House of Commons Hansard #126 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was money.


International Human Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


Luc Desilets Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to such important subjects as human rights and the track record of this government, this country, in that regard.

Bill C‑281 is a private member's bill that was introduced by the Conservative member for Northumberland—Peterborough South. It is currently at second reading stage. Its long title, which is a bit complex, is an act to amend the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Act, the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, or Sergei Magnitsky law, the Broadcasting Act and the Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act. Given its title, we see that Bill C‑281 addresses some very distinct issues and makes significant amendments to a number of bills.

I want to begin by saying that the Bloc Québécois will support this bill, which we definitely think is important, particularly when it comes to human rights.

Bill C‑281 aims to increase the federal government's transparency and accountability when it comes to human rights. It does this in several ways. First, it proposes to “impose certain reporting requirements on the Minister of Foreign Affairs in relation to international human rights.” Second, it “amends the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act”, also know as the Sergei Magnitsky law. Third, it would “prohibit the issue, amendment or renewal of a licence in relation to a broadcasting undertaking” that is influenced by an entity that has committed crimes against humanity, such as genocide. Fourth, it “amends the Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act to prohibit a person from investing in an entity that has contravened certain provisions of the Act”.

Given the scope of the bill, I would like to focus my speech on the second area, namely, amending the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, which is known as the Magnitsky law.

The story behind this act is particularly tragic and interesting. Sergei Magnitsky was a Moscow lawyer and he revealed the largest tax fraud in Russian history. This was a fraud that allegedly benefited President Putin personally. The whistle-blower was imprisoned and tortured for nearly a year and he died as a result of this abuse on November 16, 2009. No credible investigation has been conducted by Russian authorities into Sergei Magnitsky's detention, torture and death, and the individuals responsible have never been brought to justice.

In what can only be described as a ludicrous twist, the Russian state held a posthumous trial in which Magnitsky was found guilty of the fraud that he had himself exposed to the entire world.

In subsequent years, the United States, the European Parliament, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Italy and Poland all passed laws and motions condemning the poor treatment suffered by the Russian whistle-blower. In 2017, Canada followed suit by enacting its own Magnitsky law. This law essentially provides for restrictive measures against foreigners who are responsible for serious violations of internationally recognized human rights.

One relevant amendment that Bill C‑281 makes to the Magnitsky law is that it would “require the Minister of Foreign Affairs to respond within 40 days”, or within any other time limit set by committee, “to a report submitted by a parliamentary committee that recommends that sanctions be imposed under that Act against a foreign national.” The minister's reply should be made public. It should also respond to the committee's recommendations and indicate whether an order or regulation will be made and explain the reasons for the decision. In short, Bill C‑281 proposes to increase the government's transparency and accountability regarding its decisions whenever invoking the Magnitsky law.

For example, let us imagine learning the identities of the Iranian officials directly involved in the arrest, torture and murder of young Mahsa Amini. Let us imagine learning that some of those officials, those executioners, have assets in Canada such as land holdings, assets, bank accounts and so on. This law would allow a parliamentary committee to recommend freezing the assets of these individuals and to ask that the government respond to that recommendation within, say, two weeks.

This bill would require that the Minister of Foreign Affairs provide a full and public response to the recommendation within a given time frame. In this case involving Iran, I have no doubt that it would take the necessary enforcement actions. After all, the elected members of this House have on more than one occasion expressed their support for the case of Mahsa Amini and condemned the Iranian regime for that crime. I think the results of the bill would be obvious.

However, there are instances where we know very well that government may not want to take a stand on a human rights issue. We can also imagine that it may not want to make a decision public on an issue involving the Magnitsky law.

I am thinking in particular of anything related to China and Saudi Arabia. With China, it could be out of fear or weakness. With Saudi Arabia, it could be in the interest of preserving an alliance with Canadian arms dealers. We know that those two countries are rogue states with respect to human rights. They would be deserving of Canadian sanctions targeting their nationals involved in serious human rights violations. One need only think of the current genocide of the Uighur minority in Xinjiang; of the terrible fate of Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia, or journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was brutally murdered in 2018, likely under the order of the Crown Prince; of the succession of abuses committed by the terror regime of Vladimir Putin against his opponents or simply his critics.

In my view, Bill C‑281 is relevant, as it gives Parliament more power through its committees. Basically, in my opinion, this bill would strengthen our democracy. It could potentially even improve Canada's record in defending human rights. I say “potentially” because it would force the government to take a position, at the risk of revealing its priorities, for example, with respect to Canada's policies concerning China and Saudi Arabia.

I would like to conclude my remarks by declaring my solidarity with the Iranian people, especially Iranian women, who, for 43 years, have been suffering unjustly from fanatical abuse inflicted by a handful of ultra-religious zealots.

I am hopeful that Bill C‑281 will do more, but if it can help punish even one Iranian leader involved in the murder of Mahsa Amini or any other Iranian woman, this bill will have gone a long way. In my humble opinion, this bill is truly necessary and deserves to move forward.

International Human Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Heather McPherson NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I welcome everyone back to the House after a week in our constituencies. I ask everybody to give me a brief moment this morning to wish my father a happy 80th birthday. It is his 80th birthday today. Duke McPherson, my dad, who is Frederick Clark III but is in fact called Duke, is a bit of character. We were never quite sure who was the parent and who was the child, but we always had his unrelenting love, so I wanted to take a moment to wish him a happy birthday this morning.

Today we are talking about a piece of legislation brought forward by the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South. It is a very good piece of legislation. I have long suspected the member of being an NDP at heart, because he does recognize the important value of human rights. This piece of legislation is something that all of us in the House can agree closes some of the gaps in the human rights legislation in this country. It closes some of the holes present in our human rights legislation.

Human rights, for me, is an extraordinarily important part of what we do. Canada has an obligation to be a leader in human rights. Canada has shown itself in the past to be a leader, and there are so many more things we need to do as parliamentarians, as a Parliament, as a government and as people representing our constituents to ensure human rights are protected in Canada, because many human rights are not being protected here. We also need to ensure that human rights around the world are being protected. This stems from the fact that for many, many years, Canadians have expressed concerns about Canada's human rights and the approach that our governments have had with regard to human rights, and not just the current government but previous governments as well.

We know we must do better. We know that no person should profit off the use of cluster munitions. We know foreign nationals involved in genocide or human rights abuses should not be able to broadcast in Canada. We know the Government of Canada must be more transparent with its sanctions regime, as well as the work it is taking on to defend prisoners of conscience.

While this is a very good bill that would close some gaps, there are some things it would not do. There would still be loopholes in Canada's cluster munitions legislation. We will still need a fulsome review and fix of Canada's sanctions regime, in particular the enforcement of sanctions.

Many times in the House I have stood and asked questions of the government about the sanctions regime, particularly with regard to how it is being implemented against Russian oligarchs. It is very difficult to get information on how much has been seized and how effectively our sanctions regime has been enforced. This is something that I have used Order Paper questions for as well. In fact, I was told the government could not give me the answer for the sanctions questions I had because it was not sure it would have the right answer. It was therefore not able to give an answer at all.

Of course, there are more things we need to do. We need to make sure that Canada's approach to human rights is consistent. We have seen time and time again that our human rights approach has been inconsistent in this country. There are times when Canada has been very strong and has been a human rights leader, but there are notable blind spots.

One of those blind spots is Saudi Arabia. We continuously fail to stop the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia despite the fact that we know they are being used against civilians. We know they are being used brutally.

We fail to recognize that there is a disproportionate war happening in Palestine and Israel. International law is being broken at this moment, which is having implications for civilians.

We have not done enough to deal with the ongoing genocide happening against the Uighur people in China. The government worked very hard, and we are very grateful that we were able to get the two Michaels returned to Canada. However, there are other Canadians who are still being held in China, and we have not seen the same level of focus on them. Huseyin Celil has not seen his family in over 16 years. He is a Canadian citizen who has not seen his children in 16 years. This is a human rights atrocity that we should also be standing up for.

A personal issue that I have taken up with my Bill C-263 is with regard to our Canadian mining and extractive industries around the world and how we do not apply the same human rights lens to mining companies around the world like we do to other industries in other places. Ensuring that people in Latin America, in South Asia and in Africa are protected from the environmental and human rights abuses caused by Canadian mining companies is very important.

My colleague, the member for New Westminster—Burnaby, has brought forward some forced labour legislation that is extremely strong. I certainly hope the government looks at the legislation that the member has prepared, which he has worked with the sector to prepare, as it looks at developing its own forced labour legislation going forward.

