Order, please. I realize there are several conversations going on in the House. Obviously, when a member has been recognized and has the floor, we ask the indulgence of all members to bring their attention to the speaker who has the floor, who at the moment is the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona. Therefore, I would again ask all members who wish to carry on conversations if they might leave the chamber and carry on outside in their respective lobbies.
The hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood for his comments about some parliamentarians wanting to take this issue seriously. I would hope that more of us in this House would want to take this issue seriously, but I am pleased to hear that Liberals will be supporting the bill.
In 2011, a historic election for the NDP, we won a number of seats and became the official opposition for the first time in history. We were here for caucus meetings right after that election. My phone rang, and I knew it was Jack Layton calling me. He was calling around to people, asking them to serve in his shadow cabinet. He was asking us to shadow the Prime Minister's cabinet in different roles.
When my phone rang, he asked me if I would serve as the environment critic, and I was thrilled. I was thrilled because all I have ever wanted to work on are issues of justice. For me, justice is social justice, economic justice, and environmental justice.
I was really excited to work on this portfolio. When I was on the phone with him, I told Jack I wanted to meet with him and talk about my mandate. If I am working on the environment portfolio, what mandate should I serve under? He said we would have a lot of time to talk about that, but that I needed to understand that the most important issue facing us today is climate change, because climate change affects poverty, it affects security, it affects agriculture. It can create famine. It has the potential to affect everything, so everything one does has to be seen through that lens of climate change.
Jack and I never got to have that follow-up talk, but I took that mandate of applying the lens of climate change to everything I work on.
After his death, we had a leadership race. The member for Outremont is now the Leader of the Opposition. He asked me if I would keep this portfolio, and I said that I would, gladly, but under one condition: that I carry out that mandate of using the lens of climate change for everything I do. My leader, the member for Outremont said, “Of course, because that is all that matters here.”
So here we have the climate change accountability act, initially tabled by Jack Layton in the 39th Parliament, but unfortunately it did not make it through the Senate because we had an election, and that kills all legislation.
We reintroduced it in the 40th Parliament, because we in the NDP are plucky like that. We keep going at it. The bill passed all the stages in the House of Commons and then was voted down by an unelected and unaccountable Senate.
I was with Jack that evening, and I have never seen him angry like that. I have never seen him yell like that. He was very angry, and rightly so, because we were democratically elected members of the House and we had said that yes, we need to take action on climate change, we need to legislate these targets, we are working with the international community, we are working with environment organizations, and this is what we have to do—and the Senate voted it down.
It is now the 41st Parliament, and we have brought it back. I really want to thank and applaud my colleague, the member for Beaches—East York, for his commitment to climate change, his commitment to his constituents, and his commitment to our future. We all owe him for bringing this bill back after his election.
We are bringing it back, and if it fails, we will bring it back again. If it fails again, we will keep bringing it back, and if we have to form government to get the bill to pass, we will form government to get the bill to pass, because we are committed to legislating our targets.
How will we achieve these reductions? First, of course, we are going to legislate the targets, just as the bill says, and then we are going to act.
We are the only recognized party in the House of Commons that has committed to putting a price on carbon. Our preferred mechanism is cap and trade, as it was in the last election, but it is not just about a price on carbon. It is not about cap and trade or carbon tax or fee and dividend. These are little economic models, these mechanisms, and they work. We have seen them work around the world, but it is not just about a price on carbon.
I am really proud to be a member of the NDP, a social democratic party. Social democratic parties have a history of leading economic transformations. If we look to jurisdictions where there have been social democratic governments, they are frequently at the top when it comes to innovation. They are at the top of the list, and we can draw lessons from our history as social democrats to create the green transformation that we need here in Canada.
The key difference with the NDP's approach, a social democratic approach to environmental justice, is that the principles of equality and fairness, and the provision of social security are fundamental conditions for this type of transformation that I am talking about. That is the transformation we need in order to deal with climate change. These things are must-haves; they are not things that would be nice to have.
We have to build solidarity if we are to tackle climate change, and so we need to focus on capturing the benefits of a green energy economy. We need to make sure that people receive the benefits of energy efficiency services. We need to ensure that cities and our local communities can grab hold of the green technology sectors. It is that solidarity that I am talking about.
