The Senate met at 1:30 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
Hon. Elizabeth (Beth) Marshall: Honourable senators, I rise today to help launch the 2012 Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada Project Red Ribbon campaign and to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of this important awareness campaign.
I notice that many of my colleagues join me today in wearing a red ribbon to stop impaired driving and support victims of crime. This morning, the Leader of the Government in the Senate took part in the national campaign launch of Project Red Ribbon on Parliament Hill with Marie Claude Morin, the MADD Canada Quebec regional manager; Commissioner Bob Paulson of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; Chief Superintendent Gary Couture, regional commander, Ontario Provincial Police; Denise Dubyk, MADD Canada's national president; John O'Donnell, the president and chief executive officer of the Allstate Insurance Company of Canada; Gaétan Gendron of the MADD Ottawa Chapter; and many other MADD Canada volunteers.
Every holiday season from November to the first Monday after New Year's Day, MADD Canada members, volunteers and supporters are out in force handing out red ribbons to raise awareness about the dangers of impaired driving. The ribbons are tied to vehicles, key chains, purses, briefcases and backpacks as a reminder that it is never okay to drive impaired by alcohol or other drugs.
The red ribbon is a symbol of the wearer's commitment to sober driving, and it also serves as a meaningful tribute to all the victims who have been killed or injured in impaired driving crashes. The Project Red Ribbon campaign was launched 25 years ago by MADD Canada. Since 1987, the red ribbon campaign has continued to grow, and each year millions of ribbons are distributed across the country by over 100 MADD Canada chapters and 7,500 volunteers.
As we mark the twenty-fifth anniversary, we can note that progress has been made. There have been significant reductions in impaired driving due to impaired driving legislation, increased police enforcement, as well as education and awareness efforts.
Unfortunately, the rates of impaired driving remain high. Every year between 1,250 and 1,500 Canadians are killed and more than 63,000 are injured in impaired driving crashes. Impaired driving is not an accident. Someone makes a decision to get behind the wheel, and everyone in Canada has the power to stop the senseless and needless crime.
As we get closer to the holiday season, I remind all Canadians to plan ahead for their holiday events and encourage their families and friends to do the same. Take a cab, sleep over, take public transit or arrange for a designated driver. Remember, if you see an impaired driver, call 911 and report that driver because that call may just save a life.
Today I wear my red ribbon proudly, and I hope you all do, too, because together we can keep our roads safe from impaired drivers. I would again like to congratulate MADD Canada on this incredible milestone and thank their members and volunteers for all the hard work they do in our communities.
Hon. Wilfred P. Moore: Honourable senators, I rise today to draw the attention of this chamber to the growing problem of food insecurity in Canada. Two days ago, Food Banks Canada released its report entitled HungerCount 2012, which updates the statistics in food bank usage across the country. The numbers continue to be disturbing.
More than 882,000 Canadians used a food bank during the month of March, a record level of food bank usage. The report states that food bank usage is up 31 per cent since the recession began in 2008. Food Banks Canada says the report numbers are a warning to us as parliamentarians and to Canadians that the economy and other circumstances such as health can change on a dime, making communities and families that seem to be on solid footing suddenly find themselves on crumbling ground economically. That is to say, it could happen to any one of us.
Most disturbing, children and youth still make up 38 per cent of those using food banks, with First Nations, single-parent families and those on social assistance also highly dependent.
Food Banks Canada makes five sensible policy recommendations to provide sustainable independence for those who find themselves chronically using food banks: We need more affordable housing; we need to increase the Guaranteed Income Supplement so no senior lives in poverty; we need to help northern communities deal with the unacceptable level of food insecurity in the territories; we have to change social assistance so it helps people get back on their feet rather than driving them deeper into poverty; and we need to make sure that Canadian jobs are well paying because too many Canadians who have jobs and incomes, are not earning enough to stay out of poverty.
Honourable senators, we are talking about food security in Canada. We are talking about taking care of our own. We are talking about making sure that Canadian children have the full stomachs they need to live and to learn. We need to start talking about creating a better Canada. We need to make sure that Canadians have access to affordable, nutritious food.
One Hundred and Twenty-seventh Assembly, Quebec City
Hon. Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis: Honourable senators, I am pleased to bring to the attention of the Senate the 127th Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly, which took place in Quebec City and was attended by 950 parliamentarians from almost 135 countries.
I had the unique opportunity to meet with parliamentarians from all over the world and to discuss issues related to citizenship, identity and cultural diversity. These issues define the Canada of today. In fact, our country is characterized by great ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity. As the host country for many immigrants, Canada has always demonstrated openness, creativity and innovation in its efforts to encourage different communities to fully participate in Canadian society while facilitating their integration.
By way of illustration, here are a few statistics. According to the most recent census data, almost one-fifth of the Canadian population was born abroad. Of that number, seven in ten identify a language other than English or French as their mother tongue. In 2010, Canada granted Canadian citizenship to just over 143,000 people.
These thousands of new immigrants must develop and share common values with almost 34 million Canadians. This diversity also results in challenges such as discrimination on the basis of religion, language and education. This great diversity has forced our country to implement a number of measures to ensure the social cohesion of the population, including the introduction of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982. More recently, the government has developed various initiatives to strengthen these common values and to improve civic literacy.
The citizenship action plan, the Discover Canada: the Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship guide and the multiculturalism program are just a few recent examples.
Today I wish to use the opportunity presented by this gathering, which took place right here in Canada, to reiterate the importance we place on the values of tolerance and respect for diversity. These values make Canada an inclusive country, one that is open to the rest of the world. It is a country where the possibilities are endless and everyone has a place.
I firmly believe that the Canadian model has been a success. And considering the growing interconnection between contemporary societies, the situation is constantly changing and we will continue to improve our practices.
I wish to join Senator Dawson in congratulating and thanking everyone who contributed directly or indirectly to making this major IPU assembly such a resounding success.
Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, today is the first day of National Down Syndrome Awareness Week, a public awareness campaign organized by the Canadian Down Syndrome Society. Under the slogan "See the Ability," the campaign shines a light on the strengths and abilities of people with Down syndrome and aims to support community and national programs that ensure that they are treated as equal members of Canadian society.
As most senators know, a wonderful man named Michael works for me one day a week. He has Down syndrome and is a graduate of the Friends of the Senate Program. You have probably seen him here many days. It is a pleasure to have Michael on our team. He is enthusiastic about his work, and he brings warmth and humour to our office atmosphere. We value him and the contribution that he makes to our work experience and our lives.
On a personal note, we had a Down syndrome child who did not quite make it to the age of one. He would be 44 years of age. Timothy James Alexander Munson was and still is an inspiration in our lives and the reason that I work in the fields of the Special Olympics and autism. It is hard to believe that 44 years have gone by.
Down syndrome is a natural occurrence. It has always existed and is universal across racial, gender and socio-economic lines. One in 800 Canadian children is born with Down syndrome and no one knows why — but they are special. Thankfully, how our society treats and regards people with Down syndrome has improved dramatically over the years. This is, in large part, thanks to organizations and individuals driven by the belief that all people deserve opportunities and respect. They value diversity. Look at some of the information resources developed by the Down Syndrome Society, factual, helpful publications with a tone and photographs presenting people with Down syndrome in simple, natural situations with their parents, studying, working, getting married. There is one in particular titled Celebrate Being, which I believe says all that needs to be said.
Honourable senators, I hope that you will join me in commemorating National Down Syndrome Awareness Week. Your thoughts, your reflection and your support will certainly be well placed.
Hon. Donald Neil Plett: Honourable senators, 94 years ago, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month at the eleventh hour, silence descended on the battlefield. The armistice treaty between Germany and the Allies silenced the guns of the First World War.
As Veterans' Week quickly approaches, I ask all honourable senators not just how we will remember but also who we will remember. Many of us spend November 11, Remembrance Day, in our hometowns, making it difficult for us to have the opportunity to pay our respects here in Ottawa to our men and women in uniform who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
Next Tuesday, on November 6, there will be a ceremony at the National War Memorial, where there will be a formal wreath laying by representatives of the Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs and the House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. I would like to extend an invitation to all honourable senators to join with our colleagues in the other place to pay tribute to our brave men and women in uniform.
