- MPndpMar 13, 2015 10:30 am | Ontario, Nickel Belt
I thank my colleague for that excellent question.
This bill was supposed to be presented in the House three weeks ago. The Minister of Health asked me to delay it until today so we could negotiate. We have negotiated, and I have here seven pages of amendments that were agreed to. All of the amendments that the Minister of Health wanted have been agreed to.
I am going to talk about one amendment. The Conservatives wanted to change the name of the bill, “an act respecting a national strategy for dementia”, to “an act respecting a pan-Canadian strategy for dementia”.
I do not care what they call it; I do not think the patients care what they call it, nor do the doctors or the caregivers. They can call it whatever they want, but do something.
- MPndpMar 13, 2015 10:25 am | Ontario, Nickel Belt
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her excellent question.
The government has invested in dementia research. However, as I mentioned in my speech, it is going to take more than just research. Everyone is aware that, without research, we cannot solve the problem. Nevertheless, there are other things. We have to look after the caregivers, because home care is needed.
We have to keep our fathers and mothers at home for as long as possible because it has been proven that Alzheimer's progresses more quickly once patients leave their own homes.
- MPndpMar 13, 2015 10:15 am | Ontario, Nickel Belt
moved that Bill C-356, An Act respecting a National Strategy for Dementia, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I have been waiting a long time for this. I count it a privilege to stand in the House today to speak on my bill, an act respecting a national strategy for dementia.
I am aware of the millions of Canadians who are directly caught up in the web of Alzheimer's or dementia. I have also become aware of many Canadians and groups who, like me, want a national dementia plan.
It was over three years ago that I stood to introduce this legislation. I shared how this bill came to be by telling the story of my mother's seven-year battle with Alzheimer's, from 1997 until her death in 2003.
The Sudbury Star had profiled my family's experience and had in the headline the following comment: “I didn't know enough”. Truer words have never been spoken. Many others who have caregiving responsibilities thrust on them tell me that those words ring true.
In the past three years, I have learned plenty. First was the staggering statistic on how many people are affected, which is reflected in the “Rising Tide” report by the Alzheimer Society of Canada. There are 740,000 people with the disease. This number will double in a generation. The health care cost of $33 billion will soar to $293 billion in 2040.
Providing millions of hours of unpaid caregiving has forced people to cut back or leave work altogether, which harms them and our economy. I want to talk about that this afternoon.
I learned from the Canadian Medical Association that 15% of scarce acute care beds are occupied by people who could be placed elsewhere, and half of those are dementia patients. Beyond those important statistics, I have learned the real face of the problem.
Fran Linton, in British Columbia, wrote to tell me about her experience and that of her husband in dealing with Lewy body dementia. She wrote:
I am writing in the hope that what I present to you will enable people to see the person with dementia and their family as real people and not just statistics and numbers. We hear the staggering statistics of how many people in Canada have dementia and we hear that dollars are being invested in research. What needs to be heard is the daily impact of being a person living with dementia and those supporting the person with dementia. Our Canadian government needs to hear the reality of their world.
I have met these real people from coast to coast to coast in our communities. They are struggling with this enormous challenge.
I have learned that the real face of dementia is not just older people. Matt Dineen is one of the biggest champions for this bill and an actual plan. He could not be here today, but he is listening in. He is a 44-year-old high school teacher here in Ottawa. He and his relatives are now forced to raise three young children as his wife and their mom, Lisa, at 45 years old, is already in secure long-term care with frontotemporal dementia. Matt has met the Minister of Health.
I learned that 15% of dementia patients are under 60 years old. I have learned that we have a health care crisis and a social and economic crisis that we must address.
My legislation calls for leadership from Ottawa, working with the provinces and territories, which, of course, have primary jurisdiction duties for health care delivery.
I want this leadership from Ottawa to tackle five main elements: early diagnosis and prevention; research; a continuum of care for people and families in the home, the community, and institutions; real help for caregivers; and training for the dementia workforce.
On that last point, help for the dementia workforce, Michael Alexander shared with me the horrific story of his father's death in a nursing home at the hands of another Alzheimer patient. CTV, in a special report, said that there have been 60 such deaths in 12 years, a figure that is growing. Michael Alexander and his family want a real and national dementia plan.
I said I wanted to speak about the challenges caregivers face. Tanya Levesque is a woman in Ottawa looking after her mom. Here are some of the life and financial issues she has met with as a caregiver.
To take care of her mom, Ms. Levesque first had to take leave without pay so she could care for her at home. She will only have the option of leave without pay for five years. Money gets tighter and tighter as they try to keep her in her home and care for her. They draw on savings that were meant for later years.
She writes the following:
Following is a list of financial barriers I have experienced during my journey as my mother's caregiver: Unable to access my El benefits; I've been unable to qualify for social assistance; unable to claim the caregiver amount on my income tax, since my mother's net income is a few thousand more than what is listed; lack of subsidies for expenses which keep increasing (i.e. property tax, parking fees at hospitals for appointments, gas for travelling to appointments, hydro, water and sewage fees and more); I've changed my eating habits to save money, due to the increased cost of food, so my mother can eat well; and because of a lack of future job security, my retirement security is in question — I can't save, because I've chosen to care for my mother, who took care of me
Ms. Levesque, her mom, and others are watching today. Let us pass a real dementia plan as law to help those overwhelmed caregivers.
As I said, I introduced this bill over three years ago. I want to recognize the progress made by Canada since then, through the government working with a G8 initiative and also with our provinces and territories. Many would like that progress to be quicker, but it does deserve recognition.
Canada had come to the G8 summit called for by the U.K. prime minister without a national dementia plan. Several allies from leading economic nations had national plans. Canada has made several significant announcements on research that we support. Research will be the key part of any plan or response to this health care crisis.
Even though research can have an impact on other parts of the dementia challenge, research alone cannot help those with the disease, their caregivers, or the workforce. That is why our party has been insistent on a full, comprehensive strategy.
Canada needs a national strategy for dementia that comes from Ottawa, but one that respects provincial and territorial jurisdiction over health. One strategy tailored to the needs of each province or territory will be far better than 13 separate strategies implemented in isolation of one another. We want a national strategy that goes beyond research, to also help those now living with the disease, their caregivers, and the dementia workforce.
The Canadian Medical Association estimates that patients who should be elsewhere occupy about 15% of the acute care hospital beds across Canada, and one third of them are suffering from dementia. Lost in those numbers perhaps is the real human face of the disease—the moms, dads, brothers, sisters, friends, neighbours and work colleagues.
While an elderly face typifies most people dealing with dementia, 15% of those living with Alzheimer's or related dementia diseases are under 60. At every meeting we had on this bill, we found people who know someone directly affected as a patient or caregiver. It is a health challenge. It is a health care challenge. Given the current lack of money and resources for health care, it is a big problem for us to solve.
I have noted the work that the government is doing with the provinces and territories through the Council of the Federation.
In the past year, I have enjoyed several conversations with the current Minister of Health. I have respected her work on this file. I have been communicating with the minister and her department over the past month and have discussed possible amendments to the bill in committee to work collaboratively on changes that all parties could support. We have identified a way to have this legislation passed.
I look forward to hearing the government's position regarding possible support for a national dementia plan. I know she and all MPs have been hearing loud and clear from so many Canadians who want this to happen. We now have over 300 municipalities passing resolutions in favour of the bill. We have over 90 petitions tabled in the House of Commons in support of it.
There are so many people who say it makes sense. There is support from seniors, health care professionals, labour, and faith communities. Yes, the faith communities are very responsive to the bill, and they are very interested in seeing it pass.
In talks across the country, I have often talked about the non-partisan nature of this disease, how it strikes our loved ones, our mums, dads, siblings, grandparents, friends, neighbours, and work colleagues. Everyone, on all sides of the House, knows the story. I am astonished that wherever I go, everyone knows someone with Alzheimer's or dementia-related disease, or someone caring for them.
Let us do this for them. Let us do this for our country. Let us make history.
- MPndpMar 13, 2015 9:35 am | Ontario, Thunder Bay—Rainy River
Mr. Speaker, I think my Liberal friend would agree that the Conservatives are taking Canada in the wrong direction with this bill. After 10 years in office, we know and we see that the Conservatives have done environmental, social and economic damage to Canada. This bill is just another good example of that happening.
