- MPndpTue 10:55 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, there was some talk of overtime from the other side of the House. I think the idea of having question period for an extra 45 minutes may be a bit of overtime for ministers on the other side. However, is it possible that with an extra 45 minutes, we might actually get some answers at question period?
- MPndpMay 06, 2013 11:35 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, doing a review is not enough. It is time to act. If the Conservatives had gotten the job done on search and rescue, the Auditor General would not have had to sound the alarm.
On another matter, I would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence a simple question. Friday was International Press Freedom Day and on that day the parliamentary secretary described Terry Milewski of the CBC as an “old Trotskyite”. Is this the official view of his government or will he now stand up and apologize for his remarks?
- MPndpMay 06, 2013 11:30 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, in 2006 the Conservatives promised to make replacing search and rescue aircraft a priority. Seven years later, the Conservatives have failed to get the job done. When asked about the delays, the defence minister responded, “That's a good question.” The Auditor General reported that on 119 separate occasions in 2011, Buffalo aircraft were not available to help Canadians in distress.
Why is it that Canadians in distress are paying the price for Conservative inaction and poor management on search and rescue?
- MPndpMay 01, 2013 11:40 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, as opposition continued to build on the Conservatives' planned cuts to the cadet glider program, a gag order was sent ordering cadet corps members not to share opinions or facts on the glider program. We are not talking national security here. It is a budget cut to a program for kids. A clear decision to end CF delivery of the air cadet glider program was communicated to the cadet organization.
Now, in light of the minister's statement issued today, will he confirm that the Conservatives have reversed the proposed cuts and that the air cadet glider program will continue? Will they confirm that they have reversed the proposed cuts—
- MPndpMay 01, 2013 11:35 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, it is no wonder the Conservatives are in hot water. The Auditor General said in his report that when it comes to search and rescue, the Conservatives just do not have a plan. That is why we are seeing irresponsible closures in Quebec City and St. John's. That is why helicopters and availability are inadequate, and planes are not being replaced. That is why staff had to resort to Google maps to manage the search process.
As the Auditor General said, this is a question of life and death. Who is going to take responsibility for this?
- MPndpApr 30, 2013 12:25 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I thought vertigo had to do with the head. I am not sure, but it is something between the ears, I believe.
In any event, I think the hon. member is confusing support for the legislation with support for the government. I made it very clear that I did not support the government. In fact, the reason we had the mini-filibuster in committee was that the members opposite decided, without any warning or any politeness or any consultation, that instead of coming back the next day to finish the committee hearings, they wanted to go forever. I said that if they wanted to go forever, then we were prepared to go forever.
I know the member declined to enjoy the conversation and continue with the rest of the legislation, but we went ahead and did so in his absence. We did work hard on the bill, and we laid the groundwork, I think, for what will be significant future progress in this area.
I do not know why the member is saying he does not see the improvements in the bill. I will remind him that we now have the circumstance where some 93% of the summary trial procedures that go forward for our men and women in uniform will not result in a criminal conviction. For that, I am grateful. I am sure the men and women in uniform are as well.
- MPndpApr 30, 2013 12:20 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, first, let me say that the comments that my friend referred to at committee by Mr. Justice LeSage, Justice Dickson and Justice Lamer about the general acceptability of a differing system of military justice from the civilian system and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, I think, were cast in general terms. I do not believe that kind of analysis would be applied to the individual specific aspects of the system, as Clayton Ruby and Mr. Justice Letourneau pointed out. They were not passing judgment as they would in a court when presented with a certain fact and situation and circumstance, which is the only way these types of decisions are made by a court. I think that was clarified by the testimony of Mr. Clayton Ruby, retired Colonel Michel Drapeau and Mr. Justice Létourneau.
As for the Liberals, I think they are going to have to speak for themselves.
- MPndpApr 30, 2013 12:10 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, just before question period and members' statements I was outlining why we have seen fit to indicate our support for this bill at third reading despite the fact that we voted against it at second reading, second reading being approval in principle.
We raised quite a number of points concerning the deficiencies of the bill through speeches and debate at second reading. The deficiencies of the bill are also deficiencies of the status quo. In other words, the things that we were seeking to improve have been there for a long time.
We complained about the inadequacy of the summary trial procedure, because people did not have the full availability of all of the charter procedures. That was there in 1983, when the Charter of Rights and Freedoms came in. It was there in 1993, when the Liberals came to power, and it was there in 2006, when the Conservative government came into power. When Bill C-41 came about, I started talking considerably about this issue and about the need to bring about changes in the act.
In the last parliament, under Bill C-41, we brought about changes in committee similar to the amendment to clause 75 that was passed here in committee. Other measures that we brought forward went further in different areas, but did not achieve success. Nevertheless, the changes contained in Bill C-15 regarding military justice are, on the whole, positive, although they are not where we want to be.
As I said before question period, we are making a commitment that when we form a government in 2015, we are going to fix these things. We are going to fix the fact that the grievance board would not have a requirement for civilian as well as military members. We are going to fix the fact that grievances would not have to be heard and completed within one year. We are going to fix the fact that a change would be made in legislation to allow the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff to issue instructions on investigations that the Provost Marshal could undertake, for example.
There are a series of things that need to be done. We need to go further in reforming the law with respect to summary trials and the protections that need to be present. These are things that we are committed to doing.
However, we are also committed to the progress that has been made. I would like to put it on the record that we claim credit for that. We put it on the table and we made the arguments at second reading with those 50-some speeches and we got a commitment from the government to make an amendment to that provision. Because of that, 93% of summary conviction trials will now not result in a criminal record.
We brought in a number of amendments. I think it was 22. I do not recall any of them being warmly accepted by the government, but they were brought forward for a very important reason: they were brought forward to fix the deficiencies in the act. We are not satisfied with the result, but that does not mean we are going to throw out the progress that has been made.
We brought those amendments because we want to make it clear that we are not satisfied and we want it to be fixed. We want it to be improved. We want the changes that we brought forward to be made. We want to give the Chief of the Defence Staff, for example, the financial authority to compensate CF members as a result of the grievance process. We want to ensure that there is police independence and that any charges must be laid within a year. We want to expand the procedure for summary trials so that no one gets a criminal record without having the protections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in terms of proper due process. These things are part of our commitment to the men and women in uniform, and we want to see them happen.
