January 31, 2011

NDP

Bill Siksay

New Democratic Party

Mr. Bill Siksay (Burnaby—Douglas, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to participate in the debate on Bill S-6 on the elimination of the faint hope clause.

I want to start where my colleague ended on the importance of having a place in our criminal justice system where redemption and hope are possible, even for those who have committed the most serious crimes that we deal with in our society. The member put it very well and I do not think I could say it better or more clearly than he has. This has to be an important part of our criminal justice system and our corrections system. The bill would go some way in eliminating that possibility from our system.

Bill S-6 is back in the House. The last time I spoke on this issue was back on June 18, 2009, when we debated Bill C-36, essentially the same bill. The bill died when the Prime Minister decided to prorogue the House, once again short-circuiting the government's agenda on criminal justice issues. It was not the House that has slowed down the Conservatives' agenda. They have slowed down their agenda by using prorogation and calling early elections. They have not put forth the effort that it takes to get legislation through this place and this is an excellent example of one of those bills. They like to blame the opposition, but the reality is they have done more harm to the timing of their own agenda than the opposition could ever hope to do.

Bill S-6 is an act to amend the Criminal Code on the right of persons convicted of murder or high treason to be eligible for early parole. One of the good amendments that has come out of the committee process this time around is to eliminate the silly subtitle that the Conservatives chose to give the legislation. I am glad that is gone.

At the outset, this legislation, which eliminates the possibility of revision to parole for people who have committed murder or who are sentenced to life for high treason, is completely wrong. I am opposed to the basic principle of the legislation that claims we are not well served by this process of judicial review, in fact of citizen review, and that the faint hope clause should not be part of our criminal justice system.

I really believe we have been well served by the legislation and by the process. I believe it has encouraged rehabilitation in our prison system and made our prisons safer for both other prisoners as well as the prison guards and other professionals who work in our correctional service. It gives people the possibility of hope that they might be released early from a life sentence.

It has a very important positive effect within the institutions of the correctional system. It has also allowed for a measure of discretion to review the parole eligibility of people who have been sentenced to life in prison and it has encouraged a strong measure of citizen involvement in making the decisions on that very important process. However, in my opinion this legislation would seek to undo all of those things.

The current legislation and section 745.6 of the Criminal Code, which deals with judicial review, enables offenders serving life in prison with parole ineligibility periods of more than 15 years to apply for a reduction of that period. The review is not intended as a forum for retrial of the original offence. The focus is instead on the progress of the offender after having served at least 15 years of his or her sentence. That is how the Department of Justice describes the current process on its website. It is how it describes the intent of the current legislation.

It is important to review the process involved when the faint hope clause is engaged by someone serving a life sentence in prison. It is a very rigorous one. It is one that involves several stages. It is not easy to accomplish and everyone needs to appreciate the fact that there is rigour involved in this process.

The first stage is an application to the chief justice of the province in which the person was convicted. The chief justice or a designated superior court judge reviews the written materials presented from the Crown and the applicant. Then that judge determines on the basis of the written materials whether the applicant has shown on a balance of probabilities that there is a reasonable prospect that the application will succeed. If the judge decides that, a jury is impanelled to hear the case. If the judge decides there is no reason to proceed further, the appeal process stops at this point and there is no further follow-up. The judge, the Crown, the applicant all have a key role in this first stage.

The next stage is the jury. When the jury is constituted and impanelled, it then considers a number of issues when it looks at the application from the person in prison. When determining whether there should be a reduction of parole ineligibility, the jury determines the character of the applicant, his or her conduct while serving the sentence, the nature of the offence, information provided by the victim's family members about how the crime has affected them and any other matters the judge has considered relevant in the circumstances. The jury looks at a very broad scope at this point.

This is a panel of 12 citizens and the panel considers those factors and makes a decision about the reduction of the period of ineligibility. The decision of that jury to reduce the ineligibility period must be unanimous. We are not talking about a simple majority or anything like that. The jury can reduce the parole ineligibility period immediately, or at a later date or deny any reduction.