These are some of those gaps we see in Canada's human rights response and it is vital that we close them.

With regard to this bill, the idea of requiring the minister to publish an annual report that would outline the measures the minister has taken to advance human rights internationally as part of Canada's foreign policies is an excellent idea. We probably should already have that. It is an important step that will shed light on the government's priorities and give us more information about what we need to do to push them harder to do the right thing.

However, I do have a couple of concerns. One is that Canada needs an international human rights action strategy. If we had that, then there would be something clear and concrete against which we would measure this proposed report. We want to see the government produce an action plan that will then lead to an annual report on what it will do and whether it has done it. We need that response mechanism so we can keep that in place.

In addition, the bill would require that the government produce a list of prisoners of conscience, for whose release the Government of Canada is actively working toward. This is an excellent step and I am very thankful the member has brought it forward. It does give us some transparency and some accountability. However, there is no international legal definition of a prisoner of conscience and this could mean that some folks deserving of our attention would not be included on this list. For example, could we use a term such as “prisoners detained in contravention of human rights legal standards or legislation standards?”

Even just recently, for example, the family, a Canadian family, of Dong Guangping has no idea where he is. He went missing in Vietnam. We do not know where this gentleman is. Canada can do more to work on that, helping people like him find their way to Canada.

Moreover, we do have a concern that the public list of this kind may not provide the needed nuance or subtlety that Canada needs to employ in delicate cases. Should a name not be on the list, does that mean Canada is not working for that person? We would propose a meaningful plan of action and a set of guidelines for prisoners that would ensure greater consistency and transparency and accountability to families in civil society.

We need something more useful than the list. An actual change of behaviour from the Canadian government is something that we certainly would be proposing.

Giving the parliamentary committees the right to recommend Magnitsky sanctions is an excellent proposal. It is something we should already have done. We need to be using the Magnitsky sanctions more. We need to ensure that we are specifically targeting those individuals who are causing these crimes. The Magnitsky act, implemented by Bill Browder, on behalf of his friend Sergei Magnitsky, is one of the strongest pieces of legislation we have to hold individuals responsible for human rights abuses to account. I strongly support the ability of people who are studying issues, for example, at the foreign affairs committee or wherever, to be able to contribute to that and be part of that conversation.

I would like to thank the member for the bill. This is excellent legislation. We will be providing some friendly amendments. I look forward to closing some, though not all, of the gaps in Canadian human rights law.

International Human Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, it is an immense honour for me to speak in support of Bill C-281, the international human rights act, and to recognize this as legislation that would bring together a number of important measures that advance human rights.

I want to recognize the work done by my colleague and friend from Northumberland—Peterborough South. We were together in Mississauga about a week ago doing a town hall on the legislation. It was really incredible to see a number of different communities represented at that event, and the diversity of experience that has driven people who want to see the legislation pass.

When I was first elected, I started sharing the story of my grandmother. My grandmother was a Holocaust survivor. Learning about her experience in Germany during the Second World War was a key motivator for me to get involved in international human rights work. I would share her stories and our family's experience with the different people I met. I would often hear people sharing their stories of other kinds of mass atrocities, genocides and persecutions that they or their families had experienced, which led them to come to Canada.

One of the things that is striking about our multiculturalism in Canada is that we have many people who have come to our country fleeing different kinds of persecutions, mass atrocities and genocide. Many of those have come as refugees. They carry with them the experience of trauma and violence against their families and their communities.

Those communities and those who are refugees or descendants of refugees have been a key motivator in pushing the House to do more when it comes to defending international human rights and putting forward some of the concrete ideas around this bill.

Right now, we see the horrific genocidal invasion of Ukraine happening. We see violent repression inside Russia against civil society, pro-democracy activists and others. We see the heroic freedom movement taking place in Iran. We see the worsening human rights situation in Sri Lanka. We have the Uighur genocide and other human rights abuses in China. There are many places with instances of human rights abuses.

This legislation does not name specific countries. It is not about addressing individual human rights issues as one-offs. It is about changing the framework with respect to the way the Government of Canada approaches human rights, putting in place a framework that will push the government to always prioritize human rights in its foreign policy. We need to do that not just today, but into the future. We need to do that not just in relation to particular hot spots we see, but do that, in general, in every case.

The bill is called the international human rights act. A key aspect of it that relates to most of its provisions is accountability. This is legislation that would establish accountability around human rights in two principle ways. It would force the Government of Canada to be more accountable to Parliament and the parliamentary committees when it comes to human rights. It also seeks to hold perpetrators of human rights violations accountable for their actions.

Let us start by talking about the aspect of holding the government accountable. Do I have criticisms of the government of the day's approach to human rights? Yes, I do, but the legislation is not just about the government today. It is about establishing a framework whereby any government of Canada in the future would be more accountable to Parliament when it comes to fulfilling its obligations on human rights. It would apply to future Conservative governments. It would apply to any government, that human rights should be a central part of our approach to foreign policy.

The bill would require the Government of Canada to table an annual report of the work it is doing on advancing human rights. This would be a way of clearly signalling what work the government is doing and maybe give parliamentarians an opportunity to identify absences and things the government should be doing, but is not doing. This is a powerful accountability mechanism. It is a jumping-off point for raising questions, pointing out gaps and asking the government to do more in certain respects.

The legislation also calls for that report to specifically identify prisoners of conscience, individuals who are detained around the world, who should not be detained and who Canada is advocating for their release.

There has been some debate in this opening section of the bill. Is the requirement to list prisoners of conscience appropriate? Are there cases where the government might not want to publicly list prisoners of conscience because, in some cases, private advocacy would be more effective by not naming someone publicly?

First, I know the member who is sponsoring the bill, and those of us Conservatives who are on the foreign affairs committee, will certainly be open to a discussion around reasonable amendments and hearing from witnesses as to how to strengthen aspects of the legislation. However, any exception to the public naming of prisoners of conscience should be clearly circumscribed and sufficiently narrow. What we hear overwhelmingly from family members and advocates of people who have been detained is that bringing more attention to these cases is virtually always helpful. When we say the names, when we talk about Huseyin Celil for example, when we bring more attention to these cases, their families and advocates want us to do that. They want us to highlight the fact that they are arbitrarily detained to ensure they are not forgotten. Through saying their names, by speaking out about their cases and calling for their release, we bring more attention and more pressure to that call.

Might there be exceptions? Sure. As a committee, we should talk about how to refine those cases, but there should not be carte blanche for the government to not list names maybe for some strategic foreign policy reason. We want to be bringing as much attention to these instances of arbitrary detention as possible. What we have heard from civil society is that bringing attention to these cases of arbitrary detention is helpful to those prisoners of conscience.

With respect to the international human rights act, accountability is a key part of it. One aspect of that accountability is holding the Government of Canada accountable. It has to publish this report and identify the prisoners of conscience for whose release it is advocating. It would allow us to ask questions about why this or that name is not on the list as well as suggest names that maybe should have been on that list, hoping that they are added in subsequent years, and to increase the work the Government of Canada is doing, specifically to advocate for the release of people who are wrongfully detained.

Another aspect of the accountability piece is an amendment to the Magnitsky act. I recognize the great work done in passing the Magnitsky act. It was introduced by my colleague from Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman. It was passed unanimously in the House. In fact, Canada was the first country to adopt Magnitsky sanctions legislation. We have also seen it adopted around the world.

The challenge with the Magnitsky act is that it gives a tool to the government with respect to sanctioning human rights abusers, but the tool is only as good as its use. If we, as a legislature, empower the government, as we have, with the ability to impose Magnitsky sanctions but it does not actually sanction people who are abusing human rights then we have not used that tool and it has not had the desired effect.

The fact is that there are many countries with significant human rights problems where the government has sanctioned no one and therefore there is a vital need for us to use the Magnitsky act more. That is why we are introducing with this legislation a parliamentary trigger, a mechanism whereby if a parliamentary committee passes a motion to call on the government to sanction someone, the government would have to provide a response within 40 days or another timeline prescribed by the committee. It still leaves the government with the discretion around who to sanction, which is fair enough, because it will have access to information that the House does not have. Ultimately, it is the government's responsibility to make these kinds of decisions, but we want a mechanism that requires more accountability and puts more pressure on the government to actually use the Magnitsky sanctions, something it has been reluctant to do. This accountability would push the Government of Canada to do more with respect to human rights.

