House of Commons Hansard #238 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was ukrainian.


Prevention of Government-Imposed Vaccination Mandates ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, not all of them are clapping, we will notice, because they recognize the irresponsible behaviour and the reckless attitude the Conservative leader has taken on this legislation.

He has passed it on to another member, but the fact still remains that, as a health issue, we have seen other jurisdictions of different political parties recognize that vaccinations do in fact work. They care about the environment that people work in and want safe working environments. When people board an aircraft or a tube in the sky, air ventilation is important. These are the types of things about which we should all be concerned.

The only ones who seem not to care are in the official opposition, the Conservatives. I do not know if they have mustered any other support, but I do not think they have. I do not think there is another political entity in the House of Commons that is against vaccines, let alone within provincial governments, especially since provincial governments put in things such as curfews, mandatory masking and wanting to get vaccines to the public. Many of them took the initiative of providing proof of vaccination. They should take a flip-flop on this issue.

Prevention of Government-Imposed Vaccination Mandates ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Carleton Ontario


Pierre Poilievre ConservativeLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, as I said at the outset, I am running for prime minister to put Canadians back in control of their lives by making Canada the freest nation on earth. That freedom includes bodily autonomy, the freedom to decide what people put in their own bodies. That is why I was proud to introduce a private member's bill in the House of Commons that would put an end to COVID mandates in all of the federal sector. I want to thank the hon. member for Niagara West for having adopted my private member's bill so we can move it forward even faster.

Before the Prime Minister proceeds once gain to maliciously divide and attack, let me remind him that the position put forward in the bill is now not only the position of the common-sense Conservatives, but also the position of the majority of provincial governments, of the Liberal member for Louis-Hébert and of the military review complaints commission, the tribunal responsible for hearing grievances from members of the armed forces.

I will also remind the Prime Minister that the position reflected in the bill is now his position. Members may question why I would say that. The reason is that the Prime Minister had the temerity to go on television about three months ago and claim he never forced anyone to get vaccinated. He claimed it should be a matter of personal choice. He wanted us all to forget the way he divided, insulted and name-called millions of people right across this country who are patriotic, law-abiding, decent people. If he really believes he never forced mandates on anyone, surely he will be happy to vote for this bill to ensure those mandates do not apply anymore and will never be imposed again.

Let me be clear about what this bill would do. This bill targets the unreasonable overreaches of the federal policy and unjustified abuses of federal government power. The bill targets these overreaches and abuses of power based on two different but important types of evidence. First, it follows the scientific evidence about COVID-19 vaccines, how they work and what they do. Second, it responds to the evidence from the experience of the government's decision to exploit a public health situation for partisan political gain.

This was most clear in the Prime Minister's deliberate decision to go beyond guiding and protecting Canadians, to punishing people who chose not to take the COVID-19 vaccine. Let us remember that the Prime Minister originally said vaccines would be a matter of personal choice. Then he did a poll showing that it would be popular to target a small minority of people who chose not to be vaccinated. He flip-flopped and said he would make it mandatory, and three days later, he called an election and attempted to exploit that political moment in order to regain power.

This is funny: When he announced that the vaccine mandates would be imposed on the federal sector, he did it with such political haste, based on the advice of not public health experts but polling experts, that even his own human resources team at the Treasury Board put out guidelines suggesting that it would be a matter of personal choice, not mandatory imposition. While he was advocating for a mandate, his own bureaucracy published rules against a mandate. That is because they were following the medical science and he was following political science.

This bill would put into law a prohibition on the government imposing COVID mandates again in the future. Members may wonder why the government would need such a prohibition given that it has reluctantly agreed to remove mandates for most federally employed workers. The answer is that the government has kept open the possibility of reimposing mandates, both on federal workers and on federally regulated travel.

Furthermore, there continue to be military service members who face vaccine mandates today. It is ironic that these same military service members could legally go into a bar and French kiss with a perfect stranger, but they could not do their jobs in the armed forces. How is that scientifically sound? They could not, for example, go out into a field and practise with their fellow members in infantry, but they could do things that involve far greater and more intimate personal interaction in public places, according to the law. How could that possibly be based on science?

We know that it is not and never was, because we now know that the military grievance tribunal has ruled that the government's imposition of mandates on service members violated the section 7 charter rights of those members and that the violation was not justified under section 1 of the charter, which gives the government the ability to override rights in order to uphold reasonable public interest requirements. The government's own grievance tribunal has found that the mandates violated the charter when it comes to members of the armed forces, yet still the mandates remain in place in open violation of the Charter of Rights. That is not according to the Leader of the Opposition and not according to the countless civil libertarians who have been advocating for an end to these mandates, but according to the government's own grievance tribunal and according, moving out of the military to the rest of the federal sector, to the PIPSC, the CAPE and the PSAC, three public sector unions representing 300,000 federal public servants, who have brought legal challenges against this government saying that its blanket policy was “punitive”, “unreasonable” and an “abuse of management authority”.

To quote the unions, “There was no proper consultation, nor a comprehensive process of correctly identifying all the possible circumstances faced by our members. Appropriate solutions were not developed by the employer to deal with many individual situations.” However, the Prime Minister did not listen to them. He continued to go forward with firing federal employees who were not vaccinated, and he kept this policy in place even after his public health officer said, “we do need to get back to some normalcy.”

I will go back to the Military Grievances External Review Committee on this point, which said:

...I conclude that the limitation of the grievors' right to liberty and security of the person by the [Canadian Armed Forces] vaccination policy is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice because the policy, in some aspects, is arbitrary, overly broad and disproportionate. Therefore, I conclude that the grievors' rights protected under section 7 were infringed.

