of the old Negro Community Centre.

During the march, we had the honour of listening to members of the community, such as Quebec's first Black judge, the Hon. Juanita Westmoreland-Traoré, and the Hon. Marlene Jennings, the first Black MP elected to the House of Commons. The march represented the importance of our collective effort to remember and how meaningful and crucial it is to keep celebrating our communities and our contributions.

The 1834 law was a victory, but it did not mean the battle was won. For far too long, people of African descent did not enjoy the same rights as other British citizens of the colonies. Even in this day and age, the pandemic has exposed the magnitude of that gap, because Black communities across the country have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

If I may, I will borrow the words of Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard, who introduced Bill S-255, An Act proclaiming Emancipation Day, before the Senate in 2018. During the second reading of the bill in the Senate, she explained:

I propose for Emancipation Day to be federally recognized, as this acknowledgment is a necessary step toward healing the historical trauma endured by African Canadians. Our history has been repeatedly erased. Enslaved Africans were stripped of their names in an attempt to strip them of their identities.

Senator Bernard's point on healing greatly resonates with me. It acts as an important reminder that our communities have endured trauma spanning multiple generations, that the wounds from this historical harm require a proactive and collective healing approach and that while Emancipation Day marks a significant milestone in our history, we must remember that Black communities in Canada continue to face numerous challenges. Systemic racism experienced by Black communities continues to cause suffering; widens divisions and inequities; and contributes to a climate of fear, intolerance and stigma in Canada. Our commitment to respecting our differences, overcoming our prejudices and finding new and better ways to build a more united Canada are the foundations on which Canada must rest.

If there is something the past year has taught us, it is the urgency of “now”. We have seen unprecedented mobilization as part of the movement for Black lives from coast to coast to coast. Significantly, radical change is in order, because our constituents are expecting their demands to be implemented. The weight of change cannot be shouldered only by Black people. This work is deeply traumatic and, frankly, exhausting, and we need our non-Black allies to show up to do the work, especially when it is uncomfortable.

As chair of the Parliamentary Black Caucus, I have witness the extraordinary power that collective support brings when addressing anti-Black racism. We have made a lot of strides in the past six years, but there is still a lot more work that needs to be done, and I believe that it is with continued nonpartisan support in our fight against racism that we will be able to live up to the expectations set out by abolitionists in 1834.

Canada's Black communities have made important political, cultural and economic contributions to our country for over 400 years, which is more than 200 years before Canada even became a country. If diversity is our strength and defines us as Canadians as we celebrate emancipation day, let us pledge to commemorate our rich history and continue fighting for a better, more just future.

I thank all of my parliamentary colleagues for supporting Motion No. 36 to designate emancipation day.

Diversity and InclusionPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, this morning we are debating the entirely uncontroversial proposition that the House should recognize and celebrate the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire. That abolition happened by act of Parliament on August 1, 1834.

Throughout most of human history, and in most parts of the world, slavery in various forms was simply normal. It was a given that people would be owned, bought and sold. Today, perhaps we are inclined to view abolition as the inevitable discovery of some obvious truth, but in historical terms we can see that the abolition of slavery was neither obvious nor inevitable.

In the 19th century, the idea that slavery should be abolished was controversial. Today, it is not. For some of us, this is an occasion to double down on Hegelian ideas about the inevitability of progress and to congratulate ourselves on our superiority over our ancestors.

However, the abolition of slavery, especially in the British Empire, was not part of some inevitable or irresistible trend of history. It was rather the result of a particular intellectual political and theological movement that successfully persuaded both decision-makers and the public. If that movement had failed in its efforts to convince Parliament and the British people, then slavery would have continued, just as other forms of violence and oppression have continued.

The ideas that led to the abolition of slavery were also contingent on a prevailing morality. This prevailing morality has been anything but universal in human history and has been rejected at times by both primitive societies and extremely sophisticated societies.

Today, we celebrate emancipation, but often without properly acknowledging the precariousness of the moral substructure that led to emancipation, or how the moral arguments that were used in this case should have implications in other cases.