We brought before the committee people such eminent personages as Clayton Ruby, a renowned and probably pre-eminent Canadian lawyer. The member opposite said “infamous”; he may be infamous in some circles, but I tell the member that as a member of the legal profession, he is extremely highly regarded.
He was treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada, which means president. He has been honoured across the country for his work. He has the most comprehensive work on sentencing in Canada. His works are quoted by all courts in Canada, including the Supreme Court of Canada. He is an eminent personage who came and testified before our committee and talked about the need to ensure that members of our military have the same protections in law and the same rights as others.
We had former justice Gilles Létourneau of the Federal Court of Canada. He had also been chair and commissioner of the Somalia inquiry, which probably was what first brought to light to Canadians the deficiencies in our military justice and policing systems. That gave rise to reforms, although they took a long time to get here.
We can point fingers all ways to Sunday as to who is responsible. The government ultimately is responsible because it has control over legislation, except in the case of a minority government, which has less control. We are here now with significant reforms, if not all the ones that need to be brought in, and we should claim progress. Certainly we are claiming, on behalf of our party, some significant progress in addressing this particular concern that we brought to the table and that got us to the point where we are today.
Therefore, I want to encourage members to support the bill. For some reason the Liberals have decided not just to vote against it but to attack the New Democrats for supporting it. If the enemy is the government, I do not know why they would not attack the government. However, I am not in charge of their strategy, so I do not know.
If they want to oppose it, they could just get up and quietly vote against it, but instead they want to make some issue of the fact that we, who opposed it in second reading, got a substantial improvement in the committee in favour of individuals so that 93% of the people charged with summary conviction offences would get no criminal record. The Liberals think there is something wrong with that, and at the same time they approved the bill in principle at second reading, offered no amendments in committee and are now going to vote against it and oppose it here today. That is for them to explain.
I am here to explain to the House and to the men and women in uniform why we are supporting the advances that are being made and why we are making the commitment to bring about some significant changes, including what was proposed by Mr. Justice Létourneau in his testimony: a fundamental wall-to-wall review of the National Defence Act, conducted outside the control of National Defence, that would give Parliament truly independent advice on how to fix this situation.
- MPndpApr 30, 2013 11:25 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, the minister either does not understand the Auditor General's report or is just being wilful.
The Auditor General's report clearly lays out the government's incompetence on search and rescue. There is still no national policy, there is a serious personnel shortage, the information system is “near the breaking point”, and the Conservatives' failure to replace the aging aircraft is dangerous.
Canadians need world-class search and rescue. Instead, Conservatives are offering world-class mismanagement.
Is anyone over there ready to apologize for the mishandling of this vital service?
- MPndpApr 30, 2013 10:50 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
No. I have been here five. I was here one time before, way back in the 33rd Parliament. I was 16 years in another legislature. Second reading meant the same thing in both places, which is approval in principle, so when the Liberals voted for this legislation at second reading, they voted for approval in principle.
The principles that were there then are still there today. The Liberals offered no improvements, although there were a couple of substantial improvements, one of them about summary trials. Now that the bill has been improved, they do not like it and they are going to vote against it. I do not understand that. I will let the public and members of the military try to figure out why the Liberals have changed their minds on this bill.
There have been some improvements, although the system for grievances needs to be tightened up and we need to have more civilians on the board. We moved amendments to that effect. We are pleased that the act has been reviewed.
We also brought forward witnesses, probably some of the most eloquent witnesses that the committee has heard from, who talked about justice in general and military justice in particular. I am speaking of a retired justice of the Federal Court of Appeal who was the former commissioner of the Somalia commission. He has a great deal of knowledge about military justice in Canada and about the operation of the military. He had some very important things to say to the committee about what is really needed. He asked for a more comprehensive review of military justice, and we reiterated that in our request. That needs to be done.
I will read the suggestion from his evidence:
Hence, my first point is there is a need for a fundamental wall-to-wall review of the National Defence Act, a review that has to be conducted outside the control of the Department of National Defence so that Parliament can be provided with a legislative proposal that addresses not only the wishes of the military leadership but also, first and foremost, the expectations of our civil society, who demand that our soldiers who serve in uniform be afforded rights equal to those provided in the civilian penal system in Canada and other militaries abroad. This is currently not the case.
We knew that. We knew that going in. I suspect that if the Liberals had listened to our speeches during second reading, and God knows we made enough of them, they would have known it at second reading when they voted in favour of the legislation and when we voted against it.
We brought forward excellent, erudite, eloquent, experienced witnesses to bring home the point that there was a problem that needs to be solved. We did not expect all of the problems to be solved by amendments to the legislation; a number of the amendments we brought forward were ruled out of order, inadmissible, beyond the scope of the bill. We knew that. We brought them forward because they had to be brought forward. These were changes that had to be made.
We are committed to making changes to overhaul some of these problems when we form government, but that does not mean we are prepared to throw out the baby with the bath water when we have legislation before us that brings forward changes that we had a great deal of responsibility for in urging on the government back in 2010 when Bill C-41 was brought in. When those amendments were there, they were passed in committee; they did not get passed in the House because the bill was never called before the election took place.
I am here because I have devoted several years of work trying to get to where we are today. I am not going to turn my back on that progress and say to the men and women in uniform that although we got this far, we cannot support this legislation.
I talked about a backward step. I do not know how often it will be used, but we did not get convincing reasons for the Provost Marshal's investigations to be under the control of the VCDS. We are not satisfied with that. As I said, at the committee we had some very significant testimony from witnesses on the issue of making sure that our soldiers, sailors and airmen receive the same kind of standards of justice as exist elsewhere. This aspect has to be fixed and improved.
I only have a minute before we go to statements by members, but I believe I will be able to come back for eight minutes afterward, when I will conclude. However, I wanted to explain, in brief at least, why we are supporting this legislation today and why we see some progress being made, and to make the commitment to our soldiers, sailors and airmen that when we form government, we will go the distance and do the full job.
- MPndpApr 30, 2013 10:45 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have an opportunity to speak to Bill C-15 at third reading.
It has been quite interesting listening to the debate. It seems to have taken a very interesting turn. However, I want to explain not only for members of the House—in particular the Liberal Party, which does not seem to understand the legislative process—but also for the men and women in our military, our soldiers, sailors and airmen, how the legislation is designed to improve the circumstances of not only their lot but of military justice in general.
