House of Commons Hansard #261 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was workers.


Video Message Apology

11:05 a.m.


The Speaker Liberal Greg Fergus

The Chair would like to make a brief statement in light of a video message that was played this past weekend at a provincial party convention.

I was asked to record a video to be played at an intimate gathering for a long-standing friend who was leaving his position, and I agreed to do it. I regret that this video was used for purposes other than for what it was intended. Hon. colleagues, it was played at a convention for a party that I am not a member of, in a province where I do not live in and where I have been unable to vote for nearly three decades.

It was a non-political message to a personal friend of more than 34 years. He and his wife played an important role in my and my wife's early lives as a new couple, eventually newlyweds and later young parents.

In a region where we did not have any relatives, they were our family.

Before we all became politicians, we were just people. After we leave politics, we will be just people. More important, while we serve here as parliamentarians, we are people. Like all members, I have deep and abiding relationships with people from all political backgrounds. It should not be seen as partisan to recognize a colleague's departure. It is an act of friendship and respect.

Nonetheless, I recognize how this could have been interpreted. I want to apologize and to reassure members. An incident like this will not happen again.

I would like to reassure members that the principles of respect, impartiality and decorum are values I continue to prioritize for my tenure as Speaker.

If members would like to raise questions about the subject of my statement, then I will recuse myself from that debate.

I thank hon. members for their attention.

The House resumed from September 27 consideration of the motion that Bill C-295, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (neglect of vulnerable adults), be read the third time and passed.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to give some of my thoughts on Bill C-295, which was introduced by the member for Vancouver Centre. It is an act that would amend the Criminal Code on the subject of neglect of vulnerable adults.

I am very pleased to be speaking to this subject, especially on behalf of all vulnerable seniors in my riding, but also their families. Families, as we have seen over the last three years, also suffered through the subject matter we will be discussing as part of the bill.

It is a fact the chronic neglect and abuse of older adults living in long-term care facilities is a long-standing problem. This is something that slipped under the radar for many years before COVID so frighteningly put it to light and exposed what was there all along.

Bill C-295 would specifically amend the Criminal Code to create a specific offence for long-term care facilities, their owners and officers when they fail to provide necessaries of life to residents of facilities. We would finally, this Parliament, be putting into the Criminal Code a specific offence when the people who run these facilities fail to uphold their part of the bargain.

It would also allow the court to make an order prohibiting any owner or officer of such a facility from being, through employment or volunteering, in charge or in a position of trust or authority toward vulnerable adults. Again, there will be consequences for people who are in those trust positions, but it will also allow courts to consider as an aggravating factor for the purpose of sentencing the fact that an organization failed to perform the legal duty it owed to a vulnerable adult.

We could rightly question why it has taken so long to even consider putting these things into the Criminal Code, but here we are, and it is about time we moved forward with the bill.

I want to also recognize that the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights did its due consideration of the bill. During its review of the bill, 15 witnesses appeared before the committee, including the research chair on the mistreatment of older adults, from the University of Sherbrooke, the Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario and the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions. There were 15 witnesses in total over four meetings at that committee. The committee also had 26 briefs submitted to it as a part of its study.

Going to the committee report, I will direct members of the House to the fact that one of the big changes that was made was replacing the word “manager” with the word “officer” and specifically putting a new definition, so now the people who are covered by the word “officer” include the chair person of the board of directors, the president, vice-president, the secretary, the treasury, the comptroller, the general counsel and the general manager or managing director of a long-term care facility. Again, it goes after that top echelon of people who are responsible not only for the overall budget of a place but for how it directs its care levels, its staffing standards and the level of service that residents can expect at those facilities.

It is no secret that there has been a long history of neglect, and what the pandemic did was shine a very important light on that. However, it has often been called “hidden neglect” because many people who worked in the industry, worked at long-term care homes or even those who were responsible for reviewing their actions have known that unfortunately this has existed for quite some time.

It is also a fact that during the pandemic especially, there was a huge difference between the for-profit long-term care homes and the public or non-profit facilities. The for-profit facilities had a much worse patient outcome overall than not-for-profit homes in general.

In my home province of British Columbia, the Seniors Advocate recently reviewed the situation with for-profit long-term care homes. It has been noted that in British Columbia the cost of a publicly subsidized long-term care bed through a private operator has jumped 35% in the last five years. The Seniors Advocate found that not-for-profit facilities spent about 25% more per resident on direct care when compared with for-profit care.

When a review was conducted on the financial records from 2021 and 2022, it showed that long-term care facilities operated by for-profit companies delivered 500,000 fewer care hours than they were funded for by the province.

Again, it speaks to the larger theme, that when profit is introduced into the health care system, other considerations seem to make their way to the forefront rather than looking after the people for which the facility was designed.

I also want to point out that we are all very familiar with the time when the Canadian Armed Forces were deployed to some of the hardest hit long-term care homes, where they documented horrific accounts of inhumane treatment, abuse and substandard care.

According to the Canadian Armed Forces' reports, dozens of residents in two Ontario nursing homes died, not from COVID-19 but from dehydration and neglect.

I have looked at some of the short Coles Notes from those reports. I will read them out for the record: “conditions in two of the seniors homes...appeared to be nothing short of horrid and inhumane as ill-trained, burned-out and, in some cases, neglectful staff coped with the growing care needs of elderly residents”, residents faced “inadequate nutrition” because most of them were not getting three meals a day — and when they did, “underfeeding was reported.”; “Respecting the dignity of patients is not always a priority.”; Other patients were “left in beds soiled, in diapers, rather than being ambulated to the toilets.”; and “troops had to send a senior to hospital after the resident fractured a hip and was not cared for by staff.”

These are just some of the alarming things that came out from the Canadian Armed Forces that were deployed to those homes. Again, for the people who are familiar with long-term care homes in Canada, this was nothing new. All COVID-19 did was to serve to shed a light on that.

On October 23, 2020, CBC posted a story to its website. I will quote from a part of its investigation:

CBC Marketplace reviewed 10,000 inspection reports and found over 30,000 "written notices," or violations of the Long-Term Care Homes Act and Regulations (LTCHA), between 2015 and 2019 inclusive. The LTCHA sets out minimum safety standards that every care home in Ontario must meet.

Marketplace isolated 21 violation codes for some of the most serious or dangerous offences, including abuse, inadequate infection control, unsafe medication storage, inadequate hydration, and poor skin and wound care, among others. The analysis found that of the 632 homes in the Ontario database, 538 — or 85 per cent — were repeat offenders.

I also want to recognize that women represent 65% of patients in Canadian residential continuing care facilities. This is absolutely a gendered issue to which we need to pay close attention.

In addition, the vast majority of care providers in supportive care are women, with a significant portion of these individuals being newcomers or immigrants, especially among personal support workers. Women account for the majority of the workers among both immigrants, which was 86%, and non-immigrants, 87%.

My NDP caucus believes that the victims of negligence in Canada's long-term care facilities deserve justice. Part of the confidence and supply agreement that we have with the Liberal government is the tabling of a safe long-term care act to ensure that seniors are guaranteed the care they deserve, no matter where they live.

Although Bill C-295 is a step in the right direction, I do not believe it goes far enough in this regard. Rather than addressing this issue solely through a private members' bill, we expect that the government will follow through on this requirement and table legislation that puts these standards into more encompassing law, so that all Canadians, from coast to coast to coast, can not only ensure that their loved ones are getting the care that they deserve, but that our vulnerable seniors have the full force of law to ensure they are living with the dignity they deserve.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, this morning, I am rising to speak to Bill C-295, an enactment that amends the Criminal Code to create an offence for long-term care facilities, their owners and their officers to fail to ensure necessaries of life are provided to residents of the facilities.

I have had a few opportunities to replace my colleague on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to study this bill a little more in my capacity as a former project manager responsible for raising awareness of elder abuse and intimidation.

To come back to the bill, it also “allows the court to make an order prohibiting the owners and the officers of such facilities from being, through employment or volunteering, in charge of or in a position of trust or authority towards vulnerable adults and to consider as an aggravating factor for the purpose of sentencing the fact that an organization failed to perform the legal duty that it owed to a vulnerable adult.”

The bill is perhaps a little opportunistic. It follows the abuse that occurred in seniors' residences during the pandemic. That is what it seeks to address, but the bill creates criminal offences in these cases. Liberal logic dictates that filling the Criminal Code with offences is a way of helping people.

I will explain the bill in a little more detail, along with progress made in Quebec and what remains to be done.

