January 30, 2017


The House resumed from November 17, 2016, consideration of the motion that Bill C-309, An Act to establish Gender Equality Week, be read the second time and referred to a committee.


LIB

Randy Boissonnault

Liberal

Mr. Randy Boissonnault (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be back in the House today and to speak in favour of the important legislation of Bill C-309, which would establish a gender equality week in Canada. This would provide a week to reflect on the importance of gender equality and the ongoing need to advance the cause of equality in Canada.

I am proud that our government will support the passage of Bill C-309, with amendments that will be brought at committee. I would like to thank my friend the hon. member for Mississauga—Lakeshore for bringing this important legislation forward.

This is an opportunity to remind ourselves of the work that still needs to be done to ensure greater gender equality.

We know that too many women are still facing systemic inequalities in the workplace. We need more women in politics, and we know that we need more women in the judiciary and more women in STEM professions.

We need to seriously address issues of sexual harassment in the workplace, and we have seen shocking examples recently of the harassment that women in public office face. It includes women in this chamber and women who have risen to become premiers of several provinces across this country, including mine. This is unacceptable, and we know that awareness and education are the most important tools in beginning to correct these issues. A gender equality week is a tool for spreading that awareness and bringing change in our country.

It is important to remember, as well, the importance of gender equality for our transgender community. As special adviser to the Prime Minister on LGBTQ2 issues, I can state unequivocally there is much work that needs to be done in this area.

Our government has been clear that equality of transgender Canadians is a priority for us because it is a priority for Canadians. Just this last week, I had the opportunity to hold round table conversations in five cities in our country; it is critical for our government to make sure that both houses pass Bill C-16, which would extend rights to transgendered persons. However, there is so much more to do, and I look forward to working with members of this House and continuing to listen to the trans and non-binary community about further steps that need to be taken. However, we do know that there is a serious need for greater awareness and education surrounding the challenges this community faces. Bill C-309 gives us that opportunity.

There are those who argue that the bill is not necessary. There are some who dismiss Bill C-309 as merely a symbolic gesture on which we should not spend any time. After all, they argue, symbols do not matter. I disagree. Symbols do matter. Symbols send powerful messages, particularly when we are discussing equality and human rights. They rally people to press forward, and they give hope and inspiration to those fighting for a better world.

We should take a look at the symbol of Angela Merkel, female Chancellor of Germany. How many girls have been inspired to rise to the top of their professions, due not only to her amazing work but to the symbol that she provides to the world?

We must not dismiss the importance and impact of symbols. It would be a mistake to pit symbol against substance rather than recognize that they are intertwined. Symbols give rise to substantive change, and substantive change leads to more symbols.

Symbols are influential; they are forces of change. Symbols provide the hope and resolve that mobilize crowds and drive people forward. Symbols unite us in pursuit of a better world.

When we set out to establish a gender equality week, when we speak up for inclusion and respect, when we march for LGBTQ2 pride, when we honour the differences, identities, and genders of every individual, we are actively and symbolically recommitting to supporting rights and equality for all.

When we discuss our gender-balanced cabinet, we know it is both a symbol of equality and a sign of substantial action. Symbols lead to substantive change; substantive change leads to more symbols; and we know that every young girl in this country will be able to point to the symbol of gender balance in our executive council and know that, some day, should they want to work hard for it, they could also have a place at that table. That will also ensure substantive action on the changes we need and the different perspectives we need to take in all elements of Canadian society.

Equality is not something that just happens. Repression and discrimination do not just end overnight. It takes the work of activists and trailblazers. It takes time and self-reflection and tough questions. It often takes the support and leadership of government.

It takes the initiative of members of Parliament to be bold, as my colleague has done. Canadians elected the members of our Liberal caucus to show that leadership, and this is one of the many ways that we are bringing real change to Canada and to all Canadians.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Gender Equality Week Act
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NDP

Rachel Blaney

New Democratic Party

Ms. Rachel Blaney (North Island—Powell River, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, usually this would be a time when I would welcome everyone back and wish them a happy new year in my first speech of this session. Instead, I stand in the House devastated by the violent events that occurred yesterday.

Members of our Muslim community were killed and many were wounded in their sacred space of worship in Quebec. These violent deaths have rocked me to my core, and they hit hard the foundation of my Canadian identity.

When I worked at an immigrant-serving agency, I assisted many families from across the world to join our Canadian family. In my new role, I continue to do this work in a new way. These people continuously reinvigorate my Canadian pride. Working with them as they prepare for Canadian citizenship, and watching them as they receive it, makes me so proud of this country. This is what I know.

