House of Commons Hansard #59 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.


Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Mr. Speaker, again, it is a perfect illustration of how the Liberals will say one thing but do something completely different, and it continues to undermine the economic prosperity of individual Canadians across this country. Instead of offering things as simple as tax relief, all we get is more ridiculous spending that is unnecessary, and it is ultimately undermining the government's ability to support Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Greg McLean Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, almost three weeks ago now, I watched Canada's Minister of Finance deliver her budget speech in this place, and I listened to someone who represents the tone of the government and the doublespeak it continues to deliver to Canadians.

However, let me begin with a compliment. One of my Liberal colleagues in the House asked me just prior to the budget what should be in the budget for it to be palatable. My response was that if the budget came in below a $50-billion deficit, I would be surprised. I confess that I did expect a much larger deficit, given the government's and the Minister of Finance's predisposition to spend other people's money with no regard for the negative consequences and no foresight for what this country will need in the future. The minister's budget did not quite get over the bar. It was close, but let us accept that my expectations were very low, given what I have seen from the profligate government.

The future is always uncertain. If there is one thing the past few years have shown us, it is that the world's challenges and Canada's challenges will continue to increase. The events that challenge governments are not slowing down, as the eight billion people who inhabit this world are becoming more divided economically, politically and socially. Those events are, in fact, increasing. Natural disasters, pandemics, wars, safety and an emerging world food crisis are challenges that have not tested a Canadian government for some time.

Much like the financial meltdown of 2008, from which Canada emerged relatively unscathed thanks to good government both before the event and during the event and a doggedness to get back to balance in this country, we need to focus on the state of the country that we are leaving to those who come after us. We do not prepare for events when we are in the middle of events. We prepare ahead of time to abate the risk that events beyond our control will happen. That is the practice of risk management, and it seems lost at all levels of the government. The rot, as I see it, has taken hold through many levels, but it comes from the top.

To say that this is a government large on words and short on outcomes would be an understatement. I could say much of what is broken, but I will keep my remarks today focused on the budget and Canada's failing finances under the government.

I appreciate that all politicians bring their own background to this job when they are elected. I appreciate, as well, that the Minister of Finance is learning much on this job. However, I listened to her budget address, and I do need to point out the absolute doublespeak that filled her short speech to the House. Doublespeak is the iteration of two scenarios, both of which cannot exist together, like the so-called “having cake and eating it too”.

In Quebec, the saying is “le beurre et l'argent du beurre”.

She stated that Canada is doing very well economically and, without missing a beat, justified why Canadians need to go a further $52 billion into debt as a nation. There was a time when public officials showed responsibility and restraint when they bragged about the strength of a country's economy. Those strong economic times were opportunities to pay back debts incurred in difficult times and to prepare the country, financially and socially, for future events, which always arrive without warning.

Canada's government seems to have decided that we need to fund our military after seeing the threat of a hostile Russian autocrat invade a peaceful democratic country, yet these threats have been on our horizon for years. Funding Canada's proud military seems to be a revelation to the government. However, the funds are a drop in the bucket of what is required and their delivery is somewhat speculative and down the road.

Two years ago, the world was hit with a generational pandemic and Canada was ill prepared in so many basic ways. The foresight to have policies that allowed pharmaceutical firms to flourish here was long gone. Monumental deficit spending has become like a sugar high for the government, and the hangover is going to be massive. The results are already becoming evident: escalating inflation, asset bubbles and an inability to properly fund the basic social services that Canadians thought they had invested in, like health care and recently like day care. Now there is a scheme to buy support by funding dental care. Programs are great until we have to pay for them. The government members seem to think that problems like that belong to tomorrow's taxpayers, not today's voters.

Canada has another stimulus budget when the government says the economy needs no stimulus. It is a strange contradiction in thinking, yet someone told me that it is not really untrue if we really believe it. I hear the government members say repeatedly in the House that they will take no lessons. That is obvious, but it has to change. Here is a basic lesson, and I do not mean to sound trite: Economic stimulus causes inflation. Too much printed money pursuing the same pool of goods means the price of those goods will increase.

Exhibit one in Canada is housing. My colleagues know I will not dumb this down by pretending that Canada's housing problems are the result of one factor: inflation. How could it be? Inflation has taken root throughout the economy. The latest CPI numbers show us at an annual increase of 6.7%, a 40-year high, and house prices are increasing at three times that rate.

Let me address some further doublespeak in the speech from the Minister of Finance: “Inflation, a global phenomenon, is making things more expensive in Canada too.” This is an excuse. The minister's policies caused this outcome in Canada. She can try to blame it on the Governor of the Bank of Canada, but he is already trying to save his reputation in this regard. He is saying governments need to spend less as a first course in taming inflation, and the minister still wants to spend more.

This is supposed to be responsible government, and if it really is the minister's opinion that the fault lies with the Bank of Canada, then I will remind her that the governor reports directly to the minister. This is about accountability. The governor knows it and so should the minister. I will give another quote: “we will review and reduce government spending because that is the responsible thing to do.” Okay. Prove it. Words are not matching actions.

Let me address the so-called fiscal anchor the minister likes to tout. Debt-to-GDP is a comparative metric but not one that speaks to fiscal accountability for governments. The minister seems to pretend that there is only one government debt in Canada, ignoring 10 provinces and three territories, or perhaps she believes that GDP can be counted twice. When I hear the minister refer to our debt-to-GDP ratio as if the provincial debts should not be included, I know she is either uninformed or misinforming Canadians.

