- MPcon16 hours ago | Saskatchewan, Regina—Qu'Appelle
I have the honour to inform the House that when the House did attend His Excellency the Governor General in the Senate chamber, His Excellency was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:
C-7, An Act to amend the Museums Act in order to establish the Canadian Museum of History and to make consequential amendments to other Acts—Chapter 38, 2013.
C-19, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2014—Chapter 39, 2013.
C-4, A second act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 21, 2013 and other measures—Chapter 40, 2013.
It being 5:55 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday, January 27, 2014, at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).
(The House adjourned at 5:55 p.m.)
- MPcon16 hours ago | Saskatchewan, Regina—Qu'Appelle
I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:
The Secretary to the Governor General and Herald Chancellor
December 12, 2013
I have the honour to inform you that the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, will proceed to the Senate Chamber today, the 12th day of December, 2013, at 5:30 p.m., for the purpose of giving Royal Assent to certain bills of law.
- MPconTue 7:15 pm | Ontario, Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock
Merry Christmas everybody. Accordingly pursuant to an order made earlier today the House stands adjourned until Monday, January 27, 2014, at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).
(The House adjourned at 10:15 p.m.)
- MPconTue 7:10 pm | Ontario, Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock
It being 10:15 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 53(1), the committee will rise and I will leave the chair.
(Government Business No. 5 reported)
- MPconTue 6:55 pm | Alberta, Jeanne-Mance-Viger
Mr. Chair, I was very moved by my colleague's comments, a reflection on his experience during the period of martial law in Poland. He highlighted how important the views of western democratic leaders actually are in situations. Not to compare today's Ukraine, as worrisome as the situation is, to the period of Soviet darkness, but the member pointed out how when Prime Minister Trudeau pointedly refused, the only western leader to refuse, to condemn the imposition of martial law in Poland, that was used by the communist regime as a tool of propaganda.
On the other hand, when President Reagan spoke about the evil empire behind the Iron Curtain, the western left may have mocked him, but refuseniks like Natan Sharansky realized that they had friends who were not going to give up on the fight for freedom.
Would the member like to comment on that and also express what I believe is the unanimous sense of this place that we condemn the use of force occurring right now, as we speak, in Kiev against the Euromaidan peaceful protesters, and that Canada will work with its allies to ensure that in the future, people who violate the fundamental rights of free protesters will be held to account.
- MPconTue 6:35 pm | Ontario, Newmarket—Aurora
Mr. Chair, in my speech, I had the opportunity to talk a bit about the investment that Canada had made in Ukraine, first of all in the electoral process. I touched a bit on the investment that we had made in training judges.
I wonder if my colleague could speak a bit about the influence he thinks that has had on our bilateral relationships.
- MPconTue 6:25 pm | Ontario, Newmarket—Aurora
Mr. Chair, I agree with my colleague that there is no better way to extend the hand of friendship than to meet people face to face.
For a number of years my family hosted young people from around the world through an organization called AFS Interculture Canada. We were a volunteer host family, and we hosted five students who each lived with us for a full year in our home and attended a local high school. There was no remuneration to the host families; they just do it because they love kids.
There is no better way to have an influence in other countries than to get to know people on a one-on-one basis. When people become friends, there is a real opportunity to speak to each other's lives. I believe one of the areas, as parliamentarians, in which we can engage is to meet with our counterparts in Ukraine and have that conversation with them.
I commend my colleague for being a member of that friendship group. We do not have a lot of time here to put into some of these organizations, but they are very important. I thank him for doing what he is doing.
- MPconTue 6:15 pm | Ontario, Newmarket—Aurora
Mr. Chair, I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in this debate.
I will be splitting my time with the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette.
I will speak briefly about Canada's developmental systems in Ukraine and specifically about our continuing commitment to advancing democracy and the rule of law.
Our respective nations share historic ties that extend back through generations of Ukrainian migration to Canada. Ukrainian Canadians have given so much to Canada, and Canada remains committed to giving back to the Ukraine.
In 1991, Canada was the first western nation to recognize Ukraine's independence. Since then, we have devoted considerable effort and resources to support the Ukraine's democratic and economic transition.
Good governance is vital to democracy and for achieving the sustainable economic growth required to move populations from poverty to prosperity. It provides the processes and institutions through which a government is accountable to its citizens.
An election is democracy's fundamental accountability process. It is essential that election processes be fair and free to ensure leaders are genuinely accountable to the people they are elected to represent. As we know, this lack of accountability has been an area of deep concern in Ukraine for quite some time. That is why Canada has provided consistent support for free and fair elections in Ukraine over the last two decades by sending election observers to witness the 2004 and 2010 presidential elections and the 2006 and 2007 parliamentary votes.
In 2012, Canada fielded its largest-ever electoral observation mission, sending 500 Canadians as observers with the Mission Canada bilateral electoral observation mission. Overall, Canada provided $11.4 million in support for the 2012 election process, particularly through Mission Canada but also through support to Ukrainian civil society organizations that mobilized thousands of young volunteers to conduct their own election monitoring and public awareness campaigns.
Through its development program, Canada has also provided technical assistance to Ukraine to modernize its electoral laws and systems. Through the implementation of an online training system for electoral commission members and observers, this system is now being used for the repeat elections that are now under way.
Canada is known for its ardent support for elections in Ukraine. The observers Canada has sent to Ukraine over the years have seen the reality of Ukraine's electoral processes. They know there is a long way to go for Ukraine to reach the international standards of free and fair elections.