I heard the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment ask, what kind of wacky technology are we going to use to bring down these emissions. Well, how about the wacky technology of energy efficiency? The cheapest source of energy is the energy that we do not use.
I know it sounds wacky, but it is these energy efficiency programs. If we look at the old home energy retrofit program, it created jobs in every single community, from Nanaimo to Ecum Secum to Brantford, in every community. There would be two energy auditors and four home retrofitters. Those jobs were in all of our communities. That was our local economy. It also brought down our emissions. We saw the results from Environment Canada showing good reductions in emissions. It also put money in our pockets. We were well on our way to figuring out how to offer this to low-income Canadians as well, and we see those kinds of low-income programs at the provincial level.
This is what I am talking about when I say that building solidarity is key to fighting climate change. This is what I am talking about when I say that we need to look at the social, environmental, and economic aspects of justice.
The NDP is committed to investing in green technology and renewables. We are committed to things like loan guarantees to provinces and first nations who want to capture that exciting transition to the green energy economy. This is what we are all about.
As proof of that commitment, my colleague, the MP for Drummond, brought forward an energy efficiency motion. My colleague, the MP for Edmonton—Strathcona, understands the need for transformational change and developed a Canadian environmental bill of rights in which we would enshrine the right to live in a healthy environment. Can members imagine if we had that right as Canadians?
This is about real ideas that will work. This is about drawing on that social democratic history to lead that economic transformation to the green energy economy. This is about justice: environmental justice, social justice, and economic justice.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member raising this matter in the House, because it is a matter that is extremely critical to my constituents and, frankly, all Albertans.
The issue of rail safety is top of mind in Edmonton—Strathcona. Our riding is laced with rail lines, crossings, terminals, and loading for petrochemicals and bitumen. Up until about a month ago, tanker cars of bitumen and chemicals sat right in the centre of Edmonton—Strathcona, right in the busiest section of historic Old Strathcona.
Much to the delight of my constituents and to everybody's surprise in the city of Edmonton, Canadian Pacific has announced that it is now considering selling off some of those properties. I am very pleased. I have been working with city councillors, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and my constituents, trying to get Canadian Pacific to think seriously about improving safety for my constituents, let alone the nuisance of having rush-hour traffic backed up.
Rail safety is top of mind. However, it is not just the issue of inconvenience or the risk to residents. About a decade ago, the largest spill off a railroad into fresh water in North America occurred in a lake where, for four generations, my family has had property, Wabamun Lake. To this day, a good portion of that Bunker C and pole oil remains in the bottom of that lake. Nobody knows what will happen to it.
There is, of course, heightened concern in that Wabamun community of residents to monitoring what is going on with train loads, the speeds, the state of the rail lines, and the crossings. I get repeated calls from residents out in that area, very concerned that the inspection is not catching a lot of the concerns.
I have heard from residents in Slave Lake, Alberta, with concerns that a rail bridge there that was partly burned out is not being maintained. Of course, at Christmastime this past year we witnessed the derailment in Banff National Park and the dumping of hazardous substances into a very important fishery in our national park.
Rail safety is top of mind to people in Edmonton—Strathcona, all Albertans, and all Canadians. Of course, Lac-Mégantic is one of the most recent incredible tragedies that could have been prevented if we had better measures in place and better enforcement.
Rail safety is a critical issue. We just heard that from one of the government members, and the government even said in its throne speech that the federal government is going to take action and it will be tabling legislation on rail safety. However, this is coming through a private member's bill, which of course raises the question about why the government is not coming forward with an omnibus bill with many long-awaited measures that the Transportation Safety Board has identified even as recently as in the Lac-Mégantic review.
It is time for the federal government to act, because railroads are 100% regulated by the federal government. My community, as with communities across Canada, lives with the frustration of being left trying to negotiate with the rail companies to address these kinds of issues, including safety issues at rail crossings, because the federal government has simply not stepped forward.
We need improved legislation, improved regulations, and more inspectors, but we also need the federal government to embrace this portfolio more deeply and to step forward and work with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which is trying to address these issues.
In tabling the bill, the member for Winnipeg South Centre suggested that the amendment she has tabled will, if passed, grant additional powers to the minister to intervene to improve safety at all regulated grade crossings. She mentions there are 14,000 public crossings and 9,000 private crossings, which is 23,000 crossings. I guess the obvious question is this. Can Canadians anticipate that, when this legislation comes forward, we are going to immediately have 23,000 crossing addressed? We have heard many members in the House raise concerns. Where is the additional manpower?