It is a ruse. Canadians are much poorer as a country after seven years of the government. Our country's combined capital stock showed a decrease last year. Depreciation of our country's assets exceeded the amount invested in new capital here. These are metrics that matter, and the government has driven investment out of this country.

I will give another quote: “Canada has a proud tradition of fiscal responsibility. It is my duty to maintain it and I will”. Does the minister actually believe her own words? Let us acknowledge that the Prime Minister's governments this country has endured have been anything but fiscally responsible, and the saga continues with this year's projected $52.4-billion deficit in an economy supposedly close to full employment.

Let me address some of the nonsensical and counterproductive spending in this budget. There is a new Canada growth fund, in addition to the boondoggle that is the Canada Infrastructure Bank. It will attract the billions of dollars in private capital that we need to transform our economy at speed and scale. It will invest using a broad suite of financial instruments, including all forms of debt, equity, guarantees and specialized contracts. There is lots of debt available for investing in projects in Canada; there is lots of equity. If the government is guaranteeing returns or specializing contracts, this speaks to its basic misunderstanding of financial markets' search for clarity and transparency. It also speaks to the Liberals' predisposition to increase the risk being borne by taxpayers on projects that do not make sense.

I am going to close on a positive note that I heard in the speech of the Minister of Finance. She wants to “tackle the Achilles heel of the Canadian economy: productivity and innovation”, and said, “we are falling behind when it comes to economic productivity.” It is good the minister has an eye on the mess the government has made of Canada's economy. We are falling behind, and we need to address it.

This budget falls far short on this important issue, so far short that it does not even address the reason we have fallen. That is evident in the approach of the government over the past seven years. The first step the Minister of Finance could take would be to acknowledge that she has helped create this problem and start to undo some of the significant economic damage her government has visited upon Canadians over the past seven years. To solve a problem, we must first admit we have one and, indeed, admit we have caused it by our own actions.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario


Mark Gerretsen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons (Senate)

Mr. Speaker, I heard the member say earlier that there has been no success from the government: The government has been unable to demonstrate any degree of success as it relates to our economic activity and outputs.

Meanwhile, we have the fastest-growing economy in the G7. We have the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio. We are continually touted to be among the top countries, in terms of our credit rating. We have the lowest unemployment rate. We have recovered more than 100% of the jobs lost during the pandemic.

I am wondering this. Is the member using a different set of data to determine that, other than his speculation on what he anticipates is going to be happening in the future?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Greg McLean Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, we must be dealing with two different sets of data. I appreciate that the member is writing his own press release here.

In fact, the debt-to-GDP ratio in this country is much different from how the government explains it, because we do not include the provincial debt. I explained that in my speech. I hope the member was listening just a little, but he does not actually listen.

Another thing is regarding $52.4 billion in deficits. We used to say that if $100,000 was put in the deficit, it would buy one job. How many jobs does $52.4 billion of stimulus in the economy buy? It is 500,000 jobs. Congratulations: there is the magic number. I think that might address my colleague's question very adequately.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a very simple question for my hon. colleague. Also, I would like to thank him for his speech.

We all know that the Liberals are great at talking the talk, but not so great at walking the walk. Just think the war in Ukraine. It has been 63 days, and they have yet to charter a single plane, even though they had no trouble getting one for the Aga Khan trip.

Look at what they are doing with international aid. There is not much about it in the budget, yet the Liberals see themselves as world leaders championing human rights and international aid. In the budget, however, the current amount earmarked for international aid represents 0.27% of the GDP, whereas even under Stephen Harper, it was 0.33%. The average for OECD countries is 0.42%, and the UN target is 0.7%.

I would like my colleague to talk a bit about the difference between the current government's actions and its image.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Greg McLean Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question.

I agree with him. He is right in saying that we are not spending much money on international financial aid. Now there is a war on in Ukraine, and I think the government has said that it will give $500 million. That is a small share of the financial aid for the rest of the world.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, in his speech, the member actually raised the issue of housing.

As we know, Canada is faced with a housing crisis from coast to coast to coast. In the budget, there are some measures related to it. One of the pieces that I am happy to see is the change with the RCFI initiative: Instead of ensuring that the rent is going to be above-market, which is what it was with the Liberal government's approach, in our agreement we were able to negotiate to get the government to ensure that the rent is below-market.

With that being said, one key issue to address the housing crisis is the financialization of housing. Would the member support the NDP's call for the government to put a moratorium on REITs? That would make a difference in the cost of housing.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Greg McLean Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, the financialization of housing is an issue, of course, across the country, but we do have investors who invest in housing. I have read that 30% of the housing stock in Canada is actually owned by investors. These are not necessarily large investors, which is what people think of when they think about the financialization of the housing market.

A lot of small investors have committed to putting money into housing. That is because there are no other areas to put money into in Canada. The Liberal government has more or less annihilated the investment market: the ability to invest in anything that has a return in Canada. If there is an opportunity to get 15% a year on an investment in housing, most smart investors will take that. I think a lot of that is coming from small investors.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Bloc Gabriel Ste-Marie

Resuming debate. Before I recognize the member for Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill, I want to inform her that her speech will be interrupted at 5:15 p.m. for a vote on the motion.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Leah Taylor Roy Liberal Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House today with the privilege of serving the constituents of Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill to speak on the budget: A plan to grow our economy and make life more affordable.