In Canada, we have generations of Muslim Canadians who have helped build this country. I am deeply saddened today. I want to thank my constituents for the many emails I have already received. I thank them for their support and immediate call to action. We will stand together to say no to this violence. We will stand together because, as Dr. Christina Hubert said:

We must not sit idly by as injustices abound around us. We have a voice, and we must use it.... We must advocate for those who no longer have a voice. We must love greatly.

Many constituents have shared with me that we are living in scary times since the inauguration of President Trump. Now when we look at our televisions and social media, we see tens of thousands of people standing up against hate.

On January 21, I was proud to stand alongside many inspiring women and men. I want to thank the Comox Valley women's solidarity gathering for making the women's march on Washington such a resounding success.

This truly historic march drew an estimated worldwide participation of 4.8 million. After the march, officials behind the organization reported that 673 marches took place worldwide. In the United States, the protests were the largest political demonstrations since the anti-Vietnam War protests in the 1960s and 1970s.

Here I am today speaking on Bill C-309, an act to establish a gender equality week; a bill in which the title says it all. The bill aims to establish the first week of October every year as gender equality week.

It is important to raise awareness of the significant and substantive contributions that Canadian women have made and continue to make to grow, develop, and add to the strong identity of Canada. The NDP has been at the forefront and will continue to champion real gender equality. I fully support the bill at second reading and want it to be studied at committee.

As a legislator who takes her responsibility very seriously, I have to offer a cautious assessment of the bill and of this government's attitude in dealing with gender equality. Once again, we have in front of us a bill filled with billowing symbolism. By no means am I condoning investments in matters symbolic; by no means am I reducing the possibilities this gender equality week could have on our movement; and I know that 673 marches took place across the world, which demonstrates a powerful fact: actions speak louder than words.

When words are not followed up by action, emblems become tokenism, and then sincerity is put into question. I do not doubt the genuineness of the member for Mississauga—Lakeshore in bringing the bill forward. For a responsible lawmaker, context matters.

After more than a year in power, the government has failed to translate feminist rhetoric into real change. The best way to honour women is by matching words with actions, none of which are included in the bill. How many statistics and figures must we repeat in the House for just a little movement on this very important issue?

Rather than sharing figures, I will share advice for future bills that would bring the significant, substantive changes required to improve the daily lives of Canadian women. Hopefully, my colleague from Mississauga—Lakeshore can share them with the government.

How can women from coast to coast celebrate gender equality for a week when we know all too well that in a week they will earn only 74¢ for every dollar earned by men? This is both a chronic and a growing issue. The House sent the issue of pay equity to a special committee, which returned with facts that have been repeated many times in the House and in many other committees. Women are still being paid less money than men for the same work.

Then the government had the nerve to say this was something it would address in 2018. That is not good enough. How long do women have to wait? They have waited for 40 years and should not have to wait any longer.

Does the member for Mississauga—Lakeshore believe in a more gender-balanced Parliament? I am afraid he does not. He voted down the bill that would have done just that. The sad part is that he was not alone. Many Liberal MPs did the same thing, including the then minister for the status of women.

Increasing representation of women in Parliament would be in the type of bill we are looking for. These are the actions worth celebrating. These are the bills that would take words and transform them into real action.

How can we pay tribute when more than 500 women and children are turned away from shelters on a typical day? How can we pretend we have achieved gender equality when on any given day more than 4,000 women and more than 2,000 children will reside in a domestic violence shelter? The absence of a national action plan to end violence against women is making responses largely fragmented, often inaccessible, and inconsistent across Canada. New Democrats are pushing for more federal funding to support domestic violence shelter operations. I ask again. Where is the action?

High-quality and affordable early childhood education helps women seek employment or improve their job skills and pursue careers, and it eases families' financial stress. Delays in the creation of a national child care strategy will perpetuate socio-economic inequalities for people in Canada. The NDP believes that the federal government should start tackling its fundamental responsibility to reduce inequality between men and women. In the 2016 budget, the government missed multiple opportunities to respond equitably to the needs of women and girls and to fully support the realization of their economic and social potential.

This bill has a very lofty preamble. To be fair, it addresses a broad range of issues, including the fact that indigenous women are disproportionately affected by gender-based violence and sexual exploitation. If the bill were passed, the preamble would evaporate into thin air and what would remain is reality, a reality in which all aboriginal women employed full time earn 26% less than non-aboriginal men. Even more devastating is the reality that aboriginal women with a university degree earn 33% less. Yes, that is correct: the gap actually increases the more educated they are. There is so much more, such as shelters, safe drinking water, and education.