The amendments are puzzling for a number of reason. One of the most apparent ones is that the essence of those amendments appears to already be in the act. Very recently the government came forward and actually amended the law. In section 4(4), it actually clarified that railway operations are safely operated when there is a threat to railway operations that impact property and persons and so forth.
Later on section (4.1) was added, which specifically says:
For the purposes of this Act, a threat is a hazard or condition that could reasonably be expected to develop into a situation in which a person could be injured or made to be ill or damage could be caused to the environment or property, and a threat is immediate if such a situation already exists.
I am left puzzled as to how these proposed amendments are going to fit with the amendments the government only recently made. It would be useful to take a look at those in committee to see if they actually are needed, or if the committee needs to address some of the amendments the government only recently brought forward. The intent is good, but I am puzzled why these measures need to be added when the government seems to have already done so.
Of more concern is that at a time when communities are desperately begging the government to give them a greater voice in the kind of rail traffic going through communities, such as at what speed, the length of trains, and the types of cargo being carried, this bill would actually diminish the rights of concerned communities and property owners to seek reviews or upgrades where the risks are to health, environment, or property. It would actually give the minister power to ignore the objection and concern. At committee, it would be very important to take a look at the wording, because it does not enable communities to have greater voice. It would diminish that power.
The powers assigned to the Minister of Transport to issue orders and corrective measures are good. There are a lot of those already in the bill. I would recommend, consistent with what most environmental laws now provide, that those powers be immediately assigned to inspectors, the field inspectors who are in the community and witnessing where there are dangerous situations, so they can immediately be empowered to take action. That is something else I suggest the committee take a look at.
The act already empowers the cabinet to issue regulations for rail crossing safety. Apparently, the government has not moved it forward. I look forward to being corrected on that. Otherwise, surely the member would not have felt it necessary to come forward with amendments to the statute. That is another thing that could be looked at.
Finally, I look forward to this matter being brought before this place. I am deeply concerned that one of our major industrial sectors, the rail sector, has increased its shipments of dangerous cargo, including raw bitumen, petrochemicals, and so forth more than a thousandfold in the last couple of years. Yet the government has not seen fit to amend the Canadian Transportation Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. A review of that increased traffic of hazardous substances would allow for an environmental impact assessment.
The government member who spoke before me pointed out that this is a growing industrial sector. There has been increased traffic, including of hazardous substances, and yet the government has not seen fit to amend its laws to make sure that this kind of activity undergoes at least a proper environmental screening and assessment so that the communities that might be impacted could have a voice in that decision-making.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to the question of the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona. Let me begin by assuring the hon. member that the health and safety of first nation communities is a top priority of our government. We are committed to ensuring that first nation residents have access to emergency assistance services at the same level as those available to Canadians living off reserve.
In the case of the recent flooding in Alberta on the Siksika reserve, our government took swift action working with the Province of Alberta to ensure that the community's immediate health and safety needs were being met. We were in regular contact with regional first nation leadership, and officials also visited the community to ensure that it had the support it needed in that very difficult time.
Our government, through Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, has an agreement with the Alberta Emergency Management Agency. This allows Canada and Alberta to work in partnership to support Alberta first nations in certain emergency situations, such as natural disasters. Under this agreement, our government provides the Alberta Emergency Management Agency with an annual funding base of $680,000 for the 2013-14 fiscal year, and the agency provides emergency management services for Alberta's 45 first nations, as it does for all other communities in the province.
In addition, the agency works closely with Alberta first nations to build emergency management capacity within their own communities. This is done through a variety of activities, including training and support for emergency planning and preparedness. In additional preparedness work, this fiscal year our government will provide funding to five first nations in Alberta to support them in the development of wildfire mitigation strategies. This is a further example of our government working closely with first nations to build capacity on reserve. Our government continues to partner with Alberta Emergency Management, first nation leaders, and other emergency partners to help support the emergency recovery needs of the affected communities.