Before I discuss this very solid and progressive budget, I would like to begin by commending all the members in the House who unanimously supported the COVID measures our government brought forward in 2020. It is easy to forget, as we respond to the new challenges we face worldwide, the progress we have made coming out of one of the worst economic crises in our history.

The unanimous support in the House for programs such as CERB, the CBRA and more recently the caregiver benefit and the tourism and hospitality sector benefits have protected Canadians not only from disease but also from the worst of the economic fallout from this pandemic. Every member who supported these measures should be proud of the strong economic position Canada is in today. When we all pull together, we make real progress for Canadians.

Canadians are proud that despite losing over three million jobs since the start of the pandemic, we have recovered not only all of these but added another 300,000, giving us one of the most robust job recoveries in the G20.

My constituents tell me they are relieved and hopeful that our economy is continuing to thrive. Our GDP grew at 4.6% in 2021 and is forecast to continue to grow at about 4% through 2022. Constituents are also encouraged that small business closures were lower and personal savings rates higher when compared with prepandemic times. Again, this is a testament to the programs every member in the House of Commons supported in 2020.

Despite the significant increase in the deficit and the national debt, Canada has continued to maintain a AAA credit rating with the major debt rating agencies.

In budget 2022, we are continuing to protect the safety of Canadians, as COVID still presents challenges, while at the same time focusing on the post-COVID recovery and continuing to implement the platform that we promised Canadians in the last election.

This is a prudent budget in the wake of pandemic spending, but not an austerity budget. We have learned from past experiences that continuing to invest in critical social and physical infrastructure during times of economic uncertainty is wise.

With that in mind, I want to add to the current debate on the budget by discussing two major areas of focus. The first are measures that will make life more affordable for Canadians, in particular moving forward to address housing affordability, the cost of early learning and child care and dental care. The second focus of the budget I would like to address is the measures to preserve and improve Canada's role in the world.

In the first group, we are addressing affordability and continuing to support the middle class and those who are working hard to join it by expanding critical programs, all of which will benefit Canadians across the country and the residents of my riding.

On the housing front, we are proud of the budget 2022 measures to address this crisis. The tax-free first home savings account, and a doubling of the first-time homebuyers' tax credit, will give those young people fortunate enough to be able to save for their first houses a little extra assistance to reach that goal. For those who are not in a position to save for that first down payment, there is support for rent-to-own programs. As well, there are new programs to support our municipal partners in the planning and delivery of housing.

My father, Tom Taylor, was an elected public servant for over 40 years. He served as a mayor for the last 10 years. We have, of course, discussed this budget. The thoughts and experiences he shared with me underscored how important the measures are. We all realize municipal and city officials know their communities best, and control the important zoning and planning functions that are so critical to getting homes built for Canadians.

The accelerator fund and the rapid housing initiative will continue to help municipalities execute their important roles more effectively.

There are further initiatives to end homelessness and expand co-op and other housing programs that are being initiated. Organizations and people in my riding such as Michael Braithwaite at Blue Door, Clovis Grant at 360°kids, Sajida Habib at the Salon Foundation and Lorris Herenda at the Yellow Brick House are just a few examples of those who work tirelessly to help others who need a hand to find a place to stay. We are committed to helping them.

Our goal, as our respected Minister of Finance has said, is to build a Canada where nobody gets left behind. That includes ending homelessness. Of course, there is continued funding for the Canada-wide early learning and child care program. I could say a lot more about this, but I realize my time is being cut short today.

The second thing I really want to talk about is our role in the world, which is so important. In this budget, we see a number of measures that are focusing on our role in the world, both as a partner in promoting world peace and the health of our planet, but also as an economic force contributing to prosperity. Of course, these measures reinforce one another.

For me, the climate crisis is the greatest challenge facing us. Residents in my riding are very concerned with the impacts of this crisis on their communities and our world. There are many measures in budget 2022 to address the climate crisis and to support a transition to a green economy, from incentives to drive electric cars and invest in making our homes more energy-efficient, to protecting our waterways and green spaces and investing in clean tech and energy.

We also know that our commitments to other peoples and nations start with the indigenous people of Canada. We are committed to reconciliation. There is much to be done, but the historic investment of $4 billion over six years to support first nations children through Jordan's Principle takes us another step along this journey.

Lastly, Canada has committed over $8 billion to build our defence sector and to ensure that we are there with our international partners to help maintain peace and world order. We have been there for Ukrainians, providing the support they have asked for, and we will be there to help rebuild Ukraine when it emerges as an independent country at the end of this horrendous and uncalled-for war waged by Putin.

We must be committed allies: strong, secure and engaged. We can and must work together to meet the challenges facing Canadians and our world and to keep Canada a country of which we can be proud.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Bloc Gabriel Ste-Marie

It being 5:15 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of Ways and Means Motion No. 3.

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. member for Longueuil—Charles‑LeMoyne.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Sherry Romanado Liberal Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne, QC

Mr. Speaker, I request a recorded division.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Bloc Gabriel Ste-Marie

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #59

The BudgetGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

I declare the motion carried.

It being 6 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

moved that Bill C-250, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (prohibition—promotion of antisemitism), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, before we get into tonight's debate on my private member's bill, I would like to acknowledge Yom HaShoah, the Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is actually today. Today is a time, I feel, to renew our commitment to combatting anti-Semitism in all its forms.

