LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L’ONTARIO
Thursday 26 October 2017 Jeudi 26 octobre 2017
Bill 160, An Act to amend, repeal and enact various Acts in the interest of strengthening quality and accountability for patients / Projet de loi 160, Loi visant à modifier, à abroger et à édicter diverses lois dans le souci de renforcer la qualité et la responsabilité pour les patients.
Ms. Teresa J. Armstrong: It gives me great hope when two members stand up at the same time in this House and are so enthusiastic to speak to a bill, Bill 160, about health care. I have to tell you that this bill is a health care omnibus bill. There’s so much to this bill. I hope that I can get through what I want to talk about and give a message around the schedules that are in this bill. Ten minutes in real time: You think, “Wow, what am I going to say?” But when you start debating, it goes by really quickly.
There are many schedules to this bill, and they’re so important to the health care system. I wish this government could have separated some of those schedules so that we would have a real opportunity to give the time and attention that it would take to each of these schedules to emphasize the importance of health care in this province and make sure we debate it in a way that we can contribute real recommendations, amendments or suggestions, because that’s what this government is always looking for. One of their reasons we debate—they say, “Well, this opposition party or this third party opposition, they are not offering any solutions.” I can tell you, Speaker, that isn’t really the case. We have offered, many, many times, solutions to long-term care.
I will give you an example of long-term care, as I mentioned, as well as solutions to health care. Our health care critic, the member from Nickel Belt, has always been a willing participant to offer this government real solutions to health care. One of them, I have to tell you, is the time-to-care bill that she presented, to allow four hours of basic care to residents in long-term care.
Let me talk about some of the schedules. One of the items that I want to talk about right now is the first schedule item, schedule 1 of this bill. What it does is it allows EMS paramedics who drive ambulances to do a triage, so to speak, of health care on the ground when they are called out to a 911 call, so they can assess the situation. It allows paramedics to provide honesty in care for low-acuity patients—for example, on-scene treatment and release or treatment and referral of patients to non-hospital settings.
That is probably a good thing. We know that in—I think it’s around the Pembroke, Petawawa area, if I recall, ambulance or paramedic workers have been doing home care for seniors. They have been going out and actually checking in on vulnerable seniors, touching base with them, because that’s preventing them from actually going to the hospital in a crisis situation. And where does that bring me to, Speaker? It talks about the capacity of hospitals.
The other thing that I want to talk about is the capacity of hospitals. The government, the Minister of Health, has recently announced that Humber River Hospital is going to open after two years of being shuttered, because they are going to take ALC beds out of the existing hospital, the new hospital that’s open, and they are going to transfer them over to the Humber River Hospital. If I recall, it’s about 150 beds, because they want to free up capacity in the new hospital.
Speaker, I don’t agree that that is a solution, a long-term sustainable solution to the hospital capacity issue. We need to understand what’s happening. This government a few years ago talked about transformational health care. I remember going to meetings at hospitals and talking to CEOs, and they were saying, “The government wants us to deliver the services to health care in hospitals where medically-oriented services—we aren’t here for people to, you know, recover for a week. Once they have their major surgery done, then they need to go home and they need to recover there, where they can have home care.”
In theory, that was a good idea, but what happened was that the resources to the home care weren’t—the pathway wasn’t there. It wasn’t clear. So you would have somebody who had major surgery and they would be there a couple of days and they would be released out of the hospital. But what occurred? There was a gap. I have heard this many times, and members have mentioned it. They didn’t have home care come in enough time. It was delayed. They ended up with infections or complications, and they ended up back in the emergency room. So that didn’t help the situation. That transformational health care, if we didn’t have that piece in place, wasn’t solving the problem.
What also was happening was, under mental health—I have often talked about this. There’s a wonderful article that the London Free Press wrote. It’s a very sad situation about a young woman who was a whistle-blower in London under the mental health department, the psychiatric department. This was going on for years. It wasn’t anything new. But once this young woman came forward and said, “You know what? I was a mental health patient and I was forced to wait in a hallway to get help”— she was sent home without being referred because there was no capacity for the beds. The sad part of this, the sad unfortunate part that could be prevented—this could have been prevented. This young woman, 20 years old, was in the mental health care system from the time she was a younger person. She had visited the ER in London to get help for her mental health issue over eight days, and in the end, because the system wasn’t there to help her, she died by suicide. This is unacceptable.
One of the schedules in here that I’m talking about, the paramedic piece, is that if there are patients who are accessing mental health services and they are low-acutity patients, there should be an opportunity to divert them to a community centre. That was a problem under this act, that EMS services were not allowed to take low-acuity mental health patients who needed help into—in London, specifically; we’re using that example—a crisis centre, a mental health crisis centre, because it wasn’t under the hospital act. This is now being addressed, I understand, and that’s good. There are recommendations, though—again, this government needs to understand that if that is a good idea, which I think we all agree it probably has merit—but it needs to listen to the people that work in that field.
How are they going to do that? We have suggestions from stakeholders. For example, they are saying that when that happens, the patients must go to a public, not-for-profit facility. We don’t want to encourage privatization in our health care system, because it comes out of your pocket, Speaker, and that means it’s a two-tier health care system: those that can afford it and those that can’t. That’s one recommendation.
The other recommendation: It should only be for patients with low acuity. We have to ensure that’s the case. We don’t want to take people who are high acuity into the wrong places to get help. That doesn’t help the patient and it doesn’t help the health care system costs in general. It also says that they want to make sure that paramedics and dispatchers must be protected from any additional liability that might arise from the government’s proposed changes to allow diversion away from emergency rooms in hospitals. Again, they are looking for guidance on those things. Enacting legislation that is going to help the community, is going to help patients and is going to help alleviate some of that hospital capacity is a good thing. But then we have to look at the layers of how that’s going to affect the front-line workers and the patients.
I hope that when the government is looking at this at committee, they are going to pay attention—number one—to the presenters who have a stake in this legislation in all areas, be it a patient, a hospital, or first responders. They are going to listen, I hope, very closely to our health care critic because there are many times, Speaker, that we have offered solutions and amendments to this government and they haven’t taken them. Then they stand up here and they say, “Well, the third party doesn’t have any solutions.”
I’ll give them a couple, Speaker, that I have here. One of them is that we need to put a moratorium on firing—or laying off, I should say—nurses and front-line staff and care workers and professionals and providers until there’s a comprehensive health care system in place; a plan in place. That’s something—
Hon. Peter Z. Milczyn: It’s a pleasure to rise this morning to respond to the comments from the member for London–Fanshawe on the Strengthening Quality and Accountability for Patients Act. Madam Speaker, I think the member actually addressed some of the key parts of the legislation very well in her remarks. The aspect of the bill which will give more authority to paramedics to deal with their patients in a variety of ways other than simply transporting them to a hospital: We know that in some cases we’ve had tremendous backups of paramedics and ambulances at certain emergency rooms, where the coverage for the rest of the community would be diminished because these ambulances were stuck waiting in an emergency room to transfer the patient to the care of the doctors at that facility. I know that the government over the years has made a number of changes to alleviate that dilemma, to get ambulances and paramedics back out on the road more quickly. That dealt with one aspect of the issue, which was the backlog at emergency rooms.
This takes it to the next step, Madam Speaker, and the member raised this. It now gives paramedics the options to treat people in the home or to direct their care to other health facilities that are perhaps more appropriate than an emergency room. Ultimately, what this does is it ensures the patient gets the right care in the right place and at the right time, which will lead to better outcomes.
Of course, Madam Speaker, this bill speaks to much more than just that aspect. As someone who has had parents in long-term care and who now has in-laws in retirement homes, the aspects for more oversight for long-term-care facilities and retirement homes are very positive as well.
Mr. Lorne Coe: Our hope as a caucus is that the government will seek feedback from stakeholders to refine the bill. We have speakers who will be a little bit more specific going forward this morning—and to ensure it strikes an appropriate balance of the liberties of residents alongside the protection of vulnerable persons in our long-term-care homes.
We also want to see a long-term-care system that upholds safety and quality, and one that’s hailed as a success for all the residents in long-term care. Speaker, you will know that the residents coming into our long-term-care-home system here in Ontario now are not necessarily seniors. It’s younger residents as well, and presenting with a greater level of acuity and challenge in their medical needs. But as builders of our communities, in particular the seniors of our communities, residents in Ontario’s long-term-care homes deserve no less in terms of the type of care that is required.
In summing up, I want to make sure that as we move forward with this bill, we ensure adequate time to educate the long-term-care sector about the proposed new obligations—legal obligations, as opposed to simply applying the charges and penalties laid out here in the provisions. The worst that could happen, if that diligence and care is not taken, is that the changes will be rushed through and front-line staff will have some difficulty in applying these new approaches and, even more, it will diminish the opportunity of staff to apply the level of care that we all want to see going forward.
Ms. Peggy Sattler: I want to commend my colleague the member from London–Fanshawe on her remarks with regard to Bill 160, the Strengthening Quality and Accountability for Patients Act. She spoke about the situation in London. She and I, of course, come from the same community. We are daily witnesses to the chaos, the crisis in our mental health system in our community.
She talked about the pilot project that my community was involved in putting together almost two years ago. This is a pilot project that would enable the local EMS, the paramedics, to take non-acute mental health patients directly to our local CMHA crisis centre instead of to the hospital. At the crisis centre, they can be seen in about 20 minutes, versus eight hours or more at the hospital before they are admitted. When this project was put together in my community, it was estimated that it could save the system $2.5 million a year that could be reinvested into health care services.
Instead of approving our pilot project two years ago, the government has introduced amendments to the Ambulance Act, amendments which are very broad and which open up all kinds of questions and concerns. They have bundled those amendments to the Ambulance Act within a very complex piece of legislation that includes 10 schedules, numerous changes to many pieces of legislation, many of which are highly, highly contentious. They open the door to privatization. They don’t do anything to address the crisis in our long-term-care system. They don’t do anything to ensure that seniors have the care that they need in long-term-care homes or retirement homes. It’s unacceptable.
Hon. Reza Moridi: It’s a great pleasure to rise in this House and speak to Bill 160. One aspect of Bill 160 is transparency. By introducing this bill, we bring transparency to the transfer of benefits from industry to medical professionals and those who provide medical care to our population.
If this bill is passed, the government basically will be committed to require industry people to come up with information on where they transfer various types of benefits; for example, paid meals, travel, research grants, or fees for services such as consultations or sponsored speaking engagements. These are some of the things which are happening in our society, but as a public, we have no information on what is happening in the system. This bill, if passed, will bring more transparency to that aspect of our health care system.
Countries around the world such as Belgium, France, the United States, Denmark, Slovakia, and Portugal have already done this through legislation. If passed, Madam Speaker, Ontario is going to be the first jurisdiction in our country of Canada to bring this legislation forward and introduce this notion to our health care system.
Ms. Teresa J. Armstrong: As I mentioned earlier, there is a lot to this bill. There are many schedules and moving parts. I focused on hospital capacity. This is one of the ways that we look forward to those changes. The complexity of that, as I mentioned, needs to be taken into account so that it’s done right and we don’t create further health care crises in our community.
When I talk about capacity in long-term care—I’m the third party critic for long-term care—there is a problem with capacity in long-term care. There are over 30,000 people waiting to get into long-term-care beds. I have to say, and I addressed this earlier, the government isn’t dealing with that capacity problem.
I’ll give you an example, as I mentioned earlier: They are taking people out of a hospital and opening up a hospital that has been closed—Humber River Hospital—and putting alternative-care beds into that hospital and saying, “That’s the capacity solution we’re going to have.” People in alternative-care beds need to access long-term-care facilities, and that’s where they’re going to get the care that they need. So that is a problem.
In schedule 5 of Bill 160, they touch on long-term care. They are changing ways of how to address infractions and abuse with regard to long-term care. They’re levying fines for licensees who operate these businesses. They are talking about confinement and restraints of residents in long-term care in schedule 5, and also a different schedule in the retirement homes. I have concerns about how this legislation is written when it comes to confinement and restraints. I think that when you live in a long-term-care home or in a retirement home you need to be very clear when it comes to those kinds of liberties—
Hon. Chris Ballard: It gives me great pleasure to be able to speak to this bill, the Strengthening Quality and Accountability for Patients Act. I want to just follow up on a few comments that my colleagues made in their remarks earlier. I wanted to talk about the need for open pharma, as this bill calls it.
It goes without saying that the people of Ontario deserve health care they can rely on. They deserve health care that they can trust. We know that transparency allows the public to have access to information in order to be engaged and make informed choices, not only about their health care but also about the health of their families. Ensuring that there is transparency with Ontario’s publicly funded health system really increases public trust.
Everyone deserves access to that information, as I mentioned earlier, so that’s why our government committed to strengthening transparency in the health care system here in Ontario. This legislation, if passed, is going to make information around payments from the medical industry to health care professionals and organizations available to the public. It would require, for example, that the medical industry annually report payments submitted to health care professionals and organizations. It would include things like paid meals, travel, research grants and fees for services such as consultations or sponsored speaking engagements.
If passed, this new legislation is going to allow for the payment information to be publicly posted on a database so that all of us will have access to it. This is going to give Ontarians, we believe, the insight into the extent of private sector funding of the health care system.
As my colleague mentioned, a number of countries have gone down this route. We have France, the United States, Belgium, Denmark, Portugal and Slovakia—they have all addressed this issue through legislation, and we are doing the same. We’re aligning ourselves with this growing movement, as are leaders nationwide. But we will be the first jurisdiction in Canada to address this issue.
There are a number of things I wanted to talk about on this bill, Speaker. If passed, it’s also going to guarantee that all long-term-care-home operators are providing safe and quality care for residents, through a stronger inspection program with more robust enforcement tools, including financial penalties and new provincial offences.
As my colleague noted earlier, it would give ambulances the ability—and I want to speak about that for a minute in a second, because it’s something near and dear to my heart. It would give ambulances the ability to transport patients to more appropriate care settings, such as mental health facilities, to best address their individual needs. This would help reduce overcrowding in emergency departments, and provide the best care for patients in the most appropriate settings, when they call 911 for assistance.
It would also protect Ontarians in their everyday life by regulating recreational water facilities, like splash pads and wading pools, and personal care services settings like barbershops and nail salons.
Getting reliable emergency services quickly isn’t just important, of course; it’s a matter of life or death. That’s why it is important that our emergency health services are operating effectively and efficiently.
There are approximately 8,700 paramedics and more than 1,700 ambulances and support vehicles across Ontario. Last year, they transported more than one million patients, and that number continues to grow. But the experts have told me—when I’m talking to the EMS and the paramedics in my area, they tell me that many of the 911 calls are not necessarily life-threatening. I’m certainly not suggesting that people who have concerns stop calling 911. Please, call 911. Everyone will tell you that. But they are not all life-threatening. Some individuals are having a mental health crisis that needs some specialized supports other than a trip to emergency. There are others; I know I have heard of seniors who don’t necessarily need transportation to hospital but need some reassurance that everything is okay.
Up until now, if either of those groups were to phone 911, they would be transported to an emergency room. That would have necessitated a significant wait, and it would have tied up a lot of resources that could perhaps be better applied to taking care of people who really do have an immediate, life-threatening issue.
We believe there is a more flexible way of managing our 911 system, and that’s putting patients first, or utilizing our existing resources in the best way. Our proposed changes are going to allow EMS workers to treat and release low-acuity patients who do not need additional medical care, or treat and refer patients to a health setting more appropriate than emergency rooms. We believe these changes would help reduce off-load delays at our hospitals, meaning that ambulances and staff are spending more time available to respond to those calls where every second counts.
Speaker, I will say, too, that there has been, thankfully, some good support for Bill 160, the Strengthening Quality and Accountability for Patients Act. We have the MPP for Welland who has said that certainly the NDP supports the improvements for transparency in health care and for better quality of health care for patients and seniors in this province.
The MPP for Whitby–Oshawa was quoted as saying that at the same time, the stakeholders, as we move to a committee structure, will have an opportunity to continue to provide their voices on ways in which we can strengthen the legislation going forward.
Speaker, I think we have heard from both the opposition party and the third party that there is support for elements of this bill and a desire to see other sections raised in committee for further consultation. I think that’s a good thing. In committee, we know, members of all parties will hear from stakeholders that have an interest in the bill. Members of the public will be able to provide their important input on this bill.
We allowed debate to continue when we reached six and a half hours of debate on this bill so that more members from all parties would have the opportunity to present their views on the bill, myself included. This bill has seen more than nine hours of debate and we have had many of our members in the Legislature speak to the bill. So at this time, I believe it’s time that the bill is put to a vote for second reading and hopefully be referred to committee where the important work takes place. As a result, Speaker, I would move that this question be now put.
Ms. Ann Hoggarth: Today, I would like to welcome three representatives from the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network: president and CEO Jackie Manthorne, with board members Mona Forrest and Ella Forbes-Chilibeck. The CCSN will be hosting a reception at lunchtime today in room 228, and I invite all members to attend.
Mr. Randy Pettapiece: I’d like to introduce the family of page captain Erin Elliott: her mother, Melanie Hahn; her father, Jeff Elliott; and her brother, Ethan Elliott, who was a page back in the spring of 2014. Welcome.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: I’d like to welcome members representing the corrections and community safety professionals in our province. They are Randy Simpraga, Chris Jackel, Scott McIntyre, Ken Steinbrenner, Chris Abbott, Pete Harding, Tom Moffat, Yvonne Latchford, Rob Nimer, Glenna Caldwell, Autumn Butsch, Greg Arnold and Chad Oldfield. They’re here today to take part in question period.
Hon. Reza Moridi: Please join me in welcoming one of the giants of medical science in our province, Dr. James Till, sitting in the members’ gallery. Dr. Till and his late colleague Dr. Ernest McCulloch discovered stem cells and brought medical sciences to another plateau. This afternoon, I’ll be making a ministerial statement on their achievements, and I hope all colleagues will join us. On behalf of all of us, we welcome Dr. James Till to the Ontario Parliament.
Mr. Rick Nicholls: I would like to welcome all of the correctional officers from around the province, as well as probation and parole, namely, Ryan Graham, president of OPSEU Local 234 from the Maplehurst correction centre; Carmen Ackerman, a nurse at Maplehurst; Matt Smith; Peter Figliola; Jill Johns, probation and parole from Chatham; Richard Dionne, president of Local 369 from CNCC, Central North; and Gord Kiernan, Barrie probation and parole, Local 338. Welcome to Queen’s Park.
Hon. Bob Chiarelli: I rise today on behalf of my colleague the member for Ottawa South to introduce some board members from the Perley and Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre. Joining us today in the east gallery are Akos Hoffer, Mike Jeffrey, Kris Birchard and Jamie Lowery. Welcome, gentlemen.
Mr. Bob Delaney: On behalf of the member for Mississauga East–Cooksville and page captain Alexander Arruda, I’d like the members to welcome Alexander’s parents, Christine and Michael Arruda, and his brother, Nicholas Arruda. They will be in the members’ gallery this morning.
Hon. Eleanor McMahon: I’m delighted to welcome to Queen’s Park today a tremendous resident of Burlington who’s a real activist in the autism community and doing great things for her son, Mason. Thank you, Rachelle Parker, for everything you do and thank you for being here.
Hon. Yasir Naqvi: I want to introduce a very good friend of mine, somebody who worked along with me and the Minister of Finance here at Queen’s Park and now is a proud resident of Ottawa Centre. Please welcome Geoff Turner to Queen’s Park.
Mr. Yvan Baker: I wanted to introduce a few folks on behalf of MPP Fraser. I would like to introduce members of the Ontario Kinesiology Association to the Legislature. We have with us a number of folks: Sabrina Francescut, who is OKA president, from Thunder Bay–Atikokan; Renee David and Janice Ray from Markham Stouffville; Krista Crozier from Guelph Wellington; Daniel Santa Mina from Etobicoke–Lakeshore; Devon Blackburn from Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry; Steven Fischer from Waterloo; and Eliza Reid from Oxford. Welcome to Queen’s Park.
Mrs. Cristina Martins: It gives me great pleasure to welcome someone who’s visiting us here today from Portugal. Dr. Vasco Almeida is visiting from Montepio bank in Portugal. With him is Elisa Silva from the Montepio representative office here in Toronto. Bem-vindos to Queen’s Park.
On behalf of our government and as the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, we say welcome and we thank you all for the great work that you do every single day in our institutions and in our communities.