However, that policy goes on.

The review committee continued:

...I find that termination of service for some members was a disproportionate response to their non-compliance with the vaccination policy.... I conclude that it was overly broad and not using the least restrictive option in its implementation.... I find that the disputed provisions of the CAF vaccination policy are unconstitutional and, therefore, invalid.

This is the government's own grievance tribunal saying this, yet our heroes, soldiers who loyally serve, follow the law and put their lives on the line for this country, are out of jobs, out of income and out of justice. My bill, the bill now adopted by the member for Niagara West, would restore that justice by putting an end to COVID vaccine mandates and ensuring that no such new mandates are reimposed in the future on our brave soldiers, sailors and airmen, on our public servants and on Canadians seeking to travel in federally regulated sectors.

The Prime Minister has withdrawn and apologized for some of the extremely incendiary and divisive comments he made about Canadians who made different medical decisions than he would have made. Adopting this bill would be a recognition that this ugly chapter in our history of turning Canadian against Canadian and using a public health matter to pull apart our country and grab more power is permanently behind us.

Let us recognize that Canadians have freedom of choice over what they put into their bodies. Let us adopt this legislation. Let us restore personal freedom. Let us give Canadians back control of their lives in the freest nation on earth.

Prevention of Government-Imposed Vaccination Mandates ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-278, the prevention of government-imposed vaccination mandates act. To begin, I believe it is important to note that the discussion surrounding this legislation has been highly politicized and riddled with misinformation from the day it was first introduced by the member for Carleton during the Conservative leadership race.

At that time, the bill was promoted by the member as a means to “scrap all vaccine mandates and ban any and all future vaccine mandates”. This is, of course, simply not accurate. The text of the legislation before the House now only references a single disease, which is COVID-19.

Indeed, Bill C-278 would legislatively restrict the federal government's future ability to set COVID-19 vaccine requirements, regardless of the future trajectory of the virus or the development of new vaccines. If a future variant turned out to be extraordinarily deadly and a vaccine was developed that could stop its transmission, this legislation would legally prohibit the government from imposing any kind of requirement to have that vaccine, even if the health of millions of Canadians was put at risk.

The member for Carleton has also incorrectly described to the House the current status of the mandates. The COVID-19 vaccination requirement for federal public servants was lifted on June 20, 2022. Employees who were placed on administrative leave without pay for non-compliance with that policy in force were contacted by their managers to arrange their return to regular work duties.

As of June 20, 2022, the vaccine requirement to board a plane or train in Canada was also suspended. In addition, federally regulated transport sector employers were no longer required to have mandatory vaccination policies in place for their employees. Finally, effective October 1, 2022, the federal government removed proof of COVID-19 vaccination requirements for anyone entering Canada.

With the record a bit corrected, I would like to proceed with what New Democrats believe. We support an approach to vaccination policy that appropriately balances the rights of people who have not been vaccinated and who choose not to be vaccinated with our individual and collective rights to health and safety. We believe that decisions with respect to imposing or suspending vaccination requirements should always be based on the best available evidence, current science and the advice of experts, not politicians speaking from the House of Commons with little or no background in any of those things.

The Conservatives cannot argue that it was wrong for the Liberal government to politicize Canada's COVID-19 response, which I think they did, while simultaneously asking politicians to legislate our country's vaccination policy indefinitely into the future without any evidence.

If the Conservatives sincerely wanted to take an evidence-based approach to COVID-19 policy, then they would have supported an independent inquiry into Canada's pandemic response when they had the opportunity to do so. However, shockingly, when the NDP moved an amendment at the Standing Committee on Health yesterday to legally mandate that a COVID-19 inquiry, under the Inquiries Act, be struck within 90 days, the Conservatives sat on their hands and abstained, allowing the Liberals to kill that inquiry.

I can see why the Liberals might be reluctant to call an inquiry into their own COVID-19 response, but this reversal from the cover-up Conservatives is truly shocking to see. Under the leadership of their previous leader, Erin O'Toole, the Conservative Party repeatedly called for an independent, expert-led inquiry into Canada's COVID-19 response. The Conservative Party pledged to call such an inquiry during the last election. We will need to leave it to the current Leader of the Opposition to explain this departure from his predecessor's position and the party's public pronouncements.

I believe it is unacceptable that the Liberals and Conservatives joined and worked together yesterday to block an independent review of Canada's response to the most severe pandemic in a century, because serious issues remain unexamined. Some of them include the following. We started the pandemic with not enough personal protective equipment: not enough gloves, masks, gowns and respirators. We had no proper national inventory of the personal protective equipment.

Canadians may remember that we had to throw out millions of pieces of PPE because they were expired. We saw no vaccine production in Canada, a shocking omission that has stretched over Liberal and Conservative governments for decades, who watched as Canada's ability and capacity in this regard was left to wither and die.

There was little to no public guidance on infection-acquired immunity. There was a curious dismantling of Canada's early pandemic warning systems. Canadians had no access to whole vaccines, only MRNA vaccines. There was confusing and contradictory information on the impact of vaccination on transmission. The impact and effectiveness of mandates remains a question.

Border controls were inconsistently enforced. Effectively, border controls in Quebec and Alberta were virtually absent. There were ravages through seniors' homes, overwhelmed emergency rooms and ICUs, and uncertainty about the efficacy of vaccines on mutating variants.

