- SENATORS' STATEMENTS
- ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
- Employment Insurance Act
- Financial Consumer Agency of Canada Act
- Agriculture and Forestry
- International Boundary Waters Treaty Act
International River Improvements Act
- QUESTION PERIOD
- Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
- Public Safety
- Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
- Delayed Answers to Oral Questions
- Veterans Affairs
- Privy Council Office
- Veterans Affairs
- National Defence
- ORDERS OF THE DAY
- Point of Order
- Business of the Senate
- Canada National Parks Act
Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act
Canada Shipping Act, 2001
- Income Tax Act
- Agriculture and Forestry
Thursday, February 14, 2013
The Senate met at 1:30 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, I am pleased to extend my warmest congratulations to five outstanding entrepreneurs from my home province of Prince Edward Island, who will be inducted into the Prince Edward Island Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame this coming May. The five inductees are: D. Alex MacDonald, David Loggie, Earl Davison and Wes and Connie MacAleer.
D. Alex MacDonald started his career in 1957 as a young man with a passion for cars. He first established a used car business, and four years later, he received a Ford franchise. His business began with four employees but has grown to more than 100, with annual sales of $64 million.
Though he is now retired, it is still a family business, with seven of his children and three of his grandsons working in the three dealerships.
David Loggie began his career as an office clerk in the Shur-Gain division of Canada Packers and steadily moved his way up through the operation, becoming manager of the Shur-Gain division in Summerside, regional manager of Atlantic Shur-Gain and, finally, vice- president of operations in 1996. He was the president of the Slemon Park Corporation from 2000 to 2002. Mr. Loggie now owns Kensington Truck and Tractor, as well as a residential and commercial real estate rental and development business in Summerside.
Earl Davison, along with two partners, purchased his first business, a road construction company called Provincial Construction Company, in 1965. Later, Provincial Construction started building fibreglass fishing boats. It has been said that most Island harbours have Provincial Construction boats in them.
As well, in 1966, Mr. Davison was a partner in building what became a well-known tourism attraction called Rainbow Valley in Cavendish.
Finally, Wes and Connie MacAleer worked in the Northwest Territories at the start of their careers. In 1971, Wes formed Wesmac Agencies Limited, with Connie as a company director providing behind-the-scene support. They moved back to Prince Edward Island, where Wes became publisher of the Guardian and the Evening Patriot. Later, he entered politics and served as an MLA and provincial cabinet minister. Wes and Connie have now formed Wesmac Holdings Limited, which invests in numerous business ventures.
Honourable senators, all of these business people have made tremendous contributions not only to the Island economy but also to the life of their communities. I know that they will serve as shining examples to the next generation of entrepreneurs.
I also want to commend Junior Achievement of Prince Edward Island for recognizing and honouring these business leaders. Please join me in congratulating these individuals and wishing them all the best in the future.
Hon. Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu: Honourable senators, it is with the same pride and determination that I pick up where I left off last Wednesday.
Since my first day as an advocate for victims of crime, I have been really hoping to make this statement.
On February 4, Canada's Minister of Justice, the Honourable Rob Nicholson, announced the government's intention to adopt a victims' bill of rights.
In 2013, we will introduce a bill to create a charter of victims' rights.
This measure will give the government an even more tangible way to honour its commitment to victims of crime by enshrining their rights in the first law of its kind at the federal level.
The government is very pleased to be able to make this firm commitment to those whom life has chosen to endure the worst possible experiences and the greatest possible suffering.
Ever since my daughter was murdered by a repeat sex offender in 2002, I have been working with families of victims of crime to put victims first in the justice system.
You may ask why we need another charter since Canada already has a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. On the one hand, Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms has over 19 sections dealing with the rights of criminals or accused persons. On the other hand, no federal law specifically recognizes the rights of victims of crime.
The victims' bill of rights will recognize their fundamental rights and provide a legislative foundation guaranteeing legal recourse to ensure respect for those rights. This is a fundamental right that victims, unlike criminals or individuals charged with crimes, do not have.
Honourable senators, I call upon your sympathy and your compassion and invite you to support this cause, the defence of victims' rights. When the time comes to study this historic bill, I will ask for your support on behalf of all victims of crime in Canada. This commitment will make a lasting impact that history will remember as the legacy of your time in the Canadian Senate to victims of crime.
I also extend the invitation to all provinces and territories to be inspired by actual federal government leadership being demonstrated toward victims so that the provinces and territories can also adopt provincial charters of victims' rights in order to improve the rights of victims of crime.