It seems as if the Liberal caucus has just discovered the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which was brought into force, in my recollection, some time in 1983 while the Liberals were in power. Certainly they were in power from 1993 to 2006. They did not seem to have the concerns that they are raising here at third reading about the issue.
Let me explain why our party is supporting this legislation at third reading today.
My first involvement with Bill C-15 was with its predecessor, Bill C-41, in the last Parliament. In the last Parliament there was a terrific amount of effort made by our party, and this hon. member, when we were the same size as the Liberals are now. I took my place as one member on a committee of a dozen. We were in the majority on the opposition side of the House. It was a minority government.
One of the things that I made an important aspect of our cause in that committee was to try to seek improvements on the issue of summary trials. That was done not only through amendments in relation to that particular provision but also through a whole series of others. In fact, in our caucus I had probably the greatest number of amendments to the legislation at that time, several of which passed. Unfortunately, they were stripped out by the government in this iteration, Bill C-15.
One of the things I was particularly concerned about as someone who has practised law and criminal law for a number of years, since about 1980, was the fact that the summary trial provisions did not accord the kinds of protections that the civilian trial system does. People in the forces were getting criminal records for things that no one would ever get a record for in civilian society. Not only that, they were not afforded the protection of due process.
The member for Winnipeg North can read one of the 55 speeches that we gave at second reading, when we voted against the legislation as it was presented because we did not support it in principle. It had nothing to do with going to committee. Second stage reading is approval in principle; we did not approve it in principle because the amendments that had been made in the last Parliament were stripped out and the protections were minimal for those charged with offences. We were concerned about that, so we voted against it at second reading.
We submitted 22 amendments at committee to improve the bill. There were a lot of improvements in the bill already. It was a reformatory piece of legislation. It sought to advance a whole number of issues that needed to be taken seriously as a result of recommendations that had come by way of two important reports by former chief justices of Canada.
It was not perfect and it is not perfect now. However, if we have to wait for perfection, there would be no legislation passed in the House, so we have to deal with what we have on the table today.
What we have today is that the amendment passed in committee would now result in some 93% of all of the charges that would be laid under the code of military justice not resulting in a criminal record for the men and women in uniform. That is substantial progress.
It is not perfect. In fact, we have a whole series of other things that we would do in government, and in fact, there is one backward step in the bill, which I will get to. It has to do with instructions to be given to the Provost Marshal by the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff in terms of a particular investigation. We are here today to make a commitment to the men and women in uniform that when we get into power in 2015, we will fix that.
Not only will we fix that, but we will also do some of the other things that I am going to talk about shortly, some of the things that we proposed in committee to improve the grievance process.
We have a terrible situation in the military with regard to grievances. Individuals can have a grievance over something as mundane as whether they should get paid a certain amount of money—$500, or whatever—for moving expenses. Sometimes these people have to wait 12 or 18 months to get their grievance processed. That is wrong. People as prominent as a former chief justice of Canada were saying there should be a time limit of 12 months maximum, and that if it cannot be figured out in 12 months, the person should be able to go to the Federal Court and get the reason why. That seemed to me to be very simple and practical, and we actually moved that amendment.
We did not see any amendments from the Liberals in committee. They supported the bill at second reading, and by the way, second reading does not mean we vote for the bill to go to committee. I have been here for five years in two different pieces. I was in another legislature for 16 years.
- MPndpApr 30, 2013 10:30 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member's speech, apparently using speaking points from our speeches for the six or eight months that we debated this in Parliament.
The member said he did not know how many times he had listened to us. Well, we had 55 speakers at second reading. I think the hon. member's party had three, and they supported the legislation at second reading. We voted against it. We went to committee and introduced I do not know how many amendments—15, 16, 20, or thereabouts. The Liberal Party, which supported the second reading and seemed to be satisfied with it, introduced none.
Now it is coming here, reading our speaking notes, saying that it is going to vote against the legislation and giving us grief because we have tried to improve the legislation. We brought forth the witnesses to say the things that the member is now quoting. We championed this cause.
I want to understand why it is that the member gave the speech that he did. Was the Charter of Rights not in existence when his government was in power, between 1993 and 2006? What did you do about it then?
- MPndpApr 29, 2013 11:40 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, that is not what the people who run the gliding program are being told. Under this Minister of National Defence, we have seen spending on consultants and contractors skyrocket to more than $3.2 billion. How do they pay for such waste? First, they cut the danger pay to our men and women serving in Afghanistan, and now they are cutting a program that has motivated generations of young Canadians—air cadets—to learn how to fly. The RCAF says that glider training is fundamental to the air cadet program.
This minister should be encouraging young people. Is he or is he not slashing this important glider training program for young air cadets?
- MPndpApr 25, 2013 11:40 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, this is all rich coming from a minister who opposed a $2 million upgrade to CFB Goose Bay and voted against $49 million to combat terrorism.
Regardless of the minister's antics, the sad truth is he still refuses to answer a very clear question that our troops and their families deserve a clear answer to. Why has he refused to intervene to make sure our soldiers who are serving in Mazar-e-Sharif get the same danger pay as those serving 450 kilometres down the road in Kabul, or even those serving in Haiti?
- MPndpApr 24, 2013 11:35 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, the fact is he is now the Minister of National Defence. He is supposed to be in charge of his department. He is the one who signs off on these recommendations. He is the one who makes the decisions. Therefore, why can he not tell us why he believes that Mazar-e-Sharif is so much safer than Kabul?
- MPndpApr 23, 2013 11:30 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, the minister can try to duck and cover up for his decisions, blame it on administrative errors, claim to be re-examining the decision, but the facts are clear. The minister is reducing danger pay for our soldiers in Mazar-e-Sharif.
All of the women and men of the Canadian Forces are facing dangers every day in Afghanistan, yet the minister is failing to treat the troops fairly. Why will he not take responsibility and actually reverse the decision?
- MPndpApr 23, 2013 11:05 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, there is one group in Canada that is so much a presence at public events that it often goes unnoticed, that is, until we need it. That group is the St. John Ambulance, which provides first aid and emergency assistance at sporting events, parades, concerts, festivals and public gatherings of every sort. This service is provided at 250 events per day across the country, but it is only part of what this community organization does every day in every province and territory of Canada with its 25,000 volunteers and over two million hours per year of volunteer time. It teaches first aid and CPR to help citizens save lives, runs programs for young people, supports a therapy dog program with great success, and supplies first aid kits and safety supplies for home and work.
