House of Commons Hansard #94 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was violence.


Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.


John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Madam Speaker, I certainly appreciate the history lesson from the government House leader. I know he has focused a lot on predictability, but let us look at what is happening in the here and now.

There is not one legislature in this country that is working under a hybrid system. Even the mother Parliament in Britain suspended its hybrid system last July and returned to an in-person system. There are other legislatures around the world that have returned to an in-person system.

The reality is that public health agencies, not just here in Ontario but in Quebec and all over the country, have limited the restrictions. There are no more mandates, for example. The government, just this week, announced that. We could revisit this in August and September and, with an agreement, return to a hybrid format if the need is there.

I do not understand why the government House leader will not accept that as the current reality of today.

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.


Mark Holland Liberal Ajax, ON

Madam Speaker, there is no obligation on the hon. House leader for the Conservatives or on his colleagues to use any of these provisions. They can show up to this place 100% of the time. When they have had COVID or been sick, they have used these provisions and voted through them. If they would rather not vote or participate and not represent their constituents using these tools, that is an option they have.

On this side of the aisle, we do not find it acceptable for somebody who is sick to attend. As I said, we had five individuals just last week, as we are still in the middle of this pandemic, who had COVID, and despite that, they were able to continue to participate. They did not come in here and they did not spread it. I think that is responsible, and it allows us to continue to do our work. Rather than debating this for an entire summer, leading up to having to deal with it again in the fall, this would provide us with the stability and clarity we need.

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.


Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. However, I am concerned about government accountability when we use the hybrid model.

It is clear, and studies have shown, that when we study important bills in committee, the informal aspect that allows us to truly engage with our colleagues to look for constructive ways to improve things is not there.

I wonder about how the hybrid approach affects accountability, especially in a context where there are a lot of worrisome signals about democracy. We have seen a government run by closure motions in recent weeks.

It is important to respect the democratic aspect, and this hybrid approach can sometimes make things a little more complicated, especially in committee. I would like to know what my colleague thinks about this.

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.


Mark Holland Liberal Ajax, ON

Madam Speaker, obviously, questions can be asked in committee both within and outside the hybrid system. Many people appeared in committee virtually, and we were able to ask them questions.

During the most difficult period of the pandemic for businesses and individuals, it was entirely possible for members to ask questions, participate in debates and exercise all their rights as members in virtual mode.

Generally speaking, most people now participate in person, but the hybrid system enables us to adapt to changing health situations while maintaining the flexibility to answer questions.

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.


Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

Madam Speaker, we heard some really interesting, to put it mildly, arguments from the Conservatives over the last number of days. I think what we have said very clearly is that virtual work is work and that we are still in the pandemic and expecting another wave, possibly in the early fall.

We know that a hybrid Parliament is a family-friendly Parliament. A hybrid Parliament is also a climate-smart Parliament in the era of climate change when we should be reducing our carbon footprint.

First of all, does the hon. member believe that the Conservatives need to get out of the time warp that they are in, and should Parliament not be a model workplace? Should we not be opening the doors to new and smarter and safer ways of doing work, meaning hybrid work?

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.


Mark Holland Liberal Ajax, ON

Madam Speaker, I think what we demonstrated in this vast, enormous country, the second-largest country in the world, where we traverse enormous distances, is that in this global pandemic, a virtual environment allowed us to do our work despite those incredible challenges. There will be a separate process at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to look at its utility outside of the public health circumstance.

Inside the public health circumstance, when we take people from all ends of the country, put them in airplanes, put them in a small room and then send them back to their home communities, that is not a safe environment. That is not a good way for us to be operating and that is why, in a continuing pandemic, we need to have the flexibility to keep people safe.

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I would like to use myself as an example. I was one of the members who tested positive for COVID and was unable to participate in person, and this was just last week. My choice was between coming into the chamber knowing that I had tested positive for COVID or using the hybrid provisions to attend.

Because the hybrid format was there, I was able to be engaged in debates, at least on a few occasions. I was also able to vote. I think it sends a message to my constituents in terms of doing the right thing by not coming here and speaking and voting. In that way I can protect my colleagues and ultimately demonstrate leadership in the community.

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.


Mark Holland Liberal Ajax, ON

Madam Speaker, my friend and colleague raises a very important point. All members of Parliament take their responsibility to represent their communities as sacrosanct, as something that is deep within them. This would put members in a situation of having to choose whether to not represent their constituents, not show up, not participate and not vote, or come in and get everybody sick.

Remember, if we come in sick because we want to represent our constituents and be able to vote and be able to participate in a critical debate, we are going to make other people in the chamber sick, and then those sick people will go back to every corner of the country and make everybody else sick.

In talking about ending this in the middle of a pandemic, we are literally incentivizing members to come in sick so that they can represent their constituents and then act as super-spreaders across the country. That is not responsible.

I understand that there is a debate about how we can or cannot use these provisions outside of a pandemic circumstance, but since we continue to be in a pandemic right now, shutting off that option and incentivizing members to come in sick is not the right approach.

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.


Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer—Mountain View, AB

Madam Speaker, the NDP and the Liberals seem to feel they know a lot more than a lot of the public health officials and any other parliamentarians around the country, and, as the hon. member from the Conservatives mentioned earlier, more than all other parliaments around the world.

What makes Canada so much more special that we can carve out this small niche for ourselves when the rest of the world is moving on?

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

7:25 p.m.


Mark Holland Liberal Ajax, ON

Madam Speaker, I think I just explained what is different about the Canadian circumstance, and I do not think I could have been any clearer in my example.

When people are forced to make a choice between coming to work sick, representing their constituents, voting and participating in critical issues, or else staying home and not making people sick, the ramifications in a pandemic, I think, are exceptionally clear. This is particularly the case in a country as big and vast as this country. We are pulling people in from communities all over the second-largest country in the world and putting them into a small, confined space.

Eliminating the ability for them to work when they are sick and incentivizing them to come in when they are ill does not make sense. We continue to be in a pandemic.

This hybrid format makes sense. It would last for a year, and there is every opportunity for the procedure and house affairs committee to take a look at the utility or lack of utility outside of a public circumstance. We deserve to have that debate. It should take place, and I look forward to it.

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

7:25 p.m.


John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Madam Speaker, it is with mixed emotions that I stand here tonight to participate in this debate. The emotions are really a misunderstanding of why we are even debating this, and somewhat anger as well that we are actually using up valuable time in this place to debate a futuristic issue that somehow the government House leader is predicting to occur when everything else around the world, including 10 feet outside of this building, has returned to normal.

