The Senate met at 1:30 p.m., the Speaker in the Chair.
Hon. B. Alasdair Graham (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, when Senator Archibald Johnstone first came to the Senate of Canada a little over a year ago, he described himself as a quiet little guy from Kensington, Prince Edward Island. He also reputedly said that he came here thinking that the Senate was not too effective, and that it was an old people's home for retired politicians. He has pointed out recently that he would like to correct much, if not all, of that earlier impression.
I, too, would like to set the record straight. Senator Johnstone was a crew member with the RCAF heavy bombing squadron during World War II. He went overseas, came back, and became a flight lieutenant, all before the age of 21 - not bad for a quiet little guy from Kensington.
In his evolving career, he served as president of the Prince Edward Island Federation of Agriculture and director of the Island Tourism Association, among other things, as well as enjoying great success in business pursuits of his own over the years.
Archie met his old friend Orville Phillips in the Air Cadets. Orville Phillips, as many of our colleagues know, was another quiet little guy from the Island. Orville and Archie were chair and vice-chair respectively of the Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs. They travelled from coast to coast, gathering evidence and information from our veterans, recording their concerns, their hopes and their fears in an exhausting series of investigations. The committee report, released in March of this year, made 68 recommendations for improved care of Canada's veterans.
The report was a monumental effort. It focused on key areas such as the inclusion of veterans' facilities under regional health boards, the necessity of guaranteeing the availability of priority beds for the 250,000 veterans of World War II and the Korean War, and public misconceptions regarding veterans' pensions, as well as the operations of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board.
In interviews about the subcommittee's recommendations, Senator Johnstone expressed particular concern about the quality of life of our veterans. He emphasized that their happiness would be greatly increased if they were cared for in their own homes, a concern highlighted in a number of key recommendations throughout the report.
To return to my earlier pledge to set the record straight, even though his stay with us was brief, Senator Johnstone found that the Senate of Canada was no retirement home. He found that the Senate of Canada is a workhouse and a vigilant custodian of the rights and freedoms of all Canadians. He found a place where he could defend the interests of all those Canadians who fought for freedom and democracy, who fought for a country whose flag is loved and respected across the planet.
During World War II, over 1 million Canadians enlisted in the Armed Forces. Forty-six thousand gave their lives, 13,000 of those from the Royal Canadian Airforce. Prince Edward Island, so central to the founding of our federation, was renowned for having the highest per capita enlistment of any place in Canada, and also for having the highest casualty rate.
Senator Johnstone was part of the proud and distinguished service whose motto, "Per ardua ad astra," means "Through travail to the stars." It is that service, indeed the service of all those fine Canadians who fought at sea, on land, and in the air in Canada's wars, that Archie has worked so hard to preserve and honour.
While you were only with us a brief time, Senator Johnstone, you dedicated important days and months to giving our veterans a voice, a cause too many Canadians have forgotten. You have reminded us to keep the faith, as you have always done in a long lifetime of exemplary service to your province and to your country.
Senator Johnstone, you have brought the gallantry of the RCAF to this chamber and reminded us of the price so many paid for our freedom. For that, and for all your hard work and dedication, we are deeply grateful. We wish many years of health and happiness to you and your beautiful wife, Phelicia, in your retirement.
Hon. Norman K. Atkins: Honourable senators, it gives me great pleasure to rise today to pay tribute to my friend Archie Johnstone. I must admit that I have not known him for very long, but I do not believe you have to know Archie for a long period to get to know him, and to appreciate his wit, his intelligence and his sense of humour.
I have been fortunate in that, in the fall of 1998, I travelled with him to South Korea on a pilgrimage which marked the 45th anniversary of the ceasefire in Korea. Later this week, we will both travel to Normandy to take part in another pilgrimage, celebrating the 55th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy. I know we are both looking forward to spending this time with the war veterans whom we will be accompanying on this trip. We will be in the air, flying back from Europe on Archie's 75th birthday, his official retirement date from the Senate. Given Senator Johnstone's military career, his war service, his participation and work in the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs, this is a very fitting way for Archie to end his far-too-short Senate career.
It was during our time in South Korea that I really got to know Senator Johnstone. He is a very generous, warm man who can, and will, drive you crazy with his vigour, energy and enthusiasm. While I am no expert on long-term relationships, I must admit that I am sure there will be a special place in heaven, not only for Archie but also for his wife, Phelicia, for having put up with him for nearly 50 years.
Senator Johnstone has been successful throughout his career. It should be noted that, at a recent reunion of the crew members of the RAF 76th squadron, Canadian World War II Halifax Bomber, of which Archie was a member, every one of his crew is still with us enjoying the freedom they fought for over half a century ago.
In the Senate, he has played a vital part in the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs, working with the former chair, Senator Orville Phillips, contributing to its recent report entitled, "Raising the Bar: Creating a New Standard in Veterans Health Care," as well as its study of Bill C-61.
We must give credit where it is due - and, therefore, I give credit to the Prime Minister for appointing Archie to the Senate. It is just too bad he waited so long.
Archie, you retire from this place having made a positive impact in your short time here. We wish you and Phelicia all the best as you continue your lives together. May you continue to serve the country, your province and your community in the same spirit you served this place.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, I, too, should like to pay tribute to Senator Archie Johnstone. I have known the senator for several years but, over the past year and a quarter, we have had the opportunity to work together for the people of Prince Edward Island. I have greatly appreciated his dedication, his sensitivity and, of course, his sense of humour.
He has had a very long and successful career in several business undertakings on the Island, and I am sorry that we will not be able to continue to tap his knowledge in a formal way here in the Senate.
Archie Johnstone has done much for the province of Prince Edward Island. He has never avoided hard work, having sat on as many as three committees at one time. Nowhere has that been more illustrated than in his work on behalf of our veterans and the members of our Armed Forces. He has worked hard at what he felt was a personal mission. He is proud of the 68 recommendations made by the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs on health care, 12 of which have already been adopted, and will serve as part of his personal legacy as he leaves this place.
Not long ago, he was quoted in the Summerside Journal Pioneer as indicating that he found us in the Senate to be the finest group of people he had ever worked with. I should like to end, honourable senators, by saying that he is one of the finest persons I have ever worked with, and he will be missed in this place.
I also want to take the opportunity to wish the senator and his wife, Phelicia, who is in the gallery today, many more good years of health and happiness.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Lowell Murray: Honourable senators, I know that my former seat-mate, Senator Orville Phillips, would want me to say a few words of tribute to our departing colleague, Senator Archie Johnstone, and I am glad to do so on my own behalf because Senator Johnstone was such a faithful and valued colleague on the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.
Senator Phillips and Senator Johnstone have known each other for going on 60 years. I will not, therefore, try to say what Senator Phillips would say if he were standing here today. I would not dare.
Besides, I have often wondered whether it is in the best of taste to discuss other people's personal finances the way that Prince Edward Islanders are so inclined to do. In my opinion, Senator Johnstone's reputedly sizeable fortune is nobody's business but his own, and I do not intend to comment on it. If he is as well fixed as Senator Phillips always said he was, I am sure he came by it honestly, and I say: Good for him.
Even if it is true, as Senator Phillips always said, that it would take a Herculean effort to get him to part with a dollar, I say that the taxpayers of Canada would have been well served over the years if there had been more Liberals of such frugal temperament holding public office.
I know that Senator Atkins referred to Senator Johnstone's generosity when the two of them were in South Korea. All that means is that Senator Atkins managed to "outfumble" him when the cheque was presented.
Senator Phillips would want us to note, as Senator Graham has done, Senator Johnstone's wartime service as a crew member with the Royal Air Force Heavy Bomber Squadron based in England. At the reunion to which Senator Atkins referred, which was held a couple of weeks ago at the National Aviation Museum in Ottawa, the newspapers reported that the crew - all seven of them - had last been together on May 7, 1945 to toast the ending of World War II and their countless successful missions over Germany.
Veterans in the country would also want to acknowledge his contribution to the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs, which has been referred to by Senator Graham and Senator Atkins. I would add to that that Senator Johnstone was not only a member of that subcommittee but also of the standing committee. I want to thank him most sincerely for his participation in our work. Whether it was in examining legislation - and we have had a fair bit of it - or in the study on social cohesion, Senator Johnstone always came to the committee well prepared and well informed. His questions and comments have been always perceptive and constructive.
Senator Johnstone did not regard his appointment to the Senate as a 15-month sinecure leading up to his seventy-fifth birthday. He went to work here as if he had to account for every day on the job. I suspect he does have to account, and that his accountability is to his own very high standards of performance and service, honed over an adult lifetime that must have started rather suddenly and abruptly aboard that RAF bomber when he was barely out of his teens.
His 15-month sinecure in the Senate will not have added much to his fabled bank account. He has earned many times over his senatorial stipend. I trust he has invested it shrewdly. I hope it pays him a handsome return, for he has been an excellent colleague and we are, all of us, in his debt.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Lorna Milne: Honourable senators, I want to add a few words to the tributes paid to Senator Archibald Johnstone.
Archie, your time here has passed very quickly, but you have made it count. You have worked very hard on behalf of Canada's veterans. Your input into the Report on the State of Health Care for War Veterans and Servicemen and Women will be a lasting memorial to your year in this place. We all know and honour your commitment and devotion to the cause of your fellow veterans.
I want to say a word about the rest of your time here. Your good nature and your sense of humour have been unfailing. I was delighted to hear Senator Murray refer to you just now as a Liberal, for you have accepted my teasing about being at heart a "terrible Tory" with humour and patience, even if you did feel a little bemused by it. I know your lovely wife, Phelicia, was downright confused by that description.
Your pride in your Johnstone ancestry and your interest in great success in your search for your roots in Scotland have been a source of inspiration for me and for all genealogists.
Archie, you are the ultimate entrepreneur. Your pride in Woodleigh replicas, the collection of historic miniature buildings that was begun by your father, your interest in Rainbow Valley, your joy in working around the Kensington Towers and Water Gardens with your son is so evident, and your inventiveness is undiminished. I know there will be more development of tourist attractions in your future.
The wonderful hospitality that you and Phelicia showed me on my visit to your province will always remain a high point in my visit there. I will always remember driving up that red Prince Edward Island dirt road, through the new spring growth and the blossoms, where you walked daily on your way over the hill to your school, from Woodleigh.