Mr. Michael Harris: I would like to welcome Amy and Craig Fee; their son, Kenner; and their service dog, Ivy, I believe is with them. As well, Donna Baldwin and Jack Baldwin and their service dog, Jensen, are here. I believe Linda Fauteux is here from MP Harold Albrecht’s office. Welcome to Queen’s Park.
Miss Monique Taylor: I know they’ll be joining us shortly as they’ve been redirected upstairs. From the Ontario Autism Coalition we have Bruce McIntosh, Laura Kirby-McIntosh, Declan McIntosh and his service dog, Basil. We have Lucas Zapreff with his mom, Tara Zapreff. We have Irwin Elman, who joined us in the House today. We have David Lepofsky, who joined us in the House today, and Sherry Caldwell, who is with us from the Ontario Disability Coalition. Welcome to Queen’s Park.
Mr. Patrick Brown: My question is for the Premier. It took hundreds and thousands of families with children with autism to convince this government that autism doesn’t end at five. Unfortunately, right now, the government seems to have forgotten that autism doesn’t end at school either. The sad reality is that families, who don’t have the time and are stretched thin, have to come to Queen’s Park to protest.
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: First of all, let me say, to the Ontario Autism Coalition, welcome. Many of the people who are here today are people I’ve worked with for many years, from the time I was Minister of Education and before, actually, when I was a school trustee. I know that there are many issues that we have worked together on over the years.
As you know, Mr. Speaker, we have put $500 million into autism services to create 16,000 new spaces and to reduce wait times, because we knew that there were young kids languishing on a wait-list, not getting service when they needed it and not getting the appropriate service, therefore.
We’ve done that, but we know that there’s more work to be done in the classroom. This issue of how to deliver services in the classroom and make sure that we have the right services in the right place—that’s why we’ve put a pilot project in place. This is a discussion that has been going on for some time.
Today, the Ontario Autism Coalition released the results of an important survey. They asked parents of school-aged children with autism about their experiences and about the support they’re getting from this government: 40% said that their child’s potential placements were not thoroughly explained to them; 57% indicated they did not feel they had a choice when it came to their child’s placement; 72% felt their child does not receive the support at the level they need at school. That’s astonishing. That’s three out of four children saying they don’t get the support they need from this government.
Hon. Michael Coteau: I’d like to take this opportunity to thank parents, to thank the Ontario Autism Coalition and everyone who’s here at the Legislature today, who have worked with us as a government to better position young people for success here in the province of Ontario.
We’ve been working tirelessly to put a new system in place. We committed to putting in place the implementation of a new plan in the fall of this year and full implementation of the plan in the spring. We have a track record here in the Legislature when it comes to supporting young people, unlike the member opposite, the Leader of the Opposition. When you look at his track record when it comes to supporting young people, I would say he gets a failure. He has not—he’s had the opportunity to support families, to support children, and I’ll talk a bit about his record in my supplemental.
Mr. Patrick Brown: Again to the Premier: This isn’t the opposition’s survey results and this isn’t a partisan pitch; this is the Ontario Autism Coalition. Rather than attack others, I would like the Premier herself to answer the substance of these concerns.
Not only are they saying that three quarters of students don’t get the help in school they need, but another fact in the report read that 75% of parents indicated that in the last year they had advocated for their child to receive support from an EA. Of those requests, 54% have been refused. The support is not there.
I know that the convenient answer at Queen’s Park is to attack others, but the reality, Mr. Speaker, is that they’ve been in government for 14 years. For 14 years they’ve had the opportunity to support children with autism. So directly to the Premier: This report is disappointing. What will the Premier promise us today that she is going to do to support these children and support these families?
Hon. Michael Coteau: Mr. Speaker, here in Ontario we have the best resources that are being placed to support families of children with autism. The member opposite knows that we dedicated an additional half a billion dollars to support young people here in the province. We have committed to regulating the sector to make sure that young people are getting the best services possible. We are the government that has moved towards direct funding.
When the member opposite had an opportunity to vote for a national strategy for autism as a federal member, he voted against it. When he had an opportunity to stand up and support families with Bill 89, which supports young people by raising the age of protection, they were nowhere to be seen. What are you doing to support young people here in the province of Ontario? I’d like to know your record.
We just received copies of the long-term energy plan. Mr. Speaker, I can’t find what page includes the section on giving mega contracts to Liberal donors. We know that the Auditor General said we overpaid by $9.2 billion on renewable energy. Of these mega contracts the companies got, they donated $1.3 million to the Ontario Liberal Party. The section on giving mega contracts to Liberal friends and insiders—was that section double-deleted? Could the Premier please enlighten us?
Hon. Glenn Thibeault: I’m very pleased to talk about the long-term energy plan, which is talking about a plan that we’ve brought forward that’s reducing rates for the people in this province by 25%. This is the second plan that we have launched in the last six months, Mr. Speaker. I know that we’re still waiting for one from the opposition.
When we’re talking about the benefits of this plan, it’s actually bringing fairness and choice and innovation—innovation that’s going to actually see ratepayers, both large and small, see their bills reduced. It will see more jobs created in an innovative sector that has already created over 40,000 jobs. This plan is bringing forward prosperity for our province, making sure that we can continue to keep our GHGs low and working with the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change to meet our climate change action plan goals. This plan is something that Ontarians should be proud of.
Mr. Todd Smith: This long-term energy plan confirms what we’ve said all along: After the next election, the Liberal electricity borrowing scheme gets wiped out. But this $40-billion borrowing scheme is going to cost ratepayers an extra $4 billion long-term because it was never, ever intended to be an electricity plan, Mr. Speaker. This is a re-election plan for Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals in Ontario. The unfair hydro plan is yet another bad deal—
Mr. Todd Smith: Speaker, the unfair hydro plan is another bad deal for Ontario that’s going to drive up electricity costs even further. How much more does this minister think Ontario ratepayers can afford on their electricity bills?
Hon. Glenn Thibeault: When we look at the electricity price outlook, Mr. Speaker—we brought down rates by 25%. That is actually clear, right as day, that rates are down 25%. Then they come down a little bit more in 2018, and they’re held to the cost of inflation for the three years after that.
Then, as we said just moments ago, when we were talking about the long-term energy plan and talking about it to the media and to the people of Ontario, we’re going to continue to take costs out of the system. We have examples of doing that. Besides the 25% from the fair hydro plan, we actually didn’t build new nuclear, cutting out billions in costs. We didn’t actually bring forward the LRP II, reducing billions of costs. We renegotiated the Samsung agreement.
Mr. Todd Smith: Speaker, it took this government almost a year to come up with this long-term energy plan. It was supposed to come out in December; here we are, in late October, and we get a plan that really doesn’t remove any costs from the system. This is a $40-billion borrowing scheme.
The Liberals even managed to break a basic law of economics today. Demand is going to stay the same; supply is going to stay the same; prices, however, will shoot to new record highs after the next election. And that’s even after they cooked the books to make households smaller—
Hon. Glenn Thibeault: Very clearly, the opposition has no idea on what to do with this file. All they can do, Mr. Speaker, is stand up and complain. This is a plan that is bringing fairness and choice. It is bringing—
Hon. Glenn Thibeault: This is a plan that is bringing forward choice, that’s bringing forward fairness. It’s a real plan, a realistic plan, that the people of Ontario can actually look at and help them understand where the electricity system, where the energy system is going.
On the other side, they haven’t brought a thing forward, not one thing that would actually do anything to lower rates, but only increase rates. We’ve brought forward the 25% reduction through the fair hydro plan. We’ve taken costs out of the system. We’ll continue to roll up our sleeves and do more for the people of Ontario through this plan.
Ms. Teresa J. Armstrong: My question is to the Premier. Yesterday, the Long Term Care Association confirmed what the Minister of Health has been denying for three days: that long-term-care homes in Toronto are looking to relocate out of the city. Whether or not these homes have filed the paperwork with the ministry, they have expressed their desire to relocate and they’ve done it publicly.
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I know the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care is going to want to comment, but let’s just be clear: This is a societal concern, that we all work with the people who provide care for elderly people, particularly frail elderly who may need to be in a long-term-care home or who may still want to stay at home and need those services in their place of residence. It is exactly what we are doing as a government. We are working with all of the providers, working with seniors’ advocacy groups to make sure that we put in place the supports that people need.
It is absolutely part of that discussion that beds are being upgraded across the province. There is money that’s going into long-term care to make sure that those beds are upgraded. And we want to make sure that there are not just those beds upgraded, but there are new beds in communities around the province. So until there is a formal proposal, we’re talking about hypotheticals.
Ms. Teresa J. Armstrong: Denying what is happening publicly is not working with the people of the city of Toronto. The association’s report notes that even the city of Toronto staff acknowledge the possibility of homes closing or leaving. City staff said, “There is a significant risk in future years of long-term-care homes closing or moving out of the city....”
With a wait-list for care topping 32,000 people already, and now the possibility of losing 1,800 spaces in Toronto, what is this Liberal government’s plan to make sure that every senior who needs care has a spot in a long-term-care home?
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: The challenge laid out by the member opposite is exactly the challenge we are working on. We understand that there are risks. We understand that there are risks in the aging population. Many, many of us are working with our parents to make sure they have the care they need.
We understand that solving the challenge that the member opposite has laid out is the responsibility, I would suggest, of all of us. It is certainly the responsibility of our government. We are working with the Long Term Care Association, we are working with providers, to make sure that the scenario that the member opposite hypothetically has put forward does not happen.
Ms. Teresa J. Armstrong: This Liberal government is the epitome of the queen of denial. The redevelopment issues with these homes in Toronto are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to problems in the long-term-care system.
Seniors are facing months-long wait-lists just to get a bed, and when they finally do, they often have to face issues with safety and security, understaffing and conditions that do not allow them the care and support they deserve. When they finally get a place, they don’t even have the peace of mind of staying in the city when they get their long-term-care bed.
Hon. Eric Hoskins: Once again, the NDP is sowing the seeds of anxiety and fear. I feel awful for those residents of the 20 long-term-care homes. I need to reassure them; I feel compelled to, because of this narrative they’re trying to create—that not a single home in Toronto has applied to us to move their beds or their homes outside of Toronto. In fact, I met with the mayor of the city of Toronto yesterday, and we both remarked on how the number of beds for long-term care in Toronto this year has actually increased.
We’re working with our partners. I appreciate the fact that the Ontario Long Term Care Association has released their pre-budget submission—yesterday, I believe—and I’ve gone through it. There are some very good ideas within that.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: My question is to the Premier. This morning, the Premier released her long-term energy plan, but the people of Ontario don’t need a fancy report to know what the Premier and her Liberal government are planning for their hydro bills. We already know: They’re going to skyrocket. The plan confirms it in black and white. Ten years from now, people will be paying 42% more every single month, just to keep the lights on. The Premier’s $40-billion borrowing scheme has seen to that. Even when households use less power, her long-term energy plan says they’ll pay still more.
Hon. Glenn Thibeault: I’m very pleased to talk about the long-term energy plan, the 25% reduction that people are getting now. We’re going to continue to see costs coming out of the system to lower that for our families and our businesses even more.
I know the third party continues to make their numbers up and elevate what they’re seeing as borrowing plans. They know those numbers are actually a lot lower than that. It shows it directly in the long-term energy plan.
Let’s talk about some of the things that this long-term energy plan is doing. We’re making sure that we’re bringing forward lower costs for all businesses and all families—and for all farms in this province, for that matter. That’s being done through the fair hydro plan.
We’ve already pulled costs out of the system. Not having to build new nukes, not having to bring forward the second round of large renewable procurement, and renegotiating the Samsung contract are just three examples we can use of how we’ve taken costs out of the system.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: Again to the Premier: Hydro rates have gone up 300% under the Liberals. They’ve gone up 50% under this Premier’s watch alone. And now we know that in the next 10 years, people’s bills will go from an already high average of 127 bucks a month to an outrageous $181 per month.
The Premier’s first two energy plans had no mention of her plan to sell off Hydro One—a disastrous decision. And this long-term plan is nothing more than a political document that sugar-coats more bad news for Ontario ratepayers. The Premier didn’t tell us she would privatize Hydro One. People said no to privatization and she did it anyway. She let us down. What makes the Premier think that the people of Ontario give her any credibility on this file?
Hon. Glenn Thibeault: The only thing that this Premier has done is brought rates down by 25%, unlike what that party would propose to do, which is to nationalize Hydro One, spend tens of billions of dollars doing so, and not save a single penny on anyone’s bills.
You want to talk about Hydro One? Let’s talk about the money that we’ve been able to take and build infrastructure with, thanks to the broadening of the ownership of Hydro One: $13.5 billion in the GTHA. GO regional rail express—that’s increasing transit. I always thought the NDP supported more transit; I guess they don’t. Some $5.3 billion in the Eglinton Crosstown LRT; tripling the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund to $300 million; $1.4 billion in the Hurontario LRT in Mississauga and Brampton; $1 billion in Ottawa’s LRT; and, of course, the broadening and expansion of Highway 69, making sure that northern Ontario—
Mr. Peter Tabuns: Again to the Premier: Hydro bills have skyrocketed under this Premier, and nothing in her long-term energy plan is going to change that. The people of Ontario don’t need to hear any more about stretch goals from the Liberal government. Right now, families are being forced to choose between paying their hydro bills and paying for their groceries. All the Premier seems to care about is spending an extra $4 billion on an accounting trick to hide the impact of her $40-billion borrowing scheme. I guess we all have our priorities, Speaker.
Hon. Glenn Thibeault: The fair hydro plan took into consideration every single person in this province and brought forward relief for them, unlike their so-called pie-in-the-sky plan that didn’t even include talking about reductions for First Nations or talking about low-income individuals.
Let’s look at page 23 of the long-term energy plan, where it talks about distribution rate protection. The RRRP program lowers the distribution rates paid by rural and remote customers, who face higher distribution costs compared to other areas. That’s a 40% to 50% reduction for people who live in the rural and northern parts of our province; again, something that they didn’t even address, Mr. Speaker.
When it comes to a party that is actually bringing something for the people of Ontario, it’s this government, not the two opposition parties. One doesn’t have a plan and one makes it up as it goes along. We’re actually bringing forward real relief for all Ontarians.
Mr. Patrick Brown: My question is for the Premier. I’ve spoken with corrections officers, nurses and other front-line corrections staff across the province, and this is what I have heard: Jails are overcrowded, cellblock violence is a constant problem, inmates are held in maximum security without access to rehabilitation programs, and assaults on corrections officers and staff have more than doubled in seven years. I actually met one correctional officer in Thunder Bay who got held hostage.
But I want to just take an opportunity to say that, quite to the contrary of what the Leader of the Opposition has said, we don’t think everything is fine. We believe that the work that is done by the people who are in the gallery today is very hard work and very important work, and I would say that for decades, it has not received the attention that it needed to. That is a non-partisan comment; I think governments of all stripes have not paid attention to corrections in the way that we should.
I think there’s a lot of work to be done. We have Howard Sapers, who is already giving us advice on some of the directions that we should take. But I just want the people in this gallery to know that we understand there is a lot to be done, that there are investments that need to be made, and there is attention to the working conditions of the people in our corrections institutions which need to be taken into account.
Mr. Patrick Brown: Again to the Premier: If the Premier recognizes that there is a crisis, then fix it. If the Premier recognizes there is a problem, we need action. They’ve been in office for 14 years, and they’re having this awakening now that there’s a crisis? It needs investment.
There’s a sense of urgency here, and it’s not just the crisis in corrections. Ontario’s probation and parole system frankly is a joke. Often the only contact between a criminal and a probation officer happens when the offender visits the probation office. We saw that shocking Global TV exposé. So there’s a broader crisis in corrections.
What I want to know from the Premier is: Does she think it’s acceptable when we’re talking about dangerous, violent criminals and sex offenders who are on the loose without supervision? How do they justify this neglect? It was a year ago when we had that Global TV exposé, and we still don’t see action.
Hon. Marie-France Lalonde: Mr. Speaker, they looked at privatization of our corrections system. I have to say, visiting eight institutions over the past 10 months, this is what I hear in our institutions. It was a failed privatization experiment in one of our jails. It was negotiated in bad faith with the public sector, which resulted in strikes in our jails, just in case he doesn’t know, and riots all over.
Hon. Marie-France Lalonde: Mr. Speaker, we would think that the Leader of the Opposition would learn from the countless mistakes his party made in Ontario’s corrections system. But think again: As an eager Harper Conservative—
When the government announced their new autism program, they knew it would put added pressure onto our school system, a system already struggling to cope with decades of chronic underfunding and cuts, begun by the Conservatives and continued by 14 years of Liberal governments, particularly to special education.
But nothing has been done to prepare for that, and children with autism, yet again, are paying the price. Will the government commit to a comprehensive autism strategy that ensures children with autism get the services they need in an inclusive classroom setting?
Hon. Mitzie Hunter: It’s such an honour to rise in this House today. I just want to welcome all of the family members, the students who are here today and the educators who are here today on behalf of the 20,000 students with autism in our school system. I know how hard the Ontario Autism Coalition has been working. I have been working with them, along with the Minister of Children and Youth Services.
We’re very committed as a government to providing for the appropriate supports in our schools for students who have autism. It’s something that we know is needed, and we’ve been doing that work. In fact, I just recently announced that we are beginning our pilot program that will see applied behaviour therapists being able to come right into schools to ease the transition and to create a more seamless and integrated day for students who have autism.
Ms. Peggy Sattler: Again to the Premier: Almost one year later, this Liberal government has failed to deliver on its promise to create an education accessibility standard and has failed to provide the special education resources needed by students with autism.
The chronic underfunding of special education that was started by the Conservatives has continued under the Liberals. Instead of increasing special education funding to actually meet the needs of students, this Liberal government has cut special education budgets even more, leading to an ongoing shortage of EAs, developmental service workers and other specialized staff in schools. It’s not just ABA training for EAs that is needed; it’s more trained EAs.
Will the Premier move forward immediately to develop an education accessibility standard, and will she commit to an inclusive autism strategy in schools that addresses the educational as well as therapeutic needs of students with autism?
Hon. Mitzie Hunter: The third party is asking for us to improve education in areas in Ontario that we are doing right now. We have, in fact, trained 30,000 principals, teachers and education workers in applied behaviour therapy. What we’ve just announced is in addition to that specific customized—
Ms. Daiene Vernile: My question is to the Minister of Energy. Constituents in my riding of Kitchener Centre often ask me about electricity prices. Many of them have come to me in recent months and have mentioned that their hydro bills have come down. The fair hydro plan lowered bills by an average of 25% for residential consumers and up to 500,000 small businesses and farms. I’ve also heard how they’re benefiting from expanded programs, such as the Ontario Electricity Support Program, and there is the Rural and Remote Rate Protection Program.
While the fair hydro plan keeps increases to inflation for four years, the minister has also said that the specifics of the long-term costs to our system would be addressed in the 2017 long-term energy plan.
Mr. Speaker, our long-term energy plan, Delivering Fairness and Choice, outlines additional work we will be undertaking to make our electricity system more cost-effective and efficient. That’s continuing to prioritize affordability for all Ontario ratepayers.
Our government has a history of effectively streamlining operations and taking costs out of the system. We deferred the cost of new nuclear. We renegotiated the Samsung agreement. We actually reduced the targets for renewable generation. These are tangible examples of how we’ve taken billions of dollars off of the electricity bills for ratepayers in this province.
In 2010, the long-term energy plan projected that in 2020, the average residential bill would be more than 200 bucks. Today’s plan now projects that in 2020, it will be below $130. That’s a $70 savings for people in Ontario.
Ms. Daiene Vernile: Thank you to the minister for that answer. He’s right to point out that we’ve already done a lot in reducing costs. He mentioned renegotiating Samsung agreements. That saved people—
Ms. Daiene Vernile: As I was saying, Speaker, renegotiating the Samsung agreement saved people in Ontario $3.7 billion; reducing feed-in tariff prices saved $1.9 billion; suspending large renewable procurement saved $3.8 billion; and deferring the construction costs of new nuclear reactors at Darlington will save families $15 billion. Additionally, the Ontario Energy Board has a very strong record of not giving utility companies all that they ask for. When you add this all up, there are real savings.
Unlike the members opposite, our government is also focused on a realistic plan for the future. Could the minister please tell us more about how he is going to be reducing electricity costs in the future?
