Wednesday, November 2, 2005 — 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
In recognition of Osteoporosis Month
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the House to recognize November as Osteoporosis Month. During this month, Canadians are being encouraged to get moving to help them build and maintain strong bones as well as improve strength and balance. With our population aging, it is important that Yukoners, along with people everywhere, take steps to build and maintain healthy bones.
The experts tell us that one of the best ways to do this is through exercise. It’s great for our waistlines; it’s good for our general health, and it’s also good for our bones. A recent report from the International Osteoporosis Foundation says that improving the strength of muscles makes bones stronger.
We are incredibly lucky that we live here in the Yukon. We have only just opened the new Canada Games Centre, which offers many indoor exercise opportunities. Our backyard takes us into the great outdoors for hiking, skiing, cycling — a multitude of outdoor activities. We have great opportunities around us to make sure we are using our muscles and our bones. We don’t need to be great athletes to take care of muscle and bone health. Things like walking, climbing stairs and doing household chores will help maintain our bone strength. With a little encouragement, doing a little extra like participating in an exercise program or sporting activity, they can become even stronger.
Osteoporosis is not something that people think about until they are told that they suffer from it. We need to keep reminding ourselves and others that physical activities are an important factor in preventing osteoporosis, reducing falls and broken bones and helping people with osteoporosis to remain active.
When we are children and teenagers, we build the bones that last us through our lifetime. After our mid-30s the cells that build bones are not as efficient and we begin to gradually lose bone mass. At menopause a woman’s estrogen level falls dramatically and she usually loses bone more quickly. That’s why women are especially at risk of osteoporosis. Significant bone loss can lead to osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become thin and brittle, the result of which can become fractures.
As the Minister of Health and Services, I encourage all Yukoners to take some steps, literally, to help prevent osteoporosis.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introductions of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Cardiff: I’d like the House to join me in welcoming a constituent of mine, Mr. Greg Hare, who is also a dedicated member of the Golden Horn School Council and the father of one of our pages.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I would ask all members of the House to join with me in welcoming my daughter, Kimberly, to the House.
Speaker: Are there any other introductions of visitors?
Are there returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I have for tabling a letter dated October 31, 2005, to U.S. Secretaries Chertoff and Rice from our Premier, as well as the Governor of the State of Alaska, as well as the premiers of Alberta and British Columbia, on the western hemisphere travel initiative.
Mr. Hardy: I have for tabling the seven-point ethics package that has been presented by Mr. Broadbent, MP for Ottawa Centre, to the federal government.
Mr. McRobb: I have a document for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any further documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 62: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I move that Bill No. 62, entitled Act to Amend the Jury Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 62, entitled Act to Amend the Jury Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 62 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Premier to immediately honour the full financial commitment to the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition voted by this House, so that the coalition can continue the essential work of assessing the economic, social and environmental impacts on Yukon First Nations of the proposed Alaska Highway gas pipeline; and
THAT this House further urges the Premier to commit to conduct meaningful consultation with the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition and seek their clear permission before speaking on their behalf.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
That then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition
Mr. Hardy: Yesterday the Premier made some interesting remarks on the radio regarding his reasons for not involving the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition in his talks with Governor Murkowski and the Premiers Campbell and Klein. The Premier said, “What we’ve done here is a meeting and a discussion among jurisdictions at the highest level.” Mr. Speaker, I’ve heard from some people who were quite offended by those remarks. They felt these comments were demeaning to First Nation governments, suggesting that they were not as important as the public government. Just to clear the record, Mr. Speaker, does the Premier consider First Nation governments at a lower order, or did he just misspeak?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, firstly, for the leader of the official opposition to draw this conclusion from a statement made by me that is within the context of two provinces, the State of Alaska and the Yukon Territory meeting at our respective levels — on the Canadian side, premiers, and on the American side, the state side, the governor — is, frankly, totally inconsistent with the realities. It would be very difficult to answer the member’s question.
However, let me point out how we do consider the order of government here in the territory that represents First Nation citizens. We have clearly demonstrated time and time again our commitment to the Umbrella Final Agreement, the final agreements, the self-government agreements, our obligations thereunder, and we’ve gone further by creating the Yukon Forum, establishing a real, meaningful participation between us and Yukon First Nation governments. The results speak for themselves: the Yukon chapter in the northern strategy, a joint position on the northern economic development fund, correctional reform, educational reform, the Children’s Act review, the nine-year implementation working group that we’ve struck through the Yukon Forum. I think the evidence clearly shows the member opposite is not recognizing what the facts are.
Mr. Hardy: The Premier can say whatever he likes. The fact remains that some people took the Premier’s comments as an insult to First Nation governments. This demonstrates that we are not the only ones who perceive a sense of who’s on top coming from the Premier with respect to his relations with First Nation governments.
One First Nation leader put it very bluntly last week when he referred to the Premier’s approach as “his way or the highway”. That approach certainly isn’t consistent with the spirit of the new Yukon forum act that the Premier is asking us to pass in this House, and that he has already referenced.
In the interest of turning the Premier’s rhetoric about respectful relationships and full partnerships into reality, will the Premier agree to consider more helpful ways to express that relationship than what he has done so far?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I would respond by saying that the member opposite should seek more helpful ways to express the relationship between the Yukon government and First Nation governments here in our territory. It’s the member opposite who misses the point.
There is no such thing as “my way or the highway”. There are final agreements; there are self-government agreements; there are relationships that are structured under other agreements that we have reached, like the consultation protocol with First Nations, like intergovernmental protocols, like capital planning agreements with respect to, for example, the Vuntut Gwitchin in Old Crow, and the list goes on and on. In fact, Mr. Speaker, I have here a binder of all the agreements and the status of contributions we are making as partners to First Nations here in the territory, fully respecting their jurisdictions as they do ours. It’s not “my way or the highway” at all, Mr. Speaker. It’s our way of working with First Nations in partnership to build Yukon’s future. That’s the point the member misses.
Mr. Hardy: I encourage the Premier to pay close attention. We are offering him some helpful advice to help him get through the waning months of his time in office. I know that many people out there are hoping that the election will be called early.
In the same radio interview, the Premier mentioned that a meeting is in the works with some of the chiefs who belong to the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition — with some of the chiefs. Will the Premier explain why he is singling out some of the chiefs for consultation and not all the coalition members? Perhaps he will also explain how that reflects the spirit of the MOUs he has signed and with the Yukon Forum agreement that may soon become law?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: As a government, we’re not singling out any First Nation. We have offered a venue and a timeline to meet with the representatives of the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition. It’s up to the members of the coalition to respond whether they want to attend the meeting or not. That’s essentially the matter at hand.
Mr. Speaker, let’s look at the contrast here. The official opposition is singular in its approach. If they intend to represent an alternative to this hardworking Yukon Party government, they had better start recognizing there’s a broader public out there and, as a public government, we must represent the public interest in its total.
We will continue to work with the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition; we will invest the money earmarked for the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, as we have in the past; and we will continue to work on behalf of the public interest with respect to the Alaska Highway pipeline.
Question re: Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition
Mr. McRobb: It’s scary to realize where this Premier is taking this territory with his approach to form alliances with other governments without first getting his pipeline house in order. Letters tabled during the past week have established that this Yukon Party government has misrepresented the positions of the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition members.
Yukon First Nation chiefs have spoken out against this Premier’s disrespectful approach and have warned him several times now that continuing his unilateral approach would risk losing the whole project, but he doesn’t listen.
Why does the Premier continue to leave behind Yukon First Nations while he rolls the dice with Murkowski, Campbell and Klein?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, the analogy by the member opposite of rolling the dice with respect to what is potentially the biggest project on the globe is hardly a constructive representation of what is happening here in the Yukon Territory.
We will continue to work with First Nations on this project, as we have with the railway feasibility study whereby First Nations are partners with us through the advisory committee directing the work that the project management group is doing with respect to this study. We intend to adopt the very same approach to the Alaska Highway pipeline project, to get pipeline ready here in the Yukon.
But the member has missed the significance of what has transpired recently in Vancouver. Because the project is international in nature, which I think the Member for Kluane doesn’t grasp or understand, there’s a need to ensure that the jurisdictions whose respective land base this pipeline may traverse are coming together with a common purpose, and our common purpose here is regulatory certainty. Our common purpose is also including an expeditious development of the project. Our common purpose is to ensure that our respective conditions and issues are relevant throughout our process and that we maximize benefits for our respective citizens.
Mr. McRobb: This Premier thinks he has all the right answers. He thinks he can speak for Yukon First Nations; instead, he has withheld their funding so they can’t research whether or not they even support the Northern Pipeline Act option he has been pushing and signing with the others. In a recent interview the acting chair of the APC revealed that’s what’s really happening.
Recent events have confirmed this Premier has a lot in common with Alaska Governor Murkowski, because they have the same style: my way or the highway. The Premier is trumpeting his strategic plan signed with the governor and the two premiers, but again he’s leaving behind his First Nation partners. Why did the Premier choose to compromise the interests of the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition and act against its stated position?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think the member opposite should do a little more homework on what the stated position of the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition is. The member would find immediately that it includes clear, thorough assessment of the NPA and the existing certificates and, frankly, the only proposal or project that is in hand today. There is no other proposal or project anywhere with respect to the Alaska Highway pipeline by any other corporate entity or any other government.
Furthermore, the member talks about “style”. Mr. Speaker, I want to apologize on behalf of the Member for Kluane and this House to the Americans who are investing hundreds of millions of dollars into highway infrastructure that is contributing to a better future for Yukoners by improving that infrastructure. Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, the partnerships that we have achieved through a collaborative approach and not attacking people in other jurisdictions are providing results here in the territory. All we have to look to are our economic statistics: a growing population, a reduced unemployment rate and more and more private sector investment flowing into the territory. That partnership, that collaborative approach, restores investor confidence, something the NDP will never be able to do.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, he shouldn’t be apologizing for me; he should be apologizing for selling out the interests of Yukoners just because the Americans have the Shakwak project. That’s disgraceful. If relations are so rosy for —
Speaker: Order please. The term “selling out Yukoners” is clearly out of order, and I ask that the member not use that term.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you.
If relations are so rosy, perhaps the Premier can tell us why the chiefs walked out on him during their October 3 meeting? In a letter dated October 4, the APC expressed concerns about the dilution of their interests if they conceded to the Premier’s plan to form a pipeline commission, which would take over pipeline issues. In another unilateral step too far, the Premier has agreed to plug in direction from Alaska, B.C. and Alberta into this commission, which would further dilute Yukon First Nations’ interests. Can the Premier tell this House whether he first had support from the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition to further dilute their interests before he agreed to do just that? Did the APC agree to that?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I was wondering when the member opposite would get to the “selling-out” portion of the NDP’s position. Frankly, Mr. Speaker — and I apologize before you even have to rule: I retract the statement.
Speaker: Hon. Premier, please sit down.
We just need a bit of calm here, folks. One side does it, the other side does it, and that’s just not going to work. So let’s just carry on in a sense of self-respect and respect for each other.
Hon. Premier, you have the floor.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker; I couldn’t agree more.
The fact is that we are enhancing and increasing First Nation involvement in the project that is known as the Alaska Highway pipeline project. That’s a given. That’s why we have invested in the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, and that’s why we will involve First Nations further in this project as we go forward.
Mr. Speaker, it’s imperative that the jurisdictions also involved in this project are working with a common purpose because, as I pointed out earlier, we want to ensure an expeditious development of the project; we want to ensure regulatory certainty; and we want to ensure the maximizing of benefits for our respective jurisdictions.
There is room here for the Yukon, Alaska, B.C. and Alberta to work collectively in areas that are jurisdictional. What we must do with respect to our partnership with Yukon First Nations is work in areas that are internal to the Yukon. That is our purpose; that is our focus; that’s why we’ll continue to invest in the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition.
Question re: School enrolment
Ms. Duncan: All week I’ve been asking the Minister of Education questions about a new school in the Copper Ridge-Granger area of the city. The minister has said, and I quote, he is monitoring the situation. He’s “… considering striking an independent committee — one that has no political interest; one that can look at the capacity of the school situation in the City of Whitehorse.”
While the minister has been busy doing nothing on the situation for the last three years, the new Yukon Party candidate in the Copperbelt by-election has quite a different view on the matter. Her campaign material says that if you vote for this individual, she’ll build a new school.
My question is for the Minister of Education: why is the Yukon Party candidate promising a new school and the minister saying the direct opposite? Who’s speaking for the Yukon Party?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: First, I would like to make it very clear to the member opposite that I respect opinions of any candidate and I am not about to go and dictate to any one of them what they can and cannot promise. I wish them all good luck.
First of all, Mr. Speaker, I would like to mention that we have come full circle here. Three short years ago, people were leaving the Yukon and the Liberal government of the day sent out notices for possible school closures. I remember that very specifically, Mr. Speaker, as the McIntyre-Takhini riding was one of the affected areas.
Once the Yukon Party government was elected, we went to work to restore the Yukon economy. The signs of success are clear once again. Yukon’s population is increasing, new families are moving in and new homes are being built, as the member opposite stated yesterday — over 200 new homes. That shows there is something good happening.
Of course, with this increasing population, we recognize that new schools may need to be built and we are monitoring this situation very carefully.
Ms. Duncan: I’ve been very clear in the Legislature about where the Liberal Party stands. We support building a new school in the Granger-Copper Ridge part of Whitehorse. Elijah Smith Elementary School is full. It has gone from 220 students to over 300 in the last five years — 200 new homes have been built in the area and there are more to come. The government owns the land on Falcon Drive that is set aside for a new school. The government owns the plans for a new school.
The Yukon Party candidate supports the Liberal position as well. Her campaign material says, “Vote for me and I will build you a new school.” I don’t think the minister got that memo, so I am going to send it across if the page wouldn’t mind taking it across to the minister.
My question, again: is the information correct in the Yukon Party’s campaign brochure that says quite clearly they will build a new school, or is the minister correct, who says that he is just going to continue to monitor the situation? It is one or the other — which one is it? Are they going to build a new school or aren’t they? Who is speaking for the Yukon Party?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I am proud to speak of the success of our government in rolling up our sleeves and getting to work to create a revitalized Yukon economy. Again, I would attribute the growth in the Granger area to all the work that this government has done on improving Hamilton Boulevard, for example. Yukoners are once again optimistic for the future. Families are returning to the Yukon, and the demographics are changing in some neighbourhoods.
The Department of Education, as I stated before, is carefully evaluating student enrolment and educational needs, and we are working on this issue. However, unlike the previous government, we will do it properly, and we will engage our stakeholders in a process that is inclusive so that decisions are made that will be in the best interests of everyone.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the minister will not commit to rolling up his sleeves and making sure the dirt is turned for a new school in Copper Ridge, but the Yukon Party candidate will. It sounds to me like the Yukon Party candidate is out freelancing on her own. She’s out trying to get elected by making a bunch of promises that the minister and the members opposite have no intention of keeping. She says, “I’ll build a new school.” The minister will not say that. The minister said this week there are no plans to build a school. Does the minister support building a new school, or is he prepared to admit that the Yukon Party candidate is out making campaign commitments the government has no intention of keeping?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Once again, I want to be very clear about this issue. This government has said from day one, right from day one that, where there is a demonstrated need, this government will do its best to meet that commitment, and I would say today on the floor of this House that if the economy keeps growing and the enrolment keeps going up, this government will build a new school.