Today we recognize the contribution of the St. John Ambulance organization to our communities and our country. I ask all hon. members to join with me in this recognition and in thanking St. John Ambulance for its great work.
- MPndpApr 22, 2013 11:35 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, this $1,600 amounts to about the cost of two nights for Bev Oda at the Savoy hotel, or about—
- MPndpApr 16, 2013 9:15 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
- MPndpApr 15, 2013 11:40 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, the fact is that Mr. Penashue has failed to come clean for his last campaign, and Conservatives just do not care, just as they do not care when Mr. Penashue pits region against region.
The Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador said if it were her minister, she would have given him the boot.
Will the Conservatives now admit it was wrong for Mr. Penashue to brag about withholding project funding for Newfoundland to favour his own riding, or will they continue to defend this unacceptable behaviour by their former and now disgraced minister?
- MPndpMar 28, 2013 8:30 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, the minister's former aide was hired at a lucrative salary and given two year's of paid French training in his home, yet the Conservatives say that they have done nothing wrong. This was patronage, clear and simple, just like Peter Penashue's former campaign manager, Reg Bowers, receiving a golden parachute on to the Newfoundland and Labrador offshore petroleum board.
How can Labradorians trust Peter Penashue when Conservatives treat Atlantic Canadian agencies like their own private patronage pasture? How can they trust a government that has failed to keep its promises of accountability?
- MPndpMar 26, 2013 11:50 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, in Newfoundland they expect fishermen to speak Italian.
In Labrador West, the prevalence of silicosis is unusually high among workers at iron ore mines. Retired workers and their spouses are being made sick and even dying from chronic exposure to silica dust. They are looking to the government for help. The government has been aware for years of the dangers of silica dust.
What are the Conservatives doing to ensure the health of workers in Labrador?
- MPndpMar 21, 2013 11:35 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, penalties for breaking election laws can carry a five-year ban on running. That is five years. Mr. Penashue knows he broke the law. The Conservatives have paid back over $40,000 in illegal donations, but instead of waiting for Elections Canada to finish its investigation, the Prime Minister has chosen him to run and is promoting his candidacy.
Should the government not let Elections Canada finish its investigation so the voters would at least know whether or not Mr. Penashue can even sit in the House of Commons?
- MPndpMar 21, 2013 10:15 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I do not think it is appropriate for a member of Parliament who is on a committee to put facts that are not true to another member of Parliament who was not there and ask him to comment on it.
There was an amendment proposed and defeated in committee on the section the member is talking about. The bill passed at committee on division, not supported by this hon. member. Therefore, I do not think it is appropriate to put untrue matters to a member and ask him to comment on it based on—
- MPndpMar 21, 2013 10:05 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, one of the issues on the amendment that has come up from time to time is what I call a bogus issue of the live fire exception: that somehow the VCDS—not the commanding officer, not the guy in the field—will know that there is potentially a live fire operation. When it is the VCDS sitting in Ottawa, the guy who tells the chief of police—that is, the Provost Marshal—what to do and not the investigators in the field, the real worry here is other types of investigations. What about detainee issues in Afghanistan? What about the incident that occurred when our committee was in Afghanistan, when the commanding officer was charged with conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline and sent home because of an inappropriate fraternization with another officer? What about potential interference with those things?
These are the kinds of worries we have. They are worries that the relationship is not proper and professional and at arm's length. That is why we think the protocol that was signed in 1998 is the proper way to go, not the backward step that is being taken here.
Does the member have any comment to make in that regard?
- MPndpMar 21, 2013 8:10 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I am afraid the member for Scarborough—Guildwood is precisely right, that there is no qualification, and that the qualification we are hearing here is essentially a justification for a possible particular circumstance, whereas the actual rule is very general in nature.
As I just said, we are not talking about the person in charge of a particular operation; we are talking about the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, who is part of the chain of command that the Provost Marshal reports to, and it is precisely because of that relationship that the accountability framework was put in place to ensure that, while there was a right to give instructions to maintain professional standards, et cetera—and it says, as “other police” forces would have—that the operational investigations could not be interfered with by the VCDS. I think that is a good rule.
- MPndpMar 21, 2013 8:05 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, the testimony at committee is somewhat belied by the accountability framework itself, signed by Vice Admiral Garnett, the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, and the colonel, then the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal in 1998, who put that very provision in an accountability framework developed as a result of the recommendations made out of the Somali inquiry.
We may have different opinions, but I accept the testimony of someone who is experienced in the field who says that military police officers do not walk into the line of fire to conduct an interview with somebody during a police investigation. They are not stupid people. Not only that, they would certainly take advice from the commanding officer in the field if he said, by the way, it was not a good idea to go over there or to that place.
This is not about somebody in the field telling what is going on. This is about the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff sitting in Ottawa issuing written instructions to somebody anywhere, maybe even in Ottawa, that they shall not do a particular investigation. That is what we are trying to avoid.
- MPndpMar 21, 2013 8:00 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I want to assure the Speaker and the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake that I have no intention to talk about ranching in western Canada or any other matters extraneous to the bill and the legislation before us, which would clearly be irrelevant.
I said that there were a number of amendments, 22 amendments, proposed by us in committee. One of them was very much related to what we have here in the House.
I will say that not a single one of the amendments was accepted by the government members, showing a total lack of flexibility in terms of trying to make a better military justice system.
However, one of our amendments was to remove this power because, as was pointed out, it was a backward step. The accountability framework was put in place as a result of recommendations from the Somali inquiry to ensure that the relationship between the military police and the understanding of its role was in fact spelled out. That is where this came from, and it has been in place for 15 years. No one before our committee, whether they were government officials, the Judge Advocate General representatives or anybody else, indicated that there was any problem with it, that it did not work.
The parliamentary secretary says that the change has been brought to give effect to the accountability framework in legislation because he says it could be gotten rid of at any time. Well, this is taking away one of the most significant parts of this, which would guarantee the independence of the military police, which I think is the important principle at work here.