Also, applying Magnitsky sanctions is about holding the perpetrators of human rights violations accountable. When there are human rights violations, Magnitsky sanctions are a way of saying to the perpetrators of those abuses that they cannot travel to or move their money to Canada. Hopefully, if countries work in concert to apply Magnitsky sanctions, it would be a significant deterrent for the human rights abusers who potentially want an escape valve from the authoritarian regimes of which they are a part.

It is a powerful coincidence that the day this bill is coming to a vote at second reading is the anniversary of the death of Sergei Magnitsky. I hope we honour his memory and the memories of all the victims of human rights violations around the world by passing the bill, bringing it to committee, studying it further and certainly looking for ways to improve and strengthen it. With this legislation we can position Canada's foreign policy, not just in this Parliament but for generations to come, so Canada can be a leader in human rights and can follow through with exactly what those communities and the people we have been meeting with across the country want us to do.

International Human Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Don Valley West Ontario


Rob Oliphant LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, advancing human rights is an integral part of the Government of Canada's multilateral engagement in our foreign policy, and as such it does not, as the previous member suggested, ever need to be pushed toward that work.

Around the world, we are increasingly seeing concerning trends with some authoritarian governments seeking to undermine international human rights norms, be it Russia, China or Iran, including the stifling of civil society and restricting the full enjoyment of the rights and freedoms of their people. Consequently, it is important to consider new opportunities to add to Canada's tool kit so as to better respond to emerging human rights crises and to advance the promotion and protection of human rights.

Therefore, we welcome the opportunity to discuss Bill C-281, which was presented to the House by the member of Parliament for Northumberland—Peterborough South. I personally thank him for his work on the bill. The bill introduces several amendments to four statutes in an effort to uphold Canada's commitment to human rights in a strong and meaningful way.

The government supports the intention of the bill and will support it at second reading, aiming to find ways to strengthen it to effectively add to Canada's robust tool kit and our approach to addressing human rights situations around the world. We will support it going to committee for a thorough review and study by committee members.

We welcome the opportunity to work with our colleagues on the other side of the House, as well as on this side of the House, on this important piece of legislation in an effort to strengthen the bill and to address certain aspects of the provisions that would hinder the bill's ability to achieve its objective under the law.

Canada's policies and initiatives to uphold human rights abroad, including support for human rights activists, get a lot of attention from parliamentarians, and so they should. The bill proposes new reporting requirements for the Minister of Foreign Affairs when it comes to Canada's efforts to advance human rights through our foreign policy.

We agree with the objective to better demonstrate Canada's engagement in the promotion and protection of human rights. However, as currently drafted, the bill's means of pursuing the objective as it relates to the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Act is somewhat problematic. It would impose direct instruction to the minister from Parliament concerning the conduct of Canada's foreign relations, and that could have broader, unrelated and unintended implications and consequences for the conduct of foreign relations under the Crown prerogative.

Unlike most other acts concerning federal departments and agencies, the act does not confer powers or authorities on the minister, but rather the powers of the minister are found in the Crown prerogative, which is a long-standing, valid source of executive authority. It has a foundation in Canada's Constitution, and its scope and content have been shaped through judicial decisions.

The act purposefully refrains from limiting or displacing the prerogative as a source of executive authority over foreign relations. It also refrains from giving direct legislative instructions concerning the executive's order of Canada's foreign relations. Over the years, this approach has maintained the flexibility needed by the government, no matter which party is in power, to adequately manage and balance the complexities of foreign relations in an evolving world.

In order to respect the aim of the provisions of this bill, while protecting the government's ability to conduct foreign relations, we recommend the legislative reporting requirement be replaced by a strong policy statement on human rights in the House of Commons. This statement could commit to the development of a human rights report that speaks to the ways Canada advances respect for human rights abroad, including our efforts to support the vital work of human rights defenders.

Additionally, the bill calls for the minister to publish a list that sets out the names and circumstances of the prisoners of conscience detained worldwide for whose release the Government of Canada is actively working. I want to caution that this could very much endanger the safety of human rights defenders and in certain cases could cause them to lose their lives. For example, if a human rights defender is detained in a country with known reports of torture, publicizing the prisoner's circumstances could lead to retaliation from the government.

Moreover, since the amendment proposed in this bill is not limited to Canadian prisoners of conscience, making known any interest in people detained in their country of origin would damage our bilateral relations and undermine Canada's ability to provide support to such human rights defenders.

I recognize that during the previous debate on this bill this issue was raised, and the member of Parliament for Northumberland—Peterborough South stated he was supportive of amendments that would improve this bill. I look forward to working with him to ensure that we do not inadvertently endanger the lives of human rights defenders.

Sanctions are an important tool used by Canada to address human rights violations abroad. Bill C-281 would require the Minister of Foreign Affairs to respond within 40 days to a report submitted by a parliamentary committee recommending that sanctions be imposed upon a foreign national. The Government of Canada takes the imposition of sanctions very seriously and has used the Magnitsky act and the other acts for sanctions extremely judiciously but proactively. Evaluating the feasibility and appropriateness of pursuing sanctions in response to a specific situation requires thorough and significant due diligence under the acts that govern them, including consultation, policy and legal analysis.

The bill's proposed 40-day response period would be an entirely new reporting requirement for the minister and it conflicts with the standard practice for a government response to standing committees, which is 120 days for the House of Commons and 150 days for the Senate. Furthermore, it would presuppose cabinet and Governor in Council approval and risk the measures being made ineffective.

Publicly announcing sanctions before they enter into force would effectively notify the targeted individual and as a result allow them to rapidly move their assets outside of Canada, which no one in this House would want. Finally, a public announcement of this nature would make it more difficult for Canada to coordinate our sanctions with our allies. That would hamper our ability to make effective sanctions, which are always more effective if we do them with our allies.

We therefore recommend adjusting the minister's response so that it would acknowledge the committee's recommendation and commit to its consideration while ensuring that it aligns with current standard parliamentary response practices, protects Canada's judicious approach toward the imposition of sanctions and meets the objective and intention set out in the bill.

With respect to cluster munitions, they pose an immediate threat to individuals around the world who live in conflict and post-conflict zones. In 2015, Canada ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions and is fully compliant with the treaty. Canada implements its obligations to the treaty through the Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act.

We welcome the prohibitions to direct investments introduced in this bill, which would make it explicitly clear that it is illegal for Canadians to invest in cluster munitions. However, the bill's prohibition to indirect investments would pose challenges to enforcement, as it would potentially criminalize indirect investors, such as mutual fund holders, who may be unaware of what investments they hold.

The media play an important role in transmitting ideas, especially ideas about promoting human rights. The bill recognizes that important role by prohibiting the issue, amendment or renewal of a licence in relation to a broadcasting undertaking that is vulnerable to being influenced by certain foreign nationals or entities of concern. This includes those who have committed acts that the Senate or the House of Commons has recognized as genocide or that have been identified under the Sergei Magnitsky law.

Actions to protect the broadcasting system from influence are important, and we welcome the opportunity to add clarity through a thorough discussion at committee of this bill.

In closing, this bill is a forward-looking effort to strengthen Canada's engagement on human rights both at home and abroad. We thank the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South for his work, and we look forward to working with him at committee to strengthen it.

International Human Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be back and to rise to debate this bill, which I feel is extremely important and particularly relevant, at a time when the world order is being turned upside down on a daily basis on all continents by a failure to respect fundamental human rights.

As parliamentarians in a G7 country, we want to take concrete action to ensure that those rights are respected in every corner of the world. We have a responsibility to take a leadership role on the world stage, particularly on this issue. To do that, we obviously need clear guidelines on what human rights represent for our democracy. We must also make it clear that corrupt foreign leaders are not welcome here, specifically by blocking any interference by nations whose objectives do not at all align with our common good. That must be part of our objectives, and I am pleased that the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South has taken the initiative to present concrete ways of achieving that.

As my colleague, the member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, indicated earlier, the Bloc Québécois supports the principle of Bill C-281. I will remind members of a few points that explain why my party supports this initiative.

First, the text of this bill would amend section 10 of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Act to impose what can be considered to be new, more modern standards concerning human rights around the world. The amendment to this section would therefore require the Minister of Foreign Affairs to publish an annual report summarizing the measures taken by the government to advance human rights internationally. The minister would also be required to publish an annual list to provide an overview of prisoners of conscience who are being held abroad and whose release is being sought. This would therefore be a much more transparent process that would help Canadians be better informed about their government’s actions abroad.