Hon. Glenn Thibeault: Thanks again for the question. Our government acknowledged that we did the right thing by ensuring we had a clean and green energy supply. How we went about implementing those policies led to sub-optimal outcomes. Therefore, we took an in-depth look at ensuring that we’re procuring electricity generation in the right way.
The IESO is already hard at work on renewing our market mechanisms to create a more efficient and transparent system for procuring electricity generation. Market renewal is a major pillar of our 2017 long-term energy plan, Mr. Speaker, and it sets out to fix the foundation of our electricity system and take a technology-neutral approach to new procurements through an incremental capacity auction. That means that any time we need to secure new supply resources, we will choose the most cost-effective option.
Independent analysis suggests that about $5 billion in system savings would result from implementing market renewal in Ontario. It’s through this mechanism we will continue to drive costs down in the future for Ontario ratepayers, both large and small.
The gas plant trial of two former Liberal aides heard testimony yesterday that was described as “a bombshell.” IT expert Rolf Gitt testified that the province’s Chief Information Officer, David Nicholl, didn’t seek access just to some computers in the Premier’s office during her transition; he wanted broad and extraordinary access to all the computers in the Premier’s office.
Gitt’s testimony contradicts the version given by Nicholl earlier at trial and in a sworn appearance at the justice policy hearings. Mr. Nicholl to this day remains the province’s Chief Information Officer.
Our government takes our record-keeping obligations very seriously. We are committed to being open, accountable and transparent. We promised to open up government completely, and we’ve done so in an unprecedented degree.
In her report, the Information and Privacy Commissioner credited the government for improving record-keeping across government. We sent a directive to all political staff. We have developed mandatory training programs. We appointed chiefs of staff accountable for record-keeping. We have improved archiving requirements and we have passed the accountability act, which prohibits the wilful deletion of records and creates a penalty for doing so.
Mr. Victor Fedeli: Back to the Premier: Mr. Nicholl asked for sweeping elevated rights that allowed the wiping of data off all computers in the Premier’s office. He left an “erroneous impression” with the secretary of cabinet which led him to be granted that access.
Continuing with this pattern today, the energy minister still hasn’t turned over all his emails due to the Auditor General. Now we see that the credibility of the Chief Information Officer is in doubt. Speaker, to the Premier: Why should anyone believe a word you say with your history of dodge, deny and delete?
Hon. Yasir Naqvi: Speaker, I just want to say to the member that he should be very careful in how he is trying to apply a set of proceedings that is taking place in a court of law, as we speak, to the Premier of the day today. The case relates to the former Premier of the province of Ontario. It does not deal with the current Premier. The member needs to be very careful when he uses the term “Premier” and poses his commentary in this House.
Speaker, let me be very clear: this Premier, the current Premier of Ontario, has taken unprecedented steps in making sure that the government is transparent and accountable, and the Information and Privacy Commissioner has credited the government for improving record-keeping. As I mentioned earlier in my question, we have taken specific steps to ensure that there is accurate record-keeping in the government.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: My question is to the Premier. Today, we’re joined by some of the 5,000 dedicated correctional and probation and parole professionals who are here today in the gallery. I want to thank them for the work that they do, keeping our communities safe.
Speaker, they’re here to keep the Liberal government to its word. Last year, the Liberal government spent $50 million to prevent a strike in our province’s jails that never happened. You essentially created a crisis on top of an ongoing crisis. Speaker, $50 million later and this Liberal government made a promise to recognize that front-line correctional staff are essential and valued members of our public service. Yet, despite these promises to hire new staff, the daily staffing complement has not increased at all.
What will the Premier tell correctional services professionals here today—and the thousands that they represent—about what they should expect, about how they’re valued and essential to solving the crisis in corrections?
Hon. Marie-France Lalonde: I thank the member for the question, because again it gives me an opportunity to thank our wonderful correctional staff, who are here and across Ontario, for all their hard work and dedication.
We had a very productive meeting this morning, and I look forward to continuing these important discussions. As I’ve said, Mr. Speaker, I visited eight jails, eight of our institutions in the past 10 months as minister, and I’ve seen first-hand the high calibre of the individuals who actually work in our correctional facilities. I also had the great privilege of attending the latest graduation of our correctional officers in Hamilton: 211 new recruits coming to our workforce every day in our institutions. And, oh man, are they eager to start working and taking care and caring for our inmates.
Understaffing; overcrowding; broken and badly planned facilities procured from private sector deals; mothballed nursing stations, and, in the case of the South West Detention Centre, only 17 nurses of a complement of 21 that they need to operate that facility; $50 million to avoid a strike; one report and nearly daily headlines about jail deaths and violence—and this government is no closer to addressing the problem.
Speaker, I have heard that those who are closest to the problem are the closest to the solution. Is this Premier as committed today to listen to the front-line staff in our corrections and community safety system—the people who deal with it every day—as she was to throwing $50 million to the wind, hoping that the problem would go away?
Hon. Marie-France Lalonde: Definitely, we are listening to our front-line staff. Mr. Speaker, are there issues within our system? Yes. I think our government is not shying away, and certainly as the minister, I’m not shying away from that. But this is exactly why we are implementing the greatest change to corrections in generations.
Mr. Howard Sapers has fully recognized our firm commitment to correctional reform. We’ll continue to work closely with our front-line staff and other partners as this government brings forward real change, whether it is through enhanced mental health training to all staff, or 24-hour, seven-days-a-week nursing, or exploring options to shift the oversight and provision of health care services to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, or through new correctional legislation this fall, to further cement our correctional reform.
Speaker, as you will know, Ontario’s child welfare system strives to make childhood for those in care fair, equitable, just and compassionate. Nevertheless, we do see an overrepresentation, a disproportionately higher number, of indigenous children in care. That includes Métis, First Nations and Inuit.
I believe that all the members of this House value the government’s negotiations and signing of a treaty in Kenora with the grand council. My question is this: Will the minister share details of this agreement with the Grand Council Treaty 3?
Hon. Michael Coteau: I want to thank the member from Etobicoke North for the question. Over the summer, I was in Kenora and I had the opportunity to sit down with Grand Council Treaty 3. We signed an agreement that would strengthen the relationship between Ontario and Grand Council Treaty 3.
This was an historic agreement. It was the first time that any government in this country has begun the negotiations to acknowledge the rightful jurisdiction of child and family well-being services to a community.
This agreement reaffirms our commitment to work together to improve outcomes and opportunities for Anishnawbe children and youth in Treaty 3 territory. We’re doing this through the co-implementation of the Ontario Indigenous Children and Youth Strategy, a key part of Ontario’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action.
Mr. Shafiq Qaadri: Thank you, Minister. I think all of us appreciate that, working under the leadership of Premier Wynne, you’re working on different initiatives in the child welfare sector as part of our province’s commitment to reconciliation and moving to a fairer, more equitable, more just and more compassionate system.
I believe that the collaborative work being done on the Ontario Indigenous Children and Youth Strategy is extremely important, and I ask the minister: Est-ce que vous pouvez élaborer sur le travail et les mesures que notre gouvernement a déjà pris? Merci. Meegwetch.
Hon. Michael Coteau: Again, thank you to the member for the question. As an initial investment in the strategy, we’re addressing the link between violence against indigenous women and the overrepresentation of indigenous children and youth in the child welfare and youth justice system. Through the Family Well-Being Program, we’re providing $80 million over three years to address the issue. At a minimum, 220 family well-being workers are being hired to deliver culturally grounded and community-based programming.
Indigenous communities have identified how family well-being workers can best deliver this programming. As well, they have identified how workers need to deliver more safe places where women, children and youth can receive and access culturally appropriate services and support. Through programs like this, we can ensure that indigenous communities across Ontario are leading programs that best suit their needs, Mr. Speaker.
Mme France Gélinas: Ma question est pour le ministre de la Santé et des Soins de longue durée. Le programme de la sécurité culturelle autochtone pour les professionnels de la santé est excellent. Je crois que cette formation va grandement aider à bâtir un système de soins culturellement plus sécuritaire pour les communautés et les membres des communautés autochtones de l’Ontario.
Hon. Eric Hoskins: I agree with the member opposite that this is a critically important initiative that this government has undertaken. In fact, we are demonstrating leadership across the country to provide that safe and culturally competent training for our front-line health care workers and our administrators across this province. In fact, over 8,000 health care workers and administrators have already completed this training.
Of course, it’s a program that we developed in close co-operation with our partners, First Nations communities themselves and First Nations leadership, and we continue to advance, develop and roll out this program.
Mme France Gélinas: Je crois que le ministre aurait peut-être besoin de prendre le cours en question, et il saurait que les membres des Premières Nations parlent le français, comme par exemple à Dokis, et que plusieurs professionnels de la santé qui travaillent avec les communautés autochtones parlent également le français.
Hon. Eric Hoskins: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite and I are absolutely aligned that this is a program that needs to be available to all health care workers across this province, including in French for those for whom that is their first language or who prefer to receive instruction in French. I know that this is a program that we funded and announced earlier this year. Despite the fact that we’ve already trained 8,000 front-line health care workers and administrators, it is still a program which we are continuing to expand as we roll it out across the province. But we have the same intent and commitment as the member from the third party.
Mme Nathalie Des Rosiers: Ma question est pour la ministre des Affaires civiques et de l’Immigration. The Muslim Canadian community has added much richness to Ontario’s cultural fabric. Indeed, the member for Ottawa South and myself had the opportunity to visit with the Afar community last weekend, and we saw first-hand how rich their culture was. We know as well that the Muslim community has contributed enormously in medicine, in literature, in math, in science and in law as well.
Hon. Laura Albanese: I would like to thank the member from Ottawa–Vanier for her question. Diversity has always played an important part in Ontario’s culture and heritage. Our province is home to more than 600,000 Muslims—some recent immigrants, others with deep roots in Ontario.
Mr. Speaker, in celebrating Islamic Heritage Month, the province of Ontario recognizes the significant contributions Muslims have made and continue to make to Ontario’s cultural and social fabric and prosperity. Earlier this week, that contribution was celebrated as the Premier hosted an Islamic Heritage Month reception with community leaders in Mississauga.
I think it’s important that the government be committed to educating Ontarians about the history, heritage and culture of Canadians of the Muslim faith. But we know there continues to be systemic racism in the system. And we know, because we see it every day, that although we have made progress on diversity and inclusion, there’s still a lot of work to do.
Indeed, this afternoon, I will be speaking to increasing our human rights framework to support new marginalized groups. Last year, I had the privilege of putting forward a motion condemning all forms of Islamophobia.
Recognizing that systemic racism continues to create barriers that lead to unfair outcomes for racialized and indigenous people in Ontario, our Premier appointed the Honourable Michael Coteau as minister responsible for anti-racism. The directorate aims to increase public awareness of racism in order to create a more inclusive province and applies an anti-racism lens in developing, implementing and evaluating government policies, programs and services.
First, the government suddenly cancelled the Slots at Racetracks Program that helped to support the industry for years—a decision that led to the loss of thousands of rural jobs and the deaths of thousands of horses.
Now, for the second year in a row, Kawartha Downs in my riding was denied an application for additional racing dates. This is a rural racetrack trying to make things work, despite this government’s attack on the industry, but they still get shot down.
We are very concerned about the horse racing industry and its sustainability over the long term, which is why we’ve made a commitment to provide for $100 million more to support horse racing deliberately and specifically.
The member opposite makes reference to the Ontario Racing Commission’s decisions. We are going to be meeting with them. My colleague the minister responsible for small business will also be in touch with respect to how to provide and persuade and support the industry further.
Last month, the government’s special adviser on horse racing resigned, calling on the government to: “Continue to fight for the smaller regional tracks as they are the development ground of horses, drivers and owners. They are important to their communities and are a vital part of the ongoing success of the industry.” Unfortunately, this government is busy doing the exact opposite. They say one thing on this file and do another.
The rural affairs minister pretends to be concerned about the crisis situation affecting Kawartha Downs while, at the same time, allowing the government and its agencies to quietly kill this racetrack. It is this government that caused the current crisis, and it is their responsibility to fix the mistakes they have made.
Hon. Charles Sousa: Mr. Speaker, let me be very, very clear. The Minister of Rural Affairs and the minister responsible for small business has been advocating and fighting for the horse racing industry for some time now. We’re very proud of this man for all that he has done and proud of this Premier, who stood and fought for the industry, recognizing that it was lacking transparency. The funding wasn’t going to where it needed to be. It was going to big shots in the United States—
Hon. Charles Sousa: Mr. Speaker, we are providing supports for the horse racing industry, managed by the horse racing industry, and it’s them that matter to us. The members opposite are making claims that would have continued to allow for a lack of transparency and a lack of controls.
Ms. Catherine Fife: My question is to the Premier. Earlier this month, FlyGTA Airlines announced that, starting November 6, it will be offering flights from Toronto’s Billy Bishop airport to Kitchener–Waterloo. The 18-minute flight will cost $130, one-way. For everyday commuters, spending $260 per day for timely transportation is unreasonable. Effective transportation between Toronto and Waterloo region should not just be for the wealthy.
Residents of Kitchener–Waterloo have been waiting on this government to provide them with all-day, two-way GO for years. First it was promised in five years. That was the infamous “bullet train” promise. Now we have been told to wait until 2024.
This government’s lack of serious movement on transit to the region means that we have two options: We spend hours on the 401 in traffic, or we catch an infrequent, slow, inconsistent GO train. In fact, on his way to Toronto, our own mayor of Kitchener spent two and a half hours on the 401.
Hon. Steven Del Duca: I thank the member for her question. There seems to be a lot of confusion in the NDP caucus about this. I don’t know why. Over the last number of years, our Premier, our members from Waterloo region, like the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry and the member from Kitchener Centre, have pushed very hard and shown decisive leadership to make sure that we do deliver by 2024 on our commitment for GO regional express rail.
Just a few days ago, the Premier was in Waterloo to talk about a very exciting project: high-speed rail. When the leader of the NDP was in southwestern Ontario, it was completely unclear whether or not she supported moving forward with high-speed rail.
Hon. Yasir Naqvi: I was remiss in introducing some friends who are in the gallery, so I just ask your indulgence. I want to welcome Akos Hoffer, who is the chief executive officer of the Perley and Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre in Ottawa, and two members of our board, Kris Birchard and Michael Jeffrey. They’re visiting Queen’s Park and we welcome them.
Hon. Indira Naidoo-Harris: I also would like to introduce someone who is here today. I have a constituent of mine here with the correctional officers. Here today is Chad Oldfield from Maplehurst Correctional Complex. I’d like to welcome him and other officers from Milton here to Queen’s Park.
Bill 160, An Act to amend, repeal and enact various Acts in the interest of strengthening quality and accountability for patients / Projet de loi 160, Loi visant à modifier, à abroger et à édicter diverses lois dans le souci de renforcer la qualité et la responsabilité pour les patients.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): We have a deferred vote on the motion of closure for the motion for second reading of Bill 160, An Act to amend, repeal and enact various Acts in the interest of strengthening quality and accountability for patients.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): On October 4, 2017, Mr. Chan moved second reading of Bill 160, An Act to amend, repeal and enact various Acts in the interest of strengthening quality and accountability for patients. Mr. Ballard has moved that the question be now put.
Mr. Chan has moved second reading of Bill 160, An Act to amend, repeal and enact various Acts in the interest of strengthening quality and accountability for patients. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I heard a no.
Mr. Ernie Hardeman: I would like to welcome Ms. Gwyn’s grade 5 class who will be visiting Queen’s Park tomorrow. As the Speaker will be aware, we will not be here tomorrow, and I particularly wanted to introduce this class because there’s a special guest: my granddaughter Freya Hardeman. I hope they all have a great time at Queen’s Park in spite of the fact that Grandpa’s not here.
Mr. Lorne Coe: The United Way Durham Region has been changing its fundraising practices to respond to local deindustrialization. In the past, the United Way was able to collect substantial donations from manufacturers and other suppliers when it held fundraising events and large-scale fundraising campaigns. Unfortunately, the manufacturing sector has declined over time in Durham region, and fewer employees work in the industry. As a result, the United Way has had to adapt and look for alternative means to fundraise in the region.
Organizers are encouraging employees who make donations through their employer to make their donations where they live. This makes sense, as roughly 52% of workers in the region of Durham commute across the greater Toronto area each day.
Under this direction, the United Way Durham Region has set a goal to raise $2.9 million in 2017, an increase from the $2.68 million they raised last year during their annual campaign. These funds help the 30 agencies and roughly 175 programs offered locally.
I know that the residents from Durham will want to support the area in which they live. Donating to the United Way Durham Region will give them the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of many others in this community.
Ms. Teresa J. Armstrong: It is always a privilege to rise in the Legislature, as the MPP for London–Fanshawe, on behalf of my constituents. I bring the voices of families and caregivers to the Legislature, to share their experiences in long-term care with all members of the House.
Janice Duffy contacted me about her father, Douglas. Her father has been a resident in long-term care for three years. He has experienced several instances of mental and physical abuse, neglect and inconsistent care. Janice, like many other families, is stressed—because they are worrying about their loved ones’ care.
When Janice visits her father, he shows her advertisements for apartments to rent. When she asks him why he clips these ads, his answer is heartbreaking: He asks why he has to live in a long-term-care home when he doesn’t receive the basic care he needs.
When did things start breaking down in long-term care? We only have to look back to the Conservative Harris government and their private, for-profit health care agenda which resulted in thousands of layoffs of front-line health care workers.
Things are only getting worse under the Liberal Wynne government. Families and front-line workers are telling us that there is one PSW to 30 residents, and front-line workers are run off their feet. There is just not enough time for staff to deliver basic care.
Why does this government stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the systemic issues in our long-term-care system, including safety of residents and staff, funding levels, quality of care, and staffing levels?
When will this government stop ignoring the motion that was passed in the Legislature to expand the public inquiry, and commit to examining the systemic problems in long-term care beyond the Wettlaufer investigation?
Mrs. Amrit Mangat: This past weekend, I was delighted to attend the Afroglobal Excellence Awards, hosted by Afroglobal Television. The awards are an initiative of Afroglobal Television and the esteemed Planet Africa organization, which includes a television show now broadcasted in Canada, Europe and Africa. Their vision is to motivate people of African origin, despite where they were born or raised, and to celebrate their leadership and excellence.
Recipients of the 2017 Excellence Awards are: the Honourable Tony Ince, Paulette Senior, Charles Marful, Andrea A. Davis, Dr. Liza Egbogah, Dr. Stan Chu Ilo, Léonie Tchatat, Councillor Michael Thompson, Dr. Mansfield Edwards, Ettie Rutherford, Dr. Churchill Abiodun, Namugenyi Kiwanuka, Jackie Appiah, Franklin Omoruna, Dwayne Dixon and Emmanuel Kabongo. I would like to congratulate all the recipients of the Afroglobal Excellence Awards. Kudos to all of them.
Mrs. Gila Martow: I’m rising today while there’s an autism rally going on outside. I want to highlight a little bit why the Ontario Autism Coalition is here once again advocating on behalf of families with children with autism.
I want to mention that one of the highlights of the rally is the discussion that autism doesn’t end at school; that there’s too much violence in the classrooms in our schools; that we need ABA to be available as part of the school program with inner schools; and that service dogs have to be accommodated. Kenner spoke very passionately about his dog. There was an article last week about a boy who was denied his iPad until the mother went to the media.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Today I rise to talk about what is going on with college faculty on campuses across Ontario. I have seen the impact the strike at Niagara College has had on workers and families in my riding. I have spoken to Niagara College president Dan Patterson about this issue and encouraged all parties to get back to the bargaining table to work towards a fair contract for college staff.
The ratio of part-time, contract staff to full-time staff at the college is roughly 8 to 2. That’s 80% part-time staff, which is unacceptable. These part-time instructors are paid less than their co-workers, and go from one short contract to the next. This strike is not just about the college. The striking faculty are standing up for young people in Ontario, to make sure that when they graduate they can count on having a full-time, stable job.
Students are paying ever-increasing tuition fees and are concerned about the future of their semester and getting full-time employment. In this situation, a fair response from Ontario colleges could positively affect students’ futures.
Mr. Speaker, funding cuts from both Liberal and Conservative governments have forced colleges to use drastic cutting measures. Unfortunately, they have targeted instructors. It’s not fair to instructors and it’s not fair to students, who depend on a good education for a good life, including full-time, stable employment.