The ceremony will begin promptly at 10 a.m. If honourable senators are able to attend, please arrive no later than 9:45. I hope to see everyone there — "Lest we Forget."
Hon. Fernand Robichaud: Honourable senators, Remembrance Day — when we commemorate the ultimate sacrifice made by thousands of Canadians — is only ten days away. We will wear our poppies in memory of those who gave their lives, often in horrible conditions, on battlefields and in service to their country.
Remembrance Day is certainly not a time to glorify militarism or war. We will also remember those who have returned from combat zones — sometimes healthy, sometimes injured or disabled, but always carrying the emotional scars that will mark them for the rest of their lives.
Once again this year, I will attend Remembrance Day ceremonies in my home region, namely in St-Louis-de-Kent and Richibuctou. I will be thinking especially of my fellow Acadians who enlisted in the North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment and other regiments.
Acadians were told the advantages of enrolling: three meals a day, clothing and a basic salary, which was a lot at a time when jobs were rare and poorly paid.
During the First World War, a battalion entirely made up of and led by Acadians was created. It was the 165th (French Acadian) Battalion, which had 700 soldiers and officers under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Louis Cyriaque Daigle, whose family was from Saint-Louis-de-Kent. I have here a book about the 165th Acadian Overseas Battalion, which was given to me by Jean-Paul LeBlanc of Richibucto-Village. This book has a brief history and a collection of photographs of Acadian soldiers from the three Maritime provinces. I know that there are copies at Library and Archives Canada and at the Quebec archives. On November 11, I will be thinking of the courage and generosity of these brave soldiers.
Behind their decorations are stories of bravery, kindness and sacrifice. At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, we will observe a minute of silence to remember all of the young men and women who were killed in combat. They deserve that respect; they gave their lives.
We must also remember their loved ones. There are parents who lost sons and daughters, men and women who lost a spouse, children who lost a father or mother. We share in the pain of all those affected and thank them and our fallen soldiers for their generosity.
Hon. Tobias C. Enverga, Jr.: Honourable senators, it gives me great pleasure today to speak for the first time as a Filipino Canadian.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Enverga: I rise today because recent reports indicate that the fastest growing second language in Canada is Tagalog, the native language of the Philippines. Some of my new senator friends call it the "tag-a-long" language. I guess that they can tag along to one of our parties.
I am not surprised that Tagalog is the fastest growing language because of the number of Filipinos who have arrived in Canada. In fact, the Philippines is the number one source of immigrants to Canada.
Filipino Canadians are known for their hard work, dedication, warm hearts and, most of all, for being the best at karaoke.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Enverga: To all of Canada, Filipino-Canadians would like to say mabuhay, salamat, or thank you, for adopting us with open arms and open hearts.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of His Excellency Hansjörg Walter, President of the National Council of Switzerland, who is accompanied by Mrs. Walter and the distinguished ambassador of Switzerland, Ulrich Lehner.
On behalf of all senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that the following communication had been received:
October 31st, 2012
I have the honour to inform you that the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 31st day of October, 2012, at 6:01 p.m.
Secretary to the Governor General
The Speaker of the Senate
Bills Assented to Wednesday, October 31, 2012:
An Act respecting World Autism Awareness Day (Bill S-206, Chapter 21, 2012)
An Act to amend the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act (Bill C-46, Chapter 22, 2012)
Final Report of Inquiry Tabled
Hon. Claude Carignan (Deputy Leader of the Government): I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the final report of the Commission of Inquiry on the decline of sockeye salmon in the Fraser River.
Fourteenth Report of Committee Tabled
Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table the fourteenth report of the Standing Committee of Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration, which deals with the financial statements of the Senate for the year ended March 31, 2012.
Ninth Report of Aboriginal Peoples Committee Tabled
Hon. Gerry St. Germain: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the ninth report, interim, of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, entitled: Additions to Reserve: Expediting the Process.
(On motion of Senator St. Germain, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.)
Fourteenth Report of Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee Tabled
Hon. Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table the fourteenth interim report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology entitled: Canada's Clinical Trial Infrastructure: A Prescription for Improved Access to New Medicines.
(On motion of Senator Ogilvie, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of Mr. Lloyd Allan Swick, who is a guest of the Honourable Senator Martin.
On behalf of all senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Also present in the gallery, honourable senators, are members of the Filipino-Canadian community of the Greater Toronto Area, who are guests of the Honourable Senator Enverga.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Gerry St. Germain introduced Bill S-212, An Act providing for the recognition of self-governing First Nations of Canada.
(Bill read first time.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the second time?
(On motion of Senator St. Germain, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading two days hence.)
Notice of Inquiry
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 5-6(2), I give notice that, two days hence:
I shall call the attention of the Senate to:
(a) the new monument recognizing the aircrews of World War II Bomber Command, called the Royal Air Force Bomber Command Memorial, and to the ceremony for the dedication and unveiling of this monument at Green Park, London, on June 28th, 2012, by Her Majesty the Queen, Elizabeth II, and to the attendance at this ceremony of Marshal of the Royal Air Force His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh; and
(b) the attendance at this ceremony of several members of the Royal Family being Their Royal Highnesses, Marshal of the Royal Air Force the Prince of Wales, and Air Marshal Prince Michael of Kent, and Air Chief Marshal the Duke of Kent, and Air Marshal the Duke of Gloucester, and Air Commodore the Earl of Wessex, and Air Commodore the Duke of York, and also Their Royal Highnesses, the Duchess of Gloucester and the Countess of Wessex, revealing the closeness of the Royal Family to Britain's Royal Air Force and their dedication to the memory of all of those who fell in the Royal Air Force in the Second World War; and
(c) Remembrance Day on November 11, 2012, the day for our Canadian veterans and those who served, when we remember, reflect on, and uphold all those who answered the call of duty, and those who fell in active combat, in their assigned theatres of war particularly in the Second World War, in defence of God, King, and Country, the British Commonwealth and the Allied countries; and
(d) Canadian aircrew in World War II, particularly those who served with Royal Air Force Bomber Command, and who are now celebrated in this new memorial unveiled by Her Majesty on June 28th, 2012, being both those with 6 Group Royal Canadian Air Force, and those with the other Bomber Command Squadrons, including some Canadian senators, who faced many Nazi night fighters and Nazi anti-aircraft guns nightly; and
(e) a Canadian from Alberta, a retired airline pilot, Karl Kjarsgaard, who is devoted to the memory of the efforts and sacrifices of the aircrews of Bomber Command, and to his special contribution to the construction of the ceiling of the Memorial, being the aluminum used to build it; and
(f) our own Canadian Bomber Command memorial located at the Bomber Command Museum of Canada in Nanton, Alberta, being a wall of remembrance wherein are inscribed the names of the 10,659 fallen Canadian aircrew as a monument to those who fell in Bomber Command, which for many years was the only Allied offensive against Fortress Europe; and
(g) honour, to celebrate, to uphold and to thank all the remarkable Canadian veterans for their incalculable contributions to humanity during the Second World War and to whom we owe an enormous debt.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Public Service—Priority Hiring of Veterans
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and is a follow-up to my question of yesterday about the priority hiring of veterans by Canada's public service.
We know that the public service must comply with the charter of human rights by hiring people with disabilities.
The Canadian Forces deployed perfectly healthy individuals, and some of them returned with injuries. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, we must give these people priority when staffing public service jobs.
I am raising this issue because I deduced once again from the reply I was given yesterday that the government is considering options. A member of the Public Service Commission of Canada even indicated that options would be examined, in these difficult times, for public servants who are released and the priority given to injured veterans.
Could the Leader of the Government in the Senate tell us if there is a report on these options? Is she in a position to provide us with an overview of the instructions that the government intends to give to its officials with regard to the options to be considered, for the purpose of protecting, helping and supporting our veterans who were sent to the front, risked their lives and returned injured?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, as I reported in my answer previously, I believe, the Public Service Employment Act specifies how the Public Service Commission has the ability to designate groups for priority access, but I absolutely will take the honourable senator's question as notice and get a more detailed written response for him.