This bill aims to raise awareness, and I encourage it. That is why I will support it at second reading. It is time to get to work and address some long-standing issues that would make a major difference in women's rights.

I am so proud of the work and leadership of our critic for the status of women, the member of Parliament for Nanaimo—Ladysmith.

We will be proposing amendments at committee stage, arranging that the bill not enter into force before the government implements proactive pay equity legislation and gender-based analysis legislation.

We should take real action to achieve gender equality. The NDP believes that, when women are no longer disproportionately affected by violence, inequality, and poverty, then we could legitimately have a celebratory week.

As the West Coast Leaf Association mentioned about the bill:

...legislation and other actions like Bill C-309...not only do very little to address inequality in the everyday lives of women in Canada, but they also create a risk of misleading the public into thinking that the federal government is taking substantive action when they have little potential to create meaningful change.

The women of Canada are looking for action. I hope we see it soon.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Gender Equality Week Act
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LIB

Gagan Sikand

Liberal

Mr. Gagan Sikand (Mississauga—Streetsville, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House today to speak to the bill brought forward by my colleague and fellow member from Mississauga—Lakeshore.

Bill C-309, an act to establish gender equality week, addresses a very important issue. As the text of Bill C-309 states in its preamble, poverty and inequality disproportionately affect Canadian women, particularly the elderly, disabled, transgender, and visible minorities.

In Canada, women are more likely than men to be victims of gender-based violence, including sexual assault and intimate partner violence. Canadian women currently face barriers in pursuing and completing post-secondary education and pursuing careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. There is currently a wage gap between men and women in Canada.

When I read all of these facts, I find it hard to believe that I am describing life in Canada in 2017. Even though our government has taken positive steps toward reducing gender inequality since being elected, the fact of the matter is gender inequality still exists in Canada and more awareness needs to be raised. It is for this reason that I urge all members of the House to support this bill.

The bill would not only raise awareness of the issue of gender inequality, it would also create a platform to educate Canadians on the non-binary nature of gender. The bill would also encourage Canadians to recognize gender equality as a fundamental human rights issue linked to other policy areas such as health care, crime, poverty, discrimination, and inequality.

Throughout my life, I have worked with many intelligent, strong, and passionate women who have excelled and become leaders in their fields. This has not changed since I have become a member of Parliament. Every day, whether it is working with my staff or with my hon. colleagues here in the House, I am reminded of the exceptional abilities of all women across the country. Women are an important part of the work we do here in the House of Commons. Every day we debate and discuss a wide range of policies covering a variety of different issues and topics, and due to this fact, we have to ensure that we are looking at these policies and topics from the widest lens possible. In order for this to be ensured, the House must be as diverse as possible. It is for this reason that women's viewpoints are so essential to the work we do here in the House.

If I reflect back, I can confidently say the most influential people in my life have been women, whether she was my grade 7 teacher, my mom and her sister, or all of my cousins who are as close to me as if they were my sisters. It just does not seem right to me that these individuals could or would be treated any differently from anyone else. A gender equality week would be a tribute to these women and women like them all across Canada. While this may not eliminate gender inequality, it is definitely a step in the right direction.

It was in 1918 that Canadian women became eligible to vote in federal elections, and 1929 when Canadian women were considered persons under the Canadian Constitution. It is hard to believe that in 2017 we are still discussing gender inequality issues.

I speak at local elementary schools quite often and discuss gender inequality. I hope that by the time the students I speak to are old enough to occupy these seats they will no longer have to discuss the same issue.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Gender Equality Week Act
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LIB

Anita Vandenbeld

Liberal

Ms. Anita Vandenbeld (Ottawa West—Nepean, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak in favour of Bill C-309, but first I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Mississauga—Lakeshore for the substantive work he has put into preparing the bill. It is always a pleasure to see such passionate effort directed toward the ongoing challenge of achieving real gender equality in Canada.

Since 1992, October has been recognized as Women's History Month. I believe this bill which would declare the first week of every October gender equality week could serve a vital and complementary function to Women's History Month.

Women’s History Month has long been used as a platform to recognize the contributions and efforts of women across the country and throughout our history to advance gender equality in Canada. It offers an opening for parents to teach young Canadians about the struggles of the Famous Five and many other remarkable Canadian historical figures.

Gender equality week would not only be a time to congratulate the women on whose shoulders we stand and who have accomplished so much, it would also be a call to action, an opportunity to take stock of how far we have come and how far we still need to go.

