Foundations (2005)
Proposed SSHRC / Canada Council merger – An Act to implement certain Government Organization Provisions of the Budget (1992)
An act to establish [ACOA] the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation (1988)


Date: May 2005
Committee: Committee on National Finance
Chair: Hon. Donald H. Oliver (NS)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Joseph A. Day (NB)
Downloads: Read the Report


The government’s use of arms-length foundations to implement public policy and programs has grown rapidly in the last decade.  In fact, between 1996-1997 and 2004-2005, the federal government has transferred some $10.5 billion to 23 foundations. The report highlights concerns about their accountability, and makes 7 recommendations to increase parliamentary supervision and ensure appropriate governance mechanisms are in place.


The government formally responded in October 2006, saying it welcomed the Senate’s report.  Among other changes it had made to accountability provisions, the government amended the Auditor General Act to mandate audits of arms-length foundations.

Proposed SSHRC / Canada Council merger – An Act to implement certain Government Organization Provisions of the Budget (1992)

Date: November 1992
Bill: C-93
Sponsor: Hon. William Kelly (ON)
Downloads: Read the Text of the Bill


Bill C-93 was designed to consolidate or terminate several government agencies and organizations, measures which the government argued would “save overhead and focus resources” as previously announced in its February 25, 1992 budget.

The bill reached the Senate on April 28, 1993, where it was referred to the National Finance Committee. The committee heard testimony from many witnesses, the majority of whom focused on Part III of the bill which proposed to merge the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) with the Canada Council for the Arts. Witnesses claimed the government had never consulted either of the two agencies or the broader research and arts communities, had failed to conduct any impact analysis, and could not prove the merger would save money or preserve agency expertise.

The National Finance Committee reported back to the Senate but declined to recommend amendments to the bill.  Accordingly, Senator Finlay MacDonald (NS), a member of the government caucus, moved to delete Part III saying, in part, “Let us simply agree to pull Part III from this bill. There is no necessity for it. It is bad public policy and it is lousy politics.” (Debates, page 3315)

When his motion failed, Bill C-93 proceeded without amendment through third reading.  Towards the end of the debate, Senator Michael Pitfield (ON), a former Clerk of the Privy Council, stated categorically that Bill C-93 was “a prime example of the stupidities that well-intentioned ministers can get themselves drawn into.”  He went on to “pay tribute particularly to Senator MacDonald, who has shown in the best tradition of the Senate that you can have reasonableness and that you can be supporting of the justifiable complaints of the minority. That is what the Senate shines best at doing, sober second thought, and I thank him for showing the way.” (Debates, page 3408)

The final vote on June 10, 1993 was tied (39 to 39) and so Bill C-93 went down to defeat. Except for the abortion bill in 1991, this marked the first time a government bill had been defeated in the Senate since 1939.


Because the government held a majority in the Senate at the time of the vote, the bill’s defeat was possible only because five Conservative Senators chose to vote against it and two abstained.  Senator Norman Atkins (ON), one such dissenter, was later reported to say “I didn’t come here to be a rubber stamp” and another, Senator Janice Johnson (MB), expressed a similar sentiment when she declared “I’m not a lemming.”

Reaction was mixed, but at least one columnist agreed with them.  “Senators have every right to act as a chamber of ‘sober, second thought’,” he wrote. “In killing this bill, seldom have they been so sober and so thoughtful.”  The executive director of the Canadian Federation for the Humanities concurred.  In his opinion, “senators are responsible for a final ‘quality check’ in our political system. They may arrive in the Red Chamber by way of political favour, but they have every opportunity, once there, to move beyond the confines of simple political affiliation.”

An act to establish [ACOA] the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation (1988)

Date: August 1988
Bill: C-103
Sponsor: Hon. Lowell Murray (ON)
Downloads: Text of the Bill


When the House of Commons Standing Committee on Regional Industrial Expansion conducted a review of the Tourism, Economic and Regional Development Agreements and the Industrial and Regional Development Program in 1987, they found these programs unable to respond adequately to the needs of Atlantic Canada.  As a result, the government introduced Bill C-103, creating ACOA (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation). ACOA was designed to promote economic development in the Atlantic provinces and the Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation (ECBC) was created to finance the development of industry on Cape Breton Island and broaden its economy.