Bill C‑295 adds two definitions to the Criminal Code, long-term care facility and officer, with the goal of building criminal offences around them. I could list them. We seriously examined the bill. In particular my colleague from Rivière-du-Nord studied it in depth in committee. Upon reflection, the Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of the bill at third reading, because the Bloc proposed two amendments that were adopted.

The first sought to replace the definition of “manager” by that of “officer”. We discussed this a great deal in committee. The notion of “manager” that previously appeared in the bill was much too broad. In the previous definition, an official responsible for purchasing or a nursing team leader would have been affected by the bill. Many witnesses said this went much too far. As for the notion of “officer”, it is well defined in the bill. It covers directors and senior members of the board such as the president and the vice-president. In short, the amendment places the responsibility on people in charge of the centres and not on the workers, who are already struggling to keep the health care system going.

The other amendment ensures that the judge will take into consideration penalties under the legislation of Quebec and of the provinces. Some provinces, like Quebec, have laws against abuse that force health care facilities to have policies and a complaint process. The judge will take that into account in imposing a prohibition order.

The Bloc Québécois believes that it is relevant to determine whether including criminal negligence of seniors in long-term accommodation in the Criminal Code will help them get the care and services to which they are entitled.

Seniors have been the biggest victims of the COVID-19 pandemic. We recognize that. They were overrepresented in the number of deaths. They are also the ones who suffered and continue to suffer the most from the aftershocks of the virus through isolation, anxiety and financial hardship.

I want to point out that Quebec already has legislation on elder abuse and the abuse of any vulnerable adult. This legislation provides for fines and protects informants who report mistreatment. That is what I was working on at the time. Community organizations and the health care network worked together on this new law.

The Bloc Québécois believes that the federal government is acting within its purview with this bill, which would add tools for investigators. We therefore took the time to study the bill in committee to assess its usefulness. Beyond prosecuting managers who commit crimes or who could do so, it is important to ensure that seniors receive services that improve their quality of life. In this regard, the Bloc Québécois would like to emphasize the other important role the federal government should play in health care, and that is to increase transfers so as to cover 35% of system costs. The Bloc Québécois also wishes to reiterate that the sad events that happened in residential and long-term care facilities, or CHSLDs, are no excuse for the federal government to impose national standards on these facilities.

Of course, we saw the critical situation in CHSLDs, which ultimately forced the government of Quebec to ask for military assistance on April 22, 2020, following a failed call to mobilize citizens to help with staff shortages in care facilities. In May 2020, negotiations between the Legault and Liberal governments were particularly tense because the federal government refused to extend the military assistance in Quebec. In a way, the federal government used Quebec’s need for military assistance in the throne speech to announce its intention to impose Canadian standards in CHSLDs.

This was a way for the federal government to impose its requirements when faced with the provinces and Quebec joining forces and calling for a 35% increase in health care transfers. Quebec reiterates that demand. The government is back on the attack, supported by the NDP, trying to impose its standards. The Liberals are still clinging to this idea. In the 2021 electoral campaign, they promised $6 billion for long-term care in exchange for imposing their standards.

I could list many events in Quebec politics that show how concerned Quebec is with what is happening in residential and long-term care facilities. I will remind members that sections 91 and 92 of the Constitutional Act, 1867, define the division of powers between the federal government and the provinces. They specify that health is the exclusive jurisdiction of Quebec, except when it comes to the health of indigenous peoples, military hospitals, drug certification and quarantine. Let us keep this in mind, because it is important.

The Liberal Party of Canada and the NDP keep stubbornly trying to interfere in areas of provincial jurisdiction, especially health care, because it is so obviously important to people. The federalism they stand for, however, requires each level of government to operate within its areas of exclusive jurisdiction. We had this debate before the election. In 2021, the NDP introduced a motion to impose national standards on long-term care facilities. We had already spoken out against that back then. What we want is for the federal government to do its part, because of the staff shortage and, obviously, because we have to find ways to work on solving the many problems facing the health care system.

Thirdly, the Quebec government had to answer to the opposition in regard to its ministers’ decisions. As we know, the Quebec minister who was responsible for seniors and caregivers at the time moved a motion on December 2, 2020 denouncing the Liberals’ desire to impose Canadian standards on long-term care facilities, or CHSLDs. It was adopted in Quebec’s National Assembly. The Bloc Québécois supports the National Assembly of Quebec’s unanimous position and denounces the Liberals’ centralizing vision.

Since then, the Quebec ombudsman has released a report making recommendations to the government. A provincial plan for deploying emergency personnel, a protocol for deploying extra staff in exceptional circumstances, and a Quebec strategy to combat staff shortages are also in place, and our computer systems have been updated. In addition, Quebec’s department of health and social services presented a Quebec action plan to recognize the complexity of care and service provision in long-term care facilities. We also adopted legislative measures to define the guiding principles that must be followed regarding living environment quality and organization and established the procedure for applying them through regulatory means. In short, Quebec is taking action and already has ideas for fixing the situation. The federal government will not be able to any better, since it knows nothing about the situation on the ground in these particular hospitals.

We know that the Quebec government has presented its plan to reform the health care system. This plan includes a range of measures, including large-scale recruitment of workers, better access to data, the construction of new hospitals and more accountability for executives. In addition, the coroner is still investigating, and some people are calling for a public inquiry. In short, in every case, it is up to Quebeckers to take stock of the situation and fix their system; the federal government cannot just jump in and start doing the work Quebec is already doing.

As we know, these regulations are part of the Quebec Act respecting health services and social services. Most long-term care facilities, some 86%, are public, compared with only 46% in the rest of Canada. We said all this before, when we were debating national standards for long-term care facilities. Let us be clear, Quebec and the provinces have the expertise and experience needed to manage long-term care facilities. The federal government does not. For all of these reasons, Quebec opposed every one of these national standards.

If the federal government truly wants to help the provinces and Quebec emerge from the pandemic and provide better care to our seniors, it should stop being so paternalistic. It should forget about imposing federal nationwide standards that are not a good fit for a range of different social and institutional contexts. It should actually increase health transfers, which would enable Quebec and the provinces to attract and retain more health care workers.

At least, there have been some amendments to this bill that the Bloc Québécois agreed with. We heard the testimony and followed the committee's work very closely and rigorously. That is why we will be voting in favour of the bill, with a view to focusing on the Criminal Code, which is under federal jurisdiction.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Churence Rogers Liberal Bonavista—Burin—Trinity, NL

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-295, an act to amend the Criminal Code on neglect of vulnerable adults.

COVID-19 brought to light issues in the long-term care industry. Canadians did not, and will not, accept the conditions that were on display during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in long-term care facilities. This bill was initiated in that global atmosphere, with the primary objective of better protecting vulnerable people living in these facilities. Seniors and persons with disabilities in long-term care deserve safe, quality health care.

Bill C-295 is one method of delivering this care. My colleague, the member for Vancouver Centre, who sponsored this bill, is proposing changes to the Criminal Code in three ways. First, this bill proposes to amend section 215 of the Criminal Code, which criminalizes the failure to provide the necessities of life for a dependent. The bill would give owners and officers of long-term care facilities a duty to residents that is similar to parents' duty to their children; it would criminalize failure to ensure that the necessities of life, such as food, lodging and care, are provided to residents.

Second, this amendment would be supplemented by a prohibition order against persons convicted of this new offence. This order is an accessory to the sentence that may be imposed. It is discretionary and would allow the court to prohibit, for a period of time that it determines, the convicted person from seeking, obtaining or continuing any employment, even voluntary employment, that would place that person in a position of authority towards a vulnerable adult.

The third and final change proposed by this bill is the addition of an aggravating factor at the sentencing stage, requiring the court to consider a heavier sentence for organizations that fail to meet their legal obligations to a vulnerable adult.

This bill was studied last spring by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I would like to focus my remarks on the work done by this committee and the results obtained.

Various witnesses were heard, several briefs were submitted and the majority shared the same concern, that the term “manager”, which was initially proposed in the bill, could result in the inclusion of frontline workers in this new offence. Given the critical shortage of staff in care facilities, according to the Canadian Association for Long Term Care, the proposed measure could “have a devastating impact on recruitment and retention by unintentionally creating undue risk and hardship for front-line staff. This will exacerbate an already emergency situation in many [group] homes” and facilities. LTC providers across the country provide an invaluable service to seniors and persons with disabilities.

Justice committee members from all parties welcomed amendments to this bill to carefully identify owners and officers as the responsible decision-makers, who are accountable for mismanagement. They are the ones holding senior management positions, such as those of CEO or chairperson.

The objective of the bill is laudable, but it should not interfere with the already precarious operation of LTC facilities. Officers are the individuals who make the key decisions on the care offered, the staff in place and the budget allocated to equipment, to name a few examples.