This is a pretty important process involving citizens who are engaged in this decision. That is a crucial thing to notice about this process. It is important to protect that point where citizens can engage in the criminal justice system, where they can engage in the corrections system and help make important decisions that affect the community, that affect other citizens, both victims and people in prison. That is a crucial piece of the existing legislation. It is important to have citizens engaged in making decisions.

There are safeguards all through this process. The fact that the jury has to be unanimous is key among those safeguards in the existing process.

When the jury decides unanimously that the number of years to be served should be reduced, it can then decide by a two-thirds majority the number of years that must be served before the inmate can apply to the National Parole Board. If the jury decides that the period of parole ineligibility is not to be reduced, it can set another time at which the prisoner can again apply for judicial review. If no date is set, then the prisoner can reapply after two years for this process to be engaged again.

It is a complex process. The process initially involves a senior judge and then a jury of 12 citizens, two of the most important features of our system. Judicial discretion is involved. There is a strong citizen involvement component. The community is absolutely represented in the decision that someone's parole should be reduced.

That is not the end of the story because then the parole board does its job. The decision about whether the person gets out on parole is made by the parole board in the usual fashion. Here is another group of professionals who serve our communities admirably, who are engaged in this decision-making process, who are then engaged in discovering whether the person will succeed in the community and then help that person if he or she is ultimately released into the community.

This is not just a short-term parole. Anyone who gets out as a result of this process is on parole for life. That parole period never ends. It continues until that person dies. We need to remember again how important that is and how that offers protection to our communities as well.

There is a lot to this complex process. It is one that has served us well over many years. It originally came in during the mid-seventies when we essentially stopped using capital punishment. It was reaffirmed after the last capital punishment debate in the House in 1986. I believe it has been serving us essentially in its current form for about 25 years.

What has happened in that 25 years? What is the exact experience of this faint hope clause, of this possibility for early parole for someone who is sentenced to life for murder or treason?

New information came out during the course of the justice committee hearings on this bill from the Commissioner of the Correctional Service Canada, Mr. Don Head. He presented information that was valid as of October 10, 2010. He noted that there were 1,508 offenders with cases applicable to judicial review. That is the number of people in our system who could potentially apply for early release under the faint hope clause.

In the 25 years since the first judicial review hearing in 1987, there have a total of 181 court decision. In that 25 years, 181 people have applied to engage this process. That is not a significant number when we look at the total number who are eligible to do that.

Of those 181 court decisions, 146 resulted in a reduction of the period that must be served before parole eligibility and 35 resulted in a refusal. Already, the system has been weeding out the potential reductions.

Of the 146 offenders who had their parole eligibility moved earlier, 135 have been granted parole. Again, there is a change in the number. Out of the potential 146, we are down to 135.

Of those 135 who were granted parole, 68 have had no issue during their period of supervisions, 35 received a suspension because of some problem during their parole but their parole was not subsequently revoked and 23 had their parole revoked. Apparently a lot of those cases dealt with issues related to chronic offending against the conditions of parole, things like using drugs, alcohol, being late when there were restrictions on their movements, those kinds of things.

Seven of the one hundred and thirty-five who reoffended did it in a non-violent manner and two offended violently. Therefore, nine people reoffended out of the total number of cases that were looked at, seven in a non-violent manner and two offended violently. I believe a number of the seven offences were also related to drugs.

That is a whole other issue that we could talk about. We could talk about how our criminal legislation around drugs serves our communities, how well it has served us and the problems with that, but that is probably for another debate.

Of the two offenders who offended violently, one was found guilty of two counts of assault with a weapon and one count of assault using force and the other offender was found guilty of one count of robbery.

I am not going to make any bones about it. Those are serious crimes and serious issues, but these people were charged and convicted in court and are back in jail.

