- MPndpTue 6:15 pm | Ontario, Hamilton Centre
Mr. Chair, I will respond this way. I will go back to 2004, which was a tremendous turning point for me personally. We were there through our regular Christmas season, and we left a day or two before the Orthodox Christmas. I know how religious Ukrainian people are and how much their faith means to them.
As my friend was speaking, it occurred to me to wonder just how far those soldiers and police officers will go as they enter this season of Christmas and reflect on humanity, love, hope, and optimism. When those bullets start flying, those who are holding the weapons do not know where the bullets are necessarily going to end up.
I have also done observation missions in a number of other emerging democracies in the Soviet bloc, including Georgia, Moldova, and Serbia. I know that there is a certain critical mass when those who have been ordered to commit the violence suddenly see their family members, their neighbours, and their co-workers in the crowd. That is the moment when we see the flower going in the barrel of a gun, and they just stop and say wait, this is not going to happen.
There is already violence. I can only hope that before it gets to that level of violence, the season and the Mandela spirit will take hold, maybe not among those making the decisions but perhaps among those who are holding the weapons and who hold the key to peace or force. Maybe they themselves will say, “This is wrong. It is wrong for my people and it is wrong for my country”. Let us hope.
- MPndpTue 6:15 pm | Ontario, Windsor—Tecumseh
I am afraid the hon. member for Hamilton Centre only has about 30 seconds.
- MPndpTue 6:10 pm | Ontario, Hamilton Centre
Mr. Chair, I thank my hon. colleague for the question and his comments. I do know that monument very well.
We have a very strong Canada-Ukrainian friendship group and a great tie with Paul Grod, whose name has been mentioned here, who has been in touch and may even be watching as we speak. The Ukrainian Canadian Congress has put out a nine-step program it has asked us to consider. Certainly we in the official opposition are very comfortable with it and think that all nine would be positive steps forward.
In addition to our voices, we are sending over another planeload of observers for some by-elections to continue our ties and to ensure that the leadership of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress knows that it has the support of this Parliament. Mostly I think the best thing we can do is to continue to raise our voices and lend our voices to this.
As much as I spend most of my time going after the government, on this file I think the government has been responsive to the needs. I would hope that it would look carefully at the nine-step program that has been suggested by the congress. I am sure it will. A positive step in the right direction would be to say to our own congress here in Canada that the nine steps it has suggested to the Canadian Parliament are ones we support, endorse, and will be moving on.
They are sweeping. Some are short-term and some are longer-term. My point is that short, medium or long term, we lend our voices. We lend whatever credibility we can from this place. In the longer term, let us roll up our sleeves and start acting on these nine recommendations that, if implemented, will make a difference. That is why we are here tonight: short-term commitment; medium-term goals; long-term vision. I think that reflects where we all are tonight.
- MPndpTue 6:10 pm | Ontario, Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing
Mr. Chair, as some of my colleagues mentioned tonight, it is ironic that at a time when we are celebrating the life of such a great man as Nelson Mandela, who fought for human rights so vehemently throughout his life, we are now having to debate an issue of human rights, but this time in Ukraine.
Even in the riding of Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, there are many people of Ukrainian descent. Actually, I worked with a colleague in probation and parole services whose family was from Ukraine.
Christmas is very near, and we know that those people would like peace. Something that our previous leader, Jack Layton, talked a lot about was love, hope, and optimism so that we could build a better world. My colleague mentioned some longer-term plan the government should be looking at. We need to impress upon the government the need to make sure that there is a plan B. It is important for us to raise our voices. We need more people to raise their voices, but we also need a government whose members are going to be steadfast should it have to go a bit further.
As we near the Christmas season, our hearts are with those who are currently fighting for the democracy in their country. There is a need for us, as Canadians, to come together as a whole. Can the member comment?
- MPndpTue 5:55 pm | Ontario, Hamilton Centre
Mr. Chair, I appreciate the opportunity to say a few words.
If I might, the first thing I would like to do is join with others who have mentioned how appropriate it is, during the week of Mandela's death, the celebration of his life around the world, and his funeral, that we would come together on this, the last time we will be sitting here this year.
We are all here for a common cause. We are all here for a very Canadian cause, which is reaching out and helping where we can. That is one of the great things that Canadians take pride in. Not all of the world, but most of it, sees us as help, as friends. When they hear the Canadians are coming, for the most part it is good news.
We know that Canadian Ukrainians and those now in the Ukraine are riveted on what is happening in Independence Square.
I would join with others who have commented on personal attachments. Mine attachment is somewhat different, in that it really was not personal in terms of my own background or even that I have many Ukrainians in my riding.
A number of years ago I received an invitation, as we all do, to come to city hall to make a few remarks about the Holodomor. I confess that at the time, I did not know about it. This was the better part of 10 years ago.
I researched it, as we all do, and I was shocked that I did not know about it. I was shocked that it seemed that most of the world did not know. It has only been in the ensuing years that now it has become, certainly here in Canada, a recognized date and time for us to reflect on those who were murdered by Stalin and the Communist Soviet empire.
A while went by, and just before Christmas in 2004, the word was going around that they were looking for MPs who wanted to go to Ukraine for an election observation mission. The only thing I knew about that was that Jimmy Carter did it. He did Habitat for Humanities, and he did these election observation missions.
When one is in the fourth party in the back row, one really is looking for some means to have some real effect beyond just the seat one has. I thought this was a great opportunity to do that, so I went to Ukraine.
I have been there three times, but the first time I went was in 2004 during the Orange Revolution. I see my friends, some of whom were on those missions with me, nodding their heads. I have to say that for an NDPer to be in Ukraine in 2004 was political heaven. I mean, everything was in orange, evening the Mercedes-Benzes and the banks. Everything was decked out in orange, at least in Kiev, so I certainly felt at home with the colour and the sentiment behind it.
What I remember more than anything about that was getting up in the middle of the night because I was drawn to Independence Square and the tent city that had formed. They had their own security system and their own supply system. They were totally self-contained within the confines of the downtown in Independence Square in Kiev.
What struck me was that the young people were the drumbeat that kept it going. Day in and day out, they would ensure that they did everything that needed to be done to maintain their presence. Now we hear that forces are moving into Independence Square to try to prevent something like that from happening, it would seem, through violence. That breaks our hearts.
The other thing I want to mention about that particular election is not only what it was like to be in a revolution in modern times, but the impact it had on individual citizens.
I remember specifically one voting station in a village in the mountains. One young man, who was probably in his early thirties, was carrying his young son. They went into the voting area and came out with a ballot. He got right up to the box, and he handed it to his son, who was maybe age seven or eight, and said something to him. Of course, I could not understand Ukrainian. His young son dropped the ballot in and I asked my interpreter what he had said. What he had whispered to his son was, “this is how we keep our future”. A whole nation was going through that simultaneously in 2004.
I returned again in 2010, six years later, for the presidential elections, and then returned two weeks later for the runoff. Although I am by no means an expert on that part of the world or the dynamics, it was pretty clear from the results that something like today was going to come.
Those of us who have been following some of the issues there know that language issues, the struggle between Russian and Ukrainian and which has priority and is recognized, is a huge issue for them.
In the election, the country divided right down the middle, not just demographically or even politically but actually geographically. The western part of the country wanted to go more to Europe and to the west and the east wanted to stay closer to Russia. In fact, as one goes closer to the Russian border, as would be expected, there is more and more Russian language.
I am not surprised that this day came. It is still heartbreaking that it is here, but I cannot say that I am surprised. As we stand here, I do not think there is a simple answer to this except that the only way the Ukrainian people can work this through in a way that is acceptable is that there has to be peace. There has to be peace.
I think about the people when their election was fraudulent, back in 2004. What struck me more than anything when the word came out that the election result was not what they expected was that people started coming out of their offices, out of their homes, and out of the schools, and they just started gravitating to Independence Square.
What struck me, to this day, is the fact that none of them knew for certain that there were not going to be tanks coming around the corner. They did not know for sure that they would not be facing a hail of bullets. Yet the desire, the demand, for fairness in their elections and a real democracy was so great that in spite of that possible threat to their own lives, they stayed.
They came out by the hundreds, then the thousands, then the tens of thousands, and when it got to be hundreds of thousands, finally the supreme court, I believe, and it is just my opinion, caved in the face of that kind of public pressure. It said that the election was null and void and called for the runoff. That is when we came from Canada, as many as we could stuff on planes, and headed over there to observe that runoff to try to assist the Ukrainian people in having a free and fair election.
What I know from that experience is that those who are there now, as we speak, in Independence Square, are not going anywhere. What they need more than anything is to know that the world is with them. They need that critical mass of free voices around the world, as we are doing here today, to speak out for them and say that this is not acceptable and that Ukrainians, like Canadians, are entitled to and deserve free and fair elections. They deserve a transparent democracy. They deserve control of their own country.
It is very rare that we get to end on this kind of note. I just want to say that I feel very good about this place, leaving here knowing that the last thing we were talking about on behalf of the people we represent was someone else. We are putting our voices and support toward their cause. Today, at this moment, we in the House stand united.
I would hope that every free country in the world is standing united and solidly in speaking out, as we are doing here tonight. One of the best things we can do for the struggle happening right now in Ukraine is to let them know that they are not alone. They have the bravery. They have the vision. They just need the support of everyone else to force the powers that be to leave them in peace and let them have the freedom they are entitled to.