Gender equality week would be a time to acknowledge our ongoing struggles and the challenges that we still need to overcome, especially for women who are doubly marginalized. We know there is an intersectionality between gender and other identity factors, such as race, indigeneity, disability, sexual orientation, and others who still face double discrimination, higher instances of violence, and tangibly lower standards of living.

Gender equality week would be an opportunity to pause and to think about the work that we need to do today to ensure a better future.

We, here in this House, and all of our allies across the country still have so much work to do. Two-thirds of Canadians say they personally know a woman who has experienced physical or sexual abuse. One-fifth of men aged 18 to 24 do not fully understand the concept of consent. In 2014, a woman was murdered by her intimate partner every six days. As of last year, the rate of female intimate partner homicide remained unchanged. On any given night, more than 3,000 women seek shelter from an unsafe home.

Today there are still over 1,000 missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in Canada. This state of affairs is an unforgivable injustice and not only does it carry a profound social and cultural cost, but it is estimated that dealing with the ongoing struggles of violence against women and its aftermath costs Canada billions each year.

While we have come far, today women still account for less than a quarter of jobs in science, in large part because many qualified, passionate women find themselves driven out of their field.

In my own field and those of the rest of us in this House, when it comes to women's political representation, Canada ranks 61st in the world. We trail behind countries like Sudan, Iraq, and Cuba. Women have never held more than 26% of the seats in this House, and women's representation at all levels of government has not increased significantly in over 20 years.

Across Canada women continue to attain higher levels of education and higher levels of job experience, and yet they continue to earn less than men. Across the country women make 73¢ on the dollar of what men make. This inequality is exacerbated in the cases of women who are visible minorities, women who are indigenous, and women with disabilities. Women are more likely to be compelled into extensive periods of unpaid labour, such as caring for children or senior family members.

Even when a couple is cognizant of the historical and ongoing social factors at play that pressure women to take on these traditional roles, a couple’s economic reality—the reality of the pay gap, of the various barriers women face in the workforce, and of the deficit of affordable alternatives—perpetuates the problem, too often making it the rational choice for the woman to forego her salary and job security to take on child care or other unpaid caregiving, rather than a male spouse.

To be clear, gender equality week would not be a time to wallow in doom and gloom, but rather to motivate both women and men to commit to do better. For my part, I am proud of work that has been done and continues to be done on all of these fronts.

This week the Standing Committee on the Status of Women will begin to draft its report on violence against young women and girls in Canada after hearing months of testimony. I am certain that this report will work in concert with the Minister of Status of Women's cross-Canada consultations to develop solutions to eliminate gender-based violence.

I was proud a few months ago that the Minister of Status of Women announced $90 million in funding for transitional women’s shelters. When I chaired the Special Committee on Pay Equity, all parties worked together to draft a substantive report with broad agreement on all the principle priorities. Pay equity is a human right.

To solve the issues that are so deeply rooted in our culture as misogyny and gender inequality requires more than legislation. It requires dialogue and the ability to share experiences across the country. Gender equality week would be a springboard for that dialogue. It would provide a logical opportunity for schools to introduce teachable moments, for governments to bring forward public awareness campaigns, and for our ongoing issues to enter public awareness and the popular dialogue. Gender equality week would be a stepping-off point for inclusive dialogue and a contemplative thematic preamble to Women's History Month's historical focus.

I am proud to be a member of this House alongside so many other strong women and men who call themselves feminists. I am proud that the Prime Minister is leading the way on gender equality, that we have a gender equal cabinet, and that we recently formed an all-party women’s caucus to move these issues forward. I am especially proud of my colleague from Mississauga—Lakeshore for bringing this important bill to be debated today.

I look forward to joining with all of my honourable colleagues and with Canadians next October to celebrate gender equality week.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Gender Equality Week Act
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LIB

Anthony Rota

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mr. Anthony Rota)

Resuming debate. Seeing no one rising on debate, I invite the hon. member for Mississauga—Lakeshore to provide his five-minute right of reply.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Gender Equality Week Act
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LIB

Sven Spengemann

Liberal

Mr. Sven Spengemann (Mississauga—Lakeshore, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, welcome back to you and all of my colleagues. It is indeed an honour to speak on the first parliamentary day of 2017, the year of our 150th anniversary.

To start off, I would like to thank my colleagues in the House for their interest in Bill C-309, an act to establish gender equality week, for their important contributions to the debate at second reading, and for their support. I would also like to thank the members of my incredible team for their tireless efforts, and the stakeholders, community organizations, and Canadians from all walks of life who shared their views with us. In particular, I want to thank Rachelle Bergen and the Strength in Stories team for their ideas that helped bring us to where we are today.

