Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Kootenay—Columbia, with whom I have the honour of working on the justice committee. It is also an honour to know him as a former RCMP officer. I have a tremendous amount of respect for his thoughts on a number of justice issues, and he does a fantastic job on our committee.
It is also my pleasure and honour to speak today to the Liberal supply day motion. To be frank, I appreciate today's motion. We have had a number of supply day motions recently that have been less about what Parliament should be engaged in, in terms of discussion between parliamentarians. However, this one certainly goes to that point, and I do appreciate it. I also believe that this is a non-partisan issue, and the discussion has been very respectful, as it should be, on this particular tough issue.
I am going to spend most of my time talking about the procedural issues. In my view, this is a motion to deal with procedure on a policy issue. The Liberal motion today puts out a direction for, or a way of tackling, the issue. It recommends that this be done through a special committee. The Liberals have highlighted the membership of the committee, which would be roughly 60% Conservative, 30% NDP, and 10% Liberal. I made the point earlier about how the committee structure now is for a standing committee of 10 members. This would be for 12, which is the old way of doing things. It really does not matter. It is still a percentage. The new way would give the Liberal Party a little more presence on committees, with two fewer opposition members there, but that is what the Liberals have chosen to present today.
Here is why I do not think this is the right approach to this very important issue. I have been here nine years and have sat on a number of committees. I have been the chair of the justice committee for the last couple of years. In my view, the best use of time at committee for members of Parliament is to deal with actual legislation. That is when there are words on paper about the direction of the government or a member, depending on the type of bill. The wording is there, the clauses that we are dealing with are there, and the changes are all there.
Dealing with legislation is a better use of members' time. I have been on a number of committees that do studies, and they are interesting. Sometimes they are useful, and sometimes they are not. This particular item needs a very broad consultation before it goes to committee.
The committee that the Liberals are highlighting in today's motion is would be a special committee that would not deal with an actual piece of legislation. The Liberals are saying, let us study it and have it back by July 31. I assume that out of that study, they are thinking that there would be a piece of legislation that would come after the election. The public still would not know what Parliament's direction would be, based on the study that would be done by July. It would be an overview of the issues and a number of questions might be asked. There may be directions and recommendations coming out of it, but there would be no piece of actual legislation. Of course, there are a number of options that will be available to Parliament, including not doing anything. That is one of the options.
The motion would not really advance the issue to a point where people would think that by July, they will have an answer on where the Government of Canada and Parliament of Canada are going on this particular issue. Based on today's motion, that would absolutely not be the case.
It would have recommendations. No committee study can compel the government to do anything. That is standard, whether it is a standing committee or a special committee. A study cannot compel the government of the day to do anything. Even if, God forbid, after October 19, there is a change in government, the study could not compel that next government to do anything at all.
Today's motion does not do what I think the Liberal Party thinks it would do and wants to present it as doing. It is a reasonable approach, and I am not saying that what the Liberals are doing is wrong. I do not think it is what the public is anticipating based on this particular motion.
The other issue is that when I consider broad consultation, I think of a variety of different groups. At present when we call witnesses to committees, as chair of the committee I try to achieve a balance. We get submissions from all parties. Normally we try to accommodate everyone's witnesses, and that has happened 99% of the time. On some occasions, we cannot accommodate everyone. Then the witness list is based on the size of the committee membership. Approximately 50% of the witnesses then would be from the Conservatives; approximately 40% from the NDP, the official opposition; and approximately 10% or so from the Liberal Party.
The record of the justice committee shows that the number of witnesses from the Conservatives is much less, maybe 45%, and that witnesses from other parties fill in that space. We deal very little there with legislation that is a matter of life or death. If we do something right, it is great. If we do something wrong, normally we can change it, or the next government changes the policy or legislation to improve it or to make changes.
The hardest vote for me thus far has been when we commit the men and women of our armed services to foreign conflicts, whether in Afghanistan or to what is going on in the Middle East right now, because we know there is the potential for a Canadian to die. In this case that is what it is all about, someone having the option to proceed in that manner.
