Bill C-12 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Judges Act and to amend another Act in consequence
This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.
Anne McLellan Liberal
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business
November 6th, 2001 / 1:50 p.m.
Monique Guay Laurentides, QC
Mr. Speaker, I have just a few minutes left. It is a very short time and it is also sad because ultimately this debate will not take place.
However, I wish to thank the members of the other parties and of the Canadian Alliance, which showed an open-mindedness I was not expecting. I congratulate the members of this party. It was very important for me to have the opportunity to debate this bill. I congratulate the members of the New Democratic Party, and my Progressive Conservative colleagues, who showed themselves to be very open-minded as well.
Some of the things that have been said by the government in this House are incredible. When we are told that this concerns only 10% of Canadian women, that is already too many. It is unbelievable that we would be told something so ridiculous, that it is not serious because only 10% of the population is affected. It is time to wake up and smell the coffee.
The government approves legislation, and talks about progressive legislation and being open-minded. It is approving bills to legalize marijuana, but it cannot allow women to remain healthy through a pregnancy, to give birth to a healthy child and to ensure that that child will enter the world without harm to itself or its mother.
I even saw a female member opposite object to having this bill made a votable item. This is incredible. I cannot believe it. I cannot believe that the government would engage in petty politics, in cheap partisan politics when dealing with such an important bill.
The hon. member asked questions and I will reply to him in writing. I will not give up on this bill. I can assure members of this House that this issue will be brought back. Pressure will be put on the government, because there are young women who want healthy children. There are young women working in the prison system who are fed up with having to go to court to say that their work endangers their pregnancy.
It does not make sense for a pregnant woman working in the jail system to be followed by a family doctor from the beginning of her pregnancy only to be told by a doctor from Health Canada, a doctor who does not even know her and is not familiar with her file, “No you are not entitled to preventive withdrawal”. It is unacceptable that such a situation still exists in 2001.
I was asked if there were costs associated with this measure. Costs are not an issue when it comes to giving birth to a healthy child, to ensuring a normal birth. They are not an issue when it comes to the health of the mother who must raise her child for the rest of her life.
I can assure hon. members that we will bring this issue back in the House. The government will only have itself to blame. It was up to the Liberals to agree to make this bill a votable item and to accept the amendments that I proposed regarding Bill C-12. We worked really hard for days to amend the bill and also to follow up on the government's requests. We compromised on a lot of things, but we will never compromise when it comes to ensuring that women can give birth to healthy children. Costs are not an issue when it comes to that.
Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business
November 6th, 2001 / 1:25 p.m.
Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB
Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-340 on behalf of the NDP caucus. As the labour critic for our party I sat with the member for Laurentides for months as we reviewed part II of the Canada Labour Code. I can personally attest to the hard work that was done by the hon. member for Laurentides in trying to get this issue to the forefront of the national agenda or even onto the table of the national agenda. She demonstrated a great deal of compassion and was a very good advocate on behalf of working women everywhere in this country in the degree of passion she demonstrated for the issue.
The hon. member pointed out in her speech that this issue has been before the House of Commons for a decade or more. This is not new to today's debate nor was it new when we debated Bill C-12 or Bill C-19, the amendments to the Canada Labour Code that we have dealt with recently. She points out that as long ago as 1990 there was a motion before the House of Commons where like-minded people argued aggressively that the workplace was changing and that we had a duty to accommodate those changes and certainly to accommodate the growing number of women in the workforce.
We have finally reached equality, virtually, in terms of the labour market share. We have not reached equality in the labour market conditions for women. Women might make up 50% of the workforce, but they have not achieved equality in terms of compensation or the terms and conditions of their employment or the accommodation of the special circumstances facing women in the workforce, such as perhaps one of the most obvious, the issue of pregnant and nursing mothers.
When the bill was brought before the House I expected a higher degree of sensitivity for this issue from the other members of the House of Commons. I am appalled, frankly, at the lack of sensitivity demonstrated, especially by the spokesperson for the government side.
We believe, and the point was well made by the member for Laurentides, that we have a duty and an obligation to strive to achieve the highest common denominator in this country. If the federal legislation is to be considered a national standard, we then have an obligation to seek out the best conditions in the country, not to sink to the lowest conditions in any aspect of labour legislation. In the case of the province of Quebec, it has had the foresight, the political capital, I suppose, to achieve an element of fairness that goes beyond what we enjoy in the federal jurisdiction.
Therefore, it is only fair, and in the interests and the well-being of the people living in a jurisdiction where the terms of employment provincially exceed the terms of employment enjoyed in the federal jurisdiction, that a person should have the right to avail himself or herself of the terms that are more favourable for the worker, especially in the instance of a pregnant or nursing mother.
This should be one thing that we can all feel generous enough in our hearts to allow. Perhaps it could then serve as an example of how we might harmonize the jurisdictional differences in the workforce on other issues as well. However, we could start here. I argue it was a missed opportunity when we reviewed part II of the Canada Labour Code. We dropped the football in this case because we had a chance to introduce an element of fairness into the Canada Labour Code and we chose not to. It was not for lack of trying because the amendments were made at both stages where amendments are possible in the development of the bill. The hon. member worked very hard.
The only argument that was put forward by the Liberal side as to why it cannot support the bill was the weak and tired old warhorse that it is somehow a unity issue. Not only is that untrue in this case, but I believe it is 180° opposite from the truth.
Let us think of the example of a worker, a pregnant or nursing mother living in the province of Quebec who availed herself of the possibility of opting out of a certain workplace because she thought it was unsafe. If that happens we will have created two classes of worker in the province of Quebec. We might have two sisters who live in houses next door to each other, one who works for the province of Quebec under Quebec jurisdiction and the other who works for the federal government under federal jurisdiction. They live in the same city, in the same community. One will now be given full compensation for the period of time she has off and the other will be penalized by getting 55% of her income just because she works for the federal government instead of the province of Quebec. That would breed hostility. That would breed disunity. That would cause animosity among the working women in the province of Quebec.