Senator Lowell Murray (ON), a native of Cape Breton, first reviewed the history of Canada’s long-standing commitment to redress regional disparities when he opened debate in the Senate, presenting the new bill as an improvement on previous arrangements (Debates, pages 3431 to 3432).  Other senators representing Nova Scotia, however, adamantly opposed the section in Bill C-103 that replaced the former Cape Breton Development Corporation, (also known as Devco) with the Enterprise Cape Breton Corp. They argued Cape Breton would eventually be damaged by this change, because aid for the region would be dispensed by an agency with no special mandate to concentrate on Cape Breton.

On June 1, 1988, Senator Alisdair Graham (NS) moved to instruct the Senate’s National Finance Committee to divide Bill C-103 into two separate bills (Debates, page 3567).  He was immediately challenged on a point of order, which the Speaker upheld.  However, the Senate as a whole overturned the Speaker’s ruling and the National Finance Committee proceeded as instructed, presenting its report a month later.  The split bill was therefore returned to the House of Commons which promptly rejected it by a vote of 112 – 10.  Three weeks later, the Senate agreed to defer to the Commons and passed the original bill without any amendments whatsoever on August 18, 1988.


Several senators were no less opposed to the bill in August than they had been three months earlier, but publicly acknowledged “they would be fighting a losing battle by trying to push through amendments”. Using a metaphor that compared the ACOA legislation with a boat moving downstream, Senator Royce Frith (ON) declared that senators had tried to warn of “rocks ahead.” Since the government had decided to ignore the warning, he added, “all I can say is, bon voyage.”


Challenge Ahead: Integrating Robotics, Artificial Intelligence and 3D Printing Technologies into Canada’s Healthcare System (2017)
Child Health Protection Act (2017)
Obesity in Canada: A Whole-of-Society Approach for a Healthier Canada (2016)
Population Health Policy (2009)
Pay Now or Pay Later – Autism Families in Crisis (2007)
Out of the Shadows at Last: Transforming Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction Services in Canada (The Kirby Report on Mental Health) (2006)
Reforming Health Protection and Promotion in Canada: Time to Act (2003)
The Health of Canadians – The Federal Role (The Kirby Report) (2002)
An Act to amend the Patent Act (Generic Drugs) (1987)

Challenge Ahead: Integrating Robotics, Artificial Intelligence and 3D Printing Technologies into Canada’s Healthcare System

Date: October 2017
Committee: Social Affairs, Science and Technology
Chair: Hon. Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie (NS)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Art Eggleton (ON)
Downloads: Read the Report


This report points to the revolutionary changes that are coming to Canada’s healthcare systems, with a focus on robotics, artificial intelligence and 3D printing.

There is potential to bring great benefit to patients, physicians and healthcare workers and we must prepare for what will be inevitable and radical change.

It urges the federal government to capitalize on Canada’s leading-edge artificial intelligence research and regularly bring together all expert stakeholders to monitor the progress of integration and the ongoing issues raised in its wake.


The report was mentioned in Hospital News, Canadian Packaging, the Medical Futurist and the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

It was used as a resource for the Canadian Medical Association’s submission to Health Canada on a review of pan-Canadian health organizations.

Child Health Protection Act

Date: 2017
Bill: S-228
Chair: Hon. Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie (NS)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Art Eggleton (ON)
Bill sponsor: Hon. Nancy Greene Raine (ON)
Downloads: Text of the Bill


Because of the Senate committee report on obesity, Senator Raine introduced Bill S-228 in the Senate to ban advertising of food and drinks to children. The committee came back with amendments, the major ones being that the bill should be restricted to unhealthy food and drinks and that the age limit be raised from 13 to 16 for the age of children included in this bill.


The Senate agreed to the amendments and passed the bill on September 28, 2017. The bill then went to the House, where as of April 2018, it is with the Standing Committee on Health for consideration.

Obesity in Canada: A Whole-of-Society Approach for a Healthier Canada

Date: 2016
Chair: Hon. Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie (NS)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Art Eggleton (ON)
Downloads: Read the Report


This report looked at the increasing obesity rates in Canada, including both childhood and adult obesity rates. It included issues surrounding diet, physical activity and best practices to curb obesity. Causes of obesity were examined, including processed and packaged foods, refined carbs, a sedentary lifestyle, reduced exercise and a so-called “obesogenic environment,” which defined our society as one that makes it too easy to avoid exercise and eat poorly.  Traditional causes like salt, sugar and fat were re-evaluated in terms of newer science. The report also examined social determinants of health and found that a person’s socio-economic status (household income, education level and occupation) to be the most important predictor for obesity. The role of poverty, which can lead to poor food choices and food insecurity, was also noted, especially in Aboriginal communities. Consequences of obesity included increases in chronic disease and healthcare costs.

