House of Commons Hansard #93 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was targets.

Topics

National DefenceOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, the cover-up of the cover-up of sexual misconduct allegations against the former chief of the defence staff by the government is getting uglier and uglier by the day.

The Prime Minister said that he did not know, but changes his story often. Just hours ago, the Liberal chair, for no reason, cancelled the committee meeting shedding light on this very issue. The Liberals are clearly trying to run and hide.

Last week in the House, the Prime Minister was asked nine times that if he had known the allegations were sexual in nature, would he have dismissed General Vance. The Prime Minister would not answer. Why is that?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Vancouver South B.C.

Liberal

Harjit S. Sajjan LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I have always respected the work done by my colleagues at the committee. For this study, I have appeared at the committee for six hours along with senior defence officials. The committee has already heard from Ray Novak, who laid out the process that was followed when rumours were brought forward in 2015.

In fact, many questions remain unanswered from the leader of the official opposition on what he knew in 2015 when he brought forward those rumours, yet still appointed General Vance while he was under active investigation by the CFNIS.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, when the Conservatives heard rumours, we acted. When the Liberals saw evidence, they ran and hid.

It would appear the Prime Minister knew in 2018 that he was facing much more serious evidence of inappropriate sexual harassment, which begs the valid question about the Prime Minister's own state of mind at that time. If the Prime Minister had held General Vance to a standard of zero tolerance for #MeToo allegations, he would have to have held himself to the same standard. He was not prepared to do that and so he looked the other way.

Is it not true that the Prime Minister decided to sacrifice women who were being sexually victimized in the military in order to protect himself?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Vancouver South B.C.

Liberal

Harjit S. Sajjan LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, we will always take strong actions when it comes to protecting women in the Canadian Armed Forces, but last week we learned some very troubling news. Former Prime Minister Harper appointed General Vance in July 2015 even though he was under active investigation by the CFNIS. Just days after the Conservatives appointed him, the investigation was suddenly dropped. According to an ATIP, the commanding officer said that he was under pressure. By who?

The Leader of the Opposition says that he passed along sexual misconduct allegations by General Vance in July of 2015, claiming that they were being looked into. How is it possible General Vance was appointed at that time even though there was an investigation currently going on?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, here is what we know happened since 2018 when the Prime Minister's Office knew about these allegations. The Prime Minister publicly praised General Vance for his leadership of Operation Honour. He signed off on making him the longest-serving chief of the defence staff. He even signed off on a $50,000 raise, all the while apparently his chief of staff knew there was sexual misconduct allegations against the general.

Are we to believe that Katie Telford kept the Prime Minister in the dark about sexual misconduct allegations while she watched him reward, praise and even promote General Vance?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Vancouver South B.C.

Liberal

Harjit S. Sajjan LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, as I said at committee, no, I did not know the nature of the specific details. I repeat that Mr. Walbourne brought up concerns of misconduct involving the former chief of the defence staff. He did not give me any details.

However, who did have the details? The leader of the official opposition knew of rumours in 2015 regarding General Vance that he felt were serious enough for the prime minister's chief of staff to know about. Perhaps we should learn what details the Leader of the Opposition knew at that time.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, in the sorry saga of General Vance and sexual harassment of women in uniform, the Liberals are continuing their cover-up in an absolutely repugnant way.

The Standing Committee on National Defence was to meet this morning to discuss the case. What did the Liberal government do, through its Liberal committee chair? It cancelled the meeting. That is completely unacceptable.

Why are the Liberals continuing their cover-up in this sad saga of sexual harassment of women in the armed forces?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Karen McCrimmon Liberal Kanata—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I respect the work of all my colleagues on all committees, and I take my responsibilities as chair of the national defence committee very seriously. I have worked hard to serve the members of the committee in an unbiased way. This should be about improving the lives of the women and men of CAF. It should be about respecting and supporting survivors and those impacted by this abominable behaviour. It should be about preventing more abuse and trauma. The committee is developing recommendations for the government to this end, and the committee will be meeting later this week.

National DefenceOral Questions

May 3rd, 2021 / 2:20 p.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am not quite sure that the best way to go deep into the reality is to shut down the committee, as the hon. member did this morning.

If the member is willing to answer questions, could she explain to us why the chief of staff received an email on March 2, 2018, that specifically used the words sexual harassment, even though the Prime Minister continues to claim that, for three years, no one in his cabinet was aware that the allegation was about sexual harassment?

Who does the chair of the Standing Committee on National Defence think is telling the truth?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Vancouver South B.C.

Liberal

Harjit S. Sajjan LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, as I said at committee, I did not know the nature of the specifics of the details. However, and I want to repeat, Mr. Walbourne brought up concerns of misconduct involving the former chief of defence staff. He did not give any details, but we know who had the details. The leader of the official opposition knew of rumours back in 2015 regarding General Vance that he felt were serious enough that they had to inform the prime minister's chief of staff. Perhaps we should learn more about these details from the leader of the official opposition.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Alain Therrien Bloc La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the culture of silence in the military is alarming.

Yesterday, former ombudsman Gary Walbourne again reiterated that he made it clear to the Minister of National Defence that he had received a complaint of “inappropriate sexual behaviour” against the former chief of the defence staff. He reiterated that the minister refused to review the complaint. The minister said that the nature of the complaint did not matter, and he just said he did not know what it was. I am not making this up.

Does the minister, himself a former member of the military, realize that he contributed to that culture of silence?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Vancouver South B.C.

