House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was forces.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Liberal MP for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 1993, with 51% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Peacekeeping Act June 13th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to participate in second reading of Bill C-295. As members are well aware, the government has already stated its opposition to this bill in no uncertain terms. Today I will restate the government's main objections and explain why the bill must not become law.

Canada's support for peacekeeping is a reflection of our strong commitment to international peace and security. Our impressive record in this field is recognized worldwide. We have long argued our experience and skills are unmatched. As proof of our expertise Canada is currently at the forefront of efforts to improve the conduct of the United Nations' peacekeeping operations. We take pride in our peacekeeping reputation and we work hard to preserve it.

Unfortunately Bill C-295 if it were to pass into law would do irreparable damage to this reputation. This is a flawed, contradictory piece of legislation that would seriously undermine Canadian efforts to contribute effectively to peacekeeping operations.

The bill goes beyond consultation and seeks explicit control by Parliament of all peacekeeping activities. This would set a very dangerous precedent, for Bill C-295 would restrict the prerogative and discretion of the governor in council to determine Canada's contribution to UN or regional operations.

Under section 4 of the National Defence Act the Minister of National Defence has responsibility for the management and direction of the Canadian forces and of all matters relating to national defence including peacekeeping. The bill would remove this responsibility not only from the minister but from the government as a whole respecting military operations.

Perhaps the most serious repercussion of giving Parliament direct control over peacekeeping operations relates to the speed with which events unfold in the post-cold war world. The bill which calls for a five-hour debate prior to any mission involving more than 100 Canadian forces members would add another layer to the decision making process. As a result it would limit Canada's ability to respond quickly to UN peacekeeping requests or to changes in the actual peacekeeping mandate.

The need for quick deployment in peacekeeping operations cannot be overstated. We have heard again and again how a more rapid response by the international community might have saved tens of thousands of lives in Rwanda.

Bill C-295 if anything would increase reaction time, making it even more difficult to respond to such crisis. The bill would also hamper current efforts by the ministers of national defence and foreign affairs to improve the UN's rapid reaction capability and to find ways Canada might contribute to such a capability.

In short, the bill sends the wrong message to our partners at a time when we are leading the way in promoting new methods to enhance the UN's ability to prevent and resolve conflict.

If Canada is to remain an effective peacekeeper the authority to deploy and operate peacekeeping forces must stay in the hands of the governor in council. The government has the expertise and experience to decide, sometimes on a moment's notice, whether troops should be deployed and how they should operate. Although it welcomes the advice of Parliament, the

government must have the flexibility and some measure of independence to make these decisions.

In effect while Bill C-295 would like to see Canada define its own objectives for specific peacekeeping missions and decide when those objectives are met, it is willing to place Canadian commanding officers under UN or other international command. This is unacceptable. Currently Canadian forces personnel serving on peacekeeping operations are always commanded by a Canadian. While they can be placed under operational control of multinational commanders for specific tasks they are never put under command of the UN or other international organizations. If they were, their assigned tasks would be changed. Their units could be split up and they could be deployed to new areas of operations, all without consent of the Canadian government. This would be unacceptable.

At present all Canadian contingent commanders are directly responsible to the chief of the defence staff for the Canadian contribution to the overall mission and tasks of a peacekeeping force. Bill C-295 would end this practice which would ultimately mean less, not more national control. This does not seem to fit the general intent of the bill which suggests many of these concepts have not been fairly thought out.

Such muddled thinking carries over to the sections of the bill dealing with rules of engagement and the use of force. Subsection 5(3) authorizes the use of deadly force only in self-defence and in defence of civilians threatened with deadly force or else to stop serious human rights abuses.

However, it is important to understand peacekeepers may use force to protect civilians only if it is specifically authorized by a United Nations security council resolution. At the same time, the UN mandate may also require the use of force for reasons other than those specified in subsection 5(3).

In other words, rules of engagement must take into account the specifics of the mandate. They cannot be restricted by legislation that turns a blind eye to such details.

The bill is murky and confusing in other areas. It would amend the National Defence Act so that all members of the Canadian forces assigned to a peacekeeping mission would be on active service for all purposes. However, this proposal is unnecessary because pursuant to Order in Council 1989-583, April 6, 1989, all regular force members anywhere in or beyond Canada and all reserve force members beyond Canada are currently on active service.

Peacekeeping June 8th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, on Saturday, June 10, at the Petawawa civic centre grounds, a very important ceremony called the "Celebration of Peace" will take place. A memorial will be dedicated to all UN peacekeepers who participated in United Nations duties during the last 50 years.