Does the member agree?
- MPndpMar 13, 2015 9:15 am | Quebec, Montcalm
With regard to questions on the Order Paper numbers Q-264 through Q-644, what is the estimated cost of the government's response for each question?
- MPndpMar 13, 2015 9:15 am | Ontario, Nickel Belt
Mr. Speaker, I would like to present several copies of one petition to support my bill on dementia, Bill C-356. I have petitions from Brant, British Columbia, Ottawa, Ottawa—Orléans, Kitchener—Waterloo, Port Moody, South Surrey—White Rock, and Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.
Yesterday I held a press conference on my private member's bill that we are going to hear later today. One of the comments from the journalists was—
- MPndpMar 13, 2015 9:15 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
With respect to wireless spectrum auctions and spectrum license requirements, including but not limited to AWS-3 spectrum, 600 Mhz and 3 500 Mhz, broken down by each individual auction and license requirement: (a) does the government have provisions requiring the incorporation of technologies into the wireless networks that allow surveillance and interception capabilities built into their networks; and (b) does the government pay for the costs of these provisions?
- MPndpMar 13, 2015 9:10 am | Nova Scotia, Halifax
Mr. Speaker, some constituents asked me if I would table this petition in the House of Commons, and I have to say that I am very impressed by the number of people who have signed it. It shows that people in Halifax really care about the rights of small-scale farmers to preserve and exchange and use seeds.
The petitioners are asking the government to adopt international aid policies that support small-scale farmers; to ensure that Canadian policies and programs are developed in consultation with small family farmers; and that they protect the rights of farmers in the global south to preserve, use, and freely exchange seeds.
The petitioners and I look forward to the minister's response.
- MPndpMar 13, 2015 9:05 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates in relation to its study of the supplementary estimates (C), 2014-15.
I am proud to report that the committee, in keeping with its commitment to make a more thorough and robust examination of the supplementary estimates, undertook to study $730 million of the $733 million in estimates that were referred to the committee, which is again in keeping with what all committees should be undertaking: to examine the estimates and not simply allow them to pass unnoticed.
- MPndpMar 13, 2015 8:50 am | Ontario, Thunder Bay—Rainy River
Mr. Speaker, the NDP has launched a study of the forestry sector at the natural resources committee, one that is so important to so many communities in northern Ontario and across the country.
We have lost more than 100,000 forestry jobs under the Conservatives' watch. Many forestry towns are in crisis. The government support for industry transformation is drying up.
Will the minister commit to ensuring there is new support for forestry in the upcoming budget?
- MPndpMar 13, 2015 8:45 am | Ontario, Nickel Belt
Mr. Speaker, it has been six days since the Gogama train derailment. I visited the crash site and saw the horror of the devastation.
The communities of Gogama and the Mattagami First Nation are concerned about the environment and their safety. Citizens have been told that for trains with more than 20 cars their speed will be reduced from 80 kilometres to 48 kilometres an hour from Capreol to Hornepayne.
Could the minister confirm that the speed reduction will be permanent?
- MPndpMar 13, 2015 8:35 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, Vic Toews wife now denies that she took a $1-million kickback from a first nations chief who was directly involved with her husband, the senior minister for Manitoba. She says it was no more than $50,000 tops, as if that makes it okay. I know it is peanuts on the scale of Conservative shenanigans. Mulroney's personal rogues would not even get out of bed for that kind of chump change.
Would the government not agree that it is time to tighten up on the post-employment rules for ministers and their spouses so that they cannot exploit the time they spent in public office for personal and private gain?
- MPndpMar 13, 2015 8:20 am | Nova Scotia, Halifax
Mr. Speaker, Ronald Atkey, a former Conservative minister and chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, stated very clearly that allowing CSIS to ask a judge to violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms will turn into a constitutional nightmare.
Why does the government want to rush a bill that is ill-conceived?
- MPndpMar 13, 2015 8:20 am | British Columbia, Beloeil-Chambly
Mr. Speaker, it is strange. They are pushing this controversial bill, but they will not introduce a budget. Canadians deserve better than that.
This week, private sector economists said that the government had no reason to delay introducing a budget. The Conservatives are futzing around while Canadians are losing their jobs. Again this morning we learned that the unemployment rate rose by two points in February. In other words, there are now 50,000 more unemployed workers. What is the government waiting for to introduce a budget that will stimulate job creation?
- MPndpMar 13, 2015 8:15 am | Nova Scotia, Halifax
Mr. Speaker, it is now being reported in Turkish media that the individual who was detained for allegedly helping three British schoolgirls join ISIS was working for the Canadian embassy in Jordan, where Bruno Saccomani, the former head of the Prime Minister's security detail, is the ambassador.
Can the government confirm that someone linked to Canadian intelligence, an employee, an agent or an asset, is being detained in Turkey?
- MPndpMar 13, 2015 8:05 am | Ontario, Thunder Bay—Rainy River
Mr. Speaker, Canadians are facing a retirement security crisis. The Conservatives have blocked attempts to make retirement more secure for Canadians.
The Canada pension plan is proven and reliable, yet the Conservatives have broken their promise to strengthen it for future generations of Canadians.
The Conservatives have also raised the age of retirement from 65 to 67. Private pension plans and the workers who own them must take a back seat during bankruptcy proceedings. The Conservatives want to make it easier for employers to change secure defined benefit pension plans to risky target benefit plans. As well, younger Canadians today are financially squeezed between having to care for their aging parents and raising their own children.
Canadians want their government to act, and New Democrats are ready. We will secure and enhance the CPP, restore the retirement age to 65, help make the workplace pensions of Canadians more secure, help lift seniors out of poverty, and help our young people prepare for their own retirement.
All Canadians deserve a secure and dignified retirement, and a New Democratic government will take action to ensure that each and every Canadian has just that.
- MPndpMar 13, 2015 7:55 am | Ontario, Frontenac
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his great analysis.
When he was speaking, I was harking back to 2011 when I was invited to Oakland for an international conference on HIV-AIDS prevention and how to deal with it. Guess who was the keynote speaker? It was the model of prevention, our friends from Vancouver. We were on the international stage, but, meanwhile, back home the government was challenging them. I was asked as a Canadian politician to explain that and I could not. However, at the same time, Oakland had declared a state of emergency because of HIV-AIDS. The people were saying that we had to stop locking up people for drug use and start helping them. They were really looking to Canada as a world leader in this area because we were seen as a model.
How is this health approach important versus the public safety approach? It is despicable that people would try to make money off victims. Maybe you could talk about the different approaches of health versus public safety.
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 4:15 pm | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, unfortunately the minister still does not get it.
The fact of the matter is it started out being $3.6 billion in 2010 and even by his numbers it is now $2.25 billion. We have lost $1.5 billion from the housing system in Canada from the federal level.
That loss will be absorbed by people like the seniors at Beech Hall who will no longer be able to afford their rents. There has been no indication from the current government at any time that Beech Hall will somehow be able to receive any assistance from the federal government.
The minister has now said that CMHC is giving them time to prepare. They have been prepared for a long time for the end of this agreement, and they have been pleading with the federal government and CMHC to try to provide a continued subsidy because that is the only way these 41 seniors will stop being homeless.
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 4:10 pm | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister on Thursday, January 29, had to do with Beech Hall, a co-op seniors complex in my riding of York South—Weston.
This complex uses federal funding to provide rent assistance to 41 low-income seniors. When the government ends this funding at the end of this year, those 41 seniors will no longer be able to afford their rents and will risk becoming homeless.
The government position seems to be that these operating agreements, which subsidize housing for some 200,000 low-income Canadians, can expire and the funds can be returned to the treasury. The funds are no longer available for rent subsidy. They are available for the Conservatives to help the rich through devices such as income-splitting for high-wage earners and tax-free savings accounts for the rich to hide more of their income from tax. This is so wrong.
Jack Layton, rest his soul, pressured the Liberals to put back some of the money they had so ruthlessly taken out of Canada's housing commitments. The Conservatives voted against it, but they now take glee in pointing to the money as somehow being their idea. It was not.