I am honoured today to rise and speak to Bill C-250, an act to amend the Criminal Code, prohibition—promotion of anti-Semitism, which is my private member's bill. Bill C-250 is modelled on subsection 319(2), “Wilful promotion of hatred”, in the Canadian Criminal Code. However, the bill focuses specifically on Holocaust denial because of the gravity of the event in our history. If the House chooses to pass Bill C-250, it will make Holocaust denial, which is one of the key indicators of anti-Semitism and radicalization, illegal in this country, and the offence will be punishable with incarceration.

B'nai Brith just released its 2021 audit of anti-Semitism incidents this week, and for the sixth consecutive year, records were set for anti-Semitism in this country. There was an increase, unfortunately, of 7.2%. Nearly eight anti-Semitic incidents occurred every day in this country in 2021. The actual number of anti-Semitic incidents recorded last year was 2,799. This marked the fourth consecutive year in which the 2,000 plateau was exceeded.

Heather Fenyes is a past president of Congregation Agudas Israel Synagogue, in my city of Saskatoon, a CIJA local partner, a Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights board member and the chair of the Concentus Citizenship Education Foundation. This is what she had to say about Bill C-250. “When the Holocaust is denied, Jewish people die. This malignant seed of hate left unchecked threatens Jews at home, in their synagogues and within their communities. Anti-Semitism, the most pernicious of hates, is the canary in the coal mine. Where hate is left unfettered, nobody is immune from its consequences; signalling a threat to all communities. Making Holocaust denial illegal is a step towards creating safer spaces for Jews in particular and building a healthier society.”

Kevin Sharfe, president of the Congregation Agudas Israel Synagogue and Jewish Community Centre, said, “Holocaust denial is often a symptom of ignorance or intolerance. Sadly, denying the history of a people can lead to anti-Semitism, and more generally, widespread racism in our community. Healthy education is the way forward.”

The CIJA, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, made this statement: “Holocaust denial is a dangerous form of anti-Semitism. We deeply appreciate the leadership of the member from Saskatoon—Grasswood who introduced a private member's bill to criminalize this insidious form of Jew hatred. Thank you to the member from Thornhill for seconding [this bill].”

Ignorance and intolerance must be confronted and condemned wherever they exist. Ideally, I would be happy if this Criminal Code amendment were never used. Punishment is the last resort. Criminalization is an imperfect tool, but it is also an important tool to stop a behaviour that we as a society consider offensive. Criminalization is also an important step toward changing attitudes in this country. Criminalization will help draw a moral limit on the erosion of history. It will be a message to those who wish to erase historical truths.

Suppression of anti-Semitism is not the goal. Education is the key to ending anti-Semitism and the hateful fallout that comes from ignorance. Education is the safeguard of history. Holocaust denial is not free speech; it is an abuse of free speech. It is an abuse of a freedom that we all cherish in this country. It is an attack on Canadian values and our respect for diversity. If we stand by and allow history to be erased by allowing the Holocaust to be denied, distorted or minimized, we allow democracy to be eroded.

Research has shown that people who learn about the Holocaust are more likely to care about other communities, develop anti-racist attitudes and oppose persecution. It is imperative that our future generations know and understand that, from early 1941 until 1945, six million Jewish children, women and men were murdered in a state-sponsored genocide we now remember as the Holocaust. We cannot allow this chapter in history to be denied, minimized or lost. We must continue to educate Canadians to face history with courage and to call out and confront intolerance and racism every time it emerges.

If we do not continue to educate Canadians about the horrors of the Holocaust and the dangers of anti-Semitism, we leave room for hatred, racism and radicalization to take root and grow more in this country.

I will point out two recent examples that come to mind. The first one is the case of Joseph DiMarco. He was a Timmins, Ontario, school teacher who was fired in 2019 after teaching Holocaust denial. The Ontario College of Teachers held a disciplinary hearing last year to deal with the allegations that he taught Holocaust denial theories in the years 2018-19. When DiMarco's teaching licence was pulled, Michael Levitt, president and CEO of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center had this to say:

The disturbing actions by this former teacher demand nothing less than his inability to set foot in a classroom ever again. Instead of using the opportunity to teach about the Holocaust and [even] 9/11 and their lessons, he decided to spread Holocaust denial and antisemitism, doing an extreme disservice to his students.... Educators have a duty to not only provide students with factual information, but to also inspire them to be upstanding citizens who stand against hate and intolerance.

I think we would all agree that the most publicized case would be the James Keegstra trial a number of decades ago. For those who do not have the background, Keegstra was charged and convicted of hate speech in 1984 for willfully promoting hatred against an identified group by teaching his students that the Holocaust was a fraud and by promoting anti-Semitism.

Keegstra was a high school teacher in Alberta until he was fired in 1982. He expected his students to accept his views, and their grades suffered if they dared to oppose them. Keegstra, by the way, served as mayor of Eckville, Alberta from 1974-83, when his offensive and anti-Semitic views caused citizens to overwhelmingly vote him out of office in 1983. He appealed the conviction to the Supreme Court, where it was upheld.

Most Supreme Court justices believe that hate speech is not a victimless crime. They understood the potential of hate speech and anti-Semitism to be harmful and dangerous, and to promote violence.