- MPndpTue 5:45 pm | Alberta, Edmonton—Strathcona
Mr. Chair, I would like to thank the hon. member, who obviously has a deep commitment to Ukraine and to his Ukrainian Canadian community in Manitoba.
Many tonight have spoken about the briefing note provided by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. There is high regard for that organization in this country in advising all sides of the House on appropriate actions.
Recommendation 6 says:
In concert with U.S. and European authorities, play a leadership role in the G8, the G20, the International Monetary Fund and other international fora to explore all the ways in which the international community can combat money laundering in and through Ukraine. Explore with its international partners the means by which the international travel and illicit “business” activities of corrupt business people, government officials and their families could be restricted in accordance with applicable Canadian law.
When we had our foreign affairs delegation to Ukraine, we had a table of business people meet with us who operate the chambers of commerce for Ukraine, Europe and so forth, and Canadian businessmen in Ukraine. They identified the deep concerns that one has to have deep pockets to invest in Ukraine. We are calling for support and continued investment, and perhaps human rights through trade, but there are deep problems.
I wonder if the hon. member could speak to the recommendation by the UCC and whether we ought to be taking a more strategic approach to our trade relations with Ukraine? Should we try to direct more action on freedom and democracy?
- MPndpTue 5:35 pm | Alberta, Edmonton—Strathcona
Mr. Chair, as I understand, I think there are 300,000 Ukrainian Canadians living in Alberta. I have the privilege each Christmas of spending Christmas Eve with some of those Ukrainian Canadians and enjoying those heritage dishes. It is a great joy to share that experience.
Ukrainian Canadians are like all other Canadians. They are participating in business. They are educators. They are small business people. They are serving in government. As I mentioned, the previous premier of Alberta was of Ukrainian Canadian descent.
I think the most important thing we can do is to not simply leave it to Ukrainian Canadians to have to fight this battle. It is important that all of us who are Canadians stand up. I think it is very important that all Canadians out there who may be watching and observing this debate write to the Prime Minister and write to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and say, “We support the actions you are taking, please take even stronger actions. Do not forget about Ukrainians over Christmas.”
We have to stand stalwart from here on in and make sure that those people are protected, that they have proper representation and that they are released from jail, so they too can have a joyous Christmas.
- MPndpTue 5:30 pm | Alberta, Edmonton—Strathcona
Mr. Chair, I want to share the words of Bohdan Harasymiw, who is a retired professor at the University of Calgary, a very proud Ukrainian Canadian, very engaged in the diaspora in Canada.
He has very clear words. He says:
These demonstrations are therefore about more than the postponement of the association...with the European Union. An entire generation has grown up in an independent Ukraine, a generation with European aspirations, with European ideals of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. It cannot be suppressed.
I think that is echoed in the recommendations by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. Many of my colleagues have reiterated what they have called for. I think there is an agenda fairly clearly laid out that we as Canadian legislators can follow.
The most important thing for us to keep front of mind is that these demonstrations and this violent response by the government of Ukraine is not the first time. There is a history of violent repression against the Ukrainian people. I think that calls for deeper action, deeper thought, deeper collaboration within Parliament on both sides. I am proud to participate in the Canada-Ukraine friendship organization. We regularly talk about these issues and what we can do to build association.
The most powerful thing we can do as Canadians is to provide more financial assistance so that more of civil society can come to Canada, and our civil society, including municipal officials, student organizations, educators and so forth, can go into Ukraine, and back and forth.
We have to make sure that we are providing legal representation. Right now we have politicians jailed in the Ukraine, and now we are simply adding more people who are peacefully demonstrating to those jail cells. We have to help them to be released in a judicial system that is not fair, open and according to the rule of law.
- MPndpTue 5:25 pm | Alberta, Edmonton—Strathcona
Mr. Chair, I thank the hon. member for the opportunity to share more of the words of the people from Ukraine and in Canada. It is always a privilege to work with him. It has been in the past and I hope in the future.
I would like to share some of the appeals of civil society representatives of Ukraine. They issued a release December 10. The civil society represents economists, lawyers, educators, business experts, a wide array of representatives from the people of Ukraine. They are calling on us to condemn the use of excessive force by the special forces of the ministry of internal affairs. They are calling on the government of Ukraine to not simply turn to politicians to resolve this impasse, but to directly engage the active participation of civil society, which is what we have heard. That is where we can help. We can help by standing by civil society.
If the government does not have this release, I would be happy to share it. The representatives list a good numbers of actions that they are calling on us to support them in the action with Ukraine. They want the government to sign the association agreement with the European Union. They want to develop the basic principles under the constitution, which enable the consensus and engagement of civil society. They want the adoption of electoral code. That sounds familiar. They want the re-election of the chairman of the supreme court, high specialized court and on it goes. They have some very specific actions that they want in order to actually make an effective democracy.
- MPndpTue 5:15 pm | Alberta, Edmonton—Strathcona
Mr. Chair, it is my honour to join my colleagues on both sides of the House in this take note debate. It is an important debate, as all of my colleagues in the House tonight have stated.
As we stand here speaking and declaring our support for the people of Ukraine, they are being violently arrested and thrown in jail for simply expressing their free opinion, an opinion they have fought long and hard for.
It is my privilege to represent a good number of Ukrainian Canadians not only in my constituency of Edmonton—Strathcona but right across Alberta. As all my colleagues know, many of the members of the provincial legislature, including former premiers, are of Ukrainian descent.
There is a long-standing, deep-seeded respect and admiration for the people of the Ukraine and those who have escaped very difficult circumstances to re-establish themselves in Canada. Therefore, there is this long-standing support for their friends and family who were left behind and a continued support for Ukraine to become an open and free democratic nation.
Last year I had the privilege of taking two trips to Ukraine. The first was with the foreign affairs committee. With the national election coming forward, we went to Ukraine to look into complaints of erosion of the rule of law and democracy. We found very serious evidence of erosion in both circumstances. There was no longer freedom of the press. Those who were free journalists were now reduced to simply online reporting, if they were reporting. There was absolutely none of the traditional free media and press. If there was free press, the citizens were so poor that they could not afford it and could only rely on the government-controlled media.
We met with representatives of human rights organizations and civil society, some of whom were simply fighting to get access to the records of the Holodomor, which were being locked away from them, fighting simply to recognize their history of a thousand years of struggle to be a free and independent nation and to ensure the youth of Ukraine understood the repression they had previously existed under so they would understand why it was so critical to fight for a free and democratic government.
As my colleagues have mentioned, I also had the great privilege of having youthful interns in my office. Each one of them have been astounded at the freedom we experience on this Hill. They could not believe that as elected representatives we did not have bodyguards. They could not believe that as simple student interns they could wander about freely and talk to elected representatives, staff and officials in the House of Commons. That is a real wake-up call to us because we take our freedoms for granted, until we run into people who do not experience that at home, irrespective of what their constitution extends to them.
Tonight I want to give credit to my incredible legislative assistant. She has spent a lot of time in Ukraine in successive elections as a long-time monitor. I could not find a more stalwart defender of the rights of Ukrainians. I want to give her the courtesy of respect she deserves for speaking up daily for the people of Ukraine.
I know my Ukrainian Canadian constituents and those across Alberta are tuning in and watching this right now. They value the fact that we are taking the time, even though the House has shut down for the season, to stand in defence of their friends and relatives in Ukraine and the rights that we share here. I have been reminded that there is a time difference as we speak, but today representatives of both sides of the House attended the funeral for Nelson Mandela, who was the global champion for human rights and freedoms.
Today is the 65th anniversary of the international human rights declaration. As we speak here today, the people of Ukraine are being attacked with bludgeons simply because they are standing up and defending their free right to trade and associate with people of other countries with which they would prefer to associate.
I want to share the words of the Ukrainian World Congress, which has reminded us of the words of Mr. Mandela, which are appropriate today.
Mr. Mandela stated, “For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”. That is a good message to us. It is fine that we are free, but we have a responsibility to also speak for others who are still struggling out of those chains.
In a statement issued on December 10, the Ukrainian World Congress stated:
On this day, when we annually vow to reaffirm the dignity and protect the human rights of all citizens, the Ukrainian World Congress appeals to the international community to support the people of Ukraine in their fight for the freedom to chart their course without fear of reprisals or persecution—the foundation of a democratic society...
I do not think the point could have been made any more strongly.
My staff member is very academic and learned and has read deeply on Ukraine. In fact, my most recent Ukrainian intern left me, as a gift, a thick tome on the history of Ukraine and I just did not have time tonight to completely go through it. However, I am reminded that this wonderful nation has struggled for over 1,000 years.
The people of Ukraine have come out of repression after repression, first under Russia and then other nations, then under the Soviet Union. They certainly suffered under Stalin. I had the privilege of participating this year in two Holodomor memorials, one here on the Hill and one in Edmonton. It is a great privilege to be asked to participate.
The Ukrainians are a people who are desperately seeking support to become a democratic nation and at every turn they think they are finally going to be free. In 1990, Ukraine's sovereignty was proclaimed. Then they signed onto their constitution, which guarantees them human rights and dignity, the same kind of human rights that we appreciate in Canada. Then 93% of Ukrainian citizens voted for an independent Ukraine and chose their first democratically elected president.
However, then in 2004 when there was evidence of electoral fraud, they took to the streets in their own Orange Revolution. In our party we have had our orange revolution. They had theirs and so we are brethren in loving the colour orange, as my colleague here wears proudly the scarf from the Ukrainian Orange Revolution. Still they suffer and they struggle.
