House of Commons Hansard #325 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was indigenous.


Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

June 5th, 2024 / 7:15 p.m.


Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech and for her private member's bill.

For the NDP, it is not complicated. When a thing is good for workers, we vote for it. When it is not good for them, we vote against it. Some things are as simple as that.

To protect workers, especially women, I think it is important to give them the time they need to process and make sense of the trauma caused by situations of harassment, which can also include sexual harassment and violence. Extending the time frame will give them time to heal and recover, to get back the joy they lost and to get ready to face the system again, and maybe even the employer or manager who committed the harassment.

I think that her initiative will be extremely helpful to many workers. The NDP thanks her for this initiative in particular.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.


Dominique Vien Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the comments, and I truly regret that, this evening, the four women on the Bloc Québécois benches allowed their colleague to ask a question that had so little to do with this bill. I was truly floored.

I thank my colleague from the NDP for his comments. I had the opportunity to talk with the NDP member, who hinted that the NDP members were enthusiastic about this bill. I hope that everyone, including the members from the governing party, will be willing to work together to get this bill passed. It is a good bill.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


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

Madam Speaker, when I look at the legislation before us and its principles, I see it as a positive thing. When we take a look in terms of the government's actions, virtually from 2015, what we have witnessed is a government that understands the needs of workers in all regions of our country and has brought forward several substantial pieces of legislation in support of workers.

When the member brought forward Bill C-378, I had the opportunity to quickly go through it. I like what it is suggesting, and I suspect it would be very good to see it get to the committee stage. However, there are a number of questions that I have. Even though I might not necessarily be at the committee, and likely will not be at the committee, I appreciate the fact that the member is going to provide me with answers to some of the details that I posed in my question to her here. I say this because I believe that the bill is in the best interests of the workers.

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to sit at a local restaurant that I go to on a weekly basis. Perhaps half a dozen to a dozen times, I have had individuals come to me, some of them actually in tears, talking about their work environment. More often than not, but not exclusively, it has been minority women who were subjected to a significant intimidation factor. It comes in different forms. I can speculate on some of it, and I can also report on some real-life situations, as I have had the opportunity to listen to victims and do what I could to support them. That is something that I think is important for all of us. This is the reason I posed the question to the introducer of the legislation that we have before us.

It takes a great deal of courage, and I encourage individuals who have been a victim of some form of harassment in the workplace environment to share their experience, whether it is with a family member or with members of a community in which they live or actively participate. I find that talking about it is very helpful, and I would encourage people to share those experiences. I believe, at the end of the day, that the more people share those experiences and the more we see individuals taking action, it ultimately enables more people to do likewise, and we will have better working environments throughout the nation.

We could see the legislation go to committee and, ultimately, it would come back, much like when we passed the anti-scab legislation. I will draw a comparison here and say that in Canada we have two provinces, Quebec and British Columbia, that have anti-scab legislation. The national government has now passed legislation to bring into Canada, at the federal level, anti-scab legislation. I believe that, by the federal government taking such an action, we help encourage and set a standard that will hopefully see other provincial jurisdictions do likewise. For example, the province of Manitoba is now looking at anti-scab legislation. The fact is that when we brought in the legislation, it received all-party support, which I believe speaks volumes. With Bill C-378, I think there is the potential to get all-party support for it as well.

As the Prime Minister and members of the Liberal caucus have talked about in the past and continue to hold today, if there are ideas to the benefit of Canadians, we are prepared to entertain and look at ways in which we can support them, even if it means attempting to move amendments.

This is something we have consistently done since 2015, even on the issues we are talking about today. I think of Bill C-3, for example, which came out of the pandemic and the pressures that were being put on health care providers in particular. Many people were protesting and, in essence, in a different way, instilling in health care providers a fear of doing their job of supporting our health care system when there was a great deal of concern during the pandemic and in the days that followed. Bill C-3 dealt with that by making protests that instilled fear in individuals like health care workers illegal.

I think of Bill C-65, which mandated training about harassment and violence in the workplace. As the member before me made reference to, the government has brought in a relatively modest change, which the member is now trying to have increased from three months to up to two years. These are the types of changes that would protect the interests of the worker.

We need to take a bigger look at it and take a holistic approach to the working environment. I am not sure whether Hansard will get the tail end of my question to the member, because it was getting a little lengthy, but what I was trying to amplify is that it is important workers know their rights, and that there are many different agencies and support networks to reinforce and support them.

What I was referencing in the tail end of my question was to what degree there is a sense of public awareness and to what degree we might be doing something collectively, or the government or governments should be doing, to promote, whether through advertising or other means, the rights of workers. This is something important that needs to be taken into consideration.

With respect to the rights of workers, everyone in the workplace should have the right to be free of harassment and any sort of violence. That is really important. There is a responsibility on employers, whether it is directly through the employer or it is through the manager, to ensure that there are opportunities that are not intimidating for workers to bring things forward. When that takes place, I believe it is healthy for the entire workforce in a particular environment, especially if workers can see there is a genuine attempt to deal with an issue such that the individual who has been slighted is being listened to and the concern is being addressed.