Now, instead of papering over previous mistakes or relying on pseudo-science to set public health policy, we must leave no stone unturned to learn from the past and prepare for future threats. Many prominent public health and security experts have called for the federal government to launch an expert-led independent inquiry into Canada's COVID-19 response.

The NDP has proposed an inquiry under the Inquiries Act, because such an inquiry would be independent. It would be led by an impartial person, notably a judge. It would be properly resourced with counsel. It would have the power to subpoena documents and compel the attendance of witnesses. It would be conducted in public. At the end of the day, it should do a searching root-to-branch comprehensive analysis of every issue that Canadians have raised during the pandemic response by the federal government.

Again, the Conservatives had a chance to make that happen, because the NDP and the Bloc were voting in favour of this motion, but they said no. They abstained. Instead, the Conservatives want to legislate science from the floor of the House of Commons. That is irresponsible.

Prominent Canadians, such as David Naylor, co-chair of the federal COVID-19 immunity task force, and the former chair of the federal review of the 2003 SARS epidemic, thinks there should be an independent public inquiry. So does Richard Fadden, former national security adviser to Stephen Harper. Recently, the British Medical Journal, one of the world's oldest general medical journals, published a series that examined Canada's COVID-19 response and called for an independent national inquiry.

Why do the Conservatives not want one? Again, they would rather play politics. The New Democrats do not and will not allow the Conservative Party or the Liberals to play politics with Canadians' health.

The British Medical Journal documented a number of deeply troubling pandemic failures in Canada, including that Canada's emergency response was impaired by long-standing weaknesses in the public health and health care systems. These included fragmented health leadership across federal, provincial and territorial governments. They noted that pandemic performance varied widely across Canada's provinces and territories, hampered by inconsistency in decision-making, inadequate data, infrastructure and misalignment of priorities.

They noted that lacking an independent federal inquiry allows others to step into the frame. We have seen the so-called National Citizens Inquiry, led by Preston Manning, for example, which appears to be fuelled by vaccine safety misinformation and ideological concerns with government public health measures. This is far from the full, national and public inquiry led by independent experts that Canada's pandemic performance deserves.

An inquiry would help deliver on Canada's ambition to be a global leader, and most importantly, it would deliver answers to Canadians, whose confidence has been shaken. At the end of the day, a public inquiry is needed to restore the Canadian population's confidence, to ensure accountability for decisions that have been made and, most importantly, to find out what went well and what did not. Thus, we could better prepare for the next pandemic, as experts tell us that it is not a question of if, but when.

While the Leader of the Opposition pontificates, pretends and politicizes this very important public health issue on the floor of the House of Commons, New Democrats are pushing for what Canadians really want. That is a full, independent, public, impartial, searching and comprehensive public inquiry.

Prevention of Government-Imposed Vaccination Mandates ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Caroline Desbiens Bloc Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is the first time I rise to speak since you were elected Speaker. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate you and wish you a long reign.

I want to begin by saying that the Bloc Québécois, the adult in the room, is opposed to Bill C-278. The summary of this bill reads as follows:

This enactment amends the Financial Administration Act to provide that the Treasury Board may not require as a condition of employment in the federal public administration that a person receive a vaccine against COVID-19. It also amends the Canada Labour Code to provide that regulations may not be made that require, as a term or condition of employment in or in connection with the operation of a federal work, undertaking or business, that a person receive a vaccine against COVID-19.

In addition, the enactment amends the Aeronautics Act, the Railway Safety Act and the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 to provide that no regulation, order or other instrument made under any of those Acts to prevent the introduction or spread of COVID-19 may prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting a person from boarding an aircraft, a train or a vessel solely on the ground that they have not received a vaccine against that disease.

What can I say about this bill? First, we will begin with a short step back in time. Back in the day, Bill C‑285 required reasonable accommodation for people who refused to get vaccinated and wanted to use various means of transportation like trains, planes or ships. It also prohibited employers from retaliating against people's health decisions. The bill stated that a person who lost their job for refusing treatments such as a vaccine could not be denied employment insurance. This was understood to be the COVID‑19 vaccine.

Bill C‑278 essentially does the same thing, but this time it prohibits restrictions related to vaccination status specifically for COVID-19. Bill C‑285, on the other hand, targeted all types of medical treatment. What disturbs us about this bill are the reasons that led to it. Still, I would rather speak to the House about the reasons why we think it makes no sense.

We consider that the restrictions, such as the vaccine mandate for international travel, were justified. They were temporary and necessary in the context of COVID‑19. Although some measures seemed unreasonable, for example, the vaccine mandate for all federal public servants, even those who do not come in contact with the public, these measures were up for debate during the 2021 election campaign and were upheld by the courts.

The Bloc Québécois also refuses to buy the conspiracy theories the member for Niagara West is selling. The many statements this member has previously made on vaccines, as well as the nature of the petitions he has sponsored, make it difficult to see his initiative and this bill as anything other than the umpteenth attempt to discredit vaccines. This is what we are talking about when we talk about the reasons that motivated the member to bring in this bill.

Let us not forget that the restrictions specific to COVID-19 and the borders have all been lifted since October 1, 2022. As for the vaccine mandate for federal employees, it was dropped on June 20, 2022. What is more, this bill seems to be aligned with several anti-vax petitions that contained many false statements based on dubious sources. Nevertheless, the member sponsored these petitions.