This effort is about building a more inclusive society. We think about gender equality week as an opportunity to rally all Canadians around a very important issue and to generate additional momentum for social change. It is not an occasion to celebrate accomplishments, but as reflected in the paragraphs in the preamble, gender equality week seeks to raise awareness of the most profound remaining challenges and offers a platform to work collaboratively on concrete solutions.

To be absolutely clear, I am very proud of what we as Canadians are already doing to achieve gender equality and equity. In November 2015, our Prime Minister formed Canada's first cabinet with female and male parity. Our government has launched an inquiry into Canada's missing and murdered aboriginal and indigenous women, and the Minister of Status of Women is developing a federal strategy against gender-based violence.

The Government of Canada introduced Bill C-16, which protects Canadians of minority gender identity and expression by adding gender identity and expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

In early December 2016, the Governor of the Bank of Canada, the Minister of Finance, and the Minister of Status of Women announced that Nova Scotia businesswoman and civil rights activist Viola Desmond will be the very first Canadian woman to be featured on a Canadian banknote. However, important as these and other actions are, there is more work ahead of us than there is behind us, and to close the remaining gaps, the government will need the advocacy, support, and commitment of Canadians.

Bill C-309 recognizes that need and issues a call to action to all Canadians to become involved: men, women, Canadians of minority gender identity and expression, children, students, educators, civil servants at all levels of government, young and established professionals, new Canadians, indigenous peoples, Canadians in law enforcement and our armed forces, and seniors. Involvement in gender equality week could take a wide range of forms, including town hall discussions, university and college colloquia, music, plays, literature, film projects, workplace round tables, the formulation and presentation of academic research, public rallies, fundraisers, and social media, radio, and television events and campaigns.

Our consultations with various groups, organizations, and different levels of government helped us develop a substantive preamble that gives Canadians a fuller perspective of the challenges that lie ahead. The challenges posed by gender-based violence and the gender wage gap were identified as particularly critical hurdles that we, as Canadians, must address and overcome. Through active engagement, Canadians can achieve real progress on these fronts.

I look forward to working on Bill C-309 with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle of the House in the days, weeks, and months ahead. I encourage my fellow members to support the bill, as the time to act is now. It is only through concerted, sustained action that real and lasting social change can become a reality.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Gender Equality Week Act
Permalink
LIB

Anthony Rota

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mr. Anthony Rota)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Gender Equality Week Act
Permalink
LIB

Anthony Rota

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Chair (Mr. Anthony Rota)

The House will suspend until noon.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:38 a.m.)

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Gender Equality Week Act
Sub-subtopic:   Suspension of Sitting
Permalink

(The House resumed at 12 p.m.)


LIB

Kevin Lamoureux

Liberal

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

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

There have been some consultations among the parties, and I believe you would find agreement for the following motion:

Motion

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, Statements by Ministers, pursuant to Standing Order 33, shall be taken up at 1:15 p.m., later this day, and that a representative of the Bloc Québécois and the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands also be permitted to comment briefly thereon.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Gender Equality Week Act
Sub-subtopic:   Sitting Resumed
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LIB

Anthony Rota

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mr. Anthony Rota)

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Gender Equality Week Act
Sub-subtopic:   Sitting Resumed
Permalink
LIB

Anthony Rota

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mr. Anthony Rota)

(Motion agreed to)

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Gender Equality Week Act
Sub-subtopic:   Sitting Resumed
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LIB

Navdeep Bains

Liberal

Hon. Navdeep Bains (Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Lib.)

moved that Bill C-36, an act to amend the Statistics Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted and pleased today to rise to discuss Bill C-36, an act to amend the Statistics Act.

As members well know, statistics play a critical role in democratic societies. Information is essential to understanding ourselves, our past, and our future. Businesses, civil society, researchers, the public, and the government itself rely on the integrity and accuracy of data.

High-quality data is needed for planning services, improving social conditions, and helping businesses expand. That is why statistical information produced by the government has to be of good quality and satisfactory to its users.

Impartial data is essential for making informed decisions about the services upon which all Canadians rely. I am talking about issues around housing, education, public transportation, and skills training, among other things, because these services touch every Canadian from coast to coast to coast.

Our government believes that decisions regarding official statistics should be made exclusively on professional considerations. Indeed, there is widespread agreement internationally that statistical agencies must operate with a high level of professional independence, in day-to-day operations, from direction and oversight by the government.

What do we mean by independence?

We mean that national statistical agencies must be guided exclusively by professional considerations on decisions related to their operations and data-gathering methods. The same goes for every other aspect of statistics production. These agencies must also be free of interference from the government or interest groups.