When I participated in the monitoring of the election last fall, I was stunned at the turnout. I asked to be in the city of Lviv, because it is such an extraordinarily beautiful old city on the western edge of Ukraine. We went to many places, including a prison and a mental hospital and they were lining up to vote. Then we went out to the suburbs and there were families coming with their baby carriages and they were bringing seniors in wheelchairs. They wanted to participate in a democratic nation. Then of course there were problems again, and we have run-up elections going on as we speak. One has to question how fair these elections will be, given what is happening on the streets of Ukraine. Still, I presume they will come out.
Now we have a president who has espoused that he wishes to enter into friendship with Canada and with our friends and colleagues in the European community and at the last minute pulls out of those negotiations under pressure, we understand, from Russia. Deservedly and understandably, the people of Ukraine, who wish to align with the European community and consider themselves Europeans, have taken to the streets.
What is the response by the government of Ukraine? It responds with bludgeons, arresting people, beating up people, throwing them in jail. We know from our experience in Ukraine. We met with the lawyers and family for at least three of the opposition members who are still jailed. They simply do not have fair representation. They are just simply held and detained. There still is no democracy.
It is important for us to recognize that we continue to try to work with Ukraine, that we continue to try to provide aid building civil society, but we need to recognize that moments like this occur and that we are simply not giving enough support. There is cause. Our House is closing for the season and it is incumbent upon the government because it continues to be the voice for Canadians. We will stand with the government and hope that it will take stronger action.
In closing, I want to share some of the words from the youth of Edmonton. The Ukrainian youth have been taking to the streets as well and Ukrainian students are studying in Edmonton.
They tell the House that 300,000 of the Ukrainian community in Alberta are united with the millions of Ukrainians in the diaspora. They want to ensure the safety of their peaceful demonstrations in Kiev and they are vigilantly preserved until they themselves choose to disperse.
They urge the Government of Canada, all western governments and western media to understand what they are seeing and hearing and to understand much of the street fighting is purposefully instigated by provocateurs.
Clearly they are in touch with their friends and family in Kiev and this is what they are reporting. They are calling for peaceful, safe resolve of the issues. They are calling on Canada to speak to the United States and have the President of the United States also speak out.
Perhaps in questions I can also share the words of some of the other Edmontonians who wish to share with the House their feelings on what is going on.
- MPndpTue 5:05 pm | Ontario, Frontenac
Mr. Chair, I want to read into the record, in a question to my colleague, something we just received about what is happening right now in Ukraine, in Kiev. This is a letter from the president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. It states:
Dear Members of Canada's Parliament:
As President of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, I address you with complete shock and outrage that as you all express support for the people of Ukraine during the take note debate in the House of Commons, Ukraine's “Berkut” special police forces are attacking the peaceful protesters on Kyiv's Independence Square and taking down the Maidan by force. I am watching several live online feeds as the people in the crowd and on stage are praying and calling on the police to show restraint and to stand on the protester's side. Despite these calls the police continue to clear the Square. I ask you all to pray for the peaceful protesters. We as Canadians cannot stand idle. Immediate action is required by the international community. Thank you for standing with the people of Ukraine!
I think that is shared with all of us.
I said “now” because when we debate these issues, often it is about things that have happened. This is happening in real time, right now.
When we hear of something like this and we know that there is an abuse of power, we know, as my colleague said earlier, there is a constitution that protects the rights of people for peaceful protest. Then when all of a sudden there is a conversion by the president saying that he now wants to go Brussels, what more should we do? We should obviously condemn, but what else can we do to show that we are with the people of Ukraine and that we will not stand idly by?
- MPndpTue 4:50 pm | Ontario, Parkdale—High Park
Mr. Chair, my colleague is absolutely right. Ukraine does have a constitution. It does provide protection against human rights abuses, and I think that is an excellent idea. Canada engages with Ukraine on so many levels, whether it is with business, with education, with civil society. Given our history around human rights protection, and, again, the 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, perhaps there is a way for us to reach out and provide some legislative support to help ensure its constitution is enforced, given what seems to be a situation of massive human rights abuses. I thank her for that suggestion.
- MPndpTue 4:50 pm | Alberta, Edmonton—Strathcona
Mr. Chair, I would like to thank my colleague for being a stalwart defender of the rights of those in Ukraine. I know she has taken that position for quite some time.
I think we need to remind ourselves that in making the statements that we are tonight in support of the people of Ukraine who are fighting against severe suppression right now, that they democratically chose a constitution which has extended to them the human rights and freedoms that we enjoy in Canada. We are not speaking about rights that they should have if they had a democratically selected government; they actually have adopted this constitution, which so far has not been shredded.
I had the honour of going to Ukraine twice last year, once to monitor the elections in the fall, with many colleagues on the other side as well, and with the Foreign Affairs committee, looking at the erosion of the rule of law and democracy.
One of the things that we discovered was that many people are being imprisoned for speaking out politically. I am wondering if my colleague could speak to the fact that this might be something that Canada could offer, to ensure there is legal representation for those who are being inappropriately arrested and jailed.
- MPndpTue 4:45 pm | Ontario, Parkdale—High Park
Mr. Chair, I thank my colleague opposite, the Minister of Foreign Affairs. I think the Christmas spirit is breaking out in the House of Commons.
In all seriousness, it is indicative of the seriousness of this place and the seriousness of the issue that all parties have come together to have what is not really a debate but a discussion about this serious issue.
I thank the minister for his kind words. Again, I thank him for being in Ukraine, for being in the Maidan square. I have been there myself. I know how electric that can be when people come out in the streets and how passionately people want this change. People want to know that their country is truly evolving, that they are no longer living under a dictatorship.
The Berlin Wall has fallen. We are in a post-dictatorship era, yet some of the vestiges of dictatorship remain. I believe that is what is happening here. I join with all my colleagues in supporting the minister's comments, that what we really want to do is to encourage the government. We do not want to isolate them. We want to encourage them to reach out to engage with the opposition, and to find a way forward so that the democratic will of the people is represented and the democratic aspirations of this country can be fully recognized.
I think there is good will around the world for this to happen. We can reach out to the government of Ukraine and urge it to pull back from its suppression of demonstrators, and reach out to them instead to engage in dialogue.
- MPndpTue 4:30 pm | Ontario, Parkdale—High Park
Mr. Chair, I am honoured to rise this evening to participate in this debate on the situation in Ukraine, which is incredibly troubling and urgent as Ukrainians live through this crisis. The world is clearly engaged and watching what is happening in Ukraine and I am very thankful that we are having this debate tonight.
I want to first say, as firmly as I can, working closely with my colleague from Ottawa Centre who is the NDP official opposition critic on international issues, that New Democrats stand firmly with the people of Ukraine in their hour of need. We are with them, we are here in solidarity and we support them in their struggle.
I want to pick up on what others have said here tonight. I believe all parties in the House are of one mind and one voice when it comes to support for the people of Ukraine in the situation they are in this evening. We are very concerned about the current crisis, the use of force against protesters, the denial of free speech and the increasingly eastward drift of Ukraine, turning away from the west and increasingly, we believe, turning away from democratic engagement.
I am very fortunate, as the member of Parliament for Parkdale—High Park, that I represent a very large Ukrainian Canadian diaspora and I am very proud that this community has stayed together so tightly and has such a strong culture. People have preserved their language, their art, their community and their engagement with what is happening in Ukraine, as well as contributing for generations to the building of our country, Canada.
I am very honoured that I have had the opportunity to work with the Ukrainian Canadian community and have come to understand the difficult, troubled history that Ukrainians have faced in their country, everything from dictatorship and the suppression of rights to the ultimate horror of the Holodomor in 1932-33, the famine genocide. It is absolutely unbelievable what the Ukrainian community has had to suffer and I am very proud that it is our country, Canada, that was the first to recognize the Holodomor as a genocide and has worked so closely with the Ukrainian community.
Because of the experience I have had in Parkdale—High Park, I have used that opportunity to engage with Ukrainian people. I first went to Ukraine as an election observer in 2004 during the Orange Revolution. Yes, I was in the Maidan square and it was this time of year. It was very cold, but the energy, emotion and passion of Ukrainians as they jammed into that square was absolutely palpable.
Of course, we were neutral election observers. We were there to observe, but I was sent to Zaporizhia, which was an all-night train ride into the central eastern part of Ukraine. We arrived exactly at 6 a.m. on December 25. It was an incredible experience. The reason we were there was that the presidential elections were deemed fraudulent and were being rerun. There had been a huge initiative undertaken to train all of those who were participating as staff in the election and the people who volunteered. I saw first-hand how passionately Ukrainians wanted the democratic process to work. I believe in that case it did work, because the results were overturned. They elected a different president and there was so much hope in the aftermath of those elections.
I had the opportunity to return to Ukraine twice after that to be part of subsequent elections, most recently in 2012 for the parliamentary election. There are some re-runoffs of those elections taking place in the near future.
I have seen first-hand the passion of the Ukrainian people, who want what they have described to me as a normal country, a normal society and a normal democracy. Normal means that opposition leaders do not get jailed right before an election. They do not get hauled off to trial on trumped up charges and then thrown in jail so they cannot participate in elections. Normal means the media does not get completely controlled in the months running up to an election. It means that people have the opportunity to freely and peacefully demonstrate and engage in their society.
I want to thank the many colleagues in the House who have been part of these observer missions and who have worked on the Canada-Ukraine parliamentary friendship committee. This is so important. I also want to thank those involved in the internship program. Through this program, I have seen first-hand, in my office here in Ottawa, smart, educated, talented young people from Ukraine, full of hope, who want to learn, who want to build their country.
