Kevin Waugh (Saskatoon—Grasswood)
2018-02-05 11:31 [p.16749]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou for bringing forward this private member’s bill, Bill C-262. I would also like to acknowledge the important contribution to the discussion on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Before addressing the private member’s bill, I would like to echo the observation made by my colleague from Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo. It is worth repeating today: “Section 35 of our Constitution and Canada’s existing laws has in the past, and will in the future, ensure that indigenous rights are protected in Canada.” That is a profound statement.
Today, I want to add my voice to the debate on this important piece of legislation.
Bill C-262 is important to Canada as a whole, and it is vital that we get this right. My hesitation on this stems from the fact that it is a private member’s bill and as such will not be subject to the same scrutiny and debate that a government-sponsored bill would be subject to.
I would like to read from the UN website a question and answer that will prove my point. Here is the question: “What is the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?” Here is the answer:
The Declaration is a comprehensive statement addressing the rights of indigenous peoples. It was drafted and formally debated for over twenty years prior to being adopted on 29 June 2006 during the inaugural session of the Human Rights Council. The document emphasizes the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions and to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations.
It is obvious that the member states recognized that this was an important declaration to be made and debated for over 20 years. Here we are, in a country that is directly affected, and we cannot afford the time to question the minister herself on the legislation, not to mention the experts. As a member of the indigenous and northern affairs committee, I want the opportunity to ask questions and to get straightforward and complete answers to my questions.
Let me give the members an example. In her address to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs stated:
Today, we are addressing Canada’s position on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I’m here to announce, on behalf of Canada, that we are now a full supporter of the Declaration without qualification….
By adopting and implementing the Declaration…we are breathing life into Section 35 and recognizing it now as a full box of rights for Indigenous peoples in Canada.
I represent the riding of Saskatoon—Grasswood in Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan is home to a vast population of indigenous peoples, both on and off reserve. I want to know from the minister what this full box of rights would look like. I want to know if the indigenous community viewed the box at the same level of fullness as the minister did.
Here is another question. If it took over 20 years for the 193 United Nations member states to debate and finally adopt this declaration, is it not incumbent upon all of us 338 Canadian legislators to fully understand any and all possible outcomes of adopting the legislation that we are being asked to vote on?
Yet another question comes to mind. In her address to the Assembly of First Nations on July 12, 2016, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada called the adoption of UNDRIP into Canadian law “unworkable”.
She went on to say:
…a cut-and-paste approach to making UNDRIP compatible with domestic laws [is] an overly simplistic and untenable method of protecting indigenous rights in Canada.
However, the following year, on July 25, 2017, in my province of Saskatchewan, in the capital city of Regina, the minister addressed the same group and said:
as many of you know, over the years I have attended the AFN AGA [Annual General Assembly] in various capacities: with my father as his daughter, as a treaty commissioner, as an elected councillor of my Indian Act band, as the Regional Chief of British Columbia, and in the last couple of years as the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.
There is no doubt that the minister is very experienced, very well educated, and a very informed member of cabinet.
She went on to say:
Of course, if proper relations had occurred at the time of Canada’s founding, the first 150 years of Canada’s history would have been markedly different. So, the challenge now, knowing the past and learning from it, is to make sure that today, for the next 150 years and beyond, we give life to a new and transformed era of Indigenous-Crown relations.
Further on she states:
This is why in February our Prime Minister formed a working group of federal ministers to review laws, policies and operational practices to ensure that the Government of Canada is fulfilling its constitutional obligations and implementing its international human rights commitments, including the United Nations Declaration.
I was very pleased to have been asked to chair this working group. Never before has a federal government created a body of ministers with this unique flexibility and scope of action on a whole-of-government basis.
There we have the question. On July 12, 2016, the adoption of UNDRIP into Canadian law was simply “unworkable” for the minister. Then, a year later, on July 25, 2017, she was very pleased to be asked to chair the working group reviewing the laws, policies, and operational practices to ensure that we are fulfilling our UNDRIP commitments.
What monumental change took place in that year to make this workable? I would like a chance to ask her that. In fact, I am sure all of us in this place would like to ask her that.
When the minister appeared at the indigenous and northern affairs committee meeting on November 30, 2017, in her response to a question from my colleague, the member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, she said:
I think we have been very clear that free, prior, and informed consent is not a veto. It means you have to work very hard at the earliest part of a project to try to work together to find an outcome that is mutually acceptable. That is the way indigenous groups are seeing themselves in the project.
How do we know that? It may be that the current national chief does not see this as veto power, as she suggests. What about the next national chief? Is it our responsibility to have issues such as that debated and clarified before this becomes law?
Finally, in the midst of all these unanswered questions about UNDRIP, we have the dismantling of the very department responsible for indigenous affairs in this country and the so-called creation now of two departments, one to be responsible for indigenous services and another for relations with the aboriginal communities in Canada. I find it very disturbing that the government would go ahead and create this turmoil while supporting this legislation that could have far-reaching ramifications for the future of this country.
I have serious reservations about the many unanswered questions and the prospect that they will continue to be unanswered until it is too late and all Canadians, indigenous or not, are left with what the Liberals think is best for us, with absolutely no regard for input on this issue.
Kevin Waugh (Saskatoon—Grasswood)
2018-02-05 17:58 [p.16807]
Mr. Speaker, Bill C-50 is another effort by the Liberal government to simply pull the wool over the eyes of Canadians. Bill C-50 brings nothing to the table at all on political financing that was not already laid out.