For vulnerable persons, their inability to care for themselves makes them completely dependent on the care provided by these people, who have committed to helping them by making these decisions with their best interests in mind. However, neither owners nor officers provide direct care to their residents; rather, they oversee the facility's operations, make key management decisions and ensure that the staff under their direction have all the tools they need to carry out their duties. Owners and officers who take all reasonable precautions and care in the performance of their duties would not be affected by this change in federal law.

With this amendment, the bill would specifically place responsibility on owners and officers of long-term care facilities who fail to ensure the necessities of life are provided to residents of the facility they manage, if this would result in causing or risking permanent harm to the health of the residents in their care.

Vulnerable adults in long-term care facilities depend on the good care of frontline workers and also on the thoughtful decisions of the management team. Frontline workers such as personal support workers, who provide direct care to LTC residents, would not be affected by this change in federal law. Sufficient staffing levels and adequate functional equipment, to name a few examples, come down to management decisions that can have an impact on the health of long-term care facility residents. Owners and officers therefore have a central role to play in the health of the adults entrusted to their care.

I am grateful for the work of the committee members who adopted the amendment to make the maximum sentence four years in this case, similar to the offence under section 161 of the Criminal Code, which deals with orders prohibiting persons convicted of offences against minors from working around them. The committee worked collaboratively to advance the cause of vulnerable people in long-term care facilities, and I remain convinced that we can continue to work in the same direction. Our seniors deserve better.

The current state of the bill is, in my opinion, improved and more in line with the principles of criminal law. We have all heard the difficult stories of people trapped in long-term care facilities at the very start of the COVID-19 pandemic, in many cases without food or water. The individuals at the helm of these facilities must be dissuaded from making decisions that risk jeopardizing the health of their residents. The bill would send a clear message: Vulnerable adults in long-term care facilities can rely on third parties to provide them with a decent life, and there is no justification for compromising their health and dignity. We remain committed to working with the provinces, the territories and the long-term care sector to ensure that seniors and persons with disabilities live and thrive with the highest standard of care.

I would like to conclude by saying that I am confident that Bill C-295 will be passed quickly by this chamber so it can be studied by the other place. The revised version would more specifically place the responsibility on the people whom, as a society, we trust to make sound decisions with respect to the care of our seniors so they can live out their final years in peace. Canadians should have access to safe and quality health care at all stages of their life.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Brad Vis Conservative Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand and to speak to Bill C-295, an act to amend the Criminal Code with respect to neglect of vulnerable adults.

The reason I want to speak to the bill is that my grandmother passed away in September. In fact, December 9, this Saturday, would have been her 96th birthday. I call my grandmother “Oma” because we are of Dutch heritage. In 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic, I remember my oma being pretty lively. She still had her wits about her; she could sing songs in Dutch and English, and she really participated in our family life. We very much enjoyed and cherished her, like many other families do across Canada with their elders.

However, when the pandemic came, I, along with my cousins, aunts and uncles, had to make some hard decisions regarding the treatment of my grandmother in our family home, where she resided. For a period of time, to protect her, she was isolated from the broader community that had sustained her life in such a positive way since she immigrated to Canada in the 1950s. To make a long story short, like with members of many families across Canada, my grandmother's dementia accelerated at a very quick rate once she was isolated from those she loved. When I first got elected to Parliament, we heard at the HUMA committee from experts in geriatric care that one of the biggest mistakes we might have made during the pandemic was separating seniors from those they loved. My grandmother was isolated in her home, and her mental health deteriorated very quickly. My aunts and uncles and my mother, who was her primary caregiver, had to make the difficult choice to put her into an assisted living facility, one that would have been covered under Bill C-295.

I have to say that I was very pleased with the quality of care my grandmother received at the Chartwell facility in Mission. Staff were loving and conscientious, and they did everything to protect my grandmother. That was positive. However, while she was there, her dementia continued to accelerate; it got worse and worse, and she could no longer stay in an independent living facility with her meals provided. Family members had to make the very difficult decision to put her into a long-term care facility. What I am about to say now is a little brash, but it is a fact. When children make a decision to put their parents into a long-term care facility, it is almost like a death sentence. They know that it is the last place they are going to go. For children to make that decision for their parents is one of the hardest things they are going to have to do throughout their life.

Canadians believe in the health care workers at our long-term health care facilities. They believe that those people have the best interests of vulnerable Canadians at heart. They believe and trust that our systems are going to work, to make sure that the quality of life for those they are responsible for is upheld in a dignified way, one that respects the human dignity of the individual. Unfortunately, that is not the case at all long-term care facilities across Canada. All of us read, heard and experienced the horror stories that people talked about during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially when loved ones were separated from their seniors. I will be very clear that this was not the case with my family, but like many other MPs across this country, I heard from families who had negative experiences. For that reason, I am supporting the intention of the bill before us because it gets to the essence of a very big fear that many children have for their parents: Will they be protected? Will their human dignity be upheld when they cannot be with them and they have to entrust the care of their parent to a stranger at a medical facility?

The amendment to the bill, made to paragraph 215(2)(b), reads, “with respect to a duty imposed by paragraph (1)(b.1) or (c), the failure to perform the duty endangers the life of the person to whom the duty is owed or causes or is likely to cause the health of that person to be injured permanently.” It goes on under the prohibition order to outline, as the member of Parliament referred to before, that an owner or officer would be responsible in those conditions. The bill would send out a signal to long-term care facilities that maybe have not got it right, that not getting it right is not good enough. We always need to ensure that our most vulnerable citizens, our seniors who have devoted their lives to this country, receive the type of care they need.

For me and my children, it was a daunting experience when we went into some of those facilities. Many seniors, unlike my grandmother, unfortunately, do not have a large support system to protect them. They do not come from a large family like mine, where there are 20 grandchildren, another 20 great-grandchildren and six siblings to spread out the work and make sure someone is there every day to watch out. Not every family has that. Not every senior is blessed with a large family like that. That is why the bill is important. Sometimes seniors may have only one advocate, and that person may still be working a full-time job or have other responsibilities and cannot be there every day. When they do show up and see that something is wrong, they would know that laws in Canada are there both federally and provincially, as outlined in the legislation, to ensure that, in the case of abuse or neglect, there would be a mechanism to protect the senior, and laws to safeguard them if a horrible situation does occur.

We have so much to do, mostly at the provincial level, in this country to uphold the dignity of seniors at the vulnerable stages of their life that they encounter upon entering an assisted-living facility or a long-term care facility that the bill before us would address. I do acknowledge certain apprehensions that came forward in witness testimony. I believe in the essence of the bill and its use of a collaborative approach, which I have heard about from my colleagues. The bill is worth supporting in order to send a signal that we need to do more to protect our vulnerable seniors to ensure their quality of life at the end.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, speaking of Bill C-295, I assume I am not the only one here today to be overcome by sad memories of the COVID-19 pandemic.

My thoughts go out to everyone who lost friends and family during the pandemic, one of the most difficult times we ever experienced as a society. There were 14,000 deaths in Quebec. It would be an understatement to say that the pandemic has had a lasting impact.

On that note, I will now address Bill C-295 in greater detail and share what the Bloc Québécois thinks of it.

The Liberal Party of Canada is suffering from a worrying bout of amnesia, since, in March 2021, the NDP moved a motion to nationalize and impose standards on long-term care facilities. All of the other parties voted against the motion. Why then are the Liberals introducing this bill today? Have they forgotten that that is an NDP position and not a Liberal one? Who knows? I must say, since the emergence of the NDP-Liberal government, the two parties seem to share some of the same positions. At least the bill introduced today is slightly different from the motion moved by the NDP in March 2021.

The Bloc Québécois proposed two amendments to Bill C-295 that were accepted. The first aimed to replace the concept of manager with that of officer. In an earlier version of the bill, the concept of manager was far too broad. As my colleague from Shefford so eloquently put it, if the concept of manager had been retained, the bill could have applied to a public servant responsible for procurement or to a nurse team leader. This is absurd, considering that the bill seeks to amend the Criminal Code to make it an offence for long-term care facilities, their owners and their officers to fail to provide the necessaries of life to the residents of facilities. The concept of officer is well established, since, in the bill, it applies to directors and senior administrators, including the president, vice-president, and so on. In short, the amendment puts the responsibility squarely on the people who run the homes, and not the workers who are already doing all the work.

The second amendment proposed by the Bloc Québécois requires judges to take the laws of Quebec and the provinces into account. It seems to me that members here in the House of Commons often need to be reminded that health care falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of Quebec and the other provinces. While successive Liberal and Conservative governments have repeatedly tried to interfere in this provincial jurisdiction, nothing will magically change that fact.