Mental Health Services
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: That is most appreciated. In light of that, there is an observation of a trend because of the transformation and the review of budgets that have been going on and how each department has had to meet that requirement. We recognize that the country must tighten its belt. However, we are seeing a tendency now of taking something from one pot and putting it into another pot, which might sort of camouflage the real impact of budget cuts.
I provide the following example and seek the honourable senator's response and probably one from her Minister of National Defence as well.
A number of quality-of-life programs were brought online in the 1990s and nurtured throughout the last decade by both governments, and now all of a sudden we are starting to see them take significant hits, which is having a significant effect on the quality of life of families and members in the forces in their current garrison routine. As members are coming back from war zones and licking their wounds back home, they are finding that, all of a sudden, benefits, opportunities and support are being cut. At the same time, we are seeing some of that money move into mental health.
There is the quality of life of troops being cut in order to fund mental health? Is that an ethical position that maybe the ministers can take and defend in front of the troops?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I absolutely disagree with the honourable senator's analysis that we are taking money from one pot and putting it into another.
With the overall budget review process that all departments took part in, they were asked to bring efficiencies to their departments. In the case of the Department of National Defence, the major part of savings in that department will be attributed to efficiency gains already announced in Budget 2012, such as streamlining contracting and internal processes, maintaining regular and reserve strength at current levels, and having a more normal operational tempo going forward because, of course, our deployment to Afghanistan has changed significantly and they will be coming home in 2014.
The honourable senator knows full well that the government has put significant funds into the Department of National Defence. He will have noticed that the Prime Minister the other day, when the new Chief of the Defence Staff was sworn in, suggested that our front-line troops and all of the programs that support them are paramount for this government. We continue to support them with a suggestion that some of the savings can actually be on the bureaucratic side of the Department of National Defence.
Senator Dallaire: Yes, I was present when our Prime Minister spoke about cutting the tail to reinforce the teeth. If one cuts their tail, they might end up with serious problems with their teeth and in the digestive system of a human being, let alone looking at a system like National Defence.
I provide the following example. The Chief of Military Personnel is responsible for quality of life as well as for health. They are under the same shop. He was given a mandate to cut, even though we said no matter where they cut. As the troops arrive home after nearly 20 years of operations, the last place they would want to start cutting is where the troops will be requiring more support in their ability to reintegrate back into garrison to, as we often say, lick their wounds.
The same branch that has mental health, for example, as part of the medical and quality of life, has been chopping away at quality of life and has been putting money into mental health. Surely it would seem to anyone that the government is putting the troops' families' quality of life and their ability to continue to thrive within the forces at the expense of mental health, bringing back the stigma associated with mental health by calling for all these funds, and then putting those who need that support under the gun, being accused of using up resources that the rest need.
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, as I have pointed out, the Department of National Defence, like all departments of government, is doing its part to ensure a more efficient use of public funds and to generate savings.
The honourable senator specifically mentioned health and mental health, so I believe that I should again put on the record exactly what is being done in this area. We are focusing on increasing our core front-line services to those who serve in the Canadian Forces. Since 2006, the health budget generally for the Canadian Forces has grown by more than $100 million. We are now providing approximately $440 million for health care for our Canadian Forces each year.
This government, as people expect us to do, is obviously striving for better outcomes when it comes to the health and well-being of our forces, our veterans and their families. Of course, as Senator Dallaire also knows, the Minister of National Defence recently announced that we have allocated a further $11.4 million to the mental health care budget, bringing the annual total of that budget to $50 million. This will enable us to attract more mental health professionals to provide the care for our men and women who have served so honourably.
Today we have almost doubled the number of full-time mental health professionals, and we are committed to hiring more. The Canadian Forces mental health program has been recognized as the best ratio among our NATO allies and by civilian organizations for its robust approach to care, stigma-reduction initiatives, mental health research, training and awareness programs.
Honourable senators, I think our record speaks for itself.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Dallaire: Why is the government putting it at risk? Why is the government putting it at risk of getting a black eye by pulling out for those who also served and are in need of the quality-of-life requirements for stabilizing their families and their return to garrison? Why is the government's putting the increased assets into mental health being projected as is at the expense of quality of life for those who may not be injured but who need those elements in order to sustain the operation?
This is what is coming out.
Should the Minister of National Defence make it clear that the Chief of Military Personnel took cuts and that they are cutting quality of life because they have to find money to put into mental health? Should the minister come clean with that? That would undermine the extraordinary work that has been done in making our position on mental health so exemplary around the world.
When the leader mentioned numbers, it is interesting to say we doubled this, tripled that and threw $50 million here, but we never hear about the true requirement. If one is giving $50 million but the true requirement is $100 million, we are getting there but have not achieved it. We do not get to the delta on these statements.
To come back to my question, could the leader ask the minister to clean up that exercise and ensure that the mental health program does not bring about stigma again because it is being funded potentially at the expense of quality of life for the rest of the forces?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, what Senator Dallaire has said is flat out false. I put on the record the amount of money the government has allocated to the general health budget of the Canadian Forces, which, as I pointed out, has grown more than $100 million since we took office in 2006. We are now providing $440 million for health care for our Canadian Forces every year. On the mental health front, we have allocated a further $11.4 million to bring its annual budget to $50 million.
When the honourable senator says we are putting these programs at risk, I absolutely do not agree with that statement. One does not put at risk programs that one has contributed significantly more money to in order to strengthen them.
Senator Dallaire: Honourable senators, I will continue my question in my mother tongue because English does not meet my needs.
It is all well and good for the honourable senator to say that the government is investing a lot of money in mental health to continue to improve this program. I completely agree with that decision. However, if at the same time, the government is making almost as many budget cuts that affect the quality of life of other soldiers or cuts to something that all soldiers need, then there is a flaw in the honourable senator's argument.
The government would be jeopardizing the perception that soldiers have of the Armed Forces. They will see that the government is investing in mental health at the expense of other members of the Canadian Armed Forces because of budget cuts.
Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate ask the minister to strengthen his argument on mental health and prove that he is not taking money from areas that will affect the quality of life of other soldiers in order to invest it in mental health?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, there is absolutely no evidence that National Defence, which is doing its part like all government departments to more efficiently use government funds, is in any way putting our soldiers at risk, most particularly the health of our soldiers and those requiring mental health treatment.
Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, my question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
On February 15, I asked the minister why the government continued to finance the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board as it was not fulfilling its mandate. This board was set up in 2010, and it had a mandate to oversee the financing of the EI system. It was supposed to set premiums, to invest the surplus and to manage the $2-billion contingency fund. It did not do any of that, yet it managed to spend over $2.2 million.
Clearly, now the government agrees that the board was not fulfilling its mandate because this board has been eliminated by the latest giant budget bill.
When I asked this question on February 15, the leader took it as notice. I have not received a reply. When may I expect a reply to my question as to what this board has been doing?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I am surprised, honourable senators. I actually did think that I did not have any outstanding responses to give to Senator Callbeck.
Within the department they are combining several tribunals and boards of appeals into one organizational structure, which will mean more efficient, single-window access for Canadians. I will check, honourable senators, to see how I could possibly have missed responding to one of the honourable senator's many questions.
Senator Callbeck: Certainly, I will be happy to get a reply to the question I asked on February 15. I think it is very clear that over $2.2 million has been spent and this board has not fulfilled any of its mandate.
It has spent all this money, but, at the same time, the government is penalizing people who work in seasonal industries, and I have many of those people in my own province. The government is clawing back wages of those who can find only a limited amount of work.
As well, the government is cutting processing staff for EI across the country; in fact, in my own province, the only processing centre we have will close.
Why would the government waste millions of dollars on this EI Financing Board, which was not fulfilling its mandate, while at the same time it is cutting assistance to the people who need it the most?
Senator LeBreton: First, we are not cutting assistance. We have always said that EI would be available for people who need it. Even with "working while on claim," the government did go back and take into consideration some of the concerns of that program and offered an alternative so that people could stay in the same programs.