Mrs. Cristina Martins: Human trafficking is a deplorable crime as well as a human rights violation that robs the safety, livelihood and dignity of those who are exploited and abused. Because survivors are controlled mentally, physically, and emotionally by traffickers, it is difficult for them to leave and find help. Those who do find a way out often need support in a range of areas, such as trauma counselling, addictions recovery, job training and more.
Our government has already had great success with our strategy to end human trafficking, but there is always more work to be done. That is why yesterday I was proud to announce that the FCJ Refugee Centre’s migrant worker centre in my riding of Davenport will be receiving over $369,000 in funding to identify, intervene in and prevent labour, trafficking and exploitation situations among migrant workers in Davenport and across the province.
FCJ is an amazing organization that does truly remarkable work to help refugees and newcomers. This additional funding is going to go a long way to fight human trafficking in Davenport and in Ontario.
Human trafficking is an atrocious reality for too many people, and the agencies across Ontario working tirelessly to put an end to this crisis are nothing short of heroes. Thank you for the work that you do.
Mr. Ross Romano: Last week, the president and CEO of the Trillium Gift of Life Network, Ronnie Gavsie, made a very important announcement. According to Trillium’s records over the last quarter, Sault Area Hospital was one of 19 hospitals across Ontario to achieve a 100% conversion rate of potential donors that eventually go on to donate—one of 19, Mr. Speaker, out of a total of 150 hospitals in this province. To say that I am proud of my community and the dedicated workers at Sault Area Hospital would be an understatement.
But the good news does not stop there. Not only does Sault Area Hospital boast one of the highest rates for notifying Trillium of potential donors, but over 30,000 members of our community of Sault Ste. Marie—that’s just over 70,000 in population—have registered to be an organ donor. That’s just over 45% of our entire population, and that number is expected to climb over time.
In closing, I want to thank Ms. Gavsie and her team at the Trillium Gift of Life Network and the dedicated and hard-working staff at Sault Area Hospital, but most importantly, I want to thank my community of Sault Ste. Marie. Without you, none of this would have ever been possible. I am proud to represent each and every one of you as your MPP.
Mr. Mike Colle: I want to talk about an incredible new alliance that’s being created out of Sunnybrook hospital, one of North America’s premier hospitals, especially when it comes to children’s health and maternal health.
This new alliance is called the Alliance for the Prevention of Preterm Birth and Stillbirth. The alliance is a collaboration of families, hospitals, maternal-child networks and maternal-newborn care providers that aims to create a profoundly important shift in thinking, and to resolve some of the challenges that women are having with preterm births and stillbirths.
This alliance will partner with Sunnybrook’s Canadian Premature Babies Foundation and also with PAIL, the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Network. This will be a major breakthrough in helping to curb the rate of prenatal deaths and stillbirths.
Mr. Michael Harris: I want to thank the many employees of Toronto’s Park Hyatt hotel, whose hospitality and hard work have always made me and so many others through the years feel at home away from home.
At the corner of Bloor and Avenue Road, Park Plaza Hotel is one of the most esteemed hotels in the city. Breaking ground in 1928, the Park Plaza began housing guests in 1936 for as little as $3 a night—it’s gone up slightly since then, Speaker.
The hotel became a magnet for Canadian writers, including Margaret Atwood and Mordecai Richler, and it also served as a breeding ground for political strategy as the unofficial headquarters for Premier Bill Davis’s Big Blue Machine meetings.
I want to take this opportunity especially to thank all staff for their dedicated service: from the valets, the bellmen, like Charles, all of the lovely Annona staff, the Clefs d’Or concierges Orson and Steven, Max and Sarah, to the front-of-house desk staff, Michael, Casey, Amy, Julie, Mark and Tony, and of course general manager Bonnie and her team, including Alicia and Khrystine. Thank you for all your work and dedication. I very much appreciate it and will see you soon.
Ms. Daiene Vernile: Speaker, I’d like to correct my record from a member’s statement from yesterday. I mentioned in a member’s statement that the federal government had allocated $12 million in humanitarian aid to the Rohingya refugees. That is in addition to money already there, put in this year. It’s a total of $25 million for 2017.
Bill 154, An Act to cut unnecessary red tape by enacting one new Act and making various amendments and repeals / Projet de loi 154, Loi visant à réduire les formalités administratives inutiles, à édicter diverses lois et à modifier et abroger d’autres lois.
Hon. Reza Moridi: I move that the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs be authorized to meet on Monday, October 30, 2017, from 1:30 p.m. until 6 p.m., and on Tuesday, October 31, 2017, from 9 a.m. until 10:15 a.m., for the purpose of public hearings on Bill 148, An Act to amend the Employment Standards Act, 2000 and the Labour Relations Act, 1995 and to make related amendments to other Acts.
Mr. Lou Rinaldi: Point of order, Speaker: I would ask for unanimous consent that I wear a T-shirt presented to me by the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies while I speak on my bill this afternoon, Bill 170, An Act to proclaim Child Abuse Prevention Month.
One thing we can all be proud of is that we live in a province that celebrates and supports scientific curiosity. We understand how important it is to bring researchers together and give them resources, tools and the freedom to explore.
In 1961, this scientific freedom led to the discovery of stem cells here in Toronto by Dr. James Till and Dr. Ernest McCulloch. This went beyond demonstrating the existence of stem cells. In identifying the main characteristics of stem cells, Dr. Till and Dr. McCulloch defined an entirely new field of research.
I’m also proud to say that Ontario has followed in the path of Dr. Till and Dr. McCulloch. We are still world leaders in the stem cell field. Ontario’s brilliant researchers are expanding the world’s knowledge of pluripotent stem cells, which are adult cells that can be reprogrammed to have the power of embryonic stem cells. And they have identified stem cells related to different kinds of cancer.
Dr. Alan Bernstein, who was a former PhD student of Dr. Till and is currently president of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, has said, “There are few areas of health research that are as exciting and that hold as much potential for human health and treating disease as stem cells.” So, Mr. Speaker, I think you will be as pleased as I am that Ontario is a global leader in regenerative medicine.
Mr. Speaker, we are leading the way in moving stem cell research into the clinic. Just a couple of examples: A phase 2 clinical trial in Ottawa showed that a stem cell transplant from bone marrow can treat aggressive multiple sclerosis, improving control of this relapsing disease. And another Ottawa doctor is working on a stem cell therapy for treating chronic lung disease in premature babies.
Since 2013, my ministry has invested or committed $42 million through its funding programs to support stem cell and regenerative medicine research, an investment that also includes creation of research infrastructure and training of highly qualified personnel.
This funding includes a commitment of $25.5 million to the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Their goal is to revolutionize the treatment of degenerative diseases and make Ontario a global leader in the development and commercialization of stem-cell-based products and therapies.
And to support new discoveries in all fields, Ontario has invested $1.7 billion in research and development through our competitive research programs plus additional funding to our research institutes.
On behalf of the people of Ontario, I want to thank Dr. Till and his partner, the late Dr. McCulloch. Thanks to their curiosity, drive and commitment, Ontario is a leader in a field that will transform lives around the world, while building our innovative life sciences sector here in this province and in our wonderful country of Canada.
Mr. Michael Harris: It is truly an honour to be able to say a few words, on behalf of the PC caucus, in recognition of the pioneering work of two incredible Canadians who literally changed the course of medical history, opening the door to vital treatment that had previously been unattainable: Dr. James Till, of course—welcome to Queen’s Park today—and the late Dr. Ernest McCulloch.
Speaker, as we’ve heard, the massive potential of stem cell therapies and treatments began with a single, simple mouse—well, mice, really. With a series of experiments injecting bone marrow cells into mice and the subsequent groundbreaking discovery of transplantable stem cells, Drs. Till and McCulloch began to blaze trails no one had previously thought possible as they, in 1961, established for the first time a quantitative method to study individual stem cells in adult bone marrow.
As Michael Rudnicki of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute put it, “Scientists don’t really believe in miracles, but every now and then there is a discovery made that is so transformative it may as well be a miracle.”
Thanks to Drs. Till and McCulloch, right now in labs across our country, Canadian doctors are testing stem cells to heal hearts, repair severed spinal cords and fix arthritic knees—repairs and fixes that are going on throughout the world. Thanks to Drs. Till and McCulloch, stem cells have cured thousands of patients with leukemia, multiple myeloma and other blood-based cancers via bone marrow transplants. And thanks to Drs. Till and McCulloch, there is belief that within the next few years, diabetics will be freed from daily insulin injections by stem cell transplants. Finding a cure for Parkinson’s is, of course, well within reach.
Speaker, far from stopping at their pioneering discovery, Drs. Till and McCulloch helped build the development of this new field, continuing to expand their research activities and serving as mentors to other young scientists. Their work has meant that, today, we benefit from the work of successive generations of scientists, deepening our understanding of how stem cells work and can be applied to different diseases and medical conditions.
As the word of their discoveries and the application of them grew, so too did the possibilities for future treatments and cures that we have yet to discover, but are well on the path towards, following the trail blazed by Till and McCulloch.
And so, today, when we think of their revolutionary innovation and dedicated research work, we think of all those who are today leading better, healthier lives due to the impact of stem cell research and applications, and we think of all those who will be helped in the future as those who have followed in Till and McCulloch’s footsteps continue to further advance the research and the possibilities that stem cells have to offer.
I join with all of this House to recognize the fathers of stem cell science, Drs. Till and McCulloch, two true revolutionary researchers from Canada who opened up the doors internationally to vital discoveries and treatment that have literally changed our world for the better. Thank you so much.
Ms. Catherine Fife: It’s indeed a pleasure and a privilege to stand today, as the critic for research and innovation, to contribute a statement with regard to the Canadian contributions to stem cell research by Dr. James Till and Dr. Ernest McCulloch. It is here in Ontario, only a few hundred metres from here, that some of the greatest contributions to stem cell research have taken place.
Stem cell research holds incredible potential. Stem cells have been proposed as treatments for different types of cancers, blood disorders and degenerative diseases. Beyond treatments, stem cell research offers our scientific community an investigative tool that sheds light on how diseases develop.
None of these advancements would be possible without the pioneering work of Dr. James Till and Dr. Ernest McCulloch. In 1961, as you’ve heard, Drs. Till and McCulloch discovered transplantable stem cells at the Ontario Cancer Institute in Toronto, which today is the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. Stem cells are unique in their ability to renew themselves, and they hold the potential to repair and replace damaged or diseased tissue.
The discovery of stem cells by Drs. Till and McCulloch revolutionized medicine and our ability to investigate the causes of diseases that have baffled medical scientists for centuries. Since then, countless doctors, researchers and scientists have made groundbreaking discoveries that have put Canada at the forefront of stem cell research worldwide. Ontario scientists continue to champion the work started by Till and McCulloch as they continue to discover new uses for stem cells, working to cure diseases like Parkinson’s, MS, heart diseases and even to work to restore vision.
Today, I want to highlight some of the leadership we have here in Ontario that are continuing this work. The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine are hubs that bring scientific and clinical leaders together, as well as networks of business leaders, to innovate and push forward Ontario’s contribution to stem cell research and the commercialization of Ontario’s discoveries.
On the financial side, we have OBIO, the Ontario Bioscience Innovation Organization, which helps bioscience companies and ventures reach financial success. In 2013, they supported the funding of Stem Cell Therapeutics Corp., an immuno-oncology company developing cancer stem cell related therapeutics.
All of these organizations do outstanding work, with a shared purpose to improve the quality of life of people who are diagnosed with debilitating and currently incurable diseases. They leverage stem cell research to discover new uses and to commercialize new treatments. The industry is recognizing the talent and infrastructure that we have here in Ontario, evident in the investments already made. Last year, Bayer AG invested $225 million to create a Toronto-based stem cell research company, a move with the potential to establish Canada as a global centre for the commercialization of regenerative medicine therapies. The creation of a global regenerative medicines company based here could be a game changer, said Michael May, the CEO of the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine.
Thanks to the work of Till and McCulloch, we have been at the forefront of stem cell research worldwide since 1961. We have incredibly talented and committed scientists, clinicians and industry leaders continuing on their work today. I’m proud to celebrate the strides we’ve made in stem cell research in this province. I’d like to thank all of the research and industry leaders for their essential work. I hope that the province will continue to invest in your work and to support you as you work to improve the lives of those who are diagnosed with devastating diseases.
“Whereas the unreasonable delay of repairs for elevator services across Ontario is a concern for residents of high-rise buildings resulting in constant breakdowns, mechanical failures and ‘out of service’ notices for unspecified amounts of time;
“Urge the Ontario Legislature to support Bill 109, the Reliable Elevators Act, 2017, that requires the repairs of elevators to be completed within a reasonable and prescribed time frame. We urge the Legislature to address these concerns that are shared by residents of Trinity–Spadina and across Ontario.”
“Whereas Bill 94, Highway Traffic Amendment Act (School Bus Camera Systems), 2017, will make it easier to get convictions for drivers who do not stop when lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended on a school bus; and
“Whereas the Ministry of Transportation has had three years to conduct consultations after a similar bill was initially introduced in 2014 and thousands of children are put in danger each day due to low conviction rates;
“To call Bill 94 to committee so it can be strengthened with input from the Ministry of Transportation and other experts engaged in ensuring student safety and to pass Bill 94 into legislation in order to protect our children from motorists who disobey school bus safety laws.”
“Whereas designating December 13th in each year as the Nanjing Massacre Commemorative Day in Ontario will provide an opportunity for all Ontarians, especially the Asian community, to gather, remember, and honour the victims and families affected by the Nanjing Massacre;
“That the Legislature pass the Nanjing Massacre Commemorative Day Act, 2016 by December 8, 2017, to coincide with the 80th anniversary of the Nanjing Massacre, which will enable Ontarians, especially those with Asian heritage, to plan commemorative activities to honour the victims and families affected by the Nanjing Massacre.”
“Whereas the market rate for electricity, according to IESO data, has been less than three cents per kilowatt hour to date in 2016, yet the Liberal government’s lack of responsible science-based planning has not allowed these reductions to be passed on to Ontarians, resulting in electrical bills several times more than that amount;
“Whereas the ill-conceived energy policies of this Liberal government that ignored the advice of independent experts and government agencies, such as the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) and the independent electrical system operator (IESO), and are not based on science have resulted in Ontarians’ electricity costs rising, despite lower natural gas costs and increased energy conservation in the province;
“Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to take immediate steps to reduce the total cost of electricity paid for by Ontarians, including costs associated with power consumed, the global adjustment, delivery charges, administrative charges, tax and any other charges added to Ontarians’ energy bills.”
“To invest the $10 million used to send people to other countries for services into Ontario so that all Ontarians suffering from eating disorders are able to access the mental health services and supports they need when they need them.”
“Whereas the government of the day pledged to invest $13.5 billion in highway improvements and has sharply increased the fees for driver permits and licence renewal fees which are used for highway maintenance and improvements;
“To invest the $10 million used to send people to other countries for services into Ontario so that all Ontarians suffering from eating disorders are able to access the mental health services and supports they need when they need them.”
Mr. Lou Rinaldi: Before I begin, I want to recognize some folks who are here with us today from the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies: Kayla Scott, Sally Johnson and Brynn Clarke. Welcome to Queen’s Park.
I would also like to thank the 10 members of the Toronto child abuse prevention committee, for helping to put this together, and for their advocacy. These hard-working people have been advocating for the duty-to-report campaign during Child Abuse Prevention Month.
On Dress Purple Day, this past Tuesday—and, Speaker, thank you for the unanimous consent for me to wear purple today—my colleague the Honourable Michael Coteau, Minister of Children and Youth Services, spoke to the members of this House about how important it is for everyone to learn the signs of abuse and neglect and to identify them, and our legal duty to report any reasonable suspicions of abuse or neglect to the children’s aid society.
Officially proclaiming October as Child Abuse Prevention Month is to recognize that ending child abuse is an ongoing responsibility we all share. Our government, children’s aid societies and professionals from many organizations work in many ways every day to protect children and prevent child abuse. We know we have to be vigilant. Officially recognizing October as Child Abuse Prevention Month will show we understand and that there’s a need to educate and raise awareness about the duty to report child abuse and neglect.
Our message is simple: You see it, you report it. It’s the law. It’s easy to make that call. You can find the phone number for your local children’s aid society by calling 411, where applicable, in the province. There’s someone available at children’s aid societies to receive your call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can also visit the Ministry of Children and Youth Services website, ontario.ca/stopchildabuse.
The numbers from UNICEF and the World Health Organization about child abuse are sobering. Internationally, one in five women and one in 13 men report having been sexually abused as a child. One quarter of adults around the world report having been physically abused as children. The numbers in Ontario are also stark: In 2013, there were 43,000 confirmed cases of child abuse in this province. That is 43,000 children too many.
Our government firmly believes every child deserves a safe, loving and nurturing home. Because of child abuse and neglect, not every child has one. This is why our government runs an annual public awareness campaign on the duty to report abuse and neglect, and it’s why I have introduced this bill that will proclaim each October Child Abuse Prevention Month. It is also why our government continues to fund the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies to train child protection staff so they can respond promptly to reports of suspected child abuse and neglect.
Of course, if we want people to report suspected cases of child abuse and neglect, they need to understand the problem and how to recognize it. That sometimes makes it difficult because child abuse has many faces, which I will talk about in a minute.
Child abuse takes place in every type of family and community. Risk factors include mental health, addiction and poverty, but it is critical to remember that children are abused or neglected in families with higher socio-economic status as well. Child abuse can be physical, emotional or sexual. It also includes intentional neglect.
Physical abuse, of course, is when a child suffers physical harm or risk of harm as a result of deliberate physical force or action by a parent or a caregiver who is responsible for the child. Deliberate caregiver negligence or the inability to protect a child from physical harm or the risk of physical harm is also reason for investigation by a society. Physical abuse includes bruising, cutting, punching, slapping, shaking, burning, biting or throwing a child.
Emotional abuse is when a caregiver regularly treats a child in a way that results in the child suffering emotional harm. It can include insulting, rejecting, ignoring or isolating a child. It can also include exposure to domestic violence. Emotional abuse may show up in serious anxiety, depression, withdrawal, self-destructive behaviour or even delayed development.
Sexual abuse occurs when a child is exploited for the sexual gratification of an adult or an older child. It includes sexual intercourse, exposing a child’s private areas and allowing or forcing a child to look at, or perform in, pornographic pictures or videos, or engage in prostitution.
Finally, abuse can take the form of intentional neglect: the inability or failure to provide a child with food, shelter, clothing, education, supervision, safe surroundings, or medical care. Deliberate neglect can be difficult to assess, since harm caused by the absence of something is not always readily apparent. But it can have a devastating impact on a child.
I cannot stress enough the many faces of child abuse and how difficult it sometimes is to recognize. Recognizing the signs of child abuse and neglect is not easy. There are many possible signs, and they are often subtle. Signs of child abuse or neglect may include suspicious bruises, odd behaviour or frequent absences from school. In order to keep children safe, it is critical to become familiar with the signs of abuse and neglect. I urge everyone to make the effort to learn more. As a starting point, you can find links on how to recognize child abuse and neglect on the Ministry of Children and Youth Services website, at ontario.ca/stopchildabuse.
During Child Abuse Prevention Month, I call on neighbours, colleagues, coaches, friends, and professionals working with children to be vigilant, to learn the signs of abuse and neglect, and to report any reasonable suspicions you might have to a children’s aid society.
Unfortunately, some people hesitate to call a children’s aid society when they suspect that a child is being mistreated. They worry that their suspicions may be wrong, or that their call will always result in a child being taken away from their family. I’m happy to dispel those myths. While there are occasions when a child must be removed from unsafe living conditions, in 97% of society investigations, the child or children remain in the home and receive supportive services. Children’s aid societies help to protect infants, children and youth who are experiencing or are at risk of experiencing the many forms of abuse and neglect. Their role is to assess all reports made by the public and professionals. Children’s aid societies work hard to connect children and families with the services they need to be safe and to thrive. Their work may include counselling, housing assistance, food support, youth mentoring or parenting programs. When you report suspected child abuse, your call could be all it takes to connect a family to the services they need to avoid a more serious situation.
Like children’s aid societies, our government is committed to improving the lives of all young people in this province. Over the past decade, we’ve made many, many improvements to the child welfare system. Fewer children are coming into care. Many children are being adopted into permanent homes. And youth leaving care have more support—including counselling and financial support—to help them stay in school, finish post-secondary education and become better prepared for adulthood.