Question re: Government relations
Mr. Hardy: I’d like to take the Premier back to the question of how he practices government-to-government relations. I’ll repeat a question I put to the Deputy Premier yesterday, which received an answer that was in most cases very puzzling. It was about why this government surrounds itself with so much secrecy when it comes to events such as his recent meeting with his counterparts from Alaska, B.C. and Alberta. The press release came out late Friday, a day after the Alaskans announced it. On Monday morning, when the media was finally able to get a response, it wasn’t breakfast with the Premier, Mr. Speaker, it was breakfast with a bureaucrat.
How is the public interest served by this cloak-and-dagger approach to conducting public business among what the Premier termed — and this is his quote — “jurisdictions at the highest level”?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: This is hardly a secret. It was picked up by the Associated Press. The whole concept of jurisdictions coming together with respect to the Alaska Highway pipeline has gone international. It’s not a secret. It’s very public — as public a display as you can imagine — so we have not been secretive at all. In fact, we’ve been repeating, over and over for the member opposite, the exact same position. We continue to support the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition and, as a public government, we will continue to work with respect to the Alaska Highway pipeline project representing and protecting the Yukon public’s interests. We’re doing that now, not only internally, but we’re doing it with jurisdictions that are also involved in this project. We have formed a collective here that can only bode well for the eventuality of the Alaska Highway pipeline project going ahead.
Mr. Hardy: I’m glad to hear that the Premier admits that he never informed the people of this territory about these secret meetings. He never felt it was necessary to ensure that the people of this territory knew where he was going and what he was going to talk about. We still don’t know what the agenda was completely.
The Premier and Governor Murkowski used identical language to describe what their meeting in Vancouver did accomplish. Apparently the four government leaders have given their senior energy officials the task of developing a strategic action plan for the proposed Alaska Highway pipeline. But Governor Murkowski seems to have gone a step further. His comments suggested that one purpose of the strategic plan was to head off legal or aboriginal delays.
Does the Premier share that way of looking at things? Is his insistence on having a Murkowski-style pipeline commission part of a Yukon government plan to head off legal or aboriginal delays?
Speaker: Before the Hon. Premier answers, the Chair is not entirely comfortable with the terminology “secret agenda”. I will not make a ruling on it, but it is something that I am not entirely comfortable with and I would just ask the leader of the official opposition to consider that. Thank you.
Hon. Premier, you have the floor.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Obviously, Mr. Speaker, if the official opposition knows about the meeting, it hardly can be a secret.
Mr. Speaker, what part of regulatory certainty and the expeditious development of the project does the member opposite not understand? We are talking about regulatory certainty and that is the reason why we are investing in the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition. That is the reason why we are going to do the work with our partners in Alberta, B.C. and the State of Alaska. That is the reason why we will be very diligent in representing the Yukon public interests with this project — because we want regulatory certainty, because we want to maximize benefits and because we want an expeditious development of the project. So, I would clearly define that, and anybody listening would draw the conclusion that we don’t want any delays.
Mr. Hardy: Governor Murkowski’s track record on this pipeline, not to mention First Nation relations, is certainly not a model the Yukon wants. Just last week, the governor fired his chief energy official, who had expressed serious concerns that the governor was selling out Alaskan interests to the oil companies. Several more of the governor’s senior energy people quit their jobs in protest over this. If this Premier is just simply going to follow the governor’s lead on preparing for a pipeline and Yukoners will not have a full and open opportunity to discuss their concerns, then we could be heading for trouble, Mr. Speaker.
The Yukon does not want a Murkowski or a mini-Murkowski pushing them into something that may not be in their best interest. Will the Premier make a solid commitment right now that all Yukon people will have an opportunity to be consulted about the potential economic, social, cultural and environmental impacts before any commitment is made to allow a pipeline to run through the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: What has the government side been saying all along? That’s why we have invested in the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition; that’s why we’re creating further mechanisms to ensure that interest is met and that involvement is very meaningful by the Yukon public. We are saying those things; we are committed to those things; we are doing those things.
I think it’s clear that the official opposition does not like the Alaskans or the Americans, but that’s their position. We’re not going to dispute it, as a government. We will work closely with our neighbours because it provides benefit for Yukoners and it contributes to our ability to have more options available to build a better future for this territory.
It’s not a question of what the Alaskans will do within their jurisdiction. We respect that jurisdiction as they respect ours. So there’s nothing devious going on here at all, Mr. Speaker. In fact, what’s happening here is innovative, constructive and positive on behalf of not only Yukoners, but Alaskans, Albertans, and British Columbians, and let’s not forget the tremendous benefit that will accrue to the nation itself.
Question re: Computer use guidelines
Mr. Fairclough: Will the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission advise the House what role she or any of her Cabinet colleagues played in developing new guidelines for computer use by government employees?
Hon. Mr. Hart: This is an operational issue, which means that the executive arm of the government was not involved in the development of these guidelines. These guidelines for the employer are providing information to the employees to help them maintain professional, ethical and legal standards for the secure and efficient operation of government computers. These guidelines are an administrative matter between the employee and the employer.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, we all remember what a shambles this government made of its computer use investigation awhile back. It was the Yukon Party government that allowed that fiasco to carry on, destroying reputations, ruining morale in public service and costing taxpayers millions of dollars. I hope we’re not seeing a repeat with these new guidelines.
Now, we all agree that guidelines are necessary. In fact, what’s really needed is a clear and fair policy, not just guidelines, but we are concerned about what processes were or weren’t followed in developing these new rules. So will the minister tell us what consultation took place with the various unions in developing these guidelines?
Hon. Mr. Hart: These guidelines, as I indicated, are a new source of information for employees about using technology and managing information. These guidelines were developed at the administrative level of government as a matter between the employee and the employer. If the member opposite wishes more information about these guidelines, I will gladly agree to providing him with a briefing.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, we have problems with the minister’s answers. The new president of the Employees Union said very clearly that there was no consultation. Now, has this government learned nothing from the fiasco two years ago? The government employees have very serious concerns about the guidelines and some of the privacy implications that they raise. I would like to pursue this at another time. I would like to ask the minister this: will the minister dare to break the Yukon Party mould and actually give direction that a meaningful consultation needs to happen before any further action is taken with respect to these guidelines?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Let me reiterate for the member opposite, as I indicated, that if he wishes more details with regard to these guidelines, I would be only too happy to provide him with a briefing.
The executive arm of government — that is, the elected officials — have not been involved in the development of these guidelines, as it is an operational issue. That is where the information stands. As far as the guidelines of development and whom we talked to, the Public Service Commissioner has made attempts, from what I understand, to contact the appropriate stakeholders.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker: Government private members’ business, motions other than government motions.
GOVERNMENT PRIVATE MEMBERS’ Business
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Motion No. 430
Clerk: Motion No. 430, standing in the name of Mr. Cathers.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Lake Laberge
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada to engage with the Government of the United States of America to ensure that new measures for increasing border security do not interfere with Yukoners and Alaskans continuing our unique cross-border relationship, which includes recreational travel, access to medical and dental facilities and commerce, including the purchase of a wide variety of services and goods ranging from recreational vehicles and sporting goods to clothing and food supplies.
Mr. Cathers: In April of 2005, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced new measures aimed at further strengthening the security of the United States. These new regulations will affect international travel to the U.S., including Canadians. It will also affect American citizens returning home from travel outside the United States.
The measure that has been the cause of most concern among Yukoners and other Canadians and Americans in border states such as Alaska, are the proposed rules pertaining to passports and identification. Particularly for people whose livelihoods are dependent upon our cross-border trade, travel and tourism, stricter rules pertaining to identification could potentially result in a significant negative impact.
The new measures being developed are part of the western hemisphere travel initiative, which is to implement section 7209 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, a piece of U.S. legislation that became law in December of 2004.
This statute stipulates that, by January 1, 2008, U.S. citizens and visitors from other countries entering or re-entering the U.S. must present passports or other documents approved by the Secretary of Homeland Security that establish identity and citizenship.
What causes greatest concern is the percentage of Canadians and Americans who do not have a passport. According to the latest statistics, 31 percent of Canadians possess a passport and only 20 percent of American citizens hold a valid passport. While the proposed rules do suggest that another form of ID other than passports may be accepted, it has not been made clear what this other form would be.
Indications are that the current identification in common use, such as drivers’ licences, will not be acceptable and that the only form of identification considered an acceptable alternative to a passport may be an as-yet-to-be-created, secure identification card containing biometric information. However, this has not been made clear yet and that is, of course, causing some anxiety. Time is short. Travellers arriving in the U.S. by air and by sea will have to comply with the as yet unstated rules by December 31, 2006. On December 31, 2007, the rules will apply to those entering via land border crossings.
Since the rules pertaining to acceptable ID type have not yet been made clear, this gives businesses and the travel industry very little time to communicate new rules to their clientele once those rules are indeed made clear. This also worries people who depend on cross-border trade, as additional costs, red tape, or delays affecting shipments could be very detrimental to them.
There is a strong bond between Canada and the United States, one that goes far beyond mere geography. The relationship and history between our two countries has contained a few disputes and disagreements, but despite that, it has been primarily one of friendship, shared values and mutually beneficial trade. We share the longest undefended border in the world. The trading relationship between Canada and the United States is the greatest one in the world. They are our largest trading partner and we are theirs.
In fact, Mr. Speaker, 42 percent of Canada’s gross domestic product is directly dependent upon trade with the United States — 42 percent. That is why this issue is critical. If our strong trade ties and free-flowing cross-border travel are diminished, our economy will suffer the consequences. We will suffer the consequences. Canadians and Americans regularly cross the border to work, shop and vacation. Cross-border travel is an integral part of the lives of many citizens of both nations and a common activity for even more people in both countries.
In 2004, 34.6 million U.S. residents visited Canada. Each day approximately 300,000 Canadians travelled to the United States, for a total of 36 million person trips in 2004. Looking across the border, we do not see adversaries; we see friends who are very similar to ourselves. That is a unique relationship. Looking around the world, nations that have such a positive relationship are very few and far between.
Many Yukoners travel to Alaska on a regular basis, especially to Haines, Skagway and Juneau. For some, Alaska is almost a weekend home. Locally we reap the economic benefits of our relationship with Alaska in many ways. Yukon businesses that serve our Alaskan friends include large stores such as Canadian Tire, Wal-Mart, Staples, Superstore, grocery stores, restaurants, bars and hotels, businesses that sell or rent recreational vehicles including snowmobiles, ATVs, motorcycles, boats and outboard motors, clothing stores, retailers of sporting goods, dental and medical facilities, opticians, souvenir shops and movie theatres. In fact, a full list of those who benefit from Alaskans spending money in the Yukon would probably include most of the businesses in the retail/accommodation/tourism sectors.
A coalition was formed among industry groups and governments, including the Yukon government, titled the Passport Coalition. The coalition recommends the postponement of all new passport or secure document requirements until January 1, 2008. They recommend that the following secure documents be accepted in lieu of a passport: NEXUS and FAST cards — free and secure trade cards — which are both documents set up between the two governments to assist frequent travellers across the border; Real ID, state drivers’ licences and personal identification cards. Real ID is a new initiative within the United States to bring security to the drivers’ licenses and uniformity across the states. Also, proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, should be accepted for travellers 16 years of age or younger travelling into the U.S. with a parent or designated chaperone who possesses the appropriate secure travel documents. The coalition further recommends reducing the costs for all acceptable documents and considering a fee structure that does not prohibit U.S. citizens from obtaining them. And they recommend that the U.S. government commit funding for a communications campaign of the new requirements.
A letter was written by the Minister of Tourism to the Hon. Anne McLellan, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness for Canada, including noting that, “as proposed, Canadian citizens travelling to the United States and U.S. residents returning home will be required to show passports or as yet undefined secure documents effective December 31, 2007. Should passports be identified by the United States as the only acceptable secure document, the potential burden of this initiative on U.S. travellers to Yukon would be significant. For example, a U.S. family with two children would be required to pay $358 U.S. in fees for passports, whereas a family from Alaska who, on short notice, needed to come to Canada would pay $598 U.S. Likewise, a family of four from the Yukon wanting to go to Skagway or Haines, Alaska, would pay $248 in fees for passports. Many families simply cannot afford this added expense, resulting in less travel between our two countries, reduced economic activity and added strain on families on both sides of the border.
“Further to the economic impact, the timelines set out for implementation of this initiative leave little time to properly communicate the requirements to industry and travellers who will ultimately be affected by these new measures. Poor communication of these changes will only serve to increase the negative impact this initiative will have on Yukon businesses and our economy. There is also serious concern that government would have the capacity to process secure travel documents quickly enough to meet both demand and the proposed deadline.
“In addition to the above concern, I would also like further clarification that Yukon First Nations will be exempt from these new requirements, as they have traditionally not required passports. Should these concerns not be addressed in a timely manner, serious consideration ought to be given to the postponement of the western hemisphere travel initiative until such a time as certainty is brought to the situation.”
Further work on this very important issue has been dealt with by our Premier working in cooperation with the Governor of Alaska, the Premier of Alberta, and the Premier of British Columbia. A document was signed, which was tabled in the House earlier today, I believe, to Secretaries Chertoff and Rice, who are respectively the Secretary of Homeland Security of the United States and Secretary of State for the United States. This letter jointly signed on October 31, I believe, by these four leaders — our Premier, Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski, Alberta Premier Ralph Klein, and British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell — notes in part that “Our economies depend on an open and secure border between Canada and the United States. Your departments are proposing to require passports and other secure documentation for entry into the United States starting as soon as December 31, 2006. It is important to ensure that the secure documentation requirements will not result in high levels of border congestion that would negatively affect our national and regional economies, most specifically in the areas of tourism, trucking, business and education travel, and trade in general. We are particularly concerned about the unintended impacts that these measures may have on remote and border communities where people regularly cross the border to shop, see a doctor, go to school or visit family and friends, and where First Nation citizens have been exempt from passport requirements. For many, the costs for entire families getting a passport or other secure documentation, if similarly priced, would not be affordable and would become a serious impediment to routine cross-border activity. The proposed passport requirement will have an impact on business travel that could go well beyond the tourism and transport sectors to affect the growing trade in computer, management, information, technical and engineering services. The security of documents, such as passports, ultimately rests on the security of foundation documents like birth certificates. More work is needed to make the improvement of these documents a priority in both countries. We should also cooperatively test the proposed secure documents in order to work out technical implementation issues and learn from such pilot-stage testing before implementing this initiative across the length of the Canada-U.S. border. This would also provide both countries more time to help travellers, operators and border officials adjust to and prepare for change.”
Mr. Speaker, I believe that was a strong message that was sent by the four leaders of our jurisdictions, acting cooperatively. I think it would add to this if all members of this House would vote in support of this motion and send the signal again to both the Canadian government for their support in working with the United States government, and to the United States government itself, to take a second look at these requirements and ensure that the impact of them is not adversely negative on the populations of our two countries.
There has been shared concern on both sides of the border about the impact of these new restrictions. We recognize that in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, both nations are going to tighten security and probably need to do so, but it needs to be done in a pragmatic fashion. In my opinion, there has been overreaction on both sides of the border and some of the measures that have been taken, such as the increase in airport security, are not uniformly sensible. Many people have had issues with things such as nail clippers being confiscated at airports and have seen, in some cases, that the implements they are given on the plane to eat their meals with are probably more dangerous a weapon.