The bottom line is that as these agreements expire, the Conservatives are refusing to reinvest it in any way in housing. Many of these co-ops are in need of major retrofits. Forty-year-old buildings need new roofs, new heating systems, new windows, and new energy-saving technology. Co-ops will not be able to afford both the necessary repairs and rent subsidies, and the government knows this.
Beech Hall is one such complex. Besides the reality that the government will end their subsidy, the truth is that they do not own the property. It is leased. Lease payments will continue; the subsidy will not. The buildings need $20 million in retrofits over the next 10 years. Beech Hall does have a small reserve, but it is nowhere near the amount needed to provide either the subsidy or the building repairs.
To glibly say, as the minister did when I asked the question, that the federal government provides the provinces with $1.25 billion in housing funding and that the provinces should decide which properties, such as Beech Hall, should receive a provincial subsidy is ignoring the reality of the situation. In 2010 Canada provided $3.6 billion to affordable housing at the federal level. Funding is now down to about $2 billion, and it will fall still further as the operating agreements expire. Just as the Liberals did in the 1990s, the Conservatives are eliminating affordable housing as a federal responsibility.
After the Liberal cuts, the waiting lists in my city of Toronto have continued to grow, to the point that there are more families waiting for housing than there are units in total. Wait lists are now measured not in months or years but decades. The city of Toronto's housing stock, inherited when the Liberals got out of the housing business, needs nearly $2 billion in repairs. The city cannot afford the repairs, let alone try to build new stock for some of those 80,000 families on the wait list. The repair backlog is so great that some 4,000 units are in danger of being unfit for human habitation.
For the government to take even a nickel out of the housing subsidies so that it can give it to the well off to buy their vote is despicable and not in keeping with Canada's rich history of helping the less fortunate.
House prices in Toronto reached a new high of over $1 million for a detached house, and rental prices have followed in lockstep. A recent conversation with a single mother of a disabled child showed just how desperate the situation is. Her rent is more than her income, plus her child support, plus a large part of her child's disability benefits. What is left for food is paltry. She and her child have been on a wait list for eight years.
Conservatives just do not get that their policies will make people homeless. It is time they stopped taking money out of housing to give tax breaks to the rich and started dealing with the problem the Liberals created.
The seniors at Beech Hall are waiting for the minister's answer. Will 41 seniors be left homeless by the government?
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 4:05 pm | Manitoba, Nelligan
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the willingness put forward by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. It is a sentiment we certainly did not hear from the minister in the House the day after the tragedy in Makwa Sahgaiehcan.
There really needs to be a recognition from the government that we are talking about systemic underfunding. Yes, while there is an investigation happening in Makwa, as there should, there are too many first nations across this country that have gone through that same tragedy.
We do not need to wait for another child or another elder or anyone to die in a house fire on reserve for any reason, but certainly the lack of fire equipment, the lack of resources to support firefighters, and equally important, the lack of resources to properly equip houses are the issues we need to be addressing.
I want to say that in recognizing that this is a systemic issue, we need systemic change, and that is where we hope to see the federal government take action.
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 4:00 pm | Manitoba, Nelligan
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the time granted me tonight to further discuss a crisis for first nations, the crisis of fire safety.
According to a study done by the Government of Canada, first nations living on reserve are 10 times more likely to die in a house fire than people living anywhere else in Canada. I repeat, they are 10 times more likely. This is not isolated to one region or to only a few communities. This is a crisis that is occurring in communities across the country on a regular basis.
I have spoken to dozens of people in the last couple of months, not to mention the families I have visited in my riding, who have personal experiences with death due to house fires. Members of communities from across the country have gotten in touch with me to share their stories of grief and devastation, what they feel and what their community goes through, when a tragic house fire occurs.
In my home province of Manitoba, investigations have demonstrated that residents of Manitoba first nations are far more likely to die in house fires than people living off reserve because of the systemic underfunding of infrastructure. Fire fatalities are high because in many communities, the first nations are struggling with outdated and overcrowded housing as well as a lack of necessary resources to respond to fires when they happen. In fact, although fires on reserve make up less than 5% of all fires in my home province, they tragically account for up to half of the fatalities.
The minister has this information, which is why, along with hundreds of first nations communities, my colleagues and I are left wondering why it is that nothing has changed. Despite the clear evidence that the current way of doing things is not working, the minister refuses to acknowledge the need to take action and the government's role in ensuring that fire safety in first nations is a priority.
A 2012 study found that five reserves, with a combined population of 13,000, had the resources to budget roughly $18 per person for fire services. However, five non-reserve communities of the same size had the resources to allocate $51 per person. It is $18 on reserve per person and $51 off reserve per person. The current federal government and past federal governments have remained silent about this crisis. The minister continues to download the blame to communities that are facing a real need in terms of resources, all while knowing full well that like education, infrastructure for fire safety is funded at less than half of what residents in non-first-nations communities receive.
The high numbers of fire fatalities on reserve clearly demonstrate that something is wrong. The system is broken. A 2010 federal report identified a number of recommendations to improve fire safety on reserve, including evaluating funding for resources and fire safety education. My question is this: What has happened to those recommendations? What actions have been taken by the government to ensure that all communities have the same access to the fire services they so desperately need?
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 3:35 pm | Manitoba, Nelligan
Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise in the House this evening to speak in support of one of the most important pieces of legislation that has ever come to the House. This is the second time the NDP has brought this bill forward, and I am incredibly proud to support the work of my friend and colleague, the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou.
If the Government of Canada were to implement the principles set forth in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we would see a sea change in the relationship between Canada and the first peoples of this land. We would be living in a new era of respect and dignity for indigenous and non-indigenous peoples alike, as defined by the nation to nation relationship that first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples deserve.
It is shameful and telling that Canada was one of the last state parties to become a signatory to the UNDRIP. It took three years of constant pressure to get Canada to sign. Those who were there have described the tactics that our government used to try and neuter some of the articles in the declaration. In particular, the government attempted to erase article 11, section 2, under which indigenous peoples have the right to free, prior and informed consent in matters which effect their land, well-being and culture. I will return to this point a bit later in my speech because it is so illustrative of exactly why the Conservative government's relationship with indigenous peoples in Canada is so damaged.
The UN declaration is a document of power. In the hands of indigenous peoples, it is a tool and an instrument. Canada's first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples are using it to combat the legacy of colonial violence they have inherited.
Across the country, court rulings have reflected the binding nature of Canada's signature on the declaration. They are amassing jurisprudence based upon the rights it provides, and the government has a duty with respect to the document. Beyond jurisprudence, we see indigenous peoples using the UNDRIP to teach their children and broaden their usage of a rights-based framework under which they are dependent upon the goodwill and good faith of Canada, but are the rights holders who are empowered to claim what is owed to them.
I would like to take this time to share the words of some key leaders across Canada who have supported Bill C-641.
This is what Grand Chief Derek Nepinak writes on behalf of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs:
“By way of a standing mandate to support UNDRIP, I offer this letter in support of your initiative to have this bill pass and become enshrined in Canadian legislative processes as an important hedge against the derogation or abrogation of Indigenous rights”.
Also from my home province, our NDP minister of aboriginal and northern affairs, Eric Robinson, has written a letter in support of my colleague's bill, which reads in part:
“This will be a major accomplishment in providing clarity and direction for the Federal government and the private sector in recognizing Indigenous rights in this country. As has already been stated by others, Bill C-641 reaffirms Indigenous rights that were taken away by forced assimilation policies like residential schools and the Indian Act. The UN Declaration recognized that Indigenous peoples have the “collective right to live in freedom, peace and security as distinct peoples.” It is time to recognize these rights in Canadian Law”.
Minister Robinson's words are well taken and reflect the fact that provincial governments need not take an adversarial stance against indigenous rights.
Far too often, the Conservative government refers to aboriginal rights as something Canadians cannot afford. The Conservative minister of aboriginal affairs at the time that the UNDRIP was ratified was quoted as saying that the declaration of rights was “unworkable in a Western democracy under a constitutional government...because (native rights) don’t trump all other rights in the country”.