I appreciate the member's bringing forward the legislation. I suspect it will go to committee; we will ultimately see what takes place at committee stage.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.


Louise Chabot Bloc Thérèse-De Blainville, QC

Madam Speaker, first, I want to commend the sponsor of the bill, the member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis for introducing this private member's bill. I sit on the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities and I can tell my colleague that she can count on the support of the Bloc Québécois during the study of this bill in committee.

The sponsor of the bill referred to the time when she was the Quebec minister of labour in 2018. At the time, I still had the good fortune of being the labour leader at the Centrale des syndicats du Québec. Work was done in Quebec to advance labour laws, especially at the Conseil consultatif du travail et de la main‑d'œuvre. The sponsor of the bill would surely agree that it was in our DNA to advance labour law in Quebec.

The summary of the bill being studied today is simple. It seeks to amend “the Canada Labour Code in order to provide a former employee with more time to make a complaint relating to an occurrence of harassment and violence in the work place after they cease to be employed”. Currently, the employee has three months. The bill seeks to change the prescribed period to two years.

My colleague is absolutely right. Once again, Quebec has been at the forefront of labour legislation. Quebec amended its Act respecting labour standards. I, too, found it surprising that the Canada Labour Code refers to employees and former employees separately in the context of harassment and violence. Frankly, the Canada Labour Code has only recently begun to deal with these issues, unlike Quebec. I would venture to say that it is clear from looking at the Canada Labour Code that it needs some love. It is a shame that we have to make these changes one at a time, because reforming the Canada Labour Code at the federal level would correct a lot of inequities. That said, I am not going to digress from tonight's subject, which is the bill.

Quebec's Act respecting labour standards differs greatly from the Canada Labour Code. Here is what it says:

“An employee who believes they have been the victim of psychological harassment may file a complaint in writing with the Commission.” There is indeed a commission in Quebec that deals with the complaints. “Such a complaint may also be filed by a non-profit organization dedicated to the defence of employees' rights on behalf of one or more employees who consent thereto in writing.” Later on, it says, “Any complaint concerning psychological harassment must be filed within two years of the last incidence of the offending behaviour.”

I was listening to the discussions where members were talking about courage. It is exactly right that it takes courage, but it also takes means. Psychological harassment and violence in the workplace are phenomena that have been widely documented in every workplace, both unionized and not unionized, and in both the public sector and the private sector. Often, there are quite a few investigative processes to go through before a complaint can be filed, and the individual filing the complaint may struggle to cope.

Domestic violence is one thing, but we know that violence often occurs between peers. Filing a complaint is a laborious process that takes time and means. We need ways to ensure that the person filing the complaint can be sure that the process will be fair, impartial and objective. Quebec has found ways to do just that. Quebec has its Act respecting labour standards, and most collective agreements now also provide mechanisms for setting up joint workplace committees to deal with these issues. In short, once again, Quebec is a leader.

It is good that we are able to fix this. Canada has taken a small step, and now it needs to update it.

Canada ratified Convention 190 of the International Labour Organization, or ILO, in 2023. The convention officially took effect in 2024. It reads as follows, and I quote:

This Convention applies to violence and harassment in the world of work occurring in the course of, linked with or arising out of work: (a) in the workplace, including public and private spaces where they are a place of work; (b) in places where the worker is paid, takes a rest break or a meal, or uses sanitary, washing and changing facilities; (c) during work-related trips, travel, training, events or social activities; (d) through work-related communications, including those enabled by information and communication technologies; (e) in employer-provided accommodation; and (f) when commuting to and from work.

This cursory recap is simply intended to show that the conventions adopted by the ILO, a tripartite organization made up of worker, employer and government representatives, play an important role in labour law. I was pleased to accompany the Minister of Labour and Seniors when this convention was ratified. What the sponsor of Bill C‑378 is asking for is a minor correction to the Canada Labour Code, because now that the convention has been ratified, we need ways to implement it and we need to ensure that our laws reflect these measures. The relevant section of the Canada Labour Code must also ensure that we have the wherewithal to conduct reviews and analyses.

It is absolutely true to say that the last analysis report on the issue dates back to 2021. In 2023, we were at least provided with statistics on the number of incidents and the number of employees. Public servants and employees of the big banks alone account for roughly half of the complaints. That is a significant number. The fact that the time frame is only three months reflects a lack of understanding of everything that is involved in filing a complaint. It is also important to be aware of the facts.

I was pleased that Canada ratified the ILO convention. I consider it a major step forward. Now, as the saying goes, the government needs to walk the talk. The least we can do is fix the Canada Labour Code so as to create equity between employees and former employees. One day, perhaps, the definition of former employees will be removed.

With all due respect, I will say that I am pleasantly surprised that the Conservative Party suddenly seems to be siding with workers. We saw this recently with the bill on replacement workers, which passed with unanimous support. Now we are seeing it again with their sincere intention to amend the Canada Labour Code.