It does not make any sense to me that we are wasting this time tonight when there are other issues we could be discussing, including the affordability and inflation crisis going on right now. The inflation rate rose to 7.7% today, which is the highest level in 40 years, and we are not seeing any solutions from the government to deal with that.

In fact, earlier today I asked for a unanimous consent motion to deal with an emergency debate on the inflation and affordability crisis given the news of today. Given the fact that Canadians are struggling and suffering under the weight of these financial pressures, and the level of anxiety they are facing right now, I thought it would be prudent to use the time this evening to have a debate on inflation and affordability.

Right now, across this country there is a situation where even the most basic services the government can provide, passport services, are a fiasco. There are lineups right across the country. People are travelling in those small confined spaces: the airplanes that the government House leader just described as being a risk. They are waiting in line for passports. Some have trips coming up in a couple of days and are still waiting for their passports to be processed. In Montreal, we have seen lineups around the building. In North York, there are lineups around the building and down the street.

The most basic government services to be provided are under a complete weight of collapse right now because of the mismanagement of the government. Why are we not talking about that tonight?

One employee in my constituency office, Sarah, is solely dedicated to dealing with passport issues right now. One day last week, she was on the phone waiting for five and a half hours to get through on the MPs' passport line. She waited for five and a half hours. Once she got on to process seven passports to help constituents of mine, she had to be on the phone for another two and a half hours. That is eight hours of her day spent trying to service the people in my riding who were in desperate need of passports because they wanted to travel coming out of the COVID pandemic. This is the type of stuff that we should be discussing, not using valuable real estate or time in this place to talk about the complete collapse of basic services in this country.

The other thing we should be discussing tonight, rather than some futuristic plan of a hybrid Parliament the government House leader and the NDP House leader have cooked up, is the situation going on and the news coming out of Nova Scotia about political interference by the Prime Minister's Office and the public safety minister's office in an investigation into a mass murder that the RCMP on the ground suggested strongly would compromise or jeopardize the investigation. Those are the things we should be talking about.

That is why Conservatives, earlier today, asked for an emergency debate on those issues, and not a motion to return to hybrid Parliament when the rest of the country and the rest of the world is moving on. It just does not make any sense at all that we are in this position.

Earlier, when the government House leader was speaking, he gave a history lesson about when COVID started. I was in this place when COVID started. I believe the Speaker was, too. There was a lot of uncertainty at the time. None of us knew what was happening. We had heard about a virus that was coming. We saw it rage through China, and then it started to rage through Europe. At the time, and I think it was January 27, the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles called on the government to close the borders to stop this virus from coming into Canada. Shortly after that, we found out we had our first case.

These are the things that Conservatives were trying to do in the absence of any information or any knowledge of what was going on. There was a lot of fear being incited. Even at that time, because of the concern that we had and the request by the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles to shut down the borders, I remember the government was referring to us as racists. Do members remember that? We were trying to protect Canadians at the time.

On March 13, we found out that the virus was really raging across the country. That is when the decision was made to shut down this place. It was shortly after the election in 2019. In fact, some of the members who were elected in 2019 had an opportunity to sit in this place for only three months before everything basically shut down. It shut down for a full month. I remember being in on those meetings with the leadership team under our then leader, the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle. We were talking about the unknown: talking about the things that were going on, and how we were going to adapt to that.

The issue of hybrid Parliament came up and a return to Parliament, because the nation's business needed to continue. There were serious issues, such as health issues, procurement issues and all of the things that Canadians were facing. Businesses were shutting down, individuals were being kept away from their places of employment, and Parliament had to function. We came up with a system. I give full credit to the House administration staff for the work they did in making sure that our parliamentary democracy was able to function at that time.

There was very limited opportunity for members of Parliament to participate. We had talked about a minimum number being able to be in this chamber, as the development of Zoom came up. None of us had even heard of Zoom at the time, then all of a sudden Zoom became a permanent fixture in our lives to deal with this pandemic. House administration staff started working on that. We started working on a voting app system. At the height of the pandemic, we could rationalize it: we could justify it to ensure that members of this place would be able to participate in the democracy and represent their constituents.

At that time, I sat through the Procedures and House Affairs Committee. We focused on hybrid Parliament. We were focusing on the system. I remember that we were doing it on Zoom at the time. Several concerns came up, not the least of which was the fact that we did not want this to be a permanent-type system for Parliament. I remember that Conservatives and I argued at the time that there had to be some sort of sunset clause: if we got to a certain point, we would not continue with a hybrid Parliament.

There was always the opportunity for House leaders, the leadership team and leaders themselves, to continue with this hybrid system, understanding that there were still things happening and subvariants that were coming in. I recall January 2021 was one of the most traumatizing times that I have dealt with as a public official, and I have been doing this as a city councillor and as a member of Parliament now for 16 years. It was when we dealt with the situation that was going on at Roberta Place: Over 100 seniors died as a result of the delta variant. We were still fighting for vaccines at that time. In fact, we were just starting to get the vaccines.

There were still a lot of things going on back then that required us to be diligent in the safety measures that were being put into place, not the least of which was hybrid Parliament and the voting app. We continued along that line. We continued in that vein.

As we were going through this stuff and dealing with this at PROC, the concern was always the fact that there had to be a time limit. We heard from constitutional experts. We heard from our law clerks. We heard from former speakers. Speaker Milliken appeared before the committee to talk about the peril of continuing through hybrid Parliament and what it would mean to our democratic institution of Parliament, and not least what it would do to other institutions across the country.

The Constitution was clear, and the evidence was clear as it was presented to us at PROC, in that this is the seat of Parliament. This is the seat of power here in Ottawa. It is in the Constitution. It is not through a Zoom call. It is not through a computer camera. It is here in Ottawa, so the warnings that were placed upon us back then were to make sure that this was not going to be permanent. We talked about changes to the Standing Orders, and there were recommendations made through PROC not to have changes to the Standing Orders and not to move to a permanent measure.

As the situation evolved, we continued to evolve with it. We continued to carry on with hybrid Parliament. We continued, and we enhanced the voting app so that people could participate not just at the height of the pandemic, but at the downside of the pandemic.

Here we are today. Everything is opening up: everything except Parliament. Public health agencies across the country, both provincially and federally, have all lifted their mandates. They have lifted their vaccination mandates and their mask mandates. Just this past week, the federal government announced that there were no more vaccine mandates. The world is moving on from COVID. The only two people who are not moving on from COVID are the government House leader and the House leader of the NDP.