In July, we released Safe and Caring Places for Children and Youth: Ontario’s Blueprint for Building a New System of Licensed Residential Services. The blueprint is a multi-year plan to drive fundamental changes, so that services are more responsive to the unique needs of children and youth in licensed residential settings. The blueprint is also designed to improve the quality of their everyday experience and to provide a welcoming and caring environment.
Earlier this year, we took on what might be the most comprehensive step of all on the road to reform: The Legislature passed the Child, Youth and Family Services Act. This act makes it possible to strengthen the quality and oversight of a wide range of services that the Ministry of Children and Youth Services funds, licenses or delivers, including child welfare and licensed residential services.
When children are in care, they should feel welcome and protected, and they should have a voice in planning their care. That’s why the new legislation, by building on the goals of Katelynn’s Principle, makes decision-making more children-centred.
Mrs. Gila Martow: Of course, I’m very pleased to rise and speak to Bill 170, a bill to declare October as Child Abuse Prevention Month, put forward by the member for Northumberland–Quinte West. For anybody watching at home, it’s a private member’s bill put forward by a member of the Liberal caucus. Of course, we support this. We already recognize October as Child Abuse Prevention Month, with the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies.
The member opposite is wearing a purple shirt. Just this week, we gave statements and many of us wore purple scarves. It’s part of the campaign to raise awareness. The OACAS and member children’s aid societies work closely with school boards, schools and community partners on a provincial Dress Purple Day to raise awareness.
We all have a duty to report, not just if we know there’s abuse or neglect of a child, but if we even suspect it. And if we report it and we feel that it’s ongoing, we report it again and again until we feel that that child is definitely being taken care of. We report if a child appears to be under the age of 16—so we don’t have to know that for a fact—or if a child is under a protection order and they are 16 or 17 years old. We really can’t rely on somebody else. It’s not enough to ask somebody else to report. It’s our duty to report abuse or neglect if we see it.
We also want to recognize that children do best with their families. I think that we could do a lot more in terms of mentorship programs to help families—find the right babysitter, what is considered neglect, the liability of reporting.
I think some parents are quite shocked when they find out that their children aren’t little “me”s; that their children have their own opinions and their own personalities and their own interests. Some parents struggle with that idea, and I’m not sure why, because I don’t think that they were miniature versions of their own parents. But it does seem to be a problem, and I think there’s a lot more that we can do.
I’ve raised it in the House before that Israel has a fantastic program, through an organization called Na’amat, where, if families are considered to be high-risk or vulnerable, where the children aren’t in serious danger but there’s some neglect and some concerns with those families—in that middle range; not a one, not a 10— instead of putting those kids in foster care, they find a place for them in a Na’amat daycare centre. The children go in their pyjamas as soon as they wake up, and they leave in their pyjamas at the end of the day. They’re bathed. They’re fed three meals a day. They get counselling and therapy if they need it. And the parents have to agree to show up for their counselling and their training, as well.
When I was about seven or eight years old, I was walking with my mother in our neighbourhood, and we heard shrieking and screaming. It sounded like a kid screaming in the house. My mother grabbed me, and we ran home. It was one of the only times I ever saw my mother run. This was before cellphones. It was a couple of blocks away. She called the police.
That stayed with me for the rest of my life, Mr. Speaker, as did a horrific incident in Thornhill about 15 years ago, involving a kid who was about six years old. It was a PD day for the public schools. Obviously, the father had nowhere to leave the child, so he brought the child to work with him at his pizza shop. The kid kept walking outside to play with his ball, and the father wasn’t happy with that and finally went outside and took a cigarette and burnt the child’s hand. I sat there in my car, with the doors locked, aghast, and picked up my phone, called the police immediately and stayed there until the police came, so that I knew I didn’t have to call them again.
Of course, we want to raise awareness; we want to do our part. I don’t know that having a bill passed—we could have passed it on unanimous consent. It could have been a motion. It could have been part of—the minister is here—to know that this could have just been put in with Bill 89. We’re here to absolutely support and do our part.
As many of you in the House know, I’m a proud grandfather of five and the father of three daughters. I mention them frequently in this chamber because they’re the most important part of my life. Being a grandfather and a father is the highlight of my life and, I believe, the most important thing I’ve ever done.
Everything I do in this chamber is for our kids and our grandkids, whether we’re talking about the environment, making workplaces safer, or investing in health care and education. I’m talking about these issues because I’m trying to build a better world for our kids and our grandkids, and that’s what drives me. When I think of those kids, I can’t even think about something bad happening to them at any time. That would absolutely break my heart and probably yours.
It makes it difficult for me to talk to this bill. It’s absolutely disgusting that we even have to talk about an issue like this in the Legislature. It’s something you wish you didn’t have to talk about because it shouldn’t be happening. But it is happening. Somehow, out there in this province there are children who are being abused. As heartbreaking as it is, it’s real and it’s happening.
The Canadian Red Cross estimates that 31% of males and 21% of females suffered physical abuse as children. According to research published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the one third of people who were abused as young children have the highest rate of child abuse on record. Even worse, those who suffer this disturbing abuse are far more likely to suffer from mental illnesses later in life, and that absolutely makes no sense. As we’ve talked about in the House, access to services that can help with mental health is lacking here in Ontario. I won’t have time to talk about that subject today, but you can see there are some gaps in the system that have to be addressed.
Mr. Speaker, simply put, there are children out there who need us. They need our help, and they need it from every part of our province. What’s before us today would establish October as Child Abuse Prevention Month. We could then use this month to put forward comprehensive educational programs that might save some young person from abuse.
This would need to cover school programs where we teach young people to speak out if they’re being abused and teach other young people to speak out if they see their peers are being abused. But teaching young people is only one small part of the problem. We need to teach adults, too. We need to teach them that this abuse is happening to as many as one in three children in certain communities. We need to teach them what happens to kids who suffer this abuse, and we need to teach them how to spot the signs of abuse and work with authorities to keep children safe.
Mr. Speaker, I also hope this month will allow us to better work with our first responders and front-line staff in Ontario. These are the first people who arrive on the scene and the people who follow these cases from start to finish. I can’t even begin to imagine the stress that these situations would cause or how it might affect a person to see these situations day in and day out.
I know that earlier this year there were CAS workers who were locked out in parts of the province and who were represented by CUPE. One of the things they were highlighting was the incredible stress of these jobs and the supports they need. For me, it turns my stomach to think of kids being neglected or abused, but these front-line staff and first responders see those kinds of situations every day. They need our support.
Mr. Speaker, as you can imagine, there is quite a lot here to comment on, but in my limited time, I hope this month will help kick off discussions across our province about how we can all do better. I hope it will help us provide the tools that communities need to identify, report and stop any abuse occurring to our most precious: our children.
I also hope it starts a discussion about how we can make sure our first responders and our front-line workers have the tools they need to deal with these situations. Hopefully we can do these things so that the world that our children and our grandchildren inherit from us will be free from child abuse. It’s a big goal—I understand that—but it’s a goal we cannot compromise in. It’s not simply something we should be addressing on our own; it’s something we have an obligation to address in this House.
Hon. Michael Coteau: It’s a real honour to be able to speak to this important issue here today. Before I start, I wanted to recognize some of the folks from the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies who are joining us here today: Kayla Scott, Sally Johnson and Brynn Clarke. Welcome to the Ontario Legislature. Thank you for being here to support the children in our province who need help. Thank you very much.
I want to thank the member from Niagara Falls and, of course, the member from Thornhill for their words. There is no question in my mind, and I have always said this, as a government, as members in this Legislature, I don’t think we have a greater duty than to make sure that young people are protected, feel safe, and that they’re positioned for success here in Ontario.
In government, we have all different ministers: Minister of Research, Minister of Education, minister for poverty. Any minister you name in this government—I think they’re all ministers responsible for children and youth, because that’s part of their job, to make sure that young people are successful. So we all have a duty to work hard to make sure young people have what they need to find success.
I had the ability to start my week off at a school. The member from Northumberland–Quinte West is wearing a purple shirt today that says, “Break the Silence.” I met with two classrooms and they all got T-shirts, the purple shirts, and we had a conversation about what abuse means and who you can talk to if you feel that you’ve been hurt in some way. It was really nice because the young people are very well informed, and they were very concerned for each other. I asked some of the young people, “What would you do if you knew that someone was getting hurt?” Some of them said, obviously, talk to teachers and police officers. Some of them said, “Well, they can come live in my house and I would help them.” When you hear young kids respond to helping each other, to me, it says a lot about their awareness and sensitivity to the issue. It was inspirational for me to be there and to listen to them.
I don’t think this is an issue that we should ever politicize. That’s why I made the initial statement that we are all here together, and there’s no question that every single member in this House is supportive of looking for ways to better protect children.
The member from Thornhill did say, “You should have just included this in Bill 89.” I remind the member opposite it was her party that voted against Bill 89. I say that with respect, because we have a duty to represent our communities. This piece of legislation was the most comprehensive piece of legislation in the history of this province when it comes to protecting children, raising the age of protection, and putting culturally sensitive material in the approach to helping young people. It held CASs more accountable, transparency—and we still don’t know why the Progressive Conservative Party here in Ontario voted against that bill. I would really like to know, sometime in the future, why they voted against it. There’s one member in the entire caucus who told me why he didn’t vote in particular for that bill. I’d love to hear it from the critic. I’d love to hear it from the leader. I’d love to hear from the member from Nepean why they voted against it.
Hon. Michael Coteau: The member from Nepean just said to me, “Don’t be partisan.” The member from Thornhill just said, “You should have included this in Bill 89.” I wasn’t even going to bring up Bill 89. Why would we include it in Bill 89 and then they make the statement that—they didn’t vote for it, so what would have been the purpose of doing that?
I would like to be known, when I leave here—my legacy—as somebody who fought for and protected children’s rights. I was pleased, for example, to have Canada’s first concussion legislation for the protection of youth in sport, Rowan’s Law. Just a couple of weeks ago, this assembly passed Nick’s Law, which was dedicated to ensuring that we have support for those kids who are struggling with drug addiction. I was an anti-bullying advocate on Bills 13 and 14 here in this assembly. I have been a champion of youth mental health in my constituency. I was the driving force behind making Queen’s Park more family-friendly.
It will be always my first piece of legislation, a children’s bill of safety and protective rights, that didn’t end up passing this assembly but became sort of my driving force for child protection in the province of Ontario and in particular here, in this Legislative Assembly. That bill, although it didn’t pass, did have a great deal of support from a wide variety of people, including two legendary forces in child protection and the rights of the children in this province, Agnes Samler and the late Les Horne.
It was also supported by the late Max Keeping, who was a legend in the city of Ottawa as a broadcaster, but somebody who ensured that his nightly broadcasts were always kid-friendly. At the time, that bill also was supported by two independent officers of this assembly, the first being the independent child advocate—who I was fortunate to be on the hiring committee for; he’s still there—Irwin Elman, and then, finally, the former Ombudsman of the province of Ontario, André Marin.
That bill would have seen a significant amount of child protection pieces fall into place, particularly as it had enacted toward advertising towards children and that sort of thing. But it also would have ensured that on November 20, on the international day of the child, we would stand here and we would recognize that, in order for child protection. This, although it’s an entire month and it’s before November 20, which is the international day of the child, I still think is very important in the lead-up to that very important day. I think it’s important that we continue to have this discussion.
It’s easy for people to turn a blind eye when children are abused, because they are uncomfortable. It’s up to all of us in this assembly to make sure it is never all right for somebody to turn a blind eye when a child is either sexually assaulted, physically abused or even mentally abused. There are many cases across Ontario where we have seen that. I urge people never to turn a blind eye. Call the police.
I know one of the particular issues in my constituency that I have had to see is my constituent Gabe Batstone, who had a custody battle with his ex-wife. He had custody of his beautiful daughter, Teagan. When she went to live with her mother, her mother murdered her, in British Columbia. They have been fighting for her rights, Teagan’s rights, but Teagan sadly is no longer with us—a beautiful little girl.
I wanted to mention Teagan and the foundation named in her honour, Teagan’s Voice, here today because I think whenever we discover that abuse has been done, we have to call that out, whether that is on social media or anything else. As uncomfortable as it may be, we have to stand against it.
I want to thank the people who are the front-line workers, who work with these very difficult situations every day. I can’t imagine putting myself in that place, and watching the atrocities and the horrible acts that happen to children— in their line of work—and that they have to go home and deal with those things. It’s truly, truly deepening in what they do and the commitment they have to children. So I want to make sure we realize that the front-line workers are truly heroes when they are having to intervene and deal with these horrible situations.
We talked about the colour purple as being the colour to show awareness in October for child abuse. There is also a colour purple in London specifically. It’s called the Shine the Light campaign. It’s the colour purple in London; they started it in London. They’ve launched the campaign, but in November it starts and they turn the whole city purple.
One of the things in this bill that someone talked about—a member said that children are subject to a higher risk of abuse when they experience domestic abuse. That correlation speaks volumes. When you have women who are in domestic abuse situations, and a child is exposed to that environment, they then become prone or desensitized, or perhaps a target of abuse, probably without even knowing, because they are living it and they’re experiencing that domestic abuse, and they don’t realize how to acknowledge the signs of abuse.
So let’s do that. Let’s make sure that we provide social services. Let’s make sure the socio-economic piece of how people are victims of abuse—poverty—those things should not be in the equation of how to make you vulnerable to abuse.
I have to say that I was reading an article about a young man. He was an indigenous man. This is a very sad case, but unfortunately, horrifically, it’s not uncommon, and that has to change. He was four months old when his mother gave him painkillers because he was crying too much. She put the painkillers in the baby bottle. Of course, he fell asleep. She left and never returned. Days later, the grandparents came. The codeine in the medication was working away at his stomach lining. That was at four months old. He was given to his family at six years old. He was sexually assaulted by his uncle. He then went into the school system. He was sexually assaulted by his principal.
He had a psychological assessment done in 1988, and it was recommended by the psychologist at the time that he enter therapeutic care. It didn’t happen. Somehow, that report got buried. He was returned home to his family. At that point, he was running away excessively. Then he was sent to a treatment centre, where again he was running away constantly. And you know where he ended up? Incarcerated. Right? Re-victimized again. It’s just now, as an adult, that he’s telling his story.
What’s happening here is that children are growing up in high-risk environments. We need to deal with the core problems so that this doesn’t continue. When there is abuse, we need to make sure we stand up and deal with it. I commend the member for bringing it forward for awareness. We need to educate everyone. Silence is not an option in any type of abuse—emotional, psychological, physical or sexual. Silence is not an answer to this, so thank you very much. We need to start having these conversations more openly everywhere and not just in this Legislature.
I received the package the member sent to each office, the posters about child abuse awareness month. I’m going to put them in my office. There are pamphlets. I encourage us to go beyond this Legislature and make sure that we empower and support the agencies that do this work, and that we make changes systemically in our society so that we can actually affect child abuse from generation to generation.
Ms. Sophie Kiwala: What a great pleasure it is to rise and speak on this bill, Bill 170. I want to acknowledge my colleague from Northumberland–Quinte West for bringing forward this issue and raising awareness.
It’s incredibly fitting that we are talking about this bill today and, as has already been said, just this past Tuesday we wore purple in this House to also raise awareness. It was an initiative that was created by the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies—thank you for your work—to raise awareness on child abuse across Ontario.
I’m noticing, and I’m happy to hear, all of the other expressions of support for our children’s aid associations in our own communities. I have to give a shout-out to my own—Family and Children’s Services of Frontenac, Lennox and Addington—and the work they do every day. That includes all of the front-line workers, it includes all of the volunteers and, of course, it also includes their board of directors. These are volunteers who support your work. I think that it’s extremely important to acknowledge their work as well.
We are so fortunate to have such great partners, such as the various CAS agencies and indigenous well-being societies, across the province that work tirelessly to protect children and youth. This bill, which is an entire month dedicated to the awareness of child abuse as well as how to report it, would greatly expand the efforts to protect children so that everyone can recognize and report these absolutely horrible crimes.
I have to convey a little story. When my two youngest children, two little girls, were going to nursery school, they had a child abuse awareness day that they were acknowledging, and for that day, they were making tricoloured ribbons. I did some volunteer work at the daycare centre and helped put together these ribbons. I remember seeing one of my daughters hold on to these ribbons, and seeing her little hands wrapped around this ribbon I thought to myself how absolutely awful it was that we have to think about the fact that children do get abused in our society and that somebody is horrendous enough to take advantage of such a helpless, small, young person. But it is important that we do that. As the member from Northumberland–Quinte West has said: To invest in our children is to invest in the future.
Every Ontarian has a role in identifying the possible signs of child abuse in our communities and reporting them to the appropriate authorities. Although it’s a difficult subject, as has been stated, it’s crucial that we’re all aware of the signs of possible child abuse, including all forms, whether it’s physical, emotional or sexual.
In 2013, there were 43,000 cases of child abuse in our province. This is heartbreaking to hear, but these statistics are a clear driver behind child protection measures and the actions that we are taking as a government to ensure that every child and youth in the province of Ontario is in a safe and healthy environment to grow up in.
I am particularly proud of the changes that the government has made through Bill 89, the Supporting Children, Youth and Families Act, 2017, which included many more protections for children and youth in our province. Its primary focus was that the care for the child be child-centred, and that is a critical piece to this bill. From raising the age of protection to ensuring that care provided to First Nations, Inuit and Métis youth is culturally appropriate, we are ensuring that even the most vulnerable of our youth population is protected.
In addition to these positive changes in legislation, I believe that Bill 170 would further enhance the child protection landscape in our province. By recognizing Child Abuse Prevention Month, we would not only be highlighting the importance of protecting children and youth, but generating an awareness around recognizing the signs of various forms of abuse and informing the public of their duty to report.
While some signs of child abuse may be much more detectable, such as bruises and obvious signs of neglect such as poor hygiene and a constant absence from school—something that the member for Barrie has often talked about—there are other signs that are much more subtle. These include anything from withdrawal to the exposure of domestic violence in the home. But although it’s not as detectable as overt signs of abuse, there are still indications that abuse could be occurring.
An unfortunate truth is that some people don’t know or fully understand that they are required to report incidents of suspected child abuse or neglect. In many cases, this could be due to the fact that they might not suspect that child abuse is occurring and they don’t want to blame anyone. Let me be clear in saying that even the slightest suspicion of child abuse must be taken seriously and handled in an appropriate manner.
I’m proud to stand in support of this bill. Child protection is something that we should all take seriously. I believe that, through greater awareness for all, we can truly ensure that our children and youth can lead a happy, healthy childhood that is free from abuse.
Mr. Lorne Coe: I’m pleased to join the debate on Bill 170 because, in hearing all of the discussion on the bill, what’s clear and very apparent is that ensuring the safety of children, one of the most vulnerable sectors of our community, is everyone’s responsibility—everyone’s responsibility.
There are particular aspects of the bill that I’d like to highlight which allow us to raise awareness and educate the public about child abuse. It’s equally important to recognize and support the efforts of those across Ontario who work with unparalleled dedication to prevent child abuse and protect children who have been exposed to abuse.
In that regard, I’d like to highlight the outstanding work of the Durham Children’s Aid Society, as well as how every Ontarian can work to help prevent child abuse and neglect. The Durham Children’s Aid Society 2016 child abuse awareness campaign was a resounding success. The campaign grew substantially as schools, police departments and other organizations joined the society by participating and bolstering the campaign’s online presence. Not only that, administrators, trustees, staff and students from the Durham Catholic District School Board participated in several ways during the campaign. What’s illustrative here is that partnerships are necessary to help affect a level of public awareness about what we’re discussing here today.
Speaker, let me take you to 2017, when Durham Children’s Aid Society formally launched their community advisory council, an outcome from their Building Bridges for the Success of Our Children and Youth consultations with the broader community. It was a broad consultation that involved all sectors of the region of Durham. The council’s membership is comprised of staff, board and community representatives who meet regularly to discuss the challenges and opportunities in local Durham region communities. In addition, the council makes recommendations to the board of directors on how to strengthen service delivery and supports for children, youth and families.
In delivering their day-to-day program services, the Durham Children’s Aid Society is leading the way, and has recently incorporated more diverse programs to their service-delivery model, with an aim to respect and honour the culture, heritage and individual needs of families, which arises from the framework that the community advisory council put in place. Speaker, I’d like to commend all of the staff, the board of directors and volunteers at the Durham Children’s Aid Society, because they truly are making a difference in the lives of many children, youth and their families.