The report’s recommendations included some controversial actions, including banning advertising about food to children, introducing a sugar tax, and modernizing Canada’s national food guide. Other recommendations included further clarity and standardization for nutritional information on food packaging, and promoting fresh, whole foods over processed foods. While these recommendations were within federal responsibilities, there were others that would need collaboration between the federal government and the provinces and territories. These included improving physician training on diet and exercise, promoting active living in schools and communities and focusing on vulnerable populations.


This report received a lot of attention from the government and other organizations. Articles appeared in Troy Media, the Toronto Star and Physical and Health Education Canada. The co-chair of the committee also appeared on a CBC radio program discussing the report.

The government issued a response to the report detailing their support and their progress on the issue. The College of Family Physicians of Canada also prepared a briefing note on the report.

Many other organizations supported and endorsed the report and its recommendations, including the Medical Officer of Health in Toronto; Dietitians of Canada; Elgin St. Thomas Public Health; Canadian Diabetes Association; and the Catholic Women’s League of Canada. There were some that took issues with parts of the report, including the Healthy Grains Institute and a Canadian Medical Association Journal article highlighting the lack of attention to antifat stigma in report.

Health Canada also announced that a new Canada Food Guide would be released to the public in 2019.

In September of 2016, Senator Raine introduced Bill S-228 (The Child Health Protection Act) to the Senate. This bill was based on the Senate report and called for a ban to advertising unhealthy food and beverages to children. It passed the Senate with amendments on September 28, 2017 and as of April 2018, is currently under committee consideration in the House.

Population Health Policy

Date: October 2009
Committee: Sub-committee on Population Health
Chair: Hon. Wilbert Joseph Keon (ON)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Lucie Pépin (QC)
Downloads: Read the Report


The Senate’s Sub-committee on Population Health has undertaken a study to examine:

  • the impact of social determinants of health, including their effects on disparities and inequities in health outcomes that continue to be experienced by identifiable groups of Canadians;
  • government policies, programs and practices that regulate or influence the impact of social determinants of health on health outcomes across different segments of the Canadian population;
  • ways in which governments could better coordinate their activities
    to improve health outcomes; and
  • international examples of population health initiatives undertaken either by individual countries, or by multilateral international bodies such as (but not limited to) the World Health

Four interim reports have been issued to date (International PerspectivesMaternal Health and Early Child Development in Cuba; Federal, Provincial and Territorial Perspectives; and Issues and Options).

Pay Now or Pay Later – Autism Families in Crisis

Date: March 2007
Committee: Social Affairs, Science and Technology
Chair: Hon. Art Eggleton (ON)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Wilbert Joseph Keon (ON)
Downloads: Read the Report


During hearings on the Senate’s study of mental illness, many witnesses told the Committee that autism should not be considered a mental illness, and so it was set aside for special consideration. This report focuses solely on autism, funding for treatment and the need for a national autism strategy. It also documents witness responses to the government’s initiatives announced in November 2006, and to Bill C-211, Bill C-304 and Motion M-172.  Issues identified in the report include

  • the complexity of the condition;
  • a lack of consensus and evidence regarding terminology,
    prevalence, treatments, and interventions; and
  • difficulties in accessing effective and affordable care.


The BC and federal governments inaugurated a Chair for Autism Research and Intervention at Simon Fraser University.  Announced in October 2007, each government has contributed $1 million to the initiative.   The federal government initially responded to the Senate report by outlining mainly pre-existing and less targeted initiatives.

Out of the Shadows at Last: Transforming Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction Services in Canada (The Kirby Report on Mental Health)

Date: May 2006
Committee: Social Affairs, Science and Technology
Chair: Hon. Michael Kirby (NS)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Wilbert Joseph Keon (ON)
Downloads: Read the Report


Report 1 is a fact-based study providing historical background, an overview of service delivery, respective roles of federal and provincial/territorial governments, assessments of policies and programs based on public testimony and a literature review. Report 2 includes an international comparative analysis of mental health care systems, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Report 3 is an issues and options paper summarizing issues to be addressed in the final report and raising options for addressing these issues. Report 4, the final report, includes a total of 118 recommendations which focus primarily on mental health (rather than addictions) issues.