To put it succinctly, since 1987, there have been thousands of offenders who were eligible for early parole. Only 181 chose to apply. Out of those 181, only 135 received a reduction in their sentence. Less than 15%, in fact, of those eligible have applied.

Some of the talk about the legislation comes about because there is somehow this impression that we treat people who have committed murder in Canada lightly, that somehow we are soft on that crime in Canada and that people do not serve a lot of time in Canadian prisons for the crime of murder. In fact, it turns out that is absolutely the furthest from the truth.

It has been shown that the average time served in prison for first degree murder in Canada is 28.4 years. That is one of the longest average times in any country in the world. In comparison, in the United States, the average time incarcerated is 23 years. In many other countries, it is even shorter than that. Certainly in countries like New Zealand, Scotland, Switzerland and England, the average time spent incarcerated for murder is under 15 years.

The fact is that Canada does treat this crime far more severely than many of the countries to which we would want to be compared and significantly more when we look at the average time people spend in prison. It is not something that we are being soft on. We are taking advantage of the possibility of incarceration. We are ensuring that people spend a significant time in jail.

There may be problems with that. Perhaps that is something we should be looking at as it may not be serving us well. In terms of the whole argument that somehow we are soft on crime and this is an issue that needs to be addressed by this Parliament, it turns out that is baloney because we are in fact much more severe than almost any other country we would choose to compare ourselves to. That is something that is also crucial to know in this process.

We have a process that we have had long experience with and that has been in place for over 25 years, probably even longer than that because it was in place for probably a decade before that. There were some changes made to it in the late 1980s. We have good experience with this. It is a program that has been successful, that has shown real and positive results for both people who have been incarcerated in our system and for the communities from which they come and to which they often return. It has shown that citizens can be engaged in a meaningful way in making determinations about their safety and the safety of their communities and decisions about who has been successfully rehabilitated. Citizens get to apply those standards that they believe are most important in making that kind of determination.

If there is a reason why we should reject this legislation, it is because it very clearly eliminates the possibility of citizen engagement in this very important process. This is something that has evolved over time and is something that we have shown great leadership in, establishing this kind of process that allows citizens to make important decisions about parole eligibility for people who have committed the most serious crimes possible in our society. It speaks well to our society that we both make that possibility available and that we also engage citizens directly in making the ultimate decisions about who gets out early, about who has been successfully rehabilitated. The process engages judges with discretion and engages a very senior level of judiciary in this decision-making process. That is also very important. It is important to give judges that discretion and that they exercise discretion on our behalf. After all, they are experts in this area. That is something that is also very important and a key aspect of this process.

As well, we must remember that the parole system continues to be engaged, that even the small number of people who do successfully complete this process remain on parole for the remainder of their lives and under strict supervision by the people who run our parole system.

I recently met with representatives of the parole system in my community. I was very impressed by the work that they do on our behalf in Burnaby and in New Westminster where the office is located. It is a very important contribution they make to the safety of our community and to the hopes of our society, that people can turn their lives around and be successfully integrated back into the community. It is important that we acknowledge the work that they do. It is very difficult work. They are often under great scrutiny for the decisions that they make. I am not sure that we always appreciate all that goes into an understanding, a determination of parole and that ongoing supervisory role that people engage when they are released from a correctional institution in Canada. I want to salute parole officers and the people in the parole system for the important work that they do.

All in all, this is a very flawed bill. It eliminates the possibility for hope, for redemption, as my colleague from Vancouver Kingsway so clearly pointed out in his speech a few minutes ago. We should be very cautious about eliminating this from our system. When we eliminate the possibility of hope, even from those who have committed the most serious crimes, we do not make our society any safer, nor do we make it any better and the bill takes us down absolutely the wrong course.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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LIB

Larry Bagnell

Liberal

Hon. Larry Bagnell (Yukon, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I have three quick questions. I certainly appreciate the member's thoughtful approach to this bill.