It is shameful. It is as if the inherent rights of some people would come at the cost of the rights of others, as if human rights are not something that can and must be enjoyed by every human being on this planet. Not only is this logic utterly offensive and inherently racist, but it is absolutely incorrect. We can afford Indigenous rights. What we cannot afford is not to enshrine these rights in our country.
Just this afternoon, I met with a delegation of chiefs from the Blueberry River and Doig River First Nations. They travelled from northeast British Columbia to speak to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development and members of our opposition. When we met with them, they described a situation we hear more and more often. Their traditional lands are being usurped and destroyed as a result of industrial activity, and for decades, this has happened without their consent.
Neither the federal nor the provincial government has taken their consent into consideration as they rubberstamp successive projects on their lands. They have taken their hunting grounds, pumped chemicals into their waters, and poisoned the animals. Their resource-rich lands, they told me, are now beyond repair. As well, the federal government has stalled in negotiating and resolving their land claims. They have been at the table for over a decade, and the government has shown such disrespect as to completely step away from the negotiations for periods at a time.
These two nations have been left with no choice but to file against their provincial government in court. This ham-fisted way of dealing with first nations will stall economic development and business and will not help this development be sustainable and mutually beneficial.
These two nations do not want resource development completely off their lands, but they do want their government to recognize their inherent right to free, prior, and informed consent, as set out by the UNDRIP.
The fact is, we see the current government's opposition to indigenous rights, both in terms of the UN declaration and in terms of the bill before us today, all too often. Just this week, we saw the government's desire to push forward with Bill S-6, a bill that would attack the kind of legislative framework put in place by first nations in the Yukon and by Yukoners themselves to protect their environment.
The government has attempted to ram through Bill S-6. Industry does not want it rammed through. Industry has made it clear that it wants to respect indigenous rights, because it knows that it is the safest way to do business in Canada.
If the Conservative government were genuinely concerned about sound fiscal management, it would see the UNDRIP as an opportunity to foster better business relations with first nations. The Conservatives would understand that they cannot get away with overriding aboriginal title anymore. The Tsilhqot’in decision this summer proved that very thing.
Today I am proud to say that an NDP government would immediately begin working towards a nation-to-nation relationship with indigenous peoples. We would adopt the UNDRIP and we would enshrine its principles by ensuring that, at the cabinet level, every piece of legislation is reviewed through an indigenous lens and is in line with treaty rights, aboriginal rights, inherent rights, and of course, the UN declaration.
I would like to end by quoting the late hon. Jack Layton, the former leader of the NDP and leader of the official opposition.
In a letter to the UN back in 2006, when they were on the brink of ratifying the declaration, Jack wrote:
I write today to express my Party's support for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The New Democratic Party is the social democratic party in Canada's parliament and it is our belief in social justice and equality that leads us to support this declaration.
There are many sound economic, social, and legal reasons to support this bill, but as Jack Layton said, at the heart of the issue is the principle of equality and social justice for all. These are the principles of human rights, and we stand for them.
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 3:15 pm | British Columbia, Skeena—Bulkley Valley
Mr. Speaker, I thank my dear friend from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou. During the course of his presentation tonight I could not help but think of our departed friend, Jack Layton, and the belief that Jack had in our country and its ability to become so much more, particularly with respect to the situation faced by so many first nations, Métis and Inuit people.
At the end of his speech the member spoke of an offer, of a possibility of true reconciliation for the country. When I observe, because of where I live in the northwest of British Columbia, first nations people fight for their rights and title, not only are they fighting for the rights and title of their particular people and nation, but they fight on behalf of all of us for a sense of decency and fairness in the way we view our history, we reconcile our present and move forward into the future.
I must thank my friend for his work on this over so many years and the place he is taking today in our House of Commons. I take much personal satisfaction in being associated with him and the work that he does. If Canada were to take this offer, what could we do with it? What could we offer, not only first nations people but each other, in a much more prosperous and unified country?
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 2:50 pm | Quebec, Beauport—Limoilou
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak to this bill. I am pleased to have an opportunity today to speak in support of Bill S-7, the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act.
In the Speech from the Throne in October 2013, our government promised that it would ensure that early and forced marriage and other harmful cultural practices, such as polygamous marriages and so-called honour-based violence, do not occur on Canadian soil.
I might add that it is within my living memory that in our east Asian cultural tradition there were polygamous marriages. I can still remember my grandparents having a polygamous marriage, because that was the society of that time. However, over time, over the last two generations, that has changed. We can change it.
Bill S-7 delivers on that promise. The zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act demonstrates that Canada's openness and generosity does not extend to early and forced marriage, polygamy, or other types of barbaric cultural practices.
Canada will not tolerate any type of violence against women or girls, including spousal abuse, violence in the name of so-called honour, or other mostly gender-based violence. Those found guilty of these crimes are severely punished under Canada's criminal laws.
This bill would establish a national minimum age of 16 for marriage to protect our most vulnerable in society, our children, from early marriages. The minimum age of 16 for marriage currently only exists in federal legislation pertaining to Quebec. As a result, the common law applies to the rest of Canada, which is usually interpreted as a minimum age of 14 for boys and 12 for girls, but could be as low as 7. This bill would now set 16 as the minimum age for marriage across Canada.
The Civil Marriage Act would also be amended to codify two existing legal requirements for a valid marriage. Currently, these requirements are legislated only in Quebec: the legal requirement for free and enlightened consent to marriage, and the requirement for ending an existing marriage prior to entering another. Consent is truly the most critical aspect of a lawful marriage.
This amendment would make it clear that no Canadians should ever be forced to marry against their will and complements certain amendments to the Criminal Code, which I will discuss.
The requirement for ending an existing marriage prior to entering another is consistent with section 2 of the Civil Marriage Act and the longstanding Criminal Code prohibition against bigamous and polygamous marriages.
Also in relation to polygamy, this bill proposes amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to specify that a permanent resident or foreign national is inadmissible on the grounds of practising polygamy in Canada. Under the current immigration law, non-citizens can only be removed in cases where there is a criminal conviction for practising polygamy or where there is a finding of misrepresentation.
To eradicate this practice on Canadian soil, this bill would prohibit both temporary and permanent residents from practising polygamy in Canada and provide for the removal of non-citizens who practise polygamy in Canada without the need for a Criminal Code conviction or a finding of misrepresentation.
Coming back to the issues of early and forced marriage, this bill proposes several amendments to the Criminal Code to better prevent Canadians from being victimized in these ways. The proposed amendments in this bill fill a gap in the existing legislative scheme by creating offences that focus on the active participation in the forced or underage marriage ceremony itself.
The bill proposes two new offences that would extend criminal liability to anyone who knowingly celebrates, aids, or participates in a marriage ceremony where one or both of the spouses is either under the age of 16 or is marrying against his or her will. This would cover both those who conduct the marriage ceremony and those, such as family members, who have full knowledge that a marriage is forced or involves a child under 16 and actively participate in the marriage ceremony. However, to be prosecuted for this offence, a person would need to have engaged in some conduct specifically directed toward helping an early or forced marriage to occur.
The proposed offences address the social harm caused by the public sanctioning of these harmful practices. Studies have indicated that the vast majority of victims of a forced marriage are subjected to violence within that marriage. Similarly, girls who marry early are at far greater risk of experiencing complications in pregnancy and childbirth, including higher maternal mortality rates, experiencing violence in the home, and having their education disrupted.
Underage marriage violates girls' basic human rights and prevents them from fully participating in society.
These two new offences would be punishable by a maximum of five years' imprisonment. The bill also proposes to make it an offence to remove a child from Canada for the purpose of a forced or underage marriage outside of Canada. This government is aware of disturbing cases of Canadian children being taken abroad for forced or early marriage.
Child protection officials who believe that the child would be removed from Canada for a forced or underage marriage currently lack the requisite legal tools to intervene and prevent the child's removal from Canada. The bill would change that by adding the new offences related to an underage or forced marriage ceremony to the list of offences in the provisions that makes it a crime to remove a child from Canada.
I am confident that these proposed amendments would help prevent and deter the removal of children for such harmful practices and effectively punish those perpetrators who violate the law.
Moreover, the bill has prevention measures to protect vulnerable Canadians and residents from early or forced marriage.