We have made considerable progress in restoring Canadians' confidence in our justice system, and we will continue our efforts in that regard. Adopting this bill of rights will surely help achieve this objective.
In closing, I would like to recognize in this chamber our Prime Minister's commitment to victims of crime and the leadership of the Minister of Justice in making this important announcement to all Canadians.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of a number of distinguished visitors from the St. Alban's Social Action Group. Included in the delegation are June Girvan, Peter Cazaly, Robert Yip, Norma McNamee, Ernie Tannis and my good friend Lloyd Stanford. Also in the delegation are Mickaela Churchill, Heyman Qirbi and Reverend Dr. Bailey. They are guests of our colleague, the Honourable Senator Meredith.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Don Meredith: Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute today to Lady Susan Agnes Bernard Macdonald, an outstanding Canadian and wife of the first Prime Minister of Canada, Sir John A. Macdonald.
I was fortunate to be present in Ottawa last Sunday when St. Alban's parish in Ottawa unveiled a plaque in her honour. I am pleased to have some members of St. Alban's Social Action Group, who were instrumental in orchestrating this commemoration, present here today.
Born south of Spanish Town, Jamaica, in 1836, Agnes was raised in both Jamaica and England. She immigrated to Canada with her mother in 1856 after the death of her father,Thomas James Bernard, a member of the Privy Council. Lady Agnes caught the eye of Sir John A. Macdonald and they were married on February 16, 1867, making this week the one hundred and forty-sixth anniversary of their union.
Despite struggling to conform to a life in Canada, raising a disabled child and tireless efforts to keep her family intact, Agnes still found time to give back to her community. This remarkable lady was attracted to the world of politics and the power of social action. As a Victorian woman, she had limited social influence on the upper class, but she was able to promote change through her church, St. Alban's. Her parish was one of the few that did not divide its congregation into social classes, as was customary at that time. It was not uncommon to see Lady Agnes and Sir John A. Macdonald sitting amongst the poor in their congregation.
Inside the church walls, social classes were non-existent. Unlike other neighbourhood parishes, there were no pew fees. The rector of the church was determined that the church would sustain itself through the support of donations. The construction debt of the church, combined with its maintenance fees, was overwhelming for the rector; however, he was opposed to any fundraising efforts.
Lady Agnes witnessed the stress and burden the financial difficulties were having on the rector. She saw an opportunity to help. While the rector was away in 1873, she used her position and influence to spearhead a massive bazaar that raised $5,000. This was no small feat. That amount is the equivalent of over $96,000 today.
Upon his return, the rector was amazed at what was accomplished. He was astonished that the fundraising efforts of Lady Agnes were able to pay off the debts of the church.
Not only did she raise money to save the church, Lady Agnes helped orphans within the community of Ottawa by facilitating a project to house and educate them. When it became obvious that the needs of the orphans could not be met by the small facility, she formed a committee to raise funds for a larger residential home. Her vision that began in an old cow pasture became a larger home on Lisgar Street that accommodated more children almost 10 years later. Lady Agnes accepted the post of first directress and spent time instructing and reading to the children.
Lady Agnes Macdonald was a devoted social activist whose achievements deserve honour and recognition in Canadian history. Her story is an inspirational tale of recognizing communities in need and taking action to aid fellow Canadians despite differences in culture and social standing.
Dr. Martin Luther King declared, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?" Lady Agnes Macdonald recognized and addressed the needs in her community.
Honourable senators, I ask you to join me in my challenge to all Canadians. I ask that we engage in social work for the betterment of our communities and in so doing pay tribute to this great lady — Lady Agnes Bernard Macdonald.
Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson: Honourable senators, foreign- controlled animal rights activists and environmental organizations from outside Canada are continuing to use the Canadian Arctic in their destructive and uninformed campaigns to raise funds for the alleged goals of saving the North's environment, its wildlife and stopping climate change.
These groups have once again convinced the United States' Obama administration to propose, at a March 2013 gathering in Bangkok, that the polar bear be transferred from Appendix II to Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES. This comes three years after an unsuccessful attempt was defeated by CITES member states.
The proposal to transfer the polar bear from one appendix to the other would mean an immediate global trade ban on polar bears. The Inuit of Canada who reside in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, Labrador and Quebec, and the Inuit of Greenland and Alaska, would no longer be able to sell any part of a polar bear to any source outside of their country.