It is not just public health agencies. At legislatures around the world and legislatures across the country, both provincially and territorially, no one is using a hybrid system at this point: not even the mother Parliament in England, which stopped using it last July. There is in-person voting and in-person Parliament for members of Parliament. Canada would be an outlier in this. We would be an outlier if the government gets its way, and there is no reason to believe that it will not because of its NDP partners. When we return in September, we are going to be virtual again.

That has come with some significant problems. We have seen it just in the past week. Last night, for example, we saw a server break down and we saw the inability of members to participate in this place. They could not log on. Last week, during a private member's bill, we had a crash of the voting app. It took a little while to accumulate the numbers. Can members imagine if that had been in the middle of a confidence vote? If it had been in the middle of a budget or an estimate vote or even a throne speech, can they imagine the chaos that would have ensued as a result? It would have been unbelievable.

We have also seen, obviously, some embarrassing things over Zoom in the past couple of years. We have seen members who have been caught on camera and embarrassed at great personal consequence. It was a great personal embarrassment not just for them, but for their families as well. It does come with consequences.

It is around here. I have had the privilege, since I became the opposition House leader, to sit on the Board of Internal Economy. I have heard testimony, and I have received and read reports, of the impact that this is having on our interpretation bureau. We have seen a ninefold increase in workplace injuries related to the interpretation bureau, and it is directly attributed to a hybrid Parliament. There are sound issues. We have heard tinnitus issues. It is unbelievable to me that we would continue to put our world-class interpreters in a position where they could sustain further injury as a result of hybrid Parliament.

I have asked the question of what would resolve the workplace injuries with our interpreters. In the reports and in the testimony, the answer is always the same: We have to get back to normal. We have to get back to a situation where interpreters are not wearing headsets, and the sound injury problem is not impacting them to a point like it would not when they were here in person. It is the same thing with committee work, as well.

Notwithstanding all of the public health measures that have been lifted and the public health guidance that has been going on, why are we not thinking about the people who work here? Why are we not thinking about the translation bureau? There is a diminishing pool of interpreters. That is going on right now, and I would suggest that given the importance of bilingualism in this place and the importance of recognizing the French language, we run a real risk of not having the same quality of bilingualism to allow this place to function properly. It is a real challenge with the diminishing pool of interpreters, and it is a problem that can easily be addressed.

We have heard what the solution is. The solution is to return to normal. The interpreters, who are working in the back and who work at committees, are much less likely to be injured if we are here. This is a party that speaks about and has a motive to look after workers, and the NDP at a minimum should be thinking about this, yet these are not even considerations in the decision to continue with hybrid Parliament. They should be, and I cannot overstate how serious this problem is for the people who work here. It is a serious issue.

I have talked about the public health issues. I have also talked about the guidance that has come out of public health agencies. I can walk literally 10 feet out of here and not have the same level of restriction I have within our symbol of democracy. People are not wearing masks and there is no vaccine requirement anymore. Even throughout the course of COVID, there was theatre on the government side. There is video evidence of members sitting in this place who are not wearing their masks, and then all of a sudden the camera gets on them and we can see them putting their masks on.

Despite or notwithstanding the rule in this place that people wear masks, which was determined by the Board of Internal Economy, we have been to receptions recently in the Sir John A. Macdonald Building with 200 or 300 people and nobody was wearing a mask. Everybody was together, talking and socializing. It is theatre. It is not following any evidence and it is not following any science. I have not been given any evidence or science on why we should continue with a hybrid system, other than anecdotal evidence by the government House leader and the NDP House leader.

I often joke about this, but not really, because I am mocking them a bit: They are not doctors but they act like doctors. I have been in situations where I have been talking to the government House leader and the NDP House leader, and they have said that somehow there is some new variant coming from the southern hemisphere in the fall. This is part of their rationale for why we have to continue with this sham hybrid system.

I have asked where the evidence and science are. The last time I checked, the government House leader and the NDP House leader are not world-renowned immunologists, epidemiologists or virologists. Where are they getting this advice? The chief medical officers of health are not talking about further restrictions come the fall. I have not heard any evidence as to why this place needs to continue in a hybrid setting this fall, other than this anecdotal information I am receiving from the government House leader and the NDP House leader.

If there is a reason for us to go back to hybrid, they can show us and provide the evidence as to why. There is no evidence, and that is why it does not make any sense, especially when the world is moving on and no other legislatures around the world are doing what we are doing.

On May 31, I sent a letter to the government House leader, and I circulated it to all the other House leaders and provided a copy to the Speaker. In it, with an understanding that this was the direction the government House leader and the NDP House leader had cooked up, I offered what I thought were very reasonable and practical solutions to not continue with hybrid Parliament in September.

If the rest of the world is returning to normal, businesses are returning to normal and people are going back to work, the signal this Parliament should be sending to people is exactly the reality that is happening outside of this place. People are going back to work. Unvaccinated people are going back to work. We are getting to a point where this is endemic and people are starting to live with this situation. They are starting to take responsibility for protecting themselves.

I wrote a letter to the government House leader, and I thought there were some very reasonable and practical solutions in it. This is what I proposed, and I am putting it on the record for those who did not see it so they can see how reasonable it was:

Therefore, I propose the following arrangements be put in place to succeed the current ones:

Members shall participate in debates or other proceedings in the House of Commons in person, in the House Chamber.

Members shall participate in House committees in person, in committee rooms.

The pre-pandemic practice for witness appearances would be resumed whereby most witnesses will appear in-person while a limited number of witnesses located at some distance from Ottawa could appear by videoconferencing.

That is exactly what we were doing before we started with the hybrid system. I remember sitting at committee with witnesses coming in from Australia. That capability existed and there is no reason we cannot get back to it.

I also said, “Ministers and senior officials would always be expected to appear in person.” That speaks to another issue that I think has gone on as a result of hybrid Parliament, and probably conveniently for the government. We have seen many ministers not show up in this place. I know the government House leader is proposing in this motion that as many ministers as possible show up in the House. Unfortunately, I cannot take him at his word on that.

We have seen, over the course of the last several months, a limited number of ministers in this place. We have seen many of them appear on Zoom. It speaks to an issue of accountability. Ministers, when they are here, are in the hot seat, especially in question period. Sometimes they are prepared and sometimes they are not. However, there have been times when I am sure they have been surrounded by ministerial staff on Zoom and are being handed notes as questions come in. We are not naive. We know that is happening, and when members are here in person, they are far more accountable. Not only that, but the media has an opportunity to question ministers as they walk through scrums, so they are not chasing them through Zoom or sending requests to their offices.