The Liberals like to use the word “transparency”. In fact, it is included in almost everything they produce, including the famous mandate letters. Let us look at the meaning of the word “transparency” in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, which states it is “the quality of being transparent”, such as “(a) the quality that makes it possible to see through something”, for example, “the transparency of a piece of glass”; and “(b) the quality that makes something obvious or easy to understand”, for example, “the transparency of their motives. He says that there needs to be more transparency in the way the government operates.”
Whoever “he” is, I agree. However, let us go to the next definition, which states, “a piece of thin, clear plastic with pictures or words printed on it that can be viewed on a large screen by shining light through it”.
Therefore, while the rest of Canada has been interpreting the word “transparent” as clear and easy to understand, the Liberals have been putting their own words on a “transparency”, which one will need to shine a light on just to see them. Therefore, let us get the light out and shine it on them.
Let me first, in my own effort to be transparent, say at the outset that I have relied heavily on the remarks of my colleague, the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, that were made in this place on June 8 of last year on Bill C-50. It is hard to improve on his remarks. However, I think they are worth repeating here tonight.
For instance, he noted that on November 7, 2016, B.C. multimillionaire Miaofei Pan hosted a fundraiser right at his West Vancouver mansion, and he made the case to the Prime Minister, at this event that he had to pay to get into and that he had to host, to allow Chinese investment in seniors care and real estate developments and ease the rules for rich immigrants from China. What better way to get preferential access than to have it right in one’s own house? This took place as the federal government had been reviewing a $1 billion bid by China’s Anbang Insurance Group to buy one of B.C.’s largest retirement home nursing care chains.
An article published in The Globe and Mail on December 2, 2016, states:
The Liberal Party has repeatedly told The Globe and Mail “individuals wishing to discuss government business at party events are immediately redirected to instead make an appointment with the appropriate office.”
The host of this fundraiser, Mr. Pan, told The Globe and Mail in an interview that the Prime Minister was “approachable and friendly” when he raised the issues, including Chinese companies’ keen interest to invest in Canadian health care for seniors.
This is a long, convoluted story, which is readily available on the Internet. However, the end result, as reported again in The Globe and Mail of February 21, 2017, is that the Liberal government has green-lighted the sale of one of B.C.’s biggest retirement home chains to a Beijing-based insurance titan with a murky ownership structure in a deal that gives China certainly a big foothold in Canada’s health care sector. It states:
On paper, a majority stake in Vancouver-based Retirement Concepts—believed to exceed $1-billion in value—is being sold to a Chinese-owned company called Cedar Tree Investment Canada. That is the deal that federal officials in Ottawa announced they had approved…. However, Cedar Tree is the company that China’s Anbang Insurance is using to make the acquisition.
Therefore, shining a light on it becomes that much clearer.
Business people are not going to pay $1,500-plus in return for a glass of wine and a piece of cheese, only to be redirected to make an appointment with the appropriate office. They could do that without forking over $1,500-plus and achieve the same result.
However, the goal of Bill C-50 is to legitimize pay-to-play or cash for access events. The Liberals have a majority of government in the House and the bill will pass, but will it pass the smell test with Canadian taxpayers? The Liberals can say that it was the express will of Parliament that this practice be continued, but let me assure members that it is not the express will of this Conservative member of Parliament here. It is only the will of the Liberal Party, because Liberals are the only ones who have the Prime Minister and cabinet in power. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, stay tuned for the Liberal outcry when this changes and they can no longer benefit from this smoke-and-mirrors bill.
There have been over 100 of these cash for access events in the country in the last year. There soirees are not limited to traditional fundraising either. For example, Chinese billionaires have been attending Liberal fundraisers, even though they are not allowed to donate because they are not Canadian citizens. One of these individuals, by the name of Zhang Bin, is a member of the Communist Party. He attended a fundraiser on May 19, 2016 at the Toronto home of the Chinese Business Chamber of Commerce chairperson, Benson Wong. Again, this is according to the The Globe and Mail.
A few weeks later, as we have noted in this discussion throughout the day in the House, Mr. Zhang and a business partner donated $200,000 to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, with $50,000 to build a statue of the current Prime Minister’s father. It was a pretty good meeting that he had. I am sure that these donations were made out of the goodness of their hearts, with thanks for the glass of wine and the piece of cheese.
There is another example of pay to play, which was pointed out by my colleague from Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston. The finance minister was scheduled to attend a fundraiser in Calgary on November 2, at a cost of $1,500 to get in the door. It was at the home of Shaw Communications president, Jay Mehr. The telecom firm has directly lobbied the finance department eight times. Is there a conflict here? It appears that making an appointment with the appropriate office was not working. Would hosting a Liberal fundraiser prove to be more profitable for the telecom firm? As they say in the movies, Mr. Speaker, stay tuned.
Let me echo this sentiment. The system that is designed to give the incumbent party an ongoing, perpetual systemic advantage is inherently morally wrong, leaving aside the fact that it is giving preferential access to cabinet ministers when the average Canadian does not get the chance. It is absolutely contemptible.
In closing, I would like to say that Canadians deserve better than a Prime Minister who believes that there is one set of rules for him and another set of rules for everyone else. We all deserve to live with the confidence that we do not have to shine a light on every word uttered by the government of the day to get the true meaning of its remarks. We all deserve better than the current government.
Kevin Waugh (Saskatoon—Grasswood)
2018-02-05 18:08 [p.16808]
Mr. Speaker, I talked about that in my speech, the access because of the $1,500. People are not only giving $1,500, but hosting a Liberal event right in their home. Writing a cheque for $1,500 and mailing it in is very different from hosting an event right in their house. We have seen these allegations about the Liberal Party in the last 18 months, whether in Calgary, Toronto, or British Columbia. This does not pass the smell test. Canadians know better than this, and they are upset with this legislation, no question.