In 2007, the Mental Health Commission of Canada was created. A non-profit national organization, it is designed to focus attention on mental health issues and to work to improve the health and social outcomes of people living with mental illness. The federal government seeded the Commission with $55 million over five years, $30 million short of the Senate’s recommendations.  However, an additional $110 million was pledged in February 2008 for research projects to help Canadians with mental illness who are homeless.

The Senate’s Social Affairs Committee which authored Out of the Shadows at Last received 3 awards in 2006:

  • Special Recognition Award from the Canadian Psychiatric Association “for its leadership and for giving voice to the mental health needs of Canadians”;
  • CM Hincks Award from the Canadian Mental Health Association, its highest award, for “the outstanding individuals or organization that has advanced mental health in Canada”; and
  • an award from the Toronto Branch of the CMHA “in recognition of outstanding public service in the interest of mental health.”

Reforming Health Protection and Promotion in Canada: Time to Act

Date: November 2003
Committee: Social Affairs, Science and Technology
Chair: Hon. Michael Kirby (NS)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Marjory LeBreton (ON)
Downloads: Read the Report


This report resulted from a combination of events in the early 2000s. For example, outbreaks of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) occurred in the Greater Toronto Area and Vancouver in 2003; BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) was diagnosed in a single cow in Alberta; cases of human infection with the West Nile Virus (WNV) were confirmed in Ontario and Quebec; and threats of biological terrorism were reported in the United States. The Committee therefore explored Canada’s ability to respond to public health emergencies arising from outbreaks of infectious disease. The report focuses on:

  • the state and governance of public health infrastructure in Canada;
  • roles and responsibilities of, and coordination among, various levels of government responsible for public health;
  • the monitoring, surveillance and scientific testing capacity of existing agencies;
  • the globalization of public health;
  • adequacy of funding and resources for public health infra-structure in Canada;
  • the performance of public health infrastructure in selected countries;
  • the feasibility of establishing national public health legislation or an agency as a means for better coordination and integration and improved emergency responsiveness; and
  • the Naylor Advisory Group Report and recommendations.

The Senate’s report recommends establishing a new agency, the Health Protection and Promotion Agency (HPPA).


The Public Health Agency of Health Canada was duly established in the fall of 2004 (Bill C-5). Design of the Agency was based on both the Naylor and Senate reports, although Senators had explicitly avoided the term “public health”, as they felt it was too closely associated with “publicly funded health care.”

The Health of Canadians – The Federal Role (The Kirby Report)

Date: October 2002
Committee: Social Affairs, Science and Technology
Chair: Hon. Michael Kirby (NS)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Marjory LeBreton (ON)
Downloads: Read the Report


This report was designed to meet four objectives:

  • formulate a detailed, concrete plan of action rather than dwelling on governance issues or intergovernmental structures;
  • attach a cost to the Committee’s recommendations and propose a specific revenue raising plan;
  • specify clearly the changes that each of the major stakeholders – individual Canadians, health care professionals, provincial and federal governments – would have to make for the reform plan to be successfully implemented; and
  • make clear the consequences of not changing, and hence of not reforming, the health care system.


The Senate’s inquiry into health care preceded the government’s Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada chaired by Roy Romanow.  Many of the Romanow Commission’s recommendations echoed those of the Senate.  The Canadian Psychiatric Association outlined the similarities in its February 2003 bulletin, in a featured article called The Scoop on Kirby v Romanow:

  • both want publicly-funded systems;
  • both would limit private partners to ancillary roles;
  • both say more money is needed to buy change;
  • Kirby recommends no change in the Canada Health Act, but Romanow wants to re-open it;
  • both cite the need to gather information and report to Canadians;
  • health promotion is mentioned in both reports, but more often by Kirby;
  • both reports feature research;
  • both discuss health care human resources although Kirby focuses on specialists; and
  • mental health is not mentioned in Kirby (it is to be dealt with separately).

An Act to amend the Patent Act (Generic Drugs)

Date: November 1987
Bill: C-22
Sponsor: Hon. Michael Cogger (QC)
Downloads: Senate Debates


Bill C-22 banned generic drugs for 10 years after a new brand-name drug was introduced in the marketplace. It also obliged industry to double its Canadian research and development (R&D) within ten years; levied royalties on generic drug companies for redistribution to researchers; created a board to supervise the cost of drugs in Canada; and paid $100 million to provincial governments to offset increased drug costs.