Senator Callbeck is correct that it was determined that there was not a need for this board. The tribunals in the department have been combined with others to provide more efficient use of taxpayers' dollars. It is true that there is still some work to do as they modernize. The government is working very hard to modernize the services.
With regard to EI, no one who loses their job and cannot find work will be denied EI.
2011-12 Public Accounts—Spending Reductions
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators, my question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate as well. On Tuesday of this week, the Public Accounts of Canada for fiscal 2011-12 were tabled by the President of the Treasury Board, the Honourable Tony Clement. His most recent figures for fiscal year 2011-12 reveal that total government spending was $8 billion less than the amount that was approved by Parliament in Budget 2011, which budget was the basis for the election in May of 2011 wherein the public voted for the budget.
Honourable senators, these cuts were labelled as reductions in government expenses. However, we have very few details regarding which programs were cut and how those cuts would impact on Canadians. We know, for example, that Employment Insurance did not disperse as much money as we had anticipated. We know as well that less was spent on infrastructure programs as the economic action plan was scaled back. Of the $8 billion reduction in spending, $5 billion is explained to Canadians simply as being lower than expected spending in departments.
The department's website suggests that the President of the Treasury Board, Minister Clement, is responsible for "accountability and ethics, financial, personnel and administrative management." That job description suggests that the minister should know exactly what programs were cut. It also suggests that he should be accountable to and have the ethical duty to share that information with Parliament.
Is the minister not able to live up to his responsibility, or is he intentionally hiding that information from Canadians?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, only a Liberal would be upset that we saved $8 billion.
Senator Day: I am not upset.
Senator LeBreton: The fact is that some of the reductions were the result of infrastructure. I do not have the complete list, so I will take the question as notice.
Senator Day: Honourable senators, my concern is that the budget formed the basis of the election campaign in May 2011, and the public deserves to know why that budget has not been followed.
Information obtained from Treasury Board indicates that as much as $16 million has been approved by cabinet to promote the government's so-called economic action plan in the first quarter of this fiscal year. Not only do these marketing expenses come at a questionable moment given the fiscal restraints that the government has been preaching, but they serve to advertise a program that has been phased out for quite some time.
The public accounts shed light on reductions to infrastructure spending that were quite detrimental to the economic action plan. Infrastructure Canada spent $4.5 billion despite Parliament having approved a budget of $6.3 billion. The $1.8 billion that was not spent on addressing Canada's infrastructure deficit is $1.8 billion that was not spent to create important jobs for the people of Canada.
Does the Leader of the Government not find it odd that rather than cutting down on advertising her government is spending public funds on propaganda that praises programs of the past that have not been fully implemented?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I hasten to add that the budget caused the election, which was forced upon us by Senator Day's party when it was the official opposition in the House of Commons. Thank you very much for that.
The fact is that the economic action plan is comprised of more than only the stimulus. The economic action plan continues. We are in the next phase of it and the advertising is to draw to the attention of Canadians the various programs that they can access through the plan, and the economy and jobs are a big part of that.
With regard to advertising, it is the responsibility of government to communicate important programs and initiatives to Canadians such as time-limited stimulus measures and tax credits. To put the proper numbers on the record, advertising expenses for 2010-11 were well below the $111 million spent by the former Liberal government during its last full year in power.
Senator Day: Will the minister undertake to provide us with information on what was included in the "lower-than-expected spending by departments," which is the only wording that we see in the Public Accounts of Canada for 2012?
Senator LeBreton: I will take that question as notice.
Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, we are all wearing the red ribbon which is very close to the heart of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. We appreciate the work that she has done in that field, and I understand the personal nature of it.
My question has to do with Canada's elderly and unemployed citizens who are getting very few answers when they call Service Canada about Employment Insurance, the Canada Pension Plan or Old Age Security, and it seems that they are waiting longer. According to the government and documents that have been published, these calls should be answered within three minutes, but it seems that it is taking much longer, if they get an answer at all.
Honourable senators, what purpose does this reasonable three-minute benchmark serve when it seems as though it is being completely ignored? What will the government do to ensure that Canadians who have questions about their benefits will be answered in a timely fashion?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I wish to thank Senator Munson for acknowledging the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Mothers Against Drunk Driving Red Ribbon Campaign.
I wish to congratulate Senator Munson on the passage of his private member's bill. As a Parliament in general, we have been very successful in the last few years with private member's bills. The number of private member's bills that have passed through this and the previous Parliament is unprecedented.
In response to Senator Munson's question, I agree with him totally that there are still some difficulties for people attempting to access Service Canada sites. The government is working hard to improve the service. Like many of these new services, there are wrinkles to be ironed out. I will certainly get an update for the honourable senator on the plans HRSDC has to improve service at Service Canada.
Senator Munson: Honourable senators, the same holds true for EI. I understand that it takes as long as 47 days to receive a first EI cheque. The leader explained what is causing the delays.
I am probably one of the most accidental politicians one will ever meet, but I am trying to figure out the political interference that seems to exist, although I do not know if it really does. However, this year a Service Canada call centre was moved from Ottawa-Vanier, a riding held by Liberal MP Mauril Bélanger, to Cornwall, represented by Conservative Guy Lauzon. An EI processing centre was also moved from Rimouski to Thetford Mines. Rimouski was formerly represented by the Bloc and is now New Democrat. Mr. Christian Paradis, the Industry Minister, is there in Thetford Mines.
I do not know; maybe there is a trend. I truly do not know if it is just that these things are happening for legitimate reasons. The result is that experienced workers are being forced to move, but they cannot or will not, which leaves Service Canada centres understaffed.
Why were these facilities moved? What will be done to improve client services at Service Canada?
Senator LeBreton: I thank the honourable senator for the question. Obviously, with respect to Service Canada and any decision to find new locales, this is not unusual. It happens in government all the time. I do not think it is fair to impugn political motives.
With further regard to Service Canada, as our economy recovers, we have seen an improvement in the number of EI claims — I think that was acknowledged earlier — as more Canadians are getting back to work. The volume of work, because of various economic conditions, fluctuates from time to time and, of course, that often adds to the demand on Service Canada. At other times, there is not as much of a demand. Obviously, this past spring, there was an increased demand. Service Canada increased its resources and brought in some part-time people. However, as I mentioned earlier, honourable senators, Service Canada continues to work to improve and update its operations so that Canadians are served effectively and efficiently and that the best use of our tax dollars is employed in this activity.
No situation is perfect. Service Canada tries to adjust to the demands as they ebb and flow, but it is working continually to improve the Service Canada operations.
Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Continued
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Harb, seconded by the Honourable Senator Poy, for the second reading of Bill S-210, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act (commercial seal fishing).
Hon. Ghislain Maltais: Honourable senators, I am pleased to take part in today's debate. If I may, in order to better support my argument, I would like to submit a document to all honourable senators.
Honourable senators, we have heard a great deal of debate over the past few weeks and months on seal hunting in Canada. I myself am from the north shore of Quebec and I represent some of the Quebecers who, along with those from the Magdalen Islands, will be affected by this bill.
Bill S-210, first and foremost, takes away certain rights. Living in Canada does not mean having a collective agreement, but it does mean having rights and responsibilities. It is therefore not necessary to draft a bill in order to take rights away from a certain category of individuals, especially when their only fault is trying to earn an honest living.
Honourable senators, hunting seals is not a new phenomenon. Canada's First Nations hunt seals. When the first Europeans arrived in Canada, First Nations people taught them how to turn the products of this hunt — the fat, flesh and fur — into essential objects. Thus, it is not a new phenomenon.
Will this bill, which seeks to limit hunting rights, help increase seal populations? What do these seals eat?
Other senators, including Senator Harb and Senator Manning, have cited many statistics and exhaustive studies.
I want to talk about reality. What is the reality? The reality is that the Atlantic is being overrun by a species that is in the process of eliminating other species, in particular cod, which — I am sure senators remember — supplied a livelihood for many people in Atlantic Canada. How many plants have closed? How many people have lost their jobs? How many families have had to move or find jobs in new fields? Why? Because cod stocks declined dramatically.