I think one of the most important messages to take out of Bill 170—and I want to commend the member from Northumberland–Quinte West for his initiative on this bill—is that it’s our duty to notify the local children’s aid society if we have the slightest suspicion that a child is being abused or neglected. You only need reasonable grounds for your suspicion. You cannot rely on another person to report an issue on your behalf. It’s the individual responsibility of every Ontarian to report directly to the children’s aid society.
I’m running out of time here, Speaker, so I’m going to sum up. This bill is yet another step toward building healthier and safer communities. It’s not the responsibility of one organization to improve the health and safety of a particular community, but everyone’s job to work toward health for all, especially our children and our grandchildren. No one can do everything; everyone can do something. Together we can all prevent child abuse. We owe them no less.
Mr. Lou Rinaldi: I certainly want to thank all the members who took the opportunity to help us understand the meaning of the bill and where it proposes to go. I think, frankly, Speaker, without going through each name, we have a common thread on this issue and I’m so delighted to be able to hear that on a day when we debate things in this House and we all focus on the right issue.
I’m the father of four kids—they’re now adults—with nine grandkids. Frankly, I had to tell them to stop having kids; I couldn’t afford Christmas anymore. I’m not sure whether they listened to me or not.
The last thing I ever want to see or hear, in a selfish way, is that one of my grandkids goes through this experience. I’m not sure what I would do; I’m not sure what my wife would do, as proud grandparents. I’m not sure what their parents—my kids—would do. It’s hard to say. We know the feeling but we don’t know because we’re not there, and I hope we never have to experience it.
I’ve said this a million times, and I’m going to keep on saying it, as I visit schools, as I have the opportunity to speak about things like this here today: Kids are our future. If I want to leave a better world out there, I have to worry about those kids, make sure they’re in a place where they’re safe, that they go through less hardship and that they’re able to serve their families in this province and the country. I’m delighted to have had the pleasure to bring this forward today.
Bill 164, An Act to amend the Human Rights Code with respect to immigration status, genetic characteristics, police records and social conditions / Projet de loi 164, Loi modifiant le Code des droits de la personne en ce qui concerne le statut d’immigrant, les caractéristiques génétiques, l’existence de dossiers de police et la situation sociale.
Mme Nathalie Des Rosiers: It’s entirely appropriate to introduce this bill after the debate that we just had because the bill that I’m proposing here is to amend the Human Rights Code to ensure that we have the right human rights framework to prevent systemic discrimination and, indeed, help us alleviate some of the challenges that today face kids and their parents.
This human rights amendment aims to modernize the Human Rights Code to ensure it responds adequately to new forms of discrimination. It’s essential for a society to give itself a human rights framework to protect itself against emerging negative stereotyping. What we see in Quebec going on right now with Bill 62 is a perverse bill that targets a specific population and reinforces prejudice. Instances of prejudice against immigration and against newcomers are pervasive also in the discourse south of the border.
In my view, we need a strong human rights framework, a human rights framework that is relevant to the current realities of discrimination today. So it is important in a democracy to have a human rights apparatus that ensures that it plays the protective role that it’s supposed to. A human rights framework guards us against ourselves. It ensures that we are as good as we should be and that we do not go down to using stereotypes instead of good, fair, rational decision-making.
Currently, the Human Rights Code of Ontario has the following features—and I think it’s important to understand how human rights work, to understand the necessity of adding new grounds of discrimination but understanding the limits of adding new grounds. It certainly prohibits discrimination but it also allows—and that’s very important—that at times it’s necessary to make a characteristic relevant if, for example, we are trying to decide what is appropriate, more or less, for employment and other aspects. It does apply to accommodations, up to the point of undue hardship.
What does that mean, and why are human rights important to us in Ontario? First of all, because it allows people that are victims of discrimination to access a voice, to be able to find the words to describe the reality that they experience, the rejection they feel and the limitations of the potential they have to fully participate in society. But it also enables the Human Rights Commission to educate all of us, to provide us with guidelines as to how we should behave in society, how we actually prevent ourselves from using stereotypes in the way in which we reach decisions.
Over the years, we have good examples of the way in which the Human Rights Commission has issued guidelines to employers, landlords and civil society in general to deal with new issues—transgenders; to help us manage disability better; and so on and so forth. The important thing is that the Human Rights Code is an instrument that helps us call out discrimination when we see it, but also it helps us get better and educate ourselves.
A proper democratic infrastructure must constantly reflect the new forms of discrimination that are present and that exist. In my view, it’s like investing in our democratic infrastructure to ensure that we have a human rights code that speaks directly to the new forms of discrimination. If we don’t do it, if we have a human rights code that is old-fashioned, it’s just the same thing as having bad rules. It does not allow us to function adequately in our society.
Many people are critical of the Human Rights Code. They see it as being maybe unnecessary. But in my view, it’s crucial that we have in our fractured society a human rights code that speaks fairly to the current realities. I worry that there are too many injustices that remain hidden in silence: that some people are unable to exercise their rights and are unable to participate in society because of discrimination.
Science has evolved since the implementation of the Human Rights Code. Now we know that people are often encouraged to take a genetic test to determine whether they’re carrying the gene of a disease; however, they are often told that if they do, they may be prevented from having access to an insurance contract, or they may have to disclose it to a future employer. We know that some people have been counselled against genetic counselling on the basis that maybe they are foregoing possibilities of employment or coverage on insurance contracts. This is wrong. It’s wrong for people to be either forced to take a genetic test that they don’t want to do or actually be penalized because, indeed, they have decided to know what their conditions are. This is an important piece to ensure that, indeed, we continue to support science, but have the Human Rights Code speak to the way in which people are forced to make decisions today.
The second ground of discrimination that I want to speak about is discrimination on the basis of social condition. In 2000, Justice LaForest, who was reviewing the human rights framework for Canada, suggested the inclusion of social condition as being a ground of discrimination; that’s 17 years ago. Manitoba, the Northwest Territories and Quebec all have social condition as a ground of discrimination in their human rights framework.
Social condition is a disadvantage that comes from poverty, from homelessness, from the lack of education. We know that people hold stereotypical views about poor people. We know that many poor people are denied access to services or entrance to malls because they look poor or because they are poor.
Indeed, there’s a case in Ontario where a dentist had someone come into his or her office—in that case, it was his office—and the person actually was a social assistance recipient, so there was no problem that the dentist was going to get paid for the services, but the dentist did not want to have that type of person in his waiting room. That’s the type of discrimination that I want to respond to: discrimination that is based on class perception, discrimination that is based on the perception that poor people do not deserve to have the same access to services. This is wrong, and we have to deal with it.
Indeed, I think it’s important for a government that recognizes that, more and more, we view a gap between the rich and the poor—and we need to address it. Certainly, we want to relieve poverty. This does not prevent us from relieving poverty. We know that we’ve taken great steps; for example, ensuring that we raise the minimum wage or that we have a good plan to alleviate child poverty. Nevertheless, some people are suffering right now. Some people who are poor, who are homeless, are denied services and are treated badly. We need, indeed, to have a human rights condition that will respond effectively.
I think what is interesting here is that the Human Rights Commissioner does support the inclusion of social condition as a ground of discrimination, because they have done some surveys that identify that the type of stereotyping that exists in Ontario society against the poor is actually quite negative. People do hold negative stereotypes against poor people, and indeed, we should react right now to this emergence.
The third ground that I suggest is discrimination on the basis of immigration status. I know that my colleague the MPP from Scarborough–Agincourt will speak to that. I simply want to say, there’s an increasing number of people around the world who are stateless, who are refugees and who come here, and we want to regularize their status, but it takes a long time. In the meantime, you have landlords who, before they are offering to rent premises, will demand to know whether the person is a refugee or what kind of immigration status they have. If it is relevant, it’s appropriate to ask. When it’s not relevant, it should not be asked. This bill speaks exactly to that issue. We need to have a conversation around Ontario about the fact that it’s not always relevant to ask what someone’s immigration status is to offer them accommodation, to offer them employment or to offer them a contract or services.
Finally, the last ground for discrimination that I’ve included in this bill is discrimination on the basis of police records. There is a perverse interpretation under the Human Rights Code that prevents discrimination on the basis of—in employment, when somebody has achieved a pardon. A pardon no longer exists in Canadian law because it has been changed to a record suspension by federal law, so just for that, we should change the act. But more importantly, I think, we know that people who have not been charged, for example—or when charges have been withdrawn—are often prevented from accessing employment because the police records are used to deny them employment. This, again, is an important aspect of ensuring said people are treated fairly. If it’s irrelevant, if people have actually moved on and done great things, they should not be prevented from accessing services and accessing employment.
In conclusion, I just want to say how much human rights law is about creating the possibility of human beings wanting more than they had and being treated fairly. We want an equal society where everyone is treated fairly under the law and equally under the law. If we don’t have the human rights framework to support that vision, we are going nowhere.
F.R. Scott, the great poet, said that if the state and equality was a work of art, it should be an ongoing work of art. I’m thinking that this is the brush that will allow us to actually design a better future and a more equal society.
Just last week, on Thursday, I had the opportunity to speak publicly in opposition to a bill that is being put forward in the province of Quebec that I believe is going to infringe on the rights of freedom of expression, religion and speech in that province, and the two-tiered citizenship that that would bring to those who are affected. I had a number of people tell me, “Why should you care? You’re not from Quebec.” Speaker, I come from the city of Ottawa, as the member from Vanier does as well, and we actually do have a number of joint public services that go throughout the National Capital Region.
Just yesterday our mayor, Jim Watson, who used to serve in this House as the Minister of Health Promotion, came out and also opposed that piece of legislation and said that our bus system in Ottawa, OC Transpo, will not recognize that law when either an Ontarian or a Quebecer gets on our buses—it will not be recognized. I applaud him for that.
At the time, I said something to the effect that our freedoms or our rights are never strengthened when we deny them to others. I think that that’s an important place for us to start when we talk about rights and freedoms in all of Canada, not just in our province.
To be clear, this bill will amend the Human Rights Code to include immigration status, genetic characteristics, police records and social condition as prohibited grounds of discrimination in the province of Ontario. The act currently includes race, place of origin, gender identity, family status and disability, among other things, as prohibited grounds of discrimination.
In particular, this bill would amend things to include that every person has a right to equal treatment, without discrimination because of immigration status, genetic characteristics, police records and social condition, with respect to services, goods and facilities, the occupancy of accommodation, the right to contract, employment and membership in various types of organizations. Obviously, Speaker, this is important. We want to continue to strengthen amendments to ensure that all Ontarians are treated fairly and are protected from all forms of discrimination and racism.
We all agree, I think, that no one should be denied work in the province of Ontario based on how they look, where they were born, or what their economic status or social status may be. In fact, Speaker, I would expect that most of us in the province of Ontario would want to lift up people who either come here from another country or who may have systemically been part of the poverty system, and want to make sure that they get ahead, and I think we want to have a fair and open society as a result of that.
Race politics and the race-baiting and other types of polarizing issues that are happening out there in society today do not have any place in this assembly. In fact, I must comment: I’ve noticed the volatility and the polarization of not only our politics, but politics worldwide, and I think that we have to rise above it and make sure that there are protections for everyone.
I wanted to speak briefly about some of the human rights legacies within my own party—for example, it was as early as Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister, who fought for the suffrage of women. He eventually did not have that pass, but he was the first Prime Minister to talk about that. It wouldn’t be until a hundred years ago, in the city of Ottawa, that Sir Robert Borden, a fellow Nova Scotian who became the Conservative Prime Minister during the war, would extend the franchise to women. So here we are today, a hundred years after the date, and every woman in this assembly not only has the right to vote, but we have the right to stand here if we get elected. So we see the advancements of human rights. Sometimes it takes a hundred years. But it did happen.
Right here in the province of Ontario, we have a wonderful story. The first person who started talking about racial equality and trying to penalize those who discriminate based on race, ethnicity or gender was Premier Frost. He was also the first in Canada to bring forward, before Diefenbaker, a human rights code. That happened just before the end of his tenure. He was known as somebody who really fought for fairness for people. I think that’s an important legacy we have in Ontario. For you and I, Speaker, it’s an important part of the legacy and the tradition of the caucus which we represent.
I would be remiss if I did not point out that it was both Robarts and Bill Davis who expanded our education system to what it is today. It was Robarts who was first to call for a French-language school system in the province of Ontario, and of course we have a Catholic education system thanks to Bill Davis.
Some may disagree with me on those points. But I can tell you—and this is where I’m going to brag a little bit about Nepean–Carleton—that I’ve had the pleasure of opening 20 schools, which is more than probably most MPPs have in a lifetime, in the past decade, because I have the fastest-growing community. We have four school boards inside the city of Ottawa—a French public, a French Catholic, an English public and an English Catholic—and they’re all competing for schools. And I’m kind of like, “First-come, first-served. As long as you’re coming, we will make sure that those schools are not only filled to capacity, but probably within the first two years there will be portables outside.”
So we have this wonderful education system in the province of Ontario. Some will chastise me for saying it, because they’ll say “Let’s have one school system.” I say no to that. I think the system works quite well, and it’s due in part to the vision of both Robarts and, of course, Davis. I think that’s pretty important.
I grew up in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. I think that in every speech I give here, Speaker, I talk about growing up in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. It’s a small town, not really diverse at all. I love it, though. I come by my Celtic roots quite proudly because of the time I spent growing up.
Flora MacDonald, to me, was always somebody who was larger than life. I will never forget hearing the stories, as a Progressive Conservative youth president back in the 1990s, of Flora when she came in as the first serious female contender for leadership of a party. She came in to the Skye Boat Song, to 49 pipers. But she was more than just that; in fact, I think if we look at our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, you’ll see one very important point in there that Flora MacDonald had included, and that is gender equality in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I was proud of that.
Internationally, we’ve seen great success, whether that was Joe Clark with the Vietnamese boat people, Brian Mulroney with opposition to apartheid, and my predecessor John Baird in standing against Putin’s anti-gay laws. I think we have a legacy on this side of the House that I quite want to remind my colleagues of from time to time, and I quite want to remind Ontarians of from time to time, because I think sometimes we get into this situation where we talk about the politics of division, or we talk about the politics of segmenting the population and trying to find one group over here and another group over there.
But I was reminded over the weekend—and Speaker, you and I have had this conversation—of the late, great Robert Stanfield, often known as the greatest Prime Minister that Canada never had. He penned an open letter to his caucus, the Conservative caucus, and explained what the Conservative fundamentals were as they pertained to their responsibility to the electorate. His philosophy is very similar to mine, and this is why I have no problem here speaking to this piece of legislation, in terms of breaking down barriers for those who have dealt with systemic discrimination. He actually said that any political party, particularly a Progressive Conservative party, particularly in the British parliamentary tradition in which we stand—that we need to ensure that there are voices from every facet of society and every walk of life. In that vein that Robert Stanfield had, this is exactly the type of legislation that I think Robert Stanfield would have said makes sense, in terms of having all those voices heard and making sure that there were no barriers for them either to find services or to gain employment.
Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity. I appreciated the opportunity not just to have this time to speak, but actually to go through the history at least as it pertains to the philosophies that you and I espouse in our constituencies and when we take our seats here at the assembly.
I also wanted to commend the member. I believe this is her second private member’s bill since she’s arrived in this House. I do know she had one that pertained to the city of Ottawa becoming officially bilingual. I gather that probably won’t—unless we have another draw before now and the election—see debate time in this assembly, as she has chosen this other bill. But I thank her very much for the opportunity, and I’m very glad to have participated in the debate today.
Ms. Jennifer K. French: I am glad to be able to add comments to Bill 164, An Act to amend the Human Rights Code with respect to immigration status, genetic characteristics, police records and social conditions.
Speaker, I bring thoughts to this based on my experience both as having served as the critic for community safety and correctional services and as our party critic for citizenship and immigration. Beyond that, I have thoughts that I am gaining from my constituency, from real people who walk through my door on a regular basis and their lived experience. I am very glad to be able to talk about a strong human rights framework. As the member from Ottawa–Vanier talked about, to have human rights protections and a Human Rights Code that reflect a good, fair and relevant framework that is going to evolve with our society should be our goal.
In today’s case, we are talking about amending the Human Rights Code with respect to immigration status, genetic characteristics, police records, social conditions, with respect to services, goods and facilities, the occupancy of accommodation, the right to contract, employment and membership in various organizations—basically, giving folks additional protections, that they cannot be discriminated against in our communities.
As I hear from folks who walk through my constituency office door on a regular basis, these insidious discriminatory experiences are happening on a regular basis, whether it’s someone who can’t get a job because—as we are talking about—they’re poor, because of the way that they are able to present themselves; whether it’s a matter of a police record—someone is wanting to start fresh. They have served their time, they are trying to turn the page, and they are not having that success.
We are always here to defend and protect folks in our communities, and adding these layers is, of course, the right thing to do. Saying that and saying that, yes, we support adding these amendments, I’m going to take the opportunity to imagine a few other things that we could change as well.
When it comes to immigration status and adding protections against discrimination: Absolutely, we should be doing that. But my party leader, Andrea Horwath, back in January, wrote a letter to the Premier saying that Ontario needed to step up and lead at that time and said, “I urge you to declare Ontario to be a sanctuary province. In recent years, cities like Toronto and Hamilton have shown tremendous leadership by making local services accessible to all residents, regardless of their immigration status. Now, our province must do the same. We must guarantee that services will always be accessible to everyone in Ontario.”
I bring that forward because, as we see here, adding this into the Human Rights Code essentially codifies a sanctuary province—that folks need to have access to services when they need them and that the immigration process is a tangled one and it takes a long time to navigate, but people might be in need today.
We hear things throughout our communities as well. Housing discrimination is rampant, especially as we are reaching month 13 and the federal responsibility for our new Syrian families is coming to an end. Then the responsibility falls to the provinces, and their protections evaporate. We have landlords and different folks who are discriminating on a regular basis, and we need to guard against that.
I will also say, while we are taking about immigration status, that we have immigration detention centres that are federal, but my understanding is that some of the children who are living there with their parents or guardians in flux are Canadian children. My understanding is that they actually don’t have access to provincial education right now.
It’s my understanding that there are Canadian-born children living with their parents who are in immigration flux at our federal detention centres—provincial responsibility—not having access to education. I’d like the government to take that back and look into it and fix it. Are we discriminating as a province? I would challenge us not to.
Also we have federal immigration detainees—again, federal responsibility—that we are housing in our jails, and we have a government that keeps signing that agreement year after year and saying, “Don’t worry; we’ll tuck them over here.” They’re being discriminated against systematically, and we are turning a blind eye. I would again challenge us to fix that.
Genetic characteristics: This is an interesting one. I have had members from our communities of colour and the Jewish community lobby on this issue about genetic discrimination. I’m very glad to see us having this conversation about folks who are—it should be about an individual’s health and well-being. If someone would like to take a genetic test to learn more about their own health and predispositions or things like that, in no way should that personal health information be used against them when it comes to insurance or when it comes to employment.
Sickle cell as a marker, the BRCA4 gene that is a breast cancer gene: Those mark community members. For employers to look at that and say, “Oh, that person might be a person of colour if they have this gene, or are from this cultural community; I’m not going to hire them”: No, no, no; that cannot be a thing.
When it comes to police records, we recognize that young offenders’ records are sealed, that they’re able to turn the page to start a new chapter, to start a new journey, and we want them to be able to do that fresh and without discrimination. But we should be having the conversation, as the member opposite talked about, that we want to ensure people are treated fairly, that folks who come out of our different law enforcement systems and back into our communities have the opportunity to participate fairly and fully.
Social conditions: I appreciated that the member opposite said that this is essentially long overdue, that there are other jurisdictions that have already said that social conditions cannot be grounds for discrimination. We protect against that. To disadvantage folks due to their employment status, source or level of income, housing status or level of education: That is wrong. But I’ll say—and I don’t think I’m getting any argument from anyone in this room—that poverty is such a massive part of the story and problem. If we are not encouraging affordable housing and development and if we are not looking at providing dental care to more folks, we are continuing to further disadvantage them. I’m glad we’re talking about the fact that you can’t discriminate against them, but where is the preventive side? I would like us to tackle that as a Legislature.
We have a wonderful facility in my riding called the Refuge. They support and work with street-involved youth—homeless youth. They do wonderful work with them and help them on the next steps of their journey as they are integrating and reintegrating into our community.