This does speak to an issue of accountability and transparency for a government that, in 2015, ran on the premise that it was going to be accountable and transparent by default. Ministers and seniors officials should always be expected to appear in person.

The other suggestion we made is “No Member of the House of Commons will be denied access to the sittings of the House and the meetings of its committees.” This obviously happened at a time when the Conservatives were proposing that all members be allowed to participate in the House, just as the rest of the country was moving on and the provinces and territories were removing not just their vaccine mandates, but their mask mandates. There were several occasions when the Conservatives tried, through opposition day motions and other motions, to get the government to try to come to its senses on these things. However, it kept holding on and kept controlling the lives of Canadians and their ability to return to some sense of normalcy. That is what this particular request represented.

There was another thing we suggested. I know that the government House leader, when he was up here, talked about disenfranchisement, or the inability of members of Parliament to participate actively in this place. He said that somehow they could not do it without the hybrid system or the voting app.

Going back to the PROC study, this is precisely one of the main concerns we brought up: Members could use this system, if there was no sunset clause or it was made permanent, to perpetually electioneer in their ridings. They could use this system as an excuse, especially if they are in close or tight ridings. Being in their ridings and engaged in their ridings could mean the difference between electoral success or not. To use the voting app and hybrid model as an excuse to perpetually electioneer in their ridings to effectively build their brand was always a concern. It was a concern that I brought up at the procedure and House affairs committee regarding how the system could be used.

If a member becomes sick, is facing an illness or is dealing with a family matter, there are existing rules and standing orders within our procedures and rule books that allow members to pair. They have that ability. We have no problem with setting up pairing for travelling. It means that one vote casts out the other when, for example, a member is sick and is unable to come to Ottawa.

I am not unempathetic and unsympathetic to the plight of those who are sick. I can think of Arnold Chan and what he went through, a Liberal member who developed cancer and unfortunately passed away. I saw him coming into the House at the height of his illness and doing his job to represent his constituents. In that situation, Mr. Chan could have paired with a Conservative member. It is a long-standing practice. It is in the Standing Orders. It is a rule of this place, and we use it when ministers travel, for example.

Why can we not use that type of system to deal with a situation where somebody is dealing with illness, dealing with an injury or dealing with family situations, whether it is a sick family member or even a newborn child? There are things that can be done under the existing Standing Orders.

We therefore proposed this: “Our age-old pairing practices...should be vigorously embraced to support Members with compassionate circumstances to ensure they, and their parties, are not disadvantaged by an unavoidable absence from the House.” We were doing it prepandemic. There is no reason why we cannot do it now—

Interruption to ProceedingsPrivilegeGovernment Orders

June 22nd, 2022 / 7:50 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

I am sorry that I have to interrupt another Conservative filibuster. I would love to rebut the member for Barrie—Innisfil's comments, but of course, he is stopping and blocking the entire House so that nobody has a right of reply, which is tragic. I will say that the member for Barrie—Innisfil is a very hard-working member of Parliament.

I am rising to add some comments regarding the alleged matter of privilege that was raised earlier today by the member for Calgary Centre regarding the events of yesterday evening.

As members know, yesterday evening a technical interruption prevented some members from participating in House proceedings remotely. My colleagues and I are fierce defenders of the rights of parliamentarians to participate in proceedings remotely, so much so that we actually want to see hybrid proceedings extended as a consequence of the ongoing pandemic and as a useful tool for modern parliamentarians. Ultimately, I do not agree that this is a matter of privilege.

As the government House leader indicated, the events were completely external to anything that is within the control of the House; namely, it was a technological matter. As noted by the government House leader, hybrid proceedings have worked in 99.9% of instances. I certainly hope the Conservatives are not using the matter of privilege, which is a very important proceeding that ought not to be abused, to further a political point.

Unfortunately, as we know, this evening, we do not have the right to reply to the comments of the House leader of the official opposition.

I do somewhat disagree with the government House leader in that I believe that matters external to the control of the House can sometimes infringe on the privileges of a member, but if there were a power outage or a sewer malfunction, I do not believe that these would constitute breaches of privilege. I believe a technological hiccup is akin to these, and not a matter that the House needs to weigh in on or study. This is my submission.

It was not a matter of privilege, because when the matter was brought to the attention of Speaker and the various House leaders, the appropriate action was taken. The Speaker suspended the House, technicians attempted to address the issue, and when it became apparent that this would not be resolved in a timely way, the House adjourned. There was no breach of privilege, as no members were denied the opportunity to participate because no proceedings took place.

Imagine the catch-22 we would be caught in, if due to an inability to participate remotely in a request that the House adjourn, the House were forced to continue sitting and debating something, all the while excluding those who could not log in. That would be preposterous.

I do want to take a moment to thank the Speaker and all the House leaders for the good will that was shown last night when the matter was first raised in suspending and ultimately adjourning. I believe that was the right and appropriate thing to do. I was glad to see all parties take that approach co-operatively. It is unfortunate that that good will from last night is not extending to today, and the Conservatives are not allowing other parties to speak to the motion that is before the House. They are basically shutting down and refusing members of all other parties except themselves the right to speak on behalf of our constituents.

To conclude, I do want to raise one minor complaint, which is that members were not provided further information about the technological glitches of last night until 2:00 p.m. today, despite the Speaker's office providing details to the media. In the future, I believe it would be more appropriate for members to hear directly from the Speaker rather than having to read details in the news.

We will now return to the Conservatives' monopolization of House time.

Interruption to ProceedingsPrivilegeGovernment Orders

7:55 p.m.


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

I will take the hon. member's comments in deliberation, and the Speaker will return to the House with a ruling.

The hon. House leader of the official opposition.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

7:55 p.m.


John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the NDP House leader for his version of Liberal karaoke. That was very nice, and I appreciate his interjection.

I will continue with what we talked about as far as the pairing situation, which is an option. Since, and well before, Confederation, politicians have contracted serious illnesses, suffered critical injuries, welcomed new children into their families and said tearful farewells to loved ones, among other significant life events. In short, life happens to members of Parliament, just like it does to all other Canadians.

For the first 153 years of Confederation, we ably managed to square our personal circumstances with our professional lives, even if it might not always have been ideal. As unprecedented as some aspects of the pandemic were, the demands on us to balance our personal and parliamentary responsibilities are not, and we can easily revert to the tried and true practices that we know work.