I personally had an experience travelling through security at our Whitehorse Airport when I found myself forced to remove my boots and my belt and even unbutton my jeans to prove that I was not carrying a weapon on-board, and it struck me as a little bit ridiculous and a little overzealous, considering that I was also carrying a briefcase on-board that had a strap, and that would have been a more effective weapon, not to mention someone who is trained in martial arts would be able to be far more effective than anything someone could possibly contain behind their belt or in the soles of their shoes.
So I think many Canadians and many Yukoners have experienced similar situations that seem to be tending a little toward paranoia and over-reaction, and I believe we need to take great care that the measures we take to defend our freedoms do not end up destroying them.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, we urge the U.S. government to make the proposed rules for passports and other identification clear to ensure that the cost is not prohibitive, that it does not interfere with and diminish the unique trading relationship between our two countries, particularly the close and very beneficial relationship that border areas such as ourselves and Alaska see, through our mutual travel and exchange. I look forward to hearing comments from other members of this House. I thank you for your attention, and I urge all members to support this motion.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to speak to Motion No. 430. The member who introduced this motion spoke to some of the impacts that have affected us since 9/11 and some of the airport security issues and some of the cross-border issues that we have to contend with when we cross the border from Canada into the United States.
One of the key concerns that I hear about most throughout the territory is about the First Nation people crossing our borders from the Yukon into Alaska. Whether we are exempt from having passports at this time is still a question.
When our people have their gatherings during harvest times, whether it be in the springtime or in July or August, the Gwich’in people have a biannual gathering every two years. The next one is coming up in the summer of 2006. I know the Tlingit people hold a special gathering — I believe it’s every year — and there are many First Nation people who cross the border from Alaska, if the gathering is in the Yukon, or vice versa. There are other First Nation communities that live close by the Customs outlet near Beaver Creek — the White River First Nation — and they have relatives who cross borders on a regular basis.
These concerns are very real. If we are forced to hold passports in order to cross the border, then that is going to mean a great impact for our people, and more especially for the elders and children of our communities. We know the process that one has to go through to get a passport — to fill out the papers, to have the proper photograph done — and many people who live in the small rural communities are not able to come to the bigger centres like Whitehorse, where you have to have the professional photo done. So that is also going to affect some of the ways that this can be addressed.
Also, there’s the cost of receiving a passport — I believe it costs at least $85. There are many low-income families out there, and the seniors in our communities are on a fixed income, so that’s also going to be an issue.
When we talk about travelling across our borders, Mr. Speaker, if you are a guest at one of our gatherings, many of our elders do not recognize the Alaska-Yukon border. They say that border was put there by people other than the first people who lived in those lands. And yet, this issue is coming up again and again.
The member who spoke before me brought forward the letter that was just signed by Premier Fentie, Governor Murkowski, Premier Klein and Premier Campbell: how effective is that going to be? We can’t even solve issues like the Porcupine caribou herd issue, the oil and gas drilling that’s going to take place in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. I wish the Premier of the Yukon would put more effort into those kinds of issues that are going to impact the people directly.
A passport for a person in my community of Old Crow is not going to do any good if they can’t go up on the mountain and hunt or harvest their food.
Many of our people go in the riverboats, travel down the Porcupine River to visit with their relatives in Fort Yukon, or travel to other communities throughout Alaska. That’s the route that’s familiar to the Gwich’in people. I don’t believe a passport will have any impact on a person sitting in a riverboat, travelling across the border.
In this motion, it says we have a unique cross-border relationship, and the Member for Lake Laberge referred to that unique relationship with the Governor of Alaska and how wonderful it is to have neighbours such as them next door. I beg to differ with that, for many reasons. I’ve mentioned those reasons many times on the floor of this House. Our people have had a long history with our neighbours in Alaska. Many of our relatives, many of our ancestors, have travelled from Alaska into the traditional territory of Vuntut Gwitchin. We have a proud heritage, and that’s the very foundation of where our people come from.
One of the comments that the previous speaker referred to was how important it is to make sure that this issue gets resolved. I’m not sure to whom the letter was addressed that he referred to — whether it was to President George Bush or maybe Foreign Affairs.
Our people have written many similar letters, Mr. Speaker, on our unique relationship with Alaska. Our unique relationship with Alaska and the issues that we have to deal with deal directly with our lives. I have asked this Yukon Party government on many occasions to show leadership, to stand up with a strong voice on behalf of the Gwich’in people of the Yukon, and I have yet to see it — helping us deal with the issue of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. I have asked the Premier of the Yukon on many occasions to be a stronger voice for the Gwich’in people, especially now. In one more week, on November 7, there is a vote coming up in the House of Congress that is going to impact us for the rest of our lives. That is the unique relationship that the Yukon has with Alaska, and that is where we need to show more leadership.
Our cross-border relationship with Alaska also touches on other areas such as tourism — wilderness tourism. We have rubber-tire traffic from the south. A lot of that traffic travels through to Alaska, and we benefit from that. One of our highest economic drivers is the tours that travel through the Yukon on to Alaska in the summer months. Sometimes from Whitehorse they travel up to Dawson and use the Top of the World Highway. The people who stop in our cities and our towns along the Alaska Highway spend money. For now, some of the ID that you can use to cross the borders are the driver’s licence or any form of picture ID. Now if everyone is forced to hold a passport — and I believe the deadline is by the end of 2008 — that is definitely going to impact the tours that would like to travel through the Yukon and on to Alaska.
A lot of the people who travel come from the Lower 48; they come from other parts of the world. They come up to the Yukon to see the unique beauty of this land, whether it be in the summer or in the winter, to experience some of our cold weather, to take part in some of the winter sports that happen, to take part in some of the winter festivals that we hold here in Whitehorse, and that’s definitely going to have an impact on the people who would like to travel to our community.
Just yesterday, we had an airplane that landed at our airport here in Whitehorse that’s a partner with our Yukon airline, Air North — they have a connecting flight out of Vancouver — and that’s with Harmony. Those kinds of business initiatives out there will be impacted. If people do not hold a passport and are going to have a problem crossing the borders, then that will impact our small businesses.
We need to be very careful when it comes to bringing this type of legislation or regulation forward.
I understand this is being brought forward from the United States. We all know what kind of impact 9/11 had on our countries. The speaker before me shared his experience of going through an airport security system. Today, that is the reality of life. If you think that is harsh for the Yukon, wait until you get to one of the Vancouver crossings.
I travelled down to Washington in September. There was a group of people from my community. One of our delegates was an elder who travelled to Washington with us. It was very challenging for that person. It’s challenging enough to go through customs at the Toronto border crossing, but witnessing what the elder had to go through — and not only him; there are a lot of seniors out there who like to travel. Many of them have time — they are retired and they want to travel. Some of the hassles that they have to go through are not fair.
How can we work together to make it less problematic for them? There are Yukon travellers who like to go on weekend visits to Skagway or Haines. Does that mean we have to take our passports now to take a visit over to one of our favourite places for an afternoon ride? These are some of the issues that we constantly hear about.
I mentioned earlier that some of the wilderness tourism operators in and throughout the Yukon depend on the travellers who come through the Yukon in the summer or in the winter. How is this going to impact people who depend on the tourists who spend their money on our highways or out in the resorts or campgrounds? It is going to have a huge impact.
A lot of people come from Alaska to do their shopping in Whitehorse, whether they be from Skagway or Haines. You know, we like to visit their communities; they like to come and visit Whitehorse. They like the opportunity to do their shopping and to go dining and take advantage of all the recreation facilities that we have in Whitehorse now.
That’s definitely going to impact those visitors. So, our cross-border relationship is unique all right. If this comes into effect in the year 2008, our economic outlook for the Yukon is definitely going to be impacted. I would like to see more emphasis put in place so that we can address those types of issues.
With that, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I thank you for listening.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I would like to note that the proposed actions of the United States are in response to a series of demonstrated weaknesses in the previous situation. We are also aware of terrible events that precipitated the need for our American friends to examine the safety and security of their nation. I am sure each of us can remember where we were when we first learned of the tragedies unfolding so far away. Yet, before the day ended, they were so close to our home.
Any government administration would be irresponsible to ignore such an attack. I also believe that any government must take appropriate actions to ensure the safety of its citizens. I recognize that our American friends are responding to the demonstrated weakness in the manner that they believe will close their security gaps.
I also observed this issue unfold and I concluded that there are some weaknesses with their proposals. I have listened to the President’s address to the nation on October 22, in which he addresses the issues of homeland security. The focus of his comments addressed the then problem of illegal immigration and the need for improved border security to deal with terrorists, drug dealers and criminals. His speech emphasized their efforts in addressing illegal immigration. I understand that most of these illegal immigrants are attracted to the U.S. for economic reasons. He also recently agreed to a bill that earmarked $7.5 billion to address the problem of illegal immigration.
I’m pleased that in the Yukon we have reversed the tide of economic refugees that once were headed out of the territory. Under the watch of the Premier and my colleagues, we have restored Yukon’s economy and our confidence. I doubt that the Yukon borders pose the same kind of security issues as our southern border neighbours.
Given the focus of the President’s address and given our past successes at finding solutions, I am hopeful that we can work with our American friends in finding a solution that addresses their security concerns while representing the long-standing and unique relationship we have in the north.
As this motion notes and as my colleague has already commented on, I urge the Government of Canada to engage with the Government of the United States of America to ensure that new measures for increasing border security do not interfere with the Yukoners and Alaskans continuing our unique cross-border relationship that includes recreational travel, access to medical and dental facilities and commerce, including the purchase of a wide variety of services and goods ranging from recreational vehicles, sporting goods, to clothing and other food supplies.
Given the cooperative approach taken to address the issue of dog food for mushers in the Yukon Quest, which resulted in a mutually satisfactory solution being reached, I am hopeful that we can also reach a mutually satisfactory solution for this issue. I can think of many events in which Alaskans and Yukoners share a long and rich friendship. As I mentioned just a few minutes ago, we have worked together on the Yukon Quest dogsled race for the past 20 years plus. The race has a joint organizing committee, drawing on both sides of the border, which I believe is one of its great strengths.
I question if this race could be as strong if the competitors, support staff and race officials were each required to obtain and produce a passport during a race and to go through all of their equipment when they cross the border, whether they’re coming down to the Yukon or going up to Alaska to Fairbanks toward the end of the race.
We have a joint snowmobile race between Alaska and the Yukon. I have some concerns there also. Many of us, as the member opposite also indicated, enjoy vacationing in Alaska. Perhaps it’s to go fishing, snowmobiling, or just shopping. Others like to go for day trips, perhaps a drive over to Skagway or possibly Haines. Some Yukoners have family, in-laws and friends in the United States. For many of our First Nation citizens, this relationship pre-dates the border. And the traffic goes both ways, as many of our Alaskan friends like to come here to visit and to shop, especially at Wal-Mart. One needs only to visit local stores on the weekend during the summer to see all the Alaskan plates in the parking lots. Many of our American friends enjoy shopping here because of the exchange rates.
But if cross-border travel becomes more onerous, this kind of cross-border activity will surely diminish. This is a real concern. As it stands at present, Canadians and Americans need only a birth certificate or a driver’s licence to cross the border. However, only 23 percent of Americans and 40 percent of Canadians have passports at the moment. Obtaining one can be costly. For Americans, I understand it’s approximately $300 to get a passport. As the member opposite indicated, it’s approximately $85 to $100 for a Canadian passport, and it takes anywhere from four to six weeks to obtain one, in addition to filling out the forms properly.
In addition, I might add, filling out the forms and the professional photograph you have to take for the thing, you still have to fill out your form correctly or it will be sent back to you and you have to start over again, something I’m sure some members in the House have experienced themselves. It doesn’t take much. Your signature outside of the line, for example, can force the whole thing to come back and you have to start over again.
While I’m pleased that the federal government is working to make it easier to obtain a Canadian passport, I remain opposed to compelling everyone to obtain one in order to cross the border, because it would result in economic losses to both countries in the billions of dollars of trade and tourism. The passport will require many Americans who travel through the Yukon to get to Alaska to have a passport in order to cross the border both times, both on the way there and on the way back. That will curtail our tourism traffic through the Yukon significantly.
Nationally speaking, 16 million Canadians visit the United States every year, while 14 million Americans visit Canada. A truck crosses the border every 2.5 seconds.
While programs like NEXUS and FAST cards may provide relief for some people, they are more difficult to access. NEXUS is a joint customs and immigration family of programs for frequent travellers that both the Canadian and American government have implemented. The NEXUS program is designed for simple border crossings for pre-approved, low risk travellers. The free and secure trade program, or FAST, is a joint Canada-U.S. initiative involving the Canada Border Services Agency, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the United States Bureau of Customs and Border Protection. FAST supports moving pre-approved, eligible goods across the border quickly by verifying trade compliance away from the border.
For many of our First Nation citizens, these proposed security changes will prove to be insurmountable challenges, as some of them do not even have birth certificates, let alone passports. As members may have seen on television the other day, our First Nation membership includes Inuit in Nunavut — many of them don’t even have last names, they have numbers for their last names. So this is causing an increased deterrent to them also, because they have to go through the process of getting a last name instead of a number on their birth certificates so that they can obtain a passport to go to Disneyland, for example. Many of you will think that is funny, but it may not be funny to somebody having to go down there, because I did see it on television just the other day where they are going through that process. The Government of Canada is helping many of them go through the process of getting their real last names, because many of them have E75666 as their last name. For many of our First Nations, as I said, it will be difficult.
One of my counterparts in another jurisdiction mentioned the unique challenges with paperwork that his government faced. While Yukon babies may be born in Whitehorse, most of his territory’s children are born in Manitoba. Obtaining a Manitoba birth certificate for a family residing in his territory has proven to be difficult.
As premiers of B.C., Alberta and Yukon and the Government of Alaska noted in a joint letter to Michael Chertoff and Condoleezza Rice, the security passport documents rest on the security foundation documents like birth certificates. We have much work to do on that front also.
It is challenges like these that make it important for our national governments to recognize our unique situation. We have elders and other citizens from northern Yukon who stop in Alaska when they fly south and who may not have the appropriate paperwork even to apply for a passport. I am also given to understand that many First Nation citizens have been given exemption for passport requirements, yet these new rules may very well capture them.
I understand that our American legislative friends want to ensure that they are faithful to the trust placed on them by the American people to provide a safe and secure nation in which their citizens may enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I would argue that the trust would not be compromised by allowing Old Crow residents a refreshment break in Anchorage.
I’m also concerned about the impact of these proposed changes on Canadian airlines flying between two Canadian cities like Whitehorse and Vancouver. As I understand it, the new changes would require any flight over U.S. territory to submit its passenger manifest prior to entering U.S. air space. I have profound concerns about this particular aspect since it would affect many travellers to the Yukon, both coming and departing. Again, based on the President’s comments, I see their focus on preventing acts of terrorism, addressing illegal immigration, reducing drug trafficking and other forms of criminal behaviour. I believe that is what we should concentrate on. I think we need to look at ensuring that we can have a friendly relationship with our American friends, and allow the cross-border crossings in the north and find some ways of negotiating a means in which we can make this happen.