Violence and radicalization cannot be allowed a space to grow in this country. We cannot overcome and overlook the obvious causes, and when these offences are being perpetrated by educators, they are especially egregious and very harmful. I understand that hatred and anti-Semitism are not eliminated by legislation, but legislation alone is one rung on the ladder.

I have heard the criticisms all over on this legislation. I have read media reports that imply that criminalization will only muffle anti-Semitism, but doing nothing is not a solution. It deeply concerns me that for some people doing nothing is an acceptable path forward. Paying lip service and making virtuous gestures is somehow seen as a substitution for action. I want there to be no mistake that education is the action that is needed and that criminalization is the tool to demonstrate that anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial, minimization and distortion are not going to be tolerated in this country anymore.

A 2020 study on Holocaust awareness by the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, conducted by Nanos, supports the notion of education. I will quote that study and I am happy to table the study if there is consensus among members in the House. The 2020 study on Holocaust awareness and education reveals that 59% of people in Canada's Prairies believe that young people are not taught enough about the Holocaust in school, and 73% believe young people are less aware of the Holocaust and its lessons today than in the past, while 92% of people in the Canadian Prairies say teaching about discrimination is either somewhat important or important and 96% believe teaching about the Holocaust is either somewhat important or important.

In a July 2021 report on hate crimes in Canada by Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, Statistics Canada data indicates an increase in hate crimes. Again I am happy to table the part of that report that says that. If we go back to July 27 last year, it stated, “Statistics Canada released hate crime statistics for 2020 today, revealing that police-reported hate crimes increased by 37 per cent last year and reached the highest number ever recorded, 2,669. According to StatCan's annual police-reported crime statistics report, the Jewish community saw an almost five per cent increase in hate crimes”.

I am going to move now to a person I have known for a number of years. He was an educator in the city of Saskatoon. Right now, he is the president of B'nai Brith, David Katzman. He is from Lodge 739 in my city. He made the following comments on a bill to criminalize willfully promoting anti-Semitism by condoning, denying or downplaying the Holocaust. He described the Holocaust as the industrialization of the mass murder of over 11 million people, including six million Jews. As he said, condoning, denying or downplaying the Holocaust has always been the most powerful magnet for those who hate Jews, and most often these same haters have a long list of “others” who must be abused or banished. Canadians, he said, treasure our national commitment for all persons to live freely and safely.

The government has now taken the precedented step once again of appropriating the private member's bill I introduced as the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood. In the last Parliament, it took my bill and fumbled it, and then I actually held on to the ball and got it over the goal line. This time, though, it has taken the text of my private member's bill and parked it halfway through seven pages of potential future promises in annex 3 of the budget document. There is no commitment here, just a vague suggestion of future consideration.

I urge members to understand the difference between my bill, Bill C-250, and the version of this bill that the government has chosen to place into the omnibus budget legislation. Bill C-250 will have the teeth that the “budget lite” version will not have.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood for his perseverance in bringing this important piece of legislation before the House.

I hope he will indulge me for just a moment. At the age of 19, as a student on a summer program in Europe, I visited Mauthausen, one of the concentration camps. I came away from that visit thinking either the site should be plowed up and planted with flowers or that every young person should be required to visit. I could not make up my mind.

I stand here, 50 years later, still unable to make up my mind, but I believe that the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood has convinced me that Holocaust denial is an important tool in inciting violence and hatred against the Jewish community and therefore it deserves criminalization. I know that he will agree with me when I say that it would make a great difference in combatting the rise in anti-Semitism that B'nai B'rith has documented again this year in its audit.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member's statement here tonight. It is funny, because I have in my hand the annual audit of the anti-Semitic incidents in 2021 from B'nai B'rith. It has eight recommendations. I very much cherish that organization in this country. It has fought through anti-Semitism in this country for decades, and it just had its annual audit. It released eight recommendations. All members of Parliament should take a look at this report that was just released about a week ago.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


René Villemure Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood for his speech.

No one could disagree with the principle of Bill C-250. Ignorance and intolerance must be condemned. Like my colleague, I believe that education is essential.

However, I am concerned that naming a specific group in such a law could imply that one group is more important than another and that there are laws that favour some groups over others, even though I know that is not the legislator's intent.

I would like to know what my colleague could do to give his bill the broadest possible scope.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Madam Speaker, when I pass a private member's bill, I know now how we get it through the House and the other place to become law. We have to be very specific. We cannot have a big bill going into the justice committee because the committee will tear it apart. In this case, this is just one piece because I know the important legislation that is needed in this country for Holocaust denial. It is a very small piece of legislation, but it is a start, as I mentioned in my speech.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Mount Royal Québec


Anthony Housefather LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement

Madam Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to thank my friend for Saskatoon—Grasswood for putting forward this bill. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Whether this bill comes to fruition as a private member's bill or as government legislation, the hon. member can take solace in the fact that he put this forward and is the driving force behind it. On behalf of, I am sure, the vast majority of the Canadian Jewish community, I want to thank him for what he has done.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Madam Speaker, I certainly want to thank the hon. member for Mount Royal. He has been a stellar performer on the heritage committee that I serve on. I know, when I put it on the Order Paper, that the hon. member for Mount Royal phoned me right away: It was seconds after it was on the Order Paper.

I agree that this needs to change, whether I pursue this as a private member's bill, Bill C-250, or whether the government picks it up and hopefully moves it forward, if it is going to do anything with this bill. Unfortunately, in the last Parliament, the Liberals took my bill but kind of lagged with it, so I had to pick it up and move it forward, which is good. The country has benefited from it.

