Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

2nd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 146, Issue 83

Tuesday, December 15, 2009
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Canada Consumer Product Safety Bill

Third Reading

Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak on Bill C-6, an act respecting the safety of consumer products. I want to congratulate Senators Martin, Day and Eggleton, and the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology for all the hard work it has done on our behalf.

We have all received hundreds of emails and letters. I have not received one email in support of Bill C-6. I do not believe this is about protection of children versus protection of our rights. I believe it is about protecting both.

I have read the emails and responded to them, and I have listened to all honourable senators very carefully. Do we really want to fill our jails with saleswomen who have sold a child seat with a design flaw? This proposed legislation would effectively criminalize accountability or lack thereof and surely make doing business harder. Do we really want people’s homes and businesses searched without a warrant and without probable evidence of a criminal offence? That is where Bill C-6, as drafted, will take Canadians.

Honourable senators, I know that we all take our responsibilities seriously, and I respect all of our rights. We have listened carefully to our colleague Senator Furey. I know that, whether we admit it or not, we were touched by what he said. I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for the work he has put into this bill and for what he has done to change our minds. Some of us will accept what he said and some of us will not. It depends upon the lens through which we are looking at the matter, and I respect that.

However, today I want to speak about people’s rights and how every right matters, and about the responsibility we all have as senators. I was a refugee and was fortunate to come to this country, because my Parliament in Uganda did not protect each person’s rights. In 1962, Uganda, my country of birth, gained independence from the British. My father won an election and became a member of Parliament. At that time, Ugandan society was functioning well. We had rights and our courts were very effective. We had a strong Parliament. It was like a tapestry with all the threads sewn together. As a society, we thought we were well protected.

Then one thread unraveled. One government minister disappeared. Parliament did not defend him. Then another thread unraveled. Our mayor was killed by being hanged in the square and having his genitals cut off. We all looked, but none of us defended him. Parliament did not defend him. We saw our rights being taken away by the executive, and Parliament did not protect us. None of us were defended by Parliament. Then our very popular chief justice was taken away from the courthouse, and Parliament did not defend him.

Many threads began to unravel. At that time, we were helped greatly by the Israeli government and Israeli people, who had done much work in our country and helped to develop it. They were thrown out. Parliament was then practically non-existent. More threads were being unraveled.

One day, honourable senators, the army arrived at our house to take my father away. To this day, I do not know how he escaped, but I am glad to say that he did. No one defended my father, and more threads were unraveled.

In 1972, 80,000 Ugandan-Asians were thrown out of the country. Luckily, many of us were given asylum in this great country of ours. By that time, Parliament was non-existent and we lived under the terrible dictatorship of Idi Amin. Parliament could no longer protect us.

Honourable senators, I stand before you today to say that we belong to the greatest institution in the world. In 1962, if anyone had said that Ugandans would become refugees, we would have said, “This is Uganda; it cannot happen in Uganda.” I know that many of you today are saying that this is Canada, that it cannot happen in Canada, but I urge you to think about this. If you let one thread unravel and not defend our rights, then who will? I urge you all to think carefully when you let one thread unravel.

Senator LeBreton: Like Trudeau with the War Measures Act.

Senator Cowan: Why do you not get up and talk instead of heckling?

The Hon. the Speaker: Order!

Senator Cowan: Recognize her. She wants to speak.

The Hon. the Speaker: Order!

Senator Jaffer: I urge all honourable senators to think carefully when we let one thread unravel. Before we know it, the whole fabric of society will be eroded.

Honourable senators, I often read this saying, which I call a prayer, because I am very much aware of what happened to us. I know you all know this saying:

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a communist;

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist;

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew;

Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak out for me.

When Ugandan-Asians were thrown out, there was no one left to speak for us. I ask you, honourable senators, to think about this very carefully. Every single right matters, and we cannot allow our rights to become eroded.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Hon. Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie: Would the honourable senator accept a question?

Senator Jaffer: Yes.

Senator Ogilvie: Senator Jaffer spoke of draconian times that we all recognize must have been very traumatic. Indeed, one of her colleagues previously conveyed the idea of inspectors carrying out random invasions of privacy and gave a rather dramatic sense of what he thought, and perhaps you think, this bill contains.

In fact, subclause 20(1) of the bill, which deals with inspections, reads:

Subject to subsection 21(1), an inspector may, for the purpose of verifying compliance or preventing non-compliance with this Act or the regulations, at any reasonable time enter a place, including a conveyance, in which they have reasonable grounds to believe that a consumer product is manufactured, imported, packaged, stored, advertised, sold. . . .

Subclause 21(1) reads:

If the place mentioned in subsection 20(1) is a dwelling-house, an inspector may not enter it without the consent of the occupant except under the authority of a warrant issued. . . .

Could the honourable senator explain how this language comes remotely close to the vision that she and a previous speaker have attempted to convey to the house with regard to this bill?

Senator Jaffer: I thank the senator for the question. I was attempting to convey that it starts with the unraveling of one thread. I absolutely agree that we live in the best country in the world, and our rights are protected here. If we let one thread unravel, before we know it, many of our rights will be eroded and we will wonder why we do not have the same protection we previously had. Why do we want to erode our rights?

Hon. Hector Daniel Lang: Would the honourable senator accept another question?

Senator Jaffer: Yes.

Senator Lang: Could the senator verify for the house that this subclause does state that a warrant is required if a dwelling is to be inspected?

Senator Jaffer: Honourable senators, I do not have the bill before me, but it is my understanding that a warrant issued by a justice of the peace is required. With such a serious thing, we should have protections. I am also a lawyer and I know how fast and easy it is to get a warrant in our present system. Why do we want to erode that system?

The Hon. the Speaker: Is there further debate?

Are honourable senators ready for the question?

It has been moved by the Honourable Senator Martin, seconded by the Honourable Senator Lang, that Bill C-6, An Act respecting the safety of consumer products, be read the third time, and, on amendment by the Honourable Senator Furey, seconded by the Honourable Senator Moore, that Bill C-6 be not now read a third time — shall I dispense?

Hon. Senators: Dispense.

The Hon. the Speaker: And then further on amendment by the Honourable Senator Banks, seconded by the Honourable Senator Day, that the bill be not now read a third time but that it be further amended —

Hon. Senators: Dispense.