Ms. Duncan: I rise this afternoon to address the motion with respect to the border crossings and passport regulations. I don’t have the motion in front of me to read it out word for word. I have reviewed it, and I would like to express my support for the motion. I would just like to make a couple of points on the record with respect to this issue of border crossings and our close relationship and work with Alaska.
I note that the Minister of Tourism is scheduled to speak after me, and I’m sure she could give more current statistics than what I have at hand, but what I recall is that Yukon enjoys some 300,000 border crossings every year, and Yukoners sometimes forget that we have four border points in our territory. Granted, the border on the Taylor Highway, or Top of the World Highway, is not used during the wintertime, but they are border crossings nonetheless for many months of the year. Of course, there is Pleasant Camp, Fraser and Beaver Creek.
Now, many Yukon residents and Alaskans, with these border crossings, forget that that border is there. We have such a close relationship with our neighbours. For example, one of our pages today is involved with the swim club, and the club journeys regularly to Fairbanks, to Juneau, to Haines. It is quite often a reminder to parents when some of these swimmers — and these aren’t the only athletes, of course, who do this regularly. Our hockey teams travel and other sports teams travel, as well as band students and many others. It is a reminder to parents that if you are travelling with a child that is not your own, there is a substantial amount of paperwork to make sure you have everything in order before you cross that border.
I’m thinking not only of those teams that travel, but there are many Yukon seniors who appreciate the opportunity offered by White Pass to ride the train for free on a particular weekend in May and will travel down to Skagway and take their grandchildren, or their grandchildren’s friends. In that case, that grandparent, or senior, has to have a piece of paper that’s duly witnessed, and it’s helpful if the child travelling with them also has a passport.
That’s a situation that many Yukoners and Alaskans are aware of, because we cross our border at those four border points all the time. We as neighbours — Alaskans and Yukoners — would hate to see that become an onerous task and to lose that friendship, to lose that opportunity because our national governments, so far away, have concerns about our current world situation.
I believe the Government of Yukon should be doing everything it can to ensure this close relationship continues and that we continue to have an ease of crossing our borders between us.
In terms of whether we should have to have a passport, or what mechanism we should use, many of us have complied and simply gone and obtained our passport, recognizing that it has become more onerous in recent years. I’d just like to make a note and offer my appreciation to our Member of Parliament, Larry Bagnell, and his office. Up until the opening of the new office in HRDC in the Elijah Smith Building, which processes passports, our Member of Parliament’s office was processing more than 2,000 passports a year. That’s a phenomenal number of passports for one Member of Parliament.
I think that’s also in part because of our close relationship with Alaska and a lot of Yukoners saying, “Look, it’s going to be a lot easier if we just go get our passports and get it done” and trying to comply with the need for ID that is better than our current driver’s licence to get on an aircraft.
Now we have this new office open in Whitehorse, and I had the experience of assisting a constituent in trying to get their passport. The Minister of Highways and Public Works noted that if there is a small amount of writing outside the line or if there is one small error, then the passport can be returned. It certainly is far more onerous than it used to be, and there is a greater degree of vigilance that is being attached to this simple act — well, what we see as the simple act of getting a passport.
Recognizing that there are difficulties in our neighbouring jurisdictions and the minister, the Member for Riverdale South, made several points about the difficulties that our fellow Canadians in Nunavut are experiencing in getting passports and how awkward that can be. Given that in part because we have this new office that has opened in Whitehorse — and thanks certainly in measure to our Member of Parliament noting the large number of passports they were processing — and given the fact that there have also been issues surrounding immigration — certainly I have dealt with a number of issues in immigration related to this crossing between our borders — I would like to recommend as part of the discussion on this motion — I’m not going to amend the motion or anything, Mr. Speaker. But I would just like in my comments today to strongly recommend to the Government of Yukon that they see this also as an economic opportunity, in that our neighbours are having difficulty with this passport issue and in obtaining passports.
They don’t have immigration offices; they don’t have an immigration court judge or a citizenship court judge that serves N.W.T., Nunavut or the Yukon, and we have this close proximity with Alaska. Why doesn’t the Yukon see an economic opportunity and become the immigration and passport processing office for our neighbours as well, rather than saying that people from Nunavut would go to Montreal or Manitoba? I know they use five different jurisdictions for hospitals. N.W.T. is likely using Edmonton and Yellowknife. Why aren’t we performing that service?
The Northwest Territories has the Department of National Defence office headquarters — we have a small office here — so why aren’t we lobbying for Yukon, given our proximity to the United States, to serve that purpose for the north?
In relation to this topic, I would also strongly urge the current Government of Yukon to follow up in perhaps designating a minister with responsibility for immigration. I’ve had difficulty working with the government on identifying “Who is that person?” when trying to help constituents.
Understanding that it is not just a federal government responsibility, that we all have a responsibility to our citizens — and with respect to immigration, there is also opportunity for federal-provincial or federal-territorial agreements to allow for a greater degree of immigration.
I don’t want to digress too far into the discussion of immigration, Mr. Speaker. I did want to point out that I see, in the larger discussion of border crossings in Yukon and our work with our neighbours, an opportunity for the Yukon to be a centre for our northern neighbours as well.
That being said, I appreciate the concerns with the new initiatives, in terms of identification, and some of the difficulties with respect to passports. We have a very strong, very good relationship with our neighbours in Alaska and I would support the motion in recognizing this. I would strongly recommend that the Government of Yukon continue to encourage that relationship and do what they can to ensure that new initiatives to deal with terrorism and border security do not act as a detriment to our relationship with our neighbours in Alaska and elsewhere.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the members’ time.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Thank you for the opportunity to allow us as Members of the Legislative Assembly for Yukon to speak to this very important matter before us, entitled the western hemisphere travel initiative. I guess I just wanted to go through a few points to begin with. First of all, what is the western hemisphere travel initiative? What is this all about? Why should this matter to the Yukon? How do we resolve concerns associated with this initiative pertinent to the Yukon and what have we done?
I have been involved in this particular initiative for the last few months, ever since it was announced in April 2005. The proposed U.S. passport rules — what we have come to know them as — are part of what has come to be known as the western hemisphere travel initiative.
That was announced this spring in order to implement section 7209, I believe, of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which President George W. Bush signed into law in December 2004. The statute provides that, effectively, by January 1, 2008, U.S. citizens and non-immigrant aliens entering or re-entering the United States must present passports or other documents, to be designated by the Secretary of Homeland Security, that establish identity and citizenship.
That’s quite a mouthful and quite a few words that require many obligations on both sides of our border. As has been elaborated over the last while by members on opposite sides, I think we cannot overstate the relationship, the close proximity, that our two borders share, which is more than just geography.
When you look at both sides of the border, we look at more than 300,000 people from both countries who cross the border every day to either work, shop or visit family and friends, but they don’t all use, or have to use, passports on any given day.
Furthermore, I’ve seen a whole host of numbers, and I’ll just say anywhere from 20 percent to 30 percent of U.S. citizens hold passports and anywhere from 30 percent to 40 percent of Canadians hold passports — the point being that not all of us have passports.
Not all of us have had to acquire passports up until now, which is part of the requirement of this proposed western hemisphere travel initiative. It requires, as of December 31, 2007, that all visitors — whether they are entering or re-entering the United States, coming by air, sea or land border crossings — will require a passport or some form of secure identification documentation.
Herein lies part of the challenge that we as Canadians face. We Yukoners particularly share many concerns about this initiative: we need to know what this secure identification is all about. What is the particular definition of this documentation? What will it mean for travellers coming to the Yukon and then going back home to the U.S., or Yukoners, for example going to the U.S., albeit Skagway, Haines or Hawaii or so forth.
To date, there has not been a clear set of criteria with respect to this proposed secure identification document — albeit, we are aware that passports could in fact be part of this equation, although there is a lot of discussion that these passports must be biometrics-based.
I hold a passport — I have held a passport for a number of years — but my family members do not hold passports. That extends to other family members, as well. Furthermore, I know that my passport does not have biometrics included in it.
So therein lies additional challenges with respect to having to comply with perhaps what could be the new required documentation.
Just going on further, with respect to travel between our markets here, when it comes to tourism and when it comes to tourism revenue, we know that the United States travel market makes up approximately 25 percent of Canada’s tourism revenue. That’s more than $14 billion to our market. We also know that same-day auto visits from the United States, for example — particularly in the southern hemisphere — is down substantially. They’re down about 40 percent. We in the Yukon are relatively fortunate to have experienced increases in our American visitation, year after year, and that is because we are subjected to a number of different markets, from air arrivals to travellers arriving by cruise ship and taking land tour packages in the Yukon. Also, we have many rubber tire travellers coming up the Alaska Highway or the Cassiar-Stewart Highway, No. 37, coming to the Yukon. So although we are not subjected to this kind of decline, it does show that there are some challenges right now between our two borders when it comes to same-day visits from the United States.
When we look at some of the other challenges before us with higher fuel costs, with the very strong Canadian dollar, these are all things that we have to take into consideration in terms of enhancing and looking to grow our tourism markets and some of the challenges before all of us in our entire country.
As I have mentioned, the proposed timeline, December 31, 2007, requires all travellers to or from the U.S. to have this secure documentation to enter or re-enter the United States, whether they come to our area by land, sea or air. A more immediate proposed timeline is for those travelling to or from the U.S. by December 31, 2006. Anyone arriving by air or sea travel will be required to have this passport or secure document to enter or re-enter the United States.
That is little more than 14 months away. It’s not a very long time, particularly when we are still scratching our heads as to what in fact this documentation is going to be. Therein lies the second challenge — that being the timing issue. There simply isn’t enough time, in our view, to allow this initiative to happen effectively and properly without having clearly communicated to travellers what will be required when they come to Canada and then return to the United States. They will need to have the proper identification to get back into their country. While we would love to keep American visitors in our country — perhaps that could be another stay-another-day initiative — I think the main point is that we would really like our visitors, wherever they are coming from, to be well-informed as to how to get back into their own country, particularly U.S. residents.
When we look at the last visitor exit survey, taken in 2004, it will show that 77 percent of our market does come from the United States. That is quite a large percentage of our travelling market. It’s certainly one that Yukoners, particularly in the tourism industry, rely upon each and every year, year-round.
Tourism is big business in the Yukon. It’s the Yukon’s number one economic generator in the territory; it’s the number one private sector employer; and it’s one that is growing in the Yukon. There are many committed tour operators in the territory that have been able to grow their business over the years. They’ve been able to mature their industry and I believe we do a fine job of being able to market the Yukon, and our tour operators are to be congratulated. Also to be congratulated are our industry organizations, including the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon, Wilderness Tourism Association of the Yukon, Yukon First Nations Tourism Association and many others.
These entities work very closely with the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, Canada Tourism Commission, and organizations and partnerships all across the country. This is by far one of many initiatives on which industry is working with industry across the country, as we speak.
In terms of timing, what we need is more time, and that is why many of our Canadian jurisdictions and many of our industry partners in tourism are requesting a postponement of this initiative until some kind of security has been achieved.
That is simply the very reason why we need time to, first of all, identify what this documentation will be and, second, be able to effectively communicate it to our travelling public so that, when they do arrive in Canada, they know what they will be required to have to get back into their own home country.
We also need time to do proper training of our employees. We need to have time to provide the necessary infrastructure to accommodate all these new requirements. For example, if it is going to be biometrics, we take into consideration whether that will be an iris-based recognition or digitization of finger prints — all of these are going to require, I would expect, a fair degree of intrinsic technology to accommodate the new requirements, not to mention the costs.
The costs are certainly very much a concern to us — costs not only in terms of providing infrastructure required to make these new requirements work, but also costs to our Yukon public. We all just have to think of Yukoners who want to go to Skagway for the day or want to go down to Haines, Alaska, for the weekend to do some fishing — which all of us do on a regular basis, and vice versa, with them coming to the Yukon to fish, as well; hence our efforts to come up with a reciprocal arrangement or understanding of fishing licences, for example, between Yukoners and Alaskans. We actually have a reciprocal arrangement now that accommodates this happening at a more affordable rate for both.
I think that when it comes to Alaska and the Yukon in particular, we share borders not only geographically, but we share a deep-rooted friendship, from which Yukon and Alaska have benefited very much.
One only has to look to initiatives such as the Dustbowl that occurs every year, and I think probably about 25 or 35 percent or perhaps 50 percent of that travelling public comes from Alaska. When you look at events such as the international Klondike Road Relay, which happens each year between Skagway and Whitehorse, and when we look at the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay between Haines, Alaska, and Haines Junction, these are all events that we share, and I have to say that this would significantly deter many of our people from both sides of the border from perhaps partaking in some of these events, if it weren’t for this new requirement.
So really what is needed is clear communication. We need more time. We need to get a clear explanation of what this new secure documentation is all about.
I also just wanted to put on the record that I as Minister of Tourism and Culture have taken it upon myself to meet with many, many different stakeholders and governments on all levels to talk about this, to relay our concerns and to rally around this very initiative to encourage our federal counterparts in the Canadian government. I met with the Deputy Prime Minister, Anne McLellan, in Seattle earlier this summer where I took part in a round-table discussion and put forward our concerns — concerns about all of these that I have referred to earlier, not to mention as well that it is very important to us whether or not Yukon First Nations will continue to be exempt from passport regulations, as they have traditionally not been required to carry passports.
There is a very close relationship when it comes to cross-border travel for traditional purposes — for potlatches or ceremonial purposes.
I have also endeavoured to meet with our own counterparts here in the Yukon — the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon. I have met with the president of the Alaska Travel Industry Association. I have met with the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations. I have met with the president of the Association of Yukon Communities. I have met with the Canadian Consulate. I have met with the Canada Tourism Commission as well as the Tourism Industry Association of Canada.
I have also met with Commissioner Noll in the State of Alaska, who’s responsible for economic development, trade and tourism in the State of Alaska. In addition, our Premier of Yukon has also endeavoured to rally with the Governor of Alaska, as well as our counterparts from British Columbia and Alberta, to take a common position with respect to this initiative, again asking for more time for more communication, et cetera.
In addition, our Department of Tourism and Culture has also joined the Passport Coalition, which is a coalition that has been been spearheaded by the Tourism Industry Association of Canada. It is a conglomerate of well over 25 industry organizations across the country and even into the United States, to address this very matter.
Mr. Speaker, this is a very important issue facing the Yukon. Again, by working together, hopefully we can be able to meet with some success. I am confident with the submissions coming forward from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to our respective governments that, working together with industry, we will be able to convince the counterparts on both sides of the border that we do need more time, that we do need to communicate this more effectively and that we do need to postpone this until we have more well-thought-out proposed options before us for all of us to consider and all of us to effectively communicate.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for that opportunity. I look forward to hearing the rest of the debate.
Mr. Fairclough: I would also like to respond to Motion No. 430. I will try to be brief. I think a lot has been said already. I believe that the Yukon government could be doing this without the direction of the Legislature. This is an important matter, and it should be followed up on many different avenues. Like the Minister of Tourism has said, she has been meeting with many people and bringing it to their attention. I think this could be done. Although, basically, this motion says we are going to urge the Government of Canada to get talking with the U.S. to ensure that their strict border security policy doesn’t affect our movement between Alaska and the Yukon. If we are going to give this direction right now, I don’t know how far it would go, Mr. Speaker. If we send this down after today, where does it go from here? To the Liberal government? Would they take the time to read it? Or would they be deeply involved in the Gomery report and other issues like the softwood lumber dispute that is taking place right now? How much seriousness would they give to this? We don’t know at this point. It would be pretty tough to say, but I think we as the Legislative Assembly could give that direction. We on the other side of the House don’t disagree with the motion, although we do think that governments can be pushing our concerns all the time.