I agree with the hon. member that this is a good bill that is needed, particularly at this time. Anti-Semitism is on the rise in this country, and it is good that we are bringing out this bill in 2022.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Mount Royal Québec


Anthony Housefather LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for putting forward this bill.

Rarely has a date ever been so apt to debate legislation, as this evening is the beginning of Yom HaShoah.

Yom HaShoah is a sacred day. It is a day when we remember with reverence the over six million Jews who were slaughtered by the Nazis in the Holocaust. It is a day when we remember all of the victims of the Holocaust, regardless of their origin, whether they were from the LGBTQ+ community, the Roma community or any other community. It is a day when we honour the survivors, including those many survivors who came to make their homes in cities like Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg. It is a day when we thank the rescuers, the righteous gentiles who risked their lives to save others. It is a day when we remember atrocities, and it is a day when it is totally appropriate to talk about how we can prevent this from ever happening again.

On Monday I had the incredible honour of standing with my friends from Thornhill and Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke at the B'nai B'rith press conference, where it brought forward its audited anti-Semitic incidents for last year. As my friend from Saskatoon mentioned, there was yet another increase in incidents after multiple successive years, with many more violent and threatening incidents.

In my province of Quebec, there was a significant increase in anti-Semitic incidents.

In British Columbia there was an important increase in anti-Semitic incidents. We as a country need to confront why this is happening.

Last spring, the month of May was when many of these incidents happened, which occurred as a flare-up from the war, or incidents of violence, occurring in the state of Israel when they were attacked by Hamas, which is a terrorist organization under Canadian law. For whatever reason, that turned into anti-Semitism here in Canada. It turned into rock-throwing in Montreal. It turned into a time when families in my riding were scared to let their children go to the park because they were afraid somebody would see them wearing a kippah and that they would attack them.

That same month, Holocaust survivors in my riding came to see me to ask if they should take down the mezuzah from their doors, for fear that people would see this Jewish symbol and find out they were Jewish.

I never would have believed that this could happen in Montreal, in Quebec, in Canada. That is unbelievable.

It has been 262 years since the Jewish community has been in Canada. We have contributed so much to this country in every facet, whether it is politics, the judiciary, the arts, sports or the military. Canadian Jews are not victims. We are strong and proud. It is unacceptable that in a great country like ours we see incidents of Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism.

One of the things that makes me very proud is that, when there are international polls about anti-Semitism, Canada always ranks among one of the lowest countries for incidents of anti-Semitism. Only about 8% or 9% of Canadians are anti-Semitic, versus much higher percentages in other countries.

Last week, when Angus Reid did a poll about how people perceive different religious communities in Canada, the Jewish community finished as the most favourable. How is it that, with so few anti-Semites in this country, 61% of religious hate crimes in this country are against Jews, when we make up only 1.25% of the population?

Something is wrong with this picture.

From the Protocols of the Elders of Zion through to disinformation online today, for some crazy reason, Jews are always the first victims but never the last. Somebody who is capable of disliking Jews is capable of disliking people because they are part of any group.

We know it sometimes starts with Jews but does not end with Jews.

We are all here to see what we can do to fight not only anti-Semitism, but also racism, francophobia and all forms of discrimination in our society.

It starts with education, but education is not always enough.

I always believe that we err on free speech. We always try to make sure that we do not unreasonably take away someone's right to say something, but it is clear from all kinds of evidence that denial of the Holocaust and minimization of the Holocaust is actually one of the most effective tools for increasing anti-Semitism and directing hatred and violence against Jews.

Our Constitution is clear. While freedom of speech is an incredibly important right, protected under section 2 of the Canadian Charter—

That right is also protected by the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and many other charters in this country.

We, under section 1, have a right to place reasonable limits on freedom of speech. Hate speech is not necessarily free speech. The courts in Canada have determined that we are allowed to prevent people from inciting genocide and from inciting hatred against identifiable groups.

Today, when people go online and look at Holocaust denial on all of the platforms, it is but a start of where people go when they start hating Jews. I support this bill or whatever frame this bill takes, because it is so important to not allow people in Canada to minimize or to deny the Holocaust. It is a historical truth. It is not a subject for debate. Someone who claims that six million Jews did not die in the Holocaust does not know what they are talking about. It happened.

Everyone in Parliament has a duty here and now. Regardless of our political party, we are all united in saying that we do not want anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia or any other form of discrimination in Canada.

We may not always agree on how to go about it, but we agree that it should not exist.

Holocaust denial is one thing we can unanimously condemn. It is so bad and causes so much hate that it should be against the law.

I would like to finish by adding one other thing. Yom HaShoah comes on the eve of Yom Ha'atzmaut. Yom Ha'atzmaut is Israeli Independence Day. It happens next week. In Canada, part of the hate comes from the extreme right and part of the hate comes from the extreme left. Nobody has a monopoly on it. Everybody could be part of it.

One of the things that I have seen, and one of the things that I am the most afraid of, is that when somebody denies the existence of the state of Israel or incites hate against the State of Israel, it leads to anti-Semitism against Jews in Canada. Israel is a democratic country: it is the only Jewish majority state in the world. It has a right to exist. It has a right to exist behind secure borders.