The Bloc Québécois will not be fooled. It knows that the bill's intention is to curry favour with the base of the member's party by spreading misinformation. COVID‑19 was not a conspiracy; it was a tragedy. The different waves of COVID‑19 in Quebec and Canada cost close to 18,000 lives back home in Quebec, over 50,000 in Canada and close to 6.5 million worldwide. This is no dream; it is reality. However, we see here that the Conservatives' sympathies do not lie with the victims, the health workers or all our young people who made sacrifices to protect our seniors. Neither do its sympathies lie with my friend Annie, an immunocompromised kidney transplant patient who risks death simply by getting COVID‑19. The Conservatives' sympathies lie with pandemic deniers.

The Conservatives have chosen to forget all of that by voting against the principle of Bill S‑209, which calls for the designation of March 11 as pandemic observance day.

Not only do they not wish to acknowledge the tragedy, they are now proposing that we deny that vaccines saved many lives and enabled us to emerge from the pandemic. They can be the ones to tell those who lost a family member to COVID-19, those who were separated from their loved ones for a long time, or those who suffer from long COVID and are still affected by the virus, that this pandemic is nothing but a conspiracy, a hoax. They can be the ones to ask the guardian angels who have propped up our hospital system all this time whether COVID-19 is a sham, an invention.

Misinformation is a growing problem in our society, and it is very alarming. Misinformation has become an illness amongst the Conservatives. We need only look at the falsehoods they are spreading about the carbon tax, pretending that it applies to Quebec because it suits them to say it does.

It is preposterous to claim to be the party that will form the next government by spreading falsehoods. We can argue about a lot of things, and people can be more right leaning or left leaning. The Conservatives can even shamelessly criticize the current government's decisions on the pretext that it is too left-wing. However, they cannot lie to people just to gain power, although that is exactly what the Conservative Party is determined to do. It is unfortunate for democracy, for the people, and for the trust and honesty that we must honour in this place.

I invite the Conservative Party to reconsider the methods it uses to gain power. People are not naive. The shift towards lies and misinformation is dangerous. Fortunately, the Bloc Québécois is elevating the debate and bringing some lucidity and maturity to the conversation. The Bloc Québécois is responsible and will vote against this bill because, from the beginning, the Bloc has always supported bills that make sense and opposed those that do not.

By refusing to recognize the value of COVID‑19 vaccines, the Conservatives are once again denying science. If this bill passed, our entire society could someday have to sacrifice its very safety and security to the anti-vax beliefs of a small group of people who are still in denial. That would be completely unacceptable. We have to ask ourselves if individual freedom ends where collective freedom begins.

The Conservative Party needs to go redo its homework, because I am sure that the people who supported it up until now will be put off when they see the party's true colours. It is a party of lies that need to be debunked right now.

Prevention of Government-Imposed Vaccination Mandates ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Greg Fergus

Before I give the floor to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities, I would ask that all members take care when they use the word “lies” or accuse someone of lying. That is very important, even when one is not addressing an hon. member present in the House. One must be very careful when using those words.

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Prevention of Government-Imposed Vaccination Mandates ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

St. Catharines Ontario


Chris Bittle LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Housing

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to see that the Conservatives have decided to take a break from denial of climate change and go back to an old debate, denial of vaccine effectiveness. Vaccines save lives, right off the top. It is not something I have heard today from the other side. This is the priority today of the Conservative Party. It is the priority of its leader to deny vaccines.

There was no mention, not that I heard, that more than 54,000 Canadians have died of COVID-19. That is more than the number of Canadians who died in the Second World War. Some 751 Niagara residents died of COVID-19, and in the past month, there have been six in intensive care in Niagara. They could be constituents of mine or of the member for Niagara West, who is sponsoring this bill on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition.

Vaccine denial is not a new thing. Vaccine denial is as old as vaccines. It goes back to the 19th century, when the first vaccines against smallpox came around. Funnily enough, at that time in the 19th century, vaccine denial was led by people who were selling snake oil and trying to make money on the side with their snake oil remedies to combat smallpox, which did not have any effectiveness. We see the grift continue here, but it is disappointing to watch the official opposition dive in head first again and again. The more things change, the more they stay the same, and unfortunately, when dealing with a massive health crisis, there are those in His Majesty's loyal opposition who echoed the disinformation and misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines.

I would like to go back a bit. I wish it was not more than 20 years ago, but when I was in my early twenties, I got a job in the labour pool at a paper mill in the Niagara region. I got through the interview and there was a requirement that I show proof of vaccination for tetanus. I had not had the vaccine within the past 10 years, so I had to get it before I could start work at the paper mill.

Every doctor, nurse, soldier, firefighter, pilot or police officer whom any Canadian has ever met in their lives has had a vaccine and had to have a vaccine before they started work. What is the reason for this? The Conservatives talk about having to protect our soldiers, having to do this and having to do that. Through world wars we have required soldiers to get vaccines because it protects their health and that of the person next to them in the trenches or foxholes. However, Conservatives do not care, and it is truly unfortunate that they are trying to take us back to square one.

Vaccines, as I mentioned, are safe, and it is alarming that we have not heard that from the official opposition. All its speakers gloss over that. They gloss over the effectiveness. If our ancestors saw that, it would be unbelievable to them that we would give away this miraculous medical breakthrough on all the diseases that have killed so many people through the years, including COVID-19.

One of the most horrific stories that I heard during the pandemic, and heard it time and again, was about nurses. Do members remember when they were our health care heroes? Well, that has faded, unfortunately, for the Conservatives and the Leader of the Opposition. They had to sit there and watch people die, people who listened to the misinformation and disinformation. People were begging on their deathbeds for a vaccine from nurses and doctors, only to be told they would have had to get it before they got sick and could not get it at the last moment.