I remember Stephen Harper's Conservative government, whose unjust bills attacked the rights of workers, the right of association, the right of representation, the right to organize. They also attacked fundamental constitutional rights, such as the privacy of labour organizations. I am talking about two pieces of legislation.

I would say that usually in Quebec our labour law stands on its own, but, at the time, we saw some serious attacks against the union movement in Quebec, against unions that advance important issues. There were setbacks. We had to mobilize to counter these bills from the then Conservative government, and people remembered in 2015.

I hope that it is not just the election campaign that is prompting the Conservative Party's sudden pro-labour stance. The Bloc Québécois has always been pro-labour. It is in our DNA. I think the member is sincere and her intention is sincere. Naturally, we will be supporting this bill.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7:35 p.m.


Matthew Green NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak about an important private member's bill that seeks to amend the Canada Labour Code concerning complaints by former employees. The bill, if enacted, would mark a significant step forward in protecting the rights and dignity of workers across our nation.

As the labour critic for the New Democratic Party, I have had the privilege of advocating for the rights and well-being of workers. It is with this responsibility in mind that I address the bill, which aims to extend the protection against harassment and violence in the workplace to former employees.

Let us begin by acknowledging the harsh reality many workers face today. Harassment and violence in the workplace are not merely issues of discomfort or inconvenience. They are violations of human dignity and safety that could have profound and lasting impacts on individuals. The scars left by such experiences do not simply vanish once an employee leaves their job. The trauma can linger, affecting their mental health, their confidence and their overall well-being.

The bill would address these realities by amending the Canada Labour Code to extend the time frame in which former employees can file complaints about workplace harassment and violence. Specifically, it would allow former employees to bring forward complaints for up to two years after their employment has ended. This is a crucial change, and I want to emphasize why it is so important.

First, the amendment would recognize that the decision to report harassment or violence can be a difficult and complex one. Often, employees may feel trapped in their situation, fearing retaliation or further harm if they come forward. By extending the time frame to two years postemployment, we are giving individuals the space and the safety to report incidents when they are ready, without the immediate threat of losing their livelihood.

Second, the bill would hold employers accountable for their actions and for the environment they cultivate, even after the employee has left. It is not enough for an employer to simply let time pass and hope that issues will be forgotten. By maintaining their obligations towards former employees, employers are encouraged to address problems promptly and thoroughly, fostering a safer and more respectful workplace for everyone.

Further, the bill is a testament to basic justice and fairness. It sends a clear message that no worker should be left without recourse simply because they have moved on to another job. It affirms that their rights and dignity are worth protecting, regardless of their employment status. This aligns with the core values of the New Democratic Party, in which the fight for workers' rights is a foundation of our values. The provision, which would allow former employees to make complaints as if they were still employed, is particularly significant, because it would ensure that the full weight of the Canada Labour Code applies to these cases, providing a framework for addressing their concerns.

This is not just about extending a deadline, as we have heard from the Liberal side. It is about ensuring that the mechanisms for justice are accessible and effective for all workers. However, while the bill is a positive step, there are gaps and potential areas for improvement that we must consider, hopefully at the committee stage, to make the legislation stronger and, indeed, to strengthen it for workers.

One significant gap is the lack of specified support mechanisms for former employees who have come forward with complaints. The bill should outline access to counselling, legal advice or other support services to assist former employees through the complaint process. Enforcement and compliance are also critical areas that need strengthening. The bill must ensure real enforcement mechanisms to hold employers accountable. Clear penalties for non-compliance and measures to ensure that complaints are thoroughly investigated and resolved are essential to the bill's success.

Protection from retaliation is another vital aspect. While the bill would extend the lifetime for complaints, it should also include specific protections against retaliation for former employees who come forward. This could include protections for their professional reputation and future employment prospects. Public awareness and education are crucial for the effectiveness of the legislation. The bill should include a comprehensive plan for publicizing these extended rights and educating both current and former employees about the changes. Perhaps including the Canada Labour Congress, federations of labour and district labour councils across the country would help in this regard.

The scope of coverage is another area that I feel needs to be broadened. Hopefully that will be explored at the appropriate time. The bill focuses on harassment and violence, but it does not address other potential grievances that former employees might have, such as racial discrimination, wage theft and unfair dismissal. Expanding the scope to include a broader range of employment issues could provide more comprehensive protection.

Timeliness and efficiency in resolving complaints are also essential. The bill should ensure that the processes for handling complaints are timely and efficient. Delays in resolving complaints can prolong the distress for former employees and may discourage others from coming forward.

The responsibilities of employers need to be clearly defined. While the bill would hold employers accountable for addressing complaints, it should also specify what proactive measures employers must take to prevent harassment and violence in the first place. This could include mandatory training programs, regular reviews of workplace policies and creating a culture of respect and safety. Data collection and reporting provisions would also be valuable additions to this bill. Collecting and reporting data on complaints made by former employees can help identify trends, assess the effectiveness of the legislation and make future improvements.

As I have mentioned before, coordination with stakeholders is important, but so is coordination with provincial bodies. Coordination with provincial laws is an important consideration that I do not believe has been adequately covered in this bill. Since labour laws can vary significantly between provinces, we should look at ways to help coordinate with provincial labour laws to ensure consistent protection for all workers across Canada.