Furthermore, I want to inform the House that our government has taken action to streamline the process of funding emergency management on reserve and to ensure that first nations, provinces, and territories have improved access to emergency funding when needed by putting in place a single window for securing funding for first nation emergency costs. This single window came into effect on April 1, 2014, with all eligible emergency management costs on first nation reserves now being reimbursed by one department, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.
In order to help implement all that I have just described, our government is making significant investments to protect the health and safety of first nations on reserve. To that end, economic action plan 2014 provides $40 million over five years starting in 2015-16 for disaster mitigation programming in first nation communities. Our government believes that all Canadians deserve to feel safe and secure in their homes no matter where they live. That is why we are actively working with our partners to ensure that first nations on reserve in Alberta met this rigorous standard.
Order, please. I would ask all hon. members who wish to carry on conversations to take them outside to the lobby. We are in the middle of the adjournment debate.
The hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona.
It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona, Aboriginal Affairs.
Before we resume debate, I must point out that the list of adjournment proceedings questions that was read earlier was in fact incorrect, so I need to do it again.
It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for St. Paul's, Aboriginal Affairs; the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona, Employment.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Labrador.
Mr. Speaker, I think it is quite appropriate that we have this conversation. Over and over again what we have been seeing from the members on the other side is that they only pick and choose what they want to hear so as to put the least amount on the table.
As members can see, based on the speeches in this House today, when it comes to the environment and the parks piece, we have many people on this side of the House who have a lot of experience, whether it is the members for Halifax, Edmonton—Strathcona, or the Northwest Territories. Our leader, the Leader of the Opposition, has the experience and proven leadership on environmental issues, because he served as a Quebec minister of the environment for a long period of time. We know that he resigned from cabinet because of the transfer of park lands.
I would ask my colleague to explain how important it is when committees meet that they consider the vital caribou breeding grounds as well as the protection of the Nahanni River.
Order. It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands, The Environment.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona.
It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona, Employment; the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, Public Works and Government Services.
I know there are members on the government side standing. There is a priority in this debate for questions and comments are given to the opposition parties.
The member for Edmonton—Strathcona.
Before we resume debate, it is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Montcalm, Status of Women; the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona, Aboriginal Affairs.
Mr. Speaker, this motion is all about the struggle for the vote.
I think it is important for this place to be reminded that it was not until 1918 that women could finally vote in a federal election. I would like to credit Alberta's own Nellie McClung for her strong efforts across the country to ensure that women could exercise their suffrage at the provincial, local, and federal level.
It was not until 1960 that Canada's first nation peoples were allowed to vote with no strings attached and without giving up their aboriginal rights.
However, as many in this place have mentioned, there has been broad concern across Canada over the decrease in voter turnout. Therefore, the last thing we would expect the government of the day to do is to put measures in place that would put further barriers in place, making it difficult for people to exercise their franchise.
An open, fair, and inclusive electoral system is the foundation of a modern democracy. The right to vote is now enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is not a minor matter. Jean-Pierre Kingsley has been quoted as saying, “Canada's electoral system is often mentioned as an international model for both its fairness and effectiveness”.
Because of our reputation for having a credible electoral system, Canadians have been invited to serve as election monitors in elections around the world, recently, in Ukraine. I had the privilege, in 2012, of attending in Ukraine to help monitor its election. Other members attended again last December, and we are going to be welcoming those invitations again.
I had the privilege in the last week to travel with colleagues from this place to two African countries, Mozambique and Madagascar. These are lesser developed nations that have gone through war and suffered extreme poverty. Yet, they have established electoral commissions and are bending over backwards to educate the populace and get them enumerated to enable them to vote. However, here we are moving in reverse.
We should perhaps be shamefaced going overseas, professing to have expertise in the democratic electoral process, when the current Conservative government is moving to a more regressive version. We might have to have election monitors here, to engage and encourage us on how we can make our process more democratic.
Today we have a motion put forward by the member for Toronto—Danforth, which says, in part:
That, in the opinion of the House, proposed changes to the Elections Act that would prohibit vouching, voter education programming by Elections Canada, and the use of voter cards as identification...
The concern is that first-time voters would be disenfranchised, including youth and new Canadians, aboriginal Canadians, and our seniors living in residence.
I wish to speak to the process deployed in the passage of these proposed election laws.