There is, and there was, as the parliamentary secretary said in his intervention, a long history of trying to seek to change this. We have been part of that. We have been trying to make the bill better and have spoken quite at length in this Parliament, and in the last Parliament, and in committees in both Parliaments, to seek to make this better.
One of the focuses, of course, has been on the criminal records. My colleague opposite referred to the urgency of that because of people getting criminal records. I do not disagree with that, although I would note that provision would be retroactive: it says not only those who have committed particular offences but also those who have been convicted of those offences. I think my colleague would agree that the provision would be retroactive, so if we pass it today or if we pass it tomorrow or next week, anybody who may be convicted of an offence during that period would not get a criminal record because the legislation would have looked after that. We are not certain that it is given effect to properly and we made amendments to see that. However, we will be watching that extremely carefully to ensure that the military men and women who ought not to have criminal records do not in fact have a record lying around somewhere, on some computer, that might affect their future. We are very attuned to that and have paid great attention to it in committee.
The positive aspects of this legislation do include spelling out the role of the Provost Marshal and do include spelling out the principles of sentencing and military justice, which is quite appropriate to do. The positive aspects of this include the possibility of having an absolute discharge, which was not there before, and allowing an intermittent sentence if someone is confined to detention.
There are a number of positive aspects to this legislation that move the bar somewhat forward, but not to where it ought to be.
One thing that came through during the hearings at committee was an overwhelming confidence by the witnesses on behalf of the government. The government witnesses were extremely certain that all the measures that were being proposed were constitutional and were within the Charter of Rights and Freedoms—charter-proof, in fact.
However, that has not been the experience of the military justice system since 1990, when the Court Martial Appeal Court determined that the standing court martial was unconstitutional, that the procedure for selection of mode of trial was unconstitutional and that the general court martial was unconstitutional. These are things that have happened despite the fact that the government took the position that everything was within the Constitution and charter-proof.
We have a concern about that. There is a need for an overall review. This, however, is a backward step and ought not to happen.
- MPndpMar 21, 2013 7:55 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I do not know what that point of order is about other than maybe to use up the 10 minutes I have to speak about it. I hope it will be taken out of that.
However, when someone is talking about report stage of a bill, it does not seem to be irrelevant to talk about the fact that we are in report stage of the bill, that we had a committee hearing and that there are a number of amendments, including this one, to which I was about talk.
It has not been the practice of the House to be as ruthless in the application of a relevancy rule as the hon. member suggests. It certainly was not applied when the parliamentary secretary and others were speaking in the last half hour, and there is no reason it should apply now.
- MPndpMar 21, 2013 7:50 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the bill at report stage, an important bill about reforming military justice in Canada.
The parliamentary secretary talked about the changes that arose since Somalia. One of them was the document I have in front of me called the “Accountability Framework Between the Vice Chief of Defence Staff and the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal”. It was the Somalia inquiry that brought to light the need for a review of these matters, and there have been some iterations of change since then.
The amendment before us now is a backward step. Most of what is in the bill is positive. We spent considerable time in the House debating what needs to be done to fix it, particularly with respect to the issue of criminal records, to which the parliamentary secretary referred.
We do not believe, as a matter of principle, that individuals going before a military tribunal, who do not have access to the full rights that any defendants in a civil criminal trial in civil society has, should, if convicted, end up with a criminal record. We fought to change that. We argued in the House for many days about that. We argued in the House in the last Parliament to seek to change that. We in fact changed it in committee in the last Parliament, but it never got through because an election was called. There has been a whole process going on to seek to reform the legislation. Our position is that the bill does not go far enough.
This is report stage. We brought forth 19 amendments at committee stage to seek improvements to the bill. One of them involved the removal of this—
- MPndpMar 21, 2013 7:30 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for bringing forth these amendments. It gives us another opportunity to talk about this important issue.
I wonder if she would comment on the fact that the parliamentary secretary said that the idea was to bring the accountability framework into the legislation, but in fact the amendment actually refers, specifically, to the existing accountability framework bringing it into legislation and it says that in fact the VCDS shall not direct the CFPM with respect to specific military police operational decisions of an investigative nature. That would clearly give legislative effect to the accountability framework that was brought forward, so I do not understand why the parliamentary secretary is saying he wants the accountability framework in legislation and does not seem to be supportive of an amendment that would do just exactly that, by specifically referring to it.
- MPndpMar 20, 2013 11:35 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, this shows that the Conservatives have played a shell game with search and rescue resources, especially in Labrador. Up until the tragic death of Burton Winters in 2012, DND was claiming there were three helicopters stationed at CFB Goose Bay, when in fact there were only two. After the Burton Winters tragedy, its cover was blown. Then DND claimed that the helicopters had no dedicated stand-by role in search and rescue. Labradorians are smarter than the government gives them credit for. Why are the Conservatives threatening to punish Labradorians if they reject Peter Penashue?
- MPndpMar 19, 2013 11:35 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, we will take no lessons on integrity from that member. He is defending one set of rules for the Conservatives and another one for everybody else and blindly defending a man who made government spending announcements after learning he had violated election laws, a man who had his re-election campaign running before he resigned, a man trying to spend his way out of financial corruption allegations.
Why will the government not allow the investigation to be completed? What is it trying to hide from the people of Labrador?
- MPndpMar 07, 2013 10:30 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I was sorry to hear my colleague across the way mischaracterize my statements about growing up with the threat of worldwide thermonuclear war between states armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons and with red phones sitting on the desks of the President of the United States and the president of Russia during the Cold War. That is what I was talking about.
I did not say that people were not concerned about nuclear terrorism, obviously. I specifically mentioned North Korea, Iran and others. On the threats that people make like that, threats and capabilities are two different things, and we are certainly concerned about that. It is why we are passing legislation like this. It is why we are urging countries like Canada, as well as the United Nations, to impose and increase sanctions to try to find a solution to the acts of states such as North Korea and Iran and to come to a better way of dealing with them. All efforts should be made to try to deal with that. I reject the member's characterization of what I said. Of course people are concerned about nuclear terrorism.
However, I wonder why we waited until now to try to ratify this convention and bring into our domestic law the important aspects that we have here. That is what I am wondering about.
- MPndpMar 07, 2013 10:20 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to Bill S-9, now before the House. It is called an act to amend the Criminal Code, but it is very directly related to the short title, which is nuclear terrorism act. It is an important piece of legislation on which my colleague, and dare I say friend, from Mount Royal, has said there is a consensus and probably has been a consensus for six or seven years in this country.