That is how Canadians can be confident that the statistical information produced on their behalf is impartial and of the highest possible quality.

Internationally, approaches to independence vary. For example, the Netherlands, Ireland, and New Zealand have explicit provisions on independence in their legislation. The United Kingdom Statistics Authority is a non-ministerial department that reports directly to Parliament. Meanwhile, Statistics Netherlands is an autonomous body.

Regardless of how countries around the world define independence, they all follow a common set of principles.

Canada endorses two documents that outline these international principles. These documents are the United Nations' “Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics” and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's “Recommendation of the OECD Council on Good Statistical Practice”. These are the two principles we follow.

I am proud to say that the proposed amendments to the Statistics Act are aligned with these documents.

These amendments will ensure that data produced by Statistics Canada continue to be accurate, reliable, and of the highest quality. They will also help ensure that Canadians remain confident in the impartiality of the information gathered on their behalf.

The first point I would like to mention is the need for formal independence. Currently, Statistics Canada is treated, by convention, as an arm's-length agency, with little direct involvement by the minister overseeing it. That is the current practice. However, the agency's independence is not formally legislated, so it is more by convention and not by legislation.

The previous government's decision to replace the 2011 mandatory long-form census with the voluntary survey exposed a vulnerability in the Statistics Act. This is an issue we heard about often, at times, when we were at the doors during the campaign. The legislation allowed the government of the day to make a key decision on a statistical matter, and the decision was made with very little openness and transparency.

Replacing the long form census with a voluntary survey compromised the quality and accuracy of data about Canadians. Several small communities did not have access to information that was important for local decision-making. The decision to eliminate the long form census was condemned by Canadians who use statistics.

The proposed amendments in Bill C-36 would enshrine in law the long-standing convention of independence in statistical matters conferred on Statistics Canada. Again, we would take the convention and put it into law. These amendments would safeguard the quality and impartiality of the information produced by Statistics Canada.

Let me outline the proposed amendments contained in this bill, because details matter.

Under the current act, the minister responsible for Statistics Canada has overarching authority for decisions about the agency's operations and methods for gathering, compiling, and producing statistical information. In practice, this authority is delegated to the chief statistician. The bill would amend the act to formally make the chief statistician responsible for all operations and decisions related to statistical products. That includes the long-form census.

As part of the amendments in the bill, the minister would retain the authority to issue directives on statistical programs. Again, the minister would still be responsible for what statistics and information were needed. For example, in the context of our government, as members know, we are investing a great deal of time, effort, and energy in clean technology. If we needed information about clean technology and about companies and growth in the market, we would say that is what we need. How that information was obtained would be the responsibility of the chief statistician.

The bill would ensure greater transparency around these directives as well. It would empower the chief statistician to publicly request written direction before acting on the minister's directions for a statistical program. In addition, should the minister deem it to be in the national interest to make a decision that directly affects matters related to operations, or even data-gathering methods, it would have to be authorized by the Governor in Council and also tabled in Parliament. That is the key component of the open and transparent aspect of this particular legislation.

The bill also proposes to create a new Canadian statistics advisory council, which would replace the existing National Statistics Council. The new advisory council would focus on the overall quality of the national statistical system. That includes the relevance, accuracy, accessibility, and timeliness of the statistical information produced. The goal of this new council would be to increase transparency and ensure that Canada's statistical system continues to meet the needs of Canadians. The council would provide advice to the minister as well as to the chief statistician. To continue to improve transparency, the council would publish an annual report, accessible to all Canadians, on the state of the national statistical system.

In anticipation of the bill's passage, I would like to thank the members of the National Statistics Council for their service. They should be proud of the important contributions they have made over the past 30 years to the work of Statistics Canada, so I thank them once again.

The bill would also change the appointment of the chief statistician, and this is another important detail. This appointment would be for a renewable term of no more than five years.

The appointment would be made through an open, transparent, merit-based selection process in accordance with our government's new approach to Governor in Council appointments. This is the process we would follow with respect to the selection of a new chief statistician.

The chief statistician will serve during good behaviour and may be removed by the Governor in Council for cause. It is based on merit and performance. This change will strengthen the independence of the chief statistician in his or her decision making.

It is also important to highlight that the minister would remain accountable to Parliament for Canada's publicly funded statistical agency. As the minister presently responsible for this agency, I will be personally responsible, and so will my office, for the accountability of this agency.

The amendments to the Statistics Act have been drafted to ensure the responsibilities of the minister and the chief statistician are more clearly defined than they are currently.