Several provinces, including Quebec, already have legislation in place to tackle elder abuse and require care facilities to have policies and processes for handling complaints. It is therefore important that judges take these laws into account before imposing any prohibition orders.

Lucien Bouchard, one of the founders of the Bloc Québécois, said the following:

The government has neither the intent nor the mandate to abandon any part of Québec's constitutional jurisdictions...

Successive governments in Québec, regardless of their political option [as to the status of Quebec], have always worked to reaffirm its jurisdiction in order to foster its people's [Quebeckers'] control over its economic, social and cultural development....

This quotation is timeless, as enduring as Canada's resolve to make decisions for Quebec.

I campaigned for the “yes” side during the referendums of 1980 and 1995. I distinctly remember the federalists' fear campaign. They still make similar arguments today.

When Quebec stands up to Canada and stands up for its interests, threats to freeze funding that Quebec is entitled to usually follow. It is funny. Ottawa pulls out this argument as though it were pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Just two weeks ago, here in the House, Ottawa threatened Quebec with lower health transfers if we refused to exchange our francophone workers for unilingual anglophone doctors.

During the pandemic, in May 2020, the negotiations between the Premier of Quebec, François Legault, and the federal government were particularly tense, including about the need to call in the army to help with the long-term care facilities. In his Speech from the Throne, the Prime Minister of Canada used Quebec's need for military assistance to announce his intention to impose Canadian standards in long-term care facilities. It was also a Liberal campaign promise in 2021. The Liberals promised a hefty $6 billion for long-term care facilities provided their standards were imposed.

This bill raises a question. If the federal government is now going to be interfering in Quebec's long-term care facilities and private seniors' residences, will the government threaten to freeze or reduce Quebec's health transfers? That is an issue that needs to be considered. Do we also need to reiterate that, in December 2020, the Quebec National Assembly unanimously adopted a motion denouncing the implementation of pan-Canadians standards for long-term care and demanding an increase in health transfers?

This paternalism must stop. Not only does Quebec already have standards to prevent neglect and abuse, but it also has solutions on how it can improve in this area. Earlier, my colleague from Shefford listed a set of standards that Quebec is implementing to try to ensure that what happened during the pandemic never happens again. We are talking here about prevention, rather than criminalization, in order to protect the most vulnerable members of our society.

In closing, the Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of Bill C‑295, so that it can be improved in committee. We need to ensure that, with this bill, we are actually helping the provinces and Quebec to protect their seniors, rather than just quickly adding criminal offences to the Criminal Code without thinking about the long-term consequences.

I will end my speech on a more personal note. My mother lived in a long-term care facility from January 2020 to November 2020 and passed away there. She did not die from COVID‑19 necessarily, but she did experience it. She received remarkable care. When talking about this bill, I want members to keep in mind that there are people in our health care system who do an amazing job. It is not the workers themselves who are targeted by this bill, but the officers.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to Bill C-295, an act to amend the Criminal Code, to make sure it is a criminal offence when owners and managers of long-term care facilities fail to provide the necessities of life to residents within them.

We have an aging population. One is six in Canada will be one in four in just a couple of years. We all have members in our families, such as mothers and fathers, who are aging. I am aging. We are all going to need long-term care. The Conservative Party absolutely agrees that we have to protect the most vulnerable, and this bill is a good start. It would make sure the necessities of life are provided. However, the bill does not necessarily go far enough.

I am going to take up the theme of the pyramid of needs. We know that in the pyramid of needs, food, shelter, clothing and security are at the bottom, and this bill would address those necessities. We all heard stories of people who were left in their own excrement, did not have enough water or were dehydrated and of the lack of food during the pandemic, but what about their emotional and mental well-being? More needs to be done there.

My mother died in long-term care, and the children had to choose who would go in. That is not fair or compassionate, so there is more to be done with the bill. We also saw, even after science showed that those who were vaccinated could get and transmit COVID the same as the unvaccinated, that people were discriminated against and not allowed to visit their loved ones, even with reasonable accommodation.

Let us think about what happened during the pandemic. I received so many calls at my office from people who were trapped on one side of the border and could not visit their loved ones who were dying in long-term care facilities. There was no compassionate exemption made. I applied many times, but usually the length of time it took to get approval meant the person had already died. It is tragic when somebody is alone and vulnerable without even one family member there.

I can remember that when my mother died in long-term care, I had to hold up an iPad so that my brother, sister and all the people who were not able to see her could say goodbye. After 95 years of a well-lived life, it was very sad. Then there was the whole issue of funerals. The number of people was limited and people were not allowed to go to them. That was also very sad. The bill takes a good first step to address some of these things.

At committee, I was pleased to see that some amendments were accepted, one being that the definition of “managers” was not specific enough. We want to make sure that all facilities, whether private or public, have standards of care. That is another issue that was not addressed. There are differences in the standards of care across provinces and types of facilities. I was lucky that my mother was at Albany Retirement Village in Petrolia. It did a wonderful job of taking care of her, although many times I had to stand at the window to say hello to her during the pandemic.

The other thing this bill would allow is for judges to consider this an aggravating factor in offences involving volunteer activities or somebody in a position of trust or authority. That is a good thing.

I thank the member for Vancouver Centre, who is a doctor herself. We are all aging, and she has brought these concerns before the House. It sounds to me like this is the moment when all parties are agreeing that, yes, we need to do something and it needs to be an enforceable criminal offence. We have a lot of laws in the country, but we do not necessarily spend a lot of time enforcing those laws. In this case, it is so important. These are vulnerable people who, in many cases, like if they have dementia, do not have the acumen to fight for themselves. We need to be the ones to put measures in place so those looking out for them are dealt with.

I would say, as a woman, this is also a gendered issue. We know that 85% of the people who are in long-term care facilities are women. We also know that 86% of the workers and volunteers in these facilities are women. We need to provide protections for those who give care and for those who are being cared for. We need to make sure that we are not just meeting the base level of the pyramid when it comes to their emotional and mental health needs.

We know that isolation caused huge issues during the pandemic not just among people in long-term care facilities, but even in the general populace. One in five people ended up with mental health issues coming out of the pandemic. The suicide rate was up immensely. Violence was up immensely, at 32% for the people in this age demographic of long-term care. Of course, we have seen a huge rise in crime across the country, a 39% increase. Therefore, addressing all levels of people's well-being will be important and this bill does not go that far.

I would argue that, in the future, people need to remember the lessons learned from the pandemic. It did not really help when we kept individuals away from seeing their loved ones and let others in because, at the end of the day, we let 90% of the people do what they wanted and the 10% who were unvaccinated could not, yet the science showed that both could transmit COVID. I think the reasonable accommodations of masking and personal protective equipment would have really addressed a lot of the loneliness, the agony of watching loved ones die, or not being able to get to loved ones who were dying, which was very serious.

The other thing I would say is that long-term care facilities have been studied over and again. There was a report at the health committee in 2018, when I was there, that talked about standards of care and the number of individuals needed per resident, which is not the same for all residents, for example, those who have dementia compared to those who are at a high-functioning level. Therefore, we certainly need to look at best practices in the country and adopt some kind of minimum standard of care with respect to the number of caregivers and the amount of time provided. We hear a lot about how many minutes of care residents will get a day. Clearly, we cannot tell human beings that they have had their seven minutes for the day and that is it, that is all; we need to be more compassionate than that.

While I am happy to see this bill and think it is a great first step, I would like to see us go further. I think the government has a huge opportunity, as it reflects on what happened during the pandemic with the violation of people's rights and freedoms, not just for those in long-term care facilities, but also the seven million Canadians who were prevented from leaving their country for three years, to do a thorough review and come back with policies that will address not only the basic needs of people, but their mental health needs and the emotional supports they need. Obviously, it is one step at a time.

I am happy to say that we will support this legislation and look forward to doing more things to protect our seniors, who are the most vulnerable in society.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business



Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today. I very enjoyed my talks with the member for Vancouver Centre. We have had a number of great conversations about various issues, including seniors issues. I have found her to be an outspoken supporter and critic when it comes to seniors issues. It is an absolute privilege to be standing here on legislation she has no doubt proudly brought forward.

This is an act that would amend the Criminal Code to create an offence for long-term care facilities, their owners or their managers who fail to provide necessities of life to residents of the facilities.

I believe it was Rawls who said that if we could go back to what he called the “original position”, meaning if we knew we were entering society but did not know how we were going to enter society, it would make sense that, if we knew one of the outcomes was to be in one of the more difficult positions in our society, we would want to do everything we could for such individuals.