The consultation with Canadians needs to be broader than the witnesses we pick to come to committee. There is a whole basket of opportunities. We should all be able to contribute those we consider to be experts. There are experts in this area who have different opinions in their particular fields, but there needs to be a broader way of consulting the public.
To my view, and I might be a bit biased, I think this issue should go to the justice committee and, based on the broad consultation at committee, the government should bring forward a piece of legislation. The justice committee, in its current form, has been working very well on a number of very difficult files, including the prostitution bill. The prostitution bill only really affected a small portion of the population, but this affects everyone, so we need a broader approach.
I am not supporting the motion today, because the process gives a false image that we will have legislation by July. The leader of the third party, the mover of the motion today, indicated that this does not create legislation. He said that directly to the House, that it is a study, a consultation. I do not disagree with him that we need broad consultation. I am not sure that the committee structure in the House of Commons is the appropriate structure to use to get that consultation, to develop legislation that should go to the standing committee process and result in witnesses being called to talk about actual legislation that will be developed.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Kootenay—Columbia for his intervention today, as well as for his experience as a veteran of the RCMP.
All of us here recognize the value of the protection that we receive from the parliamentary protection services, whether they are at the House of Commons or the Senate, as well as the great training that they have and the risk that they are always prepared to take to protect us. What this motion speaks to is the need to move forward to a more coordinated role by making sure that we get rid the silos and that everybody is working together.
My colleague has clearly laid out how things differentiate within the House and the Senate as well as what happens outside of Centre Block and what happens beyond the fence. Communication, leadership, and coordination are what this motion is all about. It is not only about enhancing protection to us up here, because the risk factors are changing. We realize that now. As my colleague said, it is just a matter of time before the next attack.
How can we better coordinate? We have already seen some major changes take place. More security officers being trained in handgun use, and we are making sure that we receive protection not only for parliamentarians but also for all the Canadians and foreigners who come to visit us here on Parliament Hill.
Mr. Speaker, it is really hard to know where to begin because of the very unfortunate approach taken by the government on this extremely important public health issue.
The hon. member for Kootenay—Columbia is a former peace officer. He knows all too well that we have so many connections between crime and substance abuse in this country that it is not funny.
Here are some facts around InSite usage in Vancouver in the Downtown Eastside. We know that there were 20,000 referrals to health services in 2008-09, over 50% of which were for detox; that InSite users are 30% more likely to engage in addiction treatment than non-InSite users; and that 3 out of 10 injection drug users in Downtown Eastside are HIV positive and that there were 30 new HIV cases in the Downtown Eastside compared to 2,100 in 1996. We know, for an apparently fiscally responsible government on the other side, that every time we prevent one new case of HIV infection we save $500,000 in health care costs and treatment.
This bill flies in the face of a Supreme Court of Canada decision. It is a bill that, unfortunately, is being torqued and spun by political handlers in the Conservative Party because they want to fundraise and frighten people. I think it is very unfortunate that in 2014 Canadians are subjected to this kind of nonsense.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to speak to the bill. I should inform you and this House that I will be splitting my time with the fantastic member for Churchill.
Before I begin, it is incumbent upon all of us to start off by thanking the men and women in uniform who were so valiant yesterday. The terms “duty” and “valour” together were resonant for us, especially where we and many MPs were situated. To see one security guard in our caucus room standing between us and the horror that was outside is an image that is burned in my mind. I know I can speak for all MPs, but specifically for those of us who were in that room at that time, in saying that we will be forever grateful to that security guard. With that, I pay my respects and offer him a huge thanks from all of us on this side.
In many of the scenes in news clippings and news footage from yesterday's horrific incident, we saw police dogs, service dogs. It is fitting today that we are able to talk about Bill C-35, an act to amend the Criminal Code (law enforcement animals, military animals and service animals). It is a fitting opportunity for us to think about the officers who work with these fine animals.
We heard a great speech from my hon. colleague from Kootenay—Columbia. I think it is important for us to talk about this today.