A Special Senate Committee was created to study Bill C-22.  Most of the Senate supported its recommendations, and passed the bill with 10 amendments including provisions to:

  • reduce the patent protection period from 10 years to four;
  • increase royalty rates paid by generic drug companies from 4 to 14%;
  • link research grants from the Pharmaceutical Royalty Fund with the level of Canadian R&D conducted by drug companies;
  • delete provisions creating a Prices Review Board, since the shorter patent protection period would more effectively increase competition and moderate prices; and
  • remove retroactivity provisions.

The House of Commons was recalled in August to deal with the amendments.  It rejected all but three minor procedural items.  The Senate thereupon met to determine whether it would insist on its own amendments.  It decided to do so and sent the bill back to the House where all but one of the amendments were again rejected.  The Senate considered the bill once more, and for a third time sent it back to the House, this time insisting on just one amendment.  The House at last concurred.  Accordingly, the final version of the bill required the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board to investigate matters whenever a patented drug’s price was raised by more than the Consumer Price Index.


The government stated Bill C-22 strove to achieve two goals: (1) to ensure that Canadian researchers who discover a new drug participate in its commercial success; and (2) to ensure that patent protection did not result in excessively high prices for the Canadian consumer (Senator Cogger (QC), page 997, Debates).  Finding a balance between these somewhat contradictory goals caused considerable debate.

When the Senate passed the bill on November 19, 1987, Liberal Senate Leader Allan MacEachen told the Globe and Mail that the Senate had succeeded in exposing the bill as being against the public interest. Although several people criticized the Senate, being an unelected body, for obstructing government legislation, the Globe and Mail reported that polls showed massive public support for the Senate’s action and others upheld the process as an essential aspect of Canadian democracy.


In from the Margins, Part II: Reducing Barriers to Social Inclusion and Social Cohesion (2013)
In from the Margins: A Call to Action on Poverty, Housing and Homelessness (2009)
Poverty, Housing and Homelessness: Issues and Options (2008)
Sounding the Alarm: Poverty in Canada (1997)
Children in Poverty: Toward a Better Future (1991)
Poverty in Canada (The Croll Report) (1971)


In from the Margins, Part II: Reducing Barriers to Social Inclusion and Social Cohesion

Date: June 2013
Committee: Social Affairs, Science and Technology
Chair: Hon. Kelvin Ogilvie (NS)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Art Eggleton, P.C. (ON)
Downloads: Read the Report


The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology studied barriers to social inclusion and coherence.  The term ‘social inclusion’ means the ability of a group of individuals to fully participate in the economic and social lives of their community; the term ‘social cohesion’ reflects the capacity of communities to share values amongst members and to be socially inclusive of all members. Making 39 recommendations in all, the committee took the position that more can be done to build on Canada’s inclusive and cohesive society.

The first set of recommendations focused on visible minorities. By 2031, it is estimated that almost one quarter of the population of Canada will be non-Caucasian.  Recent immigrants face several barriers to social inclusion, frequently including a low proficiency with either of Canada’s official languages and a lack of recognition in Canada of foreign credentials. The committee suggested that services for immigrants to develop language proficiency once they arrive in Canada be expanded.  It also noted that efforts are being made to expedite the recognition of foreign credentials and suggested that these measures be augmented.  Additionally, a national education plan should be developed in cooperation with the provinces to combat racism, and efforts should be made to increase the participation of visible minorities in organizations that develop public policy.

Regarding urban Aboriginal Canadians, the committee suggested that aboriginal organizations be informed of their right to access funding through the Youth Gangs Prevention Fund. Closer cooperation with aboriginal groups regarding current federal programs and a review of core funding for the Aboriginal Friendship Centre Program were also recommended.

The needs of religious minorities and Canadians with disabilities were also addressed by the committee. It was noted that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms works to protect religious minorities from hate crimes and other kinds of religious discrimination. To improve the effectiveness of current initiatives regarding Canadians with disabilities, the committee recommends reporting on allocations to and achievements of the Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities in the HRSDC Departmental Performance Report.

To increase labour mobility the committee suggested that the federal government cooperate with the provinces to increase training and apprenticeship opportunities for youth. Further, the committee recommended the development of tax incentives for companies that hire and invest in young Canadians. For seniors, a campaign to raise awareness of elder abuse would serve to limit social exclusion.