I have so much hope for the future of Ukraine, yet here we are in these dark times right now debating the situation, all because the Ukraine government turned its back on its negotiations and its long-standing opportunity to form a trade partnership with the EU after years of negotiations. President Yanukovych turned his back on this and instead, when protestors start filling the streets in Kiev, he cracked down on them. He sent in the armed police who threw people in jail and beat people. That is not the way a democracy ought to function. Young people know better and that is why they are standing up against this brutality.
We are all here tonight with Ukraine. We have to ensure that whatever actions we or the international community take, there is engagement. We need not do anything that further isolates Ukraine.
I want to commend the Minister of Foreign Affairs for his recent trip to Ukraine and meeting with the protestors and engaging with the government. I believe we cannot just criticize Ukraine. We have to engage with it, but exert pressure as we engage also with civil society. With all of the work we have done, sending more election observers than any other country, we have the opportunity and we have the obligation to engage with Ukraine and advocate for it on the international stage.
We do have to call on the president of Ukraine to respect the rights of the citizens of Ukraine, to respect democratic assembly, to respect free speech, to respect the right of people to have fair and free elections and to respect their desire when the majority of Ukrainians want to have engagement with the west. We want to urge the government to allow that to happen.
We support the engagement of Ukraine with the European Union. We think that is a positive development. We also need to put pressure on Russia because we believe its undue meddling in Ukraine's affairs is really behind what is happening. We believe this is in violation of treaties that Russia has committed to in terms of submitting Ukraine to economic pressure. It needs to cease and desist from doing that.
There are many other measures that we support. We support the Ukrainian Canadian Congress's demands for a crackdown on money laundering and corrupt business practices. We support the desire of Ukrainians who come to Canada to have greater access to visas and an accelerated process.
I see my time is just about up, but just let me say:
[Member spoke in Ukrainian]
- MPndpTue 4:25 pm | Ontario, Parkdale—High Park
Mr. Chair, I would like to thank the member for his comments and for his leadership in the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group.
I know that another member mentioned this in the House, but I have been looking at the BBC website, and as we are having this debate in the House, it is reporting that hundreds of police have moved on a large protest camp in the centre of the Ukrainian capital. That would be the Maidan square.
Ukrainians in Canada have been very concerned about the use of force and the government there not allowing the right to democratic protest, the right to free speech, and the ability to gather in this public square. There is great concern about the use of force in breaking up these demonstrations and about undue pressure being put on those demonstrators gathered in Maidan square. A number of students were arrested earlier, and there is concern about their treatment.
I ask the member if the government is sending an urgent message, especially this evening, as we are having this debate, that the government refrain from trying to remove the peaceful protesters and that it stop any undue force so that people's rights to free assembly and free speech are respected. That ought to be a basic right as we celebrate the 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- MPndpTue 3:50 pm | Ontario, Frontenac
Mr. Chair, to be clear, it is more than a trade agreement; it is a political agreement as well. The strategic partnership agreement framework that the EU has, which we have not signed on to yet, I might note, is an important model. Actually, the agreement with Ukraine is even bigger than the strategic partnership agreements that they normally negotiate along with their trade agreements.
We need to see this happen because we know what is happening right now. We have a president who is pulling Ukraine away from Europe towards Russia. We know the people do not want that. We have to show that we are interested in Ukraine having full and open access to the west through the European Union. We support this political economic agreement that the president walked away from and is playing games with, as members know. There is no question about it.
We believe it is important for the opposition to unite around a similar position. That is where we can help. As we speak, I note that Ms. Ashton is there from the EU, engaging diplomatically. Hopefully, we will see a change of mind.
I would also note, just off the BBC wire, that we now have the president saying he might go to Brussels next week. Well, would that not be interesting?
We cannot turn our backs. We have to turn the pressure up. On this side, we believe in that political economic arrangement. We believe we should be pushing for it and that we should see a united opposition. We believe we should be doing everything we can with our diplomatic muscle to encourage that engagement with the EU, absolutely one hundred per cent.
- MPndpTue 3:45 pm | Alberta, Edmonton—Strathcona
Mr. Chair, each of us has Ukrainian-Canadian communities in our ridings. Certainly across the province of Alberta there is a strong, proud Ukrainian Canadian contingent.
I had the privilege, as the member is aware, of travelling to Ukraine a year and a half ago as part of a foreign affairs delegation. We were precisely looking into these matters. There were concerns with the erosion of democracy and the rule of law in Ukraine and whether or not there would be a fair election. The election was held last October. Of course, we are into elections again.
In the feedback we were given, in addition to what the Ukrainian Canadian Congress is calling for, we had strong presentations from civil society and the media calling for more support by the Canadian government—for example, through CIDA—to enable young Ukrainians to come for visits here and to provide more internships, and also for visits by people working in municipal governments. They have not had a democratic regime for long. They do not have the experience of observing and being part of a democratic regime.
I have not yet heard mention of strong support for freedom of the media. What is going on right now in Ukraine is not different from what we have been hearing has been going on for quite some time. There have been politicians imprisoned for quite some time.
Could the member speak about broader support that Canada could give to help build a democratic foundation in the Ukraine?
- MPndpTue 3:45 pm | Ontario, Frontenac
Mr. Chair, that is a superb question. That is why these take note debates are really important. We can discuss ideas, put proposals forward, and have a good discussion when we have more than 35 seconds.
It is really important that we focus on the media. These elections were not fair because the ability of everyday people to get their message out was being controlled by the media. It was the same with the incarceration of political opposition leaders. There cannot be a full debate if people are restricted because they are incarcerated, obviously.
However, what my colleague from Edmonton said that is equally important is that Canada can help with democratic development here by supporting civic development through exchanges. We have seen young bright people here in the internship program, for instance. We should be doing more of that. We should be opening our doors to all those young people who believe in that dream I was talking about. That way, the dream cannot be stolen, because they are going to be equipped with the right skill sets to go back and build up their communities at the civic level and the municipal level as well as at the state level.
However, we need to see the media question put on the front burner, because we have seen a restriction of freedom of speech and a clampdown on media that are not in line with the government's party line. These are very important initiatives, and we can help by funding those projects in Ukraine and inviting those young, bright, talented Ukrainians to come here to learn how we do things. Then they can bring that back home.
- MPndpTue 3:30 pm | Ontario, Parkdale—High Park
Mr. Chair, one of the measures I know the Ukrainian Canadian Congress is looking for is Canada's help internationally in cracking down on money laundering in Ukraine, which is a tax haven. I am wondering if the government has plans to work with the international community to help crack down on money laundering in Ukraine?
- MPndpTue 3:30 pm | Ontario, Frontenac
Mr. Chair, I thank my colleagues who are here to focus on Ukraine because as we have noted already in this debate, it is a topic of great importance, not just for us here but for the world.
I want to start with a personal story. It was in 2004 when my mother went to Ukraine to be an election observer. She came back moved by the fact that the people of Ukraine had taken it upon themselves to really embrace something we take for granted here. That was democracy. She came back with such wonderful stories of people who had participated in the democratic franchise, who had participated in politics in its best form.
It was an exciting time. It was the time of the Orange Revolution, which obviously predated any orange wave. It was a time where people had hope and optimism for the future. It was a dream that was being laid out for the people of Ukraine. This was not a dream that they had to strive for beyond their lifetimes; this was a dream they could live right now. It was the dream of living in a country where people were able to decide with a democratic franchise who was to decide the fate of their future.
It is with some concern and sadness that I am gripped with what is happening right now. My mother spent her Christmas there and she just had a couple of Christmases with me after that before she passed away, but I will never forget the excitement that she had for the people of Ukraine. She told me about a very long train ride she had to take to go to the area where she was an election observer and the people she met.
I think the magic of 2004 needs to be remembered right now, needs to be remembered with the people who are now in Independence Square who are saying, “We will not forget the dream. No one is going to steal the dream away from us. We stand for the dream of Ukraine to make sure it is free, it is democratic and no one is going to take that dream away from us”.
It is about people and it is about democratic franchise. It is about those things we take for granted here. I am proud to stand tonight in support of the people of Ukraine and in support of the democratic liberties, their human rights, their vision of a peaceful and prosperous country. Just as in 2004, Ukrainians are demonstrating that they will be masters of their own destiny.
I have been monitoring the situation closely as to what is happening in Ukraine, along with many of my colleagues. I am deeply concerned by the government's use of force against peaceful protesters. There is no place in a democratic society for the use of force by the state against peaceful protesters, and of course we want to see that ended.
Free speech and the right to peacefully protest are fundamental to any democracy. Around the world and throughout history, these are among the most basic rights people fight to obtain. It is worth noting that on the day that we are celebrating the life of Madiba, of Mandela, that the people in Ukraine and Independence Square are fighting for what he was fighting for. They have different contexts in terms of being in different situations, but the same ideals, the ability to speak freely, not to be jailed because of one's beliefs, not to be beaten because of one's want to protest civilly.
I think Canada should continue to send a clear message to the government of Ukraine, to respect these democratic freedoms and work with our allies to support a political resolution to the crisis. Of course, this situation has arisen as a result of the disappointing decision of the Ukrainian government to suspend negotiations for an association agreement and deep and comprehensive free trade with the European Union as was already noted.