With this mind, it might be worth asking ourselves where we would be if emancipation had not happened. What if slavery were still a live question in our politics today, either in terms of a continuing domestic slave market or an international slave market, with Canadians who invest in foreign stocks being able to profit from them? What might the arguments in this place look like if that were in fact the case?

Some, I assume, would argue for the abolition of slavery on the grounds that it violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but sadly slavery has often co-existed with constitutional doctrines of human rights. After finding that all men were created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, the United States persisted in permitting slavery for almost 100 years. So, demonstrably, the existence of human rights doctrines does not guarantee the actual protection of human rights; it simply increases the chances that public debates will be denominated in terms of human rights.

In a hypothetical era of modern slavery co-existing with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, some would certainly use the charter to argue for the rights of enslaved persons, but others would argue that enslaved persons should not be considered persons under the Constitution or that rights doctrines should be interpreted in a way that does not interfere with the cultural rights of slave-holding jurisdictions, or that certain rights could be abridged for the sake of the national interest in accordance with section one, and politicians would appoint judges who shared their interpretation of the idea of human rights in this context and then defer to those same judges when decisions were made that they agreed with.

As de Tocqueville observed in Democracy in America, the manners of a people are substantially more important than their laws. Any critics of slavery would hear a certain amount of “what aboutism”. “How can you focus on this issue”, they would be asked, “when there are many other problems as well?” They would be criticized as hypocritical for opposing slavery, if they did not also advocate for the kinds of social programs and supports that would ensure a happy and comfortable life for people after they were free.

If slavery existed as a modern institution, its critics would likely face some forms of rhetorical cancellation. Their ideas would be called dangerous, and their descriptions of injustice called misinformation. Debates would be cancelled on the grounds that the issue had already been settled. Pseudoscientific arguments would be advanced to suggest that racism was grounded in empirical evidence. This has certainly happened in the past.

There would be economic arguments. Abolitionists would craftily make the case that abolishing slavery would be good for our economy, and perhaps build alliances with domestic labour groups who would see unpaid labour as a threat to the interests of their members. However, others would argue that the increase in production facilitated by slavery would create more cheap products for consumers. They would also say that some products would inevitably be produced by slave labour in an integrated global trading system. “Why abolish slavery here”, they would say, “when it would simply lead to an increase in slavery and slave production in other jurisdictions, hurting our economy and not actually doing anything to reduce the global aggregate amount of slavery?”

Some would argue that any restrictions on the importation of slave-made products would simply be an excuse for protectionism, which would violate the letter or at least the spirit of our WTO commitments, and that Canadian investors must be able to invest their money anywhere so as to maximize their return on investment, because any politicization of investment decisions would start us down a slippery slope and prevent the necessary diversification of investments that helps ensure the security of Canadians' retirement savings.

If we were speaking of slavery in an international context, would Canadian companies be willing to produce the implements and tools of human oppression for export, or would we intervene to prevent such export, even if doing so would cost us jobs, or might government decide to simply leave the question to individual conscience? Certainly if slavery were prevalent around the world today, we would hear the arguments of so-called foreign policy realists and international moral relativists. They would say that even if slavery runs contrary to Canadian values, we would have to engage with countries around the world to practice it and not seek to impose our ways on them.

Efforts to promote the abolition of slavery in other countries might be portrayed as a new form of colonialism. The pursuit of engagement would be used to justify turning a blind eye. Perhaps we would find it strategically necessary to align with slave-trading powers at moments where we were annoyed by the antics of other free nations. Who could doubt that if the Confederate States of America had successfully separated from the United States of America, we might find occasion to partner with the Confederate States of America in order to resist the thoughtless and boorish interventions by some administration or other of the United States that we did not like.

Parliamentary committees might hear from the Confederate States business council about how we should raise human rights issues in private, but not do anything that would damage its southern pride. Imagine if the Confederate States were hosting the Olympics, the 2024 Montgomery games. Would we use the occasion for taking a resolute moral stance or would we close our eyes and think of the athletes?