In the member's very last sentence, he said that he does not think it makes communities any safer. If in fact there were so few reoccurrences without this bill, maybe he could elaborate a bit on the types of the crimes that actually would be committed by the many people who lost hope or who have actually gone on to lead productive lives.

The second way we could see fewer victims is if the money saved by the huge costs of incarceration were used on more police or machines in hospitals. There are all sorts of ways more lives could be saved with the money that is saved.

Finally, could the member comment on the fact that the government would save a lot more people from becoming victims if it were to reinstate the crime prevention programs it has cancelled?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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NDP

Bill Siksay

New Democratic Party

Mr. Bill Siksay

Mr. Speaker, I think there are many ways to make our communities safer.

We have seen clearly, time and time again, that crime prevention programs actually work, better education programs work, more opportunities for citizens work, and better jobs work. There are all kinds of things that make our communities safer that have nothing to do with keeping people in jail longer or putting people in prison longer.

We have seen that rehabilitation programs in prison work, but we do not often give them the kind of importance they need. We have seen that treating people for drug addiction often makes our communities dramatically safer, and yet we do not put nearly enough resources into that.

Instead the government thinks that it can be tough on crime and put more people in jail for longer, and somehow that makes us safer. Even the Americans who were the champions of that kind of policy are turning their back on it. Some of the most outspoken proponents of it are turning their backs on it, because it just does not work.

There is proof, time and time again. There is research, time and time again. Unfortunately, that does not make an impression on the current government.

Those kinds of things are really important to all of us. The cost of incarcerating people could be used in so many other ways that would actually make our communities safer. We could engage citizens in other ways to make our communities safer. Restorative justice that engages people, victims of crime, people who have committed crime, representatives of the community from the get-go is a way of making our communities much safer. The government has no interest in that kind of program.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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NDP

Peter Julian

New Democratic Party

Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I appreciated the speech from the member for Burnaby—Douglas.

Would the member comment on Newt Gingrich and Pat Nolan, two Republicans from the United States who, in their article, talk about what happened in Texas where it was decided against building more prisons and opted to enhance proven community corrections approaches, such as drug courts. Money was redirected into community treatment for mentally ill and low level drug addicts.

Not only have these reforms reduced Texas prison populations, but for the first time there is no waiting list for drug treatment in the state and crime has dropped 10% from 2004 through 2009, reaching its lowest annual rate since 1973.

Since even Republicans now understand the good merits of the NDP approach of being smart on crime, I would like to ask the member for Burnaby—Douglas why do the Conservatives not get it?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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NDP

Bill Siksay

New Democratic Party

Mr. Bill Siksay

Mr. Speaker, if I had been told that I would standing in the House supporting an opinion offered by Newt Gingrich, the Republican to end all Republicans in some of our minds, and Pat Nolan, the Republican leader of the California State Assembly from 1984 to 1988, I would not have believed it.

I would not have believed that it would possible that Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Nolan would release the kind of statement that they have recently that says that they were wrong, that the approach that they championed, to build more prisons, to give tougher sentences, to put people in jail longer, the “three strikes and you're out”, which I am sure Mr. Nolan was around for, that hideous attempt at justice reform. All of those things have only served to make communities poorer and more unsafe.

Here they are, turning their back and calling for the kinds of smart on crime measures the New Democrats have championed for years, generations in fact. It is really hard to believe that I could stand here and be on the same page as Newt Gingrich. My colleagues say that he has come to our page, and that is great. He has seen the light.

It just goes to show that even the strangest people can be rehabilitated in their views of society, and that I am open to that possibility. I look forward to the possibility of somebody actually struggling with the numbers, the research and the experience of this kind of legislation, and then examining it carefully.

Mr. Gingrich deserves some kudos for taking the risk. This is a huge political risk for a Republican in the United States, to write this kind of statement and to re-examine something that he championed so vociferously. I think that is a very—

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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CPC

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.