When I talked about the title of the bill, I mentioned that it is also called “Quanto's law”, in memory of an Edmonton police service dog that was stabbed to death trying to stop a suspect who was fleeing. It was last year at about this time. The perpetrator pleaded guilty to animal cruelty and other offences, including evading the police, and he was sentenced to 26 months in prison and banned from owning a pet for 25 years.
It is incumbent upon us to ensure that we find ways to protect these service animals. It is important for us to support the bill and get it to committee. Part of the bill talks about mandatory minimum sentences and minimum sentences in general. It is incumbent upon us as parliamentarians to ensure that every bill we look at has the opportunity to go to committee and that we bring forward stakeholders and experts to talk about the importance of making sure that the laws being presented by the government are meeting societal values and are protecting animals and people.
When we talk about animal cruelty, especially when we think about what happened to Quanto in Edmonton, it brings together the picture of protecting all animals. I can think of an incident in Sudbury when the community rallied around a dog we called Buddy when he was shot in the face by his owner and left to die on the side of the road. He was found by some great people and taken to a vet's emergency clinic, where he had surgery. The community rallied around Buddy the dog and raised enough money to pay the vet bills, but unfortunately, Buddy died a couple of days later.
While we are here talking about service dogs, we also need to consider the importance of animal cruelty. The things that happened to Buddy the dog should not go unpunished.
In looking at some of the other police service dogs over the last little bit, I talked about Quanto. The RCMP unveiled a monument to Quanto, which is something that I think is quite important. Recently, in the Northwest Territories, we have seen a dog help RCMP officers when they responded to an armed and barricaded adult male in a house. The individual was arrested five hours later without incident. The RCMP used its emergency response team, crisis negotiation team and a police dog in the arrest. Again, a police dog is playing an important role in the police force.
However, we also have to talk about service dogs in general, because the bill includes them. In my previous employment before being elected here, I had the opportunity of doing a couple of jobs in which I was able to work with animals. In the first job, I was a supervisor for residential homes for individuals with developmental handicaps, and there were many dogs being utilized by these individuals to help them with their day-to-day lives.
I would like to focus specifically on the service dogs that are now being trained to work with individuals with autism.
We have been seeing the prevalence of autism increase across the country. There are more individuals living their day-to-day lives with autism. However, there is now evidence showing that these service dogs for individuals with autism are helping, children specifically, with social interaction, relationships and the expansion of verbal and non-verbal communication skills. They are teaching them life skills, increasing their interest in activities and decreasing their stress.
If any of us in this House have ever worked with an individual with autism, know or have someone in their family with autism, they would know that many of the skills I mentioned previously come difficult for some. To ensure they can live active participatory lives within the community, it is fantastic to hear that we can provide them with a service dog so that they can become more independent, which is something that I think we all want in this House.
From coast to coast to coast across our great land, from British Columbia to St. John's, Newfoundland, we would like to make sure that these animals are protected, because they are aiding some of our most vulnerable citizens, taking them out of the category of being vulnerable and making them more independent.
I was also the executive director of the United Way right before I was elected. I was able to work closely with the CNIB, who obviously have service dogs for individuals who are visually impaired. The St. John Ambulance program in Sudbury has service animals who are certified therapy dogs, and we are talking about certified animals being protected in this bill. These dogs provide therapy to seniors and individuals going through difficult times, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
I am very happy to stand today to speak to the bill and talk about the importance of it. I am glad I have been able to speak about sending the bill to committee where we can really look at some of the provisions that the government has put in and make sure that it is the right thing to do, and that, I think, is important.
I would remind all hon. members to direct their comments to the Chair rather than directly to their colleagues.
The hon. member for Kootenay—Columbia.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak to the House on Ebola and the tragedy unfolding in West Africa. I will be splitting my time with the member for Kootenay—Columbia.
Colleagues, West Africa is currently experiencing a devastating Ebola outbreak. This outbreak of Ebola has been ongoing in West Africa since December 2013 and was officially declared an outbreak in March 2014 by the World Health Organization. On August 8, 2014, the World Health Organization declared Ebola a public health emergency of international concern.