Grave injustices always look clear in the rear view mirror, especially when past victims or their descendants have the power to be heard, even in Parliament itself. Today Parliament will come together to celebrate the emancipation that took place in 1834. I doubt cabinet will abstain from this vote, but injustices that are before us instead of behind us never seem to be quite as simple or as clear, and too often the response of this place in those cases is simply the sound of silence.

There is slavery in our world today. Imagine half a million people forced to pick cotton under the hot sun. I am not talking about the antebellum south. I am talking about modern China, the world's most populous nation and second-largest economy, which is expanding its colonial footprint throughout the world with the help of Canadian investments, including our tax dollars in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and investments by the CPP Investment Board a couple of years ago in Chinese state-affiliated companies developing the technology for the administration of Uighur mass enslavement and genocide. Canada lags behind in its response to supply-chain slavery and we have a serious domestic problem of human trafficking, which has been widely ignored and the prevention of which has been badly underfunded in recent years.

I congratulate the member for Richmond Hill for bringing forward this motion, but I would challenge him to step up and do more to call for freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law for the people of Iran, rather than mischaracterizing their current repressive regime as democratic. Our world today is seething with injustice, present injustice and certainly complicated injustice. The solutions that we should pursue are not always obvious, but the stakes are no less high than they were 200 years ago.

In our present reality, I often find it frustrating to see that people are more willing to condemn injustice perpetuated by the weak than to condemn injustice perpetuated by the strong. It is much easier to condemn weak racists as part of a social pileup, a Girardian scapegoating ritual, rather than to be the first to stand up and condemn an injustice being committed by someone who is as yet still powerful.

Many of us will have grown up with the classic Disneyfication of good and evil. In old Disney films, good and evil characters are easy to identify right at the outset, but in real life, those committing or who are complicit in evil often think of themselves as doing good. This is something that Disney itself probably understands after producing Mulan. In real life, it is not so much that people start out good or evil and act in accordance with their nature; it is more that of people with the same natures and aspirations rendering themselves good or evil by their actions, which serve to degrade or elevate them.

I was reflecting on this point recently after reading the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. In one section, he discusses being purchased by a woman, whom he describes as a generally kind and gracious person. He is the first slave she has owned. He also describes her becoming meaner and crueler as she is degraded by the institution of slavery. Slavery's contemporary critics never failed to notice the powerful degrading impact that the institution had on slave owners, people who begin life just as we all do, but who degraded themselves through their participation in it and evil actions, which were justified and normalized by the societies in which they lived.

William Wilberforce and others, including many of the oppressed who were themselves protagonists to the drum of their own emancipation, fought for the abolition of slavery in defiance of the spirit of the times. They were told to put aside their faith, their moralizing and their impoliteness and to get with the social program, but they refused. It is because they stood in Parliament and did what was hard, instead of what was easy, that we now find it so easy to celebrate Emancipation Day.

Diversity and InclusionPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Madam Speaker, I am delighted to stand in the House for the second hour of debate on Motion No. 36.

I first introduced the motion about a year ago. Since then, we have experienced a global pandemic and a global protest for racial justice. We all watched as millions across the world marched peacefully to protest anti-Black racism and raise awareness of systemic discrimination and inequalities embedded in our institutions.

Witnessing these events and participating in the movement, I realize how imperative this motion is and how important it is for our government to take the necessary steps to address the systemic racism in our institutions and society.

The motion to have the House formally recognize August 1 as emancipation day would be a stepping stone in our effort toward building a more just and equitable society. Naturally, the next question we must ask ourselves is how we can move forward from here.

Through the three principles of acknowledgement, empowerment and engagement, we can progress forward and make a significant impact in the lives of Black Canadians. The acknowledgement principle is what we can accomplish with the motion. Recognizing the history of emancipation day includes recognizing the remnant of slavery and the multi-generational impact of slave trade.

Acknowledgement also includes formalizing Black history in our curriculum and through public awareness. With this motion, we could empower our schools and educators to develop lesson plans that highlight Black history in Canada.