The members opposite have stated how the economy of the Yukon has relied a lot on the sales of everything from automobiles to logs and so on. We would like to continue that. We are seeing, of course, how our tourism industry is reliant on that and we would not want to see any disruption in that field.
I was glad to see that members opposite did point that out, that Alaska does play a role in the economy of the territory.
In the past we have talked about having better medical facilities here to provide to the Americans. After all they are still coming to the territory and they are still coming to Canada and part of the draw is, of course, that things are cheaper here. But the Canadian dollar is still not as strong as the American dollar — that could change, of course, if the Canadian dollar continues to climb.
Just to give recognition to how many Alaskans are over here, one needs to just go through the parking lot in Wal-Mart and look at licence plates and you will see that there are a lot of licence plates that are Alaskan. People are shopping here. These tough new measures could be a problem — not only that, Mr. Speaker, there could be a problem to a lot of the aboriginal people here who cross borders to Alaska. As was said by the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, people do have their gatherings and biannual gatherings, and so do the Tlingit people. One of these times I would like to go to the Tlingit gathering. I’m married to a woman from Teslin, of the Tlingit people, and one of these times I want to go over and see, because it has been talked about a lot and I think every Tourism minister should do the same thing just to get that experience.
It’s a huge gathering, and it is with that that I would like to amend the motion, Mr. Speaker. It’s a very simple amendment, and I’m sure the members opposite would be agreeable to the amendment.
Mr. Fairclough: I move
THAT Motion No. 430 be amended by inserting, after the phrase “… and dental facilities,” the phrase “cultural and family gatherings,”.
Speaker: It has been moved
THAT Motion No. 430 be amended by inserting, after the phrase, “…and dental facilities,” the phrase “cultural and family gatherings,”.
Member for Mayo-Tatchun, on the amendment.
Mr. Fairclough: I am hoping that all members would support this amendment. I believe that it doesn’t change the intent of the motion at all. It’s a friendly amendment, if anything. If the Legislative Assembly is giving direction to the Government of Canada, maybe this amendment involving Yukon First Nation culture, and family gatherings as part of it, will give it some extra weight in grabbing the attention, I guess, of the Liberal Members of Parliament to look at this seriously in between their internal battles.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I would like to hear what others have to say on the amendment.
Mr. Cathers: I thank the Member for Mayo-Tatchun for his amendment. I think that is a very productive amendment, and I thank him for making a productive and well-intended addition to this motion and to this debate. We will be voting in favour of that.
Speaker: Do any other members wish to speak on the amendment to the motion?
Amendment to Motion No. 430 agreed to
Speaker: Is there any debate on the main motion as amended?
Mr. Rouble: It is my honour and pleasure today to speak to the motion as amended. I would like to thank the Member for Mayo-Tatchun for putting forward his constructive amendment. Indeed, it does make the motion stronger and, again, it also demonstrates the ability of the Members of the Legislative Assembly to work together, to work on common issues and to come to an agreement.
I also believe, though, that it is much better in our system when there is the support for the direction of government in the Legislative Assembly, and I think we will get support for this motion today. There has been an awful lot of support voiced for it, and it is very similar to a motion put forward by the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin.
Mr. Speaker, the issue of cross-border access, border crossings, transportation of goods and people, is very important to the livelihoods of all of the economies of North America. It is something that will indeed affect the lives of all Yukoners and all Canadians. The free flow of goods and people is very important to this land and to the people. As we have heard from previous speakers, the people of the north, the indigenous people to the area, have traded and travelled across this region for thousands of years. As we have also heard, many of those people don’t even recognize these new borders. They haven’t been in existence for all that long.
Now, Mr. Speaker, in modern day relations, some would say that our relationships and our similarities and our ties with our neighbours to the east are stronger than with our neighbours to the south. Indeed, there are a lot of families on both sides. We have representatives of a family that crosses both sides of the border even in our Assembly, with members of the family being from both sides of the border. Our families tie us together and our culture ties us together. If we just look at some of the Yukon’s major sporting and cultural events, events like the Yukon Quest, a race from the Yukon to Alaska or from Alaska to the Yukon; the Klondike Road Relay, again, a race from Alaska into Yukon; the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay, a race from Haines Junction to Haines, Alaska. These are sporting events that tie us together.
There are our cultural events, things like the Storytelling Festival or Frostbite. We typically have performers from over on the Alaskan side come and perform. Indeed, we’re very close together.
Now, additionally, though, we must remember that sovereignty is very important and that we need to take steps to respect our own country, respect the rights of our citizens, and we must also respect the ability of the Americans to look after and to protect themselves. But we should also remember that one of the great things that makes both countries great is the ability to have freedom and the ability of freedom of movement.
Now, we’ve heard a little bit earlier, too, from the previous speaker that he’d like to see the government working on this and that the government could have worked on this even without the Legislative Assembly’s support, and I’m proud to say that there has been an awful lot of work done on this issue already. We haven’t heard from the Premier in the debate today. However, we have seen the fruits of some of his discussions with our neighbours, with Alaska, and with the other provinces putting forward a joint position on this. We’ve heard from the Minister of Tourism on her involvement with many different organizations to work to lobby the federal government to take a stronger stance on this. Also, with my involvement in PNWER, the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region, which includes representation from Alaska, Yukon, British Columbia, Alberta, Montana, Washington, Idaho and Oregon, I have also been involved in lobbying our federal representatives to see some more work done on this in a meeting we had in Ottawa last January. We met with Anne McLellan to bring the issue to her attention and to encourage the federal government to take some specific action to address this issue.
Mr. Speaker, this is an important issue, not only to Yukoners, but to all Canadians and, indeed, all North Americans.
Also, I should add that it’s very important to the residents of the Southern Lakes. The Southern Lakes has very close access to two major transportation ties with Alaska — with the highway and the railroad — and we see tens of thousands of visitors each year travelling across those roads. It’s very important to keep that ability to cross the border open. We need to have it for our economic reasons as well as to continue our social and cultural ties.
I’m glad to see that there is a lot of support for this motion as amended, and I would encourage all members of the Assembly to support it.
Speaker: Minister of Economic Development, on the motion as amended.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: This is a very good thing, and I’m very pleased to see the amendment in place to include both cultural and family aspects because, of course, the family may not necessarily involve the cultural end. There are a lot of people who have relatives on both side of the border — certainly our family does. One only has to look at the history of the Yukon and the gold rush at the turn of the century to understand that a lot of those people, if not the majority, actually came up from the United States. So the people of the Yukon have extremely close ties with the United States.
We also have the northern perspective on that, and other speakers have mentioned that: the fact that Air North, Yukon’s very own airline, passes through Fairbanks on one of their routes, and I have heard cases of the plane stopping in Fairbanks and having someone from Old Crow, without a passport or a driver’s licence — why would they have a driver’s licence; there are very few roads — suddenly have identification problems. This has to be understood in the north.
I think gone are the days when you could go down to Skagway, show your driver’s licence and simply pass through. Some people still get away with that, but you don’t have to get too far into the debate and the understanding of what the security issues mean to the Americans to understand that this is an extremely important issue for them.
Through my involvement with the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region, or PNWER, I’ve had the good fortune — and on other occasions — to go down to Washington to meet with the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, to meet with the director of the Canadian desk of the U.S. Department of State, to meet with a wide variety of officials in multiple departments down there. I can recount a couple of examples of what security means to the country there.
We had a marvellous chat of almost an hour with the head of the Canadian desk for the U.S. Department of State. It wasn’t until the word “passport” was mentioned at about the hour point that everyone in one motion rose and declared the meeting over. I have never in my life seen a meeting end so quickly as I did that day when the word “passport” was mentioned.
When I went down the next time, I had the opportunity to meet with the same office but with a different person in it. She was having a hard time understanding why some of us were concerned about this. Security is security, and we understand that. We understand the need for security. But, like many things, you can always take things to their most illogical conclusion.
She gave an example in her own experience of the fact that she had visited or had meetings in upstate Vermont and had completely forgotten, or had been unaware of the fact, that she could go to Montreal and do some shopping there. But she had forgotten her passport so she couldn’t cross the border because she might have problems getting back into the United States. I asked her during the meeting if she understood that in case of a serious illness, she might very well be medevac’d to Montreal. Yukoners who are in Skagway in the right weather conditions may actually be medevac’d down to Juneau — it has happened.
She said, “No, no, no, this is all looked after. If there is a medevac and an emergency, I would have no trouble with that.” I said, “Oh, great. And your family would have no trouble visiting you while you were in intensive care. Your husband could come down, your children could come down, your brothers and sisters could come down, or up, to Montreal to visit you.” This look of absolute horror came over her face and she had completely forgotten about the fact that she might be all right, but she would have no support while she was in Montreal. So that was a bit of an eye-opener. It was kind of interesting to throw that out.
The Americans have put themselves into a bit of a corner in some areas. They are firmly committed to border security. Several things have been started — the NEXUS program. You can only apply for the NEXUS card in three locations. I applied for one over a month ago; I’ve never even gotten a confirmation that I applied let alone anything on it. In order to go for the formal interview for the NEXUS card, I have to have enough time at a border to go in for this interview. That probably will happen at some point, but it is not an easy thing to do, even for someone who does a lot of travelling. So for the average person in the north that doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Some of the discussions that we had while we were there were sort of interesting. The idea of a card wouldn’t necessarily be a proof of citizenship, because the Department of Homeland Security has been very, very strict in saying they will not allow states, provinces or territories to produce documentation as proof of citizenship or even place of birth. They are not even keen on a birth certificate. Even there, in the north, there are a lot of people up here who have problems with even that concept. I’ve dealt with a number of constituency issues on that.
They will, however, take a look at a card that would link to a database. Again it’s kind of humorous in some of the discussions. Talking to some of the people, they say, “Well, radio frequency technology — we’re looking at RF technology that could be put into the card. This technology would read this card in a bus at 50 feet going 50 miles per hour.” That was the scenario that I was given. Well, first of all if the bus is going by at 50 miles per hour, who’s going to know that there are 50 heads in that bus, and what happens if 47 cards come up? What about the other three people? How do you put that together? And who’s to say that’s their card in your pocket? I could borrow somebody’s card, put it in my pocket and be scanned as I am driving through the State of Washington and nobody would really notice.
So that has a problem. The other end of the problem, of course, is RF technology as it stands right now — I understand that this might not be a complete argument — because we use that in tracking animals and it’s basically a very small — about the size of a grain of rice — encased in glass — in the case of animals, copper coil. An electromagnet forces it to resonate and it generates a 10- or 12-digit code, or larger, depending on the size of the thing. This could actually be modified into a credit card sort of thing.
The problem is it requires an electromagnet, so I’m curious about the technology that would read a bus at 50 feet and 50 miles an hour. I’m suspicious that, when they threw that electromagnet on, you’d move the bus about three lanes over. I’m not convinced the technology exists right now.
It exists on a lower scale. I had a good demonstration of that at the APEC meetings two weeks ago when we went over to sign the memorandum of understanding with Korea. We were issued photo ID cards that appeared to be just like a credit card. Yet, when you walked through the metal detectors, or whatever they were, to get into the meetings, a large-screen TV over your head automatically brought up your picture, name and affiliation. We watched this happening, and it was reading the cards as fast as people were walking through. So obviously the technology has moved a little bit faster and some of the technology obviously isn’t out in the commercial sector at this point.
Security is, as I said, extremely important to those in the United States. There are a number of examples, again, of carrying things to the most illogical conclusion. I have to admit we had a bit of a laugh, Mr. Speaker, when we found out the Governor of Alaska actually travels with an armed bodyguard from the Alaska State police. He is fully permitted to carry a .45 semi-automatic handgun. On one flight, they confiscated his penknife from his pocket. I’m suspicious that the .45 calibre handgun would be a little bit more dangerous.
But airport security — of course, that’s what they had on their card, and that’s what they were going to do. So again, there are degrees of what you do. People always ask me what exactly is the regulation on this or that at the border, and you can go through all the books, you can go through all the publications and ask all the right questions, but what it really comes down to is the border guard who stands in front of you. We had gone through major, major things to allow hunters to bring back meat during the beginnings of the mad cow problem. It’s still there, and even though we were assured at every level that that would be permissible because it was not beef, it was moose — nice theory, but it was all confiscated at the border. It depends on what the person there has to say.
Another good story of the silliness at some of the borders — I can remember many years ago in Ontario — it sounds more like a northern story, I have to admit, but this actually happened at the Peace Bridge in Ontario. A friend of mine who raised pigeons — a very big thing in certain ethnic communities in Toronto — when he got to the border had no permits for these birds to bring them down to a race in New York. So, after much arguing with the border guards, he finally got mad and went out and opened up the back of the truck and let all the birds loose. Off they flew, on the Canadian side, perfectly legal. Then he went through with no birds in his truck and gave the proper command on the other side and all the birds came back and went back into his truck on the New York side. The Canadian border guards were laughing. The U.S. border guards weren’t. But again, at that point, it was perfectly legal. Birds don’t tend to follow borders, so consequently that’s a huge hole in the whole thing.
I won’t go into statistics on border crossings and everything else. That has all been given. But I would like to point out just a couple of little things. Certainly, the President of the United States understands the problems that this thing brings up in terms of tourism. It hits us on so many levels. A meeting that could occur in the Yukon, with somebody coming in from Alaska — if they don’t happen to have a passport, they can’t come to that meeting. Now, if you were going to a medical or a dental meeting or a group of lawyers or a group of welders or skiers or whatever the interest group, then suddenly you are very restricted on where you can have your meetings, unless every single person, when the spur of the moment calls to have that meeting — a simple joint meeting of the board of directors in the Yukon Quest, if someone doesn’t have a passport, they’re not likely going to go to it.
PNWER, the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region, has had a major lead on this whole issue. I just wanted to point that out. PNWER has addressed this over some time. Actually, I would like to read into the record a resolution that was passed at our annual summit in Seattle, Washington, this past July: “Whereas PNWER was created in 1991 by statute by the states of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, and later the Yukon Territory, for the purposes of enhancing trade and economic development throughout the northwest; and whereas border crossing is vital to the economy of the entire region; and whereas it is our mutual objective to accommodate and enhance travel, trade and tourism in the Pacific northwest region in a manner that does not threaten the public safety of the respective nations, states or provinces; and now therefore, be it resolved that a bilateral border modernization commission U.S./Canada be formed to jointly resolve and develop border management improvements and solutions; and that Secretary Michael Chertoff and Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan be co-chairs.”
I understand at this point that that has not been enacted, but it is something that we are trying to push through our affiliation with PNWER to be able to take this into the U.S. forum. PNWER has benefits in that it is all of us looking at the same issue. The issues are the same whether it’s Yukon into Alaska or British Columbia into Alaska — people forget that. Whether it’s British Columbia into Washington or Alberta into Montana, many of these issues are the same. We are not unique in our jurisdiction here, and there are other solutions within the region that can be used.
To put it into perspective, the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region, or PNWER, would be the tenth largest economy in the world, in terms of looking at its economic interests. So that is something that hopefully will bring a bit more of a reaction. We hope it will. We certainly have the ear of a lot of — interestingly — politicians, but unfortunately, beyond that we’ve had some difficulties in terms of convincing people that this is a needed thing.