I really hope that we can also join together, in addition to condemning anti-Semitism, to agree that BDS, all forms of Israel Apartheid Week, all forms of heinous attacks against Jewish students on campus, and all the places where hate of Israel leads should also not exist in this country.

I thank my friend for Saskatoon—Grasswood. He has brought forward an important issue that we all need to work together to confront.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 27th, 2022 / 6:30 p.m.


Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Madam Speaker, let me begin by reading the text of a motion unanimously adopted by the National Assembly of Quebec on May 26, 2021, nearly a year ago:

That the National Assembly strongly condemn the threats, violence and aggression against Jewish Quebecers, which have increased in recent weeks;

That it reaffirm that in a free and democratic society, all people may protest or express their opinions in a context of respect, safety and dignity;

That it reiterate the need to continue to hold a healthy and democratic debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict;

That, lastly, it recall that violence toward anyone is never acceptable.

Those are the words of the National Assembly of Quebec. As far as I am concerned, it is the supreme authority in Quebec. The Bloc Québécois is committed to defending these unanimous motions and will continue to defend them against all attacks. I read that out to illustrate that Bill C-250 is part of that process. Bill C‑250 is not perfect, but it is part of that process.

Hatred is a venom in the veins of society. Inciting and promoting hatred is akin to injecting this poison into the veins of our society.

Quebec adopted a secularism law specifically to allow each and every religious faith to be practised voluntarily and freely, without the appearance of government criticism, favour or disapproval. We want the government to be secular, and we want people to be free to practise the religion of their choice. To us, in Quebec, this principle is sacred.

Over the past few years, we have seen an increase in the number of anti-Semitic crimes. I saw that anti-Semitic crimes increased considerably in 2021, in the Montreal area in particular, but elsewhere as well, including the Vancouver area, as my colleague across the way mentioned, as well as in various parts of Canada and in the U.S. too, and probably throughout the western hemisphere. We have to work on not only reducing this disturbing trend, but stopping it in its tracks.

Obviously, it is not just hatred against the Jewish community that we must combat, but all hatred. Nonetheless, we have to start somewhere, and I think that the current situation deserves our attention.

There are different ways to promote hatred, and promoting Holocaust denial is one of them. There are no words to describe the Holocaust. I too visited some sites in Poland. I was speechless. The idea that a human being could do such things is unfathomable. I cannot even claim to be better than those who committed these horrific crimes. I think that, no matter how much we try to avoid it, these kinds of things can happen to anyone in any society. I understand that, in certain circumstances, any society can be faced with these types of dilemmas. I would almost say that I feel as sorry for those who perpetrated these atrocities as I do for their victims. It is unbelievable.

I feel a strong sense of solidarity with the Jewish community, and I sympathize with what it has to live with. It is unacceptable for anyone to deny the impact of the Holocaust, or sometimes the fact that it even happened, or to trivialize it. We must make sure that the Holocaust is never forgotten and that its importance is never diminished.

As I was saying, Bill C-250 is not perfect. It proposes a definition of the Holocaust. As I mentioned, I visited sites in Poland. I saw what it was like. Even so, I find it somewhat difficult to explain what it is. It is something so inhuman and senseless that it is hard to imagine. Therefore, I want to hear from experts in committee.

Perhaps the definition being proposed by my colleague from Saskatoon—Grasswood is fine, or perhaps it can be improved. I would like to hear from experts on how to define the Holocaust accurately enough so as not to diminish other genocides, yet highlight what happened at the time and ensure that it never happens again.

The committee also needs to hear explanations of the different potential definitions of the Holocaust as well as their negative effects. It is not that hard to guess, but I still want to hear from the experts.

My colleague across the way was talking earlier about someone in his riding who was wondering whether he should take down the mezuzah from his door and stop his children from wearing a kippah to the park. That is unacceptable. We certainly do not want that. These are the harmful effects of Holocaust denial and hatred of others. I want people to come talk to us in committee, people who might help us better understand the situation so we can respond to the problem more effectively.

We need to do all this while making absolutely sure that we do not fall into the trap of adopting provisions that conflict with the freedom of expression provisions in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As my colleague said, freedom of expression is in the charter. It is also in the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. It is a principle we all hold dear, in Quebec as well as in Canada, and even throughout the western world. It is one of our most precious freedoms.

We have to be careful though. If I can put it this way, we will have to “handle” Bill C‑250 prudently and sensitively. This has to be dealt with. We have to address the situation, act on our responsibility and make sure we are responding to the concerns of the Jewish community. This community's concerns are shared by society as a whole in different ways and for different reasons. We all need to care about this. We cannot ignore what is happening in these situations.

We will have to be careful, but this is something that must be done. We also have to ensure that we do not duplicate what already exists in section 319 of the Criminal Code, which is quite clear. The provisions in Bill C‑250 may not have as broad a scope and may already be covered by section 319. If so, we will have to find a way to harmonize it all. We do not want to simply duplicate what is already in the Criminal Code; we want to supplement it, or to ensure that we have a text that the courts can interpret in such a way as to achieve the objective set out in Bill C‑250.