Finally, including a mechanism for regular review and feedback on the implementation of the bill could help identify any issues and make the necessary adjustments. This could involve input from workers, employers, labour organizations and other stakeholders. In my role as labour critic, I have heard from countless individuals who have experienced workplace harassment and violence. Their stories are heartbreaking and infuriating, but they are also calls to action. We must do more to protect workers and ensure that their voices are heard. This bill is a step in the right direction.

We must also recognize the broader context in which this bill would operate. I spoke it about it briefly previously, but I will say it explicitly, particularly in light of the ongoing federal Black class action lawsuit, which is a landmark legal action addressing systemic discrimination and harassment faced by Black employees within the federal public service. For decades, these workers have reported experiencing pervasive racism, barriers to advancement and a hostile work environment that undermined their dignity and professional growth.

Black employees had to create a class action lawsuit to seek the kind of justice and comprehensive redress I have been speaking about in my remarks today as a New Democrat. I think this further highlights the urgent need for legal protections and accountability measures. By extending the time frame to file complaints and holding employers accountable, I believe this bill would provide an indirect support to those aims of the class action lawsuit, which would ensure that those who have suffered long-standing discrimination would have the opportunity to seek redress and contribute to the creation of a fair and more inclusive workplace for all.

In summary, this amendment to the Canada Labour Code is a necessary and overdue measure to protect workers from the lasting impacts of harassment and violence. These are measures that New Democrats, the only labour party in the country, have been fighting for for decades. It would hold employers accountable, empower former employees and align with the NDP's fundamental principles of justice and fairness.

I am proud to support this bill going to committee, and I urge my colleagues to do the same. I urge colleagues in this chamber to consider the human impact of this legislation and think about the workers who have had to suffer in silence, and who have felt powerless and abandoned. I urge members to think about the message we send them when we say that their experiences matter, that their safety and dignity are paramount. This is not a partisan issue. It is a matter of basic human rights.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7:45 p.m.


Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased and honoured to rise this evening to speak to Bill C-378, a private member's bill born of the initiative and experience of my brilliant colleague from Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis.

I want to commend my colleague from Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis for her initiative. She is leveraging her experience in the provincial government here in the House of Commons in a noble and relevant way in order to improve Canadian labour relations.

This bill seeks to enable people who have worked and who have left their job or who have ceased to be employed to file a complaint regarding harassment or violence within two years of leaving. Right now, the deadline is just three months. In her bill, the member suggests extending the deadline to two years. This proposal is based on her experience in Quebec, which I will talk about later, but also on conclusive evidence. Harassment and violence can have long-term and even delayed effects.

I am reminded of the sad and unfortunate story of a woman who was a victim of sexual violence and did not report it immediately. It took years before she filed a complaint. Unfortunately, the case was never heard. What a sad state of affairs. In cases of violence and harassment in a professional environment, we believe that two years is how long it takes for the person to assess the consequences of what they have suffered and file a complaint. We are talking about making a complaint here. This is not about writing a blank cheque and claiming everything has been sorted out. A well-calibrated assessment process is required.

In Canada, there has been a three-month time limit in place since 2021. Various provinces have laws on this subject. In Quebec, the deadline is two years. In Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador, the deadline is one year. It is six months in British Columbia. As the member so aptly put it earlier, other countries such as Belgium and France have a time limit of five or six years. In Australia, it can be as little as two years. In the U.S., in several states, the time limit is six months.

This is not new for Canada, but it is important to understand that this initiative flows from what happened in Quebec in 2018. I will elaborate on that.

Thanks to the well-deserved support, assistance and confidence of her constituents, the member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis served in the National Assembly for nearly 14 years. She was an MNA, a minister, an opposition MNA and a member of the government. I even had the pleasure of sitting down with her when I was a journalist and asking her some questions. We were both journalists at one time.

That being said, why am I talking about this? Because the member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis is introducing this bill today thanks to her experience as minister of labour in Quebec, and all Canadians can now benefit from that experience. She took the time to work closely with employers, departmental officials, public service officials and union leaders to make sure that she was introducing a bill that would work in Quebec. It does.

In 2018, during the final days of the Couillard government, the National Assembly passed her bill unanimously. Unanimous motions in the National Assembly are not that unusual, but bills that pass unanimously are a little rarer. Everyone agreed on Bill 176 because the member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis had done a serious and thorough job of it for the common good.

Today, six years later, we have a law that works. Like all legislation, it requires review, but it has stood the test of time. I would even say that it transcends partisanship. In fact, the law was created under the auspices of a government of a certain political stripe, but, for the past six years in Quebec, a government of another stripe in the National Assembly has been leading the work and leading Quebec. That is democracy.

When a bill is good, it stands the test of time and rallies the support of all parties.

Earlier, one of my Bloc Québécois colleagues referred to a completely different subject, when we are talking here about people's work. We are talking about cases of harassment and violence. This is more about human beings than about tax management. He decided to share that thought, and that is on him.