The bill also proposes to introduce specific forced or underage marriage peace bonds to allow potential victims to seek protection against a pending forced or underage marriage. An order under the new peace bond provision could specifically prohibit people subject to the order from making arrangements or agreements for the forced or underage marriage of victims; require people subject to the order to surrender passports in their possession; prohibit them from leaving the country or taking a child out of the country; and require them to participate in a family violence counselling program.
Finally, in the area of violence motivated by so-called honour, it bears repeating that all forms of violence, whatever the motive, are fully prohibited by the criminal law. There is no need to create specific offences for honour-based violence.
The defence of provocation has been raised in several so-called honour killing cases in Canada on the basis that the victim's behaviour such as choosing one's own marriage partner or making other such personal decisions for oneself without a family or a husband's approval amounted to a wrongful act or insult that, when considered in the context of the cultural community to which they belonged, provoked the accused to kill due to a sense of damaged honour or reputation. To date, the defence has not been successful in so-called honour killings in Canada, however, the defence remains available to be raised in similar cases in the future.
Canada will not tolerate early and forced marriage and other harmful practices taking place in our country.
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 2:25 pm | Nova Scotia, Halifax
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question. The Denmark example is a very good one, because in six years, we have not seen a charge.
We have a Criminal Code here in Canada. We have sections under the Criminal Code under which we have seen charges for uttering threats, assault causing bodily harm, and sexual assault. We have seen charges laid under those provisions. These provisions exist already. They work already.
If we actually want to stop these kinds of acts, like forced marriage, which 100% the NDP would like to stop, then let us look at what works. What works is making sure that women can come forward, making sure that they are safe, and making sure that they are not criminalized, revictimized, or deported because they came forward. I mean, a person would have to have no heart to think that this is actually going to solve the problem of forced marriages in Canada.
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 2:20 pm | Nova Scotia, Halifax
Mr. Speaker, there is a difference between voting for a park and trying to get amendments at committee and human rights. There is a difference between Sable Island and the fundamental rights and revictimization of women.
I am not going to stand here in this House and support a bill that is about revictimizing women. We need to stand up for these women. We need to provide support for these women. We do not need to vote for this at second reading and hope that we get an amendment later.
The bill is fundamentally flawed, and there is no way we can compare it to the other pieces of legislation we have supported to get them to committee.
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 2:10 pm | Nova Scotia, Halifax
Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak today about unintended consequences. As we look at the bill, we think about the intended consequences, but I want to talk about the unintended consequences.
Intention is important. If we look at the intention of the bill, we look at the short title of the bill, the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act. That is offensive. I am not going to get into how offensive it is. There is the fact that it is xenophobic, that it is politicizing the issue of gender-based violence, and that it is reinforcing prejudices and stereotypes we have about certain cultural groups.
However, if we look at the intention of the bill, I would think the intention is to prohibit certain acts, such as forced marriage and polygamy. Maybe some of those are laudable goals, but then we have to open the legislation and read it and figure out if the intention would be met. It may be or may not be, but what are some of the unintended consequences, because that is equally important. We do not want to do things that we did not intend to do. There are many unintentional consequences in the bill that would actually victimize or re-victimize women, in particular, and children.
Some of the unintentional consequences are that we could criminalize the victims of polygamy. We could criminalize them, and that could lead to the deportation of children. Is that our intention? Is it our intention to criminalize victims? The bill could lead to the separation of families. It would further victimize women. I do not think those are intended consequences, but that is what the consequences of the bill would be.
Imagine being in the position of being forced into marriage. This is a woman who does not have control over her life, a woman who is a victim of family pressure, who is the victim of family control and community pressure and control. If we intend to end that practice, if we intend to help that woman, what would we do? We would think about sensible, reasonable policy responses. What is the policy response to end a practice like that? We would want to make it as easy as possible for women to come forward. We would get rid of all those barriers to prevent them from keeping it secret and to prevent these practices from going underground. We would want to make it as easy as possible for women to come forward and as easy as possible for friends or family members of that woman to come forward and go to the authorities.
If we are looking at a reasonable and sensible policy response, we would also want to reach out to certain communities to raise awareness of forced marriages, to reach out to service providers and government officials who might actually be called upon to assist in the prevention of forced marriages. That is a reasonable policy response. Let us make it easy for those government officials or those community leaders to come forward. A reasonable policy response would be to make it obvious that there are supports in place for these women if they do come forward and that we will help them. We do not want to make things worse, but we would with the bill, because it has so many unintended consequences.
The bill makes no provision to allow women who are conditional permanent residents to remain in Canada if their polygamist partner is deported, so why would they come forward? Why would they come forward, knowing they that they will be deported? UNICEF has talked about the fact that the bill would impose criminal sanctions against minors who attend or celebrate or help organize a forced marriage. It is incredible to think that they would be impacted with that kind of criminal record.
Because some of these penalties include criminalization, some women and children are not going to want to come forward. Why would they come forward when they would be at risk of seeing their parents end up with a criminal record, or their spouse, or other family members, people from their community? How do they come forward knowing that someone is going to be charged? They should be able to come forward to get out of a situation if that is what they need to do. However, this bill does not have any of those supports we are talking about. All it would do is drive these practices underground.
Imagine a women in a forced marriage. She is under the control of her family or her husband, and she is without a voice. She wants to leave, but if she does, she may be deported. I cannot imagine having to make that choice. Would I live with the violence and continue to live in that situation?
The parliamentary secretary spoke earlier about having travelled around the world and seeing terrible conditions in other countries, terrible situations for women. Is that what we are doing here, risking these women being sent back to those conditions? That is the risk they are going to take if they come forward. They could see their parents end up with a criminal record. What woman is going to come forward?
If we are looking at sensible, reasonable policy responses to this problem, I think it makes sense to look at what other countries are doing. Denmark, as members have probably heard, actually tried something along these lines. We should learn from their record and learn about what is happening.
In 2008, Denmark actually made it a criminal offence to force anyone to marry, but six years later, no one has been charged under this law. That is relevant.
Even more relevant, we have heard from the head of the National Organization for Women's Shelters. She thinks that not only has the law not had any impact on protecting young women from being forced into marriage but that it may have backfired and is actually driving the problem underground.
A reasonable policy response is to make it clear to women that we will be there to help them and we will support them, not that there will be criminal charges, not that there will be deportation.
We can look at other countries as well. I know that some of my colleagues have talked about the situation in the United Kingdom. If we are making legal changes, if we are looking to enact legal changes, we have to have those supports in place as well.
We have had testimony. We have had experts come forward to say that any legal challenge has to go hand in hand with more funding for women's organizations, which are really on the front lines providing services to isolated and stigmatized victims to help them navigate the criminal justice system and the civil justice system and to help them access safe housing and welfare support. All of those things are needed if we are going to enact legal changes.
Unfortunately, this bill is another example of a pattern of the Conservatives. They want desperately to have their tough-on-crime buttons they can wear: “We are tough on crime and we stand up for victims”. They love this narrative. They love the narrative so much that they do not actually care if they make it tougher for victims.
What is the pattern I am talking about? In 2012, we had new measures introduced to crack down on marriage fraud, including the requirement for a sponsored spouse to live with the sponsor for two years or face deportation and possible criminal charges. I remember that debate. I remember the fact that the NDP talked about this leaving women vulnerable to abuse. Why would women come forward when the law says that they have to stay with that person for two years or lose permanent residency? Why would they come forward?
We have seen private member's bills that talk about fact sponsorship or proxy sponsorship for marriages, but that is not about forced marriages. The people using that form of transmission are really refugees, by and large. By cutting off that access, we are limiting family reunification. That is an unintended consequence. We need to think long and hard about what these kinds of bills will do and the fact that they re-victimize victims.
I will finish up with the fact that I heard our Minister of National Defence, the former minister of citizenship, and multiculturalism, saying that sometimes we need to act with legislation.
Maybe during the question and answer period I will have the opportunity to list some of the legislation, because we have the legislation in place we need. The Criminal Code is fulsome. It does not have the unintended consequences we are talking about here. It gets to the root of the problem.
There is no way I can support this bill in good conscience.