NDP

Irene Mathyssen

New Democratic Party

Ms. Irene Mathyssen (London—Fanshawe, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, on Persons Day last year, I asked the Minister for Status of Women why the government was undermining women's equality in Canada. She did not answer my question and ignored the fact that the government does not believe in women's equality.

The Prime Minister recently gave a speech touting his accomplishments over the past five years. Even though, in his own words, “it is a long list”, none of his so-called accomplishments even mentioned doing anything for women. Of course, it is because the Prime Minister has done nothing for women in Canada. In fact, the Prime Minister has turned back the clock on women's equality.

From the moment the Conservatives were elected, women's equality was threatened. The Prime Minister's agenda was to dismantle the newly negotiated child care agreement with the provinces, and the program was immediately nullified. The court challenges program was cancelled, and then came the restructuring of Status of Women Canada. The independent policy research fund was shut down. Regional offices of Status of Women were closed and women's groups which conducted advocacy and research activities were denied funding. Next came the Conservative attack on pay equity. The government tried to hide new legislation in a budget bill of all things. That particular legislation will destroy pay equity in the federal service.

The term “gender equality” has been struck out of the policy language of the government and replaced with ambivalent and less assertive language. Then of course came the news that CIDA would no longer fund abortions internationally and organizations that conducted gender equality projects abroad were denied funding.

It does not stop there. This fall, women found out that the mandatory census was nixed, and questions regarding women's unpaid labour were eliminated. Now, although promised and highlighted in the Speech from the Throne, funding to the sisters in spirit program has been cancelled despite the successes of the groundbreaking work done by the Native Women's Association of Canada.

Since 2006, Canada has slipped on the World Economic Forum's ranking in global gender equality from 14 in the world to an all-time low of 31 in 2008. When it comes to income gap between men and women, Canada falls to 33rd place, and women are the losers. The Conservative government also has allowed the number of government appointments of women to tribunals, boards, agencies, and crown corporations to slip from about 37% to below 32%.

The list of failures goes on and on. Canada should be a global leader when it comes to women's equality, but instead it is a global embarrassment. The government has purposefully and systematically dismantled programs and policies to undermine women's equality in Canada.

The wage gap between men and women is staggering. Women in Canada still face higher rates of violence because of their gender. Aboriginal women are 3.5 times more likely to be victims in violence than non-aboriginal women. We know now, from the sisters in spirit project, that more than 600 aboriginal women have gone missing or have been murdered. Senior women in Canada face alarming rates of poverty, and immigrant, aboriginal, and racialized women are especially vulnerable.

The government needs to take action now, or generation after generation of women will continue to face the same rates of poverty, violence, and systemic discrimination as our sisters do at this moment.

Besides handing out inadequate piecemeal funding to women's organizations across Canada, what has the government actually done to help improve the lives of women? Does it have any kind of long-term plan to advance women's--

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Sub-subtopic:   Status of Women
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CPC

Andrew Scheer

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary for the Status of Women.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Sub-subtopic:   Status of Women
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CPC

Sylvie Boucher

Conservative

Mrs. Sylvie Boucher (Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, promoting equality for women and encouraging the full participation of women in the economic, social and democratic life of our country remain priorities on which our government continues to work. That is why we have taken real steps to address issues that directly affect women. The measures we have taken include creating the universal child care benefit; increasing the pension income credit and modifying the guaranteed income supplement, thereby increasing the income of senior women; modernizing federal labour standards; improving business opportunities for women; taking action with regard to pay equity; launching special initiatives for women entrepreneurs; and increasing crime prevention measures, judicial measures and security measures to protect women and children from sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

Our government also supports projects that promote the full participation of women in the economic, social and democratic life of Canada through the women's program at Status of Women Canada. The government has nearly doubled the budget for this program, from $10.8 million in 2006-07 to $19 million in 2010.

