May 10, 2001


Prayers


BQ

Stéphane Bergeron

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Stéphane Bergeron (Verchères—Les-Patriotes, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

Sometimes, in a spirit of mutual agreement, political parties seek the co-operation of other parties. Today, in fact, the government party asked for our co-operation with respect to a request it was making.

In the same spirit of understanding and co-operation, I seek unanimous consent for the tabling of the lease linking the Auberge Grand-Mère with the Grand-Mère golf club.


Subtopic:   Points Of Order
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?

The Speaker

Is there unanimous consent of the House for the tabling of this document?


Subtopic:   Points Of Order
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?

Some hon. members

Agreed.


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?

Some hon. members

No.


Subtopic:   Points Of Order
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NDP

Svend Robinson

New Democratic Party

Mr. Svend Robinson (Burnaby—Douglas, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I rise this morning to give the Speaker and the House notice of a question of privilege.

I have informed the Speaker that I believe a serious question of privilege has arisen from the conduct of both the Minister of Foreign Affairs and his officials concerning documentation with respect to the activities of Talisman Energy in Sudan and the use of its airfields by the government of Sudan for offensive military purposes.

In view of the fact that the minister is not in the House this morning, I wanted to give notice that I will be pursuing this question of privilege at the earliest opportunity when the minister and myself are both in the House.


Subtopic:   Points Of Order
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LIB

Derek Lee

Liberal

Mr. Derek Lee (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to six petitions.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Government Response To Petitions
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CA

John Williams

Canadian Alliance

Mr. John Williams (St. Albert, Canadian Alliance)

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts relating to vote 20 under finance in the main estimates for the fiscal year ending on March 31, 2002.

I also have the honour to table the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts relating to the Public Accounts of Canada, 1999-2000.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this fourth report.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees Of The House
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LIB

Guy St-Julien

Liberal

Mr. Guy St-Julien (Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am tabling a petition on behalf of residents of the city of Val-d'Or and the Vallée de l'Or RCM, as well as on behalf of all miners working in the mining industry in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region.

The petition states that the government should act to reinforce its presence and increase its activities in mining regions that are experiencing difficulty in adapting to the new economy. The government should make the rules governing existing programs more flexible and ensure they are being used in resource regions.

Therefore, the petitioners call upon parliament to set up a financial assistance program for thin capitalization mines in Quebec's resource regions.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
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CA

Keith Martin

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Keith Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Canadian Alliance)

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I submit a petition on behalf of Terry Jessop and other constituents in my riding of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.

In order to help Canada's economy and reduce our unemployment, the petitioners request that parliament enact legislation to permit that one vacation per year taken entirely in Canada be subject to a tax deduction for income tax purposes.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
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CA

Keith Martin

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Keith Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Canadian Alliance)

Mr. Speaker, I have another petition from constituents from across the country.

The petitioners ask that the House of Commons and the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade consider Mr. Hun Sen, the leader of Cambodia, to have committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and to implement a resolution as soon as possible to bring this individual to trial and prevent further tragedy.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
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BQ

Ghislain Lebel

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Ghislain Lebel (Chambly, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of 39 petitioners in and around my riding, I am tabling a petition asking the government to repeal section 13(5) of the Canada Post Corporation Act.

I was informed yesterday that United Parcel, the major American courier, is suing Canada Post for unfair competition under chapter 11 of the North American free trade agreement, or NAFTA.

Section 13(5) of the Canada Post legislation grants to this corporation a preference that is refused to other courier companies.

Moreover, rural route couriers are paid less than the minimum wage.

I table this petition.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
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NDP

Svend Robinson

New Democratic Party

Mr. Svend Robinson (Burnaby—Douglas, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table a petition signed by residents of my constituency of Burnaby—Douglas and others in British Columbia.

The petitioners point out that since 1994 the Canadian government has been secretly negotiating a future free trade area of the Americas agreement with 34 countries of the Americas and the business community. They are concerned about the negative impacts this agreement could have on the environment, on their communities, on their children and, indeed, on all the people of the Americas. They do not wish to have a treaty that is inspired by the destructive elements of the WTO, NAFTA or the MAI. They point out that this has been negotiated in secret for too long and that the right to know is fundamental in a democracy.

Therefore the petitioners call upon the Canadian government to immediately publish the integral version of the free trade area of the Americas negotiation text. Certainly that request is long overdue.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
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CA

Scott Reid

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Scott Reid (Lanark—Carleton, Canadian Alliance)

Mr. Speaker, I am presenting a petition today on behalf of over 300 Canadians, mostly residents in my riding but also some in Nepean, Kingston and elsewhere.

