The House

First Ottawa visit by Trump cabinet member focuses on security, border

This week on The House, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly became the first member of Donald Trump's inner circle to come to Ottawa on Friday. What came out of the official visit? We ask Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.
Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale, centre, points U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, right, towards a position for a photo op as Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen looks on, on Parliament Hill on Friday, March 10, 2017 in Ottawa. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet ministers have been busy making the economic case to their new American counterparts, but it's no accident that U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly was the first member of Trump's inner circle to venture north of the border.

The U.S. tend to look up at think about the security issues that come with that long, mostly-undefended border.

Now that Canadians are reporting being turned away from that border and asylum seekers are crossing in greater number, it's becoming a source of concern in Ottawa too.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale characterized the Friday talks with Kelly as "good" and "broad ranging."

One of the issues he said his team is closely watching how those asylum seekers are coming to Canada.

"There's no hard conclusion that one can draw yet that there is exploitation or human trafficking there is certainly very dangerous behaviour and we have to look into it further," he said

Authorities in Emerson, Man. said 19 people were dropped off fairly close to the Canadian border in a winter storm and walked about an hour outside before calling Canadian authorities earlier this week.

"Whoever made the judgement call that you dump people out on the side of a highway in the middle of a prairie blizzard is someone who really needs to think again about their judgement. That was an exceedingly dangerous thing to do," he said.

Philpott receives a high five for health deal

6 years ago
Duration 0:19
Philpott receives a high five for health deal

Louise Arbour takes UN migration gig at 'a very difficult time'

Louise Arbour, former Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, smiles after having her star unveiled on Canada's Walk of Fame in Toronto on Monday, June 8, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press)

Louise Arbour's curriculum vitae already lists some impressive, if not daunting, titles but the former Supreme Court of Canada justice is now preparing for what's shaping up to be one of the toughest gigs of her career: the United Nations's new point-person on international migration.

"It's at a very difficult time. I think climate change and migration are currently the defining issues of the time," she said.

"Tough one, but a really good one to take on." 

The renowned jurist already has two stints with United Nations behind her, first as the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda in the 1990s and then as the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Last fall the UN's general assembly adopted a resolution calling for a set of guiding principles to handle mass migration. As the new special representative, Arbour is tasked with crafting an international agreement to regulate it.

"There is an acknowledgment that human mobility is unstoppable. It has already been there. So to bring safety and order into it is ambitious, but it's a good framework for this project," she said. 

Arbour said part of her job will be to change the conversations people are having around migration.

"We are maybe currently in an environment where the kind of so-called burdens and the negative aspects have been severely overemphasized, she said.

"You know, move away from a discourse that over emphasises the so-called burden of migration and brings to the surface how countries, a country like Canada is a good example of that, have been able to harness the benefits."

Educating Canada's judges

Federal Court Justice Robin Camp leaves a Canadian Judicial Council inquiry in a Calgary hotel on Sept. 9, 2016. (Todd Korol/Canadian Press)

The recent actions of two judges raised serious questions about how well the Canadian justice system deals with sexual assault complainants, but educating the bench comes with its own set of concerns.

On Thursday, former federal court justice Robin Camp, dubbed the "knees together judge" for his comments in a sex assault case, submitted his resignation following a recommendation from Canada's judicial watchdog that he be removed from the bench.

Complaints are also mounting against a Nova Scotia judge who said that "clearly a drunk can consent" as he acquitted a Halifax taxi driver of sexually assaulting an intoxicated passenger found partly naked and unconscious in the back of his cab.

Judge Gregory Lenehan found Bassam Al-Rawi, 40, not guilty last week following a two-day trial in February. The judge said some of what the court heard was "very disturbing" and "there's no question" the woman was drunk.

Parliament has fast tracked a private member's bill from interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose that would require new judges to take courses in sexual assault law.

While the bill's intentions are well-meaning, University of Manitoba law professor Lorna Turnbull, a member of the board of governors for the National Judicial Institute, an independent body dedicated to improving the education of judges in Canada and internationally, says the court's reputation for impartiality could be at risk if there's meddling in judges' education.

"We have to be very careful as it moves forward to make sure that we persevere those values of judicial independence, that we recognize the complexity of Canadian society in bringing forward this kind of legislation and that we don't undermine the independence and integrity of the judiciary," she said.

"It's also important to make sure that judges are at all times free of the fear of constantly being disciplined so that they are then not able to make the right decisions within the law, some of which may not be popular decisions." 

Niki Ashton wants to fight growing inequality

NDP Status of Women critic Niki Ashton speaks about the issue of abortion during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Monday Jan 28, 2013. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Niki Ashton is banking her vow to fight growing inequality in Canada will help her secure the leadership of the NDP.

The Manitoba MP officially entered the race to replace Tom Mulcair this week.

"Our country is becoming more and more unequal," Ashton told The House.

She likened her message to that of U.S. Senators during the primaries.

"The 1 percent, the wealthiest, the most powerful are gaining more than they used to. Certainly more and more Canadians are not identifying as being middle class, and you see the inequality in very clear terms in indigenous communities," she said.

"You hear it in racialized communities, in immigrant communities, and I would say one way where you see it very clearly is in an inter-generational sense," Ashton added, arguing that younger Canadians, millennials, believe they will live a worst life than their parents.

Ashton is the fourth person, and first woman, to vie for the leadership. Peter Julian, Charlie Angus and Guy Caron earlier announced their candidacies.

Health-care deals a 'stone out of their shoes'

Late this week Ontario, Quebec and Alberta signed health-care deals with the federal government. Manitoba remains the only province holding out on a deal, explaining the high fives Health Minister Jane Philpott got in the House of Commons on Friday.

The In House panel agreed — the Liberal government's gamble to pick off provinces one at a time seems to have paid off. 

"It does remind you of why past governments said they were never going to negotiate the constitution again because they had thought going at these things with a pan-Canadian agreement was going to work," said iPolitics and Toronto Star columnist Susan Delacourt.

"Here they are one, by one, by one, by one."

La Press Ottawa bureau chief Joël-Denis Bellavance says the Liberals have gotten rid of a file that could have been a problem for years.

"It's a stone that's been taken out of their shoes for the next ten years," he said.