For example, one could be sitting outside the world, and one could come into this world not knowing where one was going to come in, whether one was going to come in as Bill Gates, a billionaire, or whether one was going to come in as someone at the other end of the economic spectrum. If coming in as Bill Gates, one would probably be fine. One's concern would probably be if one came into a more challenging place in our society. For example, on the challenges an individual who faces a disability may have, one would want to make sure society was innately fair to persons with disabilities.

I believe this is a little analogous here. If in fact we knew we might have the lottery and might end up as an individual without any sort of control over our life whatsoever, with perhaps reduced faculties going forward, we would want to make sure this society, this country, was fair to those individuals. Unfortunately, that is not always the case today.

I, of course, as everyone else in here, will be in that situation hopefully at some point in my life. That is a little different than the original position, in that most of us will be in the position where we will be coming toward the winter of life, and perhaps facing reduced faculties and having our complete life, from food to recreation or even just to seeing daylight, completely at the control of someone else. What a difficult position to be in.

I revel in the wisdom of folks who are a couple of years my senior, and so I have often had conversations with individuals. It can be a very challenging time for individuals who have had very high-functioning lives or have been in charge of the destiny of many others in life. These are people who have been surgeons and doctors, or people who have had other lives under their control and who had control over everything in their life and have been successful in life. They find themselves now in a state where they are completely reliant on others. What a sacrosanct responsibility for those individuals who are now in charge of these individuals who have given so much to society and who have built the greatest country in the world.

We have such an incredible responsibility to make sure those people who built our country are taken care of. Unfortunately, we heard through the pandemic and before the pandemic that oftentimes people just did not get fair treatment in their life. That is why this legislation is a step in the right direction. We, as a society, have to make sure those individuals who have given their entire lives to building this country, building the best country in the world, are protected. If others are in fact letting them down, there must be consequences for not providing these people the care when they need it most. Individuals in some cases are completely and utterly reliant on those individuals, so if there is neglect or, worse, willful neglect or even purposeful harm, these individuals must be held accountable.

That is why I will be proudly voting for Bill C-295. I thank the sponsors of this bill for bringing it forward.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

It being 12:07, the time provided for debate has expired. Accordingly, 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.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, we request a recorded vote.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

Pursuant to Standing Order 98, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, December 6, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.

The hon. House leader for the opposition is rising on a question of privilege.

Alleged Breach of Speaker's ImpartialityPrivilegePrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.


Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a very serious matter today. As you know, I have provided notice of a question of privilege concerning the Speaker's public participation in partisan events over this past weekend.

I do note that, in his statement earlier today, the Speaker indicated that he has recused himself from this matter, which clearly touches upon him and his conduct. He has also indicated that he will follow the practices laid down in the October 19 ruling concerning recusals by the Speaker found at page 17635 of the Debates.

I recognize that, in some instances, complaints about the Speaker, and more particularly those concerning rulings, should proceed by way of a motion placed on notice, but I believe the current circumstances amount to such a breach of the impartiality of the Chair that it warrants immediate and priority consideration by the House.

Saturday morning's Globe and Mail article entitled “John Fraser finishes his time as interim Ontario Liberal leader as party elects permanent replacement”, written by Laura Stone, rather remarkably quotes the Speaker. I will read the relevant paragraph:

'He’s demonstrated so much calm, and conviction and resolve and determination, and he’s held it all together at a very challenging time [for] our party'...the Speaker of the House of Commons...first met Mr. Fraser in 1989 while working in Ottawa. He said Mr. Fraser will be remembered for 'experience, good judgment and a real passion, and authenticity.'”

In any event, the partisan engagement did not stop there. That afternoon, he appeared via video at the leadership election for the Ontario Liberal Party. Here is a sample of what he had to say in his two-minute video greeting as part of the tribute to Mr. Fraser. He said, “And boy, did we have fun. We had a lot of fun together...through the Ottawa South Liberal Association, through Liberal Party politics, by helping Dalton McGuinty get elected. This was really a seminal part of my life. And when I think of the opportunities that I have now as being Speaker of the House of Commons, it's because of people like John”.

These remarks were introduced to the Liberal convention as, “A message from the Speaker of the House of Commons of Canada.”

He made these remarks from the Speaker's office in the West Block while dressed in his Speaker's robes. As bad as it would have been to appear at a party convention at all, it might have at least been a little different if he had been introduced as the member for Hull—Aylmer, and worn a suit or a sweater, while standing in front of a scenic backdrop in his riding, but he was not. He was standing there in the full, non-partisan trappings of his non-partisan office, paying a partisan tribute to a partisan friend at a partisan event.

I recognize that Mr. Fraser tweeted yesterday that there could have been some confusion about what the Speaker's office was told about where the remarks were to be shown, but it does not change one iota the fact that he was dressed in his Speaker's gowns standing in the Speaker's office making a partisan tribute video to be viewed somewhere.

Similarly, Mr. Fraser's tweet does not address the Globe and Mail interview I just read where he offered partisan praise for Mr. Fraser. If you do an interview with the Globe, quite frankly, you should expect to see your comments printed and posted for all to see. This conduct is simply unacceptable. It defies all long-standing traditions and expectations attached to the high office of the Speaker.

Late yesterday afternoon, the Speaker's office released a statement in his defence claiming, “the Speaker acknowledges how this message could have been perceived”. This is it exactly. Perception is everything.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 3rd edition, explains at page 323, “the Speaker embodies the power and authority of the office, strengthened by rule and precedent. He or she must at all times show, and be seen to show, the impartiality required to sustain the trust and goodwill of the House.”

Continuing on the next page, it states, “In order to protect the impartiality of the office, the Speaker abstains from all partisan political activity (for example, by not attending caucus meetings), does not participate in debate and votes only in the event of an equality of voices, normally referred to as the 'casting vote' of the Chair.”

Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms, 6th edition, adds, at citation 168(1):

The chief characteristics attached to the office of the Speaker in the House of Commons are authority and impartiality.... Confidence in the impartiality of the Speaker is an indispensable condition of the successful working of procedure, and many conventions exist which have, as their object, not only to ensure the impartiality of the Speaker but also, to ensure that there is a general recognition of the Speaker's impartiality.

That passage originates from the United Kingdom's parliamentary bible, Erskine May, and can be found virtually word for word in its 25th edition at paragraph 4.23. Beauchesne's continues at citation 168(2):

In order to ensure complete impartiality the Speaker has usually relinquish all affiliation with any parliamentary party. The Speaker does not attend any party caucus nor take part in any outside partisan political activity.

As a former Speaker myself, I understand completely what this means because I lived it for four and a half years. That is why I was absolutely flabbergasted when a photo of his participation at the Liberal convention was first drawn to my attention. I am still, 48 hours later, deeply appalled and, frankly, deeply offended.

Having served in the chair, I wholeheartedly appreciate that Speakers do not arrive there through some form of immaculate conception. Speakers have all been politicians before being elected to the chair, and some of us have even gone on to further partisan service after our tenure in the chair. Bosc and Gagnon acknowledge this point at page 314:

The Speaker has almost always been elected from among the Members of the governing party, and although the Speaker eschews partisan political activity, he or she does not make a complete break. When running for re-election, incumbent Speakers are usually careful to avoid partisan statements that might prejudice their perceived impartiality in the future.

The impartiality of the Speaker is not unique to our federal Parliament. Indeed, it is a common sentiment throughout the Commonwealth. In addition to the authority I already referenced from the U.K., where the Speaker leaves partisan politics for the rest of his or her life, let me cite a few others for the Chair's consideration.

Parliamentary Practice in New Zealand, 4th edition, which is also known as McGee, advises at page 78:

The member who is elected Speaker does not thereby become a non-party member of Parliament. However, the Speaker does not play a politically partisan role, and exercises restraint in the speeches or comments he or she makes outside the House. The Speaker must be prepared to assert an independence from the Government to ensure that the rights of all sides of the House are protected in the course of the parliamentary process.

The Indian Lok Sabha's Practice and Procedure of Parliament, 7th edition, adds, at page 107:

While the Speaker stands on party ticket for his election to the House, he may or may not continue to be the member of his party after his election as Speaker. Even when he does not sever connections with his party, he has refrained from attending any party meeting. However, a convention has, more or less, developed at the Union for the Speaker to dissociate himself from his party.

The same text observes, at page 306, that:

Office of the Speaker, Lok Sabha, is a constitutional office and enjoys exalted status in our democratic set up. Though it is not necessary for the Speaker under the Constitution or the Rules of Procedure to sever his connections with the political party to which he belongs, once he is elected to the Office, he, while conducting the House nevertheless acts in totally impartial manner. Impartiality is, therefore, an integral attribute vis-á-vis the Office of the Speaker.