In 2012, observers witnessed the misuse of state resources, a lack of transparency of campaign and party financing, vote buying, and biased media coverage, but they also observed a real democratic competition, fierce at times, and an unprecedented engagement of Ukrainian youth in domestic electoral observation efforts. This is cause for hope. Without Canadian and other international observers, the situation might have been much worse. Ukrainian citizens are very appreciative of Canada's generous election observation efforts and solidarity. The Ukrainian people yearn to live in a real democracy.
A functioning democracy needs active, informed citizens, well-functioning public institutions, and rule of law. Canadian development assistance to Ukraine reflects this. Despite Canada's ongoing contributions and despite contributions from many other countries wanting and working for a more free and democratic Ukraine, recent events demonstrate that a democratic deficit still exists and indeed appears to be deepening.
Canada has continued to support Ukrainian efforts toward the rule of law. Canadian development assistance work in the judicial sector has helped ensure timely and transparent court decisions in selected courts. This project is introducing a comprehensive curriculum and training program to improve the capacity of judges to streamline the resolution of commercial cases involving small and medium-sized enterprises.
Canada will continue its support for democracy and the rule of law in Ukraine. It continues to be our priority to work in the best interests of Ukraine's citizens so that they can have complete faith in their electoral processes and ultimately reap the rewards of a truly democratic and prosperous society.
- MPconTue 5:55 pm | Manitoba, Selkirk—Interlake
Mr. Chair, we never know exactly what is in the mind of President Yanukovych these days. There is a lot of speculation out there. I believe that what we are living with are the remnants of Soviet mentality, that technocrat approach to the way they govern their people. I have a great concern that the current administration would rather be more tied in to the past than look to the future.
We have to continue to reach out to the people of Ukraine, and hopefully we will see this peaceful protest, the Euromaidan protest we are seeing in Independence Square in Kiev, and in communities across Ukraine, cumulate in a change of heart by President Yanukovych.
I ask that he strongly consider the will of the people, and I ask my friends from the Ukrainian Embassy to carry that message back. I ask them to consider the will of the people and the wishes they are laying out. They are wearing their hearts on their sleeves on the streets of Kiev tonight, and I ask them to listen to their cries and allow their will to come to a final successful conclusion of moving Ukraine into a stronger European relationship into the future to increase their prosperity.
I always say that a rising tide lifts all ships. The great prosperity that we see in Europe today, which Canada will tie into with our own comprehensive free trade deal, will be to the benefit of our friends in Ukraine, if they pull more into integration, both from an economic standpoint and also through co-operation on so many other avenues, such as democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
- MPconTue 5:50 pm | Manitoba, Selkirk—Interlake
Mr. Chair, there could be two schools of thought on that. There are definitely those who want to see us bring forward sanctions, want to see us be tougher in our dealings, to walk away from any co-operation that we have with Ukraine.
We have the youth mobility agreement. We have had discussions already, which we have suspended, on Canada-Ukrainian free trade. We have military co-operation in training officers and doing officer exchanges between Ukraine and Canada.
Some people would say that we should be stopping that. Definitely we should be looking at the oligarchs and other powerful people within Ukraine who have money stashed around the world, to try to apply some freezes on that.
I am not opposed to some of those ideas. I think from the government's standpoint, especially what I am hearing from the Ukrainian-Canadian Congress and from my constituents who are interested in this, whether they have Ukrainian heritage or not, people want to see us more engaged. They want to see us pulling the people of the Ukraine and the governments they have into more of a western model. If we abandon them now or push them away, and it is seen as pushing them away, it may embolden some of their neighbours.
Right now, one of the reasons we are where we are today is because of some of the bullying tactics that have been implemented by some of their neighbours to the north. Because of that interference and the fearmongering that has taken place to essentially push President Yanukovych into walking away from the table with the European Union, we need to be out there with the Europeans, the Americans, and with other allies who want to see a stronger, more westernized and more democratic Ukraine.
We will have to be fairly sensitive on how we move forward. We do not want to allow any dollars to flow into the wrong hands. However, we definitely believe that economic prosperity is tied to increased trade with the European Union and the rest of the world. We do not want to be caught up in old imperialistic relationships that have not benefited the people of the Ukraine for the last century.
- MPconTue 5:45 pm | Manitoba, Selkirk—Interlake
Mr. Chair, I would say that the Government of Canada has taken every opportunity to register its deep and ongoing concerns regarding the devaluation of democracy within Ukraine.
In November, just last month, we expressed our deep disappointment over Ukraine's decision to suspend its negotiations. We all expected Ukraine to sign the European Union agreement for increased democracy, co-operation and economic prosperity. That was a missed opportunity. That is why we see the protests on the street.
I appreciate all of the comments and ideas that have come forward from the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, and there are two issues that it has laid out. One of them is an issue that all of us can rally behind, to call upon Ukraine's president to respect the freedom of its citizens to peacefully assemble, and to call upon Ukrainian authorities to respect this right and apply restraint in their interactions with these peaceful protestors. We are not seeing that.
As we are sitting here right now, Maidan is being taken down and destroyed. That is not being done in a peaceful manner.
We need to continue to look at all avenues. We need to look at the G8 and G20. The European Union has been the strongest leader on this front. I appreciate all of the work it has done in its ongoing negotiations on what were its hopes for a successful conclusion to the current round of discussions on Ukraine's greater co-operation and economic trade with the European Union.