The Government of Canada is closely monitoring the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and we are also working closely with our international partners to support a coordinated response. Our thoughts are with the citizens of the countries affected by Ebola, as well as with Canadians who have loved ones in those countries or who are working there as part of the international Ebola response effort.
I would like members of Parliament and all Canadians to understand that the risk of Ebola in Canada remains very low. There has never been a case of Ebola in this country. However, people may rest assured that we are well prepared should this occur. The Public Health Agency of Canada continues to work with the provinces and territories to plan and prepare for the rare chance that Ebola is ever imported into Canada by travellers from an affected area.
The Government of Canada has a number of systems in place to identify and prevent the importation of the Ebola virus into Canada. The Canada Border Services Agency and the Public Health Agency work together to ensure that travellers from affected countries are healthy when they arrive in Canada and are aware of actions they should take if they begin to experience symptoms of illness.
I would like to take a few moments to provide more background information on what exactly Ebola is and how it is transmitted to humans.
Ebola is a severe viral disease that causes hemorrhagic fever in humans and animals. Hemorrhagic fevers are infectious diseases that can be associated with severe and life-threatening bleeding as well as severe dehydration and organ failure.
It is important to note that the Ebola virus does not spread easily from person to person. Ebola is introduced into the human population through close contact with the body fluids of infected animals. In Africa, fruit bats are considered a possible natural host for the Ebola virus.
Although contact with infected animals results in the introduction of the infection to humans, once contracted by humans, Ebola spreads in the community through human-to-human transmission. Unlike the flu or other respiratory infectious diseases, it is not airborne and cannot be transmitted through casual contact. In the current outbreak in West Africa, the spread occurs primarily among close contacts and family caregivers and as a result of local customs such as burial rituals.
The incubation period for Ebola, meaning the time between exposure and the onset of symptoms, varies between two and 21 days. Infected persons become contagious only when they have symptoms. Although infected, they are not contagious during the incubation period.
Ebola is a challenging disease to diagnose, as it has a wide range of common symptoms associated with a number of illnesses in Africa, such as malaria. It can only be medically confirmed through specialized laboratory testing.
As I mentioned earlier, Ebola does not spread easily from person to person. It is spread through direct contact with infected blood and bodily fluids. In Canada there has never been a confirmed case of Ebola. In the unlikely event Ebola is ever imported into the country, our hospitals have sophisticated infection control systems and procedures in place that are designed to limit the spread of the infection, protect health care workers, and provide the best care possible for the patient.
At this point I would like to give an overview of the current situation in Africa.
The current outbreak began in Guinea in December 2013 and spread to Sierra Leone and Liberia, prompting the WHO to announce the outbreak in March 2014. The virus continues to be actively transmitted in these three countries.
There has been a very limited spread of Ebola into Nigeria and Senegal, associated with single travellers from Liberia and Guinea respectively. We are optimistic for the containment of spread within these two countries due to the infection prevention and control measures that have been put into place.
In Nigeria there have been 21 cases associated with the initial traveller from Liberia, and eight deaths. In Senegal there has been only one travel-related case reported, and that individual has since recovered. No further cases have thus far been reported.
The good news is that countries around the world are rallying together to respond to the outbreak. The international response to Ebola is gaining momentum, and Canada has been an important part of this response since the beginning. Canada has contributed over $5 million in support of humanitarian, security, and public health interventions to address the spread of Ebola.
To prevent the spread of the disease to other countries, affected countries have implemented measures such as questionnaires and temperature monitoring to ensure that individuals who have been exposed to or infected by Ebola are not able to board flights. To date, there has been no spread of Ebola by travellers outside of Africa and there has not been a single case of Ebola contracted on a plane.
Ebola first appeared in 1976, and outbreaks have since been primarily occurring in remote villages in Central and West Africa near tropical rain forests. This current outbreak is the largest one on record.
There are a number of complex factors and significant challenges related to the management of this current outbreak that I would like to share with the House.
First, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia, the countries most affected in the current outbreak, are small countries and have limited resources to respond to prolonged outbreaks, especially in rural areas. The fact that Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia have multiple areas within their borders where infection is spreading adds another layer of difficulty in containing the infection.
When the outbreak takes place in remote and forested areas, it is easier to maintain a certain natural containment of the disease. However, in this current outbreak, in addition to remote regions, infections are also happening in large cities, where transmission of disease can affect many people in a short timeframe.
Among other things, miscommunication has also contributed to the negative perception by some communities of the success of outbreak control strategies, thus slowing down response efforts. Variations in health care infrastructure from one country to another and certain cultural practices such as burial rituals also add to the complexity of the outbreak and its containment.
As the outbreak has expanded and gained momentum, measures that have been put into place to contain its spread have also had an impact on relief efforts. Movement of people into and out of affected countries has been curtailed by travel restrictions implemented by affected countries as well as by the suspension of flights by regional and international airlines. These measures have created challenges in transporting scientists and laboratory specimens and in the replenishment of equipment and supplies necessary for the response.
Despite these challenges, international efforts continue, and many countries, including Canada, are exploring alternate ways to contribute to the outbreak response. I would like to take a moment to especially recognize the tremendous contributions non-governmental organizations have made in response to the outbreak in West Africa, including Doctors Without Borders, the Red Cross, and Samaritan's Purse, among others.
It is important for Canadians to know that the risk posed by Ebola to Canadians remains very low, as the virus is not transmissible through casual contact and robust systems are in place to prevent importation. Canadians should also know that the Government of Canada is supporting the international response in West Africa to reduce the risk of international spread of this serious disease.
Let me finish by reassuring the House that the Government of Canada is committed to the health and safety of Canadians and will continue to work closely with its international partners to support the response. The Public Health Agency of Canada, in collaboration with its provincial, territorial, and health system partners, remains committed to review and update the domestic health emergency management and response system to ensure the highest degree of public health possible for Canadians.
As we are all aware, the range that we allow for debate in this House on any topic, including this one, is quite broad. I have to say I have been following, to some degree, the point being made. I think I know where the member for Kootenay—Columbia is going, so I am going to allow him to continue.
Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I will indicate that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Kootenay—Columbia. With his experience as a former police officer, I certainly look forward to hearing his perspective on this issue. Of course, I also welcome this opportunity to add my own voice to the debate today surrounding electronic surveillance and privacy. I will indicate, as well, that I will be opposing the motion put forward by the NDP member for Terrebonne—Blainville.
When Canadians hear that law enforcement and intelligence agencies are asking telecommunications service providers for customer data, a reasonable question to ask is what these agencies are looking for. How can we know that the government is balancing the need for tools for law enforcement with the rights of citizens to not have their privacy unduly interfered with by the state? That is a reasonable question. The answer, of course, is that oversight mechanisms are in place to ensure that both telecommunications service providers and law enforcement and intelligence agencies stay within the boundaries of the law in that regard. In my time today, I will look at two excellent examples of how accountability and transparency sit at the very forefront of our government's activities.
First and foremost, every year the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness tables the annual report on the use of electronic surveillance That is tabled in Parliament so that all Canadians can read for themselves how law enforcement agencies are using interception, one of the key electronic surveillance tools, to assist in criminal investigations.
This annual report is an important accountability tool. It paints a clear picture of when and why law enforcement and intelligence agencies are requesting authorization from a judge for a warrant in order to intercept communications. It includes information, such as the number of applications made for authorizations, how many are granted and refused, and a general description of the methods of interception used, along with plenty of other information. This is a transparent and fully accessible reporting function that our government fulfills under Canadian law.
Another example of transparent action is the comprehensive response that Public Safety Canada provided to written Question No. 233, which was tabled on March 24 of this year. The member for Terrebonne—Blainville requested that Public Safety Canada and its portfolio agencies provide thorough data on when and why law enforcement and intelligence agencies are requesting information from telecommunications service providers. Again, with this response being tabled here in Parliament, it is open and accessible to all Canadians to better understand how these agencies are requesting and using electronic data.