Again, on the issue of pairing within the standing rules and Standing Orders, while pairing has been largely based on a series of customs and practices, with only a tangential appearance in our rules via Standing Order 44.1, we would be open to considering proposals to strengthen these arrangements, to render them more transparent or to empower further individual members. If there were ideas on this front, I would have been happy to entertain them. Otherwise, I suspect that this will come up in the procedure and House affairs committee, as it is charged with studying and issue, which I know the Liberals and the NDP want, and that is a more permanent movement toward a hybrid Parliament.

Speaking personally, I got elected to Parliament with an understanding of what that responsibility was, and it is a great responsibility, as we know, to represent, in my case, the residents of Barrie—Innisfil.

I also understood, and my family understood, that there was a requirement for me to come to Ottawa. Being elected in 2015, and with the pandemic happening in 2020, it was common practice for me, and all of my colleagues, all of us in the House, to show up in the seat of Parliament. There is the constitutional requirement for us to be here in Ottawa.

As difficult as that was, that was a choice I made. It is a choice that all of us make. Notwithstanding some of those family pressures that I highlighted or outlined and some of the demands that go with this job, it is an incredible privilege to be able to sit in this place, to be able to come to Ottawa and represent my constituents, not just to engage in debate, not just to engage in the committee work that we do and interact with all of our colleagues on all sides of the aisle, but to actually sit in this seat and be able to vote and to stand up and be counted in person. Those were the expectations that I had when I was to become a member of Parliament and those expectations continue today.

As I said earlier, one of the issues that came up in the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs was the concern that there would be perpetual electioneering in those close ridings.

I say this with great respect, that if it is one's intent to be elected as a member of Parliament, the reasonable expectation of that intent is to come here to Ottawa. If a person is not willing to do that, if they want to stay in their community to continue to electioneer, perhaps the choice that they should make is to run for mayor, council or school board trustee if they are concerned at all with any imbalance in their lives because, as we know, this is a difficult job and a difficult thing to do, to be away from our family, in some cases, 29 or 31 weeks a year.

It is hard. It is a choice we all make because we want to be here to do the best for the people that we represent and the people in this country.

It is a vast country. It is a transcontinental country, from coast to coast to coast. People get elected to be representatives in our House of Commons and the expectation was, is, and should always be that this is the place that they take their seats. Members can call me a traditionalist. Members can call me a Conservative, as long as they call me someone who believes in our institutions, who believes in the institution of Parliament and who believes in the institution of our democracy.

The challenge I have with everything that has been going on in the last little while is that we have really seen a decline in our democracy. When government ministers are not held to the same account and transparency as they typically are by being here, and not just by us as an opposition but also by the media, it poses challenges.

There is no greater evidence of that than what we have seen over the last couple of months, particularly when we were going through the WE scandal, which was happening a year and a half or two years ago. All of that was happening on Zoom, and there were technological challenges going on with that. It was difficult. It was not the same dynamic as in-person committee meetings or the same fiery exchanges we would see, which is all a healthy part of our democracy.

We saw it recently again with Bill C-11. I am not even sure how many times the chair of the committee has been in Ottawa, but she was chairing a committee virtually on a substantive piece of legislation such as Bill C-11, which the government rammed through. We saw how difficult it was to deal with the amendments going through, and the chair was on Zoom. Anybody who was watching those exchanges in the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage could see just how dysfunctional this system has become, especially when people are not present.

Some of the other things we talked about, as I said, is that we were open-minded to meeting and supporting the pairing needs of all colleagues in this House. The current hybrid system, with minor modifications, could be reactivated in the event of a serious reversal of the current trajectory of public health guidance concerning COVID-19, upon the agreement of recognized parties and House leaders, for a period of time they agree on.

That simply means that, instead of precluding some southern hemisphere variant I have heard about from the two doctor House leaders in this place, why could we not revisit this in August? Why could we not come back in September and look at the situation to see if there was a need to flip to a hybrid Parliament? We have learned our lessons over the past couple of years, and that should be an easy thing to do, so why could we not do that in August or September?

Instead, as I said at outset, here we are in the last couple of days of this session of Parliament before our summer break, and we are dealing with and precluding something none of us can predict. In fact, we can in a way because the world has moved on at this point. Public health measures have been eliminated, but not in this place. There is no reason we cannot come back in August and September to revisit this situation.

I did speak to the government House leader and gave him my word, because I will still be House leader at that point, that if there was a need at that point to flip the switch on a hybrid Parliament and get back to the virtual voting app, we would be open to it. I am not unreasonable. I can read the room. We would be open and amenable to doing that.

Some of the other things we were focused on in my May 31 letter to the other government House leaders is that the arrangements we were talking about could take effect, as I said, after the current arrangements expire, which is happening tomorrow and hence the rush for this, and be in place for a year. The House would be instructed to acquire an adequate supply of N95 face masks to allay the concerns some of our colleagues may have going forward.

This is a suggestion I made. There is no masking requirement outside of this place. I gave the example of members of Parliament, including Liberal members and NDP members, at receptions not wearing masks when they are required to, and even on the parliamentary precinct, so this theatre needs to end.

We are at a point right now where if an individual requires or wants to wear a mask, they should have the option of doing that. Those who choose not to wear a mask, just like the rest of the world and the rest of Canada is going through right now, maybe we can supply them with a higher quality mask like an N95 just to allay their fears and make them feel a little more comfortable. It should be the right of an individual, if they choose, to wear a mask. For those who do not want to wear a mask, they should not have to wear a mask. That was in the proposal.

The procedure and House affairs committee would be instructed to study these arrangements with a view of producing a report next May, ahead of the scheduled expiry of these proposed arrangements.

We believe in the work of committees. We believe in the ability of the procedure and House affairs committee to look at this and to revisit the issue, as we did a couple of years ago, but in anything the committee does, any work it engages in, it should never be under the guise or direction of moving to a more permanent system of hybrid. We should not be doing that. We need to be here in Ottawa.

The tide is turning on this. Just this past week, when the issue of Motion No. 19 came up and the government indicated, with the help of its NDP partners, that it wanted to move to a year's prolongation of the hybrid system, we were starting to see pundits and people who watch this place really start to turn on this and ask why we are not getting back to normal, why we are not getting back to a level of accountability and transparency that this place is designed and structured to do, when everybody else is returning to normal. We have seen editorials that have occurred. Here are some of the comments we have seen in these editorials:

That’s all well and good, but the government has not yet properly addressed the toll the hybrid system is taking on the support staff who make it possible for Parliamentarians to work remotely, especially the interpreters—a limited workforce without whom parliamentary work cannot function.