Turning back closer to Ottawa, Parliamentary Procedure in Quebec, 3rd edition, makes this astute point at page 132:

While the legitimacy of the Chair stems primarily from the rules that govern the selection process, the impartiality of the Chair is essentially determined by the attitude adopted by the President in the exercise of the functions of office. Of course, the rules of parliamentary procedure state that the President does not belong to any parliamentary group, does not participate in any of the Assembly’s debates and votes only to break a tie, but it is the manner in which the incumbent oversees the proceedings and follows those rules that determines whether actual impartiality and the appearance of impartiality are maintained.

The universally expressed point here is that, while the Speaker is vested with the responsibilities of being the Speaker, he is expected to check his partisanship at the door. It can be difficult, but it must be done.

In a recent interview on CTV Question Period, the Speaker claimed it took “all of 60 seconds” to shed his decades of Liberal sensibilities and political bias upon becoming Speaker. This weekend's events call that into doubt.

Yesterday, the Speaker's office said he would be more “diligent going forward”. The House needed his total and complete diligence since day one. This is not the first communications challenge during his brief tenure as Speaker in which his diligence would have been helpful. I am recalling how a teenaged blogger noticed, 10 days before the House, a procedural decision he had taken.

About 35 years ago, he was one of the pages, upon whom this House truly relies to function smoothly. Back when he was a page, had he participated at openly partisan events, he likely would have been fired. What message does this send to today's pages, that the Speaker of the House, the one who is supposed to embody impartiality and devotion to the whole House, can be involved in political party conventions?

This conduct, in my view, should be treated as a prima facie contempt of the House.

Bosc and Gagnon explain, at page 60:

Any conduct which offends the authority or dignity of the House, even though no breach of any specific privilege may have been committed, is referred to as a contempt of the House. Contempt may be an act or an omission; it does not have to actually obstruct or impede the House or a Member, it merely has to have the tendency to produce such results.

At page 81, they continue:

Thus, the House also claims the right to punish, as a contempt, any action which, though not a breach of a specific privilege: tends to obstruct or impede the House in the performance of its functions; obstructs or impedes any Member or officer of the House in the discharge of their duties; or is an offence against the authority or dignity of the House....

The House of Commons enjoys very wide latitude in maintaining its dignity and authority through the exercise of its contempt power. In other words, the House may consider any misconduct to be contempt and may deal with it accordingly.... This area of parliamentary law is therefore extremely fluid and most valuable for the Commons to be able to meet novel situations.

There are no precedents in our House nor are there any obvious precedents from our sister parliaments, which are directly on point for the issue I raise today, possibly because no Speaker in the major Commonwealth parliaments has been so bold as to participate openly at partisan events and certainly not doing so as distinctly and visibly as the Speaker. That is, as I have just explained, not a barrier.

There is, however, one ruling from Speaker Fraser, in front of whose chair the Speaker once stood as a page, that is strongly persuasive in these circumstances. In 1993, the then deputy speaker Andrée Champagne had agreed to act as the co-chair of her party's convention. A question of privilege was raised arguing that her decision amounted to a contempt of the House because it affected the appearance of impartiality attached to her office, as she was the deputy speaker.

Speaker Fraser ruled on March 9, 1993, at page 16685 of the Debates, that this situation did not amount to a prima facie case of privilege because: “I have some difficulty in agreeing with the hon. member for Cape Breton—East Richmond that the Deputy Speaker is cloaked with the same exigencies that are expected of the Speaker himself or herself, and I am deliberately careful in not extending such a responsibility by way of ex cathedra comments in this decision.”

This ruling, I believe, stands for the proposition that the Speaker's participation at a partisan convention would, on the other hand, have amounted to prima facie contempt in Speaker Fraser's view.

He is clearly saying, in that ruling, that the expectations and the very high bar set upon the Speaker did not apply to the Deputy Speaker but, in making that explanation, he acknowledges and reinforces the idea that it would be wholly inappropriate for the Speaker to do what the former deputy speaker did in that situation.

Many of our rules and practices here operate on a binary basis. For example, I cannot call a colleague a liar because everyone is presumed to speak the truth. Therefore, every member has a corresponding obligation to tell the truth in the House. Similarly, the rulings of the Speaker and any comments on the partisan implications they may carry would be impermissible. That is because the House is entitled to assume that the Speaker would be wholly non-partisan while holding that office.

McGee sums up the point well at page 79:

The Speaker's exalted position and the consequent constraints it imposes require members to treat the Speaker or any other temporary occupant of the Speaker's Chair with respect and deference.

If the Speaker openly engages in partisan conduct, it opens the door to public analysis of any partisan motivations underlying his rulings. I can assure members that, despite a mere two months in the chair, that would not be a difficult feat.

Australia's House of Representatives Practice, seventh edition, at page 168, articulates the point well. It reads:

The Speaker must show impartiality in the Chamber above all else. A Speaker should give a completely objective interpretation of standing orders and precedents, and should give the same reprimand for the same offence whether the Member is of the Government or the Opposition....

Members are entitled to expect that, even though politically affiliated, the Speaker will carry out his or her functions impartially. Likewise a Speaker is entitled to expect support from all Members regardless of their party.

After this weekend's events, the implied contract between the Speaker and the House, which relies on mutual trust, has been broken. It would be very difficult for members to retain trust in a Speaker who engages in partisan activities.

As Bosc and Gagnon wrote, in the very first citation I offered:

He or she must at all times show, and be seen to show, the impartiality required to sustain the trust and goodwill of the House.

Should I be permitted to present my privilege motion, I will propose that the House denounce the Speaker's public participation in partisan events and, accordingly, ask the procedure and House affairs committee to recommend an appropriate remedy for this utterly unprecedented and completely avoidable problem.

I just want to address a few other points, in light of the Speaker's statement earlier today. First of all, many members of Parliament find themselves in the Speaker's chair after they have demonstrated their impartiality or non-partisanship for some time. Often, someone has served as the assistant deputy or deputy speaker and shed some of the partisanship that we often come to this place with as newly elected MPs.

In the case of the current Speaker, after being the former president of the Liberal Party and the Prime Minister's own parliamentary secretary, he entered the chair with a great deal of partisanship still surrounding him. Therefore, it would be incumbent upon him to go the extra mile, go beyond what a speaker elected under normal circumstances would do. He would have to set the bar even higher for himself, knowing that he has come so quickly from hyperpartisan activities. To be the president of a party is not just normal partisanship. To be the Prime Minister's parliamentary secretary obviously establishes a very close relationship with the leader of the Liberal Party, the Prime Minister of Canada. He has taken on a role now in which he is called upon to defend the rights and privileges of each individual MP, and it would take a conscious effort for members to set aside his recent partisanship.

In one of his first interventions in the House upon being elected as Speaker, the Speaker accused a female member of Parliament from the NDP of exaggerating her injuries when she was elbowed in the chest by the Prime Minister. Right there, we can see an immediate reaction to defend the Prime Minister. Now we are being asked to accept his rulings without any doubts about partisanship or bias.

Just recently, we had a situation that was very difficult for many members to understand. The Speaker ordered the Conservative member for Miramichi—Grand Lake not just to withdraw comments but also to actually apologize in the chamber for making an association between a political party and an odious entity abroad that is conducting horrible activities, namely, Hamas. A few days later, the government House leader made a very similar accusation against Conservative MPs; in that situation, the Speaker did not order an apology, saying that he considered the matter settled. In the moment, we were asked to accept that it was the Speaker's ruling based on precedent, convention and an unbiased understanding of the rules. Then we see him, just a few days later, giving remarks to the Liberal convention.

I have more points based on the Speaker's statements today. He said he did not know where it was going to be broadcast. As we pointed out, he gave an interview to the Globe. Obviously, that was going to be printed in The Globe and Mail. I have already covered the fact that he was wearing his robes in his office, but I will also point out that John Fraser is not retiring. He is just leaving his role as interim leader and going back into partisan activities.

Alleged Breach of Speaker's ImpartialityPrivilegePrivate Members' Business

12:20 p.m.

An hon. member


Alleged Breach of Speaker's ImpartialityPrivilegePrivate Members' Business

12:20 p.m.


Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Yes, he is still going to be an MPP.

Mr. Speaker, despite the fact that the Speaker and Mr. Fraser might be close acquaintances and may think fondly of each other, it is not as though John Fraser was filling a non-partisan role. He was playing a very partisan role in partisan politics at the provincial level in Ontario.