I remember meeting a young man—very bright, capable; I wish I knew what had happened on his journey. I remember looking at this young man and recognizing potential—I recognize potential, but then I’m a teacher; I can’t help it—and thinking, “This is an individual who clearly had never had access to dental care.” He was a resilient youth who had been living on the street and was in and out of systems, but had never had access to dental care and so doesn’t have a customer-service smile. He was meeting with barriers and obstacles to employment strictly on the basis of his lack of access to dental care all along the way, and it was a barrier to employment. How do you say to an employer, “You can’t discriminate against him based on poverty”? How do you ensure that this individual gets a fair shake when so many pieces come into that? I think that part of protecting against discrimination would be preventing the opportunity to discriminate.
We talk about raising the minimum wage, bringing more people out of poverty and giving more access to opportunity. We have folks who are just drowning in debt, who don’t have access to affordable accommodation. We have to look at that as well, because when we’re part of a system that is forcing people to live without options and to live without opportunity, then we’re not being fair at the beginning. We are not giving them a fair shake. We are not helping them.
I appreciate the need; I do. I respect this piece of legislation. We, as a party, support these amendments. We want more people to have those protections, but we want more people to have the support all along the way.
Back to police records: This is a conversation that came up the other day in a meeting with some folks who have been through our care system, who had been youth in care and who are now on the other side of that. They’re adults participating in our community. One of the things they brought up was that their records were public. When we talk about young offenders’ records being sealed—theirs aren’t. They are concerned for this same conversation. This is a group of adults who had been in care in our province and now might be discriminated against because there is, as they said, a stigma attached. People might judge their background.
Family status is something we already guard against as a grounds for discrimination. Again, anywhere that we identify a preventive measure so that folks will never be discriminated against on those grounds because they can’t happen, because we look after them and protect them, I would like to see more of that.
I applaud the member from Ottawa–Vanier. I also would like to say that I’ve appreciated work that she’s done before coming to this Legislature. I will forever be confused why she ran for the Liberals and not for the NDP.
Mr. Mike Colle: I’m very honoured to rise to speak to this bill put forth by the distinguished member from Ottawa–Vanier, who was the dean of the law school at the University of Ottawa and had a very distinguished career as a civil rights advocate and human rights advocate. This is in her DNA, to put forth this bill about amending Ontario’s Human Rights Code.
I just want to speak to one aspect of the bill that we have collaborated on, and that is genetic discrimination. I had a private member’s bill, Bill 30, which advocated for the end of genetic discrimination, and I certainly hope that this helps get that through.
Most people don’t understand that in Ontario, it is legal to deny people a job—to say, “You can’t work here because your father had cancer.” That’s legal in Ontario right now. If your mother had Huntington’s disease—no job. Also, insurance: You can be denied insurance if in your family history there are some genetic disorders like the BRCA2 gene that many women have, especially in the Jewish community. If you have that BRCA2 gene, you can’t get insurance. That is legal in Ontario right now. That is why it is essential to amend Ontario’s Human Rights Code to make that illegal, especially now with the proliferation of genetic testing. There are all kinds of online tests you can do for your genetic background. In many cases, an employer or an insurer can say, “You should get a genetic test. You won’t be hired until you get a genetic test. And then, after the genetic test, we’ll hire you.” You can even be denied a job or denied insurance if you refuse to have a genetic test. Then, if you have the genetic test and you get those results, they can then deny you the job or deny you insurance—so genetic discrimination right now.
The breakthrough we’ve had this year is that earlier this year, we had a great victory across Canada. We were able to mobilize young people from British Columbia to Newfoundland, and we lobbied and passed a bill banning genetic discrimination in the federal parliament. Bill S-201 was passed this year, although Quebec is challenging it in the Supreme Court. But anyway, it was passed: 220 MPs voted to ban genetic discrimination. In Ontario, we’re going to have to eventually follow that federal law to ban genetic discrimination. That’s why this bill is very timely. It even goes further, to ban discrimination based on your immigration status, your social condition—poverty—and your police record.
Ms. Soo Wong: I’m pleased to rise today to speak in support of Bill 164. Let me begin my remarks by thanking the member from Ottawa–Vanier for bringing Bill 164 forward to the Legislature. I too want to acknowledge my colleague from Eglinton–Lawrence’s comments about the member from Ottawa–Vanier: In less than one year, as the newest member in the House, you’re bringing forward your experience, your expertise as a lawyer, but more importantly, your human rights experience.
The Ontario Human Rights Code is an important and necessary piece of legislation, but it requires modernization. While we have come a long way as a province and as a society, there is still more that needs to be done. Racism, prejudice and intolerance are all too prevalent in our society. Many of our citizens are slipping through the cracks as discrimination against them goes unrecognized or unresolved. This much-needed legislation will give those citizens the recognition and protection they deserve.
The proposed bill, Bill 164, if passed, will amend the Ontario Human Rights Code with respect to immigration status, genetic characteristics, police records and social conditions. Given the limited time I have for this debate, I will focus specifically on dealing with immigration status. There is a correlation between discrimination and immigration.
As the member from Scarborough–Agincourt, I know how important immigration is to my riding and to this great province. Yesterday, Statistics Canada reported that in 2016, almost 70% of Scarborough–Agincourt’s population were first-generation Canadians, and almost 80%—80%, Mr. Speaker—in Scarborough–Agincourt were visible minorities. These data are higher than in the city of Toronto and the province of Ontario.
Every year, Ontario welcomes more and more immigrants from around the world. It is critical that we protect their rights. Oftentimes, these people are fleeing violence, crime, famine or intolerant political systems. It is unacceptable that those seeking a better life in Ontario should face barriers to necessary services like housing.
Mr. Speaker, I want to share this story, because this is so relevant to this debate on Bill 164. The province of Ontario recently accepted over 19,000 Syrian refugees. A large proportion of this community is residing in Scarborough–Agincourt. Recently, I heard that the newest members in my riding have been discriminated against by landlords because they are new Canadians and they are refugees. This is not acceptable. All of us in this House have a responsibility to speak out, because this is not acceptable.
Once upon a time, the federal government had a racist and discriminatory policy. My good family friend Jean Lumb—everybody who is visiting here today at Queen’s Park knows the infamous Jean Lumb, who is going to have a new school in Trinity–Spadina. Jean Lumb was born in Canada. The federal government was so racist at the time that, because she married a man who was from mainland China and was not a citizen, she lost her citizenship.
Mr. Speaker, I have never heard of such discrimination, by the government of Canada of the time. We will say that it doesn’t happen now, but let me be very clear: We know that kind of history can repeat itself.
It is critically important not only that we advance the member from Ottawa–Vanier, with respect to Bill 164, but we need to do better—like the member from Eglinton–Lawrence said: We are not just doing the talk; we must do the walk.
Mr. Arthur Potts: I, too, am delighted to be able to have an opportunity to speak to Bill 164 today. I would also like to preface my remarks by saying how proud we are of the member for Ottawa–Vanier—distinguished dean of a prestigious law school, the Order of Canada.
I know precisely why she joined the Liberal Party of Ontario when she ran. I don’t have to take direction from the member opposite. The fact is, we are—and I’ve said it repeatedly in this House—the new progressives, in this party. As the members of the third party cozy up to their Tory cousins on the other side, trying to get votes in other parts of Ontario, we are the ones who are truly representing progressive ideas and attitudes, and this bill is just a part of that.
Speaker, I’m also proud that the member from Ottawa–Vanier is here, because when I see her in committee as we are drafting legislation—this is an incredible talent, as she can work through the nuances of the language and she brings incredible power and information to these committees, so we’re delighted to have her do that for us.
Ontario is usually a leader on social policy issues such as this, on progressive issues. We did it with the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan, where we led Canada. We did it also with the pharmacare program. We’re starting that national conversation about getting pharmacare as an important part of all OHIP and such—also with child protection, and the new rules we brought forward for child protection.
Unfortunately, on this issue, we’re falling behind. I think it’s really important that we have an opportunity here to bring forward a bill that will update our Human Rights Code in order to brings the kinds of protection that exist at the federal level and, in some of the areas that we are talking about here today—in the province of Quebec, the Northwest Territories, Manitoba—others who have done this, who have updated their Human Rights Code.
Some of you will know and recall that I have a master’s background in labour-management relations from Queen’s University. I used to teach at Seneca College. I used to teach the Personnel Association of Ontario’s labour relations program for a number of terms. We talked about the Labour Relations Act and the Human Rights Code. I used to say to my students, as I was getting them to understand what it means to be discrimination under law, whether, for instance, if you denied someone a job because they had red hair, would that—
I would make the argument, would it be discrimination? Of course, all of the students would immediately jump up and say, “Yes, that would be unfair. That should be discrimination.” But the truth is, under the labour relations code, that wouldn’t be discrimination because red hair isn’t a protected grounds for discrimination.
Red hair could be grounds of discrimination, because it could reflect country of origin. So if you’re a Scot or Irish and you have predominantly red hair in your country, that could be a ground of discrimination. What we’re seeing here is an evolution of the grounds of discrimination under law. It’s very important to move forward.
I was going to speak a little bit about social condition as a ground for discrimination—because I have it in my riding. When people who are on ODSP come in, they say how hard it is to get an apartment, because as soon as their landlord realizes that their income is coming from the government of Ontario, it seems to be a factor that denies them housing. We want to reverse that. We want all people, regardless of social condition, to have the same rights and protection under law.
Mme Nathalie Des Rosiers: I want to thank all my colleagues. I want to thank the member for Nepean–Carleton for the great history lessons about the evolution of human rights law. I want to thank the member for Oshawa for bringing it home in terms of illustrating the need for this legislation in terms of all of our obligations to not only amend the code, but also to put it in practice and try to prevent—I want to thank, really, my colleagues that I drew inspiration from, whether they are from Eglinton–Lawrence, Scarborough–Agincourt and Beaches–East York. Thank you very much, first, for supporting me in this endeavour, but also, I think, for the great work that you’re doing and pushing the boundaries of Ontario law.
As you would imagine, this bill reflects a long-time commitment of mine to these issues. I do believe that when we do not have a Human Rights Code that speaks to all the grounds of discrimination, we actually contribute to the silence around some injustices. The lack of visibility that some injustices have comes from the fact that we do not have the words in the law to describe them.
What I’m seeking to do here, and I hope that I will have the support of this House, is to give to the Human Rights Commission the power to educate us on how to eliminate negative stereotypes in order that we can move forward and have a more equal society where everyone can contribute to their fullest.
Ms. Soo Wong: I move that, in the opinion of this House, the Ontario Legislature must acknowledge and honour the over 200,000 victims of the Nanjing Massacre, as well as foster learning of the Nanjing Massacre and other World War II atrocities in Asia by formally recognizing December 13 in each year as Nanjing Massacre Commemorative Day in the province of Ontario.
Before I recognize the member, I would like to say to our guests who are here in the gallery that we are delighted to have you here, but it is against the rules of the House for you to participate in the debate or to applaud. I’d ask you to respect that. Thank you very much.
Ms. Soo Wong: On December 13, 1937, Japanese imperial forces initiated a six-week massacre in the then-capital of China, Nanking. More than 200,000 Chinese soldiers and civilians were indiscriminately killed under the command of General Iwane Matsui. While the precise number of casualties will never be known, this atrocity goes beyond statistics and ethnicity.
The Nanjing Massacre is about the tens of thousands of women, young and old, who were sexually assaulted in the capture of the city. It is about women and girls being used as weapons of war. Those who were non-compliant were beaten and killed. Those who survived this horrific atrocity continued to suffer physically and psychologically in the reliving of those memories. They understood the need to record this history, but the number of survivors is dwindling, and their stories are in danger of being forgotten and lost forever.
The Ontario Legislature has a history of championing peace and justice by remembering foreign atrocities. Right here before the House, in December 1998, the Legislature passed MPP Ted Chudleigh’s bill on Holocaust Remembrance Day, Bill 66. This bill received all-party support and is the first of its kind in any jurisdiction in North America.
In 2009, the Legislature passed Bill 147, which commemorates the victims of the man-made famine of Ukraine. This bill was co-sponsored by Dave Levac, MPP for Brant, along with Cheri DiNovo, MPP for Parkdale–High Park, and Frank Klees, MPP for Newmarket–Aurora. It was the first tri-sponsored bill to pass in the history of Ontario. It was passed with unanimous consent by the three House leaders.
In 1980, the Legislature also passed a resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide committed during World War I, and encouraged the government of Canada to take similar steps to encourage remembrance at home and abroad.
Last year, my friend the Minister of Research, Innovation and Science eloquently stated, “To remember that history is to do justice to the fallen and to safeguard the future from all forms of tyranny, oppression, racism and discrimination.” Passing my motion today demonstrates that Ontario continues to be committed to acknowledging and addressing human rights issues everywhere.
The most recent provincial census data shows that Ontario is home to one of the largest Asian populations in Canada, with over three million recorded in 2016. The Asian community has contributed greatly to this province by enriching our cultural diversity. They have also contributed socially, politically and economically through arts, wisdom and social ethics.
Almost every Asian who has immigrated to Canada over the past 40 years would have been affected by the events in Asia during World War II to some degree. There are other Ontarians who have a direct relationship with the victims and survivors of the Nanjing Massacre, yet many Ontarians are unaware of the atrocities that occurred in Asia during the Second World War.
It is for these reasons, Mr. Speaker, that I introduce my motion today declaring December 13 of each year as Nanjing Massacre Commemorative Day. For the victims, survivors and families affected by the Nanjing Massacre—for Ontarians—this is a very important issue, an important step for remembrance. It is an acknowledgement of the horrors of war, an affirmation of our support of global human rights and a lesson on the history of World War II in Asia.
An inclusive society is something that we take for granted as Ontarians. However, as events around the world continue to demonstrate, inclusive values must be continually reaffirmed and reinforced. This begins with education. I know I haven’t seen them yet, but students from all over the Toronto District School Board, the York Region District School Board and the Toronto Catholic District School Board will probably be watching right now.
While our education system rightly acknowledges the horrors of World War II, far too often these accounts are from a Eurocentric view and therefore neglect the atrocities and legacies of the conflict in other parts of the world, particularly in Asia. Gerry Connelly, currently an ALPHA board member and a former director of the Toronto District School Board, has eloquently argued, “Ontario has a strong commitment to equity and inclusive curriculum. You cannot have inclusive curriculum without one part of history. We have the responsibility to ensure that our students know and understand the realities of World War II in Asia.”
ALPHA Education was founded by Dr. Joseph Wong, who has been a lifelong fighter for social justice since 1979. Inspired by the relentless effort of the Jewish community in revealing and remembering the horror of the Jewish Holocaust and appalled by the absence of information and knowledge about the Asia-Pacific War, he founded Toronto ALPHA in 1997 with the mandate to seek justice for the victims and to foster humanity education.
Through ALPHA Education, hundreds of students in the Toronto District School Board, the Toronto Catholic District School Board and the York Region District School Board are given an opportunity to learn about the Nanjing Massacre. Furthermore, ALPHA Education provides resources and support to teachers in these three school boards.
Students’ views of the Second World War have been largely presented through a Western lens, and Asian atrocities are rarely discussed or mentioned in regular history classes. Dr. Wong believed that this Legislature’s recognition of the Nanjing Massacre “will mean Ontario is truly an inclusive … society, in name and in substance. World history includes Asia as well, a huge region where a lot of Canadians trace their origin. Through learning of the past mistakes, in west as well as in east, we will give our young people the opportunity to learn and think independently, and to make sure past mistakes will not be repeated.”
Since last December, I’ve tabled over 90,000 signatures of Ontarians from Sault Ste. Marie to Windsor supporting the establishment of the Nanjing Massacre Commemorative Day and the provision for all Ontarians, especially students, to learn about the atrocities of World War II in Asia. To date, no bills or motions have garnered that much talk or discussion within the various communities. There is extensive community support for a day to remember and honour the victims and families of the Nanjing Massacre and the atrocities of World War II in Asia, as well the teaching and learning of these atrocities.
The Toronto District School Board—the largest school board in Canada—voted unanimously to recognize the Nanjing Massacre in 2008, and provided opportunities for all high school students to learn about this atrocity. Passing my motion today will encourage all Ontario school boards to offer the same opportunities to their students.
Last year, the city of Toronto passed a motion by councillors Jim Karygiannis and Kristyn Wong-Tam to recognize the Nanjing Massacre and declare December 13 in the city of Toronto as Nanjing Massacre Commemorative Day. This past April, the region of Peel, one of the largest municipalities in Ontario, passed a similar motion to recognize the Nanjing Massacre.
While the Nanjing Massacre was one of the most horrific events in Asia during World War II, it is certainly not the only one. Neighbouring countries like Korea, Vietnam, Singapore and the Philippines, to name a few, faced similar brutalities, and like the victims and survivors of Nanjing, these people’s voices need to be heard. These voices, along with the voices from other victims of other atrocities such as the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, the Ukrainian famine, the Rwanda genocide, and most recently, the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, will help us learn from our violent history and build an inclusive tomorrow. Recently, President Obama eloquently argued, “We don’t rise up by repeating the past. We rise up by learning from the past and listening to each other.”
Designating December 13 in each year as Nanjing Massacre Commemorative Day in Ontario will provide an opportunity for all Ontarians to gather, to remember and to honour the victims and families affected by the Nanjing Massacre.
Former senator the Honourable Nancy Ruth argues that this will “enact an annual day of remembrance for the victims of the Nanjing Massacre, including the violence directed at women and children. We can never let history repeat itself.”
A strong advocate for the remembrance of the Nanjing Massacre is former MP Olivia Chow. Ms. Chow and ALPHA Education championed a motion on Japanese military sexual slavery in World War II in the House of Commons. It was passed unanimously on November 28, 2007. During the debate on Ms. Chow’s motion, the minister of multiculturalism and Canadian identity, the Honourable Jason Kenney, stated that, “As Canadians, we acknowledge the moments of injustice in our own history, but these women came to this country with a story that needs to be heard because we need to learn from the lessons of history to ensure they are not repeated.”
Mr. Speaker, I hope this Legislature follows the federal government’s footsteps in remembering the victims and families affected by the Nanjing Massacre and fights for human rights everywhere. The intent of my motion is to acknowledge and remember the history as it occurred, in hopes of preventing similar actions in the future. This is not—I’m going to repeat it, Mr. Speaker—this is not about the Japanese people in Ontario. It is not about today, other than remembering the day and the lessons that history teaches us.
History is full of teachings, Mr. Speaker. However, we cannot learn from history unless we heed every lesson. While our society and education system rightly recognize the horrors of World War II in Europe, too often we neglect the atrocities committed in the rest of the world, particularly in Asia. An inclusive society is one that acknowledges all the truths of history. When we remember the atrocities in the past, we help prevent them from repeating.
As I conclude my remarks, Mr. Speaker, I wanted to end by quoting President Obama’s recent remarks in Virginia: “If we’re going to talk about our history then we should do it in a way that heals, not in a way that divides.”
Passing my motion today, Mr. Speaker, will offer this Legislature an opportunity to begin the process of bringing people together, to learn about the atrocities of the past and, most importantly, to discuss a new way to build an inclusive tomorrow.
Mr. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: Before I make my very important speech today, I’d like to welcome my close friend Dr. Joseph Wong. Everybody knows Dr. Joseph Wong. He is the founder of the Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care, he’s a representative of ALPHA Education and, more importantly, he’s the champion of fighting for human rights locally and internationally. I’d like to welcome everybody. I also saw a councillor from Markham.
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today and speak on the motion to declare December 13 of each year as Nanjing Massacre Commemorative Day. The Nanjing Massacre was, without a doubt, one of the most horrific atrocities of our modern era. In a span of six short weeks—only six weeks—beginning on December 13, 1937, the Japanese Imperial Army rained death and destruction upon the people of Nanjing. According to the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, over 200,000 civilians and soldiers were slaughtered, tens of thousands of women—some, mere girls—were brutally and repeatedly raped, and entire city blocks were burned to the ground.
Mr. Speaker, I ask myself, why am I so adamant to talk about such a horrific topic? Why would anyone want to know about one of the most horrendous atrocities of the modern era? Why are we so compelled to educate our peers and our children about an incident that happened on the other side of the world, some 10,000 kilometres away, 80 years ago? Why would I bother to say or do anything that would anger some of my friends and allies?
Mr. Speaker, the answer is very simple: because large-scale acts of violence in history need to be widely known, studied, remembered and vehemently condemned so that they are not repeated ever again. If we fail to expose these crimes against humanity and if the perpetrators of such crimes think they can get away with such carnage, and if we allow the deniers of these crimes to sway us to stay silent, we are accomplice and complicit to the crime.