What does that mean for Canadian women? Here are a few examples. It means that women in Labrador are participating in a series of seminars on entrepreneurship, preparing business plans, marketing and business management. We know that in Canada, an increasing number of women are now among the best entrepreneurs.

It means that a number of women in Victoria who live in transitional housing are developing financial literacy and acquiring enough self-confidence to become independent.

It means that, through a mentorship program, more than 100 Toronto women who are victims of domestic violence are learning about the legal system, legal aid services, and how to work effectively with lawyers and get the help they need to live a very satisfying life in safety.

It means that 30 women with an intellectual disability living in Peterborough are learning to protect themselves, become leaders and actively participate in the life of their community.

Through a new program to promote diversity on boards of directors, it means that more and more women will be members of boards in our country.

These are but a few examples of the changes we are helping to bring about in Canada's communities. In fact, under this government, the women's program is now working on the advancement of all Canadian girls and women. Our government is promoting gender equality through positive action to deal with long-standing problems such as racial and sexual violence, participation in power and decision-making, as well as access to employment and education opportunities.

We are proud to rise in the House today to celebrate all these measures.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Sub-subtopic:   Status of Women
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NDP

Irene Mathyssen

New Democratic Party

Ms. Irene Mathyssen

Mr. Speaker, lots of words and lots of talk but absolutely nothing in terms of real and concrete measures to improve the lives of women in Canada, nor does the government have any sort of long-term plan to advance women's equality.

Today we learned that aboriginal women make up one-third of all federally incarcerated women in the federal prison system. That is a 90% increase since 2001. We know that women in prison are twice as likely as their male counterparts to suffer from mental illness and as many as 80% have been victims of sexual abuse.

Women in Canada are in crisis. Canada needs to recommit itself to women's equality. We have the tools, we have the reports and we have the know-how. What we need is political will. Unfortunately, I can only conclude that the government does not care.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Sub-subtopic:   Status of Women
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CPC

Sylvie Boucher

Conservative

Mrs. Sylvie Boucher

Mr. Speaker, our government has worked closely with aboriginal women. Here are just some of the projects that help aboriginal women across the country.

In the UNiTE to End Violence Against Women campaign, the Government of Canada gave $1 million to address violence against women. And the anti-violence campaign run by the Fédération des femmes acadiennes de la Nouvelle-Écosse was given $180,000 for mentoring.

We are working together with communities—

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Sub-subtopic:   Status of Women
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CPC

Andrew Scheer

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt, but you are out of time. The hon. member for Québec.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Sub-subtopic:   Status of Women
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BQ

Christiane Gagnon

Bloc Québécois

Ms. Christiane Gagnon (Québec, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, the court case related to the contaminated water in Shannon, a class action suit against the Attorney General of Canada, is under way. The case is meant to bring justice to several citizens from Shannon who drank TCE-contaminated water as a result of National Defence negligence.

I rise here today to denounce this government's contempt regarding its obligations and responsibilities when it comes to the groundwater contamination in Shannon. On November 24, 2010, I successfully forced a vote in the House of Commons and all opposition parties voted in favour of a motion ordering the government to produce analysis reports from the Valcartier military base's water supply system dating back to 1970, documents that the lawyers representing the class action suit filed by the people of Shannon have been trying to obtain for some time. That motion also received the unanimous support of the Quebec National Assembly. As we know, the Conservative government is an expert at refusing to honour the motions adopted by the National Assembly.

The next day, on November 25, the Minister of National Defence said that he would comply with the House's order to table those documents. He replied yes, and we thought those documents would be tabled in the weeks leading up to the break for the holiday season.

On December 15, since I had my doubts about the minister's willingness to table the documents in the House, I asked him again. The minister was changing his story and used the excuse that the matter was before the courts. As usual, he replied, just as the Liberals did when they were in power, that the documents would be released in due course. They have misled the people of Shannon.