I’ve had some people point out that First Nations would have no trouble at the border, and theoretically that’s something they should not have but, unfortunately, again you are at the mercy of the person in front of you. If you can show, I believe, if you have 50 percent quantum First Nation ancestry — according to I believe it’s the Jay Treaty — you should have no trouble going across. But there are difficulties with that at the very best of times. I’m suspicious that the four members of our Legislative Assembly who are First Nation would agree that this is not always exactly the case.
Given a few other perspectives on this, I ask members to also remember — and anyone listening — that we’re not only talking Canada and the United States; we’re talking Mexico and the United States. The Mexicans are very much concerned about this — and any other country. There are just so many implications to this.
One of the approaches we have taken with a number of legislators in the United States has been to try to create a time period to slow down the implementation of this and to slow everything down and utilize the events of 2010 — and I would argue there are some implications of 2007 and the Canada Winter Games, but certainly for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
One of the things that I think everyone in that organization is concerned is that toward the beginning of the Olympics, the headlines in all the papers will be about six-hour or three-day waits at the border to get in. You don’t have to go far, for instance, to look at the massive millions of dollars that poured into the State of Idaho, for instance, during the Salt Lake City Olympics. It draws people into the region. But if we still continue to have significant border issues, that region around Vancouver suddenly shrinks dramatically.
So saying that, Mr. Speaker, I will certainly be supporting the motion, and I thank the members for their time.
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Speaker, it’s my pleasure to speak today to Motion No. 430 as amended. I believe that it is important that we maintain good relations with our neighbours in Alaska. As many people have said today probably far better than I can — but they talked about the relationships that we have across the border with our neighbours in Alaska. I can speak personally for me and my family. We have travelled to Haines and Skagway and Juneau several times over the time that we have lived here in the territory. We enjoy it very much and we enjoy the company of the people we visit with there and spend time with there. We enjoy the beauty and the nature, and we enjoy fishing and shrimping and the good times that are had there. We spend time with people who live in Alaska, as well as with many other Yukoners. In some instances, Mr. Speaker, we see friends of ours from the Yukon more often over there than we do when we’re at home here in Whitehorse.
So I support the motion as amended. Obviously I think that to put barriers up to limit ability, and to put up roadblocks, basically — financial roadblocks in many cases, and not only the financial cost but the cost that it takes in time to apply for a passport and get all the photographs and the paperwork and the signatures. It is quite extensive. It is even more expensive in the United States, from what I gather.
I think that there are probably ways that we can ensure the security of both countries. We can find a mechanism to ensure that that security is maintained without putting all these requirements on the citizens of either Canada or the United States. Specifically I guess what we have been talking about today is our situation here in the Yukon. Whether it is people from Old Crow travelling to gatherings in Alaska or whether it’s Alaskans coming to the Yukon for the Arctic Winter Games, or any of the other numerous activities that take place in the Yukon whether it’s a music festival, a sporting event, a conference, a community conference, we need to ensure that we can make it as easy as possible and yet still maintain the security and to try and remove those barriers so that that flow of information, that flow of traffic — I believe commerce is mentioned in the original motion, and access to medical and dental facilities. I think it has been mentioned that all you have to do is drive down and look in the parking lots in downtown Whitehorse, or a lot of times it is travelling into work in the morning or travelling home in the evening, and you notice how many times you end up following someone with an Alaska licence plate.
They are either coming from Skagway or returning to Skagway. They’ve spent their day here in Whitehorse or they’ve been in the Yukon to do business or visit with friends.
I totally support this motion as amended. Given the comments of others in the Legislative Assembly, I won’t belabour this. I will just state that we support the motion and look forward to hearing brief comments from other members so that we can get on with the business of the Legislative Assembly.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I’d like to speak a few words on the motion as amended. Like the Member for Mayo-Tatchun commented, where does this go after we pass it? That’s a big question. We understand that security is very, very important to the Americans. A lot of these decisions that are going to affect the border are not going to be made in Alaska; they are going to be made in Washington, D.C. I think from a travel point of view I would say — if I were a betting man — there is going to have to be some form of identification for travellers in North America. I don’t think it’s going to stop at the American border; I think it’s going to be a form of identification that is going to identify us wherever we go. A passport is one way. I think a passport, from a security point of view, is going to be looked at in some fashion too, because of the nature of the people who falsify passports and use those passports for illegal things.
I think it’s very important for us as Canadians to understand — and I guess as Canadians we aren’t equipped to understand the mentality of Americans on the urgency of this matter.
I do a lot of communication with Americans on many levels. The feeling I get — and I am just one individual — from the Americans is that the working relationship between Canada and America is not as good as it was in the past. You only have to be in the House and hear the comments that are made about our Alaska neighbours. There is a certain amount of animosity between the two jurisdictions.
I had a comment from a friend of mine who sent me a copy of the Pittsburgh Independent magazine a big article about comments that the ambassador from Canada made in a speech in Toronto about the Americans, and those kinds of comments resonate in the American people. They’re questioning that northern border. They certainly have questioned the Mexican border — the southern border — for years, but they’re now looking at the northern border, which is the longest undefended border in the world.
The Americans are very sceptical of that border, and you can see that in the communications and you can see that in the general public. People are saying that it isn’t so secure, or the perception is that it isn’t secure, or, “Our neighbours really aren’t the neighbours we thought we had in the past.”
So every comment we make — and as the Member for Tatchun says, when we send this, where does it go? It goes to Ottawa. What does Ottawa do with it? I’m not quite sure what Ottawa does with it. I think it’s appropriate for us to do it because of the urgency of our relationship and our dependency on that relationship with the Americans. We talk tourism, we talk about Alaska, we talk about a border that goes both ways, and it’s very urgent.
I think that if I were in Ottawa I would be concerned about the general comments that are made about our neighbours at very high levels. We’ve seen that on many occasions, and the Americans take that very, very seriously. Now, in this room, or in Canada, if we think that by ignoring the Americans, somehow they will back down on identification or they will take some people and make them be identified and not others, then I think we’re dead wrong.
I think that this is very serious and that this is part and parcel of the security of the United States of America, and security trumps everything, Mr. Speaker, in the United States. There only has to be one issue that is seen to come across our northern border, and it could be a huge issue for us as Canadians. What we have to do is get back to making a working relationship with those people in the United States on a very high level. We have to sit down with them and work on a process of identification that works for everybody and is a form of identification that works. When our pages in this House are adults, they will have a form of identification that they will present when they go to Skagway and it will just be routine, because that’s what will be expected at the border, plus our border will expect the same thing. We won’t accept a driver’s licence with a foggy picture. That’s not identification.
I think in the long picture, at the end of the day, we are going to have to have a form of identification. Hopefully, if we can get our relationship together, it will be worked between the two jurisdictions so that it’s economically viable and realistic to do.
A passport is not an inconvenience. It’s not something you buy every year. The member said it costs $90. It’s $90, and it’s for five years. I mean, it’s not an insurmountable amount of money for people in Canada to put together for a passport. In our family, we’ve always had passports. We’ve always travelled. Our children have passports, and it works.
I don’t know what the process is to get a passport in the United States, but I understand that it isn’t common to have a passport. We depend on American tourists in the Yukon to do just that: to get a passport to come across our borders — not so much to come across our borders; they are going to need them to go back home. When you look at the statistics out there on who has passports and who doesn’t, a huge part of the American population doesn’t have passports, so I’m not quite sure how the Americans are going to address their issue, because it is a massive issue of identification. How do you identify the people in the United States who want to travel, on the spur of the moment, to go to the casino in Windsor, Ontario? How do we recognize the fact — and I guess they do — that trucks are moving between our borders and people from Old Crow go to Fort Yukon? How are they going to address the border on the Porcupine River? Those are going to be questions that the Americans are going to answer, because it’s their jurisdiction.
What I’m saying to everybody in Canada is, let’s work positively with the Americans. Let’s build the relationship back up again. Let’s get a sensible way to cross the border that serves the Americans’ purpose of identification and ours. It’s as important to us that we know who comes into this country. It’s not just the Americans. We have to be very protective of our jurisdiction. We don’t want to see any form of terrorism that comes into Canada and preys on us or uses Canada as a springboard to America, because that would be devastating to our border.
So we have to be very aware of our working relationship with the Americans. We have to be very concerned about this identification, because we want it to work for both jurisdictions. I think the passport and the amount of money could be one way to go. I guess that’s the way they’re leaning now. But I think the Americans are putting that out there to put everybody on notice that there is going to be a system.
So for us to send our motion down to wherever, to Ottawa, is one thing. It’s another thing for the Canadian government to get the relationship working so that we can take these three or four years that we have to get something that’s positive and that works for both jurisdictions, for all of us.
So, Mr. Speaker, the motion to me — you know, it’s a motion that I don’t think anybody in this House can argue with. We send it down south, and hopefully it can trigger the communication that it’s going to take to get these issues resolved because, at the end of the day, what happens in Washington, D.C., and what decision is made there will reflect on us crossing the border in Alaska, because it is an American border and those decisions are made in Washington, D.C.
I’m very happy that our Premier — with meetings with his counterparts in B.C. the other day — got a letter of recognition, not only from our B.C. neighbours and Alberta, but also a letter from Frank Murkowski, the Governor of Alaska, who also is concerned about this because they depend a great deal on tourist dollars. That’s a very positive relationship. We have a governor signing letters of concern — that will not go unheeded in Washington. Mr. Murkowski has a long, long history of working in Washington and working with the “powers that be” there and, at the end of the day, that’s the kind of working relationship that will make this thing work: by working in partnership. I think along with this motion and the letter that the Premier sent — and our Minister of Tourism has been very, very on top of this issue and very concerned about this issue — I just hope that we can come to some resolution that everybody in North America can live with and that we can get identified, and we can move forward.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this motion as amended. This motion will go a long way to further the cause of seeing what we can do to facilitate border crossings, both ways, especially here in the north.
Most of the areas have been covered by previous members of the House, but the question that has to be asked is: what happens to this motion should it pass this House? And I’m sure that it will, Mr. Speaker. This motion will go to the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Speaker, currently officials in our embassy there are already working on it. Any support that we can give to our officials there on this very important initiative will probably go a long way to further the cause of easier access crossing the borders.
Mr. Speaker, I could go on at great length on this motion but I don’t believe it would add to the debate, given that very, very definitive responses have been put on the record by all parties on this issue. With that said, I will say once again that I am fully supportive of this motion as amended and I look forward to its speedy passage so this motion can be sent on its way to our embassy in Washington, D.C.
Mr. McRobb: I won’t talk for long. I think most of the points I had have already been expressed. I do have a few things to mention. One of them is in response to what I just heard from the government House leader — that officials and the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C. are already working on this motion.
Well, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun introduced an amendment to the motion that was approved in the House just minutes ago. So I’m a little concerned the officials are working on something that only the Yukon Party drafted and it wasn’t a product of the Legislature. So I would ask the government House leader if he wouldn’t mind expediting to these embassy officials the amended version of the motion, the one we are talking about at the present time.
Mr. Speaker, I was just in Haines, Alaska about two weeks. I crossed through the Canada-United States borders without any difficulty. I recognize that it’s an important part of the lives of many Yukoners, especially the people within close driving proximity to the border crossings.
The one in Haines, Alaska is frequented by members of the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation as they travel to Haines, Alaska and points beyond, as well as points between Haines and the border, such as Klukwan Village and so on. The Chilkat River is another destination that is frequented by many Yukoners at this time of the year for fishing.
That’s quite a popular border crossing. We have another one at Beaver Creek, of course, and another on the Top of the World Highway. There is another at the Fraser camp on the Skagway Road. These are all important to Yukoners. People cross them on a regular basis. I know members of the White River First Nation who cross the border daily. As a matter of fact, the local dump in Beaver Creek is on the other side of the border, so people who live in Beaver Creek really do cross the border daily. Many members of the White River First Nation were actually born on the Alaska side of the border. There are commonly instances of funeral processions that cross the border. It makes me wonder if that should not be included as one of the examples of the motion.
Mr. Speaker, it could probably be included under the cultural activities clauses that are part of the amendment now.
So we do have another motion on the Order Paper for discussion this afternoon. I see we have about two hours left in the day, so I’ll just end now and say that I encourage everybody to support this motion as amended.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I think it’s clear and quite evident that this Assembly will be going forward in a unanimous manner to support this motion and send a very clear message to the American government and to the Government of Canada that they have to work on this issue and resolve it. As we all know today, a letter was tabled, signed off by the Governor of Alaska, the Yukon as represented by me, the Premier of Alberta and the Premier of British Columbia voicing our exact same concerns and that we want to see the Americans stand down on what is known as the western hemisphere travel initiative.
I want to extend thanks to the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, whose amendment as brought forward certainly adds credence to and strengthens the motion as tabled by the Member for Lake Laberge. So that said, I think the debate here has been clear and we, the government side of the House, will fully support the motion as amended so that we can continue to apply pressure to the Government of Canada and to the United States of America and its federal government to recognize the negative impacts that would result from moving ahead with such an ill-advised initiative for border security.
Also when it comes to Yukon and Alaska, specifically, the amount of interaction across our respective border with the state is enormous, and any restriction of that flow would have severe impacts on both the Alaskan and Yukon economies, our travelling public and on many other areas.
One of the things that Canada has to be conscious of is how much benefit accrues to Canada from the State of Alaska in trade and through other investments. When we look at this and take it in the specific context of Yukon and Alaska and our issues, and then add to that the broader context of the national interest, this is a good motion. It has been strengthened by the amendment, and the government side will certainly support the motion as amended.
Speaker: If the Member for Lake Laberge speaks, he will close debate on the motion as amended. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Mr. Cathers: It’s a pleasure to see that members from all sides have been able to work positively today in support of this motion, which is of such importance to citizens of the Yukon and to our economy. I’d like to thank the Member for Mayo-Tatchun for his amendment to the motion. It was a positive and valuable amendment and it does indeed strengthen the motion.
It’s important that we add this motion to the work that has been done on this issue by the government and has been done jointly with other governments, including the letter signed by the Yukon Premier and the premiers of British Columbia, Alberta and the Governor of Alaska, expressing a joint position on this issue to the United States government.
That is all I have to add. It has been a very positive afternoon, with much added by members on all sides. I urge all members to vote in favour of it, as I believe they will.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the motion as amended?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Cardiff: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 13 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion as amended carried.
Motion No. 430 agreed to as amended
Motion No. 484
Clerk: Motion No. 484, standing in the name of Mr. Cathers.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Lake Laberge
THAT this House urges the federal Liberal government to comply with the request of the Royal Canadian Legion, veterans associations and individual veterans and their families to end the current unjust situation whereby, as a result of a federal order-in-council passed in 1946, approximately 14,000 veterans are deprived of pension benefits and the recognition of having honourably served our country in a time of war.
Mr. Cathers: This issue came to my attention while watching an interview with Clifford Chadderton, who is the CEO of the War Amps Association and the chairman of the National Council of Veterans Association.
Over one million Canadians served in the Second World War and approximately 45,000 gave their lives. More than 53,000 Canadians were wounded and more than 8,000 were taken as prisoners of war.