This proposed transfer is based on overstated claims that harvesting, trade and climate change are threatening the species. However, Inuit Tapirit Kanatami, or ITK, which is Canada's national organization representing all Inuit, has stated:
Just like the current US proposal, the 2010 proposal was politically motivated and factually flawed, and was campaigned by animal rights organizations in the US to misuse CITES as a tool to impose an arbitrary ban that has no basis in addressing climate change.
Unfortunately, Canada's Inuit, with support from our federal government's Ministry of the Environment — and I thank Minister Kent for that — must once again spend precious time and resources convincing nations who are signatories to CITES that an Appendix I transfer is unfounded, unwarranted and would place what ITK calls a "black mark on what is a polar bear management success story in Canada's Arctic... while attacking Inuit livelihoods in the process."
I encourage all honourable senators to read a report by ITK on their website entitled Polar Bear Ban: A Precautionary Tale, as it includes important facts such as Canada being home to approximately 16,000 polar bears, a number that has remained at sustainable levels since the first transfer proposal in 2010. Harvesting has not hampered population growth; in fact, the Canadian and global polar bear populations have steadily increased since the early 1970s.
Despite scientific evidence and Inuit knowledge that supports the responsible, managed harvesting of polar bears by Inuit in Canada, a growing number of CITES signatories such as the U.K., the Netherlands, Russia and Germany are supporting the U.S. proposal.
I urge all honourable senators to support efforts by Canadian Inuit and our government to defeat the U.S. proposals.
Hon. JoAnne L. Buth: Honourable senators, I rise today to mark Food Freedom Day and celebrate the valuable contributions that Canadian Farmers make to society each and every day.
Created by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, Food Freedom Day is the calendar date when the average Canadian will have earned enough income to pay his or her grocery bill for the year. For Canadians, this translates to about 10 per cent of their annual household income. In comparison, residents of Mexico spend 23 per cent of their household income on food, while those in Kenya spend 42 per cent.
Canadian farmers provide some of the healthiest, safest and most inexpensive food in the world. Food Freedom Day allows us an opportunity to acknowledge and reflect on the abundance of our food supply, the vitality of our agriculture industry and the important contributions this sector makes to rural communities.
We cannot live without food and, in Canada, we are doubly lucky to live in a country where food is abundant today and will continue to be abundant tomorrow.
As consumers, we often give little thought to the cost of our food or the ease with which we acquire it. In the last 30 years, for example, the variety of specialized, value-added products has grown considerably while our total spending on food has increased only modestly.
We enjoy these freedoms because of the Canadian farm families who work year-round to produce food of the highest quality. With one in eight Canadian jobs supported by agriculture, it is safe to say that we all benefit when Canada's agricultural sector is thriving.
In today's dynamic and sometimes challenging global marketplace it is essential that we continue to give our producers the best opportunity to realize the profits they deserve, while creating a sustainable environment for the next generation of Canadian farmers. The world will certainly need them.
Honourable senators, please join with me today in giving thanks to our nation's farmers.
Hon. Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, presented the following report:
Thursday, February 14, 2013
The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology has the honour to present its
Your committee, to which was referred Bill C-316, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (incarceration), has, in obedience to the order of reference of Wednesday, October 24, 2012, examined the said bill and now reports the same without amendment.
KELVIN K. OGILVIE
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the third time?
(On motion of Senator Boisvenu, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for third reading at the next sitting of the Senate.)
Hon. Irving Gerstein, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce, presented the following report:
Thursday, February 14, 2013
The Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce has the honour to present its
Your committee, to which was referred Bill C-28, An Act to amend the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada Act, has, in obedience to the order of reference of December 11, 2012, examined the said Bill and now reports the same without amendment.
IRVING R. GERSTEIN
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the third time?
(On motion of Senator Carignan, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for third reading at the next sitting of the Senate.)
Hon. Percy Mockler, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, presented the following report:
Thursday, February 14, 2013
The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry has the honour to present its
Your committee, which was authorized by the Senate on Thursday, June 16, 2011 to examine and report on research and innovation efforts in the agricultural sector, respectfully requests supplementary funds for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2013.
Pursuant to Chapter 3:06, section 2(1)(c) of the Senate Administrative Rules, the supplementary budget submitted to the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration and the report thereon of that committee are appended to this report.
(For text of budget, see today's Journals of the Senate, Appendix, p. 1927.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this report be taken into consideration?
Senator Mockler: Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 5-5(f), I move that the report be placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration later this day.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Normally, honourable senators, when we are asked to diverge from the rules we are given some indication as to why. Senator Mockler has asked that we fast-track the proceedings.
The Hon. the Speaker: Could Senator Mockler explain the reason for this?