- MPconTue 5:35 pm | Manitoba, Selkirk—Interlake
Mr. Chair, indeed, it is an honour and a privilege to be in this chamber where we have freedom of speech, where we can speak out on numerous issues and know that there are no repercussions for what we say, where we have a true opportunity to air our grievances.
It is fitting that, tonight, we are having a debate about the situation in Ukraine. To all our Ukrainian friends who are watching us tonight, I say, dobry vechir.
While we are here discussing the current crisis in Kiev, Lviv and other communities across Ukraine, we know that Canadians are watching. My email account today has been inundated with Canadian Ukrainians and with civil society organizations feeding me their statements, their concerns, their press releases and background briefing notes on the situation in Ukraine. The media in Canada is watching this story closely. At the same time, many of my friends in Ukraine have also been contacting me, ensuring that I see the live feeds coming in from Independence Square in Kiev on what is happening in the Maidan and wanting to ensure that Canada is fully aware of the strong hand of government, of the police brutality that is taking place at this moment in Ukraine.
I know that the Ukrainian government is watching, following this debate to see what Canadian politicians are saying, monitoring what is happening in our media, what is happening through organizations such as Canadian Friends of Ukraine, the League of Canadian Ukrainians, and of course, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. We just read into the record a letter that was sent from our friend, Paul Grod.
As someone who is proud of my Ukrainian heritage, I have been active in carrying many different issues forward on behalf of Ukrainian Canadians here in the House of Commons, which includes my private member's bill on the Holodomor, which includes numerous election monitoring trips to the Ukraine, which included being in the Ukraine with the Prime Minister when he was the first prime minister and the first world leader to ever say, in Ukraine, that the Holodomor was a genocide. It was something that I was incredibly proud to see happen and something that the current leadership cannot even say within Ukraine itself.
When I first got elected 10 years ago, we witnessed the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine. There was so much hope brought with that. They overturned a debunked election. The person they had thrown out is now the president, Viktor Yanukovych. Their hopes rode on Viktor Yushchenko and they made him president. They thought he would bring about change. It never materialized, unfortunately.
Then we have seen the selective justice process where former political leaders are imprisoned. People are frustrated with that. It is not that they are saying that everything that Yulia Tymoshenko did was right, but they are saying that she never got a fair trial.
It just raises the question of whether or not there is true judicial independence within the Ukraine.
One of the reasons that so many of us in the House, in this chamber, have been to the Ukraine on multiple occasions is to watch elections, to observe how they are carried out, to communicate with people in an electoral system about reform. What we continue to see is gerrymandering, to the benefit of the current party in power.
All of us are concerned about the quashing of civil liberties, freedom of speech, freedom of press, judicial independence, respect for the rule of law. We have had numerous complaints coming from the academics that their courses, their teachings are continually monitored and interfered with by the department of education in the Ukraine.
We have to move the yardstick and that is not happening. We have been reaching out to Ukraine. Ukraine has tried to become more integrated in the world economy. It joined the World Trade Organization. One of the first things it did, although it was legal, was to apply tariffs to over 370 commodities, products and services across this country. We are trying to negotiate a free trade agreement with Ukraine, and that is not negotiating in good faith, in my opinion.
We know that did not sit well and stuck in the craw of the European Union, which was in the process of closing a deal with Ukraine that was to be signed off on at the end of November in Vilnius, Lithuania, so that there would be a true economic co-operative agreement, free trade and more integration within the European Union for the Ukrainian people. President Yanukovych walking away from that deal has created this huge public outcry.
What we have witnessed over the last 10 years, from election interference and no respect for the rule of law to continued Soviet-style governance systems, has now accumulated with what we see happening with the Euromaidan. We have to continue to engage Ukraine. We cannot allow this to continue to happen. At the same time, we have to see some good faith from Ukraine and we have not seen any good faith in a long time. The closest thing we have seen was when it released Yuriy Lutsenko, who was one of the political leaders and lawyer for Yulia Tymoshenko. That is the only step of good faith that we have seen from this administration.
When I did my last election monitoring in Ukraine for the parliamentary elections last year, I was part of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the OSCE, parliamentary delegation. There were a number of us who were part of that parliamentary delegation. We were on the ground doing election monitoring. I definitely saw improvements in the way the elections were being carried out, but starting this weekend there are a number of by-elections in Ukraine because so many results were thrown out for interference, fraud and other corruption charges on a number of different oblasts.
They are redoing those elections and there will again be another Canadian delegation going there, run by CANADEM. They will again be monitoring the situation, but it is going to be under a much more difficult scenario because of the peaceful protests that are taking place. Unfortunately, those protesters are being shoved aside, their tent city ripped down, and Maidan being destroyed.
Just last week, the OSCE had a meeting. Its 20th ministerial council was held in Kiev and our Minister of Foreign Affairs, who has had such a strong, principled stand on how we engage with Ukraine, was there. I was very proud when I saw him and Paul Grod, who is the president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, walking through Independence Square with the Canadian maple leaf strapped on their backs, showing the people of Ukraine that Canada stands in solidarity with them, that we will stay engaged and we will make sure that their aspirations will be realized.
I want to make sure we look at what the purpose of the OSCE is. This is an organization that we want Ukraine to use as its basis for moving forward, from a security standpoint, from an economic co-operation standpoint and a democracy standpoint. The OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier, on the eve of ministerial council in Kiev last week, said:
Peaceful dialogue is at the core of the OSCE’s work and finding common ground through political means is our raison d’être....