Reforms have been long awaited. Many times, the ministers of the government of the time stood in their places and said that any day they were going to table an election law, but then they would withdraw it. We have been waiting for quite some time. Everyone agrees in this place that we do need some reform to the law going forward to the next election, which will be within a year or year and a half. It is important that we have enough time to get these laws in place and that Elections Canada be ready for them.
The question is, why now the rush, having waited so long to bring forward changes?
The Conservatives have brought the bill forward with no consultation with Elections Canada, which is in breach of past protocols. It is also a breach of the past protocol to not consult all the parties. Again, in my visit to these developing African nations, those governments have reached out to their opposition members. What kind of example is the Conservative government setting? Why the need to fast-track Bill C-23?
A reasonable request was made to have the bill immediately go to committee so that more substantial amendments could be made. We had the public calling for more time to consult, and there have been calls by our party to take this bill across Canada to hear from Canadians, all of which has been denied.
Despite the significant issues identified, we are rushing the bill through. We plea once again with the government to apply some common sense, dignity, and democratic process to the reform of the most critical law in our nation, the right to exercise one's franchise.
I would like to speak to a couple of issues under the bill that are raised in the motion. One issue is the proposed prohibition of vouching and any reliance on voter ID cards.
As has been mentioned by many of my colleagues, in the past there has been some level of reliance on vouching. Why is that? It is because there are some members of our society who simply do not have readily available identification. In my riding of Edmonton—Strathcona, within the city of Edmonton and province of Alberta, it is well known across the country and by the government of the day who brag regularly about the work that has been created in Alberta. It suggests that people should move to Alberta. There are jobs, and it welcomes people from other countries to work in Alberta, in many cases in the oil sands.
As a result, we have an incredibly mobile population. In going door to door in three successive elections, I can attest to the fact that many people had just moved in. They had moved across the city, relocated, had no mail with their address, no licence with their new address, and so on. At household after household, we were giving out information on how people could be enumerated. It would be a very serious problem if we took away the voter ID cards, and particularly if we also took away the vouching.
I can also attest to the serious concerns expressed by university students in my riding. I am privileged to have three university campuses in my riding, and there is an additional campus across the river in another riding. I have received letters, from the students' unions from MacEwan University, University of Alberta, and King's University. Those students' unions were all voicing deep concern about the removal of the opportunity for vouching. Why? In many circumstances, as many have attested, students share a residence and only one name will be on the lease or on the bills that come to the house. They have no way of proving their place of residence.
I can attest that I personally have seen young students coming to vote in my riding who have been turned away. Parents have arrived with them, and they are still turned away. In other cases, students have been misinformed and told they must vote in the town they come from, that they cannot vote where they go to university. We need to move in the direction of enabling our youth to vote, not discouraging them.
Second is the category of first nation peoples. In my city, there are many first nation people who, sadly, are displaced, homeless, even though the city is trying to address that. There are wonderful services, including the Boyle Street society, which at the time of an election come forward to assist homeless people. They vouch for them to enable them to vote. They have personally expressed deep sadness to me, that by banning vouching for the people who are trying to exercise their rights, they are going to be banned from that opportunity.
Additionally, as I am sure is the case for all members of this place, there are many seniors residences and long-term care institutions in my riding. We were told by the operators of these institutes that on many occasions they have had to vouch for the residents so that they could vote.
The obvious question is, why is the government moving to disenfranchise these voters? We have not heard one credible or rational argument for this. We should be encouraging people to vote. We heard the government trying to defend that this practice has to be undone because Mr. Neufeld, who was commissioned by Elections Canada to advise on reviewing the act, said there was fraud and that vouching needed to be removed. He has since clearly stated that at no time did he suggest that ineligible voters have deliberately tried to cast illegal ballots. The only other information provided by the minister to the House was information that misled the House and has since been withdrawn. We still await the rationale for disenfranchising over 100,000 voters.
Finally, on voter education, the public, many experts, and certainly my colleagues, are stunned that the government is choosing to diminish the powers and mandate of the Chief Electoral Officer and his officers to educate and encourage the public to vote.
My final point is that I am absolutely dismayed at the decision to deny the strongest recommendation from Mr. Mayrand, which was to give him the powers of investigation to compel evidence. There can only be two reasons for this, both of which are reprehensible.
One is that the government is intentionally blocking the ability of Elections Canada to enforce the act. The second is that it simply does not understand the enforcement system.