In fact, the government's response to Question No. 233 provides a comprehensive look at how law enforcement and intelligence agencies work and why they need to request information from telecommunications service providers. The response provides clarity on what has unfortunately become a clouded debate about what is happening with the personal information of Canadians. In his response, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness was clear: public safety agencies work within the strict confines of Canadian law to strike an appropriate balance between privacy rights and public safety.
It is helpful to look at the information provided by these agencies, as it helps to further clear up any misconceptions that are being put forward by the opposition parties and the media.
First, let us look at the Canada Border Services Agency. For the year ending March 31, 2013, the CBSA made 18,729 requests for basic subscriber information from service providers. Again, to be clear, this basic subscriber information only identifies who the individuals are, including things like their name, address, phone number, email address, or IP address, and nothing more. The CBSA is authorized to make these requests when border services officers believe that the information is necessary to support an investigation into contraventions of legislation that the agency is responsible for enforcing.
Next is the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, or CSIS. CSIS carries out a complex and serious mandate. Its job is to investigate and advise the government about suspected threats to our national security.
Because today's world functions online, our intelligence agencies must also function online in their investigative work. Usually that means that CSIS would make requests to the telecommunications service providers for basic subscriber information. In some instances, this basic information is not enough. In the face of a serious national security threat, the service can go to a judge to request a warrant for electronic surveillance or intercepting private communications.
However, no matter what the situation, CSIS conducts its activities in full accordance with the law. Indeed, it is subject to a number of checks and balances when doing its work. This includes full and independent review by the Security Intelligence Review Committee, as well as a review by the Privacy Commissioner, the Auditor General, and other officers of Parliament.
Finally, I would like to turn to the RCMP. Police, of course, must have the proper tools at their disposal to investigate criminal activities. Those criminal activities are increasingly taking place online. These activities run the full gambit, whether they are trying to bust a drug gang or human smuggling ring, investigating a threat of physical violence, or trying to identify anonymous child predators who are distributing child abuse images on the Internet. That is to name just a few examples. Police need access to basic subscriber information to do this critical work, to keep Canadians safe from these criminal activities. In some cases, this is the only avenue to advance a criminal investigation.
For the most serious cases, the RCMP may make application before a judge for an interception authorization under part 6 of the Criminal Code, to access real-time content of private communications, such as emails and phone calls. However, in doing so, the RCMP must first demonstrate that it has exhausted all other investigative avenues. Furthermore, the RCMP reports on its use of interception authorizations through the aforementioned annual report on the use of electronic surveillance in Canada.
The RCMP's collection and use of information gathered during investigations, including basic subscriber information, is scrutinized for compliance with the Constitution during the trial stage. If the information is not collected in a lawful manner, the trial judge could exclude the evidence.
These are just a few key examples of how our government is responding to the concerns of Canadians on why and when law enforcement and intelligence agencies are requesting information. Canadians can rest assured that our Conservative government will continue to work to ensure an appropriate balance between giving police the tools they need to do their job and protecting the privacy rights of Canadians.
We will also work to ensure that we keep criminals behind bars, where they belong. That is why we have introduced more than 30 tough-on-crime measures since coming to office. Unfortunately, the NDP has obstructed and opposed virtually all of these important measures. Canadians know that when it comes to important issues of public safety, only our Conservative government can be trusted.
Before we resume debate with the hon. member for Kootenay—Columbia, I will let him know there are about 13 minutes remaining before we wrap up debate on government orders. Of course, any unused time out of the 20 minutes he has will be taken up when the House next resumes debate on the bill.
The hon. member for Kootenay—Columbia.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Kootenay—Columbia. He has so much credibility when he speaks to these issues, as he served our country as an RCMP officer for years. Listening to what he has to say really gives us, here in the House, some perspective on what the bill actually means on the ground.