Respect of fundamental rights, such as freedom of assembly, the right to free expression and giving journalists the liberty to do their work is essential to ensuring cohesive and secure societies.
All we want is for the current administration in Ukraine to allow society in Ukraine to mature, to be free, to be democratic and respect the rule of law.
- MPconTue 5:25 pm | Manitoba, Selkirk—Interlake
Mr. Chair, it is critical that all of us are here tonight, in real time, discussing the problems facing Ukraine. These are problems that have accumulated to where we have these protests taking place. They have accumulated to a situation where the government has decided to use military and police force to clear the streets, to clear Independence Square, to clear everyone out there trying to make their point that the current situation is not acceptable to them and it is not acceptable to us around the world.
I am glad the member for was so respectful in her comments, while taking a fairly strong stance as to what are the next stages of moving forward. I would like her to go on in more detail as to what we need to do as Canada and as individual Canadians who are interested in what is happening in Ukraine and what we expect to see from the government of Ukraine.
What we have experienced so far is an unwillingness to listen to the people, a complete disrespect for democratic processes within Ukraine. President Yanukovych has an opportunity here to right the ship, re-engage the west, re-engage Europe and really meet the needs and aspirations of the citizens of Ukraine. I ask my colleague to talk to those points.
- MPconTue 4:45 pm | Ontario, Ottawa West—Nepean
Mr. Chair, before I make remarks and comments to my colleague from Parkdale—High Park, I would like to say that the Government of Canada's aspiration, desire and goal for the people of Ukraine is the same as for everywhere else in the world. We want to see peace, prosperity, and most importantly, freedom. These are incredibly important values, Canadian values, that we want to promote around the world.
I just want to make a brief intervention on behalf of the government and on behalf of myself about the Ukraine. They are facing some real and significant challenges.
I listened with great respect to my friend from Parkdale—High Park, the member opposite, to her advice and her intervention. I want to say this. She is a true friend of the people of Ukraine. She should talk more to her friend, my friend, her foreign affairs critic, the member for Ottawa Centre.
I should say we all seek a peaceful resolution to the current conflict. We want to see the government dial down its rhetoric. We want to see an engagement with the opposition. If we could encourage anything to happen, it would be for the government to engage the opposition to look at the current conflict, to dial back its rhetoric and to look at its association with the European Union. That is exactly what I did on my recent visit to Ukraine.
I would be remiss if I did not say at the outset that I appreciate the strong commitment and leadership of the member for Parkdale—High Park on these issues. I am sure she will use this in her election pamphlets. I do appreciate it. She is a strong advocate for the people of Ukraine, and I want to thank her for her very thoughtful speech.
- MPconTue 4:30 pm | Manitoba, Selkirk—Interlake
Mr. Chair, I want to thank my friend from Etobicoke Centre for his leadership on the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group and also for the great interest and advocacy he has shown for Ukraine over the last number of years.
What is happening in Ukraine is very disheartening to all of us. Peaceful protestors should be allowed to be on the streets. They should be allowed to let their opinions be known. I wonder if the member for Etobicoke Centre would be so kind as to talk about the efforts of our foreign affairs minister, who recently was in Kiev for the OSCE meeting of ministers. Could he talk to the fact that we stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine? Could he also talk about how this plays back in his own riding of Etobicoke Centre, in the Ukrainian diaspora in Toronto, and across Canada, for that matter?
- MPconTue 3:50 pm | Saskatchewan, Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Mr. Chair, I appreciate the discussion that is taking place tonight. I want to ask my colleague a couple of questions.
I actually had the chance to be at the Vilnius summit and to see the disappointment that was so obvious there that Ukraine would not be signing the agreement. Three opposition leaders were actually there and hosted a panel. Two of the things they talked about were, one, the importance of making sure that the demonstrations and their opposition to the government's position were done peacefully and, two, the real need for them to be working together, not separately.
I would be interested first in the member's comments on the necessity for the opposition in Ukraine to work together. Second, we have had some differences across the House in terms of the importance of integrated trade deals and those kinds of things. How does his party see the importance of the EU-Ukraine integration agreement?
- MPconTue 3:30 pm | Saskatchewan, Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Mr. Chair, around the world, we stand as a country that respects the rule of law, respects human rights and insists on the development of democracy wherever we go. Certainly it has been a great disappointment over the last couple of weeks in particular to see Ukrainian authorities taking the measures they have. As I mentioned a little earlier, the first thing that seemed to have happened was that journalists and foreign journalists were being attacked so they could not get the story out to the rest of the world.
Certainly, protesters are in the streets. They want to be peaceful and they want to get their point across that they really do see their future in EU integration. The authorities need to listen to that.
What could be negative about giving citizens greater mobility, greater and closer political co-operation to support the consolidation of democracy and giving them more economic opportunities? Those are the kinds of things that will come forward if the Ukrainian leadership finally listens to its own citizens and allow them to have a say in the direction the country goes. Then we will see those kinds of things that my colleague from Etobicoke Centre, who has done such strong work on the issue of Ukraine, would love to see develop, as would we all.
- MPconTue 3:25 pm | Saskatchewan, Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Mr. Chair, what I should first point out is the importance of the Ukrainian heritage and Ukrainian ties to the province of both the member who just spoke and myself, particularly the northeast corner of our province. People from eastern Europe and particularly the Ukraine played a huge role in the development of Saskatchewan and the benefits that we are seeing now. Therefore, it is important to us that we address this issue seriously.