I would remind the House of what constitutes a prisoner of conscience. According to Amnesty International, a prisoner of conscience is “someone who has not used or advocated violence or hatred in the circumstances leading to their imprisonment but is imprisoned solely because of who they are”. This could include sexual orientation, ethnic, national or social origin, language, skin colour, sex, economic status or religious or political convictions, among others. A prisoner of conscience is therefore a person who is in prison not because of what they did, but simply for expressing their opinions or beliefs.

This is a painful reminder of a very specific case, that of Raif Badawi. I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the family of Raif Badawi, a prisoner of conscience who was incarcerated in 2012 by the Saudi regime for the crime of using his blog to advocate for a more open, liberal society in Saudi Arabia. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a fine of one million Saudi riyals for criticizing the country's religious authorities. Although he was finally released in March, Mr. Badawi is still stuck in Saudi Arabia because he is not authorized to leave the country. He was banned from travelling for 10 years, banned from working in the media and forced to pay a $335,000 fine, which was part of his sentencing when he was convicted. It is an absolutely horrible situation that has been going on for far too long.

I commend the work of my colleague, the member for Lac-Saint-Jean, who has been tirelessly advocating since his election in 2019 for the release of Raif Badawi and and his return to Canada. He has repeatedly asked the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to use his discretionary power to give Raif Badawi Canadian citizenship. He even moved a motion here in the House, which passed unanimously in January. However, the government is still dragging its feet.

In this case, Quebec even paved the way for Raif Badawi to be exiled to Canada by putting him on a priority list of potential immigrants for humanitarian reasons. The federal government could do more today, but continues to refuse. That is why I believe that legislation to expand the power of the House, and therefore of parliamentarians, would be of great benefit and could have a significant impact on diplomatic efforts. I was concerned that the government would be somewhat reluctant, and that is unfortunately what I did hear in the previous speech.

With a stronger foreign affairs act, as proposed by Bill C-281, Canadians could have been better informed about what was happening to Mr. Badawi, and they could have asked their government to do more, if that was their wish, rather than relying on rumours or innuendoes for 10 years.

Bill C-281 would also amend the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act to require the Minister of Foreign Affairs to respond within 40 days to a report submitted by a parliamentary committee recommending that sanctions be imposed. The minister would also have to make public the decision made in relation to the committee report and set out the reasons for that decision.

I think it is an excellent idea, quite frankly. I know that important work is being done by all parliamentary committees, including the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. Since its creation, this subcommittee has studied human rights in a number of countries, including Iran, Cuba, China, Honduras, North Korea, Mexico, and many others.

This subcommittee studied the case of Sergei Magnitsky, whom the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Leaders Act, also known as the Sergei Magnitsky law, was named after. The story behind this legislation is worth sharing again.

I know that some colleagues have already gone over this, but I will take the liberty of doing it again. I was not here when Parliament passed this law, but I am sure many of my colleagues who were here remember it clearly.

British American multi-millionaire Bill Browder headed up a major foreign investment fund in Russia until his company became the target of one of the biggest frauds in modern Russian history. Expelled from Russia for calling out corruption, Mr. Browder handed over control of his company to his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky. Shortly after Browder's departure, the police seized everything in his office and took possession of his company. Magnitsky discovered that the public officials behind the seizure received a $230‑million tax refund within just 24 hours. The fact that the money was spirited out of the country proved that the whole thing had been orchestrated by high-level individuals.

After exposing the scandal, Sergei Magnitsky ended up in a Moscow prison, where he was tortured for 358 days. Eventually, he died of untreated pancreatitis in 2009 at the age of 38. Russian authorities never conducted a thorough, independent, objective investigation into the detention, torture and death of Sergei Magnitsky. Those responsible were never brought to justice. After his death, an unprecedented posthumous trial was held, and he was sentenced in Russia for the fraud he himself had exposed.

Known as the “Magnitsky law” in memory of the Russian lawyer and thanks to Mr. Browder's work with parliamentarians in Canada and around the world, this legislation makes it possible to freeze financial assets and deny entry for foreign leaders and officials who have committed serious human rights violations.

Strengthening this legislation, as Bill C-281 does, and imposing reporting requirements on the Minister of Foreign Affairs are of vital importance to citizens, who often feel as if they are merely bystanders with little knowledge of foreign affairs issues that might affect them, directly or indirectly. This would be a welcome step forward.

The Broadcasting Act would also be amended to prohibit the issue, amendment or renewal of a licence in relation to a broadcasting undertaking that is vulnerable to being influenced by a foreign entity that has committed acts that the House, the Senate or both chambers have recognized as wrongdoing. This includes potential acts of genocide.

This is a significant change that would give parliamentarians a lot of power, again, but could make a real difference in the way some of us fight for human rights. I am again thinking about my colleague from Lac-Saint-Jean, who has been fighting tooth and nail to get Canada to recognize the ongoing genocide of the Uighur people in China. He fought in vain to get the Beijing Olympic Games cancelled out of respect for the Uighurs who are suffering atrocities.

Finally, I want to comment on the change to the Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act set out in Bill C‑281. It would expand the groups of people who are subject to restrictions under this legislation to include any person or corporation who may have a financial stake in a group or person who has committed, or aided or abetted a third party to commit, a reprehensible act under the current legislation.

On that note, I am pleased to say that Canada is finally adhering to the Convention on Cluster Munitions drafted in Dublin in 2008. Unfortunately, as we know, that is not the case for every country. The United States, Russia and China are among the few countries that have not ratified this agreement. This seems like a step in the right direction for a safer world, as does this bill as a whole, the principle of which has the full support of my party.

International Human Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Madam Speaker, I am proud to stand today to speak to Bill C-281, the international human rights act. I want to thank the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South for bringing forward this important piece of legislation, which would amend legislation I introduced in the House back in 2018, Bill S-226. My partner in crime in the Senate at that time was Senator Raynell Andreychuk, who worked very hard on that bill. She and I had had numerous meetings with the government, to the point where we had unanimous consent on the bill. The legislation we are debating today reintroduces some of the changes to the earlier iterations of Bill S-226.

We have to make sure everybody understands that we use Magnitsky sanctions to move in lockstep with our allies. When the parliamentary secretary says we want to have a coordinated response with our allies, our allies, whether it is the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States or Australia, are all using Magnitsky sanctions. Unfortunately, the government has not used Magnitsky sanctions since 2018.

All the sanctions that have been brought against some of the corrupt foreign officials and gross human rights violators we are seeing today in the war in Ukraine, and what Russia has been doing with its kleptocracy, have all been under the Special Economic Measures Act. We know that act does not have the same teeth or accountability built into it as the Magnitsky law itself. Having Parliament provide a mechanism to put names on a list to present to the government through the foreign affairs committees of either the Senate or the House would provide more accountability, as well as debate and discussion as to why certain names should be added to the list.

I have worked with numerous communities for years to try to get more of these gross human rights violators and corrupt foreign officials on the list. We have submitted names to the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development and the Department of Justice, and none of those names have ended up on any sanctions list, either SEMA or the Magnitsky law. The Vietnamese community, the Cambodian community and Falun Gong practitioners have dozens of names of people proven to have committed gross human rights violations against citizens in those countries, yet the government sits idle.

Amending the Magnitsky act, as has been brought forward by my colleague from Northumberland—Peterborough South, would address that shortfall. It would allow communities and parliamentarians to come forward with names. Then, the ultimate accountability of the government would be to report back within 40 days as to why it is either taking action or not taking action. It would also file annual reports. The bigger goals are naming and shaming those committing gross human rights violations around the world.

We have to make sure we move forward with this legislation. I am glad we are getting to the point of probably having unanimous consent for sending this bill to committee, but I would say to my colleagues in the Liberal Party that, instead of trying to make a whole bunch of amendments to the bill at committee, they actually listen to the people who have suffered violations of their human rights because of corrupt foreign officials, the human rights violators who put their own ideology or wealth ahead of that of the citizens they are supposed to be serving.

We have to make sure we go back to using Magnitsky sanctions, just as our allies do, to ensure there is one declaration that these individuals have violated the human rights of their citizens, are corrupt, they are being held to account and cannot use Canada as a safe haven. I know the government has been apprehensive about using Magnitsky sanctions because it is required to report on financial institutions on a quarterly basis whether any of the names on the sanctions lists we have under Magnitsky are making use of our financial institutions to hide their wealth, or hiding their families here and taking advantage of our great universities. Those practices have to be monitored, and the best way to do that is through the amendments suggested in Bill C-281.