That is going to be my question to him, if he could elaborate. He said that he has been listening to the speeches throughout the day and that people misunderstand what the reality is out there. He has heard people say that we should split the bill. He said that we cannot have one without the other. I was hopeful that he could use some of the time remaining to actually explain this in detail so that other members in the House would realize why it is so important that we move forward with this very important bill.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Kootenay—Columbia for his long-time work as a law enforcement officer as well as an advocate for victims. I know that he and many others support the new Canadian victims bill of rights, people like ex-NHLer Sheldon Kennedy, who said, “Today was a great day for creating a balance within the justice system”; or Sharon Rosenfeldt, who heads up Victims of Violence, who said, “we are pleased that the victims of crime now have a federal Victims Bill of Rights”, calling it a “major step for victims in Canada”; or Yvonne Harvey of Canadian Parents of Murdered Children, who said the victims bill of rights is taking the lead on developing a consistent, equal, and accountable framework for national standards.
These are a few examples of the widespread support for the legislation.
Mr. Speaker, today I rise as an MP but also as a dad, so I hope Shane, Jake, and Mei Mei are listening.
My Conservative colleagues and I have been meeting on a regular basis to examine issues relating to substance abuse. Our goal is to get the best information available to make our legislators informed and capable. We are dealing with challenging issues, such as the effects of cannabis, recovering from drug abuse, prescription drug misuse, and mental health. Informed and capable legislators are the ingredients of good laws responsive to challenging problems, which continue to weaken our youth, divide our families, hurt our health, and hamper our economy.
I am grateful to constituents and other Canadians who have helped with the symposium, such as Lorinda Strang and AnnMarie McCullough from Bowen Island's Orchard Recovery Center, Kerry and Ginny Dennehy, staunch advocates for mental health, the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, and the Minister of Health, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and the MP for Kootenay—Columbia, who have been avid participants in this discussion.
I commend all involved as these issues are so critical for our youth, such as our own children, and Canadians of all ages.
Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to rise in this House to offer my support for Bill C-25, the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation act.
I will be sharing my time with my good friend and member for Kootenay—Columbia today.
In order to truly understand why this legislation is necessary, I think it is important to have an understanding of the unique circumstances and processes that all parties have gone through in order to bring this bill to this point.
When Newfoundland joined Confederation in 1949, there was no agreement between the new province and Canada on if, how, or when the Indian Act would be applied to the province's Mi'kmaq, who lived primarily on the island of Newfoundland, and the Innu, who lived primarily in Labrador.
From the 1950s to the 1980s, Canada provided ad hoc funding to the province for social and health programs for the aboriginal communities living in that province. Over time, however, both the federal government and the first nation population expressed a desire for a more systemic application of the Indian Act system.
In 1984 the Indian Act was extended to Newfoundland for the first time, to the Mi'kmaq community at Conne River, known as the Miawpukek First Nation. In 2002 it was also extended to Innu bands in Labrador, the Mushuau Innu First Nation and Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation.
Initial efforts to improve relations between Canada and the majority of Mi'kmaq communities on the island of Newfoundland did not result in an agreement. In the late 1980s the Federation of Newfoundland Indians, an organization representing Newfoundland's Mi'kmaq, commenced litigation against Canada, seeking recognition for their members as Indians under the Indian Act and damages and compensation for unpaid benefits.
In 2008 Canada settled the court action through the Agreement for the Recognition of the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation Band, which is the 2008 agreement that established a process to recognize the Mi'kmaq of Newfoundland as a landless band and its members as Indians under the Indian Act.
The intent of the 2008 agreement was to establish a landless band for the Mi'kmaq group of Indians of Newfoundland. The parties intended that the founding membership of the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation would be granted primarily to persons living in or around the Newfoundland Mi'kmaq communities named in the 2000 agreement. While individuals living outside of these communities could also become members, the intent of the parties was that non-residents would be required to have maintained a strong cultural connection with a Newfoundland Mi'kmaq community, including a sustained and active involvement in the community, despite their absences.