I addressed that earlier, and I think that we have to be empathetic to the plight of our interpreters and the interpretation bureau. It is becoming a real problem, one that is going to manifest itself if we continue down the path we are on with this hybrid system.

Just the other day, Campbell Clark of The Globe and Mail wrote about this. His editorial piece starts with this:

Another year of hybrid Parliament? No.

If the Liberal government wants to extend this semi-artificial version of the people's house, it can come back to the House of Commons in September and ask for a month. If it absolutely feels another 30 days is needed, it can ask MPs to vote again.

That goes back to the suggestion I made earlier. Why are we dealing with this now? There are so many important issues in this country that we have to deal with, such as affordability, the inflation crisis that is going on, and the fiasco going on with the government's ability to provide the most basic services to Canadians, and of course over the last couple of days we heard about Nova Scotia and political interference. Why we are dealing with this now and not in September is beyond me. This is what causes me great anxiety.

The Toronto Star talked about the decline in our democracy and how we need to get back to some sense of normalcy. That is really the theme of what I am talking about tonight, this decline in our democracy and the fact that the hybrid system is proving itself to be an old and tired system. Yes, it was needed at the height of COVID, but we need to get back to some sense of normalcy. That is what I expect.

One of the other things that we found over the course of the last couple of years was that when Canadians were not allowed to travel, when there were mandates that restricted them from boarding airplanes, the Prime Minister had no problem travelling all over the world. It was hypocritical that he could just get on his government jet and travel anywhere he wanted when Canadians were restricted by the government's policies. We have seen this over the course of the last several years. I gave the example of the chair of the heritage committee, who was sitting in her apartment. I do not know whether she has even been to Ottawa once. She may have, and I have not checked, but certainly not during the course of dealing with this substantive bill. She was sitting there while the committee was doing its work here. It created chaos within the committee. That did not deter the Prime Minister from travelling all over the world when Canadians could not.

I will give members an example of how much the Prime Minister has travelled, just in 2022. On March 4, he went to Toronto. On March 6-11, he went to the U.K., Latvia, Germany and Poland. On March 16-17, he was in Alliston, central Ontario. On March 23-25, he went to Belgium. On March 27-30, he went to Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Williams Lake. On April 8, he went to Hamilton. On April 11-18, he went to Victoria, Edmonton, Laval, and Whistler. He flew from Edmonton to Laval for a morning of promoting the budget on April 13, before flying to Whistler that afternoon to start his vacation. On April 19, he went to Dalhousie, New Brunswick; April 20, Waterloo; April 22, Winnipeg; April 29, Montreal and Toronto. That is half of the list. Here comes the second half: May 2, Windsor; May 3, Montreal; May 6, GTA and Hamilton; May 8-9, Ukraine and Poland; May 17, St. John's, Newfoundland; May 20, Sept-Îles, Quebec; May 23-25, Kamloops, Vancouver, and Saskatoon; May 27-29, Nova Scotia; June 2, Siksika, Alberta; June 5, London, Ontario; June 7-11, Colorado Springs and Los Angeles; and today, the Prime Minister left for Rwanda.

Now, the Prime Minister can fly all over the place. He can go to places where arguably the virus is still active, but parliamentarians cannot come to this place. It just does not connect.

I know that the Prime Minister has a job to do, and I know that he represents Canada around the world, but he can fly to places that do not have the same vaccination status that we do in this country, and put himself at risk. He had COVID last week, and he has had COVID twice in the last couple of months. If he can put himself at risk by doing that, then there is no reason, given the safety measures that are in this place, the option to wear a mask if members choose to and the safety that is in aircraft across this country, why members of Parliament cannot be here, unless, of course, they do not want to be here, unless they want to be in their ridings to perpetually electioneer if they are in a close riding so that they can do everything they can to win the next election, or unless they want to hide behind the virtual Parliament and the voting app. It does not make any sense.

I know there are members who are flying across the country and perhaps not coming here, but we can check. There is public disclosure, and we know where people can go. People are flying to other parts of the country, but they are not coming here. Why? This is their job. This is what they were elected to do.

I am going to make a suggestion, and I may bring it up at the BOIE committee, for members who want to be here on a part-time basis and who do not want to be in Parliament. There are many situations where apartments around this precinct are being paid for, in some cases $2,500 a month, and not being used. Why are taxpayers expected to pay for those apartments if members do want to be here? I think it is a fair question. Maybe there are other expenses that are being put in, and we can certainly look at that. However, if members do not want to be here, in their proper seats, then why are taxpayers subsidizing their apartments here, which are sitting empty? I think that is a fair question to ask.

As I said, the tide is turning. I was hoping, by sending that letter on May 31, that we would actually engage in and initiate some consensus. I was really hoping that the government House leader and his partner in the NDP would actually see the sense of what we were proposing. The unfortunate reality is that they did not, and we are in the position that we are in right now, where we are dealing with Motion No. 19 and the government is going to propose closure on this motion. We are effectively going to have a few hours to debate it. I know that it disrupts the plans of NDP members to discuss this, because what they want to talk about, as is their common theme, is the Conservatives obstructing things.

The reality is that the Conservatives are doing their job. They are actually fulfilling their constitutional obligation, as is the Bloc Québécois, to hold the government to account. We were elected in this place in a minority government. The government was sent here with less than a majority, and it was not until the coalition agreement with its partners in the NDP that it actually formed a majority.

I can tell members that I went through the election and I was certain, at the time, that all the Prime Minister wanted was two things. He thought people were going to throw rose petals for the way he handled COVID and the billions of dollars that flowed through the treasury, which we are now paying for with inflation. He thought people were going to throw rose petals at his feet for the way he handled that, and he wanted a majority government, but he did not get it. The reason he wanted a majority government is that he knows, and we knew at that time, that there was a convergence of factors that was happening.

One cannot print that much money and inject that much liquidity into the system and expect that there would not be an impact on inflation and that it would not increase inflation. When we have more money chasing goods, the resulting effect of that is what we are seeing today, what was announced today, 7.7% inflation, and it is only going to get worse.

We are seeing that interest rates have gone up almost a point in the last month. The expectation is that on July 13, in order to fight inflation, the Bank of Canada is going to increase interest rates by another three-quarters of a point. We can think about the impact that is going to have on the lines of credit that people have. We can think about the impact that would have on variable-rate mortgages. If we have an affordability challenge now and Canadians are anxious and angry about their situation, it is only going to get worse as long as the Liberals continue to pour gas on a raging inflation fire.