Senator Mockler: Honourable senators, we have spoken with your party representative and the reason is that, two months ago, we were supposed to visit Newfoundland and Labrador. We were unable to go because of a snowstorm. What is more, since we want to use the travel budget for this fiscal year, which ends on March 31, 2013, we wanted to check with the committee members to find out when we could take this trip to Newfoundland, so that we could save money on travel expenses.
Honourable senators, if the adoption of the report is moved today and the report is adopted, we will save approximately $40,000 on the cost of plane tickets.
The Hon. the Speaker: I understand that the report will be studied later today.
(On motion of Senator Mockler, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration later this day.)
The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that a message had been received from the House of Commons with Bill C-383, An Act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act and the International River Improvements Act.
(Bill read first time.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the second time?
(On motion of Senator Carignan, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading two days hence.)
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, today I would like to address again, as you might imagine, the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. We all know that the Native Women's Association of Canada has done a tremendous job of documenting the nearly 600 cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women across Canada. We should note that if we convert those numbers to non-Aboriginal women it would be over 20,000 other Canadian women who would be missing and murdered now. That is the huge extent of this problem.
We all know that in B.C. the Oppal commission made it clear that there were serious shortcomings in our policing and justice system, which have too often failed to protect indigenous women and girls. In the last day or two we have seen a report by Human Rights Watch entitled Those Who Take Us Away, which has uncovered one allegation of rape and others of assault by the RCMP against Aboriginal women in rural and northern British Columbia. This is absolutely terrible. Human Rights Watch is calling on the federal and B.C. governments to participate in a national commission of inquiry into the matter.
My question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate is the following: What is the federal government going to do? Will the Harper government call a national commission of inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women, taking into account the most recent allegations that the RCMP themselves have not only not protected but have actually abused Aboriginal women?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank the honourable senator for the question. She just pointed out the report of yesterday, where this organization brought forward very serious allegations. As we have no information regarding these specific allegations, the government has asked the independent Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP to look into these matters. Of course, we urge upon anyone with information on these specific allegations to bring it forward immediately and report it to the appropriate authorities.
Senator Dyck: This new report reveals the contempt and stereotypes that continue to undermine the relationship between the police and Aboriginal communities and their women that makes them more vulnerable. The government has always prided itself on responding to crises of violence against Aboriginal women apparently by increasing the number of police and its so- called tough-on-crime agenda, yet we see in this report that increasing the number of police is not the solution; sometimes they are even the cause of violence against indigenous women and girls.
What actual, concrete actions will the government undertake to stop the assault, rape and murder of Aboriginal women in Canada by men and, in particular, by the RCMP?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I wish to emphasize that in terms of yesterday's report by Human Rights Watch, again, it is very important that organizations with specific allegations to make bring them forward and report them to the appropriate authorities. On the basis of this yesterday's story, as I just reported, the government has asked the Commissioner for Public Complaints Against the RCMP to look into these serious allegations.
There is no question — and I know the honourable senator does not question this either — that the death of these women, in the eyes of all of us, is a great tragedy and has caused deep pain and concern for their families and communities. Obviously, this situation is absolutely unacceptable.
We will continue to move forward with a vigorous criminal justice agenda to address these issues. Of course, I have put on the record in the Senate, in the past, the government's actions to date in this regard. We take this seriously. This is unacceptable, and the government intends to do everything possible, as we go forward, to ensure the safety of all our citizens, but most particularly Aboriginal women and children.
Senator Dyck: I thank the honourable leader for her answer and am glad she takes this issue seriously.
We know that the Public Complaints Commission is not an independent body. In fact, when people complain about the RCMP to the commission, it is like having one of your own investigate one of your own; it is not completely neutral. Is there another route the government could take that takes it out of their hands completely, an independent authority that has no roots or connections to the RCMP?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP is in fact independent, and of course they report on many findings.
Again, with regard to yesterday's Human Rights Watch report, it is important that these specific, serious allegations are brought forward to the proper authorities. In addition, the government has asked the independent Commissioner for Public Complaints Against the RCMP to look into this matter.
Senator Dyck: I thank the leader again for her answer. I agree with her that the complaints should go forward to the appropriate bodies. However, we must recognize that when those women are threatened, it makes it very difficult for them to come forward with a formal complaint. I think that would be the reason they have not come forward so far. However, that may come.
I will now ask the leader a couple of questions that women from my community have asked me to make on their behalf.