Today, the seal, a marine carnivore, is still doing its job as a predator. It has now reached our salmon rivers. It is a real buccaneer. It has also gone after our crab, lobster and shrimp stocks.
We must not forget that, once again, these represent the livelihood of thousands of people in Eastern Canada. If we do not do something, as was called for in the report by the fisheries commission, in a few years the Maritimes and Quebec will be facing massive unemployment as a result of the deliberate destruction of fish stocks.
We must look at this bill today from our own perspectives. I am sure that Senator Harb will agree that there is always a reason behind an objective or an interest. What is the real reason for limiting rights or ensuring that we will lose our last resources? Whose interests will this serve? The tens of thousands of people who sent in emails? Whose interests? It is true that the picture of a seal pup in his habitat is nicer than this one. But that seal pup is one reality, and this is another. This reality is taking away the livelihood of honourable fisheries workers. This photo also represents the destruction of a resource that was on loan to us by nature.
We must therefore take charge and take immediate action, as called for in the report, to ensure that these workers in the Atlantic region have a future.
Seals can be found throughout the Atlantic Ocean. There have been so many studies cited in this chamber that we cannot keep them all straight, but I would like to quote one from outside that may be more useful. A Scottish study on grey seal predation on the Scotian shelf indicates that, according to consumption estimates, harp seals consume more than 500,000 tonnes of cod per year. Canada's total annual codfish quota is currently 22,973 tons.
It also indicates that these predators prevent stocks of cod and other groundfish, such as halibut and flounder, from recovering. It is thus time to simply put a stop to seal hunting in order to preserve these stocks.
Senator Harb, I know that the people you represent are acting in good faith, that they are good people like you.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is leave granted for an additional five minutes, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Maltais: Honourable senators, you seem to be a little sad today. That is too bad because, given the many speeches that different senators have made on food banks and hunger in Canada, what we want to do together is to give the people who support you a unique opportunity to find a cause, and that cause is human life. We want to give them an opportunity to put all this effort into food banks in order to prevent young Canadians from going hungry. If you change your bill to reflect that, I am sure that it will be unanimously passed by the Senate.
Honourable senators, a human life is worth more than the life of an animal, otherwise nature would have given us all flippers instead of arms. That is not the case. Human life, the lives of children in Canada, South America and Africa — in countries where people need food — are worth more. Change your bill so that these people, these human beings, will no longer go hungry. Then, this bill would be unanimously passed and would be truly worthwhile for human life.
I have noticed that, over the years, Europeans in particular have been very hard on Canada with respect to the seal hunt. An entire continent has pitted itself against a country and is dictating to that country how it should act. I find that odd. We are all of European descent, except the First Nations, and what have the Europeans given us as a legacy over the past 400 years? They have given us disputes, battles and wars that we have had to participate in to preserve Europe's freedom.
Canadians do not have any life lessons to learn from the Europeans. Let us agree on that. We do not have anything to learn from them. They can do things their way and we will do them ours.
I am humbly asking Senator Harb to change his bill and to explain to the people who have supported him that, in the next few years, we will have to make important decisions in order to protect our natural resources, including the marine resources that are very important to the Atlantic provinces, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador. This bill will deprive those who work at sea, and their families, of their daily bread.
It is important for you and your friends to choose to support something more important than a fight against the laws of nature. I have chosen to support human life, honourable senators. What will you and your friends choose?
Hon. Mac Harb: Would you take a question?
Senator Maltais: Yes.
Senator Harb: Whaling was permitted for many years. When the people came out against it, whaling was abolished. Many things, all kinds of things, were done 500 or 1,000 years ago, and they have been abolished because people evolved and opposed them.
What do honourable senators think about that? The U.S. has opposed this hunt since 1972. It has been joined by Europe, Russia, Belgium, Switzerland and, soon, China and Taiwan. How many countries must be against sealing to make us listen?
The Senator says that there is no longer a market, that it has died and is finished. Thus, we should tell those involved in the trade in seal products that there is no market, and we should introduce a bill to buy their licences if we really want to help them. Animal rights organizations are prepared to support the government and to purchase the licences to support these people.
We should work together to put an end to this, honourable senators. But what do we give them? Just talk.
Honourable senators, can you name a scientific study that says or supports the claim that seals are responsible for the cod disappearance? I think — and I will listen to you — that it is the government's policy on quotas. That is the problem. There is no research. The human resources are not there and budgets are being cut.
Senator Maltais: That is a long question. I will try to give a shorter answer.
First, the senator named a number of countries that oppose the seal hunt. The Belgian and Swiss public — I say public, because I am not talking about certain environmental organizations that are truly against the seal hunt — do not even know that it exists.
Second, I am Canadian. I defend the interests of my country, and that is what is most important to me.
Senator Harb asked me to provide studies, but I do not need to do so, as they have all been mentioned. There is a huge pile of them. Citing studies does not help. I want to talk about reality and not about studies. I know what goes on. I hope the senator has visited northern Quebec, the Magdalen Islands, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island to see what is going on.
When we see these sea buccaneers at the mouths of salmon rivers, taking the last of our resources, as we saw last summer, do you think we are insensitive to that? They are trying to deplete the last of our salmon resources in the Atlantic. Next, they will go after lobster, crab or shrimp. Are honourable senators insensitive to the hardships faced by these workers and their families? I hope not.
I am not against his friends; I am against their logic. I am not against the senator — far from it — he is a very good person. It is his logic that does not hold up in the Canadian context.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I regret to inform honourable senators that Senator Maltais' time has expired. Is there further debate?
(On motion of Senator Patterson, debate adjourned.)
Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Continued
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Chaput, seconded by the Honourable Senator Hubley, for the second reading of Bill S-211, An Act to amend the Official Languages Act (communications with and services to the public).
Hon. Marie-P. Charette-Poulin: Honourable senators, I thank Senator Comeau for allowing me to participate in the debate today.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau: Honourable senators, I have no objection to Senator Poulin speaking to this bill today. However, since I am the critic on this legislation, I want to ensure that we save 45 minutes for this side of the chamber.
Senator Charette-Poulin: Honourable senators, in rising to support Bill S-211, I do so in the knowledge that, in the last several decades, great strides have been made in advancing the concept of equality between Canada's two official languages.
Having been at times in the vanguard of the French language rights movement, I am aware of the vast amount of work that remains to be done to build a sound case in favour of preserving and enhancing the policies and regulations that reflect our bilingualism.
In this regard, I would like to express my admiration and gratitude to Senator Chaput for undertaking the difficult and time-consuming task of updating the Official Languages Act. She has done an outstanding job and deserves our appreciation.
Central to Bill S-211 is the concept of "equal quality" in the provision of language services to better reflect today's language duality and, just as importantly, to make the law consistent with legal decisions.
A review of case law over the past two decades shows that the purpose of recognizing language rights must be to enhance the vitality of official language minority communities, taking into account the specific situation of each community and the majority-minority dynamics in each province and territory.
In Beaulac, in 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada stated that language rights must be given a broad and liberal interpretation to ensure the preservation and vitality of minority language communities. From this ruling a spectrum of new principles were postulated, which I will refer to later.
In DesRochers v. Canada, 2009, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that all services of federal institutions must not only be offered in both official languages, but must also be of equal quality.
Honourable senators, Bill S-211 contains eight clauses aimed at improving the quality of language services offered to official language minority communities and the health of bilingualism in those minority communities. It would change Part IV of the Official Languages Act, which deals with communication with and services to the public, and which has been particularly affected by court rulings and demographic change.
Under the bill and in keeping with the legal interpretations of our language laws, the proposed changes to Part IV would take not only statistical analysis into account for determining the obligation to provide minority language services, but also qualitative criteria, that is, the characteristics of the minority communities themselves, and I quote:
. . . the particular characteristics, including the institutional vitality, of the English or French linguistic minority population of the area served by an office or facility.