The bill also has provisions concerning Canadians who refuse to complete the census and other mandatory surveys. The general consensus is that a prison sentence is a disproportionate penalty for the offence. The bill would amend the act to eliminate prison sentences for Canadians who refuse to answer mandatory surveys.

Canadians who do not comply will continue to face the possibility of fines of up to $500. The updated act will also the transfer of census records after 92 years to the Library and Archives of Canada. That will apply to all censuses of populations conducted from 2021 onward. For censuses taken in 2006, 2011, and 2016, and the 2011 national household survey, the records will be released, where the consent has been given, to the Library and Archives Canada after 92 years.

We will respect the previous censuses and the information provided by the individuals who fill them out, and also ensure we protect their privacy. This change in the act will make a rich source of information available to historians, genealogists, and other researchers. It is so important that we understand our past if we are to understand and appreciate the possibilities going forward.

Amendments would also update the language of the act in order to reflect technological changes to data collection methods, which include the use of electronic surveys rather than paper surveys.

The amendments in Bill C-36 will better align Statistics Canada with the guidance of the UN and the OECD. They will ensure that Canadians can continue to rely on the integrity and accuracy of the data produced by their national statistical agency.

I also want to highlight the outreach presently taking place with respect to this bill as well, because it has a key component. The amendments in the bill were developed based on consultations with many Canadians, as well as with international experts and bodies. They include the OECD, as well as the former heads of statistical offices in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia.

The government also conducted a review of statistical legislation in six countries. They include, again, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, United States, Netherlands, and Ireland. These consultations allowed us to consider various approaches to international norms. We also worked closely with stakeholders across the country as well.

Statistics Canada consulted extensively with the National Statistics Council and the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Consultative Council on Statistical Policy. The agency also engaged with 16 other federal departments that are major users of its information. We really wanted to get a sense of the information, and the concerns and the viewpoints from the users. They all support the proposals contained in the bill.

I also want to take this opportunity to highlight some of the actions already taken by our government. Reinforcing the integrity and independence of Statistics Canada is a key priority of this government. It is something on which we campaigned, something we put in our platform, and something we are delivering on.

My first official act as Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and I vividly recall this day, was to restore the mandatory long-form census. Canadians have responded overwhelmingly to the return of the long-form census. I am proud to report that the 2016 population census was the most successful in our country's history. After I made the announcement, I had the opportunity to go out into my constituency, knock on doors, meet with Canadians, and talk to them about what our government was doing. They all mentioned this issue to me because they were paying attention to the news and really cared about this issue. That was reflected in the overall response rate as well, with more than 98% of people responding, which was higher than 2011 and 2006. Frankly, it was the highest response rate in the history of the census.

I also have to say that the response rate of almost 98% was the highest ever reported. These impressive results show Canadians' commitment to the census program. They prove that Canadians believe that it is important for decision-making to be based on accurate and reliable data.

Our government has also taken steps to reinstate the University and College Academic Staff System survey. I met with individuals from academia in the lobby who were so proud of this decision. This survey provides up-to-date information about the composition of faculty members at Canadian universities and colleges. Data compiled through the survey will be used to recruit faculty who reflect Canada's diversity.

This survey supports the government's innovation agenda, which was implemented in order to establish favourable conditions for economic growth, create well-paid jobs, and grow the middle class. Encouraging diversity and inclusion in Canada's knowledge institutions is key, because an economy based on innovation needs good ideas from people of all backgrounds.

The amendments contained in Bill C-36 also support our government's commitment to promoting innovation. By making decisions that are informed by reliable and accurate data, Canadians can turn information into useful insights or solutions that benefit everyone. This is a key part of our government's innovation and economic agenda as well.

In conclusion, we live in a world where knowledge drives innovation, and innovation depends on the free flow of reliable, accurate, and up-to-date information. I am proud that this bill reflects that direction and our government's desire to follow through on a campaign commitment to end political interference with respect to our statistical agency.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Statistics Act
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CPC

Diane Finley

Conservative

Hon. Diane Finley (Haldimand—Norfolk, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, one of the great things about Canada is our diversity, and we celebrate that in many ways. However, this bill causes me some concern. It would replace the existing advisory council, which currently has representation from each of our 13 provinces and territories.

Members have travelled the country as I have and know that the issues of primary concern in Nova Scotia may be quite different from those of primary concern in Yukon. The council with which the minister is proposing to replace the original council does not have 13 members; it only has 10. In other words, three of our territories or provinces would be excluded on the assumption that the others would be evenly dispersed.