Mr. Chair, I thank my colleague from Edmonton—Strathcona for bringing up that topic. In years past, I did quite a bit of work in Ukraine on this issue with Abina Dann, the former Canadian ambassador to Ukraine.
In terms of the financial aspect of it, that always comes into play in situations like this. As I have said, as the days unfold, Ukraine will give us better direction on how it wants other countries to support it and infuse whatever is needed to help it come to a democracy where people can be free, where they can build their businesses, and where they can grow.
In terms of the actual dollars and things like that, we will soon know what we are able to do and what Ukraine wants us to do as the days and months unfold.
Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to stand in the House today in support of Motion No. 448, for the establishment of a permanent memorial for those who served in Afghanistan. I wish to credit the member for Palliser for recommending that we memorialize not only those who gave their lives but also those who were injured and those who aided in the mission. One subtle change is that it might be more appropriate to speak of commemorating, not necessarily memorializing, as I understand the member wishes to thank all who served, not simply those who gave their lives.
I, along with my colleagues and all Canadians, am grateful to the contribution that the men and women who serve in the Canadian armed forces provide to this country. It is only right that these brave individuals be honoured. It is right that we, as Canadians, mark our gratitude.
Two members of my immediate family served in the two world wars. My father served in the air force during World War II, and my great uncle lost his life during World War I. I was raised with the tales of war and the sacrifices made. Many spoke of valour, many had sadder tales, and many of my father's generation chose simply not to talk about the war, so it left me with a very quiet understanding of the sacrifices made.
I had the honour of accompanying the former minister of national defence to the repatriation of a fallen soldier brought home to his family. The experience is one that brings home the sacrifices of war and will remain with me forever.
I am working with the forces, business members, and historic groups to re-establish the cenotaph in my own riding of Edmonton—Strathcona to enable the regiment and community to assemble for commemoration ceremonies. I know that all communities across Canada have a great respect for our armed forces. I think it is a beautiful gesture that the people in my community want to come together to remember and to help people come together. It is indeed a beautiful gesture that we will not only commemorate those who gave their lives in World War I and II but also honour those who are serving today.
The timing of this motion is significant, with the permanent withdrawal of troops after over a decade of Canadian participation in the Afghanistan conflict. The end of this mission will be a time to reflect on the contributions made by Canada to improving the lives of the Afghanistan people, the strides we had taken in contributing to training efforts, and the work accomplished alongside our NATO allies.
The proposed memorial offers at least one concrete means to thank these men, women, and their families and would serve as a reminder of the need to strengthen our resolve to support those who have returned home with special needs, for example, those with injuries, whether physical or mental, as the member spoke of earlier this evening. It would serve as a reminder that we always have to be there for our veterans in their time of need and that our responsibility is that if they risk their lives overseas, we will be here for them when they come home and we will care for the soldiers and their families.
Most importantly, it is a time to honour the 158 Canadian soldiers who lost their lives. I wish particularly to mark the contributions of the soldiers from the Edmonton garrison. The garrison is home to 5,000 military personnel and their families. CFB Edmonton began deploying soldiers at the commencement of the mission in Afghanistan, with 750 troops from the Third Battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry deploying to Afghanistan in January of 2002. From then to now, CFB Edmonton has been a major contributor to Canada's involvement. Of the Canadian soldiers who lost their lives in the mission, 42 or almost one-third were from CFB Edmonton.
This past summer, soldiers left Edmonton for Afghanistan, to serve in the final stages of the Operation Attention training mission. While the combat role of the Canadian military ended some time ago, the contribution of these soldiers continues in a dangerous setting far from family and home. Just as they are on the minds of loved ones who are missing them while they are away, our men and women in uniform must remain in the minds of Canadians after their return. A monument is a tangible way for us, as a country, to show our soldiers that their contribution will never be forgotten.
The proposal for a special monument for Canadians serving in Afghanistan is laudable. By coincidence, in Edmonton last fall I had the fortune of meeting the Canadian artist who had designed the proposed memorial to honour our Afghanistan veterans.
The artist asked me what had happened to the previous apparent support for the completion and dedication of this particular memorial. The Canadian monument once installed at Kandahar airfield is now touring the country. We were honoured with a view of the memorial here on the Hill just before Christmas.
