Last week at the Senate: Remembrance Day reflections, the 150th anniversary of the first sitting of Parliament and a bill tackling both drug-impaired and alcohol-impaired driving.
The solemnity of Remembrance Day unites Canadians in the shared debt we owe those who have served in the Armed Forces fighting for, and upholding values of freedom, equality and justice, and ensuring the protection and security of people in time of need.
This year also marked the 100-year anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge, a battle that brought together Canadian regiments from coast to coast in a hard-won victory marked by valour and huge sacrifice. Many consider the battle of Vimy Ridge as a pivotal event in the national identity of Canada.
This year marked another pivotal event – one that we celebrated last week: the 150th anniversary of the first session of Canada’s Parliament. The record from that very first day would seem familiar to contemporary parliamentarians; there was a motion, debate, and a vote.
Then and now, those who have the privilege to serve in Parliament would do well to remember the sacrifices of those willing to fight, so that we can work on behalf of Canada’s democracy.
As Senators, our role is essential: defending the rights of minorities, providing sober second thought and complementing the work of the House of Commons.
This last role includes our legislative function to deliberate, debate, and decide on government legislation brought forward by elected colleagues in the House of Commons in a timely manner.
The principles of peace, order and good government—principles at the very foundation of our Confederation – depend upon our commitment to getting the job done.
I would like to congratulate the Honourable Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie for his outstanding contribution to Canada in his service as senator as well as his contributions to science and innovation over the course of his career. He leaves the Senate this week as a result of mandatory retirement. With so much more to give, we all wish him heartfelt congratulations on behalf of all Canadians.
As is the case every year, Canadians across our country will make their way to a local cenotaph and pay tribute to the men and women across our history who have died while serving Canada in times of war and conflict. Canadians of all walks of life, in all province and territories, will bow their heads in respect. Many will think of a child, a relative, friend or neighbour whose life was cut all-too-short. Each one of us will reflect on the enduring pain of the families and comrades left behind. Through this act of remembrance, we keep faith with the fallen.
This year is not just a celebration of 150 years since Confederation. 2017 also marks one hundred years since the Battle of Passchendaele – a victory for the Canadian Corps on a muddy battlefield in Belgium that came at a very high price indeed, as over 4,000 of our soldiers were killed.
This Remembrance Day, we pay our respects to those who gave up their lives so that we might live in peace and security in our beautiful country.
Lest we forget.
Last week we marked the 150th anniversary of the first sitting of the Senate, which took place on November 6, 1867.
The Canada of today is a country that knows no equal in the world. Certainly we owe that to our founders’ spirit of compromise, as well as to the Senate, which played a fundamental role in building the nation.
Canada was born not out of an ideology or a grand scheme or a war or civil strife. It was essentially the result of a pragmatic approach to resolve the unification of two linguistic communities and of different regions with various levels of wealth and aspiration to create a greater country.
It is the Senate that was entrusted with the responsibility of having regional voices heard at the centre of government and with speaking on behalf of its minorities so that they would not be swamped under the weight of the majorities. Rights and freedoms of Canadians and of Aboriginal peoples are always better guaranteed when the Senate uses its independent thinking to evaluate the impact of legislation on those who have lower voices or lower capacities to be heard by the majority.
It is in the Senate that the federal principle was enshrined, and it is for this reason that it was given legislative power equal to that of the House of Commons in the enactment of legislation. As long as the Senate fulfills its constitutional duty, Canada will continue to thrive and remain a beacon of liberty and equal dignity for all.
This week, we catch a glimpse of the Senate through the eyes of Independent Senator Gwen Boniface (Ontario).
Impaired driving on Canadian roadways has been a criminal offence since 1925 and yet we have one of the worst records in developed nations. Too often families are left heartbroken due to an individual’s thoughtlessness.
Bill C-46, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (offences related to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, seeks to remedy this reality by tackling both drug-impaired and alcohol-impaired driving in two parts.
Part 1 of the Bill would allow police officers to administer an oral fluid screening device to those individuals suspected of drug-impaired driving and create new criminal offences for driving with a blood-drug concentration equal to, or higher than, a permitted level set by regulation within two hours of driving.
Part 2 would reform the Criminal Code regime dealing with transportation offences by repealing the current laws and replacing them with a simplified and coherent new Part VIII.1. This would also implement in the law the use of mandatory alcohol screening at the roadside where an officer has already made a lawful stop under provincial or common law – no suspicion necessary.
These amendments to the law would reflect the changing landscape that is impaired driving and would position Canada as a global leader.
With first reading in the Senate passing on November 1st, we still have a long way to go. Public safety on our roadways is in everyone’s interest.