The House might decide that it would like to see any correspondence between the Speaker's office, the Speaker himself, Mr. John Fraser, the Liberal Party of Ontario and the convention organizers. We might decide collectively, as a House, in the procedure and House affairs committee, that we would like to see correspondence to determine if that is, in fact, accurate.

To conclude, because of the seriousness of this issue, I would urge the Chair to rule immediately. I invite you, Mr. Speaker, if necessary, to suspend the sitting to take counsel from the clerks and to prepare your ruling.

I thank you for listening, Mr. Speaker. I believe there are other members who would like to intervene. I would like to reserve the right, if there are comments from other parties, to seek the floor again to offer my reflections on those commentaries.

Alleged Breach of Speaker's ImpartialityPrivilegePrivate Members' Business

12:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

I thank the member for that.

There are a number of people interested in talking about this, and I will give the other parties an opportunity to speak to it.

I would remind members of the House to keep it to the particulars of the Standing Orders as closely as possible. We can relitigate this on a number of occasions, but we want to keep it as concise as we can.

The hon. member for La Prairie.

Alleged Breach of Speaker's ImpartialityPrivilegePrivate Members' Business

12:25 p.m.


Alain Therrien Bloc La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the current Speaker of the House took office after the previous Speaker resigned following a serious error in judgment. His succession was a very sensitive issue, at least, more sensitive than usual.

Everyone, or almost everyone, here knows and would agree that the current Speaker was a highly partisan member. At the time, the Bloc Québécois decided it would give the member in question the benefit of the doubt. Regardless of what kind of member we are, I think that any member who wants to be Speaker has the right to hold the office and prove to everyone that he or she is impartial. I applauded him in my speech to the House a few minutes after he was elected, and told him that I was looking forward to seeing him perform his duties with the impartiality that is essential, necessary and indispensable to any Speaker worthy of the title.

What are the facts here? The House leader of the official opposition clearly explained them. I will very quickly go back to a few things, if I may. First, the Speaker was in his position as Speaker of the House of Commons. He was wearing the robes of the Speaker of the House of Commons. He was in the offices of the Speaker of the House of Commons. He used the resources of the Speaker of the House of Commons for an event that was undeniably partisan.

I am going to quote from the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, 2017: “In order to protect the impartiality of the office, the Speaker abstains from all partisan political activity”. It is very simple.

Therefore, we have a major problem. We have heard from the Speaker of the House that we were not supposed to see this. That is troubling, because we did see it. Are there other events that we did not see? Did we see the tip of the iceberg? We have these questions in mind, and I do not think it is appropriate to have these questions come up when we think about the actions and responsibility of the Speaker, an office of critical importance for our institutions.

We want to have confidence in the interventions the Speaker makes in the House. We do not want to be left wondering whether it was for the good of the House, the good of democracy or the good of the government. We do not want to ask ourselves those types of questions.

On November 29, our leader asked the Prime Minister a question and the Speaker deemed it irrelevant because, according to him, it had nothing to do with the management of government operations or public administration. We raised a point of order on the issue. We want to believe that this was simply a mistake. That is what we wish and that is what we believe. He even admitted it.

What do we do now? This needs to be above partisanship. We must ensure that Parliament functions. That is what people expect. We have to work for the greater good of the public. We must not allow things to fester or trust in the Chair will be lost and the work of the House might become less effective than it should be.

Things in the House are rather tense right now. We can all agree. Doing the work of the Chair requires two essential qualities: impartiality and impeccable judgment. Unfortunately, after what he did this weekend, the Speaker has shown us that he has neither of these qualities. That is why the Bloc Québécois is urging the Speaker to step down without delay.

Alleged Breach of Speaker's ImpartialityPrivilegePrivate Members' Business

12:30 p.m.


Lindsay Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, certainly the New Democrats appreciate the official opposition House leader's raising this important question of privilege. I just want to state that our House leader, the member for New Westminster—Burnaby, will be addressing this very serious issue after question period.

Alleged Breach of Speaker's ImpartialityPrivilegePrivate Members' Business

12:30 p.m.


Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, in terms of your deliberations on this matter, it is very important to put on the record the entirety of what was contained in the Speaker's video. He said this:

“You were the Steinberg's manager out in the West End. I was this young little kid, well you were young too, who was working for John Manley, and we struck up a great friendship: you, me, Linda, your kids, Julie; we all just hung out. You guys were a real inspiration to Julie and me. When we were just getting together, getting married, you and Linda gave us some great advice, great hope and a lot of love. When we started having children, we turned to looking at your family and how active you and Linda were in terms of getting things done. And boy, did we have fun. We had a lot of fun together through the Ottawa South Liberal association, through Liberal Party politics, by helping Dalton McGuinty get elected.

“This was really a seminal part of my life, and when I think of the opportunities that I have now as being the Speaker of the House of Commons, it is because of people like John and Linda, especially you, John, as to why I'm the person I am today. Of course, that could be, you know, a scary thing, and I am sorry to put that burden on you, but only the good parts. Only the good parts are really due to you.

“John, you know, anybody can ask you to do something once, and that's fine. But when they ask you to do something twice, it's because they really like you, they really respect you and they really think you're a great person. I know that, and I've known that for well over 30 years. So thank you, John, for all the work that you've done for the people of Ontario and the people of Canada.”

In light of the Speaker's statement this morning, which had the tone of downplaying the severity of this action, I would like to put on the record the ways that the Speaker shattered the impartiality he has sworn to uphold in what I believe, in tone and in content, is an endorsement video for a sitting Liberal parliamentarian. As the Conservative House leader said earlier, the Speaker made this video and statement in Speaker's robes in the Speaker's office for a video to be played at the Ontario Liberal Party convention. It was recorded for a partisan political convention in its tone and content, heaping effusive praise on a sitting partisan legislator at a political convention. It amounted to being an endorsement video.

Mr. Fraser is a sitting Liberal member of the Ontario provincial legislature, and he is planning to run again. The Speaker talked about how much fun the Liberal political activities were, while in his robe in the Speaker's office. He referenced how much fun the Ottawa South Liberal association is. He referenced helping get former Liberal premier, Dalton McGuinty, elected. He talked about participating in Liberal Party politics.

There are a couple of other things that my colleague did not mention that I think you, Mr. Speaker, should take into consideration in your ruling. For the Speaker to say this morning or in the media that he did not know what this was for is utterly preposterous. That, in and of itself, is an affront to the House. It shows the same bad judgment as the previous Speaker had in allowing a Nazi to be feted in this place. There is no way that three layers of staff, in the Speaker's office and at the Ontario Liberal convention, did not know what this was for. It is actually preposterous to suggest otherwise.

The other thing is that this is a pattern of behaviour. He actually made the argument that he did not know in this Parliament, when he was the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister. I want to read it into the record, because this is important to the point that the argument that he needs to exercise better diligence has been used twice before. My colleague mentioned one; I want to mention the other. It is from a CBC article subtitled “Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion calls for ethics training in wake of latest breach”. It states:

The conflict of interest and ethics commissioner is recommending that all federal ministers and parliamentary secretaries report to his office for training after [the current Speaker] became the latest high-profile Liberal to violate the Conflict of Interest Act.

The article talks about the ethics violation in which the current Speaker found himself when in that role. I encourage you to read it, Mr. Speaker. The former conflict of interest commissioner said this: “Being dual-hatted does not mean [the Speaker] can circumvent the rules of the Act by simply wearing his MP hat”.

The article goes on to state that it is preposterous to say that a seasoned parliamentarian did not know. The article states that the Speaker “apologized for his ‘unintentional error’” and said, “I will redouble my efforts to be more diligent in the future”. Where have we heard this before? He said he would be more diligent when he gave information that should have gone to the House to a teenage blogger; this is now twice. I encourage you, Mr. Speaker, to look at the statement this morning through this lens. It is a pattern of behaviour.

I have to close with this. The speech was broadcasted on TVO, so it is not just we who were affected. Anybody who was watching the broadcast would have seen the Speaker of the House of Commons, in his office and dressed in his robe, giving a partisan speech. That is an affront not just to the people of the House but also to every person we represent. Why is it? I want to echo what the Bloc House leader said, which is that we need to make this place work. If we are, rightly I think, questioning the Speaker's impartiality every single time because of a pattern of behaviour of “I did not know” or “I will be more diligent in the future”, democracy is eroded. This place is eroded. This place has to work, and now we have a very serious question.

In closing, I want to read the terms of employment for the pages in this place. It is posted on the parliamentary website:

The House of Commons administration is a non-partisan workforce where respect, support and promotion of the democratic process are an organizational value. Pages may not participate in any activities, including on social media, that are politically partisan or that could give rise to the perception that they could not perform their duties impartially.