The petitioners call upon parliament to immediately place a moratorium on the cosmetic use of chemical pesticides until such time as there is scientific evidence demonstrating that these pesticides are safe.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
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LIB

Derek Lee

Liberal

Mr. Derek Lee (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, Questions Nos. 15 and 16 will be answered today. .[Text]

Question No. 15—

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions On The Order Paper
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PC

Greg Thompson

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Greg Thompson

With respect to the recent Human Resources Development Canada, HRDC, investigations regarding shell fishermen, clam diggers and buyers in New Brunswick Southwest: ( a ) how many individuals were called in for interrogation; ( b ) were these interrogations conducted solely by HRDC officials or in conjunction with other agencies or departments; ( c ) were these investigations conducted as a result of violations of employment insurance regulations by clam diggers or clam buyers; ( d ) were the persons or principals interrogated advised by written or verbal communication identifying the specific infractions being investigated; ( e ) was supporting documentations from other government agencies and departments in addition to HDRC records of alleged abuse or fraud, disclosed to those individuals and principals being interviewed; ( f ) what are the names and the addresses of all persons and principals interrogated; ( g ) what are the names of the employees who carried out the interviews and what government department or agency employs them; ( h ) was a report of this investigation submitted to the regional director manager, investigation and control; ( i ) was there an internal departmental investigation done to determine any real or potential conflict of interest in regard to departmental officials assigned to these investigations; ( j ) was a report immediately forwarded from the regional director manager to the director, control programs, national headquarters; and ( k ) at what time and date was the minister first made aware ot fhe magnitude of the investigation?

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions On The Order Paper
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LIB

Jane Stewart

Liberal

Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of the Human Resources Development, Lib.)

Human Resources Development Canada, HRDC, is mandated to carry out investigations in relation to the employment insurance program. As part of the investigation HRDC officials conduct interviews, not interrogations, with clients. Investigators adhere to a strict code of conduct that respects the rights and dignity of clients. The policies and guidelines on the code of conduct to which investigators must adhere while conducting investigations are outlined in the investigation and control manual. This manual chapter has recently been updated. However it is still in draft format.

As this investigation is ongoing it would be inappropriate to provide specific information on this case.

(a) HRDC investigators interview clients in accordance with our code of conduct.

(b) These interviews were carried out solely by HRDC personnel.

(c) Although an investigation commences as a result of a suspicion of abuse, at that point it cannot be determined if a violation has been committed. Before making that determination HRDC investigators gather information and then interview clients to validate the information obtained. A conclusion on whether a violation has occurred can only be made once the investigation is completed.

(d) All investigations must be carried out within high standards of professional behaviour. Our information to date indicates that this investigation, like others the department conducts every year, is being carried out with the high standards of behaviour the department expects of its employees.

(e) During the course of an interview supporting documentation received from other government agencies could be disclosed to an EI client if the information is specific to their case and the client is required to provide a response. It would be inappropriate to provide a specific answer to the question as the investigation is ongoing.

(f) As per the Privacy Act, the Employment Insurance Act, and associated policies and procedures this information is confidential.

(g) This is an ongoing investigation and it would be inappropriate to release the names of the investigators.

(h) This investigation is not finalized. Therefore a report on the investigation has not yet been completed by the investigators.

There are many activities involved in conducting an investigation including completing reports. For instance, the investigator gathers information, verifies its accuracy by various means including contacting employers and claimants via mail, telephone or in person interviews. Payroll records may also be inspected to verify employment.

Upon completion of an investigation investigators are required to write a report. The steps taken, facts received and records of any interviews are documented in the report of investigation which is the HRDC departmental form used to report on an investigation. The report of investigation is then referred to an HRDC insurance officer to make a decision based on the recommendations and information gathered during the investigation. Additional reports are sometimes prepared for cases of a sensitive nature and are usually sent to the regional level.

(i) The investigation and control code of conduct specifically directs all investigation staff to declare any real, potential or apparent conflict of interest. This is also the case for all public servants and members of the judiciary.

(j) Our information indicates that the investigators have been taking the appropriate steps in these circumstances and there has not been a need for a report to the regional manager. Such a report might be required if it had been brought to the attention of a manager that the conflict of interest guidelines were not followed.

(k) The issue was brought to the attention of the minister on February 6, 2001, following a reference to this investigation in the media.

It is not HRDC policy to inform the minister of every investigation that is undertaken.

Question No. 16—

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions On The Order Paper
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PC

Greg Thompson

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Greg Thompson

With respect to the HRDC investigation process: ( a ) why is regional discretion in regard to the department's caution statement permitted to be exercised by HRDC officials; ( b ) has the department carried out an internal investigation concerning the practice of using the HRDC official consent form to obtain statements from claimants; ( c ) what is the procedure used by the department to ensure the reliability and credibility of all third party reports used to initiate investigations; ( d ) are interrogations conducted with the use of audio or video equipment in order to determine the accuracy and validity of testimony provided and techniques used during interrogation by departmental officials; ( e ) has HRDC considered providing duty counsel to avoid, minimize or eliminate any charter of rights challenges; ( f ) has the minister been counselled by the department regarding section 2.20 of the HRDC document investigation and control manual and, if so, what measures and directives have been taken to correct the apparent contradictions between this document and subsection 41(5) of the Employment Insurance Act; ( g ) why does the claimant not receive a copy of the signed statement of declaration; ( h ) why does the investigation and control manual not emphasize the legal responsibility of providing the claimant with a copy of the signed statement of declaration; ( i ) what process does the department use to evaluate the investigation control officer's performance; and ( j ) what specific action has the minister initiated to address the issue of incompetence and inexperience, as noted in the department's prosecution program review report and the auditor general's report regarding the investigation control officer?