Remembering our murdered, missing and hurting sisters on this Valentine's Day, when we should be feeling love for each other, what is the RCMP doing to address issues of racism and sexism within their own ranks? What types of education about colonialism are included in their recruitment and professional development training? I would add the following: What role should the government be playing in ensuring that appropriate training is given to members of the RCMP to eradicate a culture of sexism and racism?
Senator LeBreton: As honourable senators know, there is a bill before Parliament with regard to the RCMP. I really hope that in this country we do not have a situation where any Canadian — but most particularly our Aboriginal women and children Ð would not have faith. Granted, some concerns have been raised. We have a bill before Parliament. Obviously, the Commissioner of the RCMP is addressing these things. However, as an individual Canadian woman, I cannot believe that if a person is in severe difficulty or in trouble they would be afraid to call the authorities in their own community. While there are incidents, by and large the people who serve in our police forces are solid, outstanding individuals who take their responsibilities very seriously in terms of the safety of the citizens they serve.
With regard to the specific questions on this Valentine's Day, we as a government have taken many measures. I would be happy to put them on the record again, but the honourable senator is well aware of them. There are measures being taken as we speak and there is a bill before Parliament. We have a report that came out yesterday or today; I am not sure exactly what time it was released. We have Commissioner Paulson acknowledging some of the issues that the RCMP has to deal with.
I think the honourable senator would agree with me that it would be incorrect and totally unfair to judge the whole RCMP by the actions of a few, just as it would be unfair to judge any organization by the actions of people in their midst.
At the heart of it all, with regard to those who serve in our police forces or in public service in any number of ways, I am absolutely confident that 99.9 per cent of them are there for all the right reasons and take their responsibilities to their fellow citizens very seriously.
Senator Dyck: I thank the leader for that answer. I certainly do not think that all RCMP members are the type that will sexually assault or beat up Aboriginal women. That would be outrageous.
There are bad apples in every organization. It is not unlike here in the Senate where we have some people accused of doing things that are wrong, but that does not mean we are all doing it. I certainly do not believe in stereotyping the RCMP or members of the Senate.
I will proceed with another question from a community member:
Eight months after the 2010 budget release of promised funding, Minister for Status of Women Rona Ambrose announced the money will be spent on seven different initiatives: the bulk on a national police support centre for missing persons.
She goes on to say:
While we have three missing person liaison officers in Saskatchewan, who are all former victims services workers, we will not know that such services exist since there is no promotion of this service. They do not even know that it is up and running. The Saskatoon-based person will only join our public activities upon invitation. In other words, they are acting in isolation. These officers are required to provide services to the province, and I requested which officer would assist with her missing family members and she has never received a response.
Her question would be this:
As far as I am aware, the RCMP chief superintendent has not made any statement on dedicated services or activities to missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Saskatchewan. Given that this is one of the provinces with the highest number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women, what is going on? Why have they not contacted the families and groups involved with missing and murdered Aboriginal women?
I have a series of questions, and if the leader wishes to take these as notice I would be pleased.
Has there been any training for the RCMP under this new initiative? Is there a new database? If so, where is it?
She concludes with:
We demand an update and report on the $10 million that was allocated in 2010 and what the present outcomes are across Canada. It has been nearly three years. What is going on? Where has the money gone? Why do they not see anything happening?
Senator LeBreton: I thank the honourable senator for her hard work in this area. She certainly is an outstanding spokesperson on these issues.
Again, we have Bill C-42, the enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police accountability act, before Parliament. When it comes to the Senate I am sure many of us will participate in that debate.
I will be very happy to get written responses to the specific questions with regard to these specific cases in Saskatchewan.
Again, I will put on the record the things we have done with regard to the very serious issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women.
We established the National Centre for Missing Persons. We improved law enforcement databases to investigate missing and murdered women. We created a national website to help identify and find missing persons. We support the development of school and community pilot projects aimed at reducing vulnerability to violence among young Aboriginal women. We have supported the development and adaptation of victim services so they are culturally appropriate for Aboriginal people. We have developed a comprehensive list of best practices to help communities, law enforcement and justice partners in future work they have to do in terms of working together to resolve problems. We have worked alongside Aboriginal communities to develop community safety plans. We have supported the development of public awareness materials to help end cycles of violence affecting Aboriginal women.
Clearly the honourable senator will not have me disagree with her: There is a great deal of work to be done in this area, and it is a very sad state of affairs that these numbers are so high.
I believe, however, that with the changes being made at the RCMP, the report that was released, I believe last night, and also the bill we have before Parliament will go a long way to shining the spotlight and addressing these serious issues.