International Human Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

Madam Speaker, it has been said before that to accomplish something one needs the support of many others. Today, I rise on the shoulders of giants. Of course there was Sergei Magnitsky, who stood up bravely against corruption in Russia and was supported by Bill Browder, who has campaigned around the world to put these sanctions in place so that gross violators of human rights and corrupt officials cannot continue to operate with impunity.

I stand here on the shoulders of great members of Parliament, such as the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, who previously put forward a private member's bill and shepherded it through Parliament with unanimous support. I stand here beside a great colleague from Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, who has worked with me to draft and put together this legislation.

It is a true honour to be in the House every day, and it is a true honour to stand to carry this legacy further. This legislation is what Bill Brouder has pushed so far and so hard for. He in a recent editorial, he stated that he supports Bill C-281. We have heard that the NDP, the Liberal Party and the Bloc Québécois support Bill C-281.

More important than the support of our political parties and even of its originators is the support I felt when the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan and I had a town hall. We heard from survivors of incredible violence. Many of them were standing there when the rest of their families had been murdered by some of the most gross and heinous violators of human rights in the world. They stood there. They came there even with their own drama, one who had been a sex slave for over two years. They stood up and said to me, “We support your bill. We want it done. We want this legislation pushed forward. We don't want it watered down. We want it strengthened.”

While I am 100% open to any amendment that makes the bill better, I am not open to any that makes it weaker, not because of me, Irwin Cotler or Sergei Magnitsky, but because of the people who are suffering this moment, whether they are in Tehran or Kyiv. In our position of privilege and power, we owe it to them to stand up for them. If this small little part can do it, then that is a great thing.

In addition to being at that town hall, I had the opportunity to be at a protest against the terrible crimes that are being committed by the IRGC. I brought my son along with me, to honour the 41 children who have been lost in the recent protests in Iran. My son was there observing and hearing everything about the protests, their support and the people who were victims of these terrible human rights crimes. He heard that, and we walked off the stage together hand in hand. I felt more pride then than during any of my other accomplishments in the House of Commons. He leaned over to me and said, “Dad, when I get older, I want to be just like you. I want to fight for the good guys and hold the bad guys to account.” That was from my nine-year-old son. I have never been so proud.

My message to all of the parties in the House is this: Let us make all of our children proud. Some legislation is very nuanced, so we need to have depth of consultation in our conversations. We will study this one and try to make better, but as a concept it is very easy. It is good versus evil. It is right versus wrong. It is helping those who are helpless and who have no one to help them.

We need to stand up. We need to get this to the foreign affairs committee, get it studied, get to work and get it passed so we can hold those people who are committing some of the worst crimes in this world accountable.

International Human Rights ActPrivate Members' Business



The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

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.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.

International Human Rights ActPrivate Members' Business



Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, we request a recorded vote.

International Human Rights ActPrivate Members' Business



The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

Pursuant to an order made on Thursday, June 23, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, November 16, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.

Extension of Sitting Hours and Conduct of Extended ProceedingsGovernment Orders

November 14th, 2022 / noon

Ajax Ontario


Mark Holland LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons


(a) until Friday, June 23, 2023, a minister of the Crown may, with the agreement of the House leader of another recognized party, rise from his or her seat at any time during a sitting, but no later than 6:30 p.m., and request that the ordinary hour of daily adjournment for a subsequent sitting be 12:00 a.m., provided that it be 10:00 p.m. on a day when a debate pursuant to Standing Order 52 or 53.1 is to take place, and that such a request shall be deemed adopted;

(b) on a sitting day extended pursuant to paragraph (a),

(i) proceedings on any opposition motion pursuant to Standing Order 81(16) shall conclude no later than 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 6:30 p.m. on a Monday or 1:30 p.m. on a Friday, on an allotted day for the business of supply, except pursuant to Standing Order 81(18)(c),

(ii) after 6:30 p.m., the Speaker shall not receive any quorum calls or dilatory motions, and shall only accept a request for unanimous consent after receiving a notice from the House leaders or whips of all recognized parties stating that they are in agreement with such a request,

(iii) motions to proceed to the orders of the day, and to adjourn the debate or the House may be moved after 6:30 p.m. by a minister of the Crown, including on a point of order, and such motions be deemed adopted,

(iv) the time provided for Government Orders shall not be extended pursuant to Standing Orders 33(2), 45(7.1) or 67.1(2);

(c) until Friday, June 23, 2023,

(i) during consideration of the estimates on the last allotted day of each supply period, pursuant to Standing Orders 81(17) and 81(18), when the Speaker interrupts the proceedings for the purpose of putting forthwith all questions necessary to dispose of the estimates,

(A) all remaining motions to concur in the votes for which a notice of opposition was filed shall be deemed to have been moved and seconded, the questions deemed put and recorded divisions deemed requested,

(B) the Speaker shall have the power to combine the said motions for voting purposes, provided that, in exercising this power, the Speaker be guided by the same principles and practices used at report stage,

(ii) a motion for third reading of a government bill may be made in the same sitting during which the said bill has been concurred in at report stage;

(d) on Wednesday, December 14, 2022, Thursday, December 15, 2022, or Friday, December 16, 2022, a minister of the Crown may move, without notice, a motion to adjourn the House until Monday, January 30, 2023, provided that the House shall be adjourned pursuant to Standing Order 28 and that the said motion shall be decided immediately without debate or amendment;

(e) on Wednesday, June 21, 2023, Thursday, June 22, 2023, or Friday, June 23, 2023, a minister of the Crown may move, without notice, a motion to adjourn the House until Monday, September 18, 2023, provided that the House shall be adjourned pursuant to Standing Order 28 and that the said motion shall be decided immediately without debate or amendment; and

(f) notwithstanding the order adopted on Thursday, June 23, 2022, and Standing Order 45(6), no recorded division requested between 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 15, 2022 and the adjournment on Friday, December 16, 2022, and between 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 22, 2023 and the adjournment on Friday, June 23, 2023, shall be deferred, except for any recorded division requested in regard to a Private Members’ Business item, for which the provisions of the order adopted on Thursday, June 23, 2022, shall continue to apply.

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise to get an opportunity to speak to this motion. I want to start at the outset by thanking my colleagues, the hon. House leaders, for the areas in which we have been able to find co-operation. There have been a number of different areas in which we have been able to work constructively together. The intention of this motion is to be an expansion and not a reduction of that.

I am going to speak very briefly to some of my concerns with respect to the legislative agenda we have and some of the challenges that currently exist with that, and then I am going to speak more broadly to the state of discourse and our engagement with one another in this place politically.

It is my hope that this will provoke more dialogue among the parties to make clear what exactly our respective intentions are in terms of the number of speakers and length of time taken with each bill. It has been a source of frustration to not know how many speakers are going to be put up, specifically by the Conservatives, and that is, frankly, obstruction by stealth. I will give specific examples.

Bill S-5, which this House voted for unanimously, took six days of House time just to get to committee. This is something that was voted on unanimously. More specifically, let us take a look at Bill C-9, which is a very technical bill on judges. That bill, again, was supported unanimously. However, when there were interpretation issues in the House and we asked for an additional 20 minutes so we did not need to spend an entire additional House day dealing with this bill, which was unanimously supported, that was rejected by the Conservatives.

Although most times we have not been told how many speakers there will be, we have been told that the Conservatives want more speakers on this bill. This motion would provide the opportunity to do that. I have heard the hon. House leader for the Conservative Party indicate concern with committees. I share those concerns and want to work with him to make sure committees are in no way impeded and may conduct their business without interruption, so both committees and the House can do their respective work.

I have just a couple of comments, though, because this is an inflection point and we have a choice as to the direction we take right now. If there is upset about sitting later hours, there are solutions. Simply give us the number of speakers and have a frank and honest conversation about how long is reasonable for a bill to take. Let us have that conversation understanding no one party here has a majority, which means no one party should be able to dictate to all the other parties that something does not move forward.

It is totally fair to oppose something. It is totally fair to vote against it. It is totally fair to disagree with it vociferously. However, if a majority of the House wants to move forward, then the fair question is how many voices need to be heard from those who are not in the majority to allow the House to do its business. Giving no answer is not an acceptable response and is not something that can be worked with. Most reasonable people would see that.

This is really a call or a provocation for a conversation. In that conversation, I want to invoke a dear friend, who was the deputy leader of the government in this place. His name was Arnold Chan. I go back to the speech Arnold gave as he was mustering the last of his energy in his last days of life to speak to this chamber about how we need to work with one another.