From coast to coast to coast, Black Canadians have made and continue to make an immense contribution and it is vital we acknowledge them. This is an essential milestone for improving education awareness into issues of race and injustice.

The next step and principle on our path to justice is empowerment. By providing opportunities advocating for community and educating our society, we can empower equity-deserving communities. Empowerment includes eliminating obstacles that deter Black Canadians from stepping into their own power, seeing their own potential and contributing meaningfully to all aspects of society.

The third and last principle is engagement. This includes removing socio-economic barriers Black Canadians face, investing in education, funding innovation, creating affordable housing and providing safe child care spaces. We must also re-evaluate our criminal justice system. We must question the reasoning behind the high percentage of Black Canadians in our institutional system and why high recidivism rates exist. Only then can we create policies that address these issues.

As we strive to create an inclusive multicultural society, we cannot ignore this part of our past and its generational impact on our fellow Canadians. As Canadians, it is our collective responsibility to create a multicultural inclusive society informed by and sensitive to the experiences of different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds.

As a first generation immigrant, I immediately connected with the underlying tone of racism and injustice experienced by the Black community. Though I can never understand the struggle that a Black person faces in our world, I can empathize and I can be a fierce ally. As an elected official, I have a platform where I can help amplify the voices of Black Canadians.

After the events of the past summer, it is evident how important a systematic approach is, an approach that addresses all aspects of our society. As an advocate for mental health, I also see an opportunity to advocate for those who feel an intense burden dealing with systemic racism on a daily basis. Emancipation day is a celebration of survival, human rights, equality, culture and resilience. Recognizing it would not only acknowledge the harms caused by slavery but also pave a path toward justice.

Motion No. 36 is only the first step. By empowering the principles of acknowledgement, empowerment and engagement, we can move toward progress and through equity.

I want to thank Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard for bringing this initiative forward in the Senate as well as all community groups and advocates who have advised me, educated me and helped me promote this motion. This is a testament to their work, activism and persistence. I hope to join them all in an emancipation day celebration this summer.

Diversity and InclusionPrivate Members' Business



The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The question is on the motion. If a member of a recognized party present in the House wishes to request a recorded division or that the motion be adopted on division, I would invite them to rise and indicate it to the chair.

Diversity and InclusionPrivate Members' Business



Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, I request a recorded division.

Diversity and InclusionPrivate Members' Business



The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Pursuant to an order made on Monday, January 25, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, March 24, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.

Opposition Motion—Long-Term CareBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Jagmeet Singh NDP Burnaby South, BC


That, given that,

(i) during the first wave, 82% of COVID deaths in Canada happened in long-term care, the highest proportion in the OECD,

(ii) there have been over 12,000 long-term care resident and worker deaths in Canada since the beginning of the pandemic,

(iii) residents and workers in for-profit long-term care homes have a higher risk of infection and death than those in non-profit homes,

the House call upon the government to ensure that national standards for long-term care which are currently being developed fully remove profit from the sector, including by:

(a) immediately bringing Revera, a for-profit long-term care operator owned by a federal agency, under public ownership;

(b) transitioning all for-profit care to not-for-profit hands by 2030;

(c) working with provinces and territories to stop licensing any new for-profit care facilities, and making sure that measures are in place to keep all existing beds open during the transition; and

(d) investing an additional $5 billion over the next four years in long-term care, with funding tied to respect for the principles of the Canada Health Act, to boost the number of non-profit homes.

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Vancouver East.

As members know, this pandemic has gripped the entire world and everyone in the world has felt the impact of it. However, what I have referred to as a “national shame” is the fact that in our country it was our loved ones in long-term care, particularly seniors, who bore the brunt of this pandemic with their lives. This should never have happened.

Today, we are calling on the House to recognize this national shame and to do something about it.