The existing legislation speaks primarily of populations in broad terms, as measured by Statistics Canada. However, people who can communicate in the language of the minority population are left out of the equation. An example of this would be a child who speaks one official language at home but attends a school that functions in the other official language. That educational aspect is omitted in the calculation of minority language numbers. The fact that the regulations do not recognize the institutional vitality of a community suggests that the government is unaware of the sociological nature of communities. In small communities, this can make the difference between having minority-language service or not.
Let us take a moment to look at the origin of this bill, at its history. The first Official Languages Act was enacted in 1969 as a result of recommendations from the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism. It gave equal status to English and French throughout the federal government system. The 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms expanded the bilingual nature of services within the federal sphere and dealt with minority language education rights.
In 1988, the act was scrapped and replaced by a new Official Languages Act that beefed up regulations and established the powers of the Commissioner of Official Languages, the complaints process and the obligation of the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the President of the Treasury Board to be accountable to Parliament for responsibilities relating to official languages. Since then, various regulations have been introduced and clarifications issued, particularly regarding locations where Canadians can expect to be served in official languages.
In summary, the Official Languages Act has evolved to reflect changes at the social, linguistic, demographic and, particularly, judicial levels. Earlier, I mentioned the 1999 Beaulac case in which the Supreme Court of Canada noted that factors other than numbers should be considered when determining the need for minority language services. These factors include the language spoken not only at home, but at school, in the workplace and even on the street.
Honourable senators, the Official Languages Act of 1988 enabled the government to adopt regulations specifying how the act was to be implemented. The only regulations adopted were in 1992, prompting the Commissioner of Official Languages to state in his annual report of 2005-2006 that they belonged to a bygone era.
In fact, the commissioner went on to say that the strict application of numerical criteria gave rise to unfair, complex and unequal situations. It is in the spirit of addressing those inconsistencies that Bill S-211 is brought before you.
Another item of note is that the bill introduces rights for the travelling public and calls on every federal institution, including third-party persons or organizations operating on behalf of federal institutions, to ensure that services to travelers in both official languages are available in certain designated transportation centres. These centres are the country's major airports and railway stations which, it should be pointed out, are already designated as bilingual.
When examining the merits of the bill introduced by Senator Maria Chaput, do not forget that you are being asked to support the natural evolution of one of Canada's fundamental characteristics, namely bilingualism, by broadening and making mandatory the criteria currently used to determine the relevance of providing services in both official languages while giving some latitude to the Governor-in-Council.
To prevent the new legislation from creating permanent imbalances, the President of the Treasury Board or another federal minister designated by the Governor-in-Council will review the regulations every ten years to verify whether or not they are effective.
Honourable senators, the changes that Bill S-211 would make to the Official Languages Act would modernize it, clarify the regulations and strengthen the concept of official bilingualism in federal jurisdictions, which is significant since 14,000 federal offices are subject to this law.
(On motion of Senator Comeau, debate adjourned.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Ataullahjan, seconded by the Honourable Senator Braley, for the second reading of Bill C-300, An Act respecting a Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention.
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators, I continue to support the passage of Bill C-300, and I would even go so far as to say that doing so is urgent. When a bill is passed, the government has up to five years to implement it. Thus, it is urgent that it be passed so that a national suicide prevention strategy can be developed.
It is interesting to see that, as a result of experience, the Canadian Forces took the bull by the horns and implemented a suicide prevention program after realizing that there was a significant lack of capacity in this area.
In 2010, the Canadian Forces examined the causes of ten suicides and determined that they were the result of operations in Afghanistan or earlier operations. In the 1990s, many soldiers served in Bosnia, the former Yugoslavia, Cambodia, Africa, Somalia, Rwanda and other regions. Some non-commissioned officers participated in a variety of missions and lived through a range of traumatic events during their service overseas. As a result, we have, in our Armed Forces, soldiers who have spent more time in combat than many World War II veterans.
This week we will be paying tribute to our veterans, and many of them will take part in parades in towns and cities across Canada. Reservists will also participate; some of them have spent more time in combat than many World War II veterans. How they are perceived has not changed much, although they have had a real impact.
The combination of traumas experienced resulted in a dozen suicides in 2010; in 2011, there were more than 20. Why has the number of suicides doubled even with a prevention program in place? The answer is simple. The number of victims and people with physical or psychological injuries has increased. Operations have now ended, stress and adrenaline levels associated with preparations has decreased, and these people now have the time to think about what has happened and to feel its effects. Even with the armed forces program, which is well established and has selection criteria, training and oversight, some veterans still take their own lives.
Two years ago, we were told that peer support and some 400 injured members of the Canadian Forces available to help veterans, for example by going for coffee at Tim Hortons or just listening, prevented one suicide per day. Even with such programs, there are flaws in the suicide prevention system. It is not because people are not doing their job. Suicide is a complex matter with many factors; it can happen quite unexpectedly and can be impossible to prevent. But we can prevent some suicides.
One soldier among many was under the care of therapists. He was even deemed suicidal and placed under surveillance in his quarters. Two days later, and despite the program, this individual was able to commit suicide.
Honourable senators, I would like to have two more minutes.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is leave granted, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Dallaire: People can commit suicide even in an organization as strict as the Armed Forces. But let us talk about the general population and I will then conclude by reiterating my support for the bill.
A lot of data shows that when a country, an organization or a community creates a proactive movement to not hide suicide, to not make it a viable option when people are suffering from psychological problems, there is a significant drop in the suicide rate. Individuals who are on the verge need to understand that there are other solutions, that people prepared to listen, that help lines and peers are there to support them.
Interestingly, in Canada, some scary numbers have been mentioned, particularly in the case of people under 25. There is no program, no strategy and no benchmark for this group. Local initiatives and crisis response measures exist, but these are often not supported in the long term. Therefore, we need a plan. We are dealing with a killer. We have a responsibility to try to prevent people from killing themselves.
Earlier, during our discussion of the seal hunt, we talked about the pride of our country. We also have a fundamental responsibility when we recognize that some people could be hurt for a number of reasons, including cyberbullying. Therefore, we should immediately launch programs that would promote prevention down to the lowest level.
Last Saturday, I attended the Bal de l'Émeraude in Quebec City. This event is organized by the Order of Saint Lazarus, which is an organization similar to the Order of the Temple, or the Order of St. John. Even nowadays, some of its members are dedicated to helping hospitals and other good causes.
The Order of Saint Lazarus has made a contribution for this year and next, to support the efforts of the Quebec Society for the Prevention of Suicide, by raising $96,000. It did not take long to convince people that something concrete was needed.
It is not enough to simply enact this bill; money needs to be invested and this bill needs to be enacted immediately, because people are committing suicide.
I would like to share one last statistic with you. In two weeks, I will be giving a keynote address at the Military and Veteran Health Research Forum organized by Queen's University and the CIMVHR, in partnership with 23 other universities. This forum looks at the psychological impact of operations. The focus is on prevention and finding new ways to help people. I will be presenting a report that aims to demonstrate that the phenomenon has spread to the teenaged children of psychologically injured soldiers, even those who are receiving treatment. These children can no longer take the pressure they are feeling within their own families and are committing suicide.
No one wanted to address the issue of care for families, even though the injuries of these family members are killing their children. What about the children of these injured soldiers? That is the objective. I think it is crucial that, for this aspect as well as many others, and for aboriginal communities in particular, standards and a major program need to be established.
Honourable senators, I hope everyone will support this bill and insist that the government enact it as quickly as possible.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Are honourable senators ready for the question?
Hon. Senators: Question!
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to and bill read second time.)
Referred to Committee
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the third time?
(On motion of Senator Carignan, bill referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.)
Speaker's Ruling Reserved
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): I rise on a point of order, Your Honour. I wish to seek clarification on the use of props in this chamber. I have noticed that honourable senators on the government side, both yesterday and today, used props to accompany their remarks. Although the use of props is not prohibited in this chamber — at least our rules do not comment on it — I know that Chapter 13 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice states that:
Speakers have consistently ruled out of order displays or demonstrations of any kind used by Members to illustrate their remarks or emphasize their positions. Similarly, props of any kind, used as a way of making a silent comment on issues, have always been found unacceptable in the Chamber. Members may hold notes in their hands, but they will be interrupted and reprimanded by the Speaker if they use papers, documents or other objects to illustrate their remarks. Exhibits have also been ruled inadmissible. . . .