It is not about who the victim is, nor who the predator is. It is not about who is our friend or foe. It is about doing what’s right. It is about justice and human dignity so that the future generations of all nations never commit such atrocities, and create a peaceful world for all.
Mr. Speaker, I hope you and all my colleagues in this parliamentary chamber will join me in declaring December 13 as Nanjing Massacre Commemorative Day to remember the victims and to let the world know that this Legislature will not tolerate any crimes against humanity.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: Today, I rise to support the motion put forward by my colleague from Scarborough–Agincourt to commemorate the massacre of Nanjing. I want to thank Ms. Wong both for bringing forward the original bill and for bringing forward the motion today. There’s no question in my mind, Speaker, that this is a significant historical event. It deserves recognition, and it deserves recognition in an act debated, adopted and enacted by this Legislature.
As you are well aware, Speaker, in 1937 imperial Japanese forces engaged in a brutal act of massacre and rape, targeting soldiers and civilians in the Chinese city of Nanjing over a period of six weeks. The government of China states that almost 300,000 people were killed—a horrendous number.
One of the most haunting images that came out of that massacre—not the goriest, not the most gruesome, but one of the most haunting—was that of an infant abandoned in a devastated railway station, alone on a platform with a building destroyed around it, crying. That picture, I think, symbolized the desolation and the horror of that assault on that city.
Those events did occur; they did, in fact, happen. Although they are remembered in China and other parts of Asia, the knowledge in the rest of the world is limited. In Japan, the reality is contested or denied by right-wing and nationalist groups.
Dr. Wong gave me a great honour. He invited me to a press conference earlier this year to talk about this motion, to talk about this initiative. Interestingly, at the press conference, a number of those who were participating talked about the communications they had received from Japan denying the reality. To my surprise, I started getting postcards from Japan telling me how people in China welcomed the occupiers, welcomed the imperial Japanese forces, and that everything had been fine in Nanjing. But this was, in fact, simply a fiction. That’s not true, Speaker; that’s not even faintly vaguely true. That is a fiction.
“Japan—one of UNESCO’s biggest funders—warned last year that it might pull the funding after the UN cultural and scientific body agreed to Beijing’s request to register disputed Chinese documents recording the mass murder and rape committed by Japanese troops after the fall of the Chinese city of Nanjing in 1937.”
Speaker, as you are well aware, countries—people—that don’t recognize the reality of their history continue that act of aggression. To not recognize that reality, to deny what happened, is to dishonour all those who were cut down.
In my mind, it is entirely clear that we need to face up to and acknowledge the reality of the brutality of the 20th century. We need to be clear that economic chaos and the great power of nationalism that was used by dictators to secure and hold power, and the use to which they put that power, was a horrendous experience for humanity.
If we want to help ensure that we don’t repeat the mistakes and massacres of that time, then we need to first remember that they actually happened, and to ignore all those who deny that they were real. We need to remember that assumptions of racial or national superiority lead to the very darkest nights of human experience. We need to remember that scapegoating of national groups, religious groups and ethnic groups, when mixed with explosive anger over desperate economic circumstances, can lead to this kind of large-scale human tragedy, these kinds of large-scale human crimes.
For the right-wing and nationalist forces in Japan that claim that the massacre never happened, it is very important—very important—that the leaders of that country note that the reality is understood, acknowledged and recognized around the world. We in this chamber can help with that project, can help acknowledge the reality—make it undeniable.
For the people of Ontario, there is also the recognition that we all came here by different ways and that our history here is rooted in Asia, as it is rooted in Europe, as it is rooted in Africa; and that our makeup as a society has been touched by these historic events, and they’re as valid and as real a part of us as any tragedy or crime against humanity that happened in Europe over the centuries. We are a people of many origins, and it is well that we learn all parts of our origin story.
Speaker, it’s my hope that this motion passes. It’s a good motion. Again, I want to commend the MPP for bringing it forward. As she said earlier, hundreds of thousands of people in the GTA are of Chinese descent. The Chinese population of Ontario, of Canada, is substantial. It is a vital part of our social fabric. People of Chinese descent have helped build this country from the time of building the railroads across the continent to this very day. I’m very pleased that the city of Toronto passed a motion supporting this setting up of an Ontario day of commemoration. I’m glad that Peel did the same.
I do want to thank Dr. Joseph Wong and ALPHA. I want to thank Ms. Olivia Chow. I notice Kristyn Wong-Tam is here, a great councillor from downtown Toronto. All of you who are here today, you are doing your part to make history alive, to acknowledge what is real and to try to stop repetition of the horrors that we saw a century ago.
But I also want to say, Speaker, that it’s time for this Liberal government to act. Ms. Wong has done her part. She brought forward a bill; it was passed. She has brought forward a motion today. If it doesn’t pass, frankly, it will be unbelievable.
But I want to note she spoke before about the commemoration of the Ukrainian holocaust, the Holodomor. That bill came forward in February 2009, first reading; second reading, March 2009; adopted and in place by April 2009—a few months.
It has been a number of months now since your bill came forward for second reading and was passed here. It’s about time. This government has the power; it has a majority. It could send this bill to committee. We could have the hearings and we could go forward. Alternatively, this government could meet with the other two parties, and I think there would be general assent that now is the time. December 13 is coming. It’s coming soon. I think that having this motion is very, very handy, because we have a month or a month and a half. In legislative terms, I know that’s lightning speed, but it is entirely doable.
So I urge this government to take this opportunity to use its full power, to use the co-operation of the other parties in this Legislature to ensure that we don’t pass another December 13 without this day being marked, without ministers of the crown coming forward, speaking in their place about the importance of this historic event. Let’s not have another December 13 pass without the opposition and without the NDP getting a chance to stand in this House and say, “We should be proud of ourselves.”
Ms. Wong, again, you’ve done your part. It’s time for the Premier and the cabinet to act and bring this forward very rapidly so that we can take this stance and let the word go out: Let other cities around the world know that this city has taken a stance; let other countries know that in this country, we know where we come from, we know what made us who we are, we know what made our people what they are, and that we accept what is real and we will do everything we can—we will do our best—to ensure we don’t see a repetition.
Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to have spoken to this issue. I want to end with one last call. Please, please move this forward. Make it real. On December 13, let’s assemble here again and honour this day.
Hon. Chris Ballard: I’d like to thank the member from Scarborough–Agincourt for bringing forward this very important motion today. I’m happy to speak today in support of motion 66, which will recognize December 13 as Nanjing Massacre Commemorative Day in Ontario. I’ll be sharing my time with the members from Trinity–Spadina, Ottawa–Vanier and Markham–Unionville.
I want to begin with a quote. Back in 1780, Robbie Burns wrote, “Man’s inhumanity to man / Makes countless thousands mourn!” This quote indicates an early acknowledgement of humankind’s capacity to inflict violence on one another.
Throughout history, we have seen horrific events unfold like those of the Nanjing Massacre. Most recently, we can think of atrocities like the Holocaust, Holodomor, the Rwandan genocide and, ongoing right now, the Myanmar refugee crisis with the Rohingya refugees. It reminds us of mankind’s capacity for wrongdoing, which seems boundless.
If we are to ensure that events such as these never happen again, we must hold them in our memories and share them with our children and not be afraid to talk publicly about our failings as humans. We must remember that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
As Ontario’s elected officials, we have a responsibility to uphold and promote the values held by the people in this province: inclusivity, tolerance, peace and education, to name a few. This begins by standing with the families and survivors of the Nanjing Massacre in remembrance of the terrible atrocity they endured.
In Ontario, we stand for the belief that all human beings are entitled to inalienable universal rights. We must never forget the atrocities committed against the people of Nanjing, just as we cannot forget the unjust and tragic acts of violence committed against other marginalized groups around the world. As the 80th anniversary of the Nanjing Massacre approaches, this motion reinforces the need to promote peace and human rights both at home and abroad.
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: I would like to start out right now by congratulating my colleague Soo Wong for, I think, the best speech she has ever given in this House and certainly the most passionate. I was very proud to listen to that speech. But I am even more proud of you today for filling the galleries. From time to time, we have a full House here, but it’s been very rare over the last couple of years to see people at a private member’s bill. So I applaud you for bringing so many people to our House here today and for the passion with which you and, quite frankly, the other members, including my colleague Raymond Cho, spoke.
During the six weeks that the Imperial Japanese Army decided to rape and pillage and murder the city of Nanking—it was called by westerners “hell on earth.” It was, because close to 20,000 to 80,000 were raped. Some girls as young as eight years old were raped. Pregnant women weren’t spared. According to the research I’ve done, some pregnant women had their bellies slit open. There was massive carnage in Nanking. Some recall that the streets were red with blood. It was a genocide.
I have a large Chinese population in my constituency of Nepean–Carleton. About 11,000 people live there that call themselves and identify as Chinese. My riding, when it splits in two, will have 9,000 Chinese Canadians. Next week, I will join several of them in China, the first time that I will ever take that trip. I am really looking forward to it to spend time with my Chinese constituents.
When you look at the fact that 200,000 to 300,000 people died in such a short period, I can’t believe it has taken us 80 years to commemorate it. I will profess my own ignorance to my friend from Scarborough. I really didn’t know much about Nanking until you brought it to this assembly.
Last year, I had a day called a Day of Humanity. I actually worked with the Jewish community on it because I was so familiar with the Holocaust, having travelled to Israel and having seen the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial there. I started to learn a little bit more about genocides. We had speakers from Rwanda, from Armenia and from the Yazidis.
To my colleague’s point earlier, we are now becoming aware of the atrocities around the world, and we need to commemorate them. We even need to commemorate the assaults on the indigenous population here in Canada. We have to learn from that because, as we know, history can repeat itself if we are not aware of it.
I want to congratulate my colleague from Toronto–Danforth as well. I do agree. I do hope that on December 13, we are all standing here in this assembly, speaking to it. If the House rises before then, before we rise, we must make sure that we mark this important day, and we remark on this important discussion, so that we never repeat another heinous tragedy that unfolded so many years ago, so far away.
Mme Nathalie Des Rosiers: Monsieur le Président, il me fait plaisir de participer au débat sur la motion de la députée de Scarborough–Agincourt pour commémorer le massacre de Nanjing durant la Deuxième Guerre mondiale.
I do it with a view to illustrating what in French we call “le devoir de la mémoire”: the duty to remember. When we seek to remember and acknowledge massive human rights violations, we do so not in a spirit of vengeance, but we want to do it for two things. First, we want to acknowledge the toll that violence imposed on the victims, the trauma that it causes families for generations on. Secondly, we do it to guard ourselves against repeating the same mistakes. This is what I want to do today in the few minutes that I have.
We know that massive violence, killings, rapes and sexual assaults have profound effects. They are perpetrated with a view to scar a people, and they do. No one emerges intact. Some people die and the survivors are left mourning. Some people feel guilty that they have survived, and often are so traumatized as they try to move on. They have left their soul, they have left their heart, in Nanjing.
We also know that trauma is passed through generations: the memories of the grandfather no one ever knew; the invisible wounds that rape leaves on women, who become mothers and grandmothers. Families live with the remembrances, and it is worse when the memories remain untold or silenced.
When we acknowledge the violence, we give victims and their families a voice. Stories must be told, and must be told in Ontario. Remembering past human rights violations, tragedies, violence and genocide is also about guarding ourselves against repeating the same thing.
To remember Nanking is not about singling out a particular culprit—although there is. It’s because many countries around the world are not proud of their pasts either, Canada being the first. The way it treated indigenous communities calls for constant reminders of our own capacity for racism and for cruelty, and it calls for demonstration of an ongoing commitment to reconciliation. The way Canada and the US treated the Japanese during the Second World War reminds us of the duty to eradicate discrimination as well.
Mr. Speaker, as human beings, we have a duty to recognize past injustices. It’s not about a culture; it’s not about a nation. It’s about our collective duty to remember what happened. When we all pause and atone for the past, we can work better for peace and for justice for all.
Mrs. Gila Martow: I am pleased to rise today, and I appreciate everybody who came down. I noticed that in the east gallery was Sandra Yeung Racco, who is the city councillor for the city I live in of Vaughan. Thank you to everyone who came down to support the resolution put forward by the member from Scarborough–Agincourt, who is often Madam Speaker in the chair on Thursdays: “That, in the opinion of this House, the Ontario Legislature must acknowledge and honour the over 200,000 victims of the Nanjing Massacre, as well as foster learning of the Nanjing Massacre and other World War II atrocities in Asia by formally recognizing December 13 in each year as Nanjing Massacre Commemorative Day in the province of Ontario.”
It’s not a competition here in Ontario to decide who had the worst genocide, although sometimes you might almost feel that way because there are just too many to count. There’s the Holocaust in the Jewish community; the Armenian genocide; the massacre of Sikhs—which is considered a genocide in Ontario—after Indira Gandhi was killed; the Rwandan genocide; the Holodomor, when the Ukrainians were starved; rumours that Rohingya Muslims now are going through a horrific time in Myanmar; the Yazidis—we are still crying for the Yazidis and what they’re going through; in Syria we are concerned that the Coptic churches are still being blown up; Tamils in Sri Lanka have a terrible history; and of course North Korea and the Korean sex slaves, as the member beside me said before.
Mr. Speaker, it’s not just important to commemorate; it’s important to educate further generations and make sure that everybody knows the history and ensures that these things stop happening now and do not happen again in the future.
Mr. John Vanthof: First of all, I would like to thank the member from Scarborough–Agincourt for bringing this issue forward not only once, but several times. I have her to thank for knowing anything about this issue.
My family comes from Europe. The only time I saw my dad cry was when he was standing next to someone and the person lifted his arm and you could see the numbers burned into his skin. My dad never talked about World War II. That’s the only time I saw my dad cry. The only time I saw my dad get explosively angry was when there was a Holocaust denier on TV.
I can’t imagine what it’s like to have people who have gone through what the people of Nanjing went through, and have people deny—and not only deny but actively, actively try to suppress history. Because we all know the reason history is so extremely important is that if we don’t remember history and we don’t actively pursue history, history can—and, tragically, history will—repeat itself.
It’s not only incumbent on us to pass this motion today, but incumbent on all us to ensure that the Nanjing Massacre is—not celebrated, but that it’s never, ever, ever forgotten. This, in our way, is one way we can do it. I sincerely hope that before this year passes, not just the motion, but the bill, becomes a law so we can do our part.
Mr. Han Dong: You may recall in December 2015, I made a member’s statement in this House commemorating the Nanjing Massacre atrocity. I am pleased that the good member from Scarborough–Agincourt spearheaded the effort to introduce her private member’s bill, Bill 79, in the last session.
The bill called on the Legislature to recognize the 300,000 victims murdered by the Japanese Imperial Army during its invasion and occupation of Nanjing, then-capital of China. Her efforts and leadership were quickly responded to by thousands in Ontario, including those from both Chinese and Japanese Canadian communities. More than 100,000 signatures were collected supporting the bill. Her tireless advocacy resulted in this House unanimously passing Bill 79 at second reading. The bill is currently in the legislative process, which shall be respected.
This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Nanjing Massacre. On December 13, Chinese around the world will commemorate this terrible, terrible event. The member from Scarborough–Agincourt has yet again shown her persistence in the pursuit of what’s right by introducing this motion today.
Speaker, as the first Mandarin-speaking member elected into this Legislature, through you I want to report to the House that this motion has been one of the most popular topics of discussion in the Mandarin-speaking community. While many Ontarians feel that it’s absolutely necessary to remember this day, I have also received questions about whether this motion will threaten peace between the Japanese and Chinese Canadian communities, and the answer is of course not.
Unity and reconciliation are this bill’s intent, presenting truth to our children so that history will not repeat itself. We must face the past squarely and pay tribute to those who lost their lives and loved ones. We must not segregate our multicultural society. Frank discussions about the past make it stronger.
As the parent of two young children, Emma and Matthew, it is my wish that through our public school system, they will have the chance to learn and understand a dark chapter in human history. This motion helps to realize that wish, therefore I’ll be supporting it wholeheartedly.
Mr. Bob Delaney: American author Herman Wouk, author of many literary works on the World War II period, including the epics The Winds of War and War and Remembrance, and a veteran of World War II himself, dedicated one of his best books with these words, “The beginning of the end of war lies in remembrance.”
The resolution by the member from Scarborough–Agincourt supports Bill 79, also before this House, to establish December 13 of each year as a day of remembrance to commemorate those who suffered and those who died during the Sino-Japanese theatre of World War II. This motion and the private member’s bill it reinforces are not about who won, who was right or where and when events took place during that struggle. It is about a date, a date on which Ontarians can commemorate those whose lives were lost; those survivors scarred physically and emotionally; and those who survived and rebuilt their nations, and whose stories represent the strongest testimonial of the folly of war.
The Sino-Japanese theatre is the final chapter of World War II from which the veil of awareness in the Western world must still be lifted. Perhaps as we pause to remember the Sino-Japanese conflict each December and commemorate the victims of Nanjing, we can better grasp this exclusively Asian theatre of the 20th century’s defining conflict. Today, China stands as Asia’s pre-eminent economy, its proud people now having global reach. Today, Japan has accomplished through trade, commerce and diplomacy what it could never do through militarism, invasion and conquest.
Let us in Ontario use December 13 each year to assist with understanding, education, peace and progress—not just between China and Japan, not just among Asian nations but to foster peace among all the world’s nations. That’s the spirit of this motion and the proclamation bill it supports. I encourage all members to support it.
Hon. Michael Chan: Today, on behalf of my constituents in Markham–Unionville, many of Chinese origin, I’m proud to rise in the House to support MPP Wong’s motion for Nanjing Massacre Commemorative Day. I want to thank the member from Scarborough–Agincourt for bringing forward this important motion.
The member from Nepean–Carleton mentioned she’s going to the Hong Kong or China area next week. I do wish you a good trip. Just in case you drop in to Nanjing, there’s the Nanjing Museum there, and the museum talks about the Nanjing Massacre. But if you are really going there, my advice to you is to make sure you bring enough tears, because you may cry.
To fully understand the significance of this motion, it is crucial to know the historical background of this crime. December 13, 1937, marks a horrific day in world history. On this day, the Imperial Japanese Army moved into the then-Chinese capital, Nanjing, and began what would be known not only as the Nanjing Massacre, but also as the Rape of Nanjing. Over a period of six weeks, the Imperial Japanese Army committed mass atrocities involving the rape and murder of innocents. Historians note that in 40 days, over 200,000 people were executed. The acts of looting, burning and killing that ensued were relentless, dehumanizing and horrifying. The massacre involved men, women and children who were brutalized and humiliated through acts of sexual violence, which earned the atrocity its own terrible moniker, the Rape of Nanjing. The victims of this massacre were treated as subhuman, and they were treated as numbers.
While nothing can undo this unspeakable war crime, this motion will assure the survivors and their families, many of whom live in our inclusive society here in Ontario, that we stand with them and that all crimes against humanity deserve our full condemnation.
Ms. Soo Wong: I want to thank all my colleagues who contributed to today’s debate on motion 66. I don’t need to name all of you, because I want to use my two minutes to thank all the guests who are here today for taking the time, but more importantly, for travelling so far to be at Queen’s Park.
I’m going to pay special attention to the visitors who are here in the east gallery, starting with world-famous Japanese Canadian author Joy Kogawa, Flora Chong, Dr. Joseph Wong and Vaughan councillor Sandra Racco.
There are a bunch of ALPHA directors here, but I’m going to pay tribute to the people at the back: Kristyn Wong-Tam, my good friend and councillor for the city of Toronto; Mr. Lin and the confederation; Andrew Lee; Dr. Joe; and Jeannette, your niece. All of you pay tribute to this motion, but this is about you and everybody here.
I also want to pay tribute to my staff: Fiona, Stephanie, my intern Matthew, Jo-Anne, Sam, Shaumya and June in my constituency office. Thank you for what you do for me in the constituency office and also at Queen’s Park.
My last thank you is to my parents. My parents are watching today. I know they too suffered during the Second World War, and today, if we pass this motion, every Ontarian will know what happened in Nanjing, but more importantly, what happened in Asia during the Second World War.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Madame Des Rosiers has moved second reading of Bill 164, An Act to amend the Human Rights Code with respect to immigration status, genetic characteristics, police records and social conditions. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.