Archie, I thank you for your friendship. It has meant a great deal to me and I will miss you, as will this red chamber. However, I know that the Island will be richer for your return. Long life and good health, Archie.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Honourable senators, I would like to associate myself with the comments made about Senator Archie Johnstone by all colleagues. If I may, I should like to add a couple of words of my own.
Over the past 15 or so months, I have had a number of opportunities to chat with Archie about different issues. I, like Senator Murray, do not question his loyalty to the Liberal Party. He has made it very clear. However, the impression that I have been left with is that Senator Johnstone brought a certain freshness to this chamber that, I hope, will increase as time goes on. He is a fair-minded individual who has kept an open mind on issues. The way he has dealt with the issues in which I have been involved has always been much less partisan than is usually the case in this chamber. I think that is good for the Senate.
For that, for his friendship and for all the other good things he has done, I thank him. Good luck. May you enjoy a long life.
Hon. Marcel Prud'homme: Honourable senators, I wish to subscribe to everything that has already been said about the Honourable Archibald Johnstone.
I did not know Senator Johnstone before he came to the Senate. I do not know what happened but, very spontaneously, from the first day, I considered him a personal friend. That is probably because I was asked to sit as a non-member on the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs where I saw him work so hard on behalf of veterans with the Honourable Senator Phillips, a good and long-time friend, as well as Senators Cools, Chalifoux and Forest.
I find it strange that Senator Johnstone's loyalty to the Liberal Party has been questioned today. What no honourable senator has seemed to realize thus far is that he is independent-minded. He would have fit so well with us here. However, I want to assure honourable senators that I am not speaking on behalf of independent senators. I tried that once, and I was told that I should not repeat the performance.
However, I can speak on behalf of my friend Senator Roche, who said that he would join with me in whatever good I had to say about Senator Johnstone. Senator Roche did not have the chance, as I did, to get to know Senator Johnstone personally.
I have enjoyed having known Senator Johnstone. He was so kind to me from the very first day we met in this place. I do not think one day went by when we did not salute each other, in my office, in the corridor, or in the presence of Senator Phillips.
I have met the honourable senator's family. I know he will have many, many years left to enjoy P.E.I.
As I have said to others, there is a very convenient office downstairs by the entrance, the door to which will always be Senator Johnstone's door. If he needs a key, I will give him one. That is the trust that I have developed in him.
I regret that time passed so rapidly. However, there is consolation in the fact that if it passed rapidly for you, it also passed rapidly for us - to the delight of some in the Senate.
Senator Johnstone, I wish you very good health so that you may enjoy the many good years to come. It was a great moment for me to have known you.
Honourable senators, listen to my words. I say something different about every person who retires. I do not have one speech prepared for any departure.
Senator Johnstone and I worked together in difficult circumstances. He produced a good report on behalf of our veterans. I know that veterans in this country will feel a little more lonely with the sudden departure, coincidentally, of two P.E.I. senators, namely, Senator Phillips and Senator Johnstone, who have done so much for them. In the old days, Senator Marshall was champion of the veterans. That is not a partisan statement, it is the truth; it is factual.
I wish you a warm farewell. Please come back often to see us.
Hon. Marian Maloney: Honourable senators, I have known Archie Johnstone a shorter time than anyone, yet I feel honoured to consider him my friend. Many wonderful things can be said about him, - that is, besides complimenting his intelligence and the charm that he brought to this chamber. None of you seem to have noticed that he was always well groomed and, in particular, cared about his hair. As his friend, I found it curious that he did not ask me for the name of my hairdresser, a question he asked several people. I will be happy to give that name soon. On a more serious note, I consider him to be not only a colleague but also a friend.
Senator Johnstone, you have served Canada well, both as a veteran of World War II, in the Bomber Squadron, and most more recently here in the Senate. Although these periods are very distinct in your life, it is the remarkable contribution you made to furthering the welfare and development of your province of P.E.I. and your country which will have a lasting legacy.
Every Canadian veteran will be eternally grateful to you for the contribution you have made to ensuring that the best health care is available to them.
As a colleague, what I will remember most is the honour it was to serve with such a gentleman. He helped me learn the ropes - maybe we learned them together. Everyone to whom I have spoken comments on his kind and gentle, yet firm, way.
We will never forget your mischievous sense of humour. It has been my pleasure to serve in the Senate with you and I look forward to your future contributions to Canada. I wish you and your family the best of everything.
Hon. J. Michael Forrestall: Honourable senators, I cannot let the opportunity to go by lest people believe that the only contribution Senator Johnstone has made since he was appointed to the Senate was work on behalf of our veterans in our Veterans Affairs Committee. That is not so. He did much more than that. He came to our Transportation Safety Committee, as we have heard today, with a background of action, involvement and awareness. He brought to the committee a natural desire to foster and develop in all Canadians involved in transportation, and those simply the beneficiaries of it, a culture of safety. For that, I and every member of the committee will be grateful to him.
I look forward to seeing the honourable senator later this afternoon when the committee meets at 5:30 p.m. I thank him for his splendid contribution and, as everyone has said, especially for his friendship.
Hon. Léonce Mercier: Honourable senators, today we are paying tribute to a man who has distinguished himself in a number of areas, a man who has served his country and his province with honour. The Honourable Archibald Johnstone has not been with us very long, but he succeeded nonetheless in making his mark and in developing friendships with some of his colleagues.
In everything he has done, Senator Johnstone has exhibited a spirit of cooperation, a great sense of responsibility, and intelligence, in both his community and professional involvement in Prince Edward Island and in his role as senator and vice-chair of the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs. Senator Johnstone will be remembered here for his devotion, his social conscience and his hard work. He will be greatly missed.
Dear Archie, you left your mark on this place and we are all proud and honoured to have had you with us. We are truly sorry to see you go, but I am certain that, whatever you choose to do after leaving the Senate, you will continue to endear yourself and earn the respect of all those around you.
Hon. David Tkachuk: I noticed that all the honourable senators speaking in tribute to Senator Johnstone today were from Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada. I do not know why I am standing up at this time, actually, because I barely know Senator Johnstone. Nevertheless, I will miss him a lot because he bears an uncanny resemblance to my father. When he first came here, I thought, "I cannot believe it. They would not have appointed two of us!" Not only that, but all his mannerisms are identical to those of my dad. For example, when he is thoughtful, he holds his finger right up by his nose, and he is always perfectly dapper, just like my dad. He is absolutely fastidious.
Honourable senators, I was not going to bring this up until I heard Senator Murray talk about Senator Johnstone's fabled bank account. I do not know whether my grandfather spent any time in the Maritimes.
All I can say is that I will miss you because you do remind me of my father. Best of luck and good health!
Hon. Nicholas W. Taylor: Honourable senators, I wish to pay tribute to Archie also. This corner has been heavily loaded with talent for some time and Archie is just one of the people who sits here. We will soon be losing Senator Maloney, too. We also had Senators Whelan and Mercier sitting here but the whip, in order to better balance the house, moved some of our talent to the centre of the chamber because it did not seem fair to have all the intelligence in one corner.
Archie, I will not compare you to my father. As a matter of fact, I think you look more like the younger brother of the fellow who just spoke.
Archie and I have had our run-ins back and forth across the aisle. He served in the air force whereas I served in the navy. All the air crew were issued silk underwear, but the navy got scratchy woollen stuff. Furthermore, when they got a change of underwear, it was clean. We had to change with the guy in the hammock next to us. I was always jealous about that.
To find out that Archie is a rich Maritimer adds to that feeling because we westerners like to think that all the rich Maritimers are the farmers who sold all their potatoes, moved west to go into the cattle industry, and are now making a fortune.
Archie, all the little arguments that we have had across the aisle fade to insignificance, because you got the better of me a couple of times by saying that I was the government's real opposition. That used to shut me up for five minutes, and you know how difficult it is to do that!
Archie, you have indeed made quite an impression on the Senate. Thank you for blessing us with your presence. If there is an argument for advancing the retirement age to 80, you are it. We should be looking at that whole question. The day is fast approaching for me, too, but perhaps there are some people in Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition who think we have been here too long already.
Archie, I wish you all the best. I hope to drop in on you and see how the lobster feeds are. If you come west at Stampede time, we will do something special, but if you come at another time, we will put on our own stampede for you.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Joyce Fairbairn: Honourable senators, I, too, say a very reluctant farewell to a very new friend in Senator Archie Johnstone. In the brief time since I met him, I would say that his character, personality and humour certainly have the effect of bringing out the best in people.
I was fascinated, as were others, to hear Senator Tkachuk's remark on the very special attraction that Senator Johnstone held for him. Perhaps that explains why we have seen a kinder, gentler, more subdued Senator Tkachuk recently, compared to my recollections of him in past times. That, in itself, was an achievement.
It is true that Senator Archie has not been with us very long, but it is fair to say that work in the Senate is not measured by quantity of years but rather by quality of contribution. Senator Johnstone came here serious about doing a good job. He has seen value in this institution. He has made a contribution of great value to it.
Others have spoken of the many ways in which he has assisted during the past 15 months in the work of this place. I want to focus just for a minute on the contribution that he has made in the area of veterans affairs. We are living in a very unsettled time today and we cannot help but reflect on the contribution made by some of Canada's finest citizens in past years, in wartime. Our friend Senator Johnstone is one such citizen. We are talking about a section of our citizenry which needs a voice. It has prospered for many years by having voices on each side of this Senate chamber for the welfare and the benefit of the veterans in Canada and their families. In a small way, it is how we say thank you for the incredible service they gave to their country.
Senator Johnstone's has been one of those voices. He has taken that responsibility very seriously - indeed, so seriously that Senator Johnstone feels almost a sense of regret at leaving and having to relinquish the work that he has done in the Senate. In fact, he felt a real responsibility to try and recruit someone to take his place.
Senator Johnstone heard somewhere that I was an honorary colonel. He used very persuasive powers to ensure my presence at the last committee meeting where Senator Balfour was chosen as the chair of the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs. He practically got a written commitment from me to say I would keep on going. I will certainly try to fulfil that commitment for Senator Johnstone.