First, why is the minister replacing the old council? Second, if he is so big on diversity, then why is he excluding three of our 10 provinces or territories on the structure of the new council?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Statistics Act
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LIB

Navdeep Bains

Liberal

Hon. Navdeep Bains

Mr. Speaker, I am glad my colleague was paying attention to the various details I outlined. That is one proposed change in the bill. That change does reflect the fact that we want the new Canadian statistical advisory council to have a strong mandate to not only provide advice to the chief statistician but to the minister as well. That is important.

The composition of the advisory council would be done through the process that this government has promoted, a Governor in Council process, which will be merit-based and will look at diversity and geography. It would also ensure that we would have individuals with the skill set to provide good reliable advice to the minister and to the chief statistician. I am confident that the composition of the committee and the individuals on the committee will provide the diverse aspects, the diverse ideas that are needed for the agency to move forward in a robust and productive way. I can assure the member opposite that the concern she has raised will be addressed in this process.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Statistics Act
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NDP

Brian Masse

New Democratic Party

Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, my question is on privacy and the census. The census first started to have difficulty when the Paul Martin administration decided to outsource census data collection to Lockheed Martin, which is essentially an aerospace manufacturer that was also involved in census operations in other countries. This public outsourcing created issues under the Privacy Act. As a result of that, we had a number of census issues relating to the public's confidence in the privacy of personal information. The census then went through a series of controversial measures, resulting in it being made a short-form census, which has now been returned to the long-form version. The outsourcing of information to the private sector that included exposure to the United States was an essential part of the problem.

What guarantees can the minister give us that he and his administration will not outsource more public jobs related to data collection for the Canadian census in order to instill public confidence?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Statistics Act
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LIB

Navdeep Bains

Liberal

Hon. Navdeep Bains

Mr. Speaker, with regard to the issue of privacy, this is a concern to our government and to me. I can assure the member that privacy, reliability, and accuracy of data are the reasons why we are proposing the bill.

The day-to-day operations of how the data is collected, how the integrity of the data is maintained, and how operational matters are determined will be subject to the chief statistician and Statistics Canada. They have the professional independence and the ability to proceed without any political interference. At the same time, I am also the minister responsible to the House and accountable to the House. I can assure the member opposite that both of these aspects are addressed in the bill.

The chief statistician will have the understanding and the know-how at an operational level to deal with issues around privacy and how data is collected to ensure it is accurate and reliable. The chief statistician and individuals in Statistics Canada are professionals. They know what to do and how to do it. We trust them in these matters. That is why they are responsible for the how and, as the minister, I am responsible for the what and ultimately accountable to Parliament.

I can assure the member that if any of these issues do come up, he has the ability to ask me about them in the House or he can call me any time. I am accountable for that.

The bill would enshrine that convention into law and would ensure that the operational know-how and the issues that my colleague raised around privacy and data collection would now be done by professionals, individuals who have the skills and the ability to do so in a proper manner.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Statistics Act
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LIB

David Lametti

Liberal

Mr. David Lametti (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by congratulating the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development on his speech and on the important bill he introduced. I also want to say how excited I am about working with him as his parliamentary secretary.

Why do we need good data? What in the context of good governance, what in the context of the current economic situation, necessitates this bill, necessitates the collection of accurate and reliable data?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Statistics Act
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LIB

Navdeep Bains

Liberal

Hon. Navdeep Bains

Mr. Speaker, I too look forward to working with the new parliamentary secretary of innovation, science, and economic development. He did a tremendous job as the parliamentary secretary for international trade. Her loss is my gain, and I look forward to working with him on these important matters.

With respect to the question he asked, why good quality data is important, it has such an important impact on the lives of Canadians. Good quality, reliable data will allow, for example, municipalities and our communities to plan better, particularly in my riding. For example, in Mississauga—Malton, and the surrounding regions, there has been an enormous change in demographics and population. To plan for schools and housing, those types of changes require good quality data so we can provide better services and outcomes to Canadians.

That is why our government is so committed to advancing the strengthening of the professional independence of Statistics Canada. That is why our government reintroduced the mandatory long-form census to make sure we have good quality, reliable data. It is part of our government's overall economic agenda as well. Good quality, reliable data is essential for innovation, economic development, and developing our communities. That is why this data is so essential for today and for generations to come.

The changes we are proposing are designed to end any type of political interference, because it is important that Canadians, frankly, have trust in their institutions. Statistics Canada is such an important institution, with a storied history when it comes to collecting data, producing that data in a very reliable manner, and that data has an enormous impact on the day-to-day lives of Canadians.

I would like to thank the member for the question and assure him that our government is committed to good quality, reliable data.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Statistics Act
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January 30, 2017