The issue we’re discussing today is the result of an order-in-council that was passed in 1946, as noted in the motion, whereby in what in some cases amounts to little more than a paperwork issue, approximately 14,000 veterans were not noted as having honourably served. They were given a dishonourable discharge for what in some cases amounts to infractions for a few days absence without leave, which was often due to a mix-up in training schedules or other reasonable explanation. This is a very unfortunate situation, especially as we stand here in the House today. I believe that all members are wearing their poppies. I know that members of the public are also wearing poppies on their lapels in honour of the veterans. It is very disturbing to see that some of our veterans have still not been properly recognized for the service that they gave to our country in time of war.
We have previously discussed in the House the issue of aboriginal veterans who were not given proper recognition and compensation at the end of the war and were deprived of the benefits that were made available to most veterans. It is really very troubling to me and I am sure to all members of the House that this situation has continued for so many years.
The National Council of Veterans Associations is a 52-member organization that was formed at the end of the Second World War to enhance and strengthen presentations that were made to the Government of Canada. The members of the association are the First Canadian Parachute Battalion Association, the 435 and 436 Burma Squadron Association, the Air Force Association of Canada, the Air Crew Association, Armed Forces Pensioners/Annuitants Association of Canada, the Bomber Command Association of Canada Incorporated, the Burma Star Association, the Canadian Airborne Forces Association, the Canadian Corps Association, the Canadian Fighter Pilots Association, the Canadian Merchant Navy Veterans Association, the Canadian Naval Air Group, the Canadian Naval Divers Association, the Canadian Paraplegic Association, the Canadian Tribal Destroyer Association, the Dieppe Veterans and Prisoners of War Association, the Ferry Command Association, First Special Service Force Association, Hong Kong Veterans Association of Canada, Jewish War Veterans of Canada, KLB Club, Métis Nation of Ontario Veterans Council, Metropolitan Toronto Police War Veterans Association, National Aboriginal Veterans Association, National Prisoners of War Association of Canada, Nova Scotia Naval Officers Association and the Nursing Sisters Association of Canada.
It also includes R.C.A.F. P.O.W. Association, Royal Air Forces Escaping Society, Royal Canadian Air Force Pre-War Club of Canada, Royal Naval Association - Southern Ontario Branch, South Alberta Regiment Veterans Association, Submariners Association of Canada (Central Branch), the Algonquin Regiment Veterans’ Association, the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada Association, the Canadian Scottish Regimental Association, the Dodo Bird Club of Ex-RCAF Flight Sergeants, the Korea Veterans Association of Canada, the Naval Officers Association of Canada, Montreal Branch, the Overseas Club - Canadian Red Cross Corps (Overseas Detachment), the Polish Combatants Association of Canada, the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Association, the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps Association, the Royal Canadian Naval Association, the Royal Canadian Regiment Association, the Sir Arthur Pearson Association of War Blinded, the Toronto Scottish Regimental Association, the War Amputations of Canada, War Pensioners of Canada, War Veterans & Friends Club, White Ensign Club Montreal, and the Wren Association of Toronto.
And, Mr. Speaker, as you note, that’s a very long and impressive list that takes a long time even to read, but they represent a far broader membership than simply the amount of time it takes to read through that list.
So it is something that is very clearly supported by our veterans associations, and it was sent through a letter signed by the chairman of the National Council of Veterans Association, H. Clifford Chadderton. Mr. Chadderton was himself a veteran who served in the Second World War and lost his right leg below the knee in 1944 while in command of a company of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles battling for the shelled estuary in Belgium and in Holland. Until he joined the association, previously his positions included being advisor to the Minister of Labour on veteran rehabilitation, National Secretary of the Army Benevolent Fund and director of the Canadian Army financial welfare program. From 1965 to 1968, he served as secretary and executive director of the Woods Committee, which was formed to conduct an extensive study on veterans pension legislation in Canada.
This final study was acclaimed as the most important of its kind since the First World War in Canada. It was also his credits in the struggle for veterans rights including being very active in seeing compensation granted to Canada’s Merchant Navy Veterans. That was finally concluded in May 4, 2001. It is shocking to me that these issues have gone on for so long and I would urge all within the federal Parliament to do their level best to see this issue resolved.
The letter sent by Mr. Chadderton was to the Minister of Veteran Affairs, proposing that some 14,100 former members of the military of World War II be compensated, in that they are currently deemed to never have served. The letter was supported by historical review of the circumstances first adopted by the government in 1946 and updated in 1948 under the title of War Service Grants Act. The letter to the minister described an administrative situation that meant literally that some veterans were deprived of their full rehabilitation benefits for the simple reason that the investigating committee could not contact them. Many of these cases involved only minor infractions such as being absent without leave despite the veterans volunteering for and having given good service to their country and, as mentioned previously, that in some cases this resulted from a scheduling problem or missing a train, and for that simple reason they were deprived of the recognition and benefits to them and their families of having honourably served our country.
Mr. Chadderton noted in his letter that it would be impossible now to make an award based on legislation that applied to veterans generally. For that reason, he and the veterans association are recommending an ex gratia payment that could be approved without enabling legislation but could be paid to the veteran, his widow or dependants. This would be much less than the compounded value of the payment of the re-establishment credit or other benefits. It would, however, help in restoring the veteran’s pride, a much valued perception in this, the Year of the Veteran.
I note also that this letter was approved by a resolution from the National Council of Veterans Associations.
Another recent example that was somewhat disturbing and was in today’s news is the issue where Canada Post had told members of the Royal Canadian Legion that they couldn’t sell poppies at Canada Post locations. My understanding is that Minister Bill Graham — I believe his current position is Minister of National Defence — stepped in, in defence of those veterans, and I commend him for doing so. This is not something I think should be treated as a political issue. It should be treated by all members of all sides of the federal Parliament and indeed all elected representatives as an issue that needs to be resolved.
Supporting motions I discovered in reviewing Hansard of a similar nature include: one from Mr. Werner Schmidt, who is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country, and he introduced a bill to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act. This is another related issue from page 1005, I believe it is, of the current federal Hansard. Perhaps that’s not the page number, but that’s the number I have on this page here dealing with another issue, talking about the spouses of veterans who, if they married the veterans after the age of 60, were prevented from receiving a veteran pension upon their death.
It’s very disturbing that some 60 years after the end of World War II, we’re still dealing with issues of veterans and their families that have not been dealt with properly.
Another example was a motion by a Member of Parliament by the name of Jeremy Harrison, who is a member from Saskatchewan, I believe it is. I believe he is a Conservative member. He was noting the inequality of treatment of First Nations, Métis and Inuit veterans.
The motion that I have put forward today and am asking members to support is dealing with only one part of the problem. However, I felt on this issue that it was important to be specific to this situation. The battle on the other issues has been ongoing for some time and been given strong support within Parliament and across the country. However, the issue related to these 14,100 veterans who are denied the recognition of having honourably served is one that, disturbingly to me, received only very brief mention in the media and has become not even a story in the back pages. It seems to be relegated to the realm of the forgotten.
I note from a Web site from the War Amps, of which Mr. Chadderton, whom I referred to, is the CEO, a disturbing article that members of the public may want to check out. It’s currently on the War Amps Web site, which is www.waramps.ca. Mr. Chadderton has an article here entitled, The War Amps: Canada’s Heroes Go Begging for Scraps. I will quote briefly from it. It says, “After my first wounding at Carpiquet on July 4, 1944, I was promoted to the rank of Major and, in a succession of battles with the vaunted SS, led an infantry company through the toughest battles of the Second World War. The Germans finally got me at the Leopold Canal as I was crossing into Holland. Now I find, nearly 60 years later, that I am supposed to go begging on bended knee asking successive governments to do the right thing for heavily disabled veterans or their widows. Some examples: the bureaucrats in Veterans Affairs messed up in failing to realize that, while they had under administration funds paid to mentally incompetent veterans, interest should have been paid.”
He goes on saying, “Another example we are going through right now concerns legislation, which would provide added compensation for up to $300 a month for 80-year-old widows who remain in their own home or who needed housekeeping assistance. In their wisdom, the bureaucrats of DVA agreed that the added compensation was warranted but in order to save the government money, they counselled the minister to ensure that entitlement to the compensation would not be given to widows unless the veteran died after the effective date of the government bill — that is, after May 12, 2003. This effectively created a situation in which the widows of the most heavily disabled veterans who had died prior to the May 12 deadline were not even allowed to apply. These were the wives who acted as caregivers, relieving government of its responsibility to look after the sightless, amputated and otherwise damaged veterans.”
Further down in the article, Mr. Chadderton notes, “I write briefs to the ministers, and the whole process makes me feel that I am down on my knees begging with a tin cup. I say to myself, ‘What the heck did I ever do to have to act as a supplicant in appearing before people who are drawing fat salaries as legislators or administrators?’”
He goes on to say, “One more example: Korean veterans were invited to come to Ottawa for the Korean Veterans Tribute Day on September 28 but the federal government met none of their expenses. No wonder many of us are saying, “What a country.”
Mr. Chadderton goes on to say, “The banners will fly and the bands will play on November 11, but it is just one more opportunity for the politicians, using veterans as pawns, to brag to their constituents about how they should be re-elected.”
Mr. Speaker, I urge all members of this House today to prove that we are more worthy than that and are more respectful in recognizing what our veterans have done for us and what they have given to us. In some cases, they have made the ultimate sacrifice in times of war.
We are running short of time. I will close now to allow other members to speak. I hope that we do not do as happens so often in this House, where we simply run out of time to debate a motion. I will urge all members to support this motion and to support the federal government reviewing the case of these veterans so as to give them fair compensation as best as possible, given it will be so many years after the fact.
Mr. McRobb: Well, we in the official opposition believe this is a noble motion, and we’ll be generally supporting it. However, after a careful review, we’ve determined the wording of the motion is confusing and difficult to understand. What we’ve done is deployed our finest wordsmiths — the whole army of wordsmiths are hard at work on this, and they’re rewriting the motion. I understand it has been done in collaboration with the third party, and I’ll be tabling that very shortly, once it’s available.
So, in the meantime, I’ll speak to the motion. As mentioned, we are all wearing poppies today, leading up to Remembrance Day, when many of us will participate in local ceremonies honouring those who have served for our country. And that’s exactly what the poppy is — it’s a symbolic reminder of all those who have served our country, and especially those who gave their lives for that honourable cause.
Many of us have family members who have served. In previous discussions in here, I’ve heard some members tell about family members who have served in one war or another over the years. My father, who is in my immediate family, of course, served in World War II. He served in the Fort Garry Horse Regiment and was part of the second wave of the Normandy invasion.
He has an interesting story, because he was actually in Trafalgar Square at the time of the VE Day celebration, which is victory in Europe.
And if anybody has time, just do a Google search for Victory in Europe Day, and you’ll see probably headlines from London Daily Mirror or something about the tens of thousands of people who were in Trafalgar Square. So it was certainly an event to remember.
My father, though, doesn’t glorify war, and he chooses not to participate in various memorial type services. For instance, last year, I recall the Premier had some sort of a veterans parade, and I discussed this with him. Once again, he repeated that he does not want to glorify war. So the Premier was a little put out that he didn’t see my father with those who attended, but that’s the reason why.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the issue before us is focused on the people who have been left out and who were deemed not to have served in World War II, and there are approximately 14,000 of these Canadian veterans who have rightful status as having served our country honourably. Of those within that total, Mr. Speaker, that does not include anyone who deserted the army and so on for dishonourable reasons. So that group of people has already been screened for the purposes of why they were left out, and it is believed that all of them should be entitled to this honour.
Back in 1947, there was an order-in-council in Ottawa that started the whole problem and deemed these veterans within the category or classification as not having served the country. The Royal Canadian Legion has taken up this cause. In a recent communiqué, dated October 18, it basically describes the situation. I will just refer to that. It states, “The Royal Canadian Legion is very concerned about the status of as many as 14,000 Canadian veterans who were deemed not to have served in World War II. In a statement released today by Dominion President Marianne Burdette, the Legion is calling upon the Department of National Defence to review the original order-in-council which reclassified the veterans, and to ensure that all those surviving veterans included in the order-in-council are offered the opportunity to recover their status as having honourably served.
“The Legion believes that many of the 14,000 veterans who were not properly discharged from the military after the war did not wilfully go absent, but were the victims of arbitrary and cumbersome processing procedures. They should therefore be given the benefit of the doubt and offered the opportunity to regain their status as having honourably served during World War II. DND — the Department of National Defence — should therefore immediately open the door to any veteran or surviving family member who wishes to apply for reclassification of status as such, and any veteran who is reclassified should be fully eligible for all benefits under the Pension Act.”
There is also a statement by Mary Ann Burdett that reads as follows: “It is a fact that some persons disqualified themselves for veterans’ benefits by committing the act of desertion. The Legion has not changed its position on this specific law and still considers its application correct based on the validity of the case. Desertion is against the law.
“What is becoming clear now, however, is that in many cases where a person was deemed ‘not to have served’, because he or she was not properly discharged, the person did not go wilfully absent. Rather, the person may have been the victim of arbitrary and cumbersome processing procedures. Therefore, we strongly believe that the person should be given the benefit of the doubt and offered the opportunity to have their status reclassified as having ‘honourably served’.
“Given that the Department of National Defence bears the primary responsibility for the actions taken, the Royal Canadian Legion is strongly urging the department to take a very pro-active stance on this matter. It is strongly suggested that the department use every possible means to allow those deemed as ‘not to have served’, or a surviving family member, to make an application to be reclassified as ‘honourably served’. Any veteran who is reclassified should then be fully eligible for all benefits under the Pension Act.
“The Royal Canadian Legion believes this to be a fair and equitable solution to the problem.”
So, Mr. Speaker, that’s the communiqué from the Royal Canadian Legion. It describes the whole situation quite well. So there we have it.
But the wording in the present motion, as we’re still waiting for the amendment to arrive — hint, hint — is rather confusing.
In the meantime, I’ll just review the wording of the current motion:
“THAT this House urges the federal Liberal government to comply with the request of the Royal Canadian Legion, veterans associations, and individual veterans and their families to end the current unjust situation whereby, as a result of a federal order-in-council passed in 1946, approximately 14,000 veterans are deprived of pension benefits and the recognition of having honourably served our country in time of war.”
So, Mr. Speaker, I see the amendment has arrived and I will read it now.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I move
THAT Motion No. 484, be amended by deleting the words after the word “THAT” and substituting the following:
“this House urges the Government of Canada to
(1) recognize that, due to a federal order-in-council passed in 1946, as many as 14,000 improperly discharged Canadian veterans were deemed ‘not to have served’ in World War II and were therefore denied pension benefits; and
(2) honour the request of the Royal Canadian Legion, veterans associations, and individual veterans and their families to review the original order-in-council and to ensure that all surviving veterans included in the order are offered the opportunity to recover their status of ‘honourably served’ and become fully eligible for all benefits under the Pension Act.”
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Member for Kluane that Motion No. 484 be amended by deleting the words after the word “THAT” and substituting the following:
“this House urges the Government of Canada to
(1) recognize that, due to a federal order-in-council passed in 1946, as many as 14,000 improperly discharged Canadian veterans were deemed “not to have served” in World War II and were therefore denied pension benefits; and
(2) honour the request of the Royal Canadian Legion, veterans associations, and individual veterans and their families to review the original order-in-council and to ensure that all surviving veterans included in the order are offered the opportunity to recover their status of “honourably served” and become fully eligible for all benefits under the Pension Act.”