We are honoured to have had you here, sir, even for this short period of time. You clearly are a man of conscience and, I must say, from my own association with you, you are a true gentleman. I have felt privileged to sit in this house with you.
I wish you and your wife, Phelicia, the very best of futures. The work you have done here never stops. I know that the veterans of Canada will always find a supportive voice in yours. Thank you very much.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable Senator Johnstone, is it your wish to speak to the Senate?
Hon. Archibald Hynd Johnstone: Honourable senators, I have wondered what you might say today. I did not expect such tributes. I have enjoyed your comments and I have enjoyed the exaggerations. My wife will be pleased to know that I will try to keep my statement as short and as brief as the time I have been here with you. However, there are a few things that I must say.
I have noticed, as I go to meetings lately, and as I look around, that I am the oldest person in the room. I look around this chamber today and find, again, that I am the oldest person here.
When I came here at first, I recognized only three faces. I knew Honourable Senator Callbeck, whose family is so well known and so well respected throughout Canada, especially so in the Atlantic region. I had the good fortune a few years ago to meet the Honourable Senator John Lynch-Staunton at an Air Canada/Financial Post conference. We sat side by side for a few days.
Senator Lynch-Staunton may not be well known in my small home town of Kensington but his mother certainly is. I understand she is now in her 93rd year, still going strong. She has made great friends in Kensington. She was often in our home and we were often invited to her cottage, and to the gatherings she held while visiting Prince Edward Island. She is most noted for the swimming pool which she had installed in the town of Kensington. You can tell her that it is much used and much appreciated. She has a great friend in Mayor Gerald McCarville, who has been going on for 20 or 25 years in that capacity.
The third person that I knew upon arrival was Senator Orville Phillips. I was very privileged to be asked to sit with him on the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs. It was sometimes emotional but we were well rewarded for the work that we did. We visited hospitals housing some 70 per cent of the veterans who are in institutions across Canada today.
At first, they did not want to talk to us, but once they found out that we had been there too, they would start to talk. Then they would all want to talk. When we were leaving, they would come back and shake hands again. They never complained. Their daughters complained. Their wives complained that they were not being treated right and were short of this or that, but they themselves did not complain. All they said was, "Thanks for coming. We thought we were forgotten."
Then, as we would try to leave the hospital, three or four people would come out in their wheelchairs as fast as they could. They just wanted to thank us once more, just for coming. That was all the reward we needed.
I hope that we in the subcommittee may have done some good.
Thank you. It has been very enjoyable. I met a great many of you. I did not get to know all of you, but in 15 months you cannot hope to get to know everyone. Your remarks today are well appreciated, not only by me but by my family.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I draw your attention to some distinguished visitors in our gallery.
His Excellency Hugo Fernandez Faingold, the Vice-President of the Eastern Republic of Uruguay, is also the President of the Senate of Uruguay. His Excellency is accompanied by the Ambassador of Uruguay to Canada, His Excellency Gaston Lasarte Burghi, and the Canadian Ambassador to Uruguay, Mr. Brian Northgrave.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I wish you welcome here to the Senate of Canada. May you have an enjoyable stay in our country.
Hon. Eugene Whelan: Honourable senators, I rise to express my very deep concern over the proliferation of genetically modified organisms being introduced into our food production in Canada and in the world.
The ability to introduce genes from animals and bacteria into plants and vice versa is being developed by the multinational food giants at an alarming rate. The introduction of these new organisms into our food chain and our environment is taking place with little control by governments and with even less understanding by the government or the public of their long-term dangers.
It is of even greater concern that the public depends on Health Canada and Agriculture Canada to ensure the safety of our food supply and to ensure that no new food products will be licensed for use or sold in Canada until they are proven safe for human consumption. It would appear that when it comes to the genetically modified organisms or GMOs, this trust is badly misplaced.
On May 13, 1999, Mr. David Dodge, Deputy Minister of the Department of Health, testified before the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry that the department did not have the laboratories to enable them to conduct tests on the safety of GMO products such as rBST. They have had to rely on tests done by outside laboratories, usually laboratories that are owned or controlled by the producer of the drug or the hormone that they are trying to evaluate.
Of even greater concern was the admission by Mr. Dodge that the department did not have on staff scientists with the expertise necessary to review these tests to evaluate if they were sufficiently well done to meet the requirements of Canada's licensing guidelines. He did state that they hoped to acquire this expertise in the near future so they would not have to rely on outside scientists to evaluate outside studies.
I urge the government to put a mortarium on the licencing of any genetically modified product until we have in our departments the competence to evaluate their safety, both in the short term and the long term, to human health.
Even the approval of non-genetically modified products such as pesticides and other toxic chemicals is of concern. Mr. Brian Emmett, Canada's Environment Commissioner, has stated that the federal government has serious deficiencies in the scientific expertise needed to protect Canadians from the harmful effects of these products. We are now starting to feel the results of the decision to cut back the funding of government research and the dismantling of our network of research stations across Canada.
I most strongly urge the government to reverse this decision and immediately move to restore the funding necessary to restore these facilities to their former status when they were known worldwide for their abilities to develop new and better crops and improve the breeds of animals. We would also then have the scientists on staff to test these new products to assure the people of Canada that these new products are wholesome and safe.
Hon. Lois M. Wilson: Honourable senators, last week I presided over the Annual Convocation of Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario, recognizing approximately 1,500 graduates. Among them was former mayor Saul Laskin, now 81, who earned his Bachelor of Arts through distance education over the past 15 years, quite an event in the Year of Older Persons. An expert on media literacy, the honorary degree recipient spoke for ten minutes, made his point, and sat down to enthusiastic response.
Universities are under siege these days. A recently formed Ontario coalition made up of parties interested in university education is pressing to have provincial funding brought up to the national average, since provincial funding per student is lower in Ontario than in any other province in Canada. I noticed a subway ad in Toronto aimed at graduates saying, "Congratulations on your solid achievement and your outstanding debts."
The average student upon graduation has a debt of $30,000, which is not helped much by the millennium fund since that fund merely grants money in place of funds already available through the Ontario Student Assistantance Program.
Lakehead University covers an area as large as France through its distance education program. It services a growing aboriginal community of students. It boasts a forestry program unique in Canada. It offers university education in a northern, relatively isolated part of the country to many who would otherwise find it impossible to avail themselves of higher education.
I urge senators to take note of the splendid work being done by the Canadian universities in their region and to take note of whether they are underfunded. Hopefully the resources necessary to sustain a community of scholars that will flourish and contribute richly to our common life will be made available through all possible means.
Hon. Thérèse Lavoie-Roux: Honourable senators, I should like to say a few words on the occasion of National Access Awareness Week.
Over 4 million Canadians have some degree of disability. Over 13 per cent of the population has disabilities, ranging from physical limitations to less obvious disabilities such as mental health, hearing, or learning ability. Each day, thousands of people struggle to cope with their disability while trying to get an education, secure or maintain a job, or perhaps even have a family.
This week is traditionally National Access Awareness Week, a time during which awareness campaigns are carried out from coast to coast in an effort to challenge the attitude of Canadians towards disability. The purpose of the week is ultimately to break down the barriers facing people with disabilities in order that every individual can participate in all aspects of life in Canada. Full participation and equal access can only be achieved by promoting understanding and carrying out concrete action.
For instance, in New Brunswick, a poster contest is being sponsored. The posters entered will convey ideas on prevention of disability or help in the promotion of persons with disabilities. Provincial awards will be given to people or groups who have done something significant to benefit persons with disabilities.
You may recall the Peggy Allen Award, in honour of the woman who fought for and created the local public transportation system for persons with disabilities. Recipients of the award are recognized for their efforts toward enhancing the issue of disability in the community.
National Access Awareness Week is a time to celebrate accomplishments, generate public awareness and engage in action which would lead to positive change in the lives of persons with disabilities. In previous years, the federal government sponsored the coalition comprised of government, business and national organizations of persons with disabilities. The coalition organized the national awareness campaign and provided leadership to communities throughout Canada to carry out local activities. This year, however, funding cut-backs have resulted in the dissolution of the federal role in the promotion of National Access Awareness Week. In effect, the week no longer exists. Some communities and organizations, however, are choosing to recognize the week in their own way, such as initiatives which I previously mentioned.
Parliament is continually advocating the accessibility of the rights of Canadian with disabilities, while the federal government unfortunately chooses not to support the week that draws attention to the very issue we are defending. Is our role not to ensure that Canada is a society defending and protecting needs of all its people, regardless of the level of their disability?
In 1996, the Federal Taskforce on Disability Issues released a report entitled "Equal Citizenship for Canadians with Disabilities: The Will to Act." This report contained 52 recommendations arising from consultations carried out across the country. How is it that only a handful of these 52 recommendations have been acted on? I put the question: Does the government have a real will to act?
I will close with a few quotes from the report from one of these consultations:
For our leadership and our actions to be positive, governments and the parties must clearly and with conviction say that people with disabilities are as important as other people and are entitled to the support they need to enjoy the same type of life as all other Canadians.
People with disabilities are found in all levels of society. They are young. They are Native. They are our seniors' population. They are all of us.
Our greatest asset is not our mines, our forests or our fish, it is the people of our country...
The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Lavoie-Roux, I regret to have to interrupt you, but your three minutes are up. Does Senator Lavoie-Roux have permission to continue?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
...it matters little whether they can see, hear or walk. It makes no difference, this is still our greatest asset.
Many studies are being done. Will they all end up dying on the shelves? Perhaps it is time to establish a special committee to ensure the follow-up of the various studies, which cost so much money and effort and which often produce very worthwhile recommendations.
What do we do with them? This is not intended for just one government or one particular party, but for all of us. It is perhaps time, as new committees are established, to see what has been done with the recommendations made by earlier task forces.
Hon. Shirley Maheu, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Privileges, Standing Rules and Orders, presented the following report:
Wednesday, June 2, 1999
The Standing Committee on Privileges, Standing Rules and Orders has the honour to present its
Pursuant to Rule 86(1)(f)(i), your committee has examined the issue of the restructuring of Senate committees, and now makes the following recommendations.