I was advised that the intent is to permanently install this memorial in the capital region. It is not clear from the motion whether this is the member's intent or if he is suggesting a second form of memorial. Either way, we need to establish a permanent memorial.
I feel obliged to raise a concern I am also hearing from veterans that no similar initiative has been taken for Canadian soldiers deployed elsewhere who also lost their lives. An example is the Bosnian mission. I encourage members in the House to give careful thought to that request from our veterans.
It is high time for us to come together as a country to recognize more broadly the contributions of our Canadian Forces and the burdens that they and their families continue to bear. I was struck by the documentary aired on CPAC about a number of volunteer initiatives in this country to support Canadian veterans who are disabled and have become homeless, some long suffering from PTSD-type symptoms.
More must be done to honour their service. We must honour our long-standing sacred obligation to care for our injured veterans. As the member from across the floor mentioned this evening, yes, we need to build a permanent monument, but we also must assume the responsibility to ensure that those who return home injured or suffering from some form of mental distress or suffering from the cultural shock of returning to the wealth of Canada from a country such as Afghanistan receive our support to adjust back into Canadian society.
We must all reflect on this proposed memorial and dedicate ourselves not only to ensuring expenditures on the physical monument to those who have served but also to ensuring that all veterans are granted the assistance and care they deserve for the sacrifices they have made on our behalf.
I would like to add that I had the privilege of serving in a Canadian aid project in Bangladesh over a five-year period. I had the opportunity to travel to Chittagong. For those who are unaware, Chittagong borders between Bangladesh and Burma. There is a beautiful cemetery there that is maintained by the Bangladeshi, where are buried our young Canadian and British soldiers. It was very heart-rending to go through that cemetery and see all of the young Canadians who had given their lives, but what was most heart-rending was seeing the dedication of the Bangladeshi people to honour the service that our Canadian Forces gave for their protection and seeing the cemetery being so beautifully maintained.
I recently met with some veterans in Edmonton, and they called upon me to speak to my colleagues here to make sure that we maintain the burial sites of our veterans who have returned home with the same initiative as they are maintained in Bangladesh and in Europe. I look forward to taking up that matter.
In closing, I commend the member for bringing forward the motion and I look forward to supporting it.
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.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the terrific member for Sackville—Eastern Shore. It is a great honour to share my time with him.
We have been talking a lot about the bill. At the end of my comments, I will talk about some of the concerns I have about how this bill has been put together by the government and the concerns that we have heard from my colleagues about other aspects of the bill that have been included.
What I would like to talk about is what most of us have shared in the House: our concerns about cyberbullying and the influence of the Internet as a tool used by those who want to frighten, abuse and intimidate people.
Three names come to mind in recent past. We have lost the lives of some very vulnerable young people. Amanda Todd, Rehtaeh Parsons and, in Ottawa and indirectly related to the issue we are talking about, Jamie Hubley. These are names that brought this issue to the forefront and I want to mention their names because it was really quite something when we lost these young people. There was an outpouring of sentiment, but it also caused legislators like us to reflect on what we could do. That is very profound, because, as we know, that does not always happen. It was a moment where we saw members of Parliament and members of provincial legislatures try to look at how we could deal with this issue.
I would like to take it and relate it to what my friend from Edmonton—Strathcona was talking about. Let us take another look at this, beyond the scope of this law, and talk about the issue a bit more. We need to look at the fact that it is not just the Internet.
Before I was elected as a member of Parliament, I was a teacher. On many occasions, I had to deal with young people who were very isolated. They were people who came to me because they were feeling vulnerable. There were a number of cases where I had students who were contemplating suicide. Because they had no one else to turn to, as a teacher, I ended up being the person who they dealt with.
It always took me by surprise how few resources there were for young people to turn and get help. That is something we can work on with the provincial governments, providing people with assistance. It is not just about the Internet. It is about the fact that people are isolated. When I was teaching, there was certainly a concern about how the Internet was being used. Now we have social networking, which is part of the issue we are talking about now. It is interesting. There is a paradox. This young generation is the most connected generation in the history of the world. My sons can Skype with someone on the other side of the world and connect with people. The paradox is that we have the most connected generation, but we also see some of the most isolated young people ever.