What we have learned with incontrovertible evidence, an overwhelming amount of evidence, is that for-profit long-term care homes have had worse conditions of care, more rates of infection and more deadlier infection, which has meant that more people have lost their lives. I will be very clear: For-profit care means that more of our loved ones were killed. They did not get the care they deserved, because for those for-profit long-term care homes, profit was more important than people.

We know that 82% of COVID deaths in Canada happened in long-term care, which is a scathing statistic. This is the highest proportion in the entire OECD. We also know that this is not a new problem. The underfunding of long-term care homes has been chronic. The lack of care for our loved ones in long-term care has been chronic and long-lasting. COVID-19 simply exposed what was there for a long time.

The pandemic has shown us the effects of years of neglect and inaction on the part of past Liberal and Conservative governments. Our seniors in long-term care homes have been hit hardest by the pandemic. It is a national disgrace that our most vulnerable seniors, those in long-term care homes, are being hit the hardest. This is not only unacceptable, it is inexcusable. Our parents and grandparents built this country, and they deserve to retire with respect and dignity. There is clear evidence that conditions were worse in for-profit long-term care homes and more seniors died in those facilities.

What do we need to do? We need to immediately, with national and federal leadership, declare clearly that profit has no place in the care of our loved ones, that profit has no place in health care at all, but certainly not in the care of vulnerable loved ones in long-term care.

I will provide some of the clear and compelling reasons why we need to do this. For every dollar we spend on long-term care, if we spend that dollar on for-profit long-term care, not every dollar will make it to the care of our loved ones. Some of that dollar ends up in the pockets of shareholders, for profit. It ends up in the pay for executives. Not all of it will make it to caring for our loved ones.

We have some clear examples in two for-profit operators in Ontario, Extendicare and Sienna Senior Living. During this pandemic, during the worst outbreaks that our country has seen when it comes to long-term care homes, when our seniors were being ravaged by COVID-19, when workers did not have access to the necessary PPE and seniors were worried for their lives, instead of investing in caring for our loved ones, these two for-profit long-term care home operators paid out $74 million in dividends. Imagine that. In the worst outbreak in the history of our country when it comes to long-term care, gripped with a global pandemic these two for-profit operators, who had horrible conditions in their homes, paid out $74 million in dividends instead of investing in workers and in care. At the same time, they paid out $98.3 million to shareholders and received the Canada wage subsidy. They took public money with one hand and with the other hand paid, they out dividends.

No one should make a profit from neglecting our seniors.

We have also seen some terrible numbers out of Quebec. Nearly 5,000 seniors have died in almost 300 residential and long-term care facilities in Quebec. A recent media report revealed that the death rate is higher in the non-unionized private sector than in public and private institutions with collective agreements in place. This must never happen again. We need to immediately do away with the profiteering in long-term care homes, full stop.

We need to take profit out of long-term care homes immediately. We also immediately need to fix the long-standing problems that the Liberals and Conservatives have contributed to. We need to invest more in our health care and we need to act specifically to fix this problem.

There are a couple of key steps. First, Revera is owned by a federal agency. We need to immediately make it public. We must work with provinces and territories to ensure that Revera is delivering care in a public model and make it public immediately. We also need to transition all of our for-profit long-term care homes to not-for-profit and public homes by 2030. That is our plan.

We need to work with provinces and territories to stop licensing any new for-profit care facilities, and make sure that measures are in place to keep all the existing beds and spaces. We need to invest an additional $5 billion over the next four years in long-term care, with funding tied to respecting the same principles that are already agreed upon by all provinces and territories and are enshrined in the Canada Health Act. Those same principles helped us achieve what Canadians now are most proud of: universal health care. We can use those same principles to lift up our vulnerable seniors in long-term care homes.

We cannot go back to a health care system where making money and profit was more important than the care of our vulnerable seniors. We cannot go back to a time when, if a pandemic or an outbreak happened, our loved ones in long-term care would bear the brunt of it. We cannot go back to that.