Arnold was one of my best friends in the world, and watching him die was profoundly painful, but his words always echo in my ears. One of Arnold's chief frustrations was that this chamber, this place that was so important to him, was often reduced to just reading talking points with one another: us saying how wonderful we are and the other side saying how terrible we are, and them saying they are wonderful and us saying they are terrible. Of course, in that back-and-forth, the truth of the situation and the difficulty of what we are going through is lost. In difficult times, we lose the opportunity to genuinely hear each other.

Let us be straight about where we are. These are the most difficult times the planet has faced since World War II. People across the world are scared. They are watching the price of their basic necessities of life rising, be they groceries, rent or any of a myriad things. They are watching a war in Ukraine. They are watching horrors in Iran. They are seeing climate change ravage their communities, and they are hungry for answers.

The truth is that in really hard times, often we do not know all the answers. In fact, if any one of us was to stand in this House and say we know what the world is going to be in six months, we would be lying. We live in incredibly turbulent times, and I am looking forward to hearing the hon. House leader's speech soon. We live in a time where we have to be straight with each other about what those hard things are and what the solutions are.

I really love New Orleans. I had the opportunity to go down there, and sometimes it is easier in another country to reflect on the state of their politics than it is on our own, but when I had an opportunity to talk to a young Black lady in a store about the state of being Black in America, how unjust it was and how hopeless she felt, she did not think that anybody was really speaking truthfully about the situation she and her community were facing.

That makes me think of the people we represent on both sides of the aisle, who are suffering in so many different ways that we do not always have the answer to, whether it is somebody who walks into our office who is finding they cannot afford to pay rent or somebody who walks into our office who is facing the horror of some unimaginable terror that is happening in another part of the world. When we look at them and try to give them compassion and answers, too often we all, and I will own this, have been prone to exaggeration and to having more solutions than we actually have. However, what we do in that exaggeration, on both sides, is that we allow them to think we do not really see the picture for what it is.

I will give a very specific example. On that same trip, when I walked into Studio Be, an art gallery of Black artists who are talking about the experience of being Black and the terrors they face, it was a deeply uncomfortable experience for me. It is not my country, and a lot of the horrors that were being written about are not happening to our citizens, but the injustice that has been visited upon Black people in our own country is very hard to look at and very hard to respond to. That place, though, met all of that injustice with such love, compassion, truth and forgiveness that it calls on all of us to do the same. We can yell at each other. We can deride each other, but there are old lessons that are being forgotten in that.

We look at old wisdom from something like The Lord's Prayer, something we have said so many times. It says, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Let us think about that as a covenant, that we cannot move forward unless we can truly understand the suffering of somebody else and understand their position.

I think, and I maybe I am Pollyanna to believe it, that we have to have more compassion for one another. I think that compassion, empathy and forgiveness are not weaknesses, but the bedrock foundation of civilization and the only things that have ever held us together. I think that in the darkest hours, and let us not lie to each other, we are in dark hours as our hospitals fill up with children, as we worry about whether key surgeries can move forward, and as we worry about the state of our planet, we need that compassion and empathy for one another, and we need the realness in our dialogue. Why do we need that realness? It is because, when we live in an environment of “gotcha” and playing games, we distort the truth.

That same woman I talked to in a shop, who was talking about the horrible conditions that she felt existed for her community, told me the world was run by 12 people. She is a deeply intelligent woman, but she believed in conspiracies because people did not speak what was true and because they attempted to take an opportunity to play games with it.

I look at the hon. House leader for the Conservatives, who is laughing right now, and I say to him—

Extension of Sitting Hours and Conduct of Extended ProceedingsGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Andrew Scheer

Who is saying this?

Extension of Sitting Hours and Conduct of Extended ProceedingsGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Mark Holland Liberal Ajax, ON

Madam Speaker, exactly. I proclaim that I have been a hypocrite. When I was in opposition, the tone that I used and the way that I asked questions could have been different. I think I often asked the right questions in the wrong way. I do not have a problem acknowledging that the tenor and tone with which I approached issues needed to change. I have tried to address that, and I will continue to.

All I am saying is that when we fight over the small things, the big things get hidden. Each of us knows that when we see and hear truth and when we distort it, exaggerate it and continue to play that game, it makes it feel to others that we do not see truth. It is not enough for us to see truth in private rooms. It is not enough for us to see truth in corridors. We have to speak it in a chamber like this.

The question that we have to ask now is not what comma will come after our names, because in 100 years' time no one will read that Wikipedia entry. All of us, I dare say, will be forgotten, me included. However, it is up to us to meet the challenge of the time that we are in, and I think we have a lot to learn from each other. I am here today to say that the challenges that our country faces cannot be faced unless we listen to one another. I approach this in the same way.

Let me go back to Remembrance Day. A long-time friend shared a story with me that I had never heard before from the Battle of the Somme. He talked about his grandfather. His grandfather saved not one, not two, not three but four Canadian soldiers, and as he was dragging the fourth soldier back, he was shot and killed. We have to ask this question: How many people would he have saved had his life not been taken? I think it is worth asking, for all of us, what was in his heart as he charged into certain danger.

What was in his heart as he charged into certain danger was hope for a better world, gratitude for what he had and love for his fellow man. I do not think it is too much to ask of all of us, regardless of our differences, to approach this in the same way. When we approach the issues of our time with grievance and anger, it never works. We could do it, and we could talk about freedom. There is absolutely a freedom to being full of grievance, bitterness, anger and a feeling that we are not getting what we want and what we deserve, and we have a right to do that, but this has led to very dark places.

I would submit that true freedom, actual freedom, is the ability to speak truth but also hear truth and be truly as we are. Evil does not hide in self-expression. Evil hides in the denial of truth. We are facing forces that would rip apart our democracies, and that is no exaggeration. If we are serious about saving liberal democracy, then I think it is time we return to the principles of the enlightened. In the enlightenment, the key and most powerful insight was the acknowledgement of what we do not know and the courage to use science and data to find out what is true.

In this chamber, if we can come to know the problems of our day, meaning the enormous difficulties we have, while being honest about the challenges that are in front of us and being truthful about what the solutions might be, then we can be worthy of the incredible honour we have of being in this chamber. I would submit that the only way forward in this time is for us to figure that out. If we cannot figure it out in this chamber and build a bridge to one another with our differences here in the chamber, then how can we expect the country to heal? How can we expect our neighbours to find that bridge?

I will end on this note. As we think of Remembrance Day and we think of battles fought against the Nazis and other evil regimes, the battle that we fight today is not across a trench or an ocean. It is not through barbed wire. It is in our own hearts.

I had a conversation with a wonderful fellow, and it did not have anything to do with politics. I met him out in Kitchener. He runs a grocery store called Dutchie's. His name is Mike and he has courage. He said it used to be that when we saw something as ridiculous as a seven-dollar head of lettuce, a person would create a new business and could make a huge profit selling it at five dollars or four dollars. He said that people are tired and they have gone through so much. They do not want to take a chance or take a risk. They are afraid to hope.

Humanity has gone through much darker hours. When we look at what happened in World War I when people were dealing with the Spanish flu, they longed to go back to the Victorian age, to the time of corsets and dinner parties. However, they could not have imagined the prosperity that lay before them in the 1920s.

In the 1920s, when they were celebrating, they were rocked by the Great Depression, and then a world war and great darkness. They longed to go back to the 1920s, to a period of flapper girls and prohibition parties. Of course, they could not have imagined the prosperity that was about to greet them in the 1950s and 1960s.

It is true, again, that with a period of great inflation and energy shortages at the end of the 1970s and leading into the early 1980s, people wanted to go back to the glory of the 1950s and 1960s. We always talk about going back, but we forget that if we do hard things and we continue to move forward, there lies a prosperity that we cannot imagine.

That prosperity, I think, is going to be rooted in very different motivations than what we have seen before. Yes, people will still want to put food on the table. Yes, people will still want a roof over their heads. Yes, people will still want nice things. However, they want purpose. They want to wake up in the morning and believe that they are part of something bigger than just their lives.

I think our goal, not just as a government but as a Parliament, is to dream with them, to hear their dreams and to listen to somebody like Mike, who is imagining a different future, trying to change the way the grocery industry works, trying to upend convention and taking chances and risks. For each of us, regardless of our political party, it is about saying he has it right. Taking a bet on our universe, taking a bet on good and taking a bet on the moral arc of history is what we should all be doing. We should not be stoking fear or amplifying grievances, but lifting up every person we see trying in these hard times.