Again, there was deafening silence from the Conservatives on that. I am not sure who they are trying to rally to. Actually, we do know who they are trying to rally to. They closed down this city for a few weeks. They closed down international borders. They tried to grind the economy to a halt.

The Conservatives talk a good game, although usually only during question period, about vulnerable Canadians. They talk a good game of wanting to stand to protect vulnerable Canadians. In this case, vaccines do that. I may be lucky, and most of us here may be healthy enough that, if we contracted COVID–19 and the disease progressed to a point, maybe we would be okay, but maybe not.

What about small children? What about seniors? What about people with severe illnesses? I hope members never have to witness a baby with whooping cough, for example, who did not get a vaccine. It takes a second. I can understand some people being concerned about it because it is a needle in their arm, but they should speak to their physicians about it because they know best about their patients' health.

My doctors told me to get it as soon as it was available. That is how much confidence they had. I know my doctors are good doctors. The doctors throughout the Niagara region, and throughout Canada, are highly regulated. These are people who are here to protect our health and would tell us to get the available vaccinations immediately.

Through the course of human history, disease has ravaged us so much that perhaps we are benefiting from its success if we can say in 2023 that we do not need these vaccines or to worry about things such as polio, smallpox or measles. I am sure many members of the House had measles when they were a kid and think it was okay, but kids die of measles. There was a kid in New York State who contracted polio in 2023. Mercifully, there was no outbreak, but there could have been. As more politicians like those in the Conservative Party try to make political hay out of vaccines and vaccine mandates, there is an acceptance that these snake oil sales people are trying to make us less healthy, which is truly disappointing.

I want to thank the vast majority of Canadians who did their part. Canadians stood up to protect their neighbours, families, loved ones and co-workers. They knew it was the right thing to do. It is shameful that the Conservatives would stand up to cheer on those who would stand against that, but there is no willingness on their part to stand up for the most vulnerable. They talk a good game during question period, I will grant them that, but after those 45 minutes are done, and sometimes it is a little longer, we do not see any of that. Their disregard for public health is absolutely shocking.

For more than 150 years, vaccines have been a valid public health tool, and in a crisis such as COVID–19, something we had not seen in our lifetime, it was a valid public tool to use. To take it off the table just shows the Conservatives' denial for science, for what is best for the Canadian people and for the protection of vulnerable members of society. In another pandemic, we would not want that party in charge. It is just not worth the risk.

Prevention of Government-Imposed Vaccination Mandates ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


René Villemure Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will do my best to be enlightening during the time allotted to me.

As we know, thinking is not a crime that leads to death, unlike COVID-19. All of the bills introduced here, even the most ridiculous, can be debated. When I think of the word ridiculous, I cannot help but think of this bill from the member for Niagara West.

Over the course of my career as an ethicist, I heard half-truths, short answers, evasive statements, ridiculous statements and frankly idiotic statements. In fact, I think that is exactly what we find ourselves facing today: idiocy.

What is idiocy? It can be recognized by its love of inaccurate statements. Idiocy is the opposite of reason. When we debate a subject here, we have to be able to give meaning and direction to what we say. When what is being said makes no sense, it is akin to going the wrong way and getting lost. Without meaning, we go astray, get out of line, which leads to mistakes. That is where we are at today, because this bill is fundamentally a mistake. I will try to demonstrate that.

Generally speaking, the public must be given information. It is interesting that this word basically comes from two separate words. It means to put words “in formation” in order to understand and learn, because learning enables us to make a decision.

The opposite of reason is what we have often heard from the member for Niagara West in his speeches, which are ridiculous on more than one level. We often hear about freedom, but it is important to understand that one person's freedom ends where another's begins, as we have always said. It is also important to understand that there are others to consider.

These days, it is annoying how, since we got cellphones, like iPhones for example, if we want to know where we are, we just have to open Google Maps and there is a little blue dot showing us where we are. We are the centre of the universe, and everything else revolves around us. That is how I feel when I read this bill. It seems as though the person who drafted it feels like they are the centre of the universe and that everything revolves around them. It is not very inspiring.

Bill C‑278 prohibits quite a few things, but what I mainly see is that the sponsor of the bill is asking us to believe the same thing he believes. He wants us to share his obsession with vaccines and adopt his views, which he is attempting to pass off as the truth. I have a problem, which is that Bill C‑278 would put beliefs ahead of the public interest.

Of course, the Conservative Party will support this bill. That is obvious. When a person does not believe in climate change, they are likely to believe in anything. It is deplorable. However, the Bloc Québécois will not support the bill because it contains theoretical views that are at odds with science and common sense, the thing the Conservative Party likes to crow about and say it is championing.

This bill is meaningless. It is nonsense. It is a mistake.

Prevention of Government-Imposed Vaccination Mandates ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Greg Fergus

The hon. member for Niagara West for his right of reply.

Prevention of Government-Imposed Vaccination Mandates ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Dean Allison Conservative Niagara West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the debate we have had regarding this bill, although I do not agree with all my colleagues from the other parties.

As we conclude second reading, it is important to keep several things in mind. It was wrong to divide and discriminate against Canadians based on a personal medical decision. It was wrong for the government to demonize Canadians who did not agree with the heavy-handed approach of imposing unscientific mandates on compelling folks into a medical treatment. It was wrong for the Prime Minister to call more than six million Canadians nasty names. He called his fellow Canadians racists, misogynists and a fringe minority, and he dared to say they held unacceptable views. It was wrong for the Prime Minister to say that these Canadians should not be tolerated because of a personal medical decision. It was wrong for the Liberal government to freeze the bank accounts of Canadians who did nothing wrong.