I do not need to point out that we have yet to see these documents. I also sent a written request to the government for these same analysis reports that I mentioned earlier. But once again, the government, led by the minister, has acted in bad faith and almost completely ignored my demands.

Instead of compensating the victims of contaminated water in Shannon, being proactive and helping them track down as many potentially contaminated people as possible, what did the minister do? Nothing. The U.S. Navy did the opposite. When something similar happened at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, the American government helped track down the victims. In this case, what did the government do? Nothing. What contempt for the people of Shannon.

My questions today are clear: when will the Minister of National Defence make public the documents that the House ordered him to produce on November 24, 2010? The class action lawyers are waiting for these documents. In addition, will the government take responsibility for these citizens and try to contact as many people as possible to conduct analyses and obtain a full sample of those who developed a cancer that, in many cases, led to their death?

I have also introduced a private member's bill that is along the same lines. Will the government stop being stubborn and stop forcing the people of Shannon into a class action lawsuit to obtain compensation?

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Sub-subtopic:   Contaminated Water in Shannon
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CPC

Sylvie Boucher

Conservative

Mrs. Sylvie Boucher (Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank you and I would especially like to highlight the kindness of my colleague from Québec; we do respect each other.

I would like to begin by pointing out the priority given by the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces to their environmental programs. The department is fully committed to carrying out its operations in a manner that protects human health and the environment.

Out of concern for proper environmental management, the department is correcting the environmental problems that arose in the past and is continuing to look for means of ensuring environmental health in coming years. That is why the federal government has spent almost $60 million to improve and maintain the drinking water system on the Valcartier base. That is also the reason why the government continues to help the municipality of Shannon to improve its water network and conduct water quality studies in Shannon.

The Government of Canada, in particular, the Department of National Defence, Environment Canada and Health Canada, has been working closely with all interested parties from the outset and it continues to work with all stakeholders, namely, the municipality of Shannon, the City of Quebec, the Province of Quebec, and the residents of Shannon and Quebec City. In fact, an advisory committee was established in 2001 to ensure effective communication among the numerous parties involved, in particular, the residents and federal, provincial and municipal representatives. This committee meets every six months and is a useful forum for members of the community where they can work together to solve problems faced by the region.

The Canadian Forces test the wells on the Valcartier base on a daily basis to ensure that the water meets federal and provincial quality standards. An independent laboratory conducts TCE testing once a month. The results of these tests are sent to the City of Quebec, the municipality of Shannon and other stakeholders on a regular basis. In addition to these efforts, the department is also working diligently to resolve the problem of TCE in the groundwater in the Valcartier region.

We took precautionary measures to prevent any further degradation of the sites on the Valcartier base and we are making considerable progress on the decontamination of those sites. In fact, for quite some time now, the Department of National Defence has had programs in place to identify the contaminated sites. It is taking all necessary steps to mitigate any associated risks.

Identifying and cleaning up all contaminated sites on the Valcartier base illustrate the Canadian Forces' continued commitment to protecting the health and safety of Canadians. We are determined to find solutions to this problem and we plan to implement them in the best interest of all stakeholders, but above all, for the residents of Shannon. We are very concerned about what is happening on the Valcartier base and we have taken significant measures to ensure that nothing like this never happens again. Since the matter is currently before the courts, it would not be appropriate to comment further at this time. However, I would like to reiterate that the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces do have environmental programs. National Defence is fully committed to operating in a way that serves to protect human health and the environment.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Sub-subtopic:   Contaminated Water in Shannon
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BQ

Christiane Gagnon

Bloc Québécois

Ms. Christiane Gagnon

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind my Conservative Party colleague, who sits in the House of Commons and represents the people of Beauport—Limoilou, that the $60 million she is talking about, which gave people access to clean water, did not just magically appear.