Soon after the announcement of this decision, as the protests were just getting going, I issued a statement on behalf of the New Democratic Party on November 25, expressing our concern and urging all sides to exercise restraint and for the government to do that as well, and to commit to a dialogue between government and opposition parties and civil society. Unfortunately, as we saw, the Ukrainian government did not follow through on those demands, which many of us were making, did not show restraint. In fact, it did the opposite.
Of course, we are deeply concerned with the continued police crackdowns, which have reportedly included the use of tear gas, stun grenades, and batons against peaceful protesters, bystanders, and journalists. This must end, and we must speak clearly and with unanimity in this place to condemn the violence that we have seen against peaceful protest. We deplore these attacks on peaceful assembly.
There are numerous reports of injuries and arbitrary political arrests. These actions by Ukrainian security services are simply unacceptable, and they must prosecuted. Ukrainian authorities must not only refrain from violence, which is obvious, but must respect the democratic freedoms of the Ukrainian people. The government must also respect due process and fundamental justice for all who may be detained, and the rule of law must reign supreme.
The use of divisive rhetoric against the protesters by the Ukrainian government has aggravated tensions and undermined democratic discourse. Dialogue among Ukrainians, supported by the international community, is essential for reconciliation and democratic progress in Ukraine. The actions of the Ukrainian government have put this process at risk.
Let us be clear: all Canadian political parties are united in their desire for a free, democratic, and prosperous Ukraine. Last year, on the foreign affairs committee, as the vice-chair working with my colleagues, we studied the situation in Ukraine. I was pleased that the committee recommended that the Government of Canada should call for the prompt release of all political leaders who have been convicted as part of apparently politically motivated prosecutions. This is incredibly important for any democracy. There cannot be free and fair elections when opposition leaders are imprisoned.
The committee also called on the Ukrainian government to strengthen the rule of law, respect for human rights, media freedom, religious freedom, and academic freedom. At the time, the NDP also added its supplementary report, which called for any economic negotiations between Canada and Ukraine to be coordinated with demands that elections be free, fair, and transparent in accordance with international standards, along with the release of all politicians who had been convicted as part of apparently politically motivated prosecutions. We also recommended that Canada should coordinate its actions with the European Union.
Now is another opportunity for such coordination. Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign representative—and this is news I received just before I came to the House—is there. She has actually been to Independence Square and has met with people in the square, as well as with government officials. We are also hearing about talks with the opposition leaders.
Canada has a very strong relationship, as we know, and that strong relationship can be used for the benefit of the Ukrainian people. The government should use our status and the strong ties with Ukraine to push for change at the top. This is international Human Rights Day. It was 65 years ago today that a Canadian-inspired document, the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, was adopted. Let us be inspired to carry that mission through when it comes to the people of Ukraine.
I want to finish where I started. This is about a dream of a people. We have a responsibility to see that dream through. We have a responsibility to make sure that the people of Ukraine know that the Canadian people are with them.
Let me finish by simply saying slava Ukraini.
- MPndpTue 3:20 pm | Ontario, Frontenac
Mr. Chair, I thank the parliamentary secretary for his intervention. He gave a fairly thorough overview of what Canada has been doing, the position we have taken, and the actions of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
In 2011-12, the Government of Canada funded, to the tune of $25 million, projects in Ukraine. Some of these had to do with democratic developments. Some of the monies were invested in the election observations the member just referred to for the by-election that will take place.
Could the parliamentary secretary inform the House and Canadians what other investments the government is contemplating at this time on a go-forward basis? Will the government continue that amount of money? Could he give us a breakdown of where those monies would be invested in the next fiscal year?
- MPndpTue 2:55 pm | British Columbia, Skeena—Bulkley Valley
Mr. Speaker, sometimes it is possible to feel a sense of joy here.
I would like to wish all parliamentarians and their families a merry Christmas and happy holidays.
There are times, although they may be rare and increasingly rare, where we can find agreement in a common cause. I think there is strong sentiment and appreciation from all of the MPs on all sides of this place to thank the parliamentary team that supports us in our work. Canadians might not realize when they watch question period or the events of the House that behind us, and with us, is an incredible team of employees who broadcast, for good and bad, all of the words that we have to say on various topics and bills.
We thank the Sergeant-at-Arms and his most capable team that provide security for all of us in the House of Commons as well as to all of our guests who visit Parliament, keeping us safe on a daily basis.
We thank the somewhat long-suffering pages of this place, who now need to have the best year of their lives. It is a good and wonderful opportunity for us to get to know them and for them to get to know the House of Commons.
In particular, we thank the clerks of the House, who provide all MPs with incredible advice in a most professional and non-partisan way. Without them, we would sound less coherent than we do from time to time.
Last but not least to you, Mr. Speaker, and your family, we hope you have a wonderful holiday in Saskatchewan and connect back to all those things which we stand for in this place, our friends, family and communities, who we attempt to serve each and every day.
- MPndpTue 2:35 pm | Ontario, Windsor—Tecumseh
The hour provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.
Pursuant to Standing Order 30(7), the House will now proceed to the consideration of Bill C-479 under private members' business.
- MPndpTue 2:30 pm | Quebec, Montcalm
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to discuss the principles involved in Bill C-518, an act to amend the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act (withdrawal allowance).
As we know, the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act is the legislation that governs pensions for members of the House of Commons and for senators. The bill being discussed today proposes to change that legislation. It proposes to disentitle a parliamentarian to a taxpayer-funded pension if he or she is convicted of an indictable offence under an act of Parliament that carries a maximum prison sentence of not less than two years. In addition, the offence must have arisen out of conduct that occurred before June 3, 2013, and while the person was a member of Parliament or a senator.
As well as disentitling the person to a taxpayer-funded pension, the legislation would cause him or her to lose eligibility for the post-retirement health and dental benefits that normally come with the pension plan. The person would, however, be entitled to receive a refund of the monies that he or she contributed to that pension.
We believe the work that the hon. member has put into this bill is laudable. As parliamentarians, we have a tremendous responsibility to Canadians, and the citizens of our country have the right to demand the highest standard of ethical conduct from us. This is part and parcel of our job.
People elected to the House of Commons and those appointed to the Senate are expected to craft the laws that govern the land, and for the laws to be right, the people who make them must be right. Indeed, the highest ethical standards are an integral part of the jobs with which we are entrusted. Canadians expect nothing less.
When we compromise that trust, Canadians deserve recourse, and justice demands recourse. Let me also reiterate that one of the abiding beliefs of our government is that people in public office must be accountable for their actions.
Strengthening accountability is one of the hallmarks of our government. On coming into office, our first order of business was to introduce and implement the Federal Accountability Act and the accompanying action plan, which demonstrates our commitment to that accountability. This act provides Canadians with the assurance that the powers entrusted in the government are being exercised in the public interest.
Through the Federal Accountability Act and the accompanying action plan, we brought in a series of accountability reforms. Among these reforms were the designation of deputy ministers and deputy heads as accounting officers and the requirement that they appear before parliamentary committees, the five-year review of the relevance and effectiveness of departmental grant and contribution programs, the new mandate for the Auditor General to follow the money to grant and contribution recipients, the law requiring departments to send results of public opinion research to Library and Archives Canada within six months, and the removal of the entitlement of political staff to priority appointments in the public service.
These reforms were followed up by others, including new electoral financing rules and restrictions on gifts to political candidates; the Public Service Disclosure Protection Act; the new Conflict of Interest Act; tougher penalties and sanctions for people who commit fraud involving taxpayers' money; clarification and simplification of the rules governing grants and contributions; the extension of the Access to Information Act to cover agents of Parliament, five foundations, and the Canadian Wheat Board; and regulations to ensure lobbying and government advocacy was done fairly and openly. In all, our Federal Accountability Act and action plan made substantive changes to some 45 federal statutes and amended over 100 others, touching virtually every part of government and beyond.
As a result of these efforts, the Prime Minister, cabinet ministers, parliamentarians, and other public service employees are more accountable today than ever before in Canadian history. Our commitment to accountability has not waned one iota.
I conclude by saying that this bill is consistent with the principles behind those measures to which we have spoken. Since our government came to power, we have worked to protect the integrity of parliamentary office and the conduct Canadians expect of their members of Parliament and senators, strengthen accountability in our public institutions, operate with respect for taxpayers' dollars, and punish those in a position of power who break the law. We will continue to do so.
- MPndpTue 2:30 pm | Ontario, Windsor—Tecumseh
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Don Valley West. I would advise the member that he will have approximately six minutes before we have to finish this debate.
- MPndpTue 1:55 pm | Ontario, Windsor—Tecumseh
I believe the member for Kitchener Centre has a somewhat valid point. The member for Burnaby—New Westminster is at some degree of variance from the main topic. Perhaps he could bring it back on topic. He only has about four minutes left in his time slot.
- MPndpTue 1:55 pm | British Columbia, Burnaby—New Westminster
Mr. Speaker, the real question is accountability and transparency.
The responsibility of the government is to show that accountability and transparency in the House every single day. The point I am making is that the bill, which talks about accountability, says that Canada's legislators should abide by the law of the land. That is not reflected in the daily practice of government. I think that is a valid point to make.
As far as the concerns that have been raised regarding many of the senators, I will just go through the list. We have Senator Mike Duffy claiming to represent a province that he did not live in. We have Senator Pamela Wallin who was doing fundraising campaigns, again at taxpayers' expense. We have Senator Patrick Brazeau who has been charged with assault.
These are all examples of what happens when a legislator does not abide by the law of the land, and by the laws of Parliament.