Liberal

Harjit S. Sajjan LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, we are absolutely committed to rooting out any type of misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces.

As I stated before, and at committee, I did not know the nature of the specifics of the case that Mr. Walbourne brought up concerning misconduct involving the former chief of defence staff. Immediately, we took action, and that action was followed up the following day by PCO officials to contact Mr. Walbourne so further action could be taken.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Alain Therrien Bloc La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, there are none so deaf as those who will not hear.

The minister has appointed Louise Arbour to tackle the culture of silence that he himself embodies. He deliberately turned a blind eye to the subject of the sexual misconduct complaint against the former chief of the defence staff. The allegations were presented to him, but he refused to look at them.

How does he think Ms. Arbour will judge those who acted as he did, who upheld that culture of silence in cabinet?

Does he really think Ms. Arbour will see him as part of the solution?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Vancouver South B.C.

Liberal

Harjit S. Sajjan LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I want to be very clear that I disagree with the assertion the member is making. Any misconduct is taken extremely serious, and that is exactly what we did: take immediate action. However, no politician should ever be involved in any type of investigation for any type of interference. That information was followed up immediately and the very next day, the Privy Council followed up. Any allegation that was ever brought to my attention was immediately and always acted upon.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, the issue of sexual misconduct and the Canadian Forces is fundamentally about equality. While there is a culture that tolerates sexual misconduct, women cannot serve equally.

In the House, the Liberals and the Conservatives are arguing about who failed the most on this file. Servicewomen, all women, deserve better. This requires action. With the utmost respect to Justice Arbour, servicewomen do not need another report.

Why have the minister and the Prime Minister ignored the survivors in favour of protecting General Vance?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Vancouver South B.C.

Liberal

Harjit S. Sajjan LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Armed Forces members make enormous sacrifices to protect Canadians, regardless of rank or gender, and have an undeniable right to serve with safety.

It is clear that we have not lived up to our responsibility to protect our members from misconduct, and we will do better. That is why we have announced that Madame Louise Arbour will lead an independent, external, comprehensive review into harassment and sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces and DND. We have also name Lieutenant-General Jennie Carignan as the chief, Professional Conduct and Culture.

These are just the first few steps that we are taking. We have more work to do, and we will get it done.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Lindsay Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, last week, the Liberals offered up their solution to the toxic sexual culture against women in the armed forces,: another report. Maybe they forgot that we already have a report. Actually, we have several, but the Deschamps report has been collecting dust for six years, while women continue to experience unfair treatment while doing their best to serve our country.

Women in Canada's Armed Forces deserve a government that will protect them, not one that is only willing to protect its own image. Will the Prime Minister commit to finally implementing the recommendations in the Deschamps report, like the Liberals promised years ago?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Vancouver South B.C.

Liberal

Harjit S. Sajjan LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, we are absolutely committed to making sure that we have an inclusive environment for all, especially women, in the Canadian Armed Forces. We have absolutely no tolerance for misconduct.

Institutional culture changes are complex, but the time for patience is over. It is time to get this done. That is why I have announced that we are also creating a new internal organization, which will be led by Lieutenant-General Jennie Carignan as chief of professional conduct and culture. She will be tasked with unifying, integrating and coordinating all policies, programs and activities that currently address systemic misconduct and supporting culture change across all of national defence and the Canadian Armed Forces.

Canadian HeritageOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals recently changed their own legislation, Bill C-10.

They removed the one section that safeguarded individuals from online government censorship. Why?

Canadian HeritageOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Laurier—Sainte-Marie Québec

Liberal

Steven Guilbeault LiberalMinister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I would like to quote the Conservative member for Saskatoon—Grasswood. On November 19, he said, “The legislation does nothing to address social media companies, such as Facebook and Google, and their various properties, such as YouTube, to pay its fair share.”

On March 26, in committee, he even added, “To the Professional Music Publishers' Association, you're right on about YouTube. It is not regulated in Bill C-10, and everybody is using YouTube. We are going to have an issue. As you pointed out, correctly, this should be regulated and it's not.”

I agree with the Conservative member for Saskatoon—Grasswood. I am only saddened by the fact that his own party does not.

Canadian HeritageOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is sad that the minister still does not have an answer to this question. It has been asked for days now, and still, he continues to point to big organizations, such as Google and Facebook, rather than talking about the protection of individual rights and freedoms, which is the question at hand.

Bills like Bill C-10 are put through a sniff test, which means that the justice department goes through them and decides whether or not they adhere to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

At committee last week, I put forward a motion asking that there be another review done to this bill because it has substantially undergone change. Experts have stated that we need a new evaluation from the justice minister to determine if Bill C-10 respects the charter.

Does the minister agree?

Canadian HeritageOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Laurier—Sainte-Marie Québec

Liberal

Steven Guilbeault LiberalMinister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I find it incredibly hypocritical that the member for Lethbridge, who, given the opportunity, would not hesitate one minute to remove a woman's right to choose, a right protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, would like us, and Canadians, to believe that all of a sudden she cares deeply about said charter.

I have rarely seen such hypocrisy before in my life.

Canadian HeritageOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Canadian HeritageOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Order, order. We have a point of order, which are not usually carried during question period unless it is for a technical issue. Perhaps the hon. member would like to bring it up afterward? I have a good feeling of where the hon. member wants to go with this.

The proceedings, in order to continue, take a certain amount of respect amongst individuals. When someone speaks with a microphone—

Canadian HeritageOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.