For sexual minorities, it was recommended that identity and gender expression be defended by the hate crime provisions of the Criminal Code.

Regarding urban safety, the committee recommended an increase in the diversity of police forces. It is also suggested that awareness campaigns regarding sexual assault, harassment and cyber-bullying be increased. A greater proportion of Canada’s budget should also be focused on crime prevention. To increase income mobility in Canada, a review of the tax system should be conducted; such a review should focus on the role of the tax system in improving the lives of low-income Canadians. The value and eligibility requirements of the Working Income Tax Benefit should also be expanded.


The Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion cited the report as a motivation for attempting to engage their federal representatives in a discussion regarding ongoing funding challenges. The report was also cited by the Law Commission of Ontario as a reaffirmation of the role of the federal government in supporting local initiatives.  An article written by Senator Art Eggleton was published in the Globe and Mail and on the website of Social Policy in Ontario. The report was mentioned by the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg on its website, which described the report as a follow-up to a landmark effort.

In from the Margins: A Call to Action on Poverty, Housing and Homelessness

Date: December 2009
Committee: Social Affairs, Science and Technology
Chair: Hon. Art Eggleton, P.C. (ON)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Hugh Segal (ON)
Downloads: Read the Report


This extensive report by the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology argues that the system that is intended to lift people out of poverty in Canada is substantially broken; the Committee has made 74 recommendations that aim to reform Canadian social policy.

The first group of Committee recommendations focus on reforming federal programs to lift people out of poverty, rather than maintaining them in poverty.  As a fundamental, all families should receive minimum incomes that are not less, after tax, than Statistics Canada‘s Low-Income Cut-Off (LICO). The importance of income transfers through the tax system has been emphasized by recommendations that current programs, such as the National Child Benefit, be extended. A tax credit for employers hiring newcomers into their first job has also been recommended. The Committee also addresses employment insurance, arguing that benefits must be further extended and must favour skills training to a greater degree.

Education and health related support for the poor must also be reformed. Funding for student aid groups and tax breaks for students must be emphasized, given the importance of education in the job market. Financial incentives for low representation groups in the student population should also be considered. Simultaneously, the Committee notes that health care opportunities for the poor are unequal to the rest of the population. A national pharmacare program should be implemented, among other suggestions.

Regarding housing and homelessness, the Committee emphasizes the importance of a more integrated ‘housing first’ approach, wherein homeless individuals or individuals at risk of homelessness are stabilized with affordable housing. To carry out this approach, the Committee recommends increases in funding for affordable rental accommodations, among other things. A national housing and homelessness strategy must also be implemented to establish priorities and provide oversight in the fight for affordable accommodation.


The federal government’s response agreed to take the Committee’s reports under advisement but did not specifically adopt any of the recommendations.

Sources from Make Poverty History lauded the groundbreaking nature of the report and criticized the government for its failure to either adopt the report’s recommendations or to come up with any specific anti-poverty plan. The Canadian Mental Health Association supported several of the recommendations of the report. The Government of Ontario, on a website discussing its poverty reduction strategies, cited the report as evidence of the necessity of federal government co-operation with provinces in efforts to fight poverty. An activist group, Citizens for Public Justice, described the report as crucial and initiated a letter campaign in support of a government response to the report, before such a response had been released.

The report was significant enough that it was made the focus of a symposium in Toronto two years after the release of the report, in 2011. Discussions at this symposium aimed to review progress that had been made in anti-poverty efforts since the release of the report.

Poverty, Housing and Homelessness: Issues and Options

Date: June 2008
Committee: Social Affairs, Science and Technology
Chair: Hon. Art Eggleton, P.C. (ON)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Wilbert Keon (ON)
Downloads: Read the Report


The Committee is studying large urban centres. Its initial focus is on poverty, thereby building on the legendary Croll Report (see below) as well as other Senate reports which previously dealt with this issue.

Seven key findings are presented in the report:

  • Canada’s income support systems are broken.
  • A job is no longer enough to lift a person out of poverty.
  • Too many Canadians cannot afford decent housing.
  • The federal government is too compartmentalized to fight poverty in a comprehensive way.
  • Provincial and territorial governments are likewise chopped into departments and agencies that deal with pieces of poverty.
  • Cities are an afterthought in the development of social policy.
  • The poor usually have no input into programs that affect them.