A number of questions were raised in the House and the members exerted pressure. Remember, the government was obliged to pay money out because it acted in bad faith on this issue. We recall the Radio-Canada report that condemned the attitude of the Department of National Defence and its irresponsibility on this issue. As if by chance, the minister finally decided to pay out a certain amount of money. And another thing I know about this issue and this money is that several million dollars has not yet been paid out to the municipality of Shannon.

My colleague may say that her government and the minister responsible for national defence are acting in good faith, but the citizens' committees were part of—

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Sub-subtopic:   Contaminated Water in Shannon
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CPC

Sylvie Boucher

Conservative

Mrs. Sylvie Boucher

Mr. Speaker, I am always pleased to respond to my Bloc Québécois colleague from the Quebec City area. It always makes me smile when she thinks that Bloc dollars are going to resolve these matters in Shannon.

Our government sat at the negotiating table and worked in partnership with the provincial governments. We held talks and we allocated money. We are able to do that because we are the government.

This is not about dithering and talking about people's health just for the sake of talking. We are here to take real action, and that is what we are doing every day for the people in the Quebec City area and Shannon.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Sub-subtopic:   Contaminated Water in Shannon
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LIB

Raymonde Folco

Liberal

Ms. Raymonde Folco (Laval—Les Îles, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, on October 5, 2010, I raised a question in the House, asking the Minister of Industry about the Conservative government's decision to abolish the long form census.

According to a former minister, the decision was motivated by the thousands of complaints that were coming in each day about the 2006 census. However, when Industry Canada tried to find those thousands of complaints, it turned out that only 25 or 30 complaints had been received about the short form census and long form census that year.

According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal of July, “With no consultation, the Harper government has undermined--

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Sub-subtopic:   Census
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CPC

Andrew Scheer

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker

I would remind the hon. member that we cannot use proper names even if we are quoting. I heard the Prime Minister's name. Even if we are quoting from an article or something like that, we must remember to use titles or ridings.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Sub-subtopic:   Census
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LIB

Raymonde Folco

Liberal

Ms. Raymonde Folco

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

With no consultation, the [Conservative] government has undermined evidence-based decision-making in Canada. For a government that made accountability a key priority, this policy choice is perplexing.

In 2006, this country had more than 32 million inhabitants, but it took just one complaint from Richmond Hill and an additional 25 or 30 complaints from elsewhere in Canada for this government to destroy a crucial element of public policy development in Canada. As a result, a radical policy change was made.

What is not clear is, other than Richmond Hill, did all the other complaints come from one town, one province or across the country? Were they all from Conservative-held ridings in Ontario? I am not aware of any person in my riding of Laval—Les Îles complaining and yet the government took such a drastic decision.

The Conservative government has now said that it will spend some $30 million more than what is now being spent for a lower quality, voluntary national household survey. The data will be based on a response rate of a bout 50%. This is a far cry from the previous rate of 94% on the long form.

Witnesses who have appeared before the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities have all sent the same message. I am talking about academics, community based researchers, social policy agencies and private companies. Their message was to leave the long form census alone and that abolishing it would hinder the accurate collection of demographic data on which Canada's public policy is based.

How does the government intend to set departmental plans and priorities with data from a voluntary household survey that will be sent to only 30% of households? Response rates could be 1%, 2% or even less since replies would be voluntary. Will this be sufficient information on which to base future policy?

The Minister of Industry must explain to Canadians how his government intends to evaluate such data over time. People who work in this field have indicated that this new method will not be an acceptable research tool.

A motion passed unanimously by the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly October 29, 2010 also called for the long form's reinstatement. Aboriginal groups and people on fixed incomes have told us that without the mandatory aspect of this process, the form will rarely be filled out.

Surely in a pluralistic and democratic society it is important to listen to the voice of those who have spoken out against the government's decision to scrap the long form.

Will the government now do the right thing and scrap the voluntary household survey and reinstate the long form census?

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Sub-subtopic:   Census
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January 31, 2011