The 2008 agreement provided for a two-stage enrolment process. The first, which ended on November 30, 2009, was intended to identify the founding members. The second provided for a 36-month process to guarantee that all those who were eligible would have an opportunity to apply and be added to the list of founding members.
After the end of the first stage, the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation Band Order, or recognition order, was issued on September 22, 2011. It was this order that established the Qalipu Mi'kmaq band's status as an official first nation.
As a result of the recognition order and three subsequent amendments that were made to this schedule, 23,877 individuals were listed as founding members of the first nation and became entitled to registration as Indians under the Indian Act.
By the time the second stage ended, on November 30, 2012, more than 101,000 applications had been received.
As a result of the large, unanticipated number of applications received—particularly during the last two months of the enrolment process, when over 46,000 applications were received between September 1 and November 30, 2012—both parties agreed to enter into discussions to explore improvements to the enrolment process to ensure that it reflected the original intention of the parties and to provide additional time to ensure that all applications could be reviewed.
Extensive discussions and negotiations between Canada and the Federation of Newfoundland Indians commenced in the fall of 2012 and resulted in the supplemental agreement, which was announced on July 4, 2013.
The supplemental agreement clarifies the process for enrolment and resolves issues that emerged in the implementation of the 2008 agreement, such as the fact that the number of membership applications far exceeded the expectation of both parties, that it was not possible to review all of the applications within the time limits provided in the 2008 agreement, and that the original guidelines for assessment of applications did not provide sufficient clarity and detail to reflect the original intentions of the parties concerned.
The supplemental agreement ensures that the enrolment process is aligned with the original intent of the 2008 agreement. It meets the objective shared by Canada and the Federation of Newfoundland Indians that all applications be treated fairly and equitably and in accordance with the criteria the parties originally negotiated to establish eligibility for membership in the Qalipu Mi'kmaq first nation. It does not change the founding members enrolment criteria set out in the 2008 agreement. Instead, the supplemental agreement provides clarification of the requirements for enrolment, additional documentation requirements for applications, and an extension of the 2008 agreement timelines.
Under the supplemental agreement, all applications submitted since the enrolment process began in December 2008 will be assessed or reassessed by the enrolment committee, except those that had previously been rejected. It is estimated that the review process will take approximately two and a half years. While we recognize that this is a substantial amount of time, it is necessary to ensure that the original intent of the agreement is honoured and that those individuals and only those individuals with Qalipu Mi'kmaq ancestry will be registered.
The requirement under the supplemental agreement to review all applications received, including those found to be eligible under the previous process, means that it is possible that a number of the 23,877 founding members will lose their membership and their entitlement to be registered as Indians under the Indian Act if they do not meet the criteria of the 2008 agreement, as applied in accordance with the original intention of the parties. This means that only individuals with genuine Qalipu Mi'kmaq heritage will be registered as Indians through the process.
This is part of the reason Bill C-25 is so important. It gives the Governor in Council the authority to amend the recognition order so that it accurately reflects those individuals who are rightfully entitled to Indian status and the benefits therein.
Certainty is required to ensure that the supplemental agreement can be implemented and can thereby ensure the integrity of the enrolment process and of the Qalipu Mi'kmaq first nation. This certainly can only be obtained by implementing legislation that would provide the Governor in Council with the appropriate authority to make the required corrections to the recognition order and to ensure that persons who have Qalipu ancestry receive the rights and benefits they are entitled to.
For this reason, I urge all members to support Bill C-25 and impart to all members of the Qalipu Mi'kmaq first nation the status that is rightfully theirs. Legislation is required to provide the Governor in Council with the authority necessary to amend the recognition order, or more specifically, to add names to or remove names of founding members from the schedule to the order after the enrolment process under the supplemental agreement is completed.
An amendment to the schedule to the order in council will be required to add the names of those found to be entitled to be members and to remove the names of those found not to be entitled to be members of the Qalipu Mi'kmaq first nation.
The electoral district of Kootenay--Columbia (British Columbia) has a population of 86,811 with 65,932 registered voters and 185 polling divisions.
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