He talked about the carbon exchange. I am not passing judgment, just presenting the facts. After 10 years, we have noticed some things, even in Quebec. The Quebec environment minister himself, Benoit Charette, said that, since the carbon exchange is an exchange between two states, namely, Quebec, which has 8 million people, and California, which has 30 million people, Quebec is still paying California $230 million this year under that system. I am not passing judgment, just presenting the facts.

Someone else spoke of this subject with some judgment. His name is Sylvain Gaudreault, former member of the National Assembly for Jonquière. He is a former senior minister, a leadership candidate, and one time leader of the official opposition. I respect him a lot and hold him in high regard. Even though he supports it, he described the carbon exchange as a $230-million “flight of capital”.

If some people want to fight that battle, let them, but facts are stubborn. Quebeckers listening to us today may just be finding out that the carbon exchange, paid for with their tax dollars and all that, amounts to $230 million going to California, as the Quebec environment minister says.

One thing is sure. Since 2018, workers who have experienced an injustice in the workplace, including harassment and violence, have had a tool that allows them to file a complaint even after two years. We know that when it comes to violence and harassment, the effects are not always immediate. They can begin later. Thanks to the member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, Quebec workers are very fortunate to be able to use this tool, which was adopted in 2018 on the initiative of this member, who is now proposing the exact same approach to the House that has worked so well in Quebec.

What happened? The government side and the second opposition party, the NDP, are in agreement. I am very proud to be a member of the official opposition. I am very proud to be a Conservative member, and I am very proud to sit with the member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis. She brings experience, expertise and a wealth of knowledge. Above all, she brings what she has given to Quebeckers and is sharing it with everyone. That is a good thing.

All too often, we have debates that go around in circles, that do not lead anywhere and that are more ideological and dogmatic than pragmatic. In this case, we have a golden opportunity to make progress that will benefit workers.

I know I will have another minute. I look forward to speaking for another minute when we resume this debate.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7:55 p.m.


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

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

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

Mental Health and AddictionsAdjournment Proceedings

7:55 p.m.


Eric Duncan Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Madam Speaker, in today's day and age, there are not many Canadians in any part of this country who have not been impacted directly or indirectly by the mental health and addictions crisis we face here in Canada.

Sadly, over the last little while, I have had to be quite aggressive in my frustrations on the topic when we have seen the disaster, the crime, the chaos and the disorder unleashed in the streets of British Columbia. When it came to the poor judgment of the B.C. provincial NDP government to request the federal government to exempt, from the Criminal Code in British Columbia, the consumption and use of hard drugs in public places, it went about as well as one would think it would go.

There were stories of nurses scared to go into work for the fear of meth smoke being blown into their face. There was a nurse who shared a story through the B.C. Nurses' Union, echoing those concerns, who stopped breastfeeding her twin 11-month-old children because she feared that if the meth smoke got into her system, it could affect her children.

We heard stories from Abbotsford about soccer parents, as coaches and volunteers with their kids, who had to scour the fields in advance of their kids playing soccer, in Canada, in 2024, because there were so many syringes and needles laying around their parks. On public transit, people were shooting up and people were smoking hard drugs right on a subway or on a bus, and there was nothing the police could do. Thankfully, the B.C. NDP realized what a disaster that was and asked for the pilot experiment to be pulled back. It took two weeks for the Liberal government to agree.

The most frustrating part is that despite the examples we heard from the B.C. Nurses' Union, despite the stories we heard from soccer clubs and parents and despite the many examples of transit users in B.C. fearing to go to work or to go to school on public transit because of witnessing the consumption of hard drugs right before them, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, the Liberal and NDP government here, collectively in their coalition and even the NDP were openly advocating that this experiment that failed in B.C. be brought to cities like Toronto or Montreal like they have been requesting. With the chaos the Liberals have seen in B.C., with the results they have seen there and with B.C.'s admission of failure by cancelling the exemptions that the Prime Minister granted, the Liberals still will not rule out expanding this to other parts of the country.

We talk about the so-called safe supply. There is no such thing as safe supply. Doing hard drugs is never safe. The government has spent tens of millions of dollars over the course of the last nine years on the so-called safe supply, which the RCMP and multimedia outlets outlined as not actually going anywhere but to drug traffickers, making the situation worse. However, we have very little money, if any, anywhere in the country to fund treatment for an off-ramp to end people's addictions, to provide them support, to provide them treatment and to provide them a change. When will the government get with the program, stop funding its failed radical policies and invest in treatment?

Mental Health and AddictionsAdjournment Proceedings

8 p.m.

Sherbrooke Québec


Élisabeth Brière LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Madam Speaker, we are obviously very concerned about the overdose crisis we are currently experiencing in Canada. Loss of life, emergency room visits and hospitalizations affect not only the individuals involved, but also their family, their friends and communities across Canada.

This crisis is a complex public health issue, and no one organization or level of government will be able to resolve it on its own. We all need to work together and focus on finding solutions to put an end to all the harm and the needless deaths of Canadians.