This memorial, which honours all Canadian and international peacekeepers, has been totally paid for by donations. The flag poles and the United Nations flags are already in place. The celebration of peace memorial is not only being dedicated to those who have served as peacekeepers but will also honour those who are now serving and who will serve in the future.

It is time that the more than 90,000 Canadians who served in peacekeeping roles around the world receive their recognition in Canadian history. It is time that all of us in this great country of ours say thank you to the men and women in the Canadian Forces who have served Canada so well over the years.

Petitions June 7th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition with respect to Bill C-68 that is signed by many members of my constituency.

The petitioners state that the proposed gun control legislation by the federal government is not directed at the criminals causing unrest but rather at innocent sportsmen, hunters and gun collectors, and that the problem with criminals using illegal guns for crime is a critical issue that must be addressed, especially in Canada's large urban centres.

Therefore the petitioners request that the current proposed federal gun measures be withdrawn and that they be replaced with measures that deal directly with criminal offenders.

Bosnia May 29th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, in Bosnia our peacekeepers and those of our close allies are being used as human shields by those who have no respect for humanity and no allegiance to international law.

At a time when the entire United Nations system is being put through a severe test, it is important that we remember Edmund Burke's words: "All that is essential for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing".

As of this moment, when many Canadians are going through a trauma in the former Yugoslavia, it must serve to remind all Canadians of the necessity to fully support and understand what our Canadian forces personnel may well face on any day while serving their country and while serving humanitarian principles at the international level.

Our hearts go out to those soldiers and our support and thoughts must be with their families. We must change and improve the United Nations operations to deal with a vicious and unpredictable world.

Veterans Review And Appeal Board Act May 12th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question. He is quite right. If we want to talk about partisanship, I do not know the people who served in those positions, so I am not in a position to comment on their partisanship or otherwise on the floor of the House. However, I can tell the hon. member that it is the policy of the government to appoint well-qualified people to any boards or commissions that require appointments in the country, and the level of appointments to the various veterans boards will indeed be of good quality people.

The other thing that has to be considered is not just their qualities academically, but they also have to have humanitarian qualities. They must have an understanding and a feeling for what they are doing. If you do not have a feeling for what you are doing when you deal with people's problems, that is when you run into difficulty.

The hon. member probably hit it on the head when he mentioned partisanship. Anybody can talk about partisanship when they are in opposition. We used to do it ourselves. We are hearing the same thing today. However, I do not want to get into that, because it is a non-winner for everybody. The only thing that is a winner for the veterans of this country is that they get speedier service and that the people who are making those decisions are indeed qualified to make them, both from the understanding of the case before them and their feeling for the subject with which they are dealing.

Sometimes cases are held up because all of the information is not there. I have dealt with cases myself where if I had had the information that was given to me several days or months

afterwards I could have had the case pushed forward much more quickly for the veteran. Everyone along the line must have a real feeling for veterans issues. The appropriate information must be in the hands of the decision makers.

I could not agree more with the hon. member that the quality of people making the decision is extremely important. That is why any appointees in that area of decision making or any other area of decision making in government, in the public service, on boards or commissions, must be of the highest calibre of both personal and academic qualities.

Veterans Review And Appeal Board Act May 12th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, Canada has the best veterans legislation in place of any country in the western world. Only France comes close to it.

Let us not be too negative. As we discuss the bill and talk about these issues in the House of Commons let us remember that the veterans whom we have honoured, and rightly so, over the past number of days were not always against something. They were for something. They went out and fought for freedom. They fought for the world we enjoy today. They fought for this country today. We should not say all the time that they fought against something.

We have legislation before us now that is among the best in the House. We have another example of the new decorum brought to the House by the Reform Party. Its members are trying to shout across the floor and raise a disturbance. They were to come here to bring a new dignity to Parliament.

I would like to add a few words of support for the legislation that the Secretary of State for Veterans has brought forward to improve the veterans pension process. Veterans pensions are awarded for disability or death related to military service. Civilians who served in close support of the Canadian Armed Forces during wartime may also be entitled to pensions. Addi-

tional pension benefits can be paid to a pensioner's spouse and dependent children. Survivor pensions are payable to the spouse of a deceased pensioner.

When we take all recipients into consideration we find that some 150,000 Canadians receive veterans pensions. The 1995 rates provide for a minimum of $81.50 per month for single pensioners and $101.88 for married pensioners. The maximum benefit paid per month is $1,629.97 for single pensioners and $2,037.46 for married pensioners.