What does that have to do with extending hours? It has to do with what kind of debate we have in the chamber. It has to do with what kind of conversation we have with each other about the times we are in. Yes, we can be cynical. Yes, we can call each other names. Yes, we can write each other off. However, if we cannot figure it out, who is supposed to?

Extension of Sitting Hours and Conduct of Extended ProceedingsGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Madam Speaker, I just want to assure the hon. member that my sarcastic laughter was not directed at him personally but at the party and government he represents. I appreciate the quotation from the Lord's Prayer. It is something we try to say in our household on a daily basis.

As the member talked about forgiving trespasses, I would like to refer him to another part of Christian scriptures: the number of times that people ask for forgiveness in the gospels. Of course, Jesus, being the source of forgiveness and mercy, always forgives, but he always includes a very important phrase after granting forgiveness: “Go and sin no more.” That is the part the government House leader is missing. It is the sinning no more after asking for that forgiveness.

We can all forgive him for his hypocrisy. He is a much different colleague today than when we first served together, as am I. I remember my first few years in the House and the hyper-partisanship that many new MPs have when they come to this place. Many do, over time, appreciate their colleagues on a personal level. However, when we are talking about all the things that the House leader talked about, such as disinformation, hatred and divisiveness, the reason I point out the hypocrisy of his Parliament is to tell him to look at his own side of the House.

The Prime Minister openly questions whether certain Canadians should be tolerated. There are the lies that were told about the invocation of the Emergencies Act, which are now being proven to be such at the hearing. Then there are all the statements we heard about who was asking for the Emergencies Act. They are all being proven to be false. Do members remember the famous expression we heard when the Prime Minister said the allegations in The Globe and Mail article regarding the SNC-Lavalin scandal were false? All of those were proven to be untrue.

That is where the role of the opposition comes in. We use the House's time to draw out those untruths and falsehoods. We use the House's time in a variety of ways to expose to Canadians the misinformation they are being given from their own government.

There is a wonderful thing that happens often in this place when the government tables legislation or the public accounts. Every opposition party ruthlessly scrutinizes it. The time in this House is part of that, and by the government—

Extension of Sitting Hours and Conduct of Extended ProceedingsGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

The member will have time to make a speech. I would like to give the House leader an opportunity to comment.

Extension of Sitting Hours and Conduct of Extended ProceedingsGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Mark Holland Liberal Ajax, ON

Madam Speaker, I completely agree that I have made mistakes; I am not without sin. I try to talk directly about those things. However, I would disagree with something very important the member opposite said. I have yet to meet a man or woman who stops making errors in sin. Is he that person in front of me? I do not think that is what he is saying, but I do think the fundamental lesson is whether we learn from that. It is not whether we make a mistake. It is whether we atone for that mistake, whether we are truthful about that mistake and whether we move forward.

Nothing exists other than the moment we are in right now and the conversation that I am having. I do not believe that I am coming across with grievance. If the member wants me to be more specific, let me talk to Bill C-281. The member for Northumberland—Peterborough South, who was just speaking, talked about his son, the type of world he wanted to have and why he was supporting the bill. I do not deny that those are his motivations. I do not deny that is what he is trying to do.

The member opposite can vociferously disagree with my approach, but surely he cannot disagree that, like him, I am a person of character trying to make a difference in the world and in this country. I know how hard it is to get elected. I know how difficult it is to be an MP. When we do not talk with compassion to one another, then people do not treat us with compassion. If they do not think we are hon. members, they will not listen to what we have to say.

Extension of Sitting Hours and Conduct of Extended ProceedingsGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Madam Speaker, I am somewhat surprised by the turn today's debate has taken. I note that the government House leader gave a spiritual and somewhat philosophical speech about how he sees things. I see signs of his personal growth. I heard him quote the Bible. I realize that it may be pleasant to hear ourselves talk and share ideas, but we must not forget what today's debate is about.

We are debating a motion that essentially muzzles the opposition. I want to speak about truth, but who holds the truth? I do not claim to know the truth or to believe that my colleagues' notion of the truth is better or worse than mine. I am seeking a guarantee for the exercise of democracy, and democracy is exercised in debates between a government and a very strong opposition, which makes it possible for the government to excel and be even better.

I missed the first two minutes of my colleague's speech, but I would like to hear him explain why we need today's Motion No. 22, under Government Business, to extend sitting hours. I want to talk about the facts. The facts are that 36 bills have been introduced, 19 bills, or 52%, have passed all stages of the House; three are at the Senate, 16 have received royal assent, seven are in committee and 10 are at second reading. Personally, I think that it pretty good. I do not understand this obsession with extending sitting hours and saying that we need this because Parliament is paralyzed, when in fact the opposite is true.

I would like the government to explain to me, with supporting evidence, why we are debating this motion today.

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12:30 p.m.


Mark Holland Liberal Ajax, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

My hon. colleague opposite is a very reasonable person. She is her party's whip, and when I was the Liberal Party whip, it was a great privilege to work with her because I found her to be extremely reasonable. Today, I am taking the same approach and doing things in the same spirit.

Unfortunately, with the Conservative Party, it is often absolutely impossible to obtain basic information, such as the number of speakers who will rise when debating a bill or the time that the party needs to pass a bill. When that sort of information is not available, it is completely impossible for me to manage our legislative agenda. We then need to get a majority vote on a motion to extend sitting hours.

If not for that and if we could have a reasonable conversation, then I would have no need at all to extend the sitting hours. I understand that this raises concerns about committees and the use of our administration. I understand all that very well, and I want to work with all of the parties on that issue.

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12:30 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Madam Speaker, it is true that Canadians are living through exceptionally difficult times. They are having difficulty putting food on the table and keeping a roof over their heads. They have the challenges of climate change. We have war in Europe. These are troubling times and, as members of Parliament, we have a responsibility to step up for our constituents and for Canadians.

As members are well aware, the member for Burnaby South and the NDP caucus have pushed for doubling of the GST credit. We have pushed for rental supports for those who are struggling to keep a roof over their head and for a national dental care plan for those families that want to ensure their children have access to dental care. These have been our contributions in the House of Commons to ensure Canadians are being supported during these very difficult times.

However, the reality is that we have to work longer and we have to work harder because the job is not done. Canadians need those supports. This Parliament has to step up and that means we have to work longer and harder. That is the reality.

I am a bit troubled by some of the comments from my Conservative and Bloc colleagues that seem to indicate they are not in support of working longer hours and working harder at a time when Canadians are working longer and harder. Why would any member of Parliament object to working longer hours and working harder on behalf of constituents at this difficult time?

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12:30 p.m.


Mark Holland Liberal Ajax, ON

Madam Speaker, it is an excellent question and we do have to be sensitive to the additional strain that we are asking members to take on, but it is the times we are in. This is one of the reasons why the virtual provisions are so important.

However, as a call to members, I have an instinct about how people make decisions, and it is not about who tears somebody down the most effectively, but who has the best ideas and is coming forward with the greatest spirit of trying to make transformation and change.

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12:30 p.m.


Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Madam Speaker, I will use the first few moments of my remarks to continue with the point I was making, because it really is astounding to hear that member.

On a personal level, as House leaders, we all get to know each other a little. We have extra meetings throughout the week to talk about the business of the House, things like the Board of Internal Economy and other aspects about the place. I have always found that my counterpart on the government bench has been decent to work with, and I want to say that off the bat. We all come from different political perspectives, we are all human beings here, and I do appreciate that about him. However, to listen to a representative from the government talk about misinformation, divisiveness and the battle for the heart and soul of Canadians, this is a government that has been caught telling blatant falsehoods time and time again.

I want to share with the hon. member that when I referenced the scriptural part about “Go and sin no more” would I ever presume to hold myself up to that standard. I can assure him that I make no pretensions whatsoever. However, I will let the member in on a little secret. In a couple of hours we will have question period, and we will hear misinformation and falsehoods coming from the government side. We will hear the Prime Minister deny that he has a role in inflation.

We have a Prime Minister who has directly caused the worst inflation Canadians have had in 40 years, and on a daily basis he gets up and he denies that. He gets up and tries to say that it is all these external factors, that it is kind of like the weather, that inflation is just happening to us, so we better bundle up, add another layer and shove some twenties in our pockets as those prices will get us if we are not looking carefully. It is just nonsense. We know that his money printing and deficits caused the Bank of Canada to bankroll his out-of-control spending, a good chunk of which had nothing to do with COVID. That is why we have inflation, but we do not hear that. Instead, we hear misinformation and falsehoods, with the government trying to blame everybody else for the inflation we see.