More than six million Canadians disagreed with the Liberals’ heavy-handed approach. Tens of thousands went out to protest throughout the country when they had no other avenue for expressing their concerns. Many of these folks lost their jobs. That includes truckers, government workers, doctors, nurses, crown corporation workers, our very own military members and many others. Why did the Prime Minister do this? He did it because he saw a political opportunity and did what he does best: divide.

Last week we saw the same thing happen with the Prime Minister's anti-energy, anti-resource development bill, Bill C-69, punishing mostly our western provinces by trying to limit their economic abilities to grow their own economies. The Prime Minister’s divisive tactics based on Canadians’ health is just another example in his playbook, which we have seen for eight long and miserable years of his tenure.

I was happy to see that common sense prevailed earlier this year when a ruling by the Canadian Armed Forces grievance board found that the Canadian Armed Forces mandates violated the charter rights of a member who was released for choosing to remain unvaccinated. The board stated that the Canadian Armed Forces mandate infringed on the member’s right to liberty and security of the person, under section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The board also found that the policy was arbitrary, overly broad and disproportionate. It was the right decision.

In addition to all of this, it was difficult to watch as other levels of government felt pressured by the Prime Minister’s rhetoric to implement more ridiculous and unscientific mandates. Municipal and provincial officials did not want to get ridiculed, so they reluctantly imposed their own mandates. These mandates, as everyone knew at the time, did nothing to prevent transmission or illness.

What the mandates did do, however, was damage our country like I have never seen before. Folks were fired. Folks lost their livelihoods. Folks were forbidden from travelling. I cannot believe this actually happened right here in Canada. Folks missed birthdays, funerals and other important events of friends and family across the country and abroad. It was sheer vindictiveness by the Liberals, plain and simple. They wanted to exact some sort of punishment on folks who did not agree with their stance on imposing unscientific mandates that drove a wedge with families, friends and neighbours. Families were torn apart because of the government’s stigmatization of Canadians.

This must never happen again, ever. My bill seeks to do that at the federal level, where we do have jurisdiction. We can never introduce such egregious and vindictive measures. We are not that country. We cannot do that to our people. We are Canadians. We show compassion and understanding for one another. We do not seek to get someone fired or to ban them from travelling because they think differently or want to handle their own medical decisions in their own particular way. They have every right to do so. It is their health.

How did the government ever think it was okay to overstep such a sensitive boundary? I have heard from thousands of Canadians first-hand. They are still disillusioned about what happened. They are still in shock from what their own government did to them. Many people who went along with the mandates realized, as time passed, the punitive methods used in this ordeal. Many have lost trust in government in general. Some will likely never trust government again, including many of those six million Canadians who were affected. I would also fully agree with the Leader of the Opposition that the imposition of the Emergencies Act to crush the civil liberties of Canadian citizens who protested for their freedoms was one of the most despicable acts we have seen under the Prime Minister’s government.

I hope we all make sure this never happens again. I do not believe we can move on from what took place until there is accountability. This bill is a step in the right direction. Let us start with Bill C-278, and let us continue to work until there is full accountability. I know I will.

Prevention of Government-Imposed Vaccination Mandates ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Greg Fergus

The question is on the motion.

If a member participating in person wishes that the motion be carried or carried on division, or if a member of a recognized party participating in person wishes to request a recorded division, I would invite them to rise and indicate it to the Chair.

Prevention of Government-Imposed Vaccination Mandates ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Dan Muys Conservative Flamborough—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for a recorded division.

Prevention of Government-Imposed Vaccination Mandates ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Greg Fergus

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, October 25, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

TaxationAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a privilege to rise tonight to talk about a really difficult year that we had in my riding of Courtenay—Alberni.

We know that ocean temperatures around the world have been rising rapidly. It is a record year for air temperatures, ocean temperatures and wildfires globally.

We watched with horror as we saw wildfires rage across Yellowknife and Hay River and Nova Scotia, coast to coast to coast. My riding was no different. This included Highway 4 at Cameron Bluffs in my riding, which separated my riding from the west coast to the east coast along the Alberni Valley. That fire started, really, at full rage on June 6. It had a tremendous impact on the communities and on small business.

We know that the PBO projected just 10 years ago that climate emergencies would cost Canadians about $900 million a year. Here we are, and we are into multi-billions of dollars. This has an impact on the economy, the ecology and the ecosystem. We are seeing, right now, that the PBO projects that, so far, climate emergencies have cost Canadians between $20 billion and $25 billion.

I think about the impact that has on our communities. Of course, we need to take real action when it comes to climate change. We need to make sure that we invest heavily in clean energy and transition away from fossil fuels.

We also need to make sure that the impact of climate emergencies is not shouldered by the most vulnerable or by small businesses. That is why I am here tonight.

The communities of Tofino, Ahousaht, Hesquiaht, Clayoquot, Yuułuʔiłʔath, Toquaht, Huu-ay-aht, Hupačasath, Tseshaht, Uchucklesaht and Port Alberni have all been heavily impacted by wildfires in my riding.

In just Tofino and Ucluelet, they identified that the cost was $44 million, and that was on August 16. We are talking two months in. It took a long time before the highway could get cleared and people could move. Supply chains were heavily impacted.

Currently, Canada does not have a rapid response emergency fund for small businesses when it comes to climate emergencies. We know that there will be a lot more emergencies.

I cannot imagine the suffering of people in Hay River and in Yellowknife. They were even more impacted. We need to find a fund.