In all, 103 options have been compiled for further consideration.  As described in the Toronto Star, the report “contains up-to-date statistics, solid analysis and proposals from the country’s top social scientists.”

The Committee will travel across Canada in the next few months to ask Canadians what they want to see in a national poverty reduction plan, how it should be designed, and who should pay for it.

Sounding the Alarm: Poverty in Canada

Date: February 1997
Author: Hon. Erminie J. Cohen (NB)
Downloads: Read the Report


“It is time for the Senate of Canada to revisit the commitments made in the 1971 Croll Report (see below) and to evaluate where we are a quarter of a century later,” declared Senator Cohen, the author of Sounding the Alarm.  Her position paper documented the harsh domestic reality.  Almost half of Canada’s poverty stricken under the age of 65 were working poor.  The face of poverty had also ‘aged’, with disproportionate numbers of senior women living well below the poverty line.  The rates of single families had also climbed significantly, and the lack of affordable childcare was escalating the number of single-parent families on welfare. Approximately 60% of Canadians with disabilities were living below the poverty line.

Senator Cohen called upon the federal government to create a national, coordinated ten-year anti-poverty strategy, and to honour all their international agreements. She also advocated lowering taxes for low-wage workers, and recommended that a committee of parliamentarians and Canadians prepare a report addressing unemployment and underemployment in Canada.  Finally, Senator Cohen proposed that the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) be amended to prevent discrimination based on economic status.


Sounding the Alarm is an example of how one committed Senator can make a difference.  Senator Cohen’s involvement with “Voices in Action: The Atlantic Conference for Poor People”, the first event in Canada organized by the poor to address their specific needs and experiences, inspired her to delve deeper into the issues.  Both the conference and her subsequent position paper were successful in encouraging Canadians and others to advocate new measures to alleviate poverty.

For example, Michelle Falardeau-Ramsay, then Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, took up the cause.  As she stated in 1998, “poverty is a serious breach of equality rights which I believe has no place in a country as prosperous as ours.”  That same year, Bill S-11 (An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) in order to add social condition as a prohibited ground of discrimination) passed unanimously in the Senate although it was subsequently defeated in the House of Commons.  The idea has never gone away, however – a year later, the Status of Women Canada issued a paper urging an economic and social charter.  In 2000, a CHRA Review Panel again recommended that social condition be added to the Act.   An Australian advocate picked up the idea two years later, publishing an article in the Deakin Law Journal which cited Canada’s efforts as a precedent for reforms in that country and, as recently as 2009, policy papers from the Canadian Human Rights Commission renewed the call for anti-poverty provisions in our own human rights legislation.

Children in Poverty: Toward a Better Future

Date: January 1991
Committee: Social Affairs, Science and Technology
Chair: Hon. Lorna Marsden (ON)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Brenda Robertson (NB)
Downloads: Read the Report


This comprehensive study builds on a series of previous Senate reports.  Several aspects of childhood welfare, including children at risk, child care and child benefits, were examined in the 1980s, all by the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.

Children in Poverty advocated a two-tiered approach to child benefits that includes both income supports and service provision.  Specifically, it proposed two alternative models for income support – either a national child benefit and a refundable child tax credit, or an enhanced refundable child tax credit for poor families with children – to finance the actual costs of raising a child.  Both would require provincial and territorial approval

The Committee also highlighted the need to address poverty amongst aboriginal children.  It called upon the federal government to make this a priority by dedicating significant financial resources to the issue and creating an action plan that includes the government working together with aboriginal organizations.  In addition, it recommended that all levels of government work together to establish a national child care policy.  Other measures addressed by the Committee include increased federal minimum wage, job retraining, further education, options such as Consumer Cooperatives and cost-shared rent supplements for households that pay more than 30% of their income on housing.  In addition, it suggested a federally funded program to encourage and facilitate home ownership for low- and middle-income families.


Although Children and Poverty has been cited widely in reports, documents and policy briefs by advocacy groups, professional organizations and non-profit agencies, many claim that Canadian child poverty rates have not improved significantly since the report was published in 1991.  Moreover, the Conference Board of Canada says early progress has been reversed in the past decade. It ranked Canada 13th out of 17 developed countries in 2009, using figures from the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development).