What kind of example is the Speaker setting for our pages if he is wearing his robe outside the House? What would happen if they wore their robes out to some sort of political convention? This is also about setting an example for our youth.

This is such a serious issue that the House of Commons proceedings, as my colleague said, should not be proceeding without a ruling on the matter. This is very, very serious and very disappointing, and I cannot believe we are here again, two months after a Nazi was feted in the House.

Alleged Breach of Speaker's ImpartialityPrivilegePrivate Members' Business

12:40 p.m.


Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to comment on this very serious question. I wish to do so so that the people watching us in Quebec and all francophone communities across the country understand what we are talking about right now in the House of Commons.

Today, we provided notice of a question of privilege concerning the Speaker's public participation in partisan events over this past weekend.

As the Speaker himself indicated this morning in his statement, I hope that he will recuse himself from the deliberations concerning this question of privilege. This is an extremely sensitive issue, especially since the question of privilege has been compounded by a number of other issues.

The Conservative Party asked that the question of privilege be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to study the event and recommend any appropriate remedies. Today, another political party asked that the Speaker simply resign. This is an extremely serious matter that deserves to be looked at very seriously.

Words and deeds matter. I am going to quote the member for Hull—Aylmer, before he took the role of Speaker, from the speech he made in the House to all his colleagues and to all Canadians. Let us not forget that before the vote, all those running to become Speaker were given the opportunity to make a speech in the hope of winning the support of their peers, their fellow MPs. The member for Hull—Aylmer took advantage of his speaking time to call for respect, saying, and I quote:

The words we use matter. Symbols matter. I know this all too well.

These are weighty words in relation to the events reported to us by The Globe and Mail this weekend. Subsequently, we have had the opportunity to see them on social networks and, today, they are being repeated just about everywhere on all platforms and in all media.

Let me remind members what happened. The Globe and Mail published an article on Saturday under the following headline, “John Fraser finishes his time as interim Ontario Liberal leader as party elects permanent replacement”. The article was written by Laura Stone. She quotes the Speaker of the House quite remarkably. Here is how the member for Hull—Aylmer referred to Mr. Fraser: “He's demonstrated so much calm, and conviction and resolve and determination, and he's held it all together at a very challenging time in the history of our party.”

Let me repeat that last part because it is very important for what happened next: “He's held it all together at a very challenging time in the history of our party.”

I will now quote an excerpt from the statement made by the Speaker of the House this morning, at the opening of the House, speaking about that video.

Hon. colleagues, it was played at a convention for a party that I am not a member of, in a province where I do not live in and where I have been unable to vote for nearly three decades.

I can remember the Speaker's exact words in the video, which was viewed by a number of Canadians. The Speaker of the House, wearing his robes and standing in his office, said of Mr. Fraser that he “demonstrated so much calm, and conviction and resolve and determination”, and “held it all together at a very challenging time in the history of our party”.

That is the opposite of the statement the Speaker of the House and member for Hull—Aylmer made this morning. What does he mean by “our party”?

Regardless, the video went even further. The Speaker of the House took part by video in the election of the leader of the Ontario Liberal Party. This is an excerpt of what he said in the two-minute video produced as part of a tribute to Mr. Fraser, and I quote: “We had a lot of fun together through the Ottawa South Liberal Association, through Liberal Party politics, by helping Dalton McGuinty get elected. This was really a seminal part of my life. When I think of the opportunities that I have now as being Speaker of the House of Commons, it's because of people like John and Linda, and especially you, John, that I am the person I am today.”

In that same video, once again, the Speaker himself mentioned his affiliation with the Liberal brand. He was wearing the Speaker's robes and standing in the Speaker's office, and the video was probably filmed using House of Commons resources. For the benefit of the people tuning in, I will just remind them that the video was played at the Ontario Liberal leadership convention as a message from the Speaker of the House of Commons of Canada. As I mentioned earlier, he made these remarks while standing in the Speaker's office in West Block and wearing the Speaker's robes.

The decision to take part in a political convention is in and of itself very ill advised for someone who must be seen to be non-partisan. Some people may say that the situation would have been different if the member for Hull—Aylmer had done this wearing jeans in his backyard and using a personal computer rather than House of Commons resources, but that is not true. The Speaker of the House is the Speaker of the House, regardless of the circumstances and regardless of what he is wearing. When he does something like this while deliberately dressed in the full regalia of his non-partisan position in the offices of the Speaker of the House of Commons, that is what we would call a partisan gesture on the part of someone we would expect to show absolute non-partisanship.

I thought it was important, and I still think it is important, that we inform all of the francophones across the country who watch our proceedings of what is going on. It is important to remember that the House of Commons Procedure and Practice is very clear on the non-partisan nature of the position of Speaker of the House of Commons.

Alleged Breach of Speaker's ImpartialityPrivilegePrivate Members' Business

12:45 p.m.


Mike Morrice Green Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I want to reiterate that this is a really important question of privilege being raised. However, there is live translation of all House proceedings, and I believe that we have heard from several members of the Conservative Party on the point. To your point earlier, I understand that we are looking to get new information on this question of privilege, and I wonder whether you could speak to that.

Alleged Breach of Speaker's ImpartialityPrivilegePrivate Members' Business

12:45 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

When hearing members, the Chair is interested in hearing the facts and explanatory arguments on an issue. Pertinent and new information is welcome, but it should be understood that it is not intended to allow members to continuously take on interventions. I am getting close to the point where I can make a determination as to how to proceed on this particular issue.

As I said before, when I took on the job as Deputy Speaker, I asked my predecessor, Bruce Stanton, whether it is a tough job and whether I would be making any decisions. He said, “No, it is the easiest thing I will ever have to do.” This is the second time I am having to make a decision in this respect. I want to hear the facts as they come forward, but I would ask members to try to stick to the facts as much as they possibly can.

I know that there are two other people who want to present some facts, but I think that I am soon going to wrap up this debate, because I have heard enough to be able to make a decision shortly.

Alleged Breach of Speaker's ImpartialityPrivilegePrivate Members' Business

12:50 p.m.


Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I understand. However, I think it is very important that all of the French speakers are able to hear about the facts that were reported and the articles that were published in the English newspapers directly from a member.

I will continue by quoting a few things from House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition. Chapter 7 very clearly states the following:

...the Speaker embodies the power and authority of the office, strengthened by rule and precedent. He or she must at all times show, and be seen to show, the impartiality required to sustain the trust and goodwill of the House.

A new fact has come to light. Today, in the House, a political party asked the Speaker to step down. That is a new development that occurred after my colleague from Regina—Qu'Appelle raised the question of privilege.

Chapter 7 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice also states the following: “In order to protect the impartiality of the office, the Speaker abstains from all partisan political activity”.

To show how much I respect the fact that the Speaker asked me to be brief, I will end with this. The participation of the Speaker of the House of Commons in a partisan Liberal activity, whether at the federal, provincial or even municipal level—if there were municipal Liberal activities—is simply unacceptable. The Speaker must be the arbiter of House debates and deliberations.

Mr. Speaker, for all these reasons, I ask that you rule in favour of the question of privilege put by the House leader for the opposition and member for Regina—Qu'Appelle.

Alleged Breach of Speaker's ImpartialityPrivilegePrivate Members' Business

12:50 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

I thank the member for his intervention.

We are down to the last couple of interventions. Let us make sure we stick to the points being put forward and that they are new points. If they are repetitive, I will shut them off and go to the next person so we can move on. I believe there are another couple of points of order to come after, and I want to make sure we are as judicious as possible with the time of this House.

The hon. member for Saskatoon—University.

Alleged Breach of Speaker's ImpartialityPrivilegePrivate Members' Business

12:50 p.m.


Corey Tochor Conservative Saskatoon—University, SK

Mr. Speaker, December 4, 2023, is a date that will be quoted in future rulings and references to the House, unfortunately.

I do not enter this point of privilege debate willingly, but obviously, for all members of the House, this is a significant shot to our democracy. I will not go over the other points members have raised about the ethics violation and the conflict of interest decisions that have been ruled against this individual, but I will talk about my experience.

As members may know, which might be new to some members of this chamber, I was honoured to be the 25th Speaker of the Saskatchewan legislature before coming here. I will speak a bit about my experience as Speaker of the Saskatchewan legislature and then how I found myself out here. I think it is important to really break down the role of Speaker.

We all speak to different school groups, and when people come for tours of the legislatures or the House of Commons, they obviously have some of the same questions. If they sit in on question period, they all have questions afterwards, such as, “Why didn't the government answer this?” and “Why did this happen?” I think back to when I was Speaker—