When I ask small business owners who should pay for this climate emergency rapid response fund, and if it should be an increase in taxes, the flat-out answer is no when I give them the alternative. That is to charge an excess profit tax on oil and gas, which has had record revenues and record profits. Shift that revenue to help support small businesses that have been impacted.

I believe we can have hope in taking on climate action really wholeheartedly after a year such as this. We need to.

However, SMEs cannot shoulder the burden. Right now, they have asked for an extension on the CEBA loan. They are still not getting that refundable portion, which they need by the end of next year.

I was just talking to Scott Stewart, who runs True North Distilleries. He needs the CEBA loan extended. His distillery also pivoted to help provide sanitizer for public health agencies through the pandemic. They just cannot absorb this kind of punishment.

We need to make sure that we are supporting small business with urgency, especially with the impact of climate-related emergencies. The CEBA loan extension is one part; we should provide a fund that can move rapidly and pivot, so that we can help support these small businesses.

We have seen Britain charge an excess profit tax on oil and gas. We know the Conservatives are not going to support that. We cannot even get Liberals to do that in Canada. It is time for the Liberal government to step in and provide resources to support those small business owners, who really are the economic drivers of our small communities.

TaxationAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Outremont Québec


Rachel Bendayan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his advocacy for firefighters. I would also like to thank all of the first responders across Canada who keep us safe, including the brave volunteer firefighters whom so many communities across our country depend on. Our government recognizes the important role that first responders play, and we will continue to support them.

I would like to point out that one member of our government in particular has taken a leadership role in supporting firefighters across the country. The member for Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne has crossed the country meeting with firefighters. After discussing with them the urgent needs they are facing, she presented a bill in this House to develop a national framework to actively support research, education and cancer screenings, with the goal of improving access for firefighters to cancer prevention and treatment.

The government continuously reviews the tax system to ensure that it remains fair and efficient. On that point, I would add that the member for Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne is in touch with the minister responsible on the topic of firefighter tax credits.

I cannot emphasize enough the important role of first responders in facing the realities of climate change, most notably in the form of increasingly frequent wildfires. In fact, Canada is experiencing more extreme wildfires, and according to the data, this trend will only continue as the climate changes.

The 2022 budget included significant funding to support our firefighters, as well as support for provinces, territories and indigenous communities to mitigate, monitor and respond to fires.

The budget included nearly $40 million to train 1,000 new firefighters and integrate indigenous traditional knowledge into fire management, as well as $308.2 million to acquire firefighting equipment, such as vehicles and aircraft, including nearly $40 million specifically for first nations communities.

These very concrete actions will help ensure greater volunteer safety in the line of duty and will help ensure a higher degree of emergency preparedness in communities across Canada.

Since 2015, the federal government has invested over $100 billion in its fight against climate change and in environmental protection.

What is more, our emissions reduction plan is ambitious but achievable. Our goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ensure Canada reaches net zero by 2050.

Our government will continue to take action to protect our communities and support first responders, including the volunteer firefighters who keep us safe and protect our homes.

TaxationAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for talking about my bill, Bill C-310, on the volunteer firefighter tax credit. I hope the government comes to its senses and prioritizes the over 100,000 volunteer firefighters and search and rescue volunteers, because inflation is having a huge impact on them.

In terms of supporting our volunteers, we need to look at new ways to tackle forest fires with the climate emergencies we are seeing. Coulson Group, which is in my riding in Port Alberni, is currently one of the global leaders on night firefighting. It wants to create a quick reaction force and support Canada's rapid response to forest firefighting in Canada.

I asked the Minister of Emergency Preparedness to come to the Alberni Valley. I hope my colleague can help encourage that to happen so he can learn from the best in the business and learn how Canada can mitigate and put out forest fires, because the quicker we can put out forest fires, the quicker we can reduce emissions. We do not talk enough about that connection when it comes to tackling climate change.

TaxationAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Rachel Bendayan Liberal Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to once again thank the member opposite for his advocacy and leadership. I know he is working closely with government members, including the member for Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne and the Minister of Emergency Preparedness, on Bill C-310 and on other measures that will ensure greater tax fairness for our first responders. I also know that we will continue to work in this direction through various other means. We have Bill C-224, which addresses this.

There are many actions that our government has taken and will continue to take. I encourage collaboration between my NDP colleague, whom I respect enormously, and members of government and cabinet in order to advance this cause.

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

October 24th, 2023 / 6:35 p.m.


Heather McPherson NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, since October 7, Israelis have not been able to mourn their dead in peace. Every day we are learning more about the sickening and horrifying brutality of Hamas and the Hamas terrorist attacks. We mourn the loss of so many bright lights, including so many people who were working for peace. We want to see the hostages come home now.

Only a few miles away from where Hamas committed these terrorist attacks, Israeli military bombs are now raining down on homes in Gaza. More than 2,000 children in Gaza have been killed in the past two weeks. Families have been eradicated. Half of Gaza's homes have been destroyed.

A few days ago, 18 people were killed in an Israeli military air strike on a Greek Orthodox church, where 200 vulnerable people had sought shelter. Bombs fall next to schools and hospitals. Children are experiencing mass trauma. Surgeries are performed with no anaesthetic and with vinegar from the corner store. Humanitarian aid is desperately needed. Palestinians are not able to mourn their dead either because the bombs keep falling.

My city of Edmonton is grieving. In my community of Edmonton, I know of at least eight families who have, together, lost over 100 people, 100 family members in the siege of Gaza. We need a ceasefire now.