I know that we can ask for leave to table, Your Honour. Leave to table certain documents that were passed around today was not asked for, and so I would seek clarification as to the use of props in this chamber.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Leave was asked for and leave was granted.
Senator Tardif: I apologize, then, if leave was granted. I think it was an important thing to know. I do not know whether leave was asked yesterday, when a document was held in hand regarding a report.
Senator Fraser: It was not.
Senator Tardif: It was not. I would just remind this chamber that it is important that some order and decorum be respected and maintained at all times. I do apologize if I missed it.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau: Honourable senators, I was listening carefully to note who exactly had used a prop during certain parts of an earlier debate. The only prop I remember being used was by Senator Harb, who, in response to Senator Maltais, was showing a document related to, I think, the animal welfare group.
Senator Campbell: No, he was always using it.
Senator Comeau: That is the only prop I remember being used. When Senator Tardif said "on the other side," I think she actually meant her side.
Hon. Jim Munson: I respect, of course, my deputy leader in this particular debate.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Munson, could you move away from your mike?
Senator Comeau: Take your prop off the mike.
Senator Munson: Are you calling me a prop? I have to say that, at the end of the day, in this particular regard, it was first presented by Senator Maltais, and it was, for all intents and purposes, a funny prop; it was not bad.
Hon. Joan Fraser: On the point of order, Your Honour. Like many of us in the chamber, I actually found the document distributed by Senator Maltais to be quite delightful, and I am glad that he sought leave.
Yesterday, I believe that my deputy leader was referring to a moment when Senator Manning was speaking. Again, I was in full agreement with the position that Senator Manning was articulating, but he had a book in his hand and said, I believe, in addressing Senator Harb, "I do not know if you have this book; if you do not, you will," and he read from it. The rest of us did not have the advantage of having access to this book.
It strikes me that that was an example of the kind of thing that we should be very careful about. As my deputy leader suggested, props can lead to expressions that would not be permitted if they were uttered in words, but they can affect the decorum, and they can affect the decorum of this place.
I am perfectly comfortable saying these things because I was in total agreement with both of the speakers. I would have been glad to give leave for Senator Manning to table his book. It would have been simple for him to ask for it. I just think it would be useful if we could have some clarification of precedents, customs, conventions and what is desirable from the Speaker. We are not at the stage where horrible things are happening, but we want to address the question before we get to the stage where horrible things happen.
Hon. Dennis Dawson: Honourable senators, I completely agree with what Senator Manning and Senator Maltais had to say, and I approved the tabling of the document myself.
I love the picture, and a picture is worth a 1,000 words, but the reality is that we approved the tabling of something without having seen it. I am fine with that for today, but since, perhaps one day we might approve a photo that we do not want to see, I would like the Hon. the Speaker to look into what should be done about such documents in the future so that we are all clear on this.
Notwithstanding the fact that I fully agree with Senators Manning and Maltais, I think that, this week in particular, we are letting some things go through without necessarily having read them in detail. I am not going to discuss the issue at length, but it is important to clarify things for the future so that there will not be any abuse of certain powers because of a spirit of cooperation on this Thursday afternoon.
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators, I come from a professional background where PowerPoint is used ad nauseam, and I can say that coming here and expressing myself has always been a challenge and remains one.
Senator Wallin: That is a prop! Put it down!
Senator Dallaire: I like using an iPad. I do not use paper. I use an iPad and that device is allowed. I read my speeches from my iPad and from my BlackBerry. I also like to refer to my favourite book on Winston Churchill.
Therefore, during a debate we could use what is called a teleprompter, which is really a recognized communication teaching tool in our modern society.
Hon. Claude Carignan (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I think we are looking for clarifications that already exist. The rules are clear about how we can and cannot table a document. And when we want to make an exception, we ask for the unanimous consent. There was unanimous consent. It may have been unwise to not ask for a copy of the document, like I did with Senator Hervieux-Payette, because I wanted to see the document before she tabled it. Because I did not see it, I did not give my consent.
It is just a matter of exercising our power to decide when consent is requested judiciously. I move that we now proceed to Orders of the Day.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Are there any other senators who wish to participate in the debate on the point of order?
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators, I wonder if when the Speaker gives his ruling, he could also indicate — and I think Senator Carignan made a good point that perhaps it was our fault when we did not ask to see the document before it was tabled. We will be more prudent in the future in this regard.
In devising a ruling, I wonder if the Speaker might also determine for us if it would be appropriate, when we give consent to table something, that implicit in that is a distribution far and wide within the chamber of every document.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is there any further debate on the point of order? If not, the chair will take the matter under advisement.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator St. Germain, P.C., calling the attention of the Senate to the current state of First Nations self-government in Canada.
Hon. Larry W. Campbell: Honourable senators, unfortunately when Senator St. Germain rose to speak on this inquiry, I was watching the development of democracy in the Ukraine, so I could not be here. Therefore, I would like to rise today to make some comments regarding the retirement of Senator St. Germain.
I know that if Gerry were here, he would say about our previous debate, "For the love of cod!"
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh.
An Hon. Senator: Shame!
Senator Campbell: I am just warming you up.
Gerry has been a friend and a mentor of mine for many years. When I arrived in this most beautiful of places, I had come from the world of municipal politics, where the theatre is much rougher than in this place. As a result, for the first period of time that I was here, I spoke rather injudiciously on occasion, and I entered into the fray without really thinking ahead. Gerry took me aside, and I will have to paraphrase what he said, but basically it was the butt that you kick today you may be kissing in the future. Clearly, he knew something more than I did because, of course, we had a majority in this place and he saw into the future.
Basically, he told me to listen and be respectful, and I hope that I have done that after my initial period of difficulty.
I have been on the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples with Senator St. Germain for seven years. Before penny-pinching and budget restraint was ever an issue, Senator St. Germain was already implementing it. When you travel with the Senate Aboriginal Committee, there are two things that you will know. The first is that the motel you will be staying in will have at least one of the neon letters in its sign burnt out. One need only think of the movie Psycho and the Bates Motel to get some idea of where Senator St. Germain would take us.
The second sign you are with him is when you ask the bus driver, "What is the hotel like?" and he says, "It is not the best in town."
You will most assuredly be within walking distance of a tack store, which will be selling turquoise jewellery, with belt buckles the size of dinner plates — the bigger, the better!
On the Aboriginal Committee, we did not know there was such thing as air travel; we just thought it was normal to climb on a bus in a blizzard and drive for eight hours down the highway.
Senator St. Germain has a number of incredible attributes, loyalty being the first. Loyalty to Gerry means the same to me. It may be old-fashioned, but we always believe that you go home with the one who brung you. He was adamant in that all the way along and paid a price for it, but he managed to make it through.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Campbell: Honour: Senator St. Germain never forgot where he came from. He was proud of it; he knew that it shaped his life, and he was prepared to talk to anyone at any time about his roots. He had incredible integrity, and he worked incredibly hard. I have to tell you that I know personally that this came at some risk to his health on a number of occasions, and he struggled through it.
I do not want to go on long here. I will miss this guy. I am saddened that he is leaving, but that is our way of life.
I will leave you with one story of his unique sense of humour. Every summer, Gerry has a Conservative barbecue at his ranch in South Surrey, and it is big. There are 1,000 to 1,500 people there. The first year I believe that Prime Minister Harper was elected, Gerry phoned me and asked, "Hey, do you want to go to a barbecue?" I like parties, so I said, "Sure!" I arrive at his ranch, and there are 1,500 Conservatives there. I knew it was a Conservative barbecue because the only line up was at the Coca-Cola stand and I could get straight to the bar.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Campbell: I was leaning up against the bar ordering a beer and I said to the bartender, "What are you doing here?" He said, "I am working. How about you?" I said, "Me too. Give me another beer."
From the house high on the hill comes a golf cart with Senator St. Germain and Prime Minister Harper, and I was so proud to be in Canada. Can you imagine, in the United States, them allowing a Republican to drive to a Democrat barbecue, park his car 40 feet from the president and stand there? In Canada it was nothing to watch this unfold. Down they came.