The point I am making is this. It is all well and good for a government member to put forward a bill that says that if members violate the laws of the land, they will be punished. The responsibility that the government has is to make sure that the laws of the land are respected each and every day. It is not one private member's bill that makes the difference. It is the overall attitude of the government.
The government's actions every day undermine the bill that has been brought forward. That is the issue. That is what we are debating right here on the floor of the House of Commons.
We have gone one further, in terms of accountability and transparency, because that is what is purported to be proposed in the bill. What we said last June and what we brought forward to procedure and House affairs was a series of accountability mechanisms, as members will recall, in terms of members' expenses, which is also something that needs to be carefully governed by the law of the land and by the laws of Parliament.
We have said, in agreement with the Auditor General, that the Auditor General should be able to audit MPs' expenses. Unfortunately, Conservative and Liberal members have said no to this. We have also said that there needs to be independent oversight, doing away with the secretive bureau of internal economy and putting in place an independent oversight body.
There again Conservatives and Liberals have said no to that. In response to the Information Commissioner saying very clearly that MPs' expenses should be subject to access to information, we have said yes. Conservatives and Liberals have said no.
My point is this. The NDP has no lessons to learn from either of the old parties around accountability and transparency. It is not one bill that we put forward, it is the actions that we bring every day to the floor of the House of Commons that show the Canadian public that indeed in our case we believe in responsibility, we believe in transparency and we believe that Canadian values should be reflected on the floor of the House of Commons every day.
What are those Canadian values? Those Canadian values are fairness. Those Canadian values are truthfulness, actually having the Prime Minister respond truthfully to the questions that are put to him in the House of Commons. We also believe that Canadian values are that of responsibility. We take responsibility for our actions and we are transparent at all times with the Canadian public.
That is our approach. That is the NDP approach. Like so many other Canadians, I am excited that in 2015 we will get the opportunity to put those values front and centre in the House of Commons each and every day.
- MPndpTue 1:50 pm | British Columbia, Burnaby—New Westminster
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-518.
As I mentioned in my question to the member a few minutes ago, members of the NDP will be supporting the bill at second reading.
However, I want to raise the caveats right off the top. The two caveats that we have raised are with regard to the Nova Scotia model. The Nova Scotia NDP government brought in the model legislation that basically stood by the principle that Canadian legislators should abide by the law of the land. That legislation was put in place by the NDP government in Nova Scotia and ensured that for a maximum of no less than five years any offence punishable by imprisonment would mean that the member, in this case the member of the House of Assembly in Nova Scotia, would see his or her pension benefits removed.
As members well know, what that does is allow, still, for the lump-sum payment on pensions, but what it takes away, if somebody has committed this criminal offence, is the additional pension top-up that the taxpayers normally would provide for a pension, whether we are talking at the provincial or the federal level.
We agree with the principle that once a member of Parliament is elected, the member of Parliament has the responsibility to abide by the law of the land. Because of that, we say that this kind of legislation is welcome.
However, as the member has already indicated, we would be looking and seeking amendments to change it to five years for a criminal offence and we have seen, I think, from the member, some willingness to compromise on that. That is welcome.
The other concern that we have raised, though, and it is not a little one, is that former spouses or dependents not be penalized by this.
In the case of the Nova Scotia law that the Nova Scotia NDP government put into place, it ensured that any entitlement a former spouse may have in court or a court-ordered restitution would be deducted from the MHA's pension. What that means, in the context of Bill C-518, is that it would assure that those expenses, in the case of a former spouse or a court-ordered restitution, would be taken away and sent to the spouse or to the victim who receives the court-ordered restitution. That is still an open question for Bill C-518.
Though we are in agreement in principle on second reading, we are certainly hoping at the committee stage that the flexibility that the member has shown with regard to the move from two years to five years would also be considered, in terms of former spouses or court-ordered restitutions.
We agree with the principle of the bill. We do believe some of the details need to be worked on. That is our role here in Parliament, in the House of Commons. NDP members work very diligently to correct, often, mistakes or weaknesses that happen in government bills. It is our pleasure to do it up until 2015 when, of course, we will producing the type of legislation that we are sure Conservatives will be supporting because we will actually do the work beforehand so that the problems are worked out prior to.
However, it does raise a question because here we have a bill from a Conservative member, which is a welcome bill, that says very clearly Canada's legislators should abide by the law of the land.
It just brings to mind the concerns that we have been raising in the House of Commons over a wide variety of offences that have taken place by Conservatives, and also Liberals, in the other place. We have seen this repeatedly. We have been raising these questions in the House of Commons, repeatedly, trying to get answers about the types of offences we are seeing.
To our mind, abiding by the law of the land has to start at the very top. It means answering clearly when questions are asked. In this House, we have been asking clear questions for a number of weeks and have been getting answers, but the answers, tragically, seem to change. Depending upon the day of the week or I guess whatever the Prime Minister had for breakfast, we are getting different answers back.
That is not the way Parliament should function.
We did, as members know, put out playing cards a month ago at the Conservative national convention, talking about some of the Conservative—
- MPndpTue 1:45 pm | British Columbia, Burnaby—New Westminster
Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate the recognition. I thank the member for putting forward the bill, which the NDP members will be working to support at second reading.
The hon. member mentioned in his speech that he would be looking to change the convictions within Bill C-518 from two years to no less than five years, which is parallel to the Nova Scotia law that the NDP government put in place.
I certainly appreciate that the member brought forward that he will be bringing in those amendments, but the other concern that has been raised around the bill, and that is contained within the Nova Scotia NDP bill, allows for a former spouse having court-ordered restitution that can be deducted from the salary or pension of the member of the House of Assembly.
I would ask the hon. member if he is looking, as well, for those amendments, so that the spouses or ex-spouses of those MPs who are convicted would have access to that pension. That was the other concern that was brought forward in terms of his bill.
- MPndpTue 1:35 pm | Ontario, Windsor—Tecumseh
The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
- MPndpTue 1:15 pm | Ontario, Windsor—Tecumseh
All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
- MPndpTue 1:00 pm | Ontario, Parkdale—High Park
Mr. Speaker, I echo my colleague and thank all who have worked so hard on this committee. We had a very busy fall agenda.
The report on income inequality in Canada is unfortunately all too brief. There is a disturbing growth in income inequality in Canada over recent decades. We heard stark testimony about the social and economic ills associated with it, but we had a mere three public hearings on such a huge topic. It was also very limited in scope. We believe that on both these grounds, the limited time and the limited scope, were grossly inadequate to address the fundamental problems facing Canadians.
The report successfully details many of the key elements of the inequality problem. We believe the recommendations of the report fail to fully confront the problem that we are facing, so we had a whole range of supplementary recommendations, things like calling for a thorough review of Canada's tax and transfer system to see where the greatest increases in income inequality are located, and we urge that the government review all tax expenditure to assess their cost effectiveness and fairness. We also urge the government to really crack down on tax evasion and go after that revenue, which is badly needed for our economy.
We had strong recommendations about retirement security, improving OAS, reversing the cuts that the government made, improving GIS and improving the Canada and Quebec pension plan, expanding the working income tax benefit and increasing the federal minimum wage.
We also called for stronger measures to allow people to engage in collective bargaining, which we believe would improve their working lives and their incomes, so we had a range of concrete recommendations.
We believe income inequality is not only a terrible personal and social ill, it has an impact on our overall economy. It is bad for economic growth and we believe strongly that with the concrete measures we are proposing, Canada can marshal the resources to address this serious and urgent problem, and growing problem, and that we should be doing this without delay.
- MPndpTue 12:55 pm | Ontario, Parkdale—High Park
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his chairmanship on the finance committee. We have had a very busy agenda this fall. Our pre-budget consultations are very important because we are still dealing with the after-effects of the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression. We have heard from many Canadians who expect us to work together to make life more affordable, to help them in their retirement and create good middle-class jobs.
The majority report contains important summaries of the testimonies from many excellent witnesses. However, it fails to present comprehensive solutions to the important issues raised in the hearings. We need solutions like good middle-class jobs that have continued to disappear under the government. We need concrete measures to help people save for their retirement years. We also heard concerns about the process of this consultation, that the restrictions placed on consultations were too narrow and restrictive. We heard that from witnesses.
We also heard concerns about the lack of transparency and accountability for the budget process as a whole. We have called on the federal government to introduce more transparency in the budget process, as recommended by the Parliamentary Budget Officer.
In our supplementary report, we have submitted a number of proposals about the creation of good jobs, investments in infrastructure, the need to save and invest in retirement security for Canadians. Sadly, the government just voted against making improvements to CPP and QPP yesterday. We also made recommendations about making life more affordable for Canadians, how to address the issue of household debt and about improving the programs and services that Canadians rely on.
We believe these concrete measures should have been included in the main body of the report and that did not meet the approval of the government. While the other opposition party was supportive in defining the problem again, we found a lack of concrete solutions in many cases. We believe our supplementary report presents a fuller picture and concrete recommendations that we hope will help the Minister of Finance in his deliberations for the budget of 2014.
- MPndpTue 12:40 pm | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, I am glad to finally get a question from the shy Conservatives over there. It is interesting to hear the member talk about the opt-in mechanism, but he does not talk about the opt-out mechanism, and that is one of the key issues raised by the first nation communities. The fact is that “[i]t continues minister discretion to exercise control over First Nations governance and it would result in some First Nations being subjects of the act rather than the participants”.
That was Aimée Craft, chair of the National Aboriginal Law Section of the Canadian Bar Association.