Hon. Nancy Ruth: Honourable senators, last night I had a taxi pick me up at the door here. He told me he had been asked his religion as he came through the RCMP security point. I asked him where he was from. He said he was from Yemen; he was working two jobs and trying to bring his family to Canada.
Could the leader assure honourable senators that the RCMP has not been directed to infringe on every Canadian's right in the Charter, in section 15, that there shall be no discrimination on the basis of religion?
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank the Honourable Senator Nancy Ruth for the question. I will absolutely take her question as notice.
That is actually a very alarming turn of events. I am sure the minister will be very interested in hearing this little bit of news.
Hon. Sandra Lovelace Nicholas: Honourable senators, the government's approach to investigating the missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada is to push this issue over to the hands of the RCMP and police — a place where many Aboriginal women feel uncomfortable at best and, at worst, have appallingly been victims of abuse and sexual abuse, as the recent Human Rights Watch report has indicated.
The only way forward to really address this issue, one that will encourage and respect the claims and stories of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and their families, is through a national inquiry. It can be a safe and healing forum to investigate these cases.
My question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate is quite simple: In light of all the problems and horrifying accounts of the deteriorating relationships between the RCMP and Aboriginal women, how can their approach to dealing with these cases be effective at all?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank the honourable senator, but the government's approach is not to turn the issue completely over to the RCMP — far from it. I just listed many other initiatives we have also taken in consultation and working with provinces and territorial governments and working with Aboriginal communities. It is not the government's intention to just turn all of this over to the RCMP.
Clearly there are issues, as was reported yesterday by Human Rights Watch. Again, I would urge that those with specific allegations go to the proper authorities. However, in view of these allegations, the government has referred this to the independent watchdog over the RCMP, but we are doing a great number of things.
I have addressed this issue before. The primary responsibility of the government is to work with the communities and our Aboriginal citizens to bring in measures to prevent these things from happening again.
Many resources have been put into establishing networks and databases. Across the country, provinces and territories and the federal government are working with the same information. It is absolutely incorrect to say that the government is just washing its hands of this serious issue and turning it all over to the RCMP.
Having said that, there is a bill in Parliament with regard to strengthening the RCMP. A report was released yesterday.
The RCMP and the new commissioner are seized with many of these issues that have been problematic in the past in the force. I believe that many positive steps are being taken, not only by the RCMP but also by the various levels of government, to correct many of these obvious mistakes and perhaps neglect — I guess neglect would be the more proper word — in the past.
Hon. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators, a few moments ago in responding to Senator Dyck, the leader suggested that she found it hard to believe that any Canadian would not have, basically, faith in the police. I think that speaks very well of her and reflects what most of us have had as experience, most of us being members of the middle class and the privileged group that belong to the Senate. Most of us have had mostly good experiences with the police.
However, one of the researchers for the Human Rights Watch, Samer Muscati, said that many of the Aboriginal women he spoke with for this report had the same level of fear as he found in other contexts in countries such as Libya and Iraq where the security forces are implicated in the worst type of abuses and are known not to protect the population.
I am not saying that every member of the RCMP, even in any particular jurisdiction, would be guilty of the kind of behaviour that would lead to that fear, but this is just the most recent evidence that we have seen to the effect that in some cases members of the RCMP have in fact committed abuses. I, too, would be terrified to come forward to any of the existing institutions if I or one of my neighbours or relatives had been subjected to the kind of treatment outlined in this report: a 12- year-old girl hiding in a box attacked by a police dog; or a 15- year-old girl whose arm was broken when all she did was shake her finger at a policeman.
These are the kinds of things that create fear and they are why I ask the leader again: Why can this government not rise beyond its understandable loyalty to the police forces of this country, its understandable trust in them, and say, "We are now dealing with a population that unfortunately does not share that trust," and set up a proper public inquiry that could, as Senator Lovelace Nicholas said, be a healing experience rather than an occasion of more fear?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, with regard to the various police forces around the country, when the honourable senator mentions the government's faith, I do not think it is just the government. I think, by and large, Canadians, whether they are low-income, middle-income or upper-income, generally have a great deal of faith and confidence in our police forces.
The honourable senator has cited some cases from this individual from the human rights group. As I said to Senator Lovelace Nicholas, he should be taking those specific allegations or specific cases — and I know there is fear — if he has direct specific evidence of this happening and seek out authorities. I am sure 99.9 per cent of them would be more than happy to receive him and the details of these specific cases. That is what has to happen, as opposed to writing a report and making allegations. I understand the fear that these individuals have, but there is a much larger body out there in the community, in our police forces and communities at large, that would be very well equipped to step in and assist.