Therefore, it is quite a surprise that it has not been brought forward. As he pointed out, there are many instances where there can be a consensus on matters that could come before the House and be dealt with expeditiously, and some are, but there ought to be more of that. If we are going to be combative about certain things, I think that is the nature of politics. However, where there is a consensus, there can be a great deal more co-operation.
An ironic example of that was last year when the justice bill, Bill C-10, was before the House. It went to committee. The member for Mount Royal moved six or seven amendments at committee. They were defeated at committee. The government had to bring them into the House, but they were ruled out of order because they could have been done at committee. The Conservatives had to use the other place to deal with the passage of those amendments. It was quite embarrassing, I should think, that they showed their nature in terms of dealing with legislation and dealing with the opposition. However, that is one example of many.
Mr. Speaker, I was supposed to say at the beginning of my speech that I am sharing my time with the hon. member for Beaches—East York.
The substance of the bill is something that we support. The bill has a number of objectives. It amends the Criminal Code in adding four new offences.The bill was introduced in the Senate a year ago. It could have been brought here earlier than this, but, once again, that is a sign of not moving as quickly as one would have thought on something as important as this.
The bill adds four new offences to the Criminal Code, having to do with possession, use or disposing of nuclear radioactive material with the intention to cause death, serious bodily harm or substantial damage to property or the environment. That is an act against a nuclear facility or any of its operations. One has to do with using or altering a radioactive material or a nuclear or radioactive device with the intent to compel a person or government organization to do or refrain from doing any act being guilty of an indictable offence. That is a classic example of terrorism. Then, there's committing an indictable offence under a federal law for the purpose of obtaining nuclear radioactive material or a radioactive device or to control a facility, or to threaten to commit any of those other three offences.
These are significant crimes and would be given significant penalties in the Criminal Code as a result of the bill. It would be life imprisonment for the first three, as a maximum penalty, and 14 years as a maximum penalty for the threat to do any of these three things.
It is an important part of following through on two conventions that were agreed upon internationally: the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism and the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. Both of these conventions were an important part of a regime to attempt to control nuclear materials throughout the world.
As we were debating the bill this morning, I recalled growing up in an era where there was a real threat of nuclear war and nuclear annihilation. I grew up in the fifties and sixties, and in 1962 we all know there was a Cuban missile crisis.
I distinctly remember hearing air raid sirens being tested occasionally to remind us what they sounded like, and we had instructions. Some people were building fallout shelters in their back gardens in the event of a nuclear war. That was the reality. In schools, children were being told that if they heard the air raid sirens, they should get under their desks or under the stairs in their homes, and so forth. That was the way we thought about the world when we were children.
Happily, that is not something that children think about today, or have to think about, because the world is not in a state in which that is a likelihood or even a remote possibility at this point.
However, we do see proliferation. States such as Pakistan and India, with certain historic difficulties and disagreements that have not been resolved, are becoming nuclear powers. North Korea is attempting to engage in the development of nuclear weapons, as is Iran, as the member from Mount Royal has pointed out. Therefore, there are significant threats.
It is important to note that among the signatories to this convention are some important players, including the United States of America, China, India, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and Germany. Obviously we would like to see more. However, it is a framework that can be used to control international terrorism or attempts to use these materials for nefarious purposes.
More can and should be done. The area of prevention is extremely important. Canada and the countries who are signatories can play a role in assisting countries to ensure the protection of nuclear materials, because there are countries that do not necessarily have the technical ability to control those activities within their own borders.
Importantly, the 2005 amendments to the treaties made to deal with interstate transport and usage of these materials extended the scope to also cover domestic use, storage and transport and nuclear facilities used for peaceful purposes.
Historically, Canada ratified one of these conventions in 1980. Canada only signed the agreement, which does not make us a party until it has actually been ratified. This step is one of ratification of both these treaties.
What is also interesting as well is that this piece of legislation is called Bill S-9 for a reason. It was started in what we are required to call “the other place”. I think we are allowed to say “senators” and we are allowed to talk about people by name over there, but what are we doing? Are we now the chamber of sober second thought? Have we reversed the constitutional roles? Do we have legislation coming out of the Senate? Is that where we start?
The Senate has looked at this legislation and has fixed it by adding one of the measures that was in the convention but not in the bill. I am sure it could have been fixed here easily before it was sent over there, but the government wants to legitimize the other place somehow, and even though senators are unelected, unaccountable and unapologetic, as we have found out in the last long while, the government seems to rely on the Senate as some sort of an institution where it can start legislation and have it come over here. Are we here to ratify what the Senate has done? Is that the expectation?
I think we support the bill, but it should have been brought here five or six years ago, when the government came into power.
- MPndpMar 07, 2013 10:10 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I also want to compliment the member for Mount Royal on his excellent speech and intervention, and for his long career of work in international law and human rights.
I would like to ask him, and I will not get into the specifics of what he is proposing in other areas outside this treaty, whether he would care to comment on what appears to be the dilatory nature of states that are party to these two conventions in actually taking action.
We know the Americans, for example, have yet to ratify this, although they are signatories and support the objectives. Here we are in Canada, having signed one of these treaties in 1980, and we are only now getting around to ratifying it. We were signatories to this 2005 agreement, but it is seven years later and we are only now taking the steps to ratify this.
Would the member like to comment on the government talking about it being urgent but then waiting seven years to bring it forward?
- MPndpMar 06, 2013 11:45 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, spending on external consultants and contractors at the Department of National Defence rose by $500 million to a staggering $3.2 billion and climbing. This comes after General Andrew Leslie's report called for a reduction of 30%.
The poor management by the minister has even prompted the Prime Minister to remind him that the goal is more teeth and less tail; but when it comes to defence contracting, it is beginning to look like the tail wagging the dog.
Why can the Minister of National Defence not bring external contracting in his department under control?
- MPndpMar 05, 2013 11:50 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are clearly flying blind in the cuts they are making at the Department of National Defence.
Army Commander General Peter Devlin wrote in January in a document outlining cuts that, “The uncertainty created by anticipated additional reductions has yet to be factored in”. Therefore, it will get worse. Everything seems to be open to cuts, from the reserves, civilian staff, to the capacity of the Canadian Forces to carry out domestic operations, including the Arctic.