Number of Standing Committees
1. our committee recommends that the Rules of the Senate be amended by adding after Rule 86(1)(q), the following new Rules 86(1)(r) and (s):
"(r) The Senate Committee on Defence and Security, to which may be referred, as the Senate may decide, bills, messages, petitions, inquiries, papers and other matters relating to defence and security generally, including veterans affairs.
(s) The Senate Committee on Human Rights, to which may be referred, as the Senate may decide, bills, messages, petitions, inquiries, papers and other matters relating to human rights generally."
Your committee also recommends that these rules be provisional, that they come into force immediately, and that they cease to have effect at 6 p.m., October 10, 2000.
Size of Committees
2. Your committee recommends that the Rules of the Senate be amended as follows:
a. By adding a new Rule 85(2.1):
"(2.1) Subject to subsection (2.2)(a) below, the Committee of Selection may nominate as many as twelve Senators or as few as six Senators to serve on standing committees, provided that such a decision is unanimously agreed to by the Committee."
b. By deleting Rules 86(1)(f) to (q) and replacing them with the following:
"(f) The Committee on Privileges, Standing Rules and Orders:
(i) on its own initiative to propose, from time to time, amendments to the rules for consideration by the Senate;
(ii) upon a reference from the Senate, to examine and, if required, report on any question of privilege; and
(iii) to consider the orders and customs of the Senate and privileges of Parliament.
(g) The Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration, which is authorized on its own initiative to consider all matters of a financial or administrative nature relating to the internal management of the Senate.
(h) The Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, to which shall be referred, if there is a motion to that effect, bills, messages, petitions, inquiries, papers and other matters relating to foreign and commonwealth relations generally, including:
(i) treaties and international agreements;
(ii) external trade;
(iii) foreign aid; and
(iv) territorial and offshore matters.
(i) The Senate Committee on National Finance, to which shall be referred, if there is a motion to that effect, bills, messages, petitions, inquiries, papers and other matters relating to federal estimates generally, including:
(i) national accounts and the report of the Auditor General; and
(ii) government finance.
(j) The Senate Committee on Transport and Communications, to which shall be referred, if there is a motion to that effect, bills, messages, petitions, inquiries, papers and other matters relating to transport and communications generally, including:
(i) transport and communications by land, air, water, and space, whether by radio, telephone, telegraph, wire, cable, microwave, wireless, television, satellite, broadcasting, postal communications or any other form, method or means of communications or transport;
(ii) tourist traffic;
(iii) common carriers; and
(iv) navigation, shipping and navigable waters.
(k) The Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, to which shall be referred, if there is a motion to that effect, bills, messages, petitions, inquiries, papers and other matters relating to legal and constitutional matters generally, including:
(i) federal-provincial relations;
(ii) administration of justice, law reform and all matters related thereto, with the exception of issues relating to national security;
(iii) the judiciary;
(iv) all essentially juridical matters; and
(v) private bills not otherwise specifically assigned to another committee, including those related to marriage and divorce.
(l) The Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce, to which shall be referred, if there is a motion to that effect, bills, messages, petitions, inquiries, papers and other matters relating to banking, trade and commerce generally, including:
(i) banking, insurance, trust and loan companies, credit societies, caisses populaires and small loans companies;
(ii) customs and excise;
(iii) taxation legislation;
(iv) patents and royalties;
(v) corporate affairs; and
(m) The Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, to which shall be referred, if there is an order of the Senate to that effect, bills, messages, petitions, inquiries, papers and other matters relating to social affairs, science, and technology generally, including:
(i) cultural affairs and the arts;
(ii) social and labour matters;
(iii) health and welfare;
(vi) fitness and amateur sports;
(vii) employment and immigration;
(viii) consumer affairs; and
(ix) youth affairs.
(n) The Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, to which shall be referred, on order of the Senate, bills, messages, petitions, inquiries, papers and other matters relating to agriculture and forestry generally, and the Canadian Wheat Board.
(o) The Senate Committee on Fisheries, to which shall be referred, on order of the Senate, bills, messages, petitions, inquiries, papers and other matters relating to fisheries generally.
(p) The Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, to which shall be referred, on order of the Senate, bills, messages, petitions, inquiries, papers and other matters relating to energy, the environment and natural resources generally, including:
(i) mines and natural resources, other than fisheries and forestry;
(ii) pipelines, transmission lines and energy transportation;
(iii) environmental affairs; and
(iv) other energy-related matters.
(q) The Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, to which may be referred, as the Senate may decide, bills, messages, petitions, inquiries, papers and other matters relating to the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada."
c. By amending Rule 89 as follows:
"89. (1) A third of the members of a select committee shall constitute a quorum provided that the quorum shall not be less than three members. In the case of a joint committee, the number of members constituting a quorum shall be such as the Senate acting in consultation with the House of Commons may determine.
(2) A quorum is required whenever a vote, resolution or other decision is taken by a select committee, but any such committee, by resolution thereof, may authorize the chairman to hold meetings to receive and authorize the printing of evidence when a quorum is not present."
Additional Members on Committees
3. Your committee recommends that the Rules of the Senate be amended as follows:
By adding a new Rule 85 (2.2)(a):
"(2.2)(a) The Committee of Selection may make a recommendation to the Senate that two additional members be added to any standing committee provided that the vote of the Committee of Selection on the addition is unanimous."
By adding a new Rule 85 (2.2)(b):
"(2.2)(b) Senators may apply to sit on a standing committee either by application to their respective whip or directly to the Committee of Selection."
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this report be taken into consideration?
On motion of Senator Maheu, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.
The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that a message had been received from the House of Commons with Bill C-32, respecting pollution prevention and the protection of the environment and human health in order to contribute to sustainable development.
Bill read first time.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the second time?
On motion of Senator Carstairs, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading on Friday next, June 4, 1999.
Hon. Gérald-A. Beaudoin: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table the report by the Canadian group of the Canada-France Inter-Parliamentary Association, which attended the meeting of the Association's Standing Committee in Paris and in the Aquitaine region, from February 21 to 27, 1999.
Hon. Pierre Claude Nolin: Honourable senators, I give notice that on June 10, 1999, I will move:
That a Special Committee of the Senate be appointed to reassess Canada's anti-drug legislation and policies, to carry out a broad consultation of the Canadian public to determine the specific needs of various regions of the country, where social problems associated with the trafficking and use of illegal drugs is more in evidence, to develop proposals to disseminate information about Canada's anti-drug policy and, finally, to make recommendations for the adoption of an anti-drug strategy developed by and for Canadians under which all levels of government will work closely together to reduce the harm associated with the use of illegal drugs.
That, without being limited in its mandate by the following, the committee be authorized to:
w review the federal government's policy to reduce the use of illegal drugs in Canada, its effectiveness, and the extent to which it is fairly enforced;
w develop a national harm reduction policy in order to lessen the negative impact of illegal drug use in Canada, and make recommendations regarding the enforcement of this policy, specifically the possibility of focusing on use and abuse of drugs as a social and health problem;
w study harm reduction models adopted by other countries (treatment programs and parallel programs aimed at illegal drug users) and determine if there is a need to implement them wholly or partially in Canada;
w examine Canada's international role and obligations under United Nations conventions on narcotics and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in order to determine whether these conventions authorize it to take action other than laying criminal charges;
w explore the effects of cannabis on health and examine the issue of whether decriminalizing cannabis would lead to increased use and abuse in the short and long term.
w examine the possibility of the government using its regulatory power under the Contraventions Act as an additional means of implementing a harm reduction policy, as is commonly done in certain European countries;
w examine any other issue respecting Canada's anti-drug policy that the Committee considers appropriate to the completion of its mandate.
That the special committee be composed of eight senators and that four members constitute a quorum;
That the committee have power to send for persons, papers and records, to examine witnesses, to report from time to time and to print such papers, briefs and evidence from day to day as may be ordered by the Committee;
That the briefs received and testimony heard during consideration of Bill C-8, respecting the control of certain drugs, their precursors and other substances, by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs during the second session of the thirty-fifth Parliament be referred to the committee;
That the committee have the power to engage the services of such counsel (researchers, lawyers, medical specialists, addiction workers, and so on) and technical, information technology, clerical and other personnel as may be necessary for the purposes of its examination;
That the committee have the power to authorize television, radio and electronic broadcasting, as it deems appropriate, of any or all of its proceedings;
That the committee be empowered to adjourn from place to place within and outside Canada;
That the committee be granted leave to sit when the Senate has been adjourned pursuant to subsection 95(2) of Senate rules:
That the committee submit its final report not later than two years from the date of it being constituted; and;
That the committee be empowered to continue to exist after the date on which it is to conclude its work in order to inform members of the Senate and the House of Commons, the Canadian public and any other person or association interested in its work, to disseminate the committee's conclusions and recommendations by means of press releases, press conferences, information sessions or any other activity members of the committee deem appropriate at a particular time.
Hon. Lowell Murray: Honourable senators, my question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, or to the Deputy Leader of the Government, as it concerns the business of this chamber this afternoon.
The house met today at 1:30 p.m. pursuant to a motion passed yesterday. The house is aware that the reason it meets at 1:30 on Wednesdays is to accommodate the work of committees, it being understood that the chamber adjourns at approximately 3:15 on Wednesdays. I am aware that a number of committees are scheduled to meet this afternoon. In the case of the committee that I chair, we have two meetings scheduled, one which was to have begun at 3:30 concerning the drafting of a report, and the second to have begun at 5:30, in the course of which we were to hear, an hour apart, a series of witnesses on Bill C-66. The last of the witnesses was to have been heard at 9:30 tonight. There is, therefore, not much flexibility in the schedule. I should like some reassurance from the leadership that committees will be able to meet by 3:30 p.m. this afternoon.
Hon. Sharon Carstairs (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, at a meeting held earlier with Senator Kinsella, I indicated that this Wednesday's Senate sitting would be somewhat longer than a normal Wednesday sitting because we had to deal with a number of second reading speeches. It is now 2:45 p.m. We have only just commenced Question Period, and we have not yet started with government business. I think it is fair to say that we will not complete government business this afternoon until probably 4:30 p.m. I am reluctant, quite frankly, to allow committees to sit, since critical second reading speeches will be made at that time.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau: Honourable senators, historically and traditionally we have had Wednesday afternoons to arrange meetings of this kind. I might remind the deputy leader that we do try to organize our committee meetings for specific times, and it is quite a bit of work.
The Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries has made arrangements to hear from the Minister of Fisheries this afternoon - a very busy man. He has graciously accepted an invitation to come before the committee on an extremely important subject.
What I have just heard leads me to believe that I must get up, go to my office, call the minister and cancel the meeting scheduled for 3:45 p.m. this afternoon. Given this lack of scheduling, I will be reluctant in the future to ask the Minister of Fisheries to appear before us. Perhaps we could do the second reading speeches at another time, given that Wednesdays are viewed as the day when we aim to provide our witnesses with a straight answer that they will indeed be heard. I ask the Deputy Leader of the Government to reconsider.
Senator Carstairs: Honourable senators, that was exactly the reason I explained the situation to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. All chairs on this side were informed that this would probably be a late day. I am sorry that the Honourable Senator Comeau was not informed that this would be the situation. If my honourable friend wishes to make a motion that his committee sit, we will see if there is agreement for his committee to sit. However, the Senate will not rise at 3:15 p.m. to allow senators to go to committee.
Senator Murray: I appreciate the deputy leader's reluctance to grant leave for committees to sit, but she will appreciate my desire to test that reluctance in a little while by asking leave to revert to Notices of Motion.
Hon. Terry Stratton: I, too, have a supplementary question regarding this matter. The Standing Senate Committee on National Finance will hear from a witness on the Main Estimates at 5:30 p.m. today. At 7:00 p.m., we will hear from witnesses regarding Bill C-71. On our side, we are asked to be responsible and respond. We are attempting to do that, and we have a great deal of trouble, being unable to plan.
Although my committee does not meet until 5:30 p.m., I have prepared a motion such that we can meet at 5:30 p.m., even though the Senate may then be sitting, simply because of the workload before us this evening. Is the deputy leader telling me that I will be able to present this motion?
Senator Carstairs: I do not think the Senate will be sitting at 5:30, but my honourable colleague is free to make his motion if he so wishes. I will not try to block a return to Notices of Motion. I am simply explaining the importance of the second reading speeches coming down this afternoon.
Honourable senators, perhaps we could skip Question Period and go immediately into those speeches. We might even be out of here much sooner than anticipated.
Hon. Noël A. Kinsella (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I agree with my honourable colleague, and I support her suggestion. Once we finish with this question, perhaps honourable senators would agree not to rise on other questions.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is there agreement to move immediately to Delayed Answers, honourable senators?
Hon. John Lynch-Staunton (Leader of the Opposition): On the understanding that committees will be able to sit at the hours they are scheduled to sit.
As the Speaker will remember, the arrangement for the Senate to sit at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesdays was to be compensated by also sitting on Monday evenings - which we did this week. That was to allow committees to sit on Wednesday afternoons. Now we are being told that that convention or understanding is no longer valid. We are saying we can review it.
We will forego Question Period on the understanding that we adjourn no later than 3:30 to allow the committees - all eight or nine of them - scheduled to sit this afternoon to sit at the hours they are scheduled.
Senator Carstairs: With the greatest of respect, honourable senators, I cannot agree to adjourn the house at 3:30. I can agree, if we proceed immediately to Orders of the Day, to allow senators to go to committee at 3:30 and to accept the corresponding motions. However, I cannot allow the house to adjourn at 3:30, simply because there are too many second reading speeches that must be heard.
Senator Murray: I will then ask leave of the Senate to revert to Notices of Motions.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable Senator Murray, I think we had better finish Question Period before we proceed to the next item.
Leave having been given to revert to Notices of Motions:
Hon. Lowell Murray: Honourable senators, with leave the Senate and notwithstanding rule 58(1)(a), I move:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology have power to sit at 3:30 p.m. today, even though the Senate may then be sitting, and that rule 95(4) be suspended in relation thereto.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Hon. John Lynch-Staunton (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I was one of the proponents of the arrangement that we sit at 1:30 on Wednesdays to allow committees to sit at 3:00, 3:30, and 4:00, on the understanding that the hours lost by the chamber would be made up on Monday evenings. That system worked for a long time. Now we are faced with committees scheduled for 3:00, 3:30 and 4:00 and with the full chamber sitting until 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. That is particularly unfair to the opposition side, which has fewer members who, as a result, are being asked to do double duty, to sit on their committees and to be in attendance here.
I will not initiate a debate on our arrangement as such. I have no objection to committees being given the power to sit this afternoon at the time they wish to sit. However, I suggest that, for the next two weeks or for as long as we are here, committees schedule their meetings with the knowledge that each Wednesday the chamber will sit for the full day and not a short day.
Senator Murray: Honourable senators, there is an even more radical solution possible. It is called the five-day work week that the rest of the world observes. Frankly, I think it is ridiculous at times like this - June and December, in particular - when we are faced with a great deal of legislation, to try to cram it all in to two and a half days.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. J. Michael Forrestall: Honourable senators, I point out to the Deputy Leader of the Government that if she were to try to make hotel reservations for next Monday night in this city, she would see how difficult it is.
Hon. Douglas Roche: Honourable senators, I just want to mention to the Honourable Senator Murray that not all senators live in Ottawa and that it is often not easy to get here.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Terry Stratton: Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 58(1)(a), I move:
That the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance have power to sit at 5:30 in the afternoon today, even though the Senate may then be sitting, and that rule 95(4) be suspended in relation thereto.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau: Honourable senators, I do not have this in writing but I would ask leave to proceed in any event.
With leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 58(1)(a), I move:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries be allowed to sit at 3:30 p.m. today, even though the Senate may then be sitting, and that rule 95(4) be suspended in relation thereto.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted to permit the Honourable Senator Comeau to present his motion verbally?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Motion agreed to.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I would like to introduce to you some guests in our gallery. They are a group of parliamentary interns from Western Kentucky University. There are 13 interns participating in a five-week internship program with the Canadian Parliament.
This year, for the first time, we have two interns placed with senators. Kelly Rich is with Senator Losier-Cool and Rebecca Ellmore is with Senator Comeau.
We welcome you to the Senate and we hope that your experience here in the Canadian Parliament will be both enjoyable and instructive.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Joan Fraser moved the second reading of Bill C-69, to amend the Criminal Records Act and to amend another Act in consequence.
She said: Honourable senators, in my view, this bill to amend the Criminal Records Act is important. It deals with improving the safety of our children and other vulnerable people. Both chambers of Parliament, I am sure we can all agree, share this objective. Indeed, in the other place, members of all parties cooperated to ensure that we would receive this bill in a timely fashion.
Allow me to give honourable senators a bit of background. The Criminal Records Act establishes the system to offer pardons to former offenders who have demonstrated a return to a law-abiding life. Under that act, offenders can have their records sealed by obtaining a pardon from the National Parole Board. This does not expunge the conviction, nor does it erase the record. The conviction is a matter of historical fact. The criminal record can be unsealed on the authority of the Solicitor General if that is required in the interests of the administration of justice or national security.
Pardons are granted only when it has been demonstrated that crime-free conduct has been resumed. In the case of summary conviction offences, this requires a three-year crime-free period after completion of any and all sentences.
In the case of more serious indictable offences, the waiting period is five years. The Parole Board must confirm that the applicant has exhibited good conduct during that time. Before a pardon is received, police are consulted in every community where pardon applicants have lived during the past five years.
It is important to be aware that the vast majority of pardon recipients remain law abiding. During the past 28 years, nearly a quarter of a million pardons have been granted, and of these just over 6,000 have been revoked for a new offence. This is a success rate of more than 97 per cent.
Bill C-69 deals primarily with sex offenders who are a small segment of the larger pardoned group. The Department of the Solicitor General has recently estimated that during the past 28 years, some 4,200 sex offenders have received pardons. Only 114, or 2.6 per cent, have had their pardon revoked for the commission of another sex offence. This shows that, fortunately, only a small number of pardoned sex offenders continue to pose a risk to society. No matter how small the number, it is important, of course, to reduce that risk to the lowest level possible. That is what Bill C-69 will help us to do.
This bill is rendering official steps that have already been taken. In 1993, extensive consultations were conducted in every region of this country with child-caring organizations of many descriptions: school and child welfare officials, organizations such as Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and Volunteer Canada. The police were also included in all of these consultations as were the organizations to help victims.
It was clear in those consultations that a check of criminal records constitutes only one part of a comprehensive screening process, but an important - indeed, an essential - part.
Based on the consensus that emerged from those consultations, the national screening system, which provides access to criminal records of people who are applying for positions of trust, was launched in 1994. That system is a collaborative effort involving child caring agencies, the police community, the Canadian Police Information Centre, or CPIC, and the Departments of the Solicitor General, Health and Justice. The national screening system has been working well. Its use by the voluntary sector and other bone fide organizations is constantly expanding. More than 700,000 searches have been conducted to date.
Bill C-69 further refines the national screening system by correcting a potential weakness, the fact that the record of a pardoned sex offender could be overlooked during a routine screening check of the CPIC system. As matters stand today, the Solicitor General has the authority to unseal and disclose a pardoned record for purposes consistent with the administration of justice, including screening. However, he cannot use that authority if such records are not requested, and they cannot be requested if their existence is unknown.
Because such records are removed from the CPIC system when someone is pardoned and are kept separately in a sealed database, they do not show up when a routine query of CPIC is made. Obviously, that is exactly what is intended by the Criminal Records Act. For most purposes, these records should be invisible. However, when a person is applying for a position of trust, and that person's record suggests that there would be an increased level of risk to a specific, vulnerable category of persons, an exception is warranted.
There was unanimous agreement on this point among federal, provincial and territorial ministers of justice and solicitors general when they met in October of 1998.
A working group of senior officials examining ways to better protect children submitted 10 recommendations to the minister. All 10 were adopted. One proposal was that the records of pardoned sex offenders be made available for consideration during screening of persons for positions of trust. The Solicitor General of Canada, with the support of the Minister of Justice, undertook at that meeting to determine how best to do so, in consultation with provincial partners.