Addressing this crisis also means that we need to address stigma so that people who use drugs do not hide their drug use, which increases their risk of harm and death. Sadly, stigma can also act as a barrier to accessing and receiving health and social services. When people are not afraid of being arrested, they are more likely to ask for help. We also know that people who use drugs need to see a health care provider rather than face the criminal justice system. The best path toward recovery is the health system, not the prison system.

That is why our government supports the kinds of approaches that divert people who use drugs from the criminal justice system into appropriate health and social services wherever possible. We are also committed to continuing to work with the provinces and territories to find solutions to meet their specific needs. The opposition is going to impose its solutions on the provinces and territories rather than help them determine what is best for their communities.

That is why the Government of Canada is supporting a number of programs and policies that are aimed at connecting people to appropriate health and social supports while maintaining public safety. For example, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada recommends alternatives to prosecution for personal drug possession offences, except in the most serious cases, raising public safety concerns.

Building pathways away from the criminal justice system is one part of a much broader approach across the health, social and criminal justice systems, with the goal of reducing harms and saving lives, while keeping communities safe. Our federal drug strategy, the Canadian drugs and substances strategy, and our actions on the overdose crisis, continue to be comprehensive, equitable, collaborative and compassionate.

We are taking a whole-of-government approach that includes improving access to a full range of strategies to help people access the prevention, education, risk reduction, treatment and recovery services and supports they need, when and where they need them, while also protecting public safety.

For example, as part of budget 2024, we pledged $150 million over three years for an emergency treatment fund to help municipalities and indigenous communities mobilize quickly and respond to their needs in order to save lives and reduce harm.

We remain fully committed to working with all partners and stakeholders, to explore every option available to reduce harms and save lives, while balancing public safety.

Mental Health and AddictionsAdjournment Proceedings

8:05 p.m.


Eric Duncan Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Madam Speaker, the contrast could not be more clear. On one side, the Liberals and the NDP want to legalize hard drugs. They want to spend tens of millions of dollars on so-called safe supply, with free taxpayer-paid drugs being distributed. That has been proven, time and time again, to end up in the hands of traffickers and those with nefarious efforts, to only expand the number of people addicted to drugs so that they can make money.

By contrast, Conservatives are saying we should end taxpayer funding of hard drugs and put all of that money into treatment, into an off-ramp of hope for a second chance at life to get better and get on a better track, physically, socially and economically. What we can do is help Canadians stop their addictions and stop the need to struggle. Years and years later, 42,000 people have been killed by overdoses and addictions in this country; 2,500 in B.C. alone. Enough is enough.

Mental Health and AddictionsAdjournment Proceedings

8:05 p.m.


Élisabeth Brière Liberal Sherbrooke, QC

Madam Speaker, unfortunately, my colleague opposite is confusing decriminalization with legalization. From the outset, both during the tour of the Standing Committee on Health and in its meetings, we have heard that, in order to help people who use drugs, we need to offer them a range of services and support measures.

These people did not choose to become drug users. Nobody wakes up one morning and decides to become a drug user. They need a variety of options so that, when they are ready, they can choose the option that works best for them. There is no one-size-fits all solution for all users.

That is why we believe in the four pillars, and that is why we are here to help people, to provide them with all of these services and to save lives.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

8:05 p.m.


Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Madam Speaker, on May 24, I raised the following question, which I will repeat verbatim for the purpose of context:

...pulmonary arterial hypertension, also known as PAH, is a disease that blocks arteries in the lungs, causing high blood pressure in the lungs and damaging heart tissue. Patients diagnosed with PAH have, on average, three years to live.

In the [U.S.], a drug called sotatercept was recently approved by the FDA. This drug increases quality of life and lifespan for PAH patients and even...reverses the damage caused by the disease.

When will this life-saving drug be approved for use in Canada?

At that time, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health promised to get back to the House at a later date with a detailed answer. I am hoping he will be able to do so today. Here are some of the details that I think might be relevant to the discussion.

In the United States, the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration, holds the power to determine whether new drugs will be permitted. To be approved, a drug must complete three trial phases that, collectively, determine whether the drug is both safe and efficacious. Phase 3 trials on sotatercept were completed in 2023 and were published in a peer-reviewed journal in September, 2023.

The published results were impressive, including the observation that the drug “significantly improved multiple important secondary outcome measures, including reducing the risk of death from any cause or PAH clinical worsening events by 84% versus background therapy alone”. FDA approval for therapeutic use of sotatercept was granted on March 26.

These promising results are probably the reason why, in March, Health Canada assigned sotatercept to its priority review policy, a policy within Health Canada designed to allow for the more rapid approval of efficacious therapies for life-threatening conditions. According to section 1.5 of Health Canada's guidance document relating to the program, “The performance target for the screening and review of the original submission is 215 calendar days (10 days processing within the Submission and Information Policy Division, 25 days screening with the Submission Management Division of the appropriate Directorate, 180 days submission review)”. It is a total of 215 days.

Of course, the review could produce a negative result. However, in the event that the review described above is positive and that Health Canada is satisfied that the published clinical results cited above are valid, would it be safe to assume that sotatercept will become an approved therapy for Canadian PAH sufferers within 215 days of the end of March, that is to say by the end of November of this year?