Mr. McRobb: Well, we believe this wording greatly improves the clarity of the motion and, as mentioned, it was developed in collaboration with the third party. So, I’m looking forward to support from the government side. I’ll remind everybody that if we’re sending this on to the Department of National Defence and embassy officials, we certainly must strive to be as clear as possible and avoid ambiguity.
There’s another point I’d like to make, and that is the federal veterans pension plan, which this whole motion refers to. That’s basically the intent of modifying that 1946 order-in-council — to allow those without the “honourably served” status to collect pensions. It was championed by the late Stanley Knowles, and we should all recognize Mr. Knowles and extend our gratitude for the good work he did in helping to develop the veterans pensions.
So, with that, I am looking forward to the support of all members in this House so that we can send a clear statement to the DND officials and assist the Royal Canadian Legion with this honourable cause. Hopefully, if it can be done expeditiously enough, we can get an answer in time for this year’s Remembrance Day.
Mr. Cathers: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and to the Member for Kluane.
The amendment by the Member for Kluane has simply changed the order and added some details to the motion. There is certainly nothing in this that changes any of the intent or outcome of the original motion, so I certainly have no problem, and I am certain no one else on this side has a problem with voting in favour of the Member for Kluane’s amendment, so I believe we will be voting in favour of that. I suggest to all members that perhaps we pass the amendment expeditiously in order to allow members the opportunity to debate the main motion and, hopefully, pass it before 6:00 this evening.
Ms. Duncan: On the amendment, I am very pleased to rise and discuss the amendment to Motion No. 484. The amendment doesn’t change the intent, but it is a change of language that I think is really important. I will just outline, if I might for the Member for Lake Laberge, why I say this.
The motion that was originally put forward had language that was more confrontational. This achieves the desired end and recognizes that, for example, as opposed to stating “the federal Liberal government”, having “the Government of Canada” in there recognizes that the Government of Canada can change.
It isn’t always going to be the Liberal Party, nor is it always going to be the favoured party of the member opposite.
I also had real difficulty with the word “comply”. As this is a message from our House, and the thesaurus tells us that the word “comply” is similar to the word “obey”, I felt it would be important to address. The language that has been used in discussing this draft with me — “recognizing” and “honouring” is less confrontational and, by being less confrontational, it engenders a greater likelihood of success, as well. I think it also adds to our support.
The other point I would just make about that is that the original motion didn’t recognize that there may be another side to this story. I am sure that the member, in his time here and elsewhere in life, has learned that there are always at least two sides to every story. Why the Government of Canada would pass an order-in-council in 1946 that would deny these benefits and cause what sounds like such bureaucratic gobbledegook — that is not unparliamentary and it’s not a disservice to our public servants; it’s a term that is used to describe a situation where it doesn’t always make sense to those outside of the public service.
I suspect what happened is that there was some reason for passing this, and that maybe it was an unintended consequence. I don’t know, but to suggest that it be resolved by having a thorough look at it again and ensuring that those who have been unfairly denied are no longer being unfairly denied, whether for their pension benefits or the status of having honourably served — absolutely the Government of Canada should revisit it and take another look at it.
I appreciate the official opposition — the NDP caucus — discussing the rewording with me, and I believe this wording makes it a far stronger motion, and it is phrased in such a way that this House can unanimously urge the Government of Canada to recognize that the federal order-in-council — we have no idea why they would pass something in 1946 — improperly discharged Canadian veterans who should be recognized for having honourably served their country.
I also believe, as the Member for Lake Laberge also pointed out, that it’s important that we pass such a motion prior to the Remembrance Day services. There’s an event going on next week, in which the Book of Remembrance — I believe it is — is being presented by the Premier on November 9 at a special luncheon, so it would be important that we pass this beforehand so those veterans who are present are able to recognize that the Legislative Assembly is today recognizing their service, as well, with the work we do, and not solely with the tribute we offer each year.
It’s important that we recognize and pay tribute to those who have served, to express our thanks in the work that we do throughout the year in the Legislature and not solely on Remembrance Day.
I would just like to thank the Member for Kluane for bringing the amendment forward and also for his note that his family doesn’t always attend the Remembrance Day service. I note that many veterans, for one reason or another, do not attend Remembrance Day services, and don’t often speak of their war experiences, which is unfortunate because I think we can all learn from them; however, I respect their privacy and why they choose not to participate.
I am honoured to join with my colleagues in supporting this motion and in expressing our thanks to those who have served their country and all of us.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, it is indeed my honour to speak to this motion today. I think it’s very timely for us to debate this motion in the Year of the Veteran and in the days leading up to Remembrance Day. I was particularly struck, though, by one of the quotes that the Member for Lake Laberge read, wherein the originator of the quote stated that he felt that politicians used Remembrance Day as a way to grandstand for their own political gains. That really disturbed me, and I hope that veterans here in the Yukon and across Canada will recognize this motion in the spirit that it was intended, in a way to honour veterans and to ensure that they are fairly and appropriately compensated for their tremendous contribution that they have made to Canada and to the free world and that veterans don’t see this as some way to gain petty, partisan political points.
I’m glad to see that we were able to come to — I’m expecting to see unanimous support for this motion, just as last year we unanimously supported the motion to create a veterans licence plate. We now have a national situation that needs to be addressed, and I hope that by passing this motion on, we will help to address that message.
Mr. Speaker, I think that the motion has been debated quite well so far. We’ve gone into the history as to why it’s needed and what is hoped to be accomplished. I don’t have too many other comments on it, other than just to say that I support this motion and would encourage all members of our Assembly to support this and to pass it unanimously.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I, too, am very pleased to support the motion as presented and as amended. I would also like to thank the Member for Lake Laberge for bringing forward this motion, and I would also like to extend my thanks to the MLA for Kluane for bringing forward this amendment as well.
I think that this is a very important initiative, it’s a very important motion and, as the Member for Southern Lakes just mentioned, it’s very timely. It’s timely in view of the fact that we are closely approaching Remembrance Day, a time to remember those who served on behalf of us all, in times of peace and in times of war.
It’s also timely in that, earlier this year — in June, I believe it was — we commemorated the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.
Just as we debated a motion last year, I believe it was, in which all Members of the Legislative Assembly unanimously gave their consent to the development and implementation of a Yukon veterans plate, this is also a very important initiative and one that is in dire need of address.
I would just like to again thank members of our veteran population. I just did want to quote — a constituent of mine did send some information to me a day ago, just in recognition of Remembrance Day and in recognition of those who have served Canada. It is an excerpt of In Flanders Fields and replies to Flanders Fields, and it goes on, and there are some very eloquent words of which we are all very much familiar.
Also, on the side of the sheet, it just refers to some statistics of members, Canadian men and women who served during World War II, and I would just like to bring to members’ attention that, in World War II, 1,031,902 Canadian men and 49,963 Canadian women served. Of those individuals, 44,927 died and 43,145 were wounded, 8,271 were taken prisoners of war and 1,146 merchant seamen died by enemy action.
These are unbelievable numbers of individuals who rose to the challenge in a very difficult time in our era. They served our country and made us all very proud. It is because of their efforts that we are all here today to serve on Yukoners’ behalf. I couldn’t be more proud to serve as a Member of this Legislative Assembly and serve the constituents who have also served me and all of the members in this House so well. I would just like to thank my constituent for passing on that information and reminding us all that even though the world wars have passed, there are many individuals still involved in other wars on the other side of the world, whether in peacekeeping roles or in war, we are all very appreciative of their ongoing efforts on all of our behalf.
I again wanted to indicate my support for this motion. As the leader of the third party indicated, who knows what the reason is for this federal order-in-council being passed in 1946. However, it was passed, and the consequences are such that as many as 14,000 Canadians were improperly discharged. They were deemed to have not served in World War II and were therefore denied pension benefits. It is for this reason that we stand together in this House, I believe, in unanimous consent. I would like to think we are in support of this motion and that we will be able to send our beliefs and our commitment to honour the request of the Royal Canadian Legion, the veterans associations and individual veterans and their families, and take the time to review the original order-in-council that was passed in 1946. We must ensure that all the surviving veterans are offered the opportunity to recover their status and therefore to also become fully eligible for benefits.
It’s very important that we stand united on this front. It is symbolic and it is timely as I mentioned earlier. I think that by uniting our support we will be able to send a very strong message to the Government of Canada and I’m certain that we will be able to see some movement on this end. It is unfortunate that we have to debate motions such as this, but I think that is very timely and it is very much needed.
I would just like to again thank those constituents in my constituency who have served on our behalf, to all the surviving veterans who remain in my riding and to all those in the Yukon — a word of thanks in recognition of Remembrance Day and in recognition of all of their efforts on Yukoners’ and Canadians’ behalf, for which we can be very grateful for what we have today.
Thank you very much.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question? Member for Lake Laberge? If you speak now you will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard? Leader of the official opposition.
Mr. Hardy: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It’s nice to see motions such as this and the ability to make changes to them to what we believe on this side, to improve them and I guess find some clarity around them because the way the first one was written it wasn’t very clear on exactly what it was referencing, and it’s necessary that we in this Legislative Assembly are clear in what we say. People who may look at what we have said in the past need to know the subject and need to know why the debate happened the way it did.
Motions need to have that clarity, so I believe the amendment to Motion No. 484 was very good. And, as the members opposite have indicated, it doesn’t change it. There is no intention to change it at all; it was just to address that.
We on this side of the House, the NDP, would support any kind of motion in regard to pensions. We only have to think of the history of pensions and remember a person who was very well respected in Parliament — so much so that toward the end of his life he was given a special seat there, although he was no longer an elected member. That is, of course, Stanley Knowles, an NDP MP for many, many years.
He was a champion of pensions. His work and his dedication brought about the development of pensions. He was also, of course, a champion for the rights of people, whether in the military or not.
In 1946, an order-in-council passed and, as it says, 14,000 improperly discharged Canadian veterans were deemed not to have served in World War II and were therefore denied pension plans. That’s a shame. That’s a real shame.
My father fought in the war, and my wife’s father fought in the war, and there were people in her family who died in the war. All my uncles fought in the war, and they were fortunate enough to come home. Many didn’t.
My father passed away about 18 years ago. The pension he received was very poor for what he sacrificed for this country and what we live with today. My mother lives on the veteran pension, and it is not very much either, but it is something. But basically she lives in poverty, and without the help of family, and most importantly my brother and his wife, she would be living a much more difficult existence, as many pensioners, veterans and widows and widowers of them live. That’s a shame. The country is extremely rich right now and has been for many years. There is no excuse not to ensure these people can live in comfort in their last years. But we have a habit of talking the talk about poverty, addressing it, whether it’s child poverty, seniors poverty, veterans poverty — do you have a problem?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Good.
A lot of people won’t look at that poverty. They’ll talk it, but they won’t look at it, they won’t experience it, they won’t see what people go through and how difficult it is to come out of it. I’ve heard people say that you’re poor because it’s your fault and you stay poor because it’s your fault. That’s not the case. In most cases, it’s not.
But a country as rich as Canada — it is supposed to be the best country in the world in which to live — or it used to be said — 1.5 million children living in poverty? It still has veterans who live in poverty. It still has veterans who never were able to get anything because of an order-in-council in 1946, and they are still fighting to get it. They’re still fighting to be recognized, and still fighting for full eligibility for all benefits under the Pension Act. It’s a shame. How can so much time go by and we still haven’t addressed those injustices? What’s wrong with a country that has the means to do it but doesn’t do it? What’s wrong with a government that doesn’t do it? Those are the questions that we have to ask ourselves.
I go to Remembrance Day in honour and recognition of my father, my uncles, my aunts — all the veterans. I do it with mixed emotions. I do it to recognize them, but I am totally opposed to war. I do not believe war resolves conflict. An example right now would be the Iraq war. Estimates are that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis citizens have died. We are now over 2,000, and counting, young American men and women who have died in that conflict. That is not even talking about the emotional and physical injuries or damages that have happened, which are in the tens of thousands.
I remember a debate we had in here in the first days of a legislative sitting in 2003. I clearly remember a debate about weapons of mass destruction and the justification to go to war. It was brought forward by a member across the way. I remember some of the other comments on that side. My position, my belief, my ideology — whatever — was different. Just like going to Remembrance Day, I accept the position they were taking and try to understand it. Just like at Remembrance Day, there are people there who believe that war does resolve conflict and that there is a reason for it.
But I can’t accept leaders that promote war. I can’t accept leaders of countries that send people into combat when there are other ways to resolve conflict. They argue daily that what they are doing is good, when all the evidence points to the opposite result, especially when loss of life continues and there is no change.
With anything around war and the tragedies of war, I find I always have to deal with conflicting emotions. However, once it has happened, we, the leaders, who have the means to make retributions to those who fought on our behalf have a responsibility to ensure that they are respected and looked after, because they carry those wounds for their lives. I know that from my father.
So I support the motion; I support the amendments, and I am hoping that this is another one of those that can be addressed, because they’re not the only veterans who have been denied. First Nation veterans have been denied, and so have many others — merchant marines. It’s a shame how this country has treated its veterans. Whether the war was just or not, they still fought for this country and fought for some principles, so for that reason, I support it. Once again, I’ll be at the Remembrance Day ceremony and thinking about what it’s all about.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I think the debate today with respect to the motion as tabled by the Member for Lake Laberge and as amended by the Member for Kluane speaks to a time in history that is now very much a part that we as a society are dealing with in recognition and acknowledgement of those who have served our country and protected our rights and freedoms as we know them today.
It is unfortunate that a federal government of this country, Canada, with all that we are as a society and as a country and as a federation, would have taken this type of a position in the past and not have dealt with it in the appropriate manner.
What we’re doing today as an Assembly is encourage the federal government to recognize this particular issue of the 14,000 veterans being improperly discharged and ask that they honour the request of the Royal Canadian Legion veterans association to deal with this issue.
I think that this is a decision the federal government can make, should make and must make. What we do here today is encourage the federal government to do exactly that. I think that the debate that has transpired here this afternoon with respect to Motion No. 484 and the amendment brought forward show, once again, that we can, in this Assembly, collectively work toward something of significance and importance, and is indeed a contribution that can be made by this Assembly with respect to making the lives of citizens better.
In this case, we do have many Yukon veterans, as we know, and I think it’s important that we, at every possible opportunity, make representation on their behalf, as we always should. The government side is very pleased to support this motion, as amended, and ensure that we can send the correct message to the federal government they deal with this matter expeditiously and ensure that veterans who served so well and have contributed so much to what we are and who we are today in this great federation are dealt with fairly and in the appropriate manner.
So, I think the motion, as amended, speaks for itself. It is something that we on the government side take great pride in, and we commend this House for its efforts today and look forward to our unanimous support of this very motion.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the motion as amended?
Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, would you please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Cardiff: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are twelve yea, nil nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion No. 484 agreed to as amended
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:19 p.m.
The following documents were filed on November 2, 2005:
Passport requirements (proposed), Canada/U.S. border crossing: letter dated October 31, 2005 from Frank Murkowski, Governor, State of Alaska, Ralph Klein, Premier, Alberta, Gordon Campbell, Premier, British Columbia and Dennis Fentie, Premier, Yukon to Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C., and Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State, Washington, D.C. (Taylor)
Seven Points Ethics Package: Proposed by Ed Broadbent, MP Ottawa Centre (Hardy)