Poverty in Canada (The Croll Report)

Date: 1971
Committee: Social Affairs, Science and Technology
Chair: Hon. David Croll (ON)
Deputy Chair: Edgar E. Fournier (NB)
Downloads: Read the Report


“The poor do not choose poverty. It is at once their affliction and our national shame.” With these words, Senator Croll and his colleagues sought to shine a spotlight on an issue that had largely been ignored in post-war Canada. Their report made several major recommen-dations including a guaranteed annual income with built-in incentives to encourage welfare recipients to seek employment, and the creation of a Council of Applied Social Research.

Speaking to the Empire Club a year after the report was published, Senator Croll emphasized the call to action by saying: “The elimination of the scourge of poverty from the land is a vital national goal. It cannot be achieved without the compassion, the understanding, and the co-operation of the Canadian people. The test of national progress is surely not merely in providing more for those who have much – but also in providing enough for those who have too little.”


The Croll Report is generally regarded as having put poverty on the national agenda.  Even though its principal recommendations were not implemented at the time, it is credited with prompting Prime Minister Trudeau to triple family allowances in 1973 and to introduce the Child Tax Credit in 1978.

The Croll Report also acted as a catalyst for giving a voice to the poor in Canada. The government reorganized the National Council on Welfare, an advisory body to the Minister of National Health and Welfare, replacing civil servants on the Council with strong anti-poverty advocates.


Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (Trafficking in Human Organs) (2018)
Promoting Human Rights – Canada’s Approach to its Export Sector (2018)

Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (Trafficking in Human Organs)

Date: June 2018
Bill: S-240
Chair: Hon. Wanda Elaine Thomas Bernard (NS)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Salma Ataullahjan (ON)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Jane Cordy (NS)
Bill sponsor: Hon. Salma Ataullahjan (ON)
Downloads: Read the Report


The World Health Organization reported that in 2007, 10 per cent of global organ transplants were sourced from trafficked organs. Bill S-240 is a Senate-sponsored bill to amend the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) to help stop trafficking in human organs. It is similar to legislation introduced previously in the House of Commons but was introduced in the Senate in the hopes of getting it passed more expeditiously.

The Criminal Code amendments include new offences for taking part in trafficking human organs, while the IRPA would block any Canadian permanent resident or foreign national from entering Canada if there is reasonable evidence they have been involved in such activities.

This bill attracted cross-party support and was based on previous bills introduced by both Liberal and Conservative MPs. The Senate Human Rights committee studied the bill and recommended four amendments:

  • To remove the term “tissue” from the Criminal Code, in order to allow for human eggs, sperm and embryos to be excluded from the legislation;
  • To provide a more precise definition of “informed consent”;
  • To align sentencing with that of aggravated assault (maximum of 14 years); and
  • To add new reporting procedures for medical practitioners who treat transplant recipients.


The Senate bill was passed on October 23, 2018 and sent to the House of Commons. The House sent the bill to its Committee of Foreign Affairs and International Development for study. This committee has provided minor amendments to the report which was reported back to the House on March 1, 2019.

The bill was profiled in the Epoch Times and the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China.

Promoting Human Rights – Canada’s Approach to its Export Sector

Date: June 2018
Committee: Human Rights
Chair: Hon. Wanda Elaine Thomas Bernard (NS)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Salma Ataullahjan (ON)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Jane Cordy (NS)
Downloads: Read the Report


As the public debate regarding Canada’s controversial sale of LAV vehicles to Saudi Arabia emerged, the Senate committee began deliberations on the role of human rights in decisions regarding export permit applications under the Export and Import Permits Act (EIPA). The resulting report called for Canada’s export controls to be revised to keep up-to-date both with technological change and with fast-changing standards related to international human rights and armed conflict.

Key recommendations from the committee included adding human rights and law as considerations for the export controls on Canadian goods and technology and that the federal government should establish controls on how foreign customers can use such exports to try and avoid them being used to abuse human rights.


The Senate committee’s report helped inform amendments to EIPA (bill C-47), which was passed into law in December of 2018. This bill enhanced Canada’s export controls to align with the Arms Trade Treaty and increase transparency. In November 2018, the Foreign Affairs Minister rejected key Senate committee recommendations from the report, stating that placing unilateral export controls would not work as well as multilateral controls. She stated that moving forward without international partners would limit effectiveness and put Canada at an economic disadvantage. While appearing in the Senate, the Minister did reference the committee report and mention that it is informing deliberations on C-47.

The Senate report received good media coverage, with articles in the Globe and Mail (twice)  and Global News.