We are at the point where we see these political trends as being very troubling. However, our policy in the past is one that we believe we should continue, and that is a principle of engagement with the Ukraine. We have consistently messaged and urged action from the Ukrainian authorities that they protect the rule of law, work toward human rights and strengthen democracy. We continue to carry that message to them. We want to support those folks who are out on the streets who believe that those are important principles, that the Ukraine continues to move in the direction of seeing stronger democracy, a stronger rule of law, and in particular, seeing human rights protected.
What really concerned us was that when the attacks took place in the Independence Square, the first people who seemed to be attacked were journalists. It looked like there was some attempt to keep the story from getting out and to limit that. The principles of freedom of association, freedom of speech and protection for journalists are very important and need to be protected in the Ukraine.
- MPconTue 3:20 pm | Ontario, Simcoe North
Before we go to questions and comments, I just remind hon. members, that take note debates are rather less formal affairs. Members are encouraged, if they wish, to sit anywhere in the chamber it becomes appropriate to have a good exchange across the aisle.
Questions and comments, the hon. member for Ottawa Centre.
- MPconTue 3:15 pm | Saskatchewan, Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Mr. Chair, it is great to be here tonight. Before I begin my speech, I just want to say that we are doing some last work of the House of Commons before we go for our Christmas break, but certainly it is not the least work. This is an extremely important discussion we are having tonight.
I, as well as others, certainly want to wish the staff and pages a good vacation away from here for a few extra weeks. As the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands pointed out, I think we also need to remember that this is the season we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and all that it means.
Tonight I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the discussion of the Ukraine at this very important and troubling juncture. Canada was both shocked and disappointed when the Ukrainian government suddenly announced, on November 21, that it would not be pursuing an association agreement on a deep and comprehensive free trade area with the European Union.
This was an abrupt reversal from years of planning and earnest negotiations on the part of our European partners and a divergence from Ukraine's promised path of deeper partnership and integration with the west. All indications until that point had been that the Ukrainian government would make its best effort to reform its institutions, its economy, and its legal system in the best interest of its people and the country's future.
The European Parliament's special envoys, former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and former European Parliament President Cox, had travelled together to the Ukraine some 27 times since 2011 in an impressive display of shuttle diplomacy. They had worked hard to find a solution to the issue of selective justice in the case of imprisoned former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, an issue that had to be resolved before an EU-Ukraine deal could be agreed upon.
In one instant, those efforts were swept aside by President Viktor Yanukovych. This regrettable decision by his government came just days ahead of the EU's eastern partnership summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, where the association agreement was scheduled to be signed. Yanukovych instead turned his back on the European Union, and worst of all, on the will of his people.
As soon as this decision was announced, ordinary Ukrainians took peacefully to the streets. They unfurled their blue and yellow Ukrainian flags alongside the blue and yellow banner of the European Union. Their hopes had been dashed by a decision taken by a government out of touch with the will of its people.
As the date of the Vilnius summit drew near, more and more Ukrainians gathered at Kiev's Independence Square, by the tens of thousands, amid the bitter cold, recalling scenes of the spontaneous Orange Revolution of 2004-05. That people-powered revolution sought to bring accountability, democracy, and the rule of law to the Ukraine. Today those values again are in jeopardy.
As the Vilnius summit came and went and a deal was left unsigned, more concerned Ukrainians, determined to ensure that their European aspirations not be squandered, streamed into the squares and streets of Kiev and other Ukrainian cities. According to reliable estimates, as many as 800,000 protestors marched in Kiev on December 1 in a display of solidarity against the government's decision.
Thousands of concerned Canadians, as well, demonstrated that day in front of the Ukrainian embassy in Ottawa and in towns and cities across this country. Canadians were taken to demonstrate not only in support of the aspirations of the Ukrainian people but also in response to the egregious acts of violence carried out by Ukrainian authorities the day before, on November 30, against peaceful protestors in Kiev's Independence Square.
On that day, the Minister of Foreign Affairs expressed Canada's strong condemnation of this deplorable use of violence. He called on the Government of Ukraine to respect and protect the rights of its citizens to express their opinions freely and to respect the freedom of assembly as rights inherent in any truly democratic country.
As we know, such values and principles are the cornerstones of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the OSCE, an organization that has been chaired in 2013 by none other than Ukraine.
On December 5 and 6, the OSCE's annual meeting of foreign ministers, the ministerial council, took place in the Ukrainian capital. It was an egregious affront to OSCE values and principles that so many of them, including freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and the protection of journalists, had been violated in the host city on the eve of the ministerial.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, who attended the OSCE ministerial on behalf of Canada, made it clear that such actions were unacceptable and an affront to the values that we all, as OSCE members, strive for. He expressed Canada's deep disappointment that the Ukrainian government had, in balking at implementing the measures necessary to sign an association agreement in Vilnius, effectively suspended the country's path toward democratic development and economic prosperity. This was clearly not the wish of the people of Ukraine.
While in Kiev, the minister met with his Ukrainian counterpart, Minister Kozhara, to express Canada's grave concerns about the Ukrainian government's crackdown on mass protests against its decision to suspend negotiations. He also met with leaders of the Ukrainian opposition and with representatives of civil society to voice Canada's support for the democratic rights of all Ukrainians. He also visited Independence Square, where he met personally with many of the protesters. People on the square chanted, “Thank you, Canada”, and cheered when he arrived.