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 1:55 pm | Ontario, Frontenac
Mr. Speaker, it is interesting. I should note that on Bill C-51, unlike the Liberal Party, we are stating exactly where we stand. We are against Bill C-51. It is for reasons around oversight, et cetera, but also because we are taking a stand. We are not saying that later on when we are government we will fix it all. That is a little arrogant. We have heard that from the Liberal Party before. At some time it has to take a stand in this place. I know it is difficult for the Liberal Party, but it has to take a stand.
We have taken a stand on Bill S-7. We are opposed to it at second reading. I have just laid out why. Polygamy is illegal, if he is worried about that. I know it is tough for him because Liberals are saying they do not like Bill C-51. However, they are going to put forward amendments, knowing that they are going to be defeated and then they will vote for it. If someone can actually understand that I give them credit.
Here we go with the Liberal Party again trying to find a niche where it can actually open up its own rationale. It is just not working. That is why I am proud to be a member of my party. We take a principled stand and we stick with it because that is where our values are.
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 1:50 pm | Ontario, Frontenac
Mr. Speaker, I did not mean to get the member's dander up. I was simply pointing out the fact that the government has absolutely abandoned the principles of democratic reform when it has bills coming from the Senate and time allocation, 91 times limiting debate.
I have to add another little caveat. To his saying that we are repeating our points of debate too often, each person gets to decide how they articulate their points. I brought in new points. I was talking about the fact that the government has failed those who are legitimately married who are waiting for the government to process things. However, it is interesting, coming from a party that every day has the same talking points reiterated over and over. However, that is for him to figure out.
When it comes to democracy, the best thing is debate and there should not be time limits on it, certainly not 91 times. That is just not the way it should be in the House.
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 1:40 pm | Ontario, Frontenac
Mr. Speaker, I join my colleagues on this side of the House to speak in opposition to Bill S-7.
I have to, as I always do when we get bills with the letter “S” in front of them, note my opposition to having bills derive from the other place. We are elected in this House to represent Canadians; they are not. In a mature democracy all bills should come from the House of Commons, the appropriate place for bills to originate. We see a government that used to talk about political reform and the reform of our parliamentary democracy use this parlour trick over and over again. As a democrat, I object to it and most of my constituents do. I note that in this case, Bill S-7 comes from the Senate and I want to state my opposition to that continued abuse of our parliamentary democracy.
I want to touch on another process issue, and I will give a number instead of a letter this time: 91. It is the 91st time we have had the government invoke closure. We all remember when this government's members were in opposition they decried, opposed strongly and fervently, certainly Preston Manning did, the whole notion of closure and limits on debate.
Today the House leader got up to do his duty for his government and abuse the power it has and shut down debate. It is interesting, because we have present members, we just heard from one, who used to be Reformers. They talked about the importance of debate and the fact that the Chrétien government was always shutting down debate. Now it is water off their backs.
Today, the Conservatives brought in Bill S-7, a bill coming from the Senate into Parliament, which is strike number one against the whole notion of any form of reform of the parliamentary system we have here. Second, they brought in time allocation for the 91st time with this government. It is unprecedented, historic. Those numbers and those letters say everything about the government. The Conservatives have lost their way. I am not sure if they will be able to come back, but it says a lot about principles.
The title of the bill is interesting, because we are also debating a very important bill right now, Bill C-51. The term the Conservatives are using is “an act to combat terrorism”. The actual nomenclature for that bill is “an act to enact the security of Canada information sharing act”, which is actually about giving more powers to CSIS and about sharing information, but the Conservatives want to make it sound like it is having an impact on terrorism.
With the bill before us, it is actually the inversion of that. The Conservatives are making a political statement with the title that somehow they are taking on barbarism, as if that is presently an issue in daily life in Canada. It is actually about evocation, and the person who stated it best was the Minister of National Defence when he said that they used that title because they want to educate people. It is kind of interesting. I have never heard before from the government that it would use the titles of bills to educate. I know it uses them often to provoke, and certainly at times in the past to wedge, but the fact that it is using the word “barbaric” to educate is rather fascinating. I did not really understand the minister's lesson other than that the Conservatives wanted to let people know that there are barbaric things going on in our world and they will clean them up. When we actually look at the bill and look at the testimony, it does not measure up at all.
This kind of evocative title does a disservice to the Conservatives' own issue, which might be an important issue. It is an important issue to look at any abuse of anyone, and certainly the rights, the misuse and abuse of the sanctity of marriage. If there is a real issue, it should be dealt with, but when we go to extremes in our language or our rhetoric, it undermines the issue on which we should be focused.
Yes, there are cases in this country of polygamy. There are cases of female genital mutilation and cases of children whose rights are being abused. We were talking about child protection today at the foreign affairs committee and what things we could do to help protect children abroad.
When we get into the business of using language to evoke or, as in the mind of the Minister of National Defence, educate, as if he is going to educate the rest of Canada on this issue, which is interesting, it actually undermines what we are setting out to do. This is where I would like to get into the meat of the bill and what it purports to do.
We just heard the parliamentary secretary answer an excellent, simple question from my friend from Pontiac, which was could he give us examples, certainly the three recent cases, as to where this bill would actually make a difference. To give credit to the parliamentary secretary, he said the case was dealt with within the parameters of the law we have now. The question is, what is this really about?
I think everyone in the House has concerns about abuse of the immigration system, trying to force people into marriages or the practice of polygamy, and it should be dealt with, but I want to enumerate for people why New Democrats are opposed to this bill when looking at the criminal law now.
I know that you, Mr. Speaker, as a practising lawyer and having taught law, will appreciate this. Right now, criminal law already provides resources, irrelevant in most cases, involving forced marriage prior to and after the marriage, as well as in cases of travelling with minors, which we have seen, with the intent to force them to marry, including uttering threats. That is covered off in subsection 264.1(1) with regard to assault causing bodily harm, assault with a weapon, and aggravated assault, sections 265 to 268.
Another aspect of this bill, which the government claims we need is around sexual assault causing bodily harm or sexual assault with a weapon and aggravated assault, forms of intimidation. That is covered under sections 271 to 273 of the Criminal Code. Kidnapping, as it is relevant and cogent to the issue, is covered off in section 279. Forcible confinement, which was referred to by the government as being required, is covered off in subsection 279(2). Abduction of a young person is covered in sections 280 to 283. Procuring feigned marriage, which is simply forcing someone into a marriage that is not the case, is covered off in section 292 of the Criminal Code.
Removal of a child from Canada with the intent to commit an act outside of Canada, which would be one of the listed offences if committed in Canada, is covered off in section 273.3. What about extortion? That is covered off in section 346. There are a couple more, but I will not go through them all because it would take me longer than the time I have. The one I want to highlight in the Criminal Code is spousal abuse, abuse of a child, and abuse of a position of trust or authority. The aggravating factors are covered off in section 718.2.
The question is: why is this in front of us and what is required? There is a case to be made that more needs to be done in terms of resources to help the people who might be victimized, and that is where we have to focus. That is not being provided. The government is cutting budgets in these areas.
I will leave the House with the following. It is interesting that the Conservatives are dealing with this case, but at the beginning of this month, I attended a protest outside the immigration office made up of people, who were legitimate actors, trying to get their marriages recognized. They are having to wait two years because of a lack of processing by the government. I would like the government to take a look at that.
What about the legitimate people who are waiting here, who are inland marriage sponsors, and having to forgo their families, having to pay for their own health care, et cetera? While the Conservatives are looking at this issue, I hope they are seized with those who are legitimate actors, who have legitimate marriages, who are legitimately recognized, and who the Conservatives are ignoring. Hopefully, they will turn their attention to that issue, because these people are forgoing the opportunity to provide Canadians with their talents and plans to have families, et cetera.
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 1:25 pm | Ontario, Windsor—Tecumseh
Order. It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Churchill, Aboriginal Affairs; the hon. member for York South—Weston, Housing.
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 12:55 pm | Ontario, Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Mr. Speaker, 36 years ago, I was in Saudi Arabia. I did not have much of a background in its cultural practices, and when I first heard of the sexual mutilation of women, I was very troubled, as anyone would be. Of course, relative to that, in Canada we have strong laws to protect women from violence, and quite appropriately so.