Gerry got up on the stage, and in his eloquent way he spoke about conservative values, how proud he was to have the Prime Minister there and what a great turnout there was.
He said, "My friends, I am continually asked what Senator Larry Campbell, a Liberal, is doing here." He said, "I tell them it is always good to have at least one friend in the crowd."
Honourable senators will note that Gerry is not here. We have agreed not to be in the same room at the same time because we get a little emotional — not that there is anything wrong with that. I will say to honourable senators that he will be missed, and I wish him Godspeed.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
(On motion of Senator Carignan, debate adjourned.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Mitchell, calling the attention of the Senate to how the allegations of sexual harassment and harassment generally can be better handled in the RCMP.
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators, as I will be absent next week, and as the inquiry by Senator Mitchell, with whom it has been agreed, will soon be dropped from the Order Paper, I ask for leave to maintain it on the Order Paper.
(On motion of Senator Dallaire, debate adjourned.)
Motion to Authorize Committee to Study Harassment in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police—Debate Adjourned
Hon. Grant Mitchell, pursuant to notice of June 21, 2012, moved:
That the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence be authorized to examine and report on harassment in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; and
That the committee submit its final report no later than June 30, 2013.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Some Hon. Senators: No.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: All those in favour of the motion please signify by saying "yea."
Some Hon. Senators: Yea.
Senator Mitchell: I will adjourn this item in my name for the balance of my time.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your intention to speak to this motion?
Senator Mitchell: Yes. I would like to adjourn this motion at this time for the balance of my time.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: It has been moved by the Honourable Senator Mitchell that further debate on this motion be adjourned until the next sitting of the Senate. Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(On motion of Senator Mitchell, debate adjourned.)
Committee Authorized to Extend Date of Final Report on Study of Emerging Issues Related to Canadian Airline Industry
Hon. Dennis Dawson, pursuant to notice of October 30, 2012, moved:
That, notwithstanding the Order of the Senate adopted on June 15, 2011, and on March 27, 2012, the date for the presentation of the final report by the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications on emerging issues related to the Canadian airline industry be extended from November 30, 2012 to March 28, 2013.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
(Motion agreed to.)
Committee Authorized to Meet During Sitting of the Senate
Hon. Irving Gerstein, for Senator Hervieux-Payette, pursuant to notice of October 31, 2012, moved:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce have the power to sit at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 6, 2012, even though the Senate may then be sitting, and that Rule 12-18(1) be suspended in relation thereto.
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): May I ask the honourable senator to explain the reasons for this request to the Senate Chamber?
Senator Gerstein: Honourable senators, four parts of the Budget Implementation Act have been referred to the Senate Banking Committee, and this is the time that the Minister of Finance will be available to address the committee.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
(Motion agreed to.)
National Strategy for Chronic Cerebrospinal Venous Insufficiency (CCSVI) Bill—Motion to Authorize Committee to Hear Witnesses—Debate Adjourned
Hon. Jane Cordy, pursuant to notice of October 31, 2012, moved:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology which is studying Bill S-204, An Act to establish a national strategy for chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI), invite Canadian MS/CCSVI patients who have undergone the venous angioplasty for CCSVI treatment to appear before this committee as witnesses, as their experiences and expertise will provide this committee with a better understanding of the realities faced by those directly affected by this legislation.
She said: Honourable senators, it is common practice in the Senate to invite experts, analysts and stakeholders to present their perspectives when considering any legislation or studies at our Senate committees. When the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology — of which I am a member — studied poverty, we met with people living in poverty in Halifax, Toronto and Vancouver. In our study on mental health, mental illness and addictions, some of our best testimony came from those living with poor mental health.
Who on the committee can forget the excellent testimony from the young man from New Brunswick who had autism when we did our autism study, Pay Now or Pay Later? In fact, it was his testimony that gave us the title of our report. Recently, the Legal Affairs Committee heard from a number of victims of crime when they were reviewing the crime legislation.
Honourable senators, I believe it is essential that we hear from witnesses who are directly impacted by a bill as it allows us as parliamentarians to give legislation its proper consideration to make informed decisions.
Why am I waiting until November 1 to raise this issue in the Senate when the committee hearings are already in progress? Honourable senators, I do want you to know that I tried.
On Monday, September 10, 2012, I emailed the members of the Social Affairs steering committee, Senators Ogilvie, Eggleton and Seidman, requesting that those MS patients who have had the venous angioplasty procedure for CCSVI be witnesses at the committee. I made the same request by email on Thursday, September 20.
Senator Eggleton, the Senate opposition representative on the steering committee, replied that he supported the request. Senator Ogilvie said that he would discuss it with me, which did not happen, and Senator Seidman did not reply to either of my emails.
On October 4, at a committee meeting, I again raised the issue of having witnesses appear who had had the procedure done. I was interrupted by the chair, who said we would discuss it at a committee and he adjourned the public meeting.
On October 18, I brought forward a motion to have MS/CCSVI patients who have had the procedure appear as witnesses. This discussion was held in camera and, while I cannot repeat what took place at the meeting, we know that no MS patients who have had the procedure have been called as witnesses.
I brought forward the motion. Senator Eggleton, as the Liberal representative on the steering committee, replied to my earlier emails that he supported my request. I will leave it to honourable senators to figure out who voted against the motion at the in camera meeting that would have allowed MS patients who have had the procedure to appear as witnesses on Bill S-204.
Honourable senators, I have received many emails and phone calls from MS patients who are very interested in Bill S-204. They would like to know that their voices are being heard by committee members. They would like the committee to hear from MS patients; witnesses who truly understand what it is like to have multiple sclerosis; witnesses who have had the procedure done; and witnesses who have had the treatment done outside of Canada and who have been refused follow-up care upon their return to Canada.
When asked at a committee hearing by Senator Munson whether it would help our deliberations and give us a better insight if we had patients as witnesses, Mr. Juurlink, from the National CCSVI Society, stated:
They are the individuals who are often refused treatment when they come back to Canada. I think it would be good to hear a few first-hand stories.
Dr. Barry Rubin, a member of the CIHR expert panel, stated:
Therefore, I think, as this is a transparent process, that you should absolutely hear from patients that have MS, patients who have benefitted from the procedure and patients who had the procedure and had no benefit or indeed had complications. I think that would give you the opportunity to understand the full spectrum of what is going on and will help in making an informed decision.
When asked later by Senator Merchant whether it was important for patients to appear before the committee in person or would it be just as good for them to submit a written submission, Mr. Juurlink stated:
I think human-to-human contact has greater impact than paper-to-human contact.
Dr. Rubin stated:
I think there is nothing like looking someone in the eye when you are talking to them.
Honourable senators, the hundreds of MS/CCSVI patients whom I have been in touch with are following Bill S-204 closely. Some have requested to appear as witnesses. Many have sent committee members written submissions.
If an honourable senator feels strongly that MS patients should not be witnesses before the committee, then they should give their reasons publicly. We all have the right to disagree but, honourable senators, give these MS patients the dignity of an open, transparent and honest discussion.
I agree with Mr. Juurlink and Dr. Rubin that MS/CCSVI patients who have undergone the venous angioplasty treatment for CCSVI should be invited to appear as witnesses because their experience and expertise will provide the members of the Social Affairs Committee with a better understanding of the realities faced by those directly affected by this legislation.
I would ask that the Social Affairs Committee consider this motion in a public meeting.
Hon. Claude Carignan (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I am a bit surprised by the inquiry and its content, in light of the fact that committees are masters of their own procedure, and I would like to be able to expand on this topic. I therefore ask to adjourn the debate in my name.
(On motion of Senator Carignan, debate adjourned.)
Leave having been given to revert to Government Notices of Motions:
Hon. Claude Carignan (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 5-5(g), I move:
That when the Senate adjourns today, it do stand adjourned until Tuesday, November 6, 2012, at 2 p.m.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to.)
(The Senate adjourned to Tuesday, November 6, 2012, at 2 p.m.)