As we have heard many times, the technology is such that people can go inward if they are in a cycle of depression, if they feel isolated, or if people are intimidating or bullying them. They can just go into the virtual world. Mr. Speaker, you are a parent. You know that the virtual world is fraught with all sorts of danger and concerns. We need to address that. As others have said, and we agree with them, the bill is about making some changes in the Criminal Code, but it does not solve the problem. We have to look at prevention as well.
When I was teaching, I worked with the Media Awareness Network. It is a fantastic not-for-profit group that deals with media literacy. I was able to avail myself of its resources when I was in the classroom. What we did was talk with young people about the messages they were getting in the media, now on the Internet and social networking sites, with which they were bombarded.
They are being bombarded with messages about how they should behave, what they should do and what they should buy. For young women, in particular, it is about how they should look. They are being pushed to consume things or buy things to somehow become a better person, when we know that the essence of someone's personality is about the values they carry and the influences they have to make them better people, not how they look, what they buy or what they consume.
I look at the curriculum in our schools, the resources for young people and it is not enough. We can do our jobs as parents, but let us be frank about this. When kids reach adolescence, they actually turn away from their parents and are more influenced by their peers. In this virtual world that has been created through the Internet and technology, with Facebook, Twitter, et cetera, there are obvious temptations for people to reach out to others to essentially give them confidence in who they are. This is where we saw the problems for the people I mentioned, like Amanda Todd.
Just recently, we heard from Amanda Todd's mother, who was speaking about media awareness, I believe it was last week in Winnipeg. What she was saying to parents, educators and everyone was that we needed to connect with each other to help our young people. Yes, we need to ensure we know what our young people are accessing on the Internet, on Facebook, et cetera, but we also need to have that human dimension. That is where we need to see our schools and our communities reaching out to people to bring them in and for those who are feeling vulnerable, to offer opportunities for them to share with us what their anxieties are.
I have talked to numerous educators. My wife is a teacher as well. What we have noticed lately is that there is much more anxiety among young people now than there ever was. Again, it is connected to how people are connected. They are feeling bombarded by Facebook, with Twitter and texting, where people who want to lash out or isolate someone can do it without really facing someone. That is the whole problem here. It is the anonymity.
Therefore, there are a lot of anxious young people. We see this in the skyrocketing number of them who are being identified with anxiety disorder. This is, frankly, what we should be looking at because once people are feeling anxious and they turn to social media to find friends and community in a virtual world, we then see where they can really descend into chaos. We see luring happening there. We see people who try to pretend to be friends draw people in and then abuse them.
If we are going to understand the issue that we are talking about today, we need to go beyond just changes to the Criminal Code, which of course we support.
Let us see the federal government work with our partners at the provincial level to come up with really smart media awareness programs that are well resourced, and I mentioned the Media Awareness Network is a terrific resource, if we are to help young people be aware and be literate when it comes to what they are confronted with on line.
This is not about the government doing it for them. Let me be clear about that. This is about the government resourcing groups that are already working on these issues. It means that we all take this issue with a lot more depth than just saying we will change the Criminal Code and that will somehow fix it. It means we have to look to those who are victimized.
I will just underline a couple of groups that are obviously important here. I think of trans-youth and gay and lesbian youth. I think of those who are different because of the way they look, or the fact that they may be introverted. We need to reach out to them.
I wish Bill C-13 was just about that. I wish the government had not brought in these other measures, which we have some concerns with about privacy that have been noted.
What I want to finish off with is, let this not be the end of this issue. Let us look at how we can better reach out to young people. Finally, a smart suggestion would be to reach out and listen to young people, because they will have as many ideas as we have on how to help young people who are so isolated.
My final recommendation would be for the government to work with the provinces to actually create spaces to hear from young people, for them to make recommendations on how to combat cyberbullying, as we call it, but deep isolation. Therefore, at the end of the day, we can say that we have been able to help prevent these horrific, tragic deaths we have seen, in the names of Rehtaeh Parsons, Amanda Todd and Jamie Hubley.
It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona, The Environment; and the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan, Aboriginal Affairs.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Edmonton—St. Albert.
It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona, Rail Transportation.
Resuming debate. The hon. member for Trois-Rivières.
The electoral district of Edmonton--Strathcona (Alberta) has a population of 99,267 with 75,254 registered voters and 211 polling divisions.
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