Most of my colleagues on both sides of the House already have direct experience with the current pension process. In every province and territory we find veterans or other dependants who receive the benefits. In Ontario alone we find over 51,000 pension recipients. This is because Canadians from all provinces and territories served our country in the two world wars, Korea, and with the regular forces on peacekeeping missions. They served Canada well. Now it is time for Canada to pay its dues by making sure veterans receive the pensions they deserve.

Veterans do not deserve the delays they have encountered under the current system. Systems have to be updated. It is a sad state of affairs when a veteran has to wait 18 months or up to three years in some cases after the first application before he or she can receive a pension.

The people at Veterans Affairs Canada are doing their best to speed the applications through the system, but the people at the Bureau of Pensions Advocates, the Canadian Pension Commission and the Veterans Appeal Board are trying hard to clear away the backlog of applications, but it gets harder every day.

The whole system is overloaded right now. I understand that about 13,000 veterans are expected to apply for pensions this year. The administrators are doing what they can with the system that is now in place. It is high time we changed that system. The people who work in the current system want to see it changed. They know they could serve veterans more effectively if the process were streamlined. Veterans also want to see their cases settled more quickly.

I am sure there is hardly a member in the House who has not at one stage or another been asked by a constituent to help them out on a veteran's case.

The current process dates back to 1971. Individual parts of the administration of veterans pensions have been studied and changed since that time, but there has been no comprehensive reform of the entire process. The consequence of the piecemeal changes has been that an already complex process has become even more complicated and cumbersome. The measures before us will simplify the process from start to finish.

In 1992 Veterans Affairs Canada conducted a study that identified a number of ways to improve the pension process. One of the most important ways of improving it was to speed up the turnaround times. Many of the recommendations of that 1992 study have been implemented. However, to reduce turnaround times we now need the legislative changes included in Bill C-67.

The legislation before us provides legislative change directed to giving effect to three proposals. First, responsibility for decisions will be transferred to Veterans Affairs Canada for the Canadian Pension Commission. Second, the Bureau of Pensions Advocates will become part of Veterans Affairs Canada and will concentrate on preparing cases for appeal. Third, the Canadian Pension Commission and the Veterans Appeal Board will be merged to create the new veterans review and appeal board.

There will be no changes to benefits under the legislation. The two-tier appeal system will be maintained. Whereas the Canadian Pension Commission now decides on first applications and first appeals and the Veterans Appeal Board decides on final appeals, under the legislation before us the new veterans review and appeal board will be responsible for two levels of appeal.

It is important to make very clear that veterans are not losing their appeal rights under the legislation before us. The new board will speed up the turnaround time. It will address the current backlog of cases awaiting appeal, but it will not deny appeal rights to veterans who have been told by Veterans Affairs Canada that they are not eligible for pensions, or who are not satisfied with the amount the department has awarded them.

The new board will continue to report to Parliament and its members will continue to be governor in council appointees. The permanent membership of the combined board will eventually be reduced by eight, but only after the backlog has been eliminated. By unifying the Canadian Pension Commission and the Veterans Appeal Board into a single appeal body, the government is helping to pare down the system. This is part of the government-wide review of agencies and commissions led by the minister responsible for public service renewal. The objective is to simplify public sector structures and streamline their operations wherever possible, while improving service to the public.

That is why we should support this bill. I am sure that all members of this House recognize the importance of providing better service and faster turnaround times for our veterans. I am sure that all members endorse the objectives of streamlining the operations of government agencies, boards, and commissions.

In the recent days of remembering the veterans who fought and remembering the 50th anniversary of the ending of World War II, we saw many heart-rending circumstances. I remember on one occasion when I was in Holland with a number of members from this House of Commons we had ceremonies before our cenotaphs over there. In the Groesbeek cemetery, as

we prepared to have our memorial cenotaph ceremony the farmers in the field surrounding that area left their horses standing in the field and left their hoes and other tools in the field and came over and stood around the cenotaph with us.

We know that the Dutch feelings have been poured out to Canadians, not only during the last number of days but indeed during the last 50 years. It is one reason why we cannot hesitate for one moment to try to provide better medical services for veterans in this country. At the same time, we must remember the people who today are serving in the Canadian Armed Forces in very difficult areas of this world.

Medical attention to veterans is very important. When we consider that the average age of World War II veterans today is 73 years, it becomes more important that the process for their receiving pensions that are coming to them is speeded up.