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

8:10 p.m.

Ottawa Centre Ontario


Yasir Naqvi LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his very thoughtful question. I appreciated the question when he asked it in the House, and I have had an opportunity to speak to him in the hallways about it as well.

The question is regarding the urgent need for effective treatments for pulmonary arterial hypertension, or PAH, as he outlined. This serious condition significantly impacts the lives of many Canadians and can impose severe health risks. We are aware of the recent approval of the drug sotatercept by the FDA in the United States, which offers a new option for those affected by PAH. Naturally, the question arises, as the member is asking, when can Canadians expect to be able to access this new medication here in Canada?

Our number one priority is the health and safety of Canadians, which includes supporting them in accessing the necessary medications for the health conditions they face. The process for approving new drugs in Canada is thorough and designed to ensure that any therapeutic product made available on the Canadian market meets our high standards for safety, efficacy and quality. While understanding the need for more therapeutic options, we must also ensure that the benefits of any drug outweigh any potential risks.

The approval process for a new drug, like this particular drug that we are talking about, involves several key and necessary stages.

To market a drug in Canada, manufacturers must first file a submission with sufficient evidence of the product's quality, safety and efficacy. Health Canada reviews the data, which comes from clinical trials, research studies and other sources, to determine whether the product's benefits outweigh its risks. This rigorous evaluation is necessary to ensure that when a new drug, like sotatercept, is approved, it is safe and effective for use by Canadian patients.

I can confirm that Health Canada is currently reviewing this specific drug submission under priority review. Priority review is a pathway that supports access to safe, effective and high-quality products. By accelerating the review process, we are committed to ensuring that potentially life-saving treatments reach patients without unnecessary delays.

It is important to note that timing for the completion of Health Canada's reviews depends on many factors, including timelines for receiving requested additional data or information, discussions with the sponsors, and the acceptability and completeness of the information submitted. Given these considerations, the timing of when a decision will be made on this submission is not available at this time. However, we expect a decision to be made in the coming months.

In conclusion, Health Canada recognizes the important role that sotatercept could play for patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension, which is why it was granted priority review status. A decision will be made once all of the required information has been thoroughly evaluated by Health Canada and upon ensuring that the benefits of this particular drug outweigh the risks of its use. We are committed to a comprehensive review process to ensure that the products Canadians consume are safe and effective.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

8:15 p.m.


Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Madam Speaker, last Friday I had the opportunity to sit in the Speaker's chair for an hour. I had no idea until that moment how hard it is to remember the names of people's ridings, so you have my empathy.

I appreciate what the parliamentary secretary said in his response. It sounds like the November deadline, which I speculated and hoped would be achieved, is likely to be achieved.

I am hoping the parliamentary secretary has information as to whether or not the manufacturer has provided all information and whether the process has begun. I do not know if that is available to him, or if that was in his briefing deck, but if it is, I would like to get confirmation that, indeed, the process has begun and the manufacturer is not lagging behind. It is a relevant consideration, because Canada is a relatively small market, and this is a relatively small production run. I would just seek any reassurance he can give on that subject.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

8:15 p.m.


Yasir Naqvi Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, again, I thank the member for his thoughtful and considerate way of approaching this really important issue.

As I mentioned in my response earlier, there is a priority review that is going on, which requires an expeditious review of the process and the timelines that are associated with it. It requires, of course, the sponsor or the manufacturer of the medication to provide all the necessary data for Health Canada to review.

The information that I have available to me is that there is no indication that the process is not taking place. I understand that it is taking place. I am hopeful that, for the sake of Canadians who are suffering from PAH, the review will be completed and approval granted in the requisite time. However, that is not my decision. No politician should be making those types of decisions. That is the decision of officials at Health Canada, ensuring that the health and safety of Canadians remain paramount.

Government PrioritiesAdjournment Proceedings

8:15 p.m.


Leslyn Lewis Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Madam Speaker, I am here tonight to ask the government to answer to Canadians for the state of despair, hunger and homelessness that Canadians are experiencing. After years of the Liberal government, propped up by the NDP, Canadians are struggling with hunger and homelessness as they never have before in this country.

This country is a noble nation. We have always been a beacon of hope and opportunity for people seeking refuge from all around the world. Today, that national legacy is at risk of being lost.

How can Canada continue to be a land of opportunity and freedom when so many Canadians are no longer able to feed and house themselves? According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, chronic homelessness is up 38%. The number of individuals living in unsheltered locations has increased by 88%. That is almost double the number of unsheltered people in 2018. The level of suffering in this country is shocking, especially considering that the government has added half a billion dollars of new annual spending to reduce homelessness, an increase in spending by the government of 374%.

Why, if the government is spending more, is life getting harder for Canadians? Canadians are afraid for their financial future and what it will bring. We know that 76% of the mortgages that exist today will be renewed by 2026, and Canadians are worried about their mortgage interest rates. They worry that their payments will double, or even triple, because of increasing interest rates.