We were predicting this a year and a half ago. It is not that we did not want to support them, because we did support many of the programs the government was proposing. The challenge was that there really was a lot of money going out and it was not targeted into those areas of the economy where it needed to be in order to support the economy. The Liberals basically let money rain. They were printing money like crazy, and we predicted a couple of years ago that this would happen.

Now, because of these converging factors, all of them, the economy, interest rates and the inflationary pressures that are going on right now, we are in a situation where Canadians are hurting, and I said this the other day. We had better start listening to what they say. I know I am listening to my constituents, but we all need to do a better job of listening and understanding where that anger and anxiety are coming from, because they are coming from fear. People are afraid right now, because debt levels are so high and interest rates are going up, and that is causing significant challenges.

We were talking about this a couple of years ago, and I remember my mom, when we were together two or three weeks ago, reminding me of something I said two years ago. She was upset about some of the government policies that were going on, and I said that until and unless it starts affecting people in their pocketbooks, people will not be concerned about what the government is doing. Now, we are at that point and people are genuinely concerned, because it is impacting them in their pocketbooks.

Many of us were projecting this, including some of our finance critics, our industry critics and others. They were standing up, and I was standing up, saying this is a disaster waiting to happen. What it comes down to is this: People of integrity expect to be believed, and when they are not, time will prove them right. Unfortunately, right now, with all that is going on, time is proving us right about the things we were predicting two years ago.

I really worry for my constituents. I worry for Canadians in general, because despite the lollipops, gumdrops, rainbows and unicorns the government is projecting right now, I do not think that reflects the reality. I know it does not reflect the reality of what is happening on the ground and the anxiety people are feeling, especially those who overleveraged in an inflation-induced real estate market.

I think it was CMHC that recently said that 52% of Canadians have variable rate mortgages. Just think of how susceptible they are to these increases in interest rates, and the impact that these are going to have on their household budgets and their ability to pay not just for housing, but also for the costs and inflationary pressures that are being borne right across the economy by the supply side because of the price of gas.

Gas is $2.09 a litre. For people in my riding of Barrie—Innisfil who have to go to Mississauga, Markham, Vaughan or other communities around the GTA, and who are doing that five days a week, they are putting $115 or $120 in their little cars. Business owners and construction workers, for example, are putting $245 or $250 worth of gas in their trucks and getting three or four days out of that. They are not even getting three or four days out of that when they are driving to Mississauga or Markham every day. That adds up and eats into the household budgets.

Not least, we need to be concerned about our seniors: those on fixed incomes and those who are seeing, because of the stock market right now and as a result of what is going on in the economy, their investments start to diminish. They are watching that closely. It is creating even greater fear and even greater anxiety for them.

When we sit here and talk about a hybrid Parliament and try to project or predict something that is going to happen in September, I am not sure why we are not dealing with those particular issues that are of grave importance to Canadians. We are dealing with this, when Canadians are moving on. When Canadians, health experts, legislatures around the world and legislatures in Canada have all moved on, we are sitting here debating something that we should not be debating.

There is another thing that I would say in terms of the tide turning, and it kind of gives me a chuckle. Dale Smith sits up here almost daily in Question Period. I do not know if he has missed any, quite frankly. We have been on the opposite sides of issues. I have a lot of respect for the work that Mr. Smith does. He kind of leans or works toward the government on a lot of issues. Even he, in a series of tweets over the past couple of days, has said that the acoustic injuries and possibilities of permanent hearing loss are well documented, and that this is taking an unconscionable toll on the interpretation staff.

In another tweet on June 20, he said, “Imagine telling the interpreters, 'Sorry, but you have to face the possibility of permanent hearing loss, but we can't,'” here he uses a slight expletive, “'ourselves to take reasonable COVID precautions in order for us to do our jobs', which is unacceptable”.

There were a few more tweets that he put out there.

Like me, he is a traditionalist. He believes that we are near the end of the pandemic, and that we have to return to some sense of normalcy. We actually have to signal to Canadians that this beautiful place is back to normal, and that all is right in the land. That is not to say that we do not have to be cautious or we do not have to remain diligent as to what could happen. I do not disagree that there may be some other things that we may be facing, but that does not mean that at this current moment we move into what I predict would become a permanent solution of this hybrid Parliament.

We do not move in that direction at this point. We could certainly come back in August or September to deal with it at that time. As I said earlier, we have seen a lot of hypocrisy and a lot of theatre by the government on this issue. I am not diminishing, in any way, the toll that this has taken. I had two friends who died directly as a result of COVID, but we are certainly past the point of where we were not just in March 2020, but at the height of some of the new variants.

We have a 95% vaccination rate in this country, and that is a credit to Canadians who decided to take the vaccine. I had never injected myself with anything. I was a firefighter. I never took a flu shot. I just did not feel comfortable doing that, but I did take a vaccine. I have actually taken three shots right now, and I am not ashamed to admit that. I did that because I know how concerned my mom and dad were. I wanted to make sure that I protected myself, first and foremost, but it was also to protect them as well. I made that determination for myself.

There were many Canadians who felt the imposition of a mandate or the suggestion that they should be vaccinated. Even friends of mine who took the vaccine and had adverse reactions to the vaccine were told by their doctors that they should not get another shot. In one case, someone spent three days in hospital because of a severe allergic reaction to her first dose. Her medical doctor suggested that she not get another dose because of this allergic reaction. Despite the effort of trying to get a vaccination, that effectively made her a prisoner in her own country. I was down in Florida in March with her husband and she could not come.

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

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Ajax Ontario


Mark Holland LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I am rising on a point of order.

I move:

That the debate be now adjourned.

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

Pursuant to order made on Monday, May 2, the motion is deemed adopted.

(Motion agreed to)

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

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John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Madam Speaker, I am rising on a point of order. I just want to thank the government House leader for censoring me in my debate on an important issue to Canadians.

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

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

The government House leader is rising on a point of order.

Notice of Closure MotionOrder Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

8:30 p.m.

Ajax Ontario


Mark Holland LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I enjoyed the one-hour speech by the member. We are ready to move to this.

With respect to consideration of Government Business No. 19, I wish to give notice that at the next sitting of the House a minister of the Crown shall move, pursuant to Standing Order 57, that debate be not further adjourned.

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LaSalle—Émard—Verdun Québec


David Lametti LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-28, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (self-induced extreme intoxication), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to share my time with the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth.

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

Does the hon. minister have unanimous consent?

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Some hon. members


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

Indeed. Proceed, please.

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8:30 p.m.