When will the Conservatives finally come clean on how cuts will affect military communities and families and the readiness of the Canadian Forces?
- MPndpMar 01, 2013 8:30 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, let us be clear. Marjorie LeBreton, the Conservative House leader in the Senate, claims that Mr. Duffy is eligible to be a senator because he signed a declaration of qualification, a declaration that makes no reference to being a resident of Prince Edward Island.
According to articles 23 and 31 of the Constitution, he must be a resident or he does not qualify and his seat becomes vacant. It is as simple as that.
Do Conservatives really believe that senators can simply sign a declaration when that does not even affirm their residency to meet a constitutional obligation, regardless of the facts?
- MPndpMar 01, 2013 8:00 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government just does not get it. After Liberals and Conservatives stole $57 billion from the EI fund, the Conservatives are making things even worse for the unemployed, for seasonal workers and for those in precarious or intermittent work. Now fewer than four out of ten unemployed people have access to benefits, and those benefits are being decreased. Do the Conservatives not realize that seasonal industries are an important part of our economy? They include forestry, fishery, construction and agriculture, and tourism too, which just hit the $1 billion a year mark in my province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Then Conservatives say that people do not want to work. They could join me on the planes from Atlantic Canada filled with workers off on the long commute to Alberta, to Fort McMurray and beyond, and to other parts of Canada and the world for weeks and weeks at a time. Is this a culture of defeat? I do not think so.
People want to work, and so do the unemployed, but they do not want to be treated like offenders or fraudsters, have their incomes reduced and have their communities hurt. The Conservatives should roll back these callous cuts and stop attacking the unemployed.
- MPndpFeb 28, 2013 11:30 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, this project has been announced, delayed, announced, cancelled and then announced again. Conservative incompetence in managing military projects is mind-boggling. This PBO report shows that the initial cancellation by the government could cost taxpayers over $1 billion, and it has been delayed by years.
It is the Minister of National Defence who is responsible for this, and yet he is not even allowed to stand up and explain himself. When will the minister and the government finally take responsibility for their failure to manage this project?
- MPndpFeb 28, 2013 9:10 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, there have been complaints in respect to both organizations, but what is comparable between the military and the RCMP is that we have hierarchical organizations in which the people who are senior in rank have an enormous amount of power over individuals below that rank. Therefore, in order to counter that, the culture has to have a very strong and robust anti-harassment policy and clear ways of dealing with it.
Neither in the bill nor anywhere else has the Minister of Public Safety mandated the adoption of clear anti-harassment policies within the RCMP containing specific standards for behaviour and specific criteria for evaluating the performance of employees. We need that kind of commitment from the government if the RCMP is to have the tools to deal with that, and the support and ability for discipline to take place and a fair process to deal with it. What is lacking is leadership by the government.
- MPndpFeb 28, 2013 9:05 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his work on the defence committee.
Yes, we are going through a similar process as we went through on Bill C-42, for which the NDP brought forward a significant number of amendments. We are not through all of them yet, but so far the government has accepted none of the amendments we proposed, and that is the case here.
If there is a problem that requires a solution, legislation is brought forward. If it is inadequate and we provided means to address the problem for which the legislation was created in the first place, we would expect the co-operation that reasonable members of Parliament would address to an issue.
However, it appears the Conservatives say that it is their bill and they will not make any changes. They do not care what arguments are made and what support there is for them logically and from people who are experts in the field. They will continue to do what they want. This seems to be what happened here as well.
- MPndpFeb 28, 2013 8:55 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to have an opportunity to speak to Bill C-42 at third reading. It is an important area of public policy that needs to be addressed by the House. Unfortunately it is our conclusion that it has not been addressed properly by the House, because the bill would not do what it is expected to do.
As previous speakers have said, the RCMP is a storied institution in Canada. As the member for Kootenay—Columbia said, it goes back to 1873. It has not always been a perfect institution, and we all know that. It has been open to criticism from time to time in its history for some of the uses to which it was put by various governments.
When I started practising law, the RCMP was regarded as the senior police force in the country. Police forces around the country looked up to the RCMP for standards and training and discipline and proper procedures.
Of late, unfortunately, people have become disconcerted with the way the RCMP has been able to handle matters, particularly those of an internal nature. We have heard complaints for a number of years about harassment, particularly the harassment of women. There are outstanding lawsuits by 200 women complaining about harassment within the force and the apparent inability of the force to deal with that issue. As a result of some constant prodding by the NDP in the House, legislative action was deemed necessary and taken. Unfortunately, the bill does not address the kinds of issues that caused the need for this legislation to take place.
We have talked about the need for a more respectful force in terms of having a proper method to deal with sexual harassment and a proper response to the concern about that harassment, the need for a broader and more balanced human resource policy and the removal of some of the more draconian powers that are proposed for the RCMP commissioner. None of these were accepted in committee.
The government's response to these problems is to create a more powerful hierarchy within the RCMP and to give the commissioner more draconian powers than ever. As the member for Kootenay—Columbia said, the commissioner is going to delegate all of these powers to various deputy commissioners and others. Instead of having a more balanced approach whereby people would have a right to have their grievances dealt with and issues responded to, we are going to have a top-down hierarchy, which will not inspire confidence but create more of a paramilitary organization. That is an anachronism when it comes to modern policing in Canada.
Obviously there needs to be discipline within a police force, and all of that should take place, but when it comes to matters such as complaints about sexual harassment, there has to be a safe place for people to go. People have to know that these matters will be dealt with. They should have a clear expectation that the professional police officers throughout the force, from the bottom to the top, are well aware of and sensitive to what sexual harassment is and what it can do. Previous speakers have outlined some of the particular ways in which that should happen.
Through some 18 amendments at committee stage, we talked about what could be done to meet some of these needs. All of these amendments were rejected by the government. These amendments included adding mandatory harassment training for RCMP members, and specifically adding those measures to the RCMP Act itself, so that it would be clear that this was a response to the problem. We wanted to ensure that there would be a fully independent civilian body that would be able to review and investigate complaints against the RCMP.
This is important. The model that was proposed was a model like SIRC, which oversees CSIS. It is independent, with decision-making power, not just the recommendation power in the bill. That was provided for as well. It was turned down by the government.