Now is the time. This is when we can tell the people in this country that we are committed to moving forward in a way that honours the lives lost, by committing to never having it happen again. It is not enough to hear people in the House of Commons pay tribute to the lives lost. It is not enough for people to have moments of silence. It is not enough to talk about being sorry or to wring our hands. Here is the moment to do something about it. The evidence is overwhelming: We need to get profit out of long-term care homes. We need to protect our seniors and our loved ones, and we need to do it now.

I implore everyone in the House to support this motion, so that we can take a clear and bold step forward to protect our loved ones in long-term care homes. I do not want to hear excuses. We can work with the jurisdictions. We can work with the provinces and territories. People are not looking to hear excuses. They are looking for solutions. Here is a solution. The time for leadership is now. Let us see what leadership is.

Opposition Motion—Long-Term CareBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


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

Madam Speaker, my question to the leader is in regard to the importance of recognizing that the provinces provide the administration and support for care home facilities.

Has the leader or his health critic had any discussions with any province about this motion? If so, can he give an indication of which provinces are supportive of this motion, given that the provinces would, in part, be footing the bill for many measures that might be indirectly or directly implied through this particular motion.

Has he got the support of any provinces?

Opposition Motion—Long-Term CareBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Jagmeet Singh NDP Burnaby South, BC

Madam Speaker, if we took the approach suggested by the hon. member, we would never have had universal health care. It is a fact that many provinces were opposed to universal health care. That did not stop Tommy Douglas and the leadership of the New Democrats from saying that they knew people wanted this, people needed this and people were crying out for this. Just because a province does not agree does not mean that we stop and give up. It means we have to continue to push forward. What we saw when we established our universal health care system was that provinces started signing on voluntarily and eventually all of the provinces joined in. They did not all join in right away. They did not all agree right away.

What we are saying now is that we have the same opportunity to provide leadership and convince the provinces that this is the right way forward to lift up our seniors and our loved ones in long-term care homes.

Opposition Motion—Long-Term CareBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Rosemarie Falk Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, I agree that long-term care homes have been the centre of the COVID-19 pandemic, but I missed a few things from his speech. I know that a workforce crisis, insufficient resources, limited access to care and aging infrastructure have all been identified as contributing factors to the outbreaks and fatalities in some long-term care facilities.

Does the leader of the New Democrats agree that the systemic problems in long-term care require a collaborative approach and a comprehensive solution?

Opposition Motion—Long-Term CareBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Jagmeet Singh NDP Burnaby South, BC

Madam Speaker, it is going to take collaboration and it is going to take a comprehensive approach. One of the clear findings, in addition to the fact that for-profit homes were the worst, was that the conditions of work and the conditions of workers were directly tied to the conditions of care. We need to make sure workers are paid good salaries, make sure they have enough hours, and make sure there are enough staff members to provide the care necessary.

Let us be very clear: With for-profit care, all of those essential care elements are cut. Hours and pay are cut just to make a profit. We need to work together. The solution has to be comprehensive, but let us not ignore that profit is at the heart of many of the problems. We need to lift up the conditions of workers, which will directly lift up the conditions of the long-term care residents.

Opposition Motion—Long-Term CareBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

There is time for a brief question.

The hon. member for Thérèse-De Blainville.

Opposition Motion—Long-Term CareBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Louise Chabot Bloc Thérèse-De Blainville, QC

Madam Speaker, I have a simple question for my colleague.

Why introduce a motion that sets standards to be imposed on the provinces when, for several months now, the provinces and territories have made a common request, which we support, to increase health transfers to 35%? As hon. members know, we are talking about passing legislation on health, but transfers to the provinces have gone down from day one. They currently sit at just 22%. The provinces have been clear: They do not want national standards. In every—

Opposition Motion—Long-Term CareBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I am sorry to interrupt the member, but I did ask her for a brief question. There are just 15 seconds remaining out of one minute and 20 seconds of speaking time.

The hon. member for Burnaby South.

Opposition Motion—Long-Term CareBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Jagmeet Singh NDP Burnaby South, BC

Madam Speaker, we agree that health transfers to the provinces need to be increased.