Canadians can expect a payment shock, according to the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions. The Liberals have added $61 billion of new spending to their new budget, which the Governor of the Bank of Canada confirmed was not helpful in bringing down interest rates. Canadians, especially young Canadians, just want to be able to afford a home, to be able to afford shelter and basic food.

How many homes has the government actually built with its $4.4-billion housing accelerator fund? It is zero. Even worse, housing starts are down and home prices keep going up in most jurisdictions across Canada.

The facts are as follows: When the Prime Minister was first elected, he promised to expand the middle class, but in fact, it has significantly reduced. He has increased homelessness by more than a third; he has priced middle-income Canadians out of owning a home, and he has allowed food bank use to jump by 50% over the past three years, with over two million Canadians a month accessing food banks.

I hope that my hon. colleague can respond to the matter at hand so that Canadians can finally get a straight answer. When will the NDP-Liberal government cap its inflationary spending and build the homes that Canadians need to live in dignity?

Government PrioritiesAdjournment Proceedings

8:20 p.m.

Ottawa Centre Ontario


Yasir Naqvi LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question she has posed. I appreciate the opportunity to highlight the work that our government is doing to tackle affordability in Canada. I would like to start by welcoming the Bank of Canada's decision to lower the interest rate. It was a very significant moment today. It is truly great news for Canada and for Canadians.

In fact, Canada is the first country in the G7 to have an interest rate cut take place. It is the result of the federal government's economically responsible plan. It is a plan that the government has been working really hard on to create the economic conditions that would make it possible for the Bank of Canada to lower the interest rate. It does not happen in a vacuum. It is as a result of the economic plan and the agenda the government has been working on. We are seeing the fruit of that hard work now.

On the matter of housing and building more homes faster, the Liberals are absolutely committed to tackling housing affordability by building more homes. The best way to bring down home prices is to increase supply and increase it quickly. The $4-billion housing accelerator fund is already cutting red tape across the country, with 179 agreements with municipalities, provinces and territories, which will enable the construction of over 750,000 new homes over the next 10 years.

In fact, in budget 2024, that work is built on by proposing to top the fund up with $400 million to build more homes faster in more communities. Budget 2024 also proposes an additional $15 billion in new loan funding for the apartment construction loan program, bringing the program's total to over $55 billion. This investment will help build more than 30,000 additional new homes across Canada, bringing the program's total contribution to over 131,000 new homes by 2032.

To support this new housing, we are investing in the infrastructure community's need to grow, which is why budget 2024 proposes to provide $6 billion to launch a new Canada housing infrastructure fund that would allow our communities and municipalities to build infrastructure, like sewer systems, and access to electricity and natural gas, in order for people to enjoy their homes.

Furthermore, budget 2024 takes action to unlock new pathways for young renters to become homeowners, and to protect middle-class homeowners from rising mortgage payments. For example, budget 2024 announced the government's intention to strengthen the Canadian mortgage charter to allow 30-year mortgage amortization for first-time homebuyers purchasing newly constructed homes. To help our younger generation purchase their first home faster, we are proposing to increase the homebuyers' plan withdrawal limit from $35,000 to $60,000.

Yes, there are a lot of measures here in place, but it is a big task to ensure the government enables the building of more homes across the country in all communities. This will be done not just in large urban centres, but in smaller communities in the country as well. It will require multiple initiatives, like the ones I have outlined, for that to happen. What will not help are mere slogans. Just to say that we will build homes, as we hear from the Conservatives and as we hear from the member opposite, is not going to build a single home. These measures will.

Government PrioritiesAdjournment Proceedings

8:25 p.m.


Leslyn Lewis Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Madam Speaker, over the last nine years, we have seen the government engage in inflationary spending that has driven up interest rates, and Canadians are paying the price of that. I will remind the member that 76% of Canadians who have mortgages now will have their mortgage renewed in 2026.

Canadians have had enough of a government that has failed to ensure affordable housing, energy bills and food. Canadians are desperate. A whole generation of Canadians have lost hope on the dream of owning a home and having even the same standard of living that their parents enjoyed.

Only Conservatives are committed to reducing taxes, fixing the budget and building homes that Canadians can afford.

Government PrioritiesAdjournment Proceedings

8:25 p.m.


Yasir Naqvi Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I did not hear any concrete solutions from the member opposite. Yet again, it was just a slogan. I can assure the House a slogan is not going to help improve the lives of Canadians.

When the member opposite refers to inflationary spending, she is saying that the Government of Canada, during the pandemic, which was the worst crisis of our lifetime, should not have spent the money to help Canadians and to help Canadian businesses. That is the spending she is arguing against. That is the spending she is blaming for the challenges we are facing with the increase in inflation and the increase in interest rates.

That is the aftermath of coming out of a pandemic. The government had no choice but to ensure that we protected Canadians. We had to make sure that Canadians had enough money to put food on the table and that businesses survived. That is what we did, and that is why our economy is growing. We are able to see the impact of that.

Government PrioritiesAdjournment Proceedings

8:25 p.m.


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

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 8:27 p.m.)