I take issue with Senator Fraser's statement that it is government policy to have faith in our police. Of course it is the government policy to have faith in our police. It should be all of our policies to have faith in our police.
As Senator Dyck pointed out, honourable senators, there are people in all organizations that cause harm to the reputation of organizations, but I absolutely reject the notion that people are not well served by our police, whether the RCMP, provincial police or municipal police. Any time I have had involvement with the police — and it was not because I am a senator or middle class, but because of events — I must say, and I am sure this is the case for most Canadians, the police have been nothing short of outstanding in dealing with terrible situations and doing everything they can to ensure the law is upheld and that they assist the victims of these crimes.
Senator Fraser: Honourable senators, I repeat: Most of us in most of our dealings with the police have had the kind of experience that the honourable senator is speaking of, and that includes me. I have not had much to do with the police, but almost all the time when I have, they have been terrific.
However, I did have one experience one day that opened my eyes. Here am I, a grey-haired little old lady —
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh!
Senator Fraser: Okay, not so little. I was driving my car peacefully in the middle of a summer afternoon and I was at the corner of Sussex and Rideau where there was construction of some sort. There was a traffic snarl you would not believe and my car got trapped in what turned out to be a blocked lane, but I did not know that when I first got trapped there.
I got up to the point where there was a policeman directing traffic. He saw that I was in the wrong lane and he went ballistic. I was in the wrong traffic lane. I was not on the wrong side of the road, but just not where he wanted me to be. He screamed at me and pounded on my car; he insulted me, swore at me and abused me. He was furious.
Let me tell you, honourable senators, I was scared sitting in my car in the middle of Ottawa, a few hundred metres from where we stand today. I did not lay a complaint. I was too scared to say, "Let me see your badge number; who are you?" All I could think of was that I wanted to get away from there. When I did, after I got away from there, I then knew how people feel who do not have the defences I knew I had. Had there been any kind of sequel to this, I would have been able to defend myself, and I was not an inherently suspicious character.
However, for people who are, or who believe that they are seen that way by the police, they are terrified of the existing power structure, and I do not blame them. That is why, honourable senators, it is worth re-examining the concept of having a truly independent inquiry, de novo, to restore faith in the police.
Senator LeBreton: Everyone can probably cite a case like that, but I would have thought that the honourable senator should have asked for the badge number and followed up.
There is no doubt that there is fear, but the individual from the Human Rights Watch group who actually put these stories into the public should take these specific allegations and report them to authorities, because even though there is fear on behalf of the individual, the individual who is cataloguing these stories obviously must not fear the police. There is a responsibility for people who have specific evidence to report it to the authorities.
I was driving my little red truck on the River Road the other day and a police car pulled me over. My heart started pounding; but I had not cleared the snow off my licence plate, so I got out and cleared the snow off my licence plate and then I went on my way. The police officer did not know who I was; I was driving a red truck. He was very polite and courteous and told me what the law was about having one's licence plate exposed. I said, "You are right, officer."
Senator Segal: Do you not like trucks in blue?
Senator LeBreton: No, I like red; you know that.
Again, these specific allegations should be reported to the authorities.
Hon. Claude Carignan (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table the answer to the oral question asked by the Honourable Senator Moore on March 6, 2012, concerning the Veterans Review and Appeal Board.
I have the honour to table the answer to the oral question asked by the Honourable Senator Dallaire on May 2, 2012, concerning the current long-term care program.
Honourable senators, I have the honour to table the answer to the oral question asked by the Honourable Senator Dallaire on May 9, 2012, concerning the Long-term Care Program for Veterans.
I have the honour to table the answer to the oral question asked by the Honourable Senator Dallaire on November 1, 2012, concerning priority hiring of veterans.
Honourable senators, I have the honour to table the answer to the oral question asked by the Honourable Senator Moore on November 6, 2012, concerning Veterans' Services and Benefits.
I also have the honour to table the answer to the oral question asked by the Honourable Senator Moore on November 22, 2012, concerning Veterans' Services and Benefits.
I have the honour to table the answer to the oral question asked by the Honourable Senator Dallaire on December 4, 2012 concerning the Royal Military College of Canada.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Wilfred P. Moore on March 6, 2012)
Veterans Affairs Canada’s 10-point Privacy Action Plan:
The Department’s original 10-Point Privacy Action Plan was launched in the fall of 2010 to address immediate privacy concerns identified by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
The 10-point Privacy Action Plan included employee awareness and training; access controls and monitoring; and strictly enforced disciplinary measures. The main points of the 10-Point Privacy Action Plan were completed by March 2011.