I have talked to people in Quebec and in Canada. They are angry because they have seen the impact that COVID-19 has had on seniors in our long-term care facilities. We must improve conditions in long-term care facilities specifically by removing profit from the sector. It is clear that is what we need to do. There is a report on Quebec only. La Presse showed that it is essential that we do this.

We are here to stand up for the interests of everyday Canadians.

Opposition Motion—Long-Term CareBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

March 22nd, 2021 / 12:20 p.m.


Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to second this motion and rise to speak in support of it.

As we heard from the leader of the NDP, the motion basically calls for the federal government to act now to take profit out of long-term care, put people before profit and say that we, as a society, value the lives of seniors more than money.

Seniors in long-term care facilities have been especially hard hit by the pandemic. In the first wave of the pandemic, more than 80% of all COVID-19 deaths in the country were reported in long-term care facilities and retirement homes. That means one in five of the total COVID cases in Canada was among long-term care residents.

Of course, COVID-19 also affected the workers in those facilities. In Canada, more than 9,600 staff in long-term care facilities were infected with COVID-19, representing more than 10% of the total cases.

The pandemic has exposed severe cracks in our system, and some of the elderly and most vulnerable people paid the ultimate price for that. Across the country, more than a quarter of Canada's long-term care homes are for-profit. We have learned that for-profit care homes were more likely to see extensive COVID-19 outbreaks, and more deaths, than non-profit facilities.

Things got so bad in Ontario that the military and the Red Cross had to be called in to help care for seniors. How did things get so bad? In the for-profit care homes, care aides and personal support workers are underpaid and are often part-time or casual workers, which means they often have to work at multiple job sites to make ends meet. This can be deadly in the face of a pandemic, when social distancing is an essential health measure. To be clear, the reason they are underpaid is so the company can have a larger profit margin. They are part-time or casual workers, which also means they are not paid benefits or sick leave. In addition, long-term care homes often subcontract out services such as laundry, cleaning and cooking, and it is also very likely that subcontracted staff do not have paid sick leave. Without paid sick leave, workers may be compelled to go to work even if they are feeling ill.

All of these conditions contributed to an increased risk of transmission. The outcome was devastating for far too many seniors and their families, as well as the workers. The horror stories we hear in the media of the conditions the seniors were in take one's breath away. It is not supposed to be that way. The seniors in our communities helped build this country. Their retirement years are supposed to be their golden years. They deserve to live in comfort, with dignity and safety, as do people with disabilities. However, because of decades of cuts, underfunding and privatization, our continuing care system is broken.

The bottom line is that Canada has failed to protect long-term care residents and workers throughout this pandemic. We have to ask ourselves how it is possible that seniors in some care homes were abandoned in their beds for weeks on end. Some cried for help for hours before assistance was provided. Some had to be bathed as they had not been bathed for weeks. Can members imagine if those were their mothers or grandmothers? Such horrific stories are not just stories. They are the real experiences of loved ones.

Report after report revealed what we should know instinctively: that profit should never be the bottom line when it comes to continuing care. The evidence is overwhelming. It is undeniable that for-profit homes have seen worse results than other homes, with deadlier COVID outbreaks. However, at the same time, for-profit operators were getting public subsidies and paying out millions in dividends to shareholders while workers were underpaid, with some making minimum wage. Things were so desperate for some of them they had to resort to living in shelters. In fact, there was an outbreak in an Ottawa homeless shelter under exactly such a circumstance. It helps no one if essential front-line health care workers are pushed into homelessness. The colossal failure of the system is Canada's national shame.

Even outside of the pandemic situation, research has shown that homes run on a for-profit basis tend to have lower staffing levels, more verified complaints and more transfers to hospitals, as well as residents with higher rates of both ulcers and morbidity. We as parliamentarians have the power to do something about this. We must act now to prevent a repeat of this in the future. We must transition the for-profit model in long-term care to a non-profit model.