I know that the group over there does not want to debate these issues. I want to thank the member for having the courage to rise and ask a question.
- MPndpTue 12:35 pm | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, certainly on this world freedom day, the day we remember the great Mandela and his walk to freedom, I really believe that in northern communities, there are young people who are the next Mandelas. What Mandela showed is that it is possible to reconcile after years and years of injustice. The word I hear all the time in first nation communities is “reconciliation”. I hear that the treaties will the honoured, that we committed to the treaties for as long as the sun shines, as long the grass grows, and as long as the river flows.
We have a fundamental duty. It is our primary relationship as Canadians, the relationship formed when those treaties were signed. Everything else comes after that.
It has been a broken relationship, but in first nation communities, I hear the word “reconciliation”. I never hear it from government. Never. I have never heard the word “reconciliation”. There is no understanding of what it means. Reconciliation is to come together with respect. I think when we come together with that respect, we will actually be able to start re-understanding how to build a governance structure that is forward-looking and accountable to the communities. Fundamentally, when it comes to education and children, no child in this country should ever be thrust into fourth world conditions in marginalized communities across the far north of Canada.
When we look at Mandela and what he stood for, I think Canada is on the verge today, so we need to take that next step. It is what the world expects of us and what we need to expect of each other.
- MPndpTue 12:30 pm | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, I have had the great honour to work with some of the Algonquin communities in northern Quebec and really learn on the ground how the governance structures need to work. I have also had the great honour to serve the Cree communities of the upper James Bay region.
We certainly know that the two-year cycle of elections has been very disruptive and we are glad to see that is changing. Two years is not sufficient time to build any kind of sustainable governance structure.
The problem with what continues to be imposed is that it is an inverted model of accountability. It is that the band and the band council are responsible to the minister, not to the people.
In our regions in the north, 180 years ago we had the Hudson Bay agent, who lorded it over the land. Then we had the Indian agent. Now we have the INAC bureaucrat. As far as I can see, they are all the same guy and they all stem from the same problem, which is this idea that they are the ones who will make the decisions and not the people whose lives are being affected. That is not a democratic model.
- MPndpTue 12:25 pm | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, I will certainly send you the blues to help you out so that you will understand the erudite nature of my speech.
Before I finish up, I would like to point out that I think my hon. colleague was getting a little tense because the Ring of Fire is near his area, and the government blew it. I do not want to embarrass him, but this is why I go back to the issue of governance. We need to deal with this issue of governance. The issue that we are talking about is the breach of faith. The governance between first nations and the government needs to be based on trust, and we have not seen any of that level of trust.
We can hear all the talking points we want on how the government blew it on the Ring of Fire, but the communities do not trust the government, and neither should they. As I said earlier in my speech, we can tinker with the problems of the Indian Act, but the fundamental problem is the relationship.
- MPndpTue 12:05 pm | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise in this House, as always, representing the people of Timmins—James Bay on Bill C-9, an act respecting the election and term of office of chiefs and councillors of certain first nations and the composition of council of those first nations.
This is yet another bill that is being brought forward to tinker with the highly problematic Indian Act. It comes at a time where the breach in relationship between the Government of Canada, the Crown, and first nations across this country is at a very stark moment in our Canadian history, where government seems to believe that it can move back toward a colonial relationship with the first peoples of this country and that it is in the power of the minister to make decisions that really belong in communities.
There are elements in the bill about tinkering with the problems of the elections act, which we have seen. There are elements in the bill about trying to alleviate some of the problems we have seen with the Indian Act, but the fundamental problem is the breach of trust in relationship that is not being done with the communities.
Once again, it is Ottawa, the Department of Indian Affairs, imposing upon the people themselves how situations are going to be resolved, rather than recognizing that in the 21st century it is not acceptable to treat an entire section of our Canadian population, basically, as a hostage people under a bureaucracy.
As we speak, in my communities we are now in probably the 15th state of emergency that I have seen in the James Bay region, due to chronic infrastructure and failed government plans for basic health and safety and housing. We have 70 people who were burnt out of a construction trailer.
For the people back home to understand what this is, this is not living quarters. This is a bunkhouse that was brought in on an emergency basis after a 2008 infrastructure collapse in Attawapiskat, where the sewage system failed.
Now, most people in Canada have no concept of how a municipal infrastructure like sewage would fail, but in each one of my communities on James Bay, I have seen the complete collapse of sewage or water from underfunding, from poorly planned projects: Fort Albany, a complete collapse of infrastructure in the winter of 2009; Kashechewan, in 2005-06, an entire evacuation of 2,000 people; Attawapiskat, in 2008 and again in 2011.
In 2008, when the sewage backed up and destroyed numerous houses in Attawapiskat, the community called upon the federal government for help. Here is what the federal government did. It just said, “You're on your own”.
We talk about the financial problems in these communities. It was the communities themselves that were forced to evacuate 80 people to accommodations in Cochrane and pay for hotels for months on end at the expense of the band, which put the band seriously in debt.
We just had a report from the Auditor General on the complete failure of basic safety protocols from the federal government, that the government sets aside $19 million to deal with emergencies across Canada, whether they be fire, flood or other needs for evacuation, when what it spent in 2009-10 was $286 million; $180 million of that went on response and recovery, but only $4 million went toward prevention and mitigation.
That means that it had to take money from building schools, it had to take money from safe water, it had to take money from building houses to deal with whatever the emergency was at the time.
I want to put this in context. There is not a single non-native community in this country to which, if there were a fire, the government would turn around and say, ”Well, guess what? There are no more schools in your district for the next five years”. It would say, “We're not building you a hospital. You know why? Because you people ended up getting flooded out”.
We saw the incredible response in High River and Calgary, from across Canada. The federal government and the provincial government helped the residents there.
However, when our communities are flooded out, we see the derision and the abuse from the trolls all over the main media sites blaming the people, laughing at the people for being the victims of a natural disaster, and we see the government choosing to ignore them.
This destabilizes band councils in their ability to deal with the developments in our communities because they are always having to try to find money to deal with the fundamental problem, which is the failed infrastructure.
While we are talking in the House about this government-imposed bill that has not been done with proper consultations, I want to also speak about the deep sense of broken trust that exists with first nations communities and this government—in particular, the abuse of the aboriginal residential school apology.
It was the proudest moment of my life as a parliamentarian to stand in the House and see the Government of Canada acknowledge what had been done in the residential schools. Since that proud day, I have seen systematic attack on the survivors of these institutions by the federal government—in particular, the victims who survived St. Anne's residential school. In the long histories of abuse and degradation that happened in the residential schools, St. Anne's stands out as a particularly dark and brutal story.
In 1992, the Ontario Provincial Police launched an investigation into the abuse that went on at St. Anne's. It was probably the largest police investigation into child torture and abuse of its kind outside of Mount Cashel. More than 900 witness statements were gathered. Thousands of pages of documents were subpoenaed and obtained from the Catholic Church in Montreal and Moose Factory. The OPP did an extraordinary job.
Survivors of St. Anne's finally came forward to be part of the independent assessment process, which the government had set up. It told the people who survived this brutal institution that, if they came forward and told their stories, it would work this out with them. The legal responsibility of the federal government at that time, laid out in the terms of agreement under the independent assessment process schedule D, appendix VIII and appendix X, was that the federal government would provide a narrative, a written record of all the known documentation of abuse that occurred at St. Anne's. The federal government, though, chose not to tell any of the survivors, or their legal teams or their adjudicators about the thousands of pages of police evidence that the federal government was aware of, thereby undermining and compromising the independent assessment process.
I wrote to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs about this breach, because this is serious. The obligation to disclose evidence is a fundamental principle of justice. The minister wrote on July 17: “Canada is, of course, aware of the Ontario Provincial Police investigations regarding St. Anne's Indian Residential School and the resulting...trials”. However, he said that it was not their job to obtain this evidence and it certainly was not their responsibility to tell the survivors.
He also claimed that the evidence was not even admissible. He said: “...statements made to the Ontario Provincial Police in the course of investigations...cannot...be used as evidence in the Independent Assessment Process. ...only the oral testimony of a witness is considered evidence”. He then referred me to page 10, paragraph 10, of the terms of agreement. I read that and it says nothing of the kind.
I have the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs putting on record something that is completely false, regarding the withholding of evidence about the abuse and torture of children. In fact, the terms of agreement of the independent assessment process says the exact opposite to what the minister is claiming. It says “...findings in previous criminal or civil trials...may be accepted...without further proof”. This is the key issue.
The poor survivors who chose to come forward. However, I know many in our communities in Fort Albany, Moose Factory, Attawapiskat and Peawanuck who have not participated in the independent assessment process because they could not bear the trauma of being challenged and having to go through the process again. Yet, the government knew. All the evidence was there, particularly evidence that the administrators of the school built an electric chair to electrocute children, for the kicks of staff. That was in the police affidavit. The survivors coming forward would have to tell this, only to be challenged by federal lawyers who would say that it is not true or not admissible. This is the real key of the breach of trust that shows the dark, dark heart of this government.
When the issue of the fact that it had suppressed evidence and compromised the truth and reconciliation process was brought out and exposed, the government admitted that it needed to deal with this at the Ontario Superior Court. Next Tuesday, December 17, this issue will be addressed at Ontario Superior Court.
What we have found out since the July 17 letter from the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs is that the federal government had this evidence all along.