We all remember the days of our youth when young people were going off to war, whether it was the Korean War or the second world war. Others remember people leaving for peacekeeping operations. I remember very well that when I was in elementary school we had truckloads of these young Canadians passing by our rural school on their way to their training base and indeed some of them on their way overseas. They threw chocolate bars and candies to us in the schoolyard as they went by. Today these are the people we are talking about in this House of Commons. If there is any way we can speed up the process, get them their pensions, and make their days more comfortable at this time, then I am sure that is the objective of every member of this House.

If we do not remember our veterans, if we do not look after them, then we as a nation are not keeping faith with those who died. They are their buddies. For those who returned home, it is our duty and the duty of any government and the Parliament of Canada to support anything that can be done to make the lives of our veterans more comfortable in the days they have left.

I would ask the House to give third reading to this bill today so that we can get on with the process of putting it into place to try to get that backlog cleaned up in the meantime and make the process much speedier for the future without damaging the quality of service that is given to veterans in the hearing of their cases.

Petitions May 12th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by many people from all parts of Canada. It deals with one of the greatest assets that this country has namely, the Canadian Armed Forces.

In recent months the Canadian forces have come under intense media and public scrutiny, some of it very unfairly. Therefore the petitioners request that Parliament at the earliest possible time initiate a wide ranging public inquiry, replacing many which are being convened piecemeal, into the Canadian Armed Forces, including reserves, which will investigate, report and make recommendations on all matters affecting its operations, tasking, resources, effectiveness, morale and welfare.

I want to say that the Canadian Armed Forces is one of the proudest elements we have in this country today. We should all be supporting our forces very strongly.

National Forest Week May 11th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, Canada is celebrating National Forest Week from May 7 to May 14. However, there is nothing to celebrate at the Petawawa National Forestry Institute.

This forest research laboratory, surrounded by 41 square miles of its own recorded research forest and history, is closing. Not only is this institute the oldest recorded research forest in Canada, but it is known nationally and internationally by top scientists. Tourists have come from around the world to visit it.

With its impending closure, we are witnessing a brain drain. Some scientists have indicated their departure to other areas outside Canada and others will be obliged to take early retirement even though their interests and hearts are still with the Canadian Forest Service.

It is rather ironic that trees that have come to the MPs in both lobbies of the House over many years of celebrating National Forest Week have come from the Petawawa National Forestry Institute.

We are not celebrating. We are in mourning.

Members Of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act May 9th, 1995

I have them going again.

One of my constituents sent me a day's pay and I felt obligated to match that when I gave it to the Minister of Finance for Canada. I thanked my constituent for that, but the hon. member for North Vancouver wrote a letter saying "What planet has Hopkins been living on?" As I said, I know what planet I am living on, and I appreciate it very much.

He said that he has donated 10 per cent of his salary toward the deficit. Imagine that. Does he think this is something brand new? In come the Reformers and they are going to donate 10 per cent of their salary. I can say without any lack of confidence that I have given 10 per cent of my salary since day one to various organizations, to good organizations, for the good of people who are in need. But I am not the publican in the temple who goes out on the street corner to say "I did this, and thank God I am not like one of those". I do it in my own quiet way and I do it in a dignified way.

I say to Reform members that if they came here to add some decency to Parliament, they might change their attitudes a bit and get away from this. They are not the only ones who ever thought of doing anything for mankind. My goodness, Mr. Speaker, I know that you do a lot for your constituents.

The quality of people who come into the House of Commons is very high. Those people are here to do something useful and they want to do something useful. However, when a debate such as this is held and the Reform members come into the House saying that they are going to set a new tone for Parliament, they are not; they are setting a worse tone for Parliament. Beyond that, they are giving the people of Canada no reason whatsoever to believe that there is decency in the House. They are giving the people of Canada no confidence that the Parliament of Canada is working as it should, on their behalf.

Let us get on with the real issues of the nation and let us practise a little decency on the floor of the House. Only by doing that will people realize that there is some decorum in this place. The Reform Party has brought anything but decorum to the House of Commons.

Members Of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act May 9th, 1995

I have here a good example of the decency. This shouting is part of the new conduct they brought to the House of Commons. They are sitting over there today screaming and shouting at me. Obviously some of these words are getting through to them. When they came to Parliament they were going to bring decency to this House of Commons.

I hope the microphones are sensitive enough to tell the Canadian people how these Reform Party members are shouting and screaming and disrupting the proceedings of the House. That is their new contribution to the decency of this House of Commons.

The hon. member for North Vancouver wrote a letter to The Hill Times a while ago, saying ``What planet has Hopkins been living on?'' I know what planet I have been living on. I know where the hon. member for North Vancouver came from, and I also have a good idea of where he is going in the life hereafter.