The NDP members want to see an end to for-profit long-term care by 2030. That is why we are calling for a national task force to devise a plan to get the job done. We must also set national standards. Let us work collaboratively with provincial, territorial leaders, experts and workers alike to set national standards for long-term care and continuing care that would include accountability mechanisms. Without national standards, the federal government is leaving the door wide open for the for-profit companies to cut corners and put profit first at the expense our loved ones. That cannot be allowed to continue.

Those standards should be tied to $5 billion in federal funding and the principles in Canada's Health Care Act. We can put in place a seniors care guarantee. Seniors deserve to know that they will have safe, dignified care both at home and in care homes available to them as they age. Families deserve to know that their loved ones will have the care they deserve, with inspections and appropriate levels of care and staffing ratios.

Workers deserve to know that their wages will reflect the value of their work and allow them to live in dignity without having to work multiple jobs or end up in a shelter because they cannot afford housing. They deserve to know that the government has their back and that they will have access to protective equipment and safe working conditions.

The federal government can show leadership by transforming Revera from a for-profit long-term care chain owned by a crown pension fund into a publicly managed entity. Public ownership of long-term care facilities would allow workers to work full-time at one home at competitive union rates, which would address understaffing and prevent the transmission of illness. The benchmark for quality long-term care is 4.1 hours of hands-on care per resident per day. However, no province or territory currently meets this standard of care.

Long-term care homes are chronically understaffed across Canada. Nurses and personal support workers at these facilities are often paid low wages, saddled with overwhelming workloads and are subjected to high levels of stress, burnout and even violence. Precarious and part-time employment often forces these health care workers to move between facilities to earn a living.

Waitlists for long-term care can have lengthy backlogs because the care facilities are not keeping pace with Canada’s aging population. This shortage leads to overcrowding at long-term care facilities and overuse of the hospital system by those without access to appropriate care.

There is a lack of accountability for long-term care facility operators due to lax enforcement of standards and regulations. For example, a recent CBC investigation revealed that 85% of long-term care homes in Ontario have routinely violated health care standards for decades with near total impunity.

We have the power within us to end this for this generation and beyond. Seniors deserve better. Families deserve better. Workers deserve better. Let us never forget these words from Canada's Chief Public Health Officer:

I think the tragedy and the massive lesson learned for everyone in Canada is that we were at every level, not able to protect our seniors, particularly those in long-term care homes. Even worse is that in that second wave, as we warned of the resurgence, there was a repeat of the huge impact on that population.

For those who want to say that we cannot do it because of jurisdictional issues, I will quote Marcy Cohen, research associate for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, who said that “The setting of clear standards in health care as a condition of federal funding is not an attack on provincial jurisdiction—it is the only path”—

Opposition Motion—Long-Term CareBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Unfortunately, the member's time is up. I have been trying to give a signal, but I am sure she will have lots of time during the five-minute questions and comments to add to her remarks.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands.

Opposition Motion—Long-Term CareBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, I just want to ask the seconder of the motion the same question that the parliamentary secretary did of the mover, and that is with respect to any possible consultation that has gone on with the provinces. The mover, the leader of the NDP, responded to that question by basically just saying that it is not as though we cannot do this without the provinces and that they could come on board later, but that is not the question that he was asked. He was asked whether any consultation had occurred, not how provinces feel about it.

We are just trying to figure out if any consultation occurred on this. Can the seconder confirm whether any of the provinces have been consulted on the motion?

Opposition Motion—Long-Term CareBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, I know the government often says that we cannot move forward on anything unless the provinces and territories are also in agreement. Of course, if we actually lived with that kind of suggestion, we would never have had universal medicare.

I will just finish the quote by March Cohen, because it goes to the heart of the issue:

The setting of clear standards in health care as a condition of federal funding is not an attack on provincial jurisdiction—it is the only path forward to a universal public system of long-term and continuing care, the same path Canada took to universal hospital and physician care. Seniors and people with disabilities deserve nothing less.

This motion calls on us to do exactly that work to engage with provincial and territorial leaders, experts in the system, and health care workers to come up with those standards to put in place protection for seniors, so that what we saw happen in the pandemic, with the loss of lives, will never happen again.