Third, we wanted to add a provision creating a national civilian investigative body. We still have the situation of the RCMP being able to investigate itself when complaints are made of improper behaviour by police officers. That is not right. There is an elaborate procedure in place that maybe the provinces would undertake something first and if not, then the RCMP would do it and potentially there would be some civilian role in that, but that is not good enough. Some of the provinces do not have the capability of an independent review. Also, there are three territories that do not have an independent police force, and the RCMP does the work there. It is going to be a situation of RCMP officers investigating cases involving their own activities.
The fourth one, which I just talked about, was to have a more balanced human resources policy, removing some of the powers that were proposed for the RCMP commissioner and strengthening the external review committee so cases involving possible dismissal from the force could have an outside review. Now the situation is that the final authority is being given to the RCMP commissioner, with no possibility of appeal or independent review. That is not right.
One of the complaints about that was made by the president of the Canadian Police Association, Mr. Tom Stamatakis, who stated, “Without any additional, and most importantly, independent avenue for appeal, I would suggest there is a possibility that RCMP members could lose faith in the impartiality of a process against them, particularly in situations in which the commissioner has delegated his authority for discipline”. The contrast to that would be the example in Ontario, where a police officer subject to a disciplinary process has the right to appeal that decision against an independent civilian police commission.
These two go hand in hand. Having a proper policy and proper disciplinary process, but also an expectation by police officers themselves that the process is fair and impartial would allow for the cultural change that is required to take place. As the commissioner said, cultural change is required, but legislation cannot bring about all of the cultural change. In fact, he said that the culture of the organization had not kept pace. Commissioner Paulson stated:
—the problem is bigger than simply the sexual harassment. It is the idea of harassment. The idea that we have a hierarchical organization overseeing men and women who have extraordinary powers in relation to their fellow citizens, which requires a fair degree of discipline.
It is the hierarchical system that he says has been part of the problem. Instead of making mandatory sexual harassment training part of the solution, instead of having a more balanced approach in terms of management and perhaps a board of managers to oversee this, what we have done is strengthened the hierarchical system. We have not found a solution to the problem that caused and brought about the need for legislation. Instead of solving the problem, this legislation has actually made it worse.
The member for Kootenay—Columbia asked why members would not vote in favour of it since, in part, it went in the right direction. In fact, we think voting in favour of this bill would not provide a solution at all.
- MPndpFeb 26, 2013 8:55 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague from the Beaches on his speech. He covered a lot of issues there. However, I want to outline that the Toronto Region Board of Trade says that gridlock is now the greatest threat to economic prosperity in the region. We know there are six million people in the GTA, which is the largest urban municipality in Canada. People in this House do not generally talk about concerns about Toronto because they think everything is hunky-dory there, but we have a significant crisis, as the member has pointed out.
Could the member comment on why members opposite, who continue to talk about the mantra of jobs, growth and prosperity, may not support what this partnership that is implied in the strategy is all about?
- MPndpFeb 12, 2013 1:30 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I know this issue has been canvassed, but I do find it disturbing that even on the current RCMP website, it says there are instances when the cost of witness protection may impede investigations, particularly for smaller law enforcement agencies. Provincial witness protection programs do not apply if the crime is federal in nature, involving drugs for example. The RCMP takes over those cases and charges the local police departments with the full cost. That is disturbing.
In the last year ending March 2012, only 30 people out of a total of 108 considered for the witness protection program actually got to benefit from it.
These seem to be significant problems. Is the member convinced that this legislation solves those problems?
- MPndpFeb 12, 2013 11:30 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, it seems the minister has already decided her annual reports on the F-35 project, but we think Canadians would like to hear from the Minister of National Defence on these matters. He is the minister who is responsible for the F-35 debacle. He is the one who has not been able to get Sikorsky to deliver the Cyclone helicopters. He is the one who refuses to ever acknowledge his mistakes. The Prime Minister has even stepped in to ask another minister to take over and try to clean up these procurement messes.
Why will the Minister of National Defence not stand and at least show a shred of accountability to the House?
- MPndpFeb 06, 2013 12:10 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, to the alleged point of order, these submissions were made by members of Parliament, not by political parties.
- MPndpFeb 05, 2013 7:15 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Chair, I do not know how far it got, but one of the notions that was being floated around in the last few weeks was the suggestion, and I think the French were talking about this, of the possibility of UN observers participating in monitoring the situation to ensure respect for human rights as an integral part of any operations that were being undertaken between the Malian troops and the French troops. I do not know whether that is something whose time has come and gone. That is a suggestion that has been made.
Obviously, as the member has pointed out, if we have a situation where there is an army that is seeking to secure the country that we believe should have security, and it is not following human rights principles and rule of international law, then all is lost. That does not provide security to the population, the people of Mali.
As my colleague has pointed out, it is a very complex situation. The exact solution is not in sight at this point, but we do know that the AFISMA organization, which is not primarily obviously Mali forces, is seeking to take a strong role. It will be taking control over this from the French government and it should get all the support it needs, starting, in this instance, with what it asks for, which is financial support, and which so far the government has failed to provide.
Maybe we should take one step at a time and see what the later asks are and see what other efforts come from the—
- MPndpFeb 05, 2013 7:10 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I know that there is a bit of baiting going on here tonight by the members opposite in the government. However, I think he has to examine his own understanding of what peace-building and peacekeeping actually mean. If he looks at the various 10 enumerated actions, which I suggest he look at, he will understand that peace-building, building and assisting in strengthening the rule of law and institutions in the host countries, and helping national authorities develop priorities and strategies to address the needs of judicial institutions, police, corrections, et cetera, are some of the mandates listed there.
The fact of the matter is that the experience of peace-building is complex. It is multi-dimensional. It may involve assisting in a circumstance where, once peace has been achieved and we are not engaged in combat, we can provide assistance to have greater security in Mali.
We just talked about the inadequacies of the Malian army in terms of being able to provide security for their country. We were astonished, and I am sure that the parliamentary secretary was astonished, to hear General Ham suggest that the Americans had neglected to provide ethical training when they were assisting in training troops in Africa. I do not think we are guilty of that. I think the training provided by Canada and that can be provided by Canada has a different dimension to it.
There may be ways we can be helpful. We have to first find out if there is going to be any mission of that nature and see what Africa needs.
I know this. When we were asked to provide financial assistance to AFISMA to take over control of the operations, we said no.
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