There is an expression many people are probably very aware of, which goes something along the lines of “Your poor planning does not constitute an emergency on my part.” The government House leader referenced a couple of examples of legislation that his own government is responsible for the delay. He talked about Bill C-9, which sat on the Order Paper for six months before the government called it. When it did call it, the Liberals were surprised that members wanted to speak to it, that they wanted to point out some of its deficiencies. They do not like that.

The member also talked about Bill S-5 needing six days of debate, as if six days is a long time. Bill S-5 is comprehensive legislation that would amend several acts, has a whole bunch of new regulations as it relates to the chemical industry and all kinds of interrelated aspects. Members of Parliament need to draw out, in their time in the House, some of the flaws in that bill to raise awareness. Many stakeholders and industry groups will be affected by that legislation.

When we come to this place, we do that due diligence and we take our time to highlight that. We allow time for people who are affected by the legislation to react, to educate their members or their colleagues or to educate us. Sometimes we start debating legislation and all of a sudden our agenda gets booked by people wanting to meet with us to tell us what the impact would be if the legislation is or is not passed, and all that takes time.

The government does not give every single Canadian a heads up as to what it is doing. There is no daily Canada Gazette email to Canadians that says that in four or five months this is what the government will be doing so let it know what they think. There is a small notice period where the government tells the House what it is going to do and then tables it at first reading, and often we are on to the second reading debate the very next day. Many Canadians are getting that information for the very first time, and it takes time for people to inform their members of Parliament as to how they will be affected.

Acting as if six days in the House before a bill gets to committee is an inordinately long period of time is ridiculous, especially when we consider that two of those days were one-hour debates. The government called the debate for second reading on short days. In fact, if I am not mistaken, the NDP critic for the legislation on Bill S-5 had to wait until the third day to conclude remarks because of that. If the government is saying that it does not want to listen to the NDP members give speeches, I have some affinity for that and some sympathy, but I do not think it is proper to ram through a motion like this and, as a result, not allow for enough time for NDP members to have their say.

I certainly believe in hearing all points of view and all voices before the House takes a decision, so this is just a completely false and bogus argument altogether. There is nothing to it; there is no justification for it.

What is it akin to? The government House leader spoke a lot about the need for the House to get things done. I think a lot of Canadians would agree with that. They see us in this chamber. We know the issues that are affecting them on a daily a basis and they want some action. They want their elected representatives to tackle those issues. However, they also do not want the government to have a completely unfettered hand.

Every democracy tries to put in place not only mechanisms for decisions to be made, but mechanisms for those who oppose those decisions to, at the very least, have an impact and to limit the unfettered power that the executive branch may have. In Canada, we have some checks and balances. Other countries have more. Other countries make the inability to get things done a feature of their system. Many people might look to the United States and see a very complicated process that takes a lot of time and requires a political party to have control in all three branches of the government with respect to both houses, congress and the senate, and the presidency to really make ambitious changes. They might look at that and say it is a flaw, which it may very well be at times. The system may have been designed to make it difficult to get things done.

The Canadian system was designed to make it easier for the government to implement its agenda, but it is not without checks and balances in and of itself. We have a second chamber in our Parliament, the Senate, that provides many of the same rights and privileges that many members of Parliament have. It goes through the same process. Once a bill leaves the House and goes to the Senate, it has its three readings. It has committee study. There have been occasions in Canadian history where the Senate has held up government legislation when acting as that kind of check.

The calendar and the daily program is also a check on the government's power. The Prime Minister cannot come in and start moving legislation, have it rubber-stamped and sail it through. The government has to prioritize. It has to look at the calendar and the number of sitting days and prioritize its legislation. If it brings something in that the opposition has no intention of supporting, because it is poorly drafted or will have terrible consequences, then it has to understand that the House will take longer to pass that kind of legislation, which will have an impact on other bills it wants to pass.

Therefore, by the government giving itself the power to extend these sittings, it really does take away a very important check on the unfettered power of the Prime Minister. It is going to weaken the ability for the House of Commons to put the brakes on some of these terrible ideas we see coming from the government side.

The Conservatives will make no apology for fighting the government's inflation-causing agenda. Yes, we absolutely will go through pieces of legislation to ruthlessly scrutinize whether they will add to the cost of government, because we know the cost of government is driving up the cost of living. There is a direct correlation between the massive deficit spending that the Prime Minister has put Canadians through over the past years and the record-high prices Canadians are paying at the grocery store and the fuel pump.

Therefore, every time the government brings in legislation, that is our first and foremost lens. The Conservatives get out the sharp pencils and the extra scraps of paper and we start to ruthlessly scrutinize it to see if it will add to the cost of government, if it will grow the obligation the state has to pay out of taxpayer funds or if it will add extra compliance costs to industries that are already suffering under some of the biggest regulatory and tax burdens among our major trading partners. It takes time to do that. It takes time to not just do that research, but meet with those stakeholders.

I have been a shadow minister responsible for infrastructure. Among my colleagues today, I see many shadow ministers from a wide variety of portfolios. I know that I speak for all of us when I say that, when we get legislation, our speech in the House of Commons, the 10 or 20 minutes of analysis we provide, is just a small fraction of the work we do. We instantly start meeting with the people who will be affected by the legislation, to hear directly from them.

The government talked about Bill S-5. I have never been in the plastics industry, but I sure as heck know a lot of people who are, and they know exactly how this legislation would affect them. I know people who work in various aspects of manufacturing, distributing and retail who would all be affected by some of the regulatory burdens in Bill S-5. We have to meet with them, take what one groups says and weigh it off against what another group says, and use our intelligence and wisdom to sift through all of that information before we make a determination as to whether or not we are going to vote yes or no.

Debate in the House of Commons acts as a check on the government, preventing it from being able to ram through its agenda, and that is really important in today's context because the Canadian people have refused to give the Liberal Party a majority government in two elections. We all know that is very disappointing to the Prime Minister. He was hoping that an election might have cleansed his reputation after the corruption his government was involved in came to light with the SNC-Lavalin scandal and his own personal acts of racism, when he committed racist acts by putting on blackface so many times he has lost count.

We know the Prime Minister was hoping to get a majority government to have a palate cleanse of those things and to redeem his reputation, but Canadians did not give him that. Canadians do not want this party to ram through its agenda. They want those checks and balances to make sure there is a lot of oversight and a lot of scrutiny on what the government is doing. Extending the hours on a selective basis is going to allow the government to ram through more of its agenda. It is trying to avoid that accountability by stealth.

It is also very hypocritical. I am not using unparliamentary language when I quote the government House leader who called himself a hypocrite. I have to say that he has some justification for that when it comes to the government's excuse for this measure. He is talking about the fact that there is not enough time to get through the legislation when it was the party that prorogued just to get out of a corruption investigation scandal.

For anybody watching who might not be up to speed on all the fancy words we use in this place, proroguing is kind of like a big reset button. It is like cancelling the rest of the House's sittings for a period of time, and it resets everything. It is like a big eraser on a whiteboard of all the bills. The government is saying it has to now sit late to enact all of the bills that had been completely cancelled and had to start from scratch. We did not do that. The opposition party cannot prorogue Parliament. There is only one person who can, and that is the Prime Minister. That is what he did. There is only one person who can call elections in this country, and that is the Prime Minister.

The previous Parliament had a very similar makeup to what it does now. We had an election last year just because the Prime Minister decided that he wanted one, just like when he prorogued Parliament during the WE group of companies investigation. Do members remember that? In the early days of the pandemic, when Canadians were still suffering through some of the harshest lockdowns around the world and being told they could not visit their loved ones in hospitals, when children were being told that they could not go to school, and when young and healthy athletes were being told they were not allowed to play sports or finish their year, what did the Prime Minister do? The Prime Minister never misses an opportunity to take advantage and reward his friends.

While Canadians were focused on their health and trying to save their businesses after these punitive restrictions prevented them from earning a living, while Canadians were all focused on the very horrifying impact on their lives in so many ways, what did the Prime Minister do? He took the time to take out the chequebook that is written on the taxpayers' bank account and reward his friends at the WE group of companies by giving them an untendered half a billion dollars of Canadian taxpayers' money.

When he got caught, he pressed the big reset button. While that investigation was going on, he took out the big whiteboard eraser and—

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12:40 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh!

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12:45 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

If I may interrupt the honourable member, I would ask that we please have order.

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12:45 p.m.


Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, on a point of order, I am really hoping that you will encourage the member to stay on the subject of the motion. He seems to be widely off the subject right now.