The clear signals of the Ukrainian people have been broadcast around the world. The most concerning and disappointing aspect has been the Ukrainian authority's reaction to those peaceful protests. We will continue to stand with those Ukrainians who believe in freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.
Canada hopes that preparations for a Ukraine-EU agreement can resume in the near future. This recent development must not stop the Euro-Atlantic and European integration processes, as they reflect a genuine aspiration among Ukrainians to embrace the values of freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Canada will continue to be there for help. Our development assistance programs in Ukraine will continue.
It is worth noting that at this moment, Canada has over two dozen election observers either deployed or being deployed to Ukraine to monitor the parliamentary by-elections being held on December 15 in five electoral districts where electoral fraud invalidated the results during the nationwide parliamentary elections of 2012. This is only our most recent and current demonstration of our government's ongoing commitment to Ukrainian democracy. Since Ukraine's renewed independence in 1991, Canada has played a pioneering and influential role, and I would say a continuing role, in promoting freedom, democracy, and human rights in this important country with which so many Canadians share deep historical, cultural, and people-to-people ties.
We are determined to continue to assist the Ukrainian people in achieving their aspirations for a fully free and democratic society while helping to transform Ukraine's economy into a better, more transparent, rules-based, and liberalized marketplace that is better equipped to integrate with a diversified global economy.
In conclusion, our Canadian values and our deep and long-standing friendship with the Ukrainian people demand nothing less of us.
- MPconTue 3:10 pm | Ontario, Simcoe North
Before we begin this evening's debate, I would like to remind hon. members of how the proceedings will unfold.
Each member speaking will be allotted 10 minutes for debate, followed by 10 minutes for questions and comments. Members may divide their time with another member. The debate will end after four hours or when no member rises to speak.
Pursuant to the order made on Monday, December 9, 2013, the Chair will receive no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent.
We will now begin tonight's take note debate. Debate, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
- MPconTue 3:05 pm | Ontario, Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour in the House to speak to Bill C-479, an Act to bring fairness for the victims of violent offenders. I am dedicated and passionate about seeing this bill through because the changes it would bring about for victims and their families are overdue. Today marks one step closer in the legislative process in seeing these changes become a reality.
First, I would like to thank the hon. member for Scarborough Centre, who is also the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety, for her strong support the last time we debated Bill C-479 in the House. In her role, she has been a strong advocate for victims in her community and across the country, and I congratulate her on her work.
The parliamentary secretary, the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Justice were busy this past summer, hearing from victims across the country. We look forward to hearing more from them in the months ahead on the federal government's support for victims.
I am proud that Bill C-479 complements our government's work to support victims and their families from coast to coast to coast.
I would also like to thank and acknowledge the hon. members for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Winnipeg North, Alfred-Pellan and Abitibi—Témiscamingue for the support they offered in the House to bring this bill to committee. I appreciate their kind words on my intent in bringing forward this bill. While they have raised some points that will be further debated in committee, I have no doubt that their hearts are in the right place.
All of us on both sides of the House should desire to do everything we can to bring about fairness for victims and their families and act on some of the recommendations of the victims ombudsman. Contrary to the member for Malpeque's comments, this bill is not about the Criminal Code, but the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and victims' rights. This is all about that.
I offer special thanks to the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, Sue O'Sullivan, for meeting with me and my staff and for all of her advice and support in the development of this bill. Many of the provisions of Bill C-479 stem from the recommendations made by Ms. O'Sullivan and her office. I appreciate and respect the work that she and her team do on a daily basis to advocate for victims. It is tough, emotional and unrelenting work and they do it effectively, professionally and compassionately.
I have also heard from victims. To me, that is the ultimate litmus test of this bill. When they tell me that it will make a difference and that we are on the right track, I know that this makes sense.
Please allow me to conclude this debate at second reading where I began. That is by reiterating my intent in bringing forward this bill. As I have said at each stage of the process, it was an eye opening and heart-wrenching experience at a hearing of the National Parole Board of Canada in the summer of 2010 that led me to introduce this bill. Invited to observe as a guest of my constituents, I witnessed first hand how the system revictimized the people who had already suffered enough for a lifetime. Since that time, I have witnessed many more meetings, all just as gut-wrenching and painful.
Constable Michael Sweet's story and his family's reasonable request to have more information has profoundly affected me as well. Their point is well taken that their father and husband's life was taken from them publicly. The offenders were tried publicly, with all of the evidence being introduced publicly. Victims, their families and all Canadians should have some public assurance that those convicted of violent offences are doing what they can to be rehabilitated and become contributing citizens.
If an act to bring fairness for the victims of violent offenders eases the revictimization of just one family, it will be worth it, but I am convinced that it would do much more.
Merry Christmas. Joyeux Noël.
- MPconTue 3:05 pm | Saskatchewan, Regina—Qu'Appelle
I would like to take just a few seconds to echo some of the comments that were made. In particular, I thank the hard-working table staff, the table officers and the clerks, and of course the pages. I know in each one of our offices we have very hard-working staff who support us in what we do, whether they be chiefs of staff, whether they be special advisers, speech writers or administrative assistants. It takes a lot of effort to make this place function in the high calibre in which it does.
I very much appreciate the very kind personal best wishes for me and my family. I know many of us have children and spouses back home who eagerly await and when we can come a little bit early, that is much appreciated. The last time that happened to me, one of my daughters said, “Oh, weekend Daddy is home a little bit early this week”.