Consequently, Bill C-69 provides that when a criminal record that includes a sex offence is pardoned and is removed therefore from CPIC, a notation, or flag, will be left in its place. After that, when a screening check is conducted, that notation, that flag, will direct the police officer doing the search to submit the person's fingerprints to CPIC headquarters with a request for the record in question. The record will then be brought forward to the Solicitor General, who will consider its unsealing.
Honourable senators, it might be argued that this measure runs counter to the fundamental intent of the Criminal Records Act. However, this is a narrow and limited exception that is warranted. Ministers of Justice from all jurisdictions have supported this principle. Not taking this step would mean that a predatory sex offender might work his way into a position of trust with vulnerable people.
It is, as I say, a narrow exception. Only certain sex offences that will be named in regulations will cause a flag to be placed on CPIC; and the flag will only become visible during a search that is for the purpose of screening. The fact that the search is being conducted for the purpose of screening will be indicated by the entry of a code on the computer terminal. Unauthorized use of that code will be prohibited by the act and by CPIC policy.
Consent of the applicant will always be required. An applicant who does not wish to disclose his or her record will, of course, retain the option of abandoning the application for that particular position.
The fingerprints of the person involved will accompany the request to unseal a pardoned record so as to ensure the accurate identification of the applicant.
Finally, the Solicitor General must agree that disclosure of the record is warranted. Regulations to the act will specify the factors that the Solicitor General considers in making his decision whether or not to unseal a record.
Before concluding, I would like to mention that Bill C-69 will also clarify the system of pardon and consolidate in other respects. For example, it automatically revokes pardon for subsequent convictions for what is called a hybrid offence, that is an offence that is either a summary or an indictable conviction.
At present, automatic revocation applies only to indictable offences. In addition, a waiting period of at least one year will be required before an applicant who has been denied pardon may reapply.
Appeals to the board in the cases of denial or revocation of a pardon will now normally be in writing only. The act will specify more clearly that the effect of the pardon is to seal the record and not to expunge the fact of conviction.
Honourable senators, these are important changes. They are based on experience with earlier and effective measures already instituted by the government. They respond to the unanimous recommendation of provincial and territorial ministers. They received the unanimous support of all parties in the other place. They are consistent, I believe, with the concern that we all share to do all that is possible to protect our children and vulnerable adults from predatory sexual offenders. For those reasons, I believe that Bill C-69 merits our support.
Hon. Pierre Claude Nolin: The regulatory power referred to in the bill is a matter of policy. What lies behind the government's policy?
With respect to clause 8, which gives the Governor in Council power to make regulations, why will the list of offences referred to in the bill be created, changed, lengthened or shortened by this regulatory power?
Why are the definitions of "children" and "vulnerable persons" also subject to regulatory power? We should be able to agree on these definitions. Why leave it to the regulatory power to contain the ministerial authorization provided in the bill?
What is the government policy? The powers accorded the Governor in Council seem exorbitant and should be settled during consideration of the bill.
Senator Fraser: Honourable senators, I am sure that in committee we will be able to ask such questions of the minister and his officials. In general, the object is to avoid having to re-amend this law if the Criminal Code itself, as it relates to sexual offences, is amended. That will avoid further complication and further legislative difficulty.
I do not believe that there is a principle at work here. In my briefings and discussions preparatory to presenting this bill, I understood this to be simply a matter of clarity, and nothing else. There is no great principle here to the effect that only the Solicitor General has the right to determine what Parliament, in fact, determines - the nature of a sexual offence.
On motion of Senator Nolin, debate adjourned.
Hon. Michael Kirby moved the second reading of Bill C-78, to establish the Public Sector Pension Investment Board, to amend the Public Service Superannuation Act, the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act, the Defence Services Pension Continuation Act, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Pension Continuation Act, the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act and the Canada Post Corporation Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act.
He said: Honourable senators, as you are all aware, this bill contains major amendments to public service pension plans. These amendments are aimed at improving the financial management of the plans and ensuring their long-term sustainability. These amendments include many technical changes, including: changes to the way contribution rates are set, significant improvement in employees' pension benefits, and improved financial and plan management.
First, and most important, let me state that the benefits government employees contributed during their careers will be fully guaranteed, maintained and improved by the passage of this new bill.
To add some context, I should mention that Bill C-71, the 1998 Budget Implementation Bill, which was passed in this chamber recently, also introduced two important benefit improvements, namely, first, that future pension benefits will be calculated using the average of the best five consecutive years of earnings rather than the best six consecutive years, as in the current plan; and, second, that a five-year average of maximum pensionable earnings will be used to calculate the CPP-QPP related reduction, rather than the current three-year average. This will mean that most pensioners' benefits will be reduced by a lesser amount when they begin receiving Canada Pension Plan or QPP benefits.
Bill C-78 builds on Bill C-71 to improve the financial structure of public service pension plans. This should provide reassurance to current and past federal public service employees that the plans will continue to provide benefits through an improved management structure that allows increased flexibility.
When the Canada Pension Plan was established in 1966, it was integrated with existing public sector pension plans so that the combined annual contributions to the public sector plans and to the CPP would not be more than what employees were already contributing at that time.
Since 1986, however, the original contribution rate of Canadian employees to the CPP has risen from 1.8 per cent of insurable earnings to 3.5 per cent. If this trend continues, the CPP rate will climb to 4.95 per cent of wages and salaries by 2003. This means that each time contribution rates to the CPP increase, federal employees contribute less to their pension plans because their total contributions under the existing act are limited to 7.5 per cent.
As a result of the increase in CPP premiums, the government versus employee contribution proportions have gradually shifted from their initial and historical ratio of 60 per cent provided by the government and 40 per cent provided by employees to a current situation where 70 per cent is contributed by the government and 30 per cent is contributed by employees. If this trend is allowed to continue, the ratio will become 80/20 by the year 2003. If we reach a point were public servants pay only 20 per cent of the cost of their pensions, Canadian taxpayers, who have seen their own CPP contribution rates rise, would also be paying a disproportionate share of public service pension contribution. Clearly, therefore, inaction is not an option.
With this bill, the government is seeking to improve sustainability and re-establish fairness in the system. Like all of us, I should like to see the federal employees' pension plans on a sound financial footing, but in a way that is also fair to taxpayers.
Honourable senators, in recent years public service, RCMP and Canadian forces pension plans have built up a surplus of approximately $30 billion. The existing legislation provides for mechanisms to manage pension plan deficits but not to manage any surpluses that accumulate. In fact, the existing legislation requires the government and, therefore, taxpayers to cover all deficits. Because the taxpayer has both shouldered the risk and paid for deficits in the early years of public service pension plans, it only makes sense that the taxpayers should also benefit from a surplus.
Prior to tabling this bill, the government tried to reach an agreement on a joint management framework consisting of risk and cost sharing with employee representatives. Unfortunately, a final agreement became impossible. The bill before us today, Bill C-78, addresses surpluses and deficits alike, and proposes mechanisms to dispose of future surpluses in a responsible manner.
The bill deals with surpluses in the following ways: First, it ensures the gradual reduction of existing surpluses over a period of 15 years. Furthermore, future surpluses will be dealt with by Treasury Board according to a range of options which include, among other things: reducing contributions for employees, or for the employer, or for both, or withdrawing amounts from the fund surpluses.
This bill does not close the door on sharing decision-making power with employees with regard to how future surpluses should be used. If representatives of present and retired employees were to agree to share the risks with Canadian taxpayers, the government would be prepared to co-manage the pension funds and to share any future surpluses with present and retired employees.
I can assure honourable senators that the government remains committed to this concept and is still hopeful that, at some point in time in the future, a sharing of decision-making power agreement can be reached.
In the meantime, in order to ensure the long-term financial stability of federal employees' pension funds, this bill will also create a Public Sector Pension Investment Board. This board will be independent of both employees and the employer. It will have a mandate to invest future employee and employer contributions in financial markets with a view to achieving maximum gain without undue risk, and it will be accountable to government, employees, retirees and Parliament.
Under the present legislation, the superannuation accounts are credited with interest on contributions as though they were invested in long-term Government of Canada bonds. In future, these contributions will be invested in diversified portfolios that should give a better yield. A better return on invested contributions could eventually mean lower costs for both employees and the employer.
For example, a 1 per cent improvement in the long-term performance of the public service pension plan fund could reduce its overall costs by 15 to 20 per cent. This market investment approach to improving sustainability has already been used with good results by other public pension plans.
Each year, the Public Sector Pension Investment Board, through the President of the Treasury Board, will table before Parliament an annual report on the results of its operations. By law, this report must contain the detailed information that Parliament will need to determine if the board is functioning to the benefit of beneficiaries. If the return on the investments is lower than expected, plan members would receive the same level of pension benefit for which they contributed during their careers, including 100 per cent inflation protection. The government guarantees the integrity of the benefits of employee pension funds and will continue to cover the shortfalls, if any.
Honourable senators, I previously emphasized the government's intention to be fair to stakeholders in the measures proposed under Bill C-78. In addition to the measures I have already described, the government will freeze public servants' current contribution rates to their pension plans until the year 2003, when annual CPP increases end. In 2004, the government may, if required at the time, gradually increase contribution rates to public sector pension plans. Any such increase would be limited to 0.4 per cent of earnings per year.
In short, this means that as a result of Bill C-71, the 1998 Budget Implementation Act, together with this bill, the government will increase employees' pensions while simultaneously freezing contributions to the employee plan for the next four years.
Honourable senators should also be aware that this bill includes a series of technical changes to improve other benefits linked to federal employee pension plans. The Government of Canada will thus be bringing its pension plans in line with those of provincial governments such as Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Ontario, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan. In the private sector as well, many employers have adjusted their pension plans to today's reality.
The improvements to public service benefits will include, first, under the supplementary death benefits plan, which is the group life insurance plan under the Public Service Superannuation Act, that the benefit to eligible employees will double to $10,000 once they reach 65, and will also delay the onset of coverage reduction. Second, it will reduce contribution rates to the Supplementary Death Benefits plan by 25 per cent. Third, Bill C-78 will also extend survivor benefits to the same-sex partners of pension plan contributors based on the same criteria as for common-law spouses. This would bring the public service pension plans in line with a number of recent decisions rendered by the courts, including the recent decision by the Supreme Court of Canada. Finally, this bill will establish a separate pension plan for Canada Post employees so that Canada Post can manage its own pension plan, just as many other major employers do.