While I was there, I worked with a number of people closely and got to know their families. In their culture, it was acceptable to have a second wife. In fact, in their culture, they could have four wives, although most had two.
I cannot imagine any one from any party who would accept the practice of forced marriage. It is offensive to us to have anyone forced into it. However, we have a situation, which the minister spoke to himself a moment ago, whereby people have wanted to come to Canada, and the only way they could was to evade the fact that they had a second wife. When I was in Saudi Arabia, that second wife was referred to as a sister wife. I think that in some polygamous cultures in the U.S. it is the same thing. Now we have the problem of a fair number of people, I would suspect, living in our country with these wives. Does that mean that we will force them to go back and leave this country? People who come here are not looking for tolerance. They are looking for acceptance. Is there room for some of that?
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 12:40 pm | Ontario, Windsor—Tecumseh
The member cannot refer to herself by name.
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 12:25 pm | Ontario, Beaches—East York
Mr. Speaker, it was an honour to serve on the status of women committee with the member opposite. We did have many conversations about violence against women, gender-based violence, and the actions the government could take to deal with these.
I want to first say in response to the question, as I clearly stated in my speech, that our government will not tolerate the types of cultural traditions in Canada that deprive individuals of their human rights.
Most of the time the victims are women. I want to quote one victim in particular, whom I had the honour to meet. Her name is Aruna Papp. She was a victim of the barbaric practice of forced marriage. She had this to say about the bill:
Forced into an abusive marriage at 17 and unable to leave it for 18 years, I can attest to the fact that a forced marriage is effectively a life of slavery. I congratulate the Canadian government for taking a bold step on behalf of women who have nowhere to turn for help.
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 12:20 pm | Ontario, Beaches—East York
Mr. Speaker, while I believe that the member for Charlottetown understands that these practices are indeed barbaric and understands that the short title of the bill refers to the practices being barbaric, not the cultures, as should be fairly obvious, I do want to point out—and I am not making this up—that his leader, the leader of the Liberal Party, who is also a member of the House, has said that “barbaric” is too harsh a term to use in referring to such practices, and “too harsh” is a direct quote.
I am not sure if his leader still has that same stance or if he has possibly changed his mind, but I think most members would agree that these practices are barbaric.
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 12:10 pm | Ontario, Beaches—East York
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today and speak to Bill S-7, the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act. Among other things, this bill strongly condemns underage and forced marriages, which are deplorable human rights violations that are regrettably taking place with Canadians and may even be taking place on Canadian soil.
A forced marriage is one in which at least one of the two spouses is entering the marriage without his or her free and enlightened consent. There is a clear distinction between forced and arranged marriages. In an arranged marriage, both spouses consent to the marriage.
There have been various studies and reports on forced marriage that demonstrate that this is an unfortunate reality in Canada. In August 2013, the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario published a report that found that front-line service providers in Ontario had encountered 219 instances involving persons in forced marriages between 2010 and 2012. In 92% of the cases, the victim of the forced marriage was a female, and in 30% of the cases the victim was under the age of 18. All of the individuals forced into marriage experienced violence.
A study conducted for Justice Canada that was based on interviews with service providers from Montreal and Toronto in 2008 also confirmed that there were Canadians who had been subjected to forced marriage, and concluded that, “...it is the government's duty to address the problem of forced marriage and to protect those who are threatened with it or are already its victims”.
Another study for Justice Canada, conducted in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver in 2010, concluded:
Based upon the estimate from service providers who are dealing with the incidence of forced marriage in Western Canada, our conclusion is that forced marriage is not sporadic in Western Canada. ...half of the respondents said it is “widespread” or “common” or “becoming common”.
The victims of this deplorable practice are most often young women, and occasionally men, who are being forced, usually by their own parents or other family members, to marry someone they are unwilling to marry. These young people are sometimes even made to abandon their education for the purpose of being married against their will. Some victims are told that they are going overseas to a relative's wedding, only to discover upon arrival that the wedding ceremony is, in fact, their own. Indeed, Canadian consular affairs has received over 100 requests for consular assistance from Canadians abroad related to forced marriages since 2009.
International studies show that girls who marry early are at far greater risk of experiencing complications in pregnancy and childbirth, including higher maternal mortality rates; experiencing violence in the home; and having their education disrupted. It is clear that underage marriage violates girls' basic human rights and prevents them from fully participating in society.
There is currently no national minimum age below which marriage may be legally contracted in Canada. Federal legislation applicable only in Quebec sets the minimum age at 16. Elsewhere in Canada, the common law is unclear but appears to set the minimum age at 14 for boys, 12 for girls, and sometimes as low as 7 years of age.
Bill S-7 would introduce a national minimum age for marriage of 16, below which no marriage may be contracted under any circumstances. Setting the minimum age to marry at 16 across Canada is consistent with current practices in like-minded countries, such as the U.K., Australia and New Zealand. Provincial and territorial legislation would still impose requirements for marriages between the ages of 16 and 18 or 19, depending on the age of majority in the province or territory. Requirements such as parental consent or a court order would provide added safeguards to permit mature minors between the ages of 16 and 18 to marry in exceptional circumstances, such as where they have a child together and wish to marry.
However, parental consent to the marriage of a minor may not be sufficient to protect against forced marriage because it is typically the parents who are forcing the marriage upon the unwilling child. As a result, the Minister of Justice has engaged his provincial and territorial counterparts in a discussion with respect to enhancing legislative measures that fall within their constitutional jurisdiction to protect against forced marriages by requiring judicial consent in all marriages involving a minor.
Last fall, the House debated my private member's motion, Motion No. 505, to request that the government ban the use of proxy, telephone, fax and Internet marriages as a means to spousal sponsorship. Such marriages are not legally recognized when performed in any Canadian province or territory, but they are currently recognized by Canadian immigration law when conducted outside of Canada in the countries where they are legal. The unfortunate reality is that these practices can be used to force individuals into non-consensual marriages.
When I spoke to people in my riding and across Canada about my motion, I gave the example of a young man who lives in Canada, and was born and raised in Canada. What often happens is that he has a cousin in a country where this practice of telephone, fax or Internet proxy marriages is legal. The family of this young man might want the cousins, aunts, uncles and relatives to be able to immigrate to Canada and become new Canadians, which is obviously a desirable and good goal to have. There are many people who are applying for status in Canada.
In this case, what the family would do is force their son to marry by signing a fax or by signing on to Skype and marrying someone who he has perhaps never met and who is in another country. Sometimes, it is someone who is already related, such as a cousin, for example. After that marriage is performed, the family would ask that young man to then sponsor his new bride for a spousal application for citizenship to Canada.
Frankly, this was a huge loophole in the immigration regulations that I believed needed to be fixed. Not only was this a loophole, but the motion would prevent those marriages from being forced. It is just not in line with Canadian values of openness and gender equality. People get married to someone who is not even in the same room at the time. We at least want to ensure that they have met.
To be clear, Bill S-7 is about barbaric cultural practices. It is not about arranged marriages, neither was my private member's motion.
It was certainly a proud day when my motion passed in the House of Commons in December 2014. I look forward to the government amending the necessary regulations in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to protect these young women and men. As I said, this was an important fix that needed to happen.
Speaking of forced marriages, we have seen the tragic consequences of young people who refuse a forced marriage. Some run away and go into hiding. Some are beaten or even murdered because of a misguided belief that their refusal to enter into or continue in a forced marriage has somehow tarnished the family's honour.
On January 2, 2010, a young woman was brutally beaten by her uncle and three cousins in Calgary because she refused to marry a man her uncle had chosen for her. They were convicted of assault causing bodily harm in 2013, three years later.
On April 17, 2009, a 19-year-old woman fled her home in Montreal, terrified because her parents were going to force her to marry a man she did not want to marry. A few months later, on June 30, 2009, that same woman, her two younger sisters and her father's first wife in a polygamous marriage were brought together on the pretext of a family vacation. Their bodies were found in a car submerged in the Kingston locks. This barbaric honour killing of the young Shafia sisters and their stepmother came as a shock to the whole country.