I know we are all looking forward to returning to our constituents and our families. I wish everyone a very merry Christmas and a safe and happy holiday season.
With that, I will put the question on the hon. government House leader's proposed motion.
Does he have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?
- MPconTue 2:55 pm | Saskatchewan, Regina—Qu'Appelle
Before I seek unanimous consent for the motion, I understand the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley would like to say a few words.
- MPconTue 2:00 pm | Ontario, Haldimand—Norfolk
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, on behalf of my colleagues the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Industry, and as part of the government's seven-point plan to replace the CF-18 fleet, the following three reports.
They include the next generation fighter capability annual update, the Canadian industrial participation in the F-35 joint strike fighter program, and the final report of the independent review, “2013, Department of National Defence annual update on next generation fighter capability life-cycle costs”.
- MPconTue 1:55 pm | Ontario, Kitchener Centre
Mr. Speaker, the understanding I had when I sat down to listen to my colleague across the way was that we were debating a bill proposed by a private member, yet I hear him talking about entirely different things. He is now mentioning playing cards.
I would simply ask the Speaker to rein him in and ask him to keep his comments to relevant comments regarding the bill under debate.
- MPconTue 12:55 pm | Alberta, Edmonton—Leduc
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I believe if you seek it, you will find unanimous consent to revert to tabling of reports from committees.
- MPconTue 12:35 pm | Ontario, Kitchener Centre
Mr. Speaker, I will say, in the spirit of reconciliation, that when the hon. member for Drummond mentioned, after the long and somewhat rambling, off-point speech by the member for Timmins—James Bay, that the current system of elections in first nations communities is paternalistic, I could not agree more.
Perhaps distracted by his colleague's speech, the hon. member for Drummond did not read the bill that is up for debate today. If he did, he would see that it is designed to take the minister out of the day-to-day governance of on-reserve elections. This, in fact, has been the request of multiple first nations, from Manitoba to the Maritimes.
Although it takes a little more time, I would urge my colleagues across the way to actually read the bill and see that it is designed to increase self-government in an opt-in manner for first nations communities.
- MPconTue 12:05 pm | Manitoba, Saint Boniface
Mr. Speaker, the CBC is a crown corporation that operates at arm's length from the government. It is responsible for its own operations, including labour negotiations.
I hope the negotiations will reach a successful conclusion, but that remains in the hands of the CBC and its employees.
- MPconTue 12:05 pm | Ontario, Ottawa West—Nepean
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for her interest in this file.
Obviously Canadians from coast to coast to coast are celebrating the amazing life that Nelson Mandela led. They are celebrating the choice that he made, reconciliation over revenge. They are celebrating his moral leadership.
All Canadians, including the Government of Canada and Parliament, want to reflect on what we can do to remind future generations of his remarkable leadership.
- MPconTue 12:05 pm | Saskatchewan, Regina—Qu'Appelle
The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
- MPconTue 12:05 pm | Ontario, Oak Ridges—Markham
Mr. Speaker, I will just say this. I am now shocked to learn that the Green Party itself no longer believes that the north is an important part of Canada.
I will of course do my best to stand up for Santa Claus each and every day in this House, that includes in question period. He is a Canadian citizen, and we will defend him all the way to the United Nations when we make our claim for the North Pole. I am proud of that.
- MPconTue 12:00 pm | Manitoba, Saint Boniface
Mr. Speaker, that question allows me to stand and celebrate the fact that Canadian Heritage is responsible for providing funding to over 1,100 festivals across the country from coast to coast to coast.
In fact, all of them go through a rigorous procedure to meet the criteria that are set, and as always, I will continue to work with the very capable public servants in the Canadian Heritage Department to ensure that those festivals that qualify do in fact get the funding they require.
- MPconTue 12:00 pm | Ontario, Parry Sound—Muskoka
Mr. Speaker, discussions are ongoing, but I can tell the House, it is a repeat of the language in the budget.
We are seeking fair and reasonable discussions with the public sector representatives of the various bargaining tables. We want to protect the taxpayer from loads that are not sustainable in terms of public sector salary costs, and we will continue to represent and protect the taxpayer.
- MPconTue 11:55 am | Manitoba, Saint Boniface
Mr. Speaker, for the benefit of all Canadians, this government has done a lot to ensure Canadians' voices are heard. When we plan the 150th anniversary of our country, I can assure Canadians that their voices will again be heard. Whether it be the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the national flag, whether it be the commemoration of First and Second World War events, whether it be the celebration of the Charlottetown and Quebec conferences, Canadians can count on this Conservative government to be present and listening.
While the NDP may stay home, we are going to be there celebrating the 150th with all Canadians.
- MPconTue 11:55 am | British Columbia, West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country
Mr. Speaker, Canadians love sport and we love even more getting others into sport. Sport is a key part of our culture and our identity. It has the ability to bring us closer together and instil national pride. Of course, many of us will fondly remember what a great job Canada did hosting the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, where we finished number one in gold medals and third overall in the medal count.
With just 59 days to go until the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, could the Minister of State for Sport please tell the House what our government is doing to ensure Team Canada is well prepared for these upcoming games?
- MPconTue 11:55 am | Ontario, Niagara Falls
Mr. Speaker, those comments by the hon. member are completely untrue. The government has made it a priority to reach out to ill and injured members of the armed forces. We work with them. There have been unprecedented investments in this area. We have the highest ratio of mental health workers of all our NATO allies.