The Canada Post plan would come into effect on October 1, 2000, approximately 18 months from now, and would reflect the amendment to the Public Service Superannuation Act. Canada Post employees can rest assured that the value of past service for pension purposes will be totally protected. Employee benefits will be the same as under the Public Service Superannuation Act. The terms of the plan would be negotiable under the terms of Canada Labour Code after one year of its implementation.
Honourable senators, I am convinced that the proposed technical amendments to the Public Service Superannuation Act, the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act are realistic and fair for both employees and taxpayers. They will be beneficial to all stakeholders. Some people may still criticize the government for acting unilaterally in determining these major changes to federal employees' pension plans, but for the reasons I outlined earlier in my remarks, it would be irresponsible for the government to delay any longer.
Nevertheless, this bill is the product of extensive consultation with representatives of beneficiaries under the Public Service Superannuation Act. Although it is unfortunate that no negotiated agreement was possible, the bill takes into account the views of all those involved in those negotiations.
The time to act is long overdue. This bill has been developed in a spirit of fairness toward both federal employees and Canadian taxpayers. As I have just explained, this bill will improve the financial sustainability of the public service pension plans and the benefits available to the beneficiaries of these plans.
Honourable senators, I hope that you will see the necessity of these reforms in promoting the fairness and sustainability of public service pension plans, and vote accordingly.
On motion of Senator Stratton, debate adjourned.
Hon. Vivienne Poy moved second reading of Bill C-64, to establish an indemnification program for travelling exhibitions.
She said: Honourable senators, I am pleased to speak in favour of Bill C-64, which proposes a win-win situation for all Canadians. It is a fact that our museums, galleries, libraries and archives house some of the finest treasures in the world. It is a fact that most Canadians never get to see even a part of our magnificent collections.
On one hand, the vastness of our territory represents an obstacle for many people who have neither the means nor the time to see a collection or an exhibition in a facility far removed from them.
The cost of circulating a major exhibition can be exorbitant, sometimes prohibitively high. However, all citizens should have access to their cultural heritage. It would benefit all Canadians and our foreign visitors to know Canada better. It would be to the advantage of our heritage institutions to be able to provide better access to heritage collections.
Honourable senators, this bill is part of the solution to the problem of access. A significant cost associated with travelling exhibitions is the cost of insurance that can sometimes approach $1 million in premiums for a single exhibition. At a time when institutions must make every penny count, the cost of insurance is a factor that argues against travelling exhibitions. With this bill, we can eliminate the high cost of insurance by replacing it with an indemnification program that would fall under the responsibility of the federal government.
That is not a new idea. That is a concept that is already well established. As many as 14 industrialized nations have successfully operated indemnification programs for travelling exhibitions for many years. We have closely examined the administration and successful track records of indemnification programs in a number of countries, including the United States, Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia and France. In all cases, these programs provided access to greater numbers of exhibitions.
When one insures a travelling exhibition, it is as though one were to make all the preparations for a trip and then find oneself unable to pay for a tank of gas.
A program of indemnification will allow travelling exhibitions to hit the road. Instead of requiring advance payment in the form of an insurance premium in anticipation of a possible loss, an indemnification program involves expense only where loss or damage actually occurs.
To take the example of the United States, in 23 years of operation their indemnification program, with an annual indemnification value of $3 billion, has paid out a total of only U.S. $100,000 for two claims. In my book, those are pretty impressive odds. The United States is not an isolated case. All other countries with an indemnification program report similar results.
Risk for the indemnifier is at a minimum because there are stringent eligibility criteria. Security plans, environment control and how the artefacts are handled are all taken into consideration before an exhibition is indemnified.
Other conditions, such as a scale of deductibles and a minimum value, eliminate any possibility of minor claims.
The total amount of indemnification coverage provided by the government each year will be limited to $1.5 billion.
There are other benefits that are equally important in this equation. If indemnification enables more exhibitions to travel, we are looking at more jobs, more spending and more tax revenue. These economic benefits will apply to the institutions housing the exhibitions, to the local municipality, the region and all levels of government. An indemnification program will provide benefits for all Canadians.
This bill will help increase access to Canada's heritage and stimulate the economy.
Honourable senators, I trust you will agree that this is a very useful bill that should be passed to help the government serve the needs of all Canadians.
Hon. Jean-Claude Rivest: Honourable senators, this bill will provide museums with government assistance for insurance purposes. Is Senator Poy aware that, in 1995, legislation similar to this bill enacted by the Mulroney government in 1985 was repealed and that the government is now trying to reintroduce the proposal?
Senator Poy: Honourable senators, unfortunately, I was not here. Therefore, I am not aware of it and I have not been briefed on that. Nevertheless, I think it is a very useful bill and Canadians do need it.
On motion of Senator Rivest, debate adjourned.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Callbeck, seconded by the Honourable Senator Cook, for the third reading of Bill C-72, to amend the Income Tax Act, to implement measures that are consequential on changes to the Canada-U.S. Tax Convention (1980) and to amend the Income Tax Conventions Interpretation Act, the Old Age Security Act, the War Veterans Allowance Act and certain Acts related to the Income Tax Act.
Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-72 on third reading. This bill deals with targeted tax relief from the 1998 budget, along with Bill C-71, which contains targeted tax relief and targeted tax expenditures for the 1999 budget.
While tax relief is much needed, the Canadian tax system itself is nothing more than social policy in bad disguise.
With every effort to provide tax cuts or tax increases to a segment of our population, tax policy becomes more complex. We all know that, as every April we try to sort out what is taxable and what is not, what we receive and what we get back and what we must pay.
Every tax subsidy, including those contained here in Bill C-72, tends to breed demand for more tax subsidies. Worst of all, selected tax reductions have been poorly targeted and have to date been ineffective. Successive budgets have brought Canadians a system of special treatment and a system which is becoming more difficult politically to install than a simpler, loophole-free, low-tax system which is what we would like to see advocated.
Honourable senators, our current tax system is broken. It is complex and unfair. It inhibits savings, investment and job creation. It imposes a heavy burden on families and undermines the integrity of the democratic process for it seeks to extract wealth and personal property under law.
Rather than continuing to complicate the tax code, I suggest an end to the tuning and tinkering. I am seeking a complete repeal and replacement of the tax code with a flat or flatter tax solution. By repealing the tax code, we would be repealing the proliferation of deductions, credits and other special tax preferences to the tax law we have today.
No longer would Canadians need to spend hundreds of millions of hours complying with the tax code which, it seems, is estimated to take more time than it takes to build every car, truck and van produced in Canada. I suggest that the typical Canadian family now pays more in taxes than it spends on food, clothing, transportation and shelter combined.
For what, honourable senators - to reduce incomes through punitive taxes on savings, work and entrepreneurship. The tax code places multiple layers of tax on savings, thus reducing investments in equipment and technology that make Canadian workers more efficient and more competitive. High tax rates on the last dollar earned discourage work and savings and entrepreneurial activity, which leads to a smaller and smaller economy. This point becomes apparent when we hear: There is no use in me working overtime. I will pay it all to the government anyway, so why work more?
By favouring certain economic activities over others, the tax code distorts financial decisions and reduces economic efficiencies. Bureaucrats make decisions that people in the market economy should be making. For these reasons, a repeal of the current tax code in favour of a flat-tax solution is a good idea.
For Canada, a flat tax would replace the maze of exemptions, loopholes and targeted breaks with a simple tax system, one that could be put on an 8.5-by-11-inch sheet, printed both sides, one in French, one in English, thereby reducing the compliance costs by over 90 per cent. It would restore fairness to the tax law by treating everyone the same. It would eliminate lobbyists through the elimination of exemptions and loopholes. It would promote prosperity because the flat tax would treat all economic activity equally, thereby promoting greater efficiency and increased prosperity.
It would lower taxes. There could be a generous personal allowance through a uniform tax rate of 17 or 20 per cent with no tax expenditures or loopholes. It would be progressive. Because of the personal and dependent allowances, the more you earn, the more income tax you pay. It would be pro-family by eliminating the marriage penalty found in the current tax code and by increasing substantially the personal allowances for dependent children.
It would be pro-taxpayer, as a flat tax gives Canadians more freedom to make their own economic decisions and provides greater privacy because Canadians would be required to disclose less information to Revenue Canada.
It would promote honesty by eliminating itemized deductions, special breaks, dividends and capital gains taxation. It would promote giving to charitable organizations as increases in donations have closely tracked increases in personal tax income.
Honourable senators, flat taxes are not a new tax phenomenon since flat taxes are the single most common arrangement in tax codes of most countries. Over 80 per cent of corporate income tax codes are flat at an average rate of 30 per cent. About 50 per cent of capital gains tax codes are flat with an average rate of 28 per cent. Furthermore, the flat tax case is compelling based on its simplicity and, more important, its effect on investment. By reducing the tax on investment to zero, the flat tax would produce a large surge in investment in capital formation.
Honourable senators, as I have mentioned, a flat tax proposal to increase substantially the personal allowance to, say, $12,000 for a single, $15,000 for a single head of a household and $24,000 for married persons filing jointly and, say, $5,500 for each dependent not including the spouse. Low- to middle-income individuals and families would clearly benefit from such an arrangement.
Would the rich benefit? Not likely, since all other incomes would be taxed, leaving no loopholes, no deductions and exemptions accruing to the rich, thereby shifting the tax burden from poor and middle class wage-earners to those with higher incomes. A person with 10 times the income would not pay the least. His income tax would be 10 times as high.
I wish to restate that the current income tax system punishes the economy, imposes heavy compliance costs on taxpayers, rewards special interest groups and makes Canada less competitive.
Honourable senators, there never will be a tax that is good for the economy, but a flatter tax would move the system much closer to where it should be, raising the revenues government needs but in the least destructive and intrusive way possible.
On motion of Senator Kinsella, debate adjourned.
Hon. Sharon Carstairs (Deputy Leader of the Government) moved the second reading of Bill C-79, to amend the Criminal Code (victims of crime) and another Act in consequence.
She said: Honourable senators, it is my pleasure to speak in support of Bill C-79, to amend the Criminal Code, victims of crime, and another act in consequence.