The federal government went to Ontario court in 2003 and demanded access to all of the police evidence. The government was not doing that on behalf of the victims. It said that it was its right, as the defendant and the entity responsible for the abuse of these children, to access the thousands of pages of police testimony and the 900-some witness documents about the abuse that was perpetrated against the children.
In 2003, the federal government got that evidence. In his 2003 decision, Justice Trainor said that this evidence was to be used and should be used by future plaintiffs. However, the future plaintiffs were not told that. They were lied to in the legal process that they participated in. The evidence was suppressed.
This is a very serious breach of fiduciary and legal obligations. The federal government acts as the defendant in this case against the abuse of these children, but it also acts, under the obligation of the independent assessment process, to provide all the evidence so that it can be adjudicated by the legal teams. The government decided to suppress this evidence and say that it did not know where it was or have access to it. The government even tried to claim privacy right provisions to prevent the survivors from seeing it.
The people that I represent in our communities still live with the abuse that went on at St. Anne's. There is not a family I have met who is not still trying to put the pieces back together from the intergenerational damage that was done and the outright attempt to destroy the James Bay people through this horrific institution.
The federal government knew the extent of the abuse. It knew the number of perpetrators of the abuse. It sat on it and it told the survivors who came before a legal process that there was no evidence to back up their claims. When I go home to James Bay and to see the survivors in Fort Albany, I really do not know what to tell them about a government that could be that mercenary and cold-blooded.
When the Conservative government comes forward with its colonial attitude about first nations education and its spin and misinformation and attacks on the leadership in these communities, and its blame about it being a big waste on the taxpayers, the communities that I represent know that the Conservative government is one that has not shown any good faith toward them. They know that the Conservative government is one that has breached the fundamental promise that the Prime Minister made when he stood up and talked to the survivors about the residential schools.
That system was set up to destroy the Indian in the child. Under Duncan Scott, going back, it was meant to eradicate a people. The Conservative government is continuing on a process of treating the survivors, the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren who suffered under this system, in a manner that is abusive and fails to show respect.
We could continue to talk about tinkering with the Indian Act. We could talk about long-term goals, but I have never heard any long-term goals from the government when it comes to first nations. Otherwise, we could say that something fundamentally wrong happened when the treaties were breached and the children were sent off to the residential schools. It is up to the House of the common people of Canada to repair that breach. We need to do it by moving away from the abusive, uninterested, arrogant, and incompetent attitude of this government when it comes to first nations communities, first nations governance, and first nations children.
Right now, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs has his first nations education act. I have never seen a man have to run so fast from legislation that he said was going to be a great benefit to all first nations children. He is having to run from it because the government has not consulted with the communities. It is again attempting to impose a model that no other community in this country would allow.
Education is about children. Education is child-centred. The government believes that it can bring in some edicts and change things, but the government does not understand that the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs is de facto the education minister of one of the largest school populations in this country.
He cannot even tell us how many schools are condemned. He cannot even tell us how many schools need building. He cannot tell us the per person cost of educating a child under his watch. That level of negligence is astounding, because we are talking about children.
The threat the government is making now on the first nation education act is that it is going to put a little money on the table, and either everyone plays ball or it will take the money away. It has the attitude that it can dangle a carrot in front of communities that have substandard education. There are communities in my riding like Attawapiskat where, after 13, 14, 15 years, they may finally get a school. In Kashechewan in my riding, grade school still does not exist. I can name communities across this country where the schools have been condemned for years.
The government is offering to put a little money on the table, and then people will either do what the government tells them to do or it will take the money away. One has to ask what kind of government would use children as bargaining chips. We used to hear the minister say that the government gives more money to first nation children than the provincial system, but of course he was laughed out of the room for that one, so now he is saying the government will provide a little money and people will come along or it will pull the whole project.
I asked what kind of government would use children as bargaining chips. I remember when the federal government imposed a third-party manager on the band in Attawapiskat in 2011-2012. It thought the community would fold, but the community did not fold, and they went to court. When they went to court, the government cut off all the funding to the community, including for education, and the community went two months without education dollars. That would be illegal in any other jurisdiction.
There have been many fights with municipal governments, but imagine a fight with the municipal government in Toronto if it were told the money is going to be cuff off to all the schools until it complies with its mayor. That would never happen, but that is what happened in Attawapiskat. The government imposed a third-party manager at $1,800 a day, who I think was making more money than the Prime Minister, yet students were being evicted from college because the money was not being transferred for their college funds.
There are some fundamental problems with the relationship, and I would like to tell my hon. colleagues that it does not have to be this way. When I look at first nation communities across this country, I see such immense possibilities. I see inspired young people coming forward as leaders. On the James Bay coast I have seen a whole new generation of young, articulate leaders who see a much bigger world and want to be part of that world. I see industry saying it wants to find ways to get peace on the ground so development can occur, saying that for development to happen, it needs trained, empowered first nation communities, but I do not see the federal government at the table.
For example, the government claimed that the Ring of Fire—
- MPndpTue 12:00 pm | Ontario, Beaches—East York
Mr. Speaker, today marks the final day of 16 days of activism against gender violence in Canada. It is also International Human Rights Day.
Over the past 16 days, Canadians have taken action by talking with family and friends, wearing a white ribbon and attending vigils throughout the country.
Could the Minister of Status of Women please reaffirm for the House our government's commitment to ending violence against women and girls?
- MPndpTue 12:00 pm | Ontario, Parkdale—High Park
Mr. Speaker, the 2014 Rhubarb festival put on by the Toronto theatre group Buddies in Bad Times is celebrating its 35th year, but after 34 successful years and hundreds of outstanding original Canadian performances, the Conservatives terminated their partnership and cut funding without any warning.
Why are Conservatives suddenly turning their backs on one of the leading and longest-running LGBT performance festivals in Canada? Will they now do the right thing and restore funding to this groundbreaking festival?
- MPndpTue 11:45 am | Ontario, Thunder Bay—Rainy River
Mr. Speaker, by voting against last night's NDP motion on CPP, the government made it clear that retirement security for people in northern Ontario and right across Canada is not a Conservative priority.
In June, the Minister of Finance promised to work with the provinces on fixing CPP. Experts agree a modest phased-in CPP increase is the right way to go, but the Minister of Finance now does not believe the experts and is breaking his promise.
Why is the minister letting politics trump good public policy?
- MPndpTue 11:40 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, investing in first nation schools is in the interest of all Canadians.
However, this minister is promising new funds only if he gets his way on the first nations education bill. This is just plain wrong. The funding gap must be closed now.
A generation of first nations children is looking to Ottawa. How much longer will the government make these kids wait to get equal funding for their education? When will that minister stop playing politics with first nations education?
- MPndpTue 11:40 am | British Columbia, Burnaby—New Westminster
Mr. Speaker, the truth is Conservatives have broken faith with first nations on education, and also in their failed approach to the northern gateway pipeline.
This project faces overwhelming opposition from first nations and local communities because people know it is not the right way forward for the economy or for the environment.
When the joint review panel delivers its verdict later this month, will the Conservative government respect local opposition to the project and will it finally start working to achieve co-operation rather than conflict with first nations in Canada?
- MPndpTue 11:35 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that, speaking of shambolic and all.
Here is another question from the RCMP files. We have seen from the RCMP that the Prime Minister's Office was panicking that the Duffy residency issues were going to expose other senators. In fact, on February 15, Nigel Wright wrote that he was concerned that Mike Duffy's residency problems would expose Senator Patterson in B.C.
Why would the Prime Minister's Office refer to a senator from Nunavut as a senator from British Columbia? Does the government believe that Senator Patterson actually meets the legal requirements to sit in the Senate?
- MPndpTue 11:30 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay
Mr. Speaker, this politically wounded Prime Minister and his parliamentary secretary are having a hard time keeping the lid on.
This morning at the ethics committee, the parliamentary secretary forced out the media from hearing a motion on studying Ben Perrin's mysteriously disappearing emails, emails that were hidden from the RCMP for six months.
If everything is on the up-and-up, why cover up such shambolic handling of police evidence? If there is nothing to hide, why not just allow the investigation?
- MPndpTue 11:30 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, once the Prime Minister claimed Ben Perrin was not involved in the legal agreement, but the RCMP proved that wrong.
The Prime Minister then claimed that no one except Nigel Wright knew about the deal, but RCMP documents proved that wrong too.
Is there any other information about this cover-up that the Conservative government would like to share with Canadians before the RCMP releases more details?
- MPndpTue 11:25 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, last night the CBC released documents concerning the activities of Communications Security Establishment Canada. CSEC cannot spy on Canadians, but the documents allege that the agency invites the United States National Security Agency to operate inside Canadian facilities in this country and inside CSEC facilities in approximately 20 countries around the world.
Can the government confirm that this is the case? What plans does the government have to beef up parliamentary oversight of this agency?
- MPndpTue 11:20 am | Nova Scotia, Halifax
Mr. Speaker, we started this scandal with a Conservative cover-up, and today the cover-up continues. Conservatives evaded questions, they misled the public and they kept crucial information secret. If Conservatives really do not think that an investigation is necessary into what happened to Ben Perrin's emails, then why do they not just give Canadians a little bit of accountability, maybe an early Christmas gift? Why do they not actually release all the relevant emails to the public today?
- MPndpTue 11:15 am | Nova Scotia, Halifax
Mr. Speaker, this morning, before forcing the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics to go in camera, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister opposed the NDP motion calling for an investigation into the Benjamin Perrin emails that were deleted by the Privy Council Office.
Who in the Conservative government instructed the parliamentary secretary to do such a thing?
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