Recognizing that protecting Veterans’ privacy requires ongoing vigilance, the Minister launched Privacy Action Plan 2.0 in May 2012. This plan builds on the success of the original 10-point plan and works to fully integrate privacy protection as part of the Department’s overall management framework.
Key elements of the Privacy Action Plan 2.0 have already been fully implemented. These include:
- Enhancements to staff training and awareness;
- Revised and consolidated consent forms;
- Improvements to internal policies and practices; and
- Increased monitoring and evaluation of transactions that involve private information.
On October 4, 2012, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada published an audit report on the Department’s privacy practices. While the audit was generally positive, it pointed out a number of areas which, if addressed, would further enhance the Department’s already significant efforts to safeguard personal information. The Department is implementing all of the Privacy Commissioner’s recommendations as it continues to take action to ensure its privacy practices meet the highest standards. In fact, more than half of the audit's recommendations have been fully addressed, and the remaining actions are well underway.
The ongoing maintenance and oversight of the Privacy Action Plan will provide Veterans with the added assurance that the Department is committed to the protection of their personal information.
Disciplinary measures regarding privacy breaches:
As of January 23, 2013, 118 corrective actions have been taken as a result of inappropriate viewing of Veterans’ files. These actions have ranged from administrative memoranda to suspensions.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire on May 2, 2012)
Civilian access to Ste. Anne's Hospital while continuing to manage it so that the needs of veterans are met:
It has been a long-standing policy of the Government of Canada to transfer federal hospitals to provinces, as health care is within provincial jurisdiction.
Veterans Affairs Canada's current authority and mandate is to support the care of Veterans while the province has the responsibility for health care including long-term care.
Transferring Ste. Anne's to the Government of Quebec will maintain and maximize the Hospital's expertise in geriatrics and psychogeriatrics, and increase bed availability for other Canadians in need of such care.
Expertise in Operational Stress Injury Clinics developed at Ste. Anne's Hospital:
The Government of Canada is firmly committed to meeting the mental health needs of modern-day Veterans, as well as those of their families.
The two Operational Stress Injury clinics located at Ste. Anne's Hospital—the Ste. Anne's Operational Stress Injury Clinic and the Residential Treatment Clinic for Operational Stress Injuries—will be negotiated as a specific component of the transfer of the Hospital.
In the transfer agreement, Veterans Affairs Canada will ensure that Veterans and their families continue to have access to the clinical services they require.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire on May 9, 2012)
As a result to the provincial elections, the current Quebec Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr. Réjean Hébert, took office on September 19, 2012.
Impact on modern-day Veterans in relation to the Ste. Anne's Hospital transfer:
Typically, modern-day Veterans or injured soldiers require rehabilitation or acute care services. Ste. Anne's is a long-term care facility specializing in geriatrics and psycho geriatrics and is focused on the needs of an aging clientele. More and more, Veterans want to remain in their homes and access health services in their communities for as long as possible. The long-term care needs of older Canadian Armed Forces Veterans can also be met through community long-term care facilities.
The Government of Canada is firmly committed to meeting the mental health needs of our modern-day Veterans and their families. Subsequently, the department will maintain the expertise and know-how developed in the domain of mental health.
The two Operational Stress Injury clinics located at Ste. Anne's Hospital—the Ste. Anne Operational Stress Injury Clinic and the Residential Treatment Clinic for Operational Stress Injuries—will be part of negotiations for a potential transfer.
In keeping with a decision by Cabinet in 1963, it has been a longstanding policy of the Government of Canada to transfer Veterans' hospitals to provincial jurisdictions and not to provide direct health care services.
All the other clinics of the Veterans Affairs Canada's Operational Stress Injury network are already part of a provincial health authority in their home provinces.
The provincial system can provide ongoing clinical and professional support and an administrative framework for the operation of these clinics. This system is also well equipped to serve the clinics' technical and information management needs.
There would be advantages in a transfer of the clinics to the provincial system for clients and staff as well as for the two clinics themselves, such as:
- Better embedding in the provincial health system in making the interface with other health services providers
- Opportunities for staff within the provincial health system
All the clinics in this network have an affiliation with a hospital in their respective provincial systems.
In any transfer agreement, Veterans Affairs Canada will ensure that Veterans and their families continue to have access to the clinical services they require.