As you know, honourable senators, many members of all parties, defenders of victims' rights and suppliers of services support this bill.
We are now in a position to support these important amendments. It is not surprising that many Canadians are disillusioned with our criminal justice system. The government realizes that it must do everything possible to restore the confidence of Canadians in that system.
Despite the declining rate of crime in Canada, we can all point to someone close to us who has been touched by crime in some way. Responding to the needs and concerns of victims of crime is an integral part of rebuilding the lost faith in our criminal justice system.
Victims of crime face many hurdles - those associated with dealing with the crime itself and those associated with dealing with an unknown, and often impersonal, criminal justice system. While it may be impossible in some cases to restore the damages or losses caused by the crime, no doubt the victim's experience with the system - that is, the police, the courts, the parole board - can be improved.
Before outlining the key features of Bill C-79, it is important for honourable senators to appreciate how these amendments to the Criminal Code came about. In 1996, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs, as it was then known, was mandated to conduct a review of the victim's role in the criminal justice system, including exploration of the notion of a Bill of Rights for victims. In 1998, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights launched a comprehensive review of the victim's role in the criminal justice system and heard from a wide range of interested groups and individuals in hearings, town hall meetings, and at a national forum which included victims, victim advocates, victim service providers, members of the bar, Crown attorneys, police, academics, and other provincial officials.
The standing committee tabled their 14th report in the House of Commons on October 28, 1998, entitled "Victims' Rights - A Voice, Not a Veto." The chair of this committee was the late Shaughnessy Cohen, and for many of us this is Shaughnessy Cohen's last bill.
The report includes 17 recommendations calling for Criminal Code amendments to facilitate the victim's participation in the criminal proceedings. The government's response to the standing committee's report was tabled and released to the public on December 15, 1998. The response supports all of the committee's recommendations in principle and sets out how the recommendations will be implemented. Bill C-79 addresses those recommendations which call for amendment to the Criminal Code.
Honourable senators, the Criminal Code of Canada currently includes several provisions designed to help victims and witnesses participate in the criminal justice system. For example, written victim impact statements can now be submitted at sentencing. A judge can impose an additional penalty known as a victim fine surcharge on a convicted offender, with the revenue dedicated to victim services. Young victims of certain offences can testify from behind a screen or by closed circuit television, and publication bans on the identity of sexual offence complainants are available. Bill C-79 builds on these provisions and enacts additional reforms. Let me take a moment to highlight the provisions.
The victim impact statement is the mechanism recognized by our law which gives victims of crime a role and a voice at sentencing of the criminal. The statement is a description of the harm done or loss suffered by the victim - in other words, the impact from their personal point of view. The victim impact statement must be considered by the sentencing judge along with the other relevant information.
Bill C-79 will enhance and expand the opportunities for victims of crime to make an oral as well as a written victim impact statement. Where the victim does not choose to present the statement orally, the judge will still be required to consider the written statement when determining an appropriate sentence. It is always to be the victim's choice whether to prepare a victim impact statement. Some victims may not wish to do so. However, Bill C-79 would require that a judge make inquiries, after a determination of guilt and before sentencing, as to whether a victim has been informed of the opportunity to prepare such a statement. This amendment is intended to provide one last check on the information that a victim should have received. The ability to prepare and submit a victim impact statement is of little benefit to a victim if the victim is not aware that he or she could make such a statement.
Victim impact statements will also be available to victims where the offender is found not criminally responsible for the offence committed. Currently, when an accused person is found not criminally responsible by way of a mental disorder, there is no opportunity for the victim to describe the impact of the offence. This is because an accused person suffering from a mental disorder is not sentenced because they are held not to be criminally responsible. The current victim impact provisions only apply at the time of sentencing. The reality, though, is that victims of offenders suffering from a mental disorder are, nonetheless, victims of crime, and should have a similar opportunity to describe the impact.
Another important provision is victim safety. Victims of crime and victim advocates have highlighted that when making important decisions about an accused person's release, decisions that may have serious consequences for a victim's or witness's safety or security, the victim's safety should be a key consideration. Bill C-79 amends the judicial interim release or bail provisions so that in determining whether to release an accused person, the judicial officer responsible, whether the police officer, justice or judge, must take into account the need to ensure the safety and security of the victim of the offence.
The amendments add a specific reference to the victim. This reference is very significant because, in the current provisions, the interests of society are considered but the specific interests of the victim are not mentioned. The prevailing tests for release have not been changed; rather, the considerations are expanded to include victim safety. The responsible judicial officer will, as a matter of course, consider the need to ensure the victim's safety.
In addition, where an accused is released, the conditions of release can include any condition necessary to ensure the safety and security of the victim. These tailor-made conditions can address the particular circumstances of the case and of the victim. In addition, the more common non-communication orders will clarify that both direct and indirect communication by the offender to a victim or witness is prohibited.
Honourable senators, although our law has required judges to impose a victim surcharge on all offenders since 1989, the amendments included in Bill C-79 will significantly improve the effectiveness of the surcharge. A victim surcharge is an additional monetary penalty on offenders, additional to the sentence imposed upon them. The surcharge is similar to a fine, except that the money raised by the surcharge is deposited into a dedicated fund in each province or territory and is used to provide services and programs to victims of crime.
Equally as important, the obligation on an offender to pay the victim surcharge highlights that real people suffer from crime and need assistance to deal with their victimization, and that offenders should be held responsible in some small way.
Under the new regime, all offenders will be liable to pay a victim surcharge of a mandatory minimum amount. The code provision will make it clear that the offender "shall pay" the surcharge. There is no requirement for the judge to make an order requiring the offender to pay the standard amount. The standard surcharge will be 15 per cent of the fine, where a fine is imposed as the sentence, and where another sentence is imposed - that is, not a fine - the surcharge will be $50 for summary conviction offences and $100 for indictable offences.
A judge will be able to waive the offender's obligation to pay the surcharge only where the offender raises and establishes that undue hardship will result. In addition, a judge has the discretion to order an increased amount for the surcharge in appropriate cases, and where it is clear the offender has the ability to pay. The new provision will be referred to as the "victim surcharge" rather than the "victim fine surcharge" to clarify that this additional penalty applies to all offenders, whether their sentence is a fine or not.
Several other amendments are included in Bill C-79 and are designed to ease the burden on a victim while testifying. These amendments will, for example, extend to victims of sexual or violent crime up to 18 years of age protections which restrict personal cross-examination by a self-represented accused person by providing for the appointment of counsel to conduct the cross-examination. They will permit a victim or witness with a mental or physical disability to have a support person present while giving testimony. They will permit a judge to restrict publication of the identity of a wider range of victims or witnesses where the victim has established a need for such an order, and where the judge considers it necessary for the proper administration of justice. This provision will codify the prevailing common law and procedure as established by the Supreme Court of Canada.
Other significant amendments will address the concerns of surviving victims of homicide by providing more information about life sentences. The amendments will, for example, require a judge to state, for the record and for the benefit of surviving victims, that an offender convicted of murder who has received a life sentence may apply for a reduction in the number of years before he or she is eligible to apply to a court for parole after serving at least 15 years of that sentence.
As well, the amendments will clarify that at proceedings to determine whether an offender should have his or her parole eligibility reduced - and that refers to those section 745.6 hearings - the information provided by the victim may be oral or written at the option of the victim. At present, the Criminal Code provides that any information provided by the victim will be considered. However, in practice, some victims have been discouraged from making an oral statement.
I am particularly pleased with this amendment, as honourable senators will remember that the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in its December 5, 1996 report on Bill C-45, to amend the Criminal Code, parole eligibility, recommended that the Minister of Justice "use whatever measures at his or her disposal to inform the public about section 745.6, including the discussions with provincial Attorneys General, so together they may find the means by which victims' families could have full knowledge of this section." I am happy to see the minister responding in such a positive and proactive way to a report from this chamber.
As I said earlier, I am sure that all of us have been touched by crime in some way. Everyone knows someone who has been, or has themselves been, a victim of crime. No two victimizations are the same - one can hardly compare the inconvenience of a stolen car to the trauma and grief of a violent personal attack. Yet, all victims of crime have basic needs and expectations from the criminal justice system. They have a need for information. They have a need for safety. They have a need for their voice to be listened to and respected. The amendments in Bill C-79 will result in a comprehensive range of provisions in our Criminal Code to address these basic needs.
Honourable senators, I urge you all to give strong support to these amendments so that the bill may be quickly passed and receive Royal Assent. Victims must be able to benefit from these amendments as quickly as possible.
On motion of Senator Kinsella, for Senator LeBreton, debate adjourned.
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the twelfth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications (Bill C-55, respecting advertising services supplied by foreign periodical publishers, with amendments) presented in the Senate on May 31, 1999.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have not received the ruling as yet. However, it is at the translation stage. We worked on it last night, and again this morning. Therefore, as such, I am unable to give my ruling now.
There is, however, a bit of business that we might complete. The motion was not moved yesterday. The point of order was taken first on the Orders of the Day. If you wish, I am in your hands in that regard.
Hon. Sharon Carstairs (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I move that the report be adopted and that we then await the Speaker's ruling.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, it is moved by the Honourable Senator Carstairs, seconded by the Honourable Senator Callbeck, that the report be adopted.
Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Senator Carstairs: Subject to the Speaker's ruling.
The Hon. the Speaker: This order will stand, awaiting the Speaker's ruling. Is it agreed?
Hon. Noël A. Kinsella (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, when the order was originally called, a point of order was raised. We are awaiting the ruling on that point of order, and I feel that this procedure is out of order. In my view, we must wait until the Speaker's ruling has been given. If it is in order, we can then have the motion.
Senator Carstairs: With the greatest of respect, there could not have been a point of order yesterday unless the report had been moved. Senator Lynch-Staunton raised a point of order on an item that was not before the Senate. We have now placed it before the Senate, and we are awaiting the Speaker's ruling.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is that agreed?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Debate suspended to await Speaker's ruling.
Hon. Sharon Carstairs (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I believe that there is agreement to stand the remaining items on the Order Paper.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is that agreed, honourable senators, that all other items stand as they are now on the Order Paper and that we proceed directly to the adjournment?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Senate adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m.