David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-28. This bill responds to the Supreme Court decisions in Brown and Sullivan and Chan, which address rare yet serious situations in which a person harms someone else while in a state of self-induced extreme intoxication.

I would like to thank, first of all, the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth. As well, I thank my critics, including the member for Fundy Royal, the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, et le député deRivière-du-Nord for their collaboration and co-operation from the day that this Supreme Court decision was rendered, just over five weeks ago.

We have moved with alacrity, but also with precision, in order to fill a gap. I really want to thank my colleagues for the level of co-operation that we have received with respect to this matter, and colleagues on all sides of the House as well as the Senate who expressed an interest in us moving quickly.

Since the Court's decisions were released, many Canadians, including members in the House and the other place, have expressed concerns that acts of violence committed while in a state of extreme intoxication might very well go unpunished. Parliamentarians from all parties have urged action, as have some of my provincial and territorial counterparts. I am pleased that earlier this week there was an all-party agreement to move this forward swiftly. There are times when it is our duty as parliamentarians to move quickly to solve problems, and this is one of those times.

Women's rights organizations have expressed concerns about rulings that could change our way of seeing intoxication and criminal liability. They are concerned about the message that sends to survivors of sexual assault and other violent crimes.

We have heard that young women are nervous to return to university and college campuses this fall for fear that they could be assaulted and see intoxicated perpetrators escape liability. That is why we have acted quickly to introduce Bill C-28.

It is also tangible proof of our commitment to a justice system that keeps communities safe and holds offenders accountable while respecting the charter.

There has been a lot of inaccurate and misleading information online about the court's decisions.

Let me be clear: being intoxicated is not a defence for a criminal act such as sexual assault. That was the law before the Supreme Court decision, and it is still the law today. Extreme intoxication is a serious condition in which the person is unaware of or incapable of controlling their behaviour.

Parliament previously considered this issue in response to the 1994 decision of the Supreme Court in Daviault. In that case, the court found that a defence of extreme intoxication could be used for general intent crimes. Parliament responded by enacting section 33.1 of the Criminal Code, which limited the extreme intoxication defence in cases involving violent offences.

In the recent Brown decision, five weeks ago, the Supreme Court found that Parliament had two legitimate and pressing objectives in section 33.1. First, section 33.1 sought to protect the public from extremely intoxicated violence, especially women and children who are at a higher risk of experiencing violence, including violence committed by individuals who are intoxicated.

We know that there are clear links between intoxication and gender-based violence, particularly sexual violence and intimate partner violence, or IPV. According to a 2018 Statistics Canada survey, 63% of women and girls who were killed were killed by an intoxicated attacker.

Last year, the World Health Organization identified the harmful use of alcohol as a risk factor for sexual violence and IPV. Fighting violence committed by intoxicated people while protecting the public is clearly still a pressing objective.

The second objective was to hold individuals accountable by ensuring that they could not escape liability for crimes of violence committed while in a state of self-induced extreme intoxication. The Supreme Court recognized that these two objectives remain pressing and substantial today.

However, because section 33.1 also captured cases where extreme intoxication and violence were not reasonably foreseeable, the court concluded that the law risked convicting people who might not be to blame for ending up in a state of extreme intoxication. This, therefore, infringed the charter.

Bill C-28 addresses this gap in the law created by the court's decisions and introduces a new section 33.1 with the same public protection and accountability objectives. With this bill, we are standing up for victims and survivors of crime. This bill reaffirms that it is fair and just to hold individuals responsible for crimes of violence like assault, sexual assault and manslaughter committed in a state of extreme intoxication if they were criminally negligent in their consumption of intoxicating substances.

It is simply unacceptable for people to negligently put themselves in a dangerous state in which they cannot control their actions and then escape the consequences if someone gets hurt. The Supreme Court has described extreme intoxication as “a state akin to automatism”. In other words, the body is doing something but the mind is not in control.

Legally, extreme intoxication is very rare. An accused cannot just assert that they were in a state of extreme intoxication when they harmed someone and be absolved of liability; they need to prove that they were in that rare mental state by using expert evidence.

Bill C-28 leaves this important requirement for establishing the defence in place. What changes is what happens next.

If a person establishes that they were in a state of extreme intoxication under Bill C-28, they would still be held criminally liable if they departed markedly from the standard of care expected of a reasonable person in those circumstances.

A “marked departure” means that a person's conduct fell far below what a reasonable person would have done in those circumstances to avoid foreseeable risk—in this case, the risk of a violent loss of control.

Determining criminal negligence—and this is a standard known to law—involves a two-step process. First, would a reasonable person, in those circumstances, have foreseen the risk and taken steps to avoid it? This is an objective test. Second, did the person's failure to do so amount to a marked departure from the standard of care expected of a reasonable person in the circumstances?

The risk here is whether consumption of intoxicants could cause extreme intoxication and lead the person to harm someone. By requiring proof of negligence, Bill C-28 corrects the constitutional deficiency found in the former section.

Bill C-28 also requires courts to assess whether the person's conduct amounted to a marked departure and requires courts to consider all relevant circumstances, including anything the person did to avoid the risk. Courts routinely conduct this type of assessment in other areas of criminal law, notably in relation to offences of criminal negligence. The bill makes clear that all relevant circumstances must be taken into account. While these circumstances will vary from case to case, certain factors can be expected to arise, including the nature of the substance and the setting where they were consumed.

To help illustrate the bill's intention, let us consider a couple examples. Someone who attends a crowded gathering and quickly consumes a large amount of a substance known to cause psychosis and agitation, without taking any precautions, could likely be proved to be criminally negligent and thus convicted.

By contrast, let us say someone takes a prescription drug, triggering an unanticipated state of extreme intoxication and hurts someone. However, because they could not have anticipated a violent loss of control when they took the medication, in this case they might very well be acquitted. Each case will turn on the unique facts before the court.

Bill C‑28 responds to the Supreme Court of Canada's Brown, Sullivan and Chan decisions. As LEAF said last week, Bill C‑28 is a thoughtful, nuanced and constitutional piece of legislation to address the narrow but significant gap resulting from the Supreme Court of Canada decisions. This bill recognizes that all members of society have a responsibility to protect each other from the foreseeable risks of their behaviour, and it holds people accountable for the harm they cause when they fail to meet that responsibility.

I firmly believe that Bill C-28 serves to complete the work that Parliament began in 1995 when it first enacted section 33.1. It protects the public and holds people accountable for their actions in a way that is fair and constitutional.

I once again repeat the thanks that I offered at the beginning to my critics, who worked diligently with all of us to help advance this quickly.