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions On The Order Paper
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LIB

Jane Stewart

Liberal

Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.)

(a) Most contacts between citizens and Investigation and control officers, investigators, are discussions that involve exchanging information to obtain clarification and explanations on their claims.

The investigation and control manual clearly directs investigators to caution an individual prior to taking a statement when the investigator has reasonable grounds to believe that the individual has committed an offence that is likely to lead to a prosecution. Less than 1% of all investigations lead to prosecution every year. These procedures are followed by investigators in human resource centres across Canada. The decision to caution a client is based solely on whether prosecution is a consideration, as opposed to the geographical location.

(b) Departmental officials consulted are unaware of such a form.

(c) An investigation can be initiated from a variety of sources including tips from third parties. These tips can be received verbally, in writing, by e-mail or by phone and they can be from known or unknown sources. Human Resources Development Canada, HRDC, has the responsibility to protect the integrity of the employment insurance, EI, fund and as such has an obligation to investigate alleged fraud and abuse. While looking into such tips HRDC personnel undertake many activities to verify the accuracy of information received. This is the case whether the source of the tip is known or unknown. This could include but is not limited to contacting employers to verify payroll and employment records, requests by mail or telephone to claimants, and in person interviews.

(d) HRDC personnel interview clients in accordance with guidelines set out in the departmental code of conduct. The policy for investigation and control does not require the audio or video recording of interviews, but it does not preclude it either. Clients can however request such recordings.

(e) HRDC personnel adhere to the legal principles governing the cautioning of individuals and their rights to legal counsel.

Investigators do not have the authority to arrest or detain individuals. Nevertheless, when it is anticipated that an investigation may lead to a prosecution, clients are informed of their right to retain and instruct counsel without delay.

HRDC personnel will provide clients with a reasonable opportunity to consult counsel and they will provide them with information on legal aid if appropriate. HRDC personnel will cease questioning if the client wishes to retain counsel.

Only 1% of all investigations lead to prosecution. In view of this, the department has not considered providing duty counsel.

(f) The directives provided in section 2.20 must be read in conjunction with the preceding sections of this chapter.

As stated in section 2.20 officials can direct claimants under subsection 41(5) of the Unemployment Insurance Act, now changed to subsection 50(5) of the Employment Insurance Act, to attend an interview to provide additional information on their claims. The form used for this purpose is called a direction to report. It is the client's responsibility to attend such an interview and provide information as required. Should they decide not to attend or to withhold information, their benefits could be affected.

If the purpose of the interview pertains to a more serious matter that could lead to a prosecution, investigators use different methods to communicate with claimants such as by telephone or by using the form appointment for interview. In these types of interviews clients are informed of their right to retain and instruct counsel without delay.

The minister has not been consulted on the procedures outlined in the manuals since they are in line with the authorities delegated to HRDC employees. HRDC policies and procedures are in accordance with the law and the charter of rights and freedoms.

The investigation and control directorate is currently updating its manual to ensure the instructions and procedures are simple and clear.

(g) HRDC does not use a departmental form specifically titled statement of declaration. The report of interview is the departmental form used by investigators to document the information obtained during the interview. It is HRDC policy however that all clients are provided with a copy of the report of interview. All clients have a right to request a copy of their report.

(h) The investigation and control manual directs investigators to provide copies of the report of interview to the client.

(i) The timeliness, accuracy, clarity of documentation and fairness in an investigation are some of the key elements that are considered in the assessment of the investigation and control officer's performance. These evaluations can be carried out in various ways including such activities as reviewing investigator's files and in person feedback sessions.

To maintain a high level of skills in its workforce HRDC provides investigators with ongoing training and refresher courses including such subjects as investigative skills and interviewing skills.

(j) The downsizing of federal government employees which took place during the 1990s has resulted in the loss of more experienced investigators. To help build expertise in its workforce HRDC has put in place national training programs, monitoring and quality management policies which ensure that its investigation and control officers conduct investigations in a professional, courteous and fair manner.

With regard to the reference to the auditor general's criticisms, his December 2000 report referred to the working relationship between HRDC and Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, CCRA, in dealing with abuse and fraud in the context of current investigations into the activities of certain farm labour contractors in the lower Fraser Valley in British Columbia. The concerns raised in this report were essentially with the role of CCRA rulings officers, their training, general knowledge of the case, their investigative experience, ability to use our information, et cetera. Both departments recognize the need for co-operation and communication and have been working together to improve the working relationship.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions On The Order Paper
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LIB

Derek Lee

Liberal

Mr. Derek Lee

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions On The Order Paper
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May 10, 2001