For all these reasons, the Bloc Québécois will be voting to send Bill C‑250 to committee so that we can work on it and so that, while we may never fully comprehend, we can strive for a better understanding of the tragedies that members of the Jewish community may endure, as well as the inhuman events that took place in the 1940s, particularly in the concentration camps in Poland.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Blake Desjarlais NDP Edmonton Griesbach, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin my remarks today by thanking all members of the House for ensuring that we have a meaningful debate about the meaning and importance of today, about Holocaust remembrance in particular and about how important this bill truly is. The planning and carrying out of the destruction of six million Jewish lives is a terrible tragedy to reflect upon, particularly here in Canada, a place where we are not unfamiliar to this.

Today and every day, we are called on to remember the truth, the brutal truth, that six million Jews died simply for being themselves, for being who they are, for being true to that promise. Women, children and men were executed by the terrible and evil Nazi regime simply for being themselves. All Canadians deserve to be who they are. That is a basic principle that I believe our country can stand by.

Today we must not only remember, but challenge ourselves to go even further and do more. Families across our country are still grieving from the reality of this painful and lasting experience. We must acknowledge and recommit to the elimination of hatred, anti-Semitism and xenophobia in all its forms. We must combat the poisonous hatred that is anti-Semitism. It is our duty, but sadly anti-Semitism is on the rise in Canada and around the world. Jewish people continue to face discrimination, prejudice and physical violence simply for being themselves.

I know the struggle of wanting to ensure that we are honest with ourselves and that this country has the protections to ensure it. It is our job as parliamentarians to ensure that we not only stick up and stand up for the things that our country has been able to achieve, but also go back and attempt to remedy all the things that we have not, including truly ensuring that anti-Semitism does not continue. Those who deny and condone the Holocaust should rightly face criminal prosecution. Their actions motivate hatred.

I am grateful to the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood for his leadership in tabling Bill C-250, legislation that would finally ban Holocaust denial in Canada. I want to thank the member for that.

Canada has an obligation, particularly as a democracy and a vibrant one, to condemn and combat Holocaust denial in every way, shape and form. The Jewish community has truly suffered from the horrors of the Nazi regime, but it continues to suffer. That is truly a pain that all Canadians must bear. This unique and truly painful experience is one that we must learn from and overcome. The New Democrats welcome Bill C-250 and hope that it will finally tackle this long-standing denial, which puts today's generation at risk.

I want to take the opportunity to shed some light on Canada's deeply problematic and anti-Semitic history.

Frederick Blair is one of the most shameful taints in Canadian history. As a high-ranking immigration official in the Government of Canada in the 1930s, Blair deliberately worked toward formulating immigration policies based on racial purity. This also included the exclusion of Jewish people. Notorious anti-Semites were in control of our policies here in Canada toward Jewish people during the Holocaust, at the time they needed us most. In 1941, Blair wrote, “Canada, in accordance with generally accepted practice, places greater emphasis on race than upon citizenship.” It is no secret that many other elite officials and such people with power were openly hateful. I am deeply remorseful for this facet of Canadian history, among many, many others.

Instead of accepting Jewish refugees with open arms, Canada's immigration policy openly denied them safe refuge. When people were coming from every corner of the world to this place, they were seeking refuge. We denied them. When many other allied countries were accepting tens of thousands of refugees, Canada only accepted 5,000 during the entire duration of the Holocaust.

Liberal prime minister William Mackenzie King's political decision was to limit Jewish immigration in Canada. In one of many such moments of shame, when the MS St. Louis arrived in 1939 from Germany carrying 937 refugees, Canada turned them away. It is shameful. Eventually, 254 of those passengers would perish, simply because they were being themselves and the complicity of Canada. We had the opportunity to act, and we failed.

It is also a documented fact that, when a Canadian immigration agent in 1939 was asked about the refugees and if Canada would commit to admit, he replied, “None is too many”.

“None is too many”. Can members imagine fleeing a terrible and atrocious event in history, such as the Nazi regime, and being denied? This despicable and discriminatory hate was on display for the entire world to see, and it si something we, in Canada, must recognize.

How can we claim the moral authority on the international stage without rectifying these mistakes? Our past is truly filled with shameful instances, but I believe our country is willing to fix it. The fear is that those past haunts will continue to haunt existing generations, and the fear is for the next generation. We must ensure a place of safety for them here in Canada.

This year, shockingly, we witnessed violent and undemocratic protests right outside this building, this Parliament, which is meant to be a symbol of our democracy, our unity and our diversity. Among them, Canadians witnessed something terrible. They saw truly disturbing visuals of hate symbols, such as the Confederate flag and the swastika.

These groups are beginning to accumulate copious amounts of power, with explicit intentions to increase crime, division and a continuation of the undermining of our democratic institution. This is precisely how power works. Large displays of anti-Semitic hate symbols on Parliament Hill must not become mainstream elements of our society. We must deny them. The power to control that narrative belongs to us, to those who are elected to speak on behalf of others.

We must confront these harsh truths. As a country, we must radically shift the gears to never forget and never again, by force and by action. We must never forget the crimes committed by the Nazis and continued by horrid hate groups around in Canada today.

New Democrats have always, and will always, stand for fighting against hate, and I am proud of my incredible caucus members who have proven their solidarity with vulnerable communities and brought them stern legislation to outlaw hate.

I would like to take this moment to thank my colleague from New Westminster—Burnaby for introducing the private member's bill that would outlaw hate symbols such as Nazi swastikas.

I want to conclude by thanking many of those Jewish Canadians who continue to fight for justice, continue to fight anti-Semitism. I stand in firm solidarity with Jewish Canadians across our country in ending anti-Semitism as it spreads.