Dehumanization of the enemy is a terrible feature of wars and genocides. It is already evident in this war, with Hamas militants spitting on and torturing their victims. It is disgusting. It is horrifying. The Israeli defence minister is using words such as “human animals”. The Israeli president has said that the “entire nation” of Gazans is responsible for Hamas.

There is a straight line between dehumanization and the hate crimes we are seeing around the world. We know that hate crimes against Jewish Canadians have massively increased since October 7. It is heartbreaking to see what is happening in the world. The National Council of Canadian Muslims says that reports of hate crimes against Muslims have increased by 1,000%.

I am deeply concerned by the silencing of Jewish and Palestinian people, particularly of women and of women's voices across Canada, in the media, on social platforms and in public discourse. This is a a time for us who are not Palestinian and who not Jewish to listen and to learn. We need a ceasefire.

Our call for a ceasefire does not mean we do not want the end of Hamas. Of course we do. However, the people of Gaza are not Hamas. The children of Gaza are not Hamas. Palestinians are not Hamas. They deserve, as all people do, to live, to thrive, to be free and to be safe. They do not deserve this.

These bombings will not make Israelis safe either. Collective punishment does not make anyone safer.

Canada must do better. We must recognize the broader context of this war and the ongoing occupation in which we have so much work to do. Before this war, Gazans were severely restricted in their movement by Israel.

Israel still occupies the West Bank, where illegal settlements are being built. As rockets have fallen on towns in Israel, settlers have attacked Palestinian residents of the West Bank. The occupation has enormous costs, most importantly in lives, but also in long-term security. I urge the government, now, to finally call for a ceasefire.

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Don Valley West Ontario


Rob Oliphant LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Edmonton Strathcona for the passion, compassion, intelligence and wisdom she brings to this subject, not only today but every day, and for the ongoing work we are attempting to do together in a really horrific situation.

Canadians were shocked to see the unspeakable atrocities that were committed by the terrorist organization Hamas. Hamas is recognized by Canada and by others as a terrorist organization, and we unequivocally condemn the brutal terrorist attack against Israel. Israel has a right to defend itself in accordance with international law. That international law, the international humanitarian law and other laws, is very clear that a civilian is a civilian. Palestinian and Israeli civilians needs to be protected and we need to keep this in the front of our minds every day, even as Canadian hearts are broken and our minds are taxed as we attempt to find solutions to the situation.

We continue to work with our allies and our friends, primarily to de-escalate the situation. We have been working extremely hard to get Canadians and other foreign nationals out of Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. We will continue to do that work. We have also been continuing to work feverishly on getting humanitarian aid into Gaza, and this has been a trying and difficult situation. For no other reason than to get humanitarian assistance into the area, the Prime Minister today called on the international community to say that humanitarian pauses on hostilities need to be considered. What the Prime Minister said was echoed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. We are looking for the best ways Canada can engage in the situation to ensure that humanitarian assistance can be provided.

As I said, we have been working with our allies and our partners for over two weeks now to find a way to de-escalate the situation. The foreign affairs minister has been in the region twice. She has been to Israel and to Jordan, as well as to discussions with the Palestinian authority. Most recently, she was in Egypt at a peace conference and today was in the UAE. Her goal is to support Canadians and bring them home as they want to come home. She has been there to witness the human impact of the violence, to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and to work with our partners, as I said, to de-escalate.

That is what we will be doing and will continue to do.

The safety and security of Canadians is first, but it is not the last. What we will continue to do is find ways for Canada to engage constructively in the situation in order to help. As the Speaker will be well aware, Canada was one of the first countries to offer humanitarian assistance, with an immediate $10 million and a further $50 million. We are in the top five countries in humanitarian assistance, but we have to get it in. That is why the government and the Prime Minister say that the world needs to find a way to do a humanitarian pause on the hostilities. That would allow such aid to travel into the war-torn area without causing further vilification of others there.

This is what we will do. We will continue to fight for this. We want to ensure that Palestinian civilians and Israeli civilians are cared for and are safe and secure as they move to the day after and find the best way to solve the situation.

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.


Heather McPherson NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have one very short question and then one that is a bit longer. The first question is this: What on earth is the difference between a humanitarian pause and a ceasefire? Stop dropping bombs on kids. That is the same thing. Why can the government not use the word “ceasefire”? Why can the government not say what so many people in our country have been urging it to say: “ceasefire”? We need a ceasefire now, and if it needs to call it a humanitarian pause, it is going to have to explain why that is different from a ceasefire.

For years, New Democrats have asked Canada to end arms sales to Israel while the occupation continues. For years, we have been asking it to condemn illegal settlements, to call for an end to settler attacks, to ban trade of products from illegal settlements and to end the blockade of Gaza, and still the Liberals have remained silent.

Once again, call for a ceasefire. The children of Palestine need the Liberals to stand up now.

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.


Rob Oliphant Liberal Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, let us be very clear. People are dying. Children are dying, on both sides of the border. Our goal is not to play games. Our goal is not to have semantics. Our goal is to get humanitarian assistance to a war-torn part of the world.

This is not a conventional war. This is a war between a democratic state and a listed terrorist organization. We do not negotiate with terrorist organizations. Maybe members of the New Democratic Party would like to do that, but this government does not do that. What we will do is ensure safety, security and long-term viability in this very difficult situation.

I have been in this area of the world six times. I have worked in Palestine and worked in Israel. I will continue to do that, and this government will continue to stand up for every civilian regardless of where they live in that part of the world.

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Greg Fergus

The motion that the House do now adjourn is deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:49 p.m.)