We are getting the job done and we will continue to support the men and women in uniform, as well as the veterans in this country.
- MPconTue 11:55 am | Saskatchewan, Regina—Qu'Appelle
Order, please. I do recall asking members many times previously to wait until the hon. member has finished her question. If they choose to applaud her question at the end of it, then they can feel free to do so, but not in the middle of her question.
The hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River has the floor.
- MPconTue 11:50 am | Saskatchewan, Regina—Qu'Appelle
The hon. member for Vancouver Quadra.
- MPconTue 11:50 am | British Columbia, North Vancouver
Mr. Speaker, as I said, we do continue to look at Canada pension plan reform.
I can assure the House that the NDP's plan to double the CPP premiums while the economy is still fragile is not a moderate proposal. The irresponsible NDP plan could force a family with two workers in the home to pay as much as $2,600 a year more. In this fragile global economy, Canadians simply cannot afford the NDP.
- MPconTue 11:50 am | Alberta, Jeanne-Mance-Viger
Mr. Speaker, first of all, there are no quotas. Second, the government has not changed its policy in that regard. Third, the idea that Service Canada is targeting certain groups when it comes to employment insurance fraud is completely, 100%, false. It is totally false. We completely reject this false allegation, which is totally unfounded. It is completely irresponsible to repeat those false allegations.
- MPconTue 11:45 am | British Columbia, North Vancouver
Mr. Speaker, we will continue to work with the provinces and territories to improve the Canada pension plan. However, we do not believe that this is the right time to be increasing the burden on employees and employers by increasing premiums while the economy is fragile.
The NDP plan to raise CPP costs will kill up to 70,000 jobs in our economy. Those members should know that it is difficult to have a healthy retirement plan for tomorrow if there is no job for today.
Despite the NDP's reckless plans, we continue to stand up for lower taxes, job creation and economic growth for all Canadians.
- MPconTue 11:45 am | Saskatchewan, Prince Albert
Mr. Speaker, our country's economy benefits from the natural resource sector with nearly 20% of our GDP and 1.8 million jobs being supported.
While our government understands the importance of our resources, the NDP want to shut it down. The leader of the NDP referred to our oil sands as causing a disease to our economy, which is a theory that has been debunked across the spectrum.
Can the Minister of Natural Resources update the House on the benefits of natural resource development?
- MPconTue 11:40 am | Saskatchewan, Regina—Qu'Appelle
The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster.
- MPconTue 11:40 am | Ontario, Oak Ridges—Markham
Mr. Speaker, the RCMP are currently undertaking an investigation.
The RCMP, I am sure, will ask anybody they feel they need to ask with respect to this. They have identified that Nigel Wright and Senator Duffy are the subject of the investigation. I trust that the RCMP will continue to do the work they need to do to find whatever information they need.
At the same time, I ask the Liberal Party to join with us in protecting the citizenship of Santa Claus, join with us in making sure the North Pole remains part of Canada. For all of those kids around the world who are depending on Santa Claus, I ask them to abandon their ideas and stick with us, and keep Santa Claus Canadian.
- MPconTue 11:35 am | Ontario, Oak Ridges—Markham
Mr. Speaker, Senator Gerstein has made it quite clear that he did not and was not going to be paying back Senator Duffy's expenses. The Prime Minister has already identified that.
With respect to giving Canadians a gift, it is hard to take that party seriously when the person who we most look to this year to give gifts, including my daughters, is Santa Claus. All of a sudden the Liberals are suggesting that Santa Claus is no longer Canadian and that they would abandon the North Pole and abandon Santa Claus. On this side of the House, we are going to stand up not only for my daughters, but for your family as well, Mr. Speaker, and for all those young Canadians, in the spirit of Christmas, who are waiting for Santa Claus to come and visit.
- MPconTue 11:30 am | Ontario, Oak Ridges—Markham
Mr. Speaker, our ministers have been working extraordinarily hard, not only on this but on all kinds of different files. That is why one million net new jobs have been created in this country. That is why the Minister of National Defence is busy ensuring that our forces have the equipment they need. That is why the Minister of Justice brought forward a victims' bill of rights. That is why the Minister of State for sport is undertaking the Pan Am Games. That is why the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness is ensuring that our forces have the equipment they need. That is why the Minister of Natural Resources is making our resources available. That is why the Minister of International Trade is working on a free trade deal. I could go on and on.
- MPconTue 11:25 am | Ontario, Niagara Falls
Mr. Speaker, I cannot comment on specific intelligence activities or capabilities, but I do have good news for the hon. member.
There is a commissioner who looks into CSEC. Every year for 16 years, the commissioner has confirmed that its activities have been lawful here. The commissioner has done that for the last 16 years, and he is an independent individual, so I am sure that will assure the hon. member.
- MPconTue 11:25 am | Ontario, Ottawa West—Nepean
Mr. Speaker, I believe the Liberal Party certainly knows how to see the glass half full.
Obviously one person has taken responsibility and two people are being investigated by the authorities, as they properly should. We await the outcome.
- MPconTue 11:25 am | Quebec, Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean
Mr. Speaker, after 13 long years of inaction by the Liberal government, our government stepped up to make the necessary repairs to the Champlain Bridge. We promised that the bridge would be done in 2018 with a public-private partnership, and that it would be a toll bridge and involve public transportation. I call that a very clear plan.
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