Preventing such tragedies from occurring again is the primary objective of this laudable bill. It contains tools to protect potential victims from an impending forced or underage marriage in the form of specific peace bonds, which can be ordered by a court when there are reasonable grounds to believe that a person will participate in an early or forced marriage or will take a child out of Canada with the intent of subjecting the child to an early or forced marriage. I can talk more about peace bonds later.
Our government will not tolerate spousal abuse in so-called honour killings or other gender-based violence. While the opposition refuses to even acknowledge these practices as barbaric, our government is taking a strong stand against these practices and is leading international efforts to address them. I hope all hon. members will support this important piece of legislation.
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 12:10 pm | Ontario, Windsor—Tecumseh
I would remind all members that we have now moved to the speeches of ten minutes, and five minutes of questions and comments.
The hon. member for Mississauga South.
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 12:05 pm | British Columbia, Beloeil-Chambly
Mr. Speaker, I have bad news and I have good news.
The bad news of course is that, as we just saw, this is the 91st time that the government is imposing time allocation and closure in this session.
The good news is that there are only 200 days before Canadians have their say about this government, throw it out of office and vote in an NDP government on October 19.
This week we have seen repeated closure through the use of time allocation at record levels, levels that are twice as bad as the previous bad record of any previous government in Canadian history.
We have also seen the denial of witnesses to speak on Bill C-51. Members will remember the Conservatives saying in the House that they would do a thorough vetting of Bill C-51. They are even denying having the Privacy Commissioner come before the public security committee.
There are other things as well. As members know, we have no budget and no plan at a time in Canadian history when Canadian families are struggling under a record Conservative debt load that is the worst in our history, and we have the worst quality of jobs that we have seen in Canada in a generation.
As well, Conservative scandals are multiplying. We have the Senate scandals. The Duffy trial is starting. We have the Public Works scandal. We have the Centre Jean Bosco scandal. We have a range of scandals.
However, as I mentioned, the good news is that there is 200 days before Canadians can choose to throw the current government out of office.
My question to the government House leader is simply this. What will the government's agenda for the next sitting week be?
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 11:55 am | Manitoba, Nelligan
Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Conservatives shut down debate on Bill S-6, legislation that would gut the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act. There was no real consultation with first nations, and nearly all of Yukon's first nations are opposed to Bill S-6. In fact, they are already preparing to fight it in court.
At what point did the Conservatives decide that nation-to-nation consultation with Yukon's first nations did not matter anymore?
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 11:55 am | Territories (yk, nt, nu), Western Arctic
Mr. Speaker, another flawed bill and another long and wasteful court fight with first nations: that is where the minister is going.
It is not just first nations that have a problem with the legislation. In a letter sent to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development last fall, the president of Casino Mining expressed concerns about the “negative impact this is having on the territory’s mineral industry”. The Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon is also opposed.
Why pursue a bill that will not stand up in court and is opposed by both first nations and businesses? Where is the certainty in that?
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 11:40 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, the previously secret board of inquiry report was released to the Fynes family yesterday.
Incredibly, it blames the parents for the death of their son, though he had attempted suicide five times and was being cared for by the military. Sheila Fynes says that this conclusion is gratuitous and outside the accepted bounds of humanity, decency and civility. This comes on top of this week's findings of an incompetent follow-up investigation by the military.
Will the minister apologize to the family for this additional insult to the memory of Corporal Stuart Langridge?
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 11:40 am | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, every veteran with an amputation loathes receiving the big brown envelope of paperwork from Veterans Affairs, asking them if they still have limbs missing.
It is bad enough that the minister thinks he has fixed the issue because now these veterans will only have to prove to Veterans Affairs every three years that they lost a limb. The minister does not seem to understand that veterans also rely on different programs from DND, programs that are still asking for proof every year.
Does the minister think that this is even remotely acceptable?
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 11:35 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, she hides behind disabled children to explain why she was feeling guilty for breaking the rules to give money to her friends—
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 11:20 am | Nova Scotia, Halifax
Mr. Speaker, private sector economists say that there is no excuse for delaying the budget. The Minister of Finance refuses to face the facts, but Canadian families do not have the luxury of avoiding reality, because they are facing record household debt and deteriorating job quality. They want their government to act, but the Conservatives voted against an NDP proposal to make good jobs a focus of the next budget.
When will the minister end his delay and when will he table a budget?
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 11:15 am | Nova Scotia, Halifax
Mr. Speaker, the foreign minister of Turkey stated that someone working for a foreign intelligence agency has been detained for attempting to assist three British schoolgirls in joining ISIS in Iraq.
Reports allege that the person being detained was working with Canada. We have heard the minister is aware of these reports. Is Canadian intelligence involved, and why are there persistent reports from the Turkish media on this?
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 11:15 am | British Columbia, Skeena—Bulkley Valley
Mr. Speaker, if Canadians can bear to do so, it takes some time to look at the terrible Conservative record when it comes to the economy. Truly, it is a record only a mother could love.
We have record highs in temporary foreign workers and record-low job quality for Canadians. We have record-high household debt and record-low access to employment insurance. The Conservatives continue to hurt the economy, but it is Canadian families who pay the price.
Somehow the Conservatives have managed to go from bad to worse. In this House last night, we had a New Democrat motion calling on the next federal budget to help create good-paying jobs for Canadians, yet the Conservatives found a way to vote against it. Which part did they hate the most? Was it that we are calling for good-paying jobs for Canadians, or was it that we are calling for a budget at all, which seems to be such a problem for the current government?
It is time for the Minister of Finance to get off the bench and do his job. All the economists he is relying on are saying that the excuses are over. Let us get to work and give Canadians a budget that helps get them back to work.
If the Conservatives are so unwilling to do it, let us just wait until the fall of 2015. New Democrats will be happy to give Canadians the government they deserve.
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 11:05 am | Quebec, Montcalm
Mr. Speaker, our government is deeply proud of the leadership Canadian scientists are displaying on the world stage. Last week, as we celebrated International Women's Day, we saw one of our own scientific innovators, Dr. Molly Shoichet, recognized as one of five recipients, from around the world, of the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Award. She is a global leader in an area of Canadian health expertise, stem cell science. She has distinguished herself not only as a role model for women and girls around the globe but as a world-class innovator who stands shoulder to shoulder with the very best in her field.
Our Canadian scientists have consistently been on the front lines expanding our knowledge and finding new ways to improve the health of Canadians. We are forever proud to recognize the achievement of notable Canadian scientists. We congratulate Dr. Shoichet.
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 11:00 am | Ontario, Hamilton Centre
Mr. Speaker, Hamilton is ready to welcome the Juno's to our city this weekend and to share Hamilton's thriving art scene with people from across the country.
One of Hamilton's premier art events is the Art Crawl, on James Street North. Once a less desirable and more rundown part of town, James Street North has been revitalized by the influx of grassroots art galleries, studios, shops, and restaurants. On the second Friday of each month, thousands of people come out to celebrate the arts community. The amazing history of Art Crawl's organic growth is captured in the documentary Hearts, a film about Hamilton's Art Crawl, which features the people and places that make James Street North so special.
I would like to particularly recognize Bryce Kanbara, Colina Maxwell, Dave Kuruc, Matt Jelly, Kevin MacKay, Zena Hagerty, Dr. James Dunn, Cody Lanktree, Graham Crawford, Alex Zafer, Cynthia Hill, Dane Pedersen, Tim Potocic, and Rich Oddie for their contribution to the documentary and for all their time and dedication to fulfilling the vision of “Art as the New Steel”.
The next Art Crawl is tomorrow, Friday, March 13, and I invite everyone to come out and join one of Canada's most diverse and dynamic cultural experiences.
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 10:55 am | Ontario, Windsor—Tecumseh
The 5 hours for 20-minute speeches has now expired.
All speeches that will follow will be ten minutes with five minutes for questions and comments.
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 10:40 am | Ontario, Beaches—East York
Mr. Speaker, first, I do not understand why the NDP sees things in the bill that are not there and seems to be blind to the things that are in it.
The last time the bill was debated in the House, members of the official opposition kept saying that the bill would marginalize victims. The truth is that actual victims of these barbaric practices, like Aruna Papp, an amazing woman whom I have had the honour to meet, and Lee Marsh support the bill. How does the opposition justify using this kind of rhetoric when actual victims are coming out and supporting the bill?
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