If the only argument that can be raised here is the fact that it is somehow a unity issue or a constitutional or jurisdictional issue, let me say that in fact it is unnecessarily creating an environment of hostility and resentment among the working women of Quebec. We do a lot of things differently in our dealings with the province of Quebec. Even if for the time being the only advantage to this small amendment would be for the working women of Quebec, why is that a reason not to do it, if it introduces an element of fairness for those people?
It would also have the effect of pulling up the conditions in the other provinces, those provinces that are not fortunate enough to have such good terms and conditions. Were this in place, the best terms would have primacy, or in other words we would always gravitate to the highest common denominator and it would pull the other provinces along. We would then really be using federal legislation to its highest purpose, I believe, which is to elevate the standards right across the country from coast to coast.
Anyone who speaks against the motion is speaking for the status quo, which I believe is patently unfair. The status quo penalizes pregnant and nursing women when they opt for the right to refuse dangerous work, work that is dangerous either to themselves or to the fetus. We believe this is the only example in which when workers use their right to refuse unsafe work they suffer any kind of monetary setback. Why is it we have selected pregnant and nursing women to be the only group of workers who, when they exercise the right to refuse unsafe work, suffer a monetary penalty? That is unfair. I presume that is why the province of Quebec decided many years ago to change that situation: because it is patently unfair when these women are doing something that is best for their babies.
It borders on negligence to first open up the workforce so that more women are taking part and then not accommodate or take every step to accommodate women in the workplace. Out of ten provinces and three territories one province chose to rectify that and to remedy that unfairness. We believe that should stand as the highest common denominator and it should have primacy over any lesser piece of legislation as it affects working women.
Therefore I speak strongly in favour of Bill C-340 and I thank the member for Laurentides for giving us the opportunity to have the debate. I regret that it is only a debate. It should be a vote. It could have been an important first step to introduce an element of fairness into the working conditions in the Canadian workforce which we forgot to do, we neglected to do. No, we did not forget to do it: we chose not to be fair in this case and it is to our great shame.
We are given the opportunity to fix that today. Some members of the House are speaking against remedying that. I suppose they will have to defend their stance and be judged in some higher place than this.
In closing I would say that in other areas of legislation, in other contracts and in other legal documents, there are things called non-derogation clauses. In other words, nothing in the work we are doing today should erode what the person currently enjoys. Not having an amendment like that in Bill C-340 has the same effect as derogating the terms and conditions of employment that Quebec women currently enjoy. By going into the federal civil service or any federally regulated jurisdiction, they will diminish the rights that have already been created in their home province. We have an obligation to respect, acknowledge and allow people in Quebec to have those rights that they have earned.
Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business
November 6th, 2001 / 12:55 p.m.
Monique Guay Laurentides, QC
moved that Bill C-340, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I rise with a lot of emotion today.
This bill, which is unfortunately non-votable, because it was decided otherwise—perhaps it is a little too forward looking for the government—deals with preventive withdrawal of pregnant or nursing women.
We must realize that more and more women enter the labour force every year. Women now account for 45% of employees in general. Consequently, the number of women involved in occupational accidents has also risen.
These new realities beg the question of not only reconciliating family and professional responsibilities, but also of adapting working conditions to the presence of mothers and pregnant employees.
The labour market is also facing other new realities. Indeed, pregnant women tend to stay at work longer than before, because of their often uncertain financial circumstances.
The statistics are eloquent: 82% of single parent families are headed by women; 83% of these families live under the poverty line; 91% are on welfare; and 61% of workers receiving minimum wage are women.
When it comes to preventive withdrawal, Canada has a two tier system and it is women in Quebec, whose jobs are governed by the Canada Labour Code, who are footing the bill. We in the Bloc Quebecois have made countless efforts to remedy the situation, including moving an amendment to Bill C-12.
In May 2000, during debate on Bill C-12, which amended part II of the Canada Labour Code, we proposed an amendment that would have entitled Quebec women who were pregnant or nursing and whose jobs were governed by the Canada Labour Code to benefits under the Loi sur la santé et la sécurité du travail du Québec.
I would note that, during the debate on this bill, we worked very hard and brought in an incredible number of witnesses to appear before the committee. And I do not think that the Bloc Quebecois was alone in its efforts.
We asked all the unions to appear, including the CSN, the FTQ and even a lawyer specializing in the area of preventive withdrawal for pregnant or nursing women. This lawyer has also written a book and teaches at the University of Montreal. She has worked on specific cases involving preventive withdrawal for pregnant or nursing women.
She appeared before the committee and told us horror stories about how women in federally regulated jobs, jobs governed by the Canada Labour Code, were not entitled to the benefit of preventive withdrawal. It is so complicated that it is ridiculous.
When one is expecting a baby is often the most important period in a woman's life. It is incomprehensible to me that, in this day and age, a woman is not allowed to go through her pregnancy with peace of mind, knowing that her child will be born healthy and that she will be able to raise it herself and give it everything it needs.
I feel obliged to give a historical overview of the repeated calls that have been made for changes since 1991, and not from my party or even this side of the House.
First, Joy Langan of the NDP introduced Motion M-147 on May 13, 1991, which read as follows:
That, in the opinion of this House, the government should pass a bill for the protection of pregnant or nursing employees from workplace hazards, guaranteeing them continuity of employment in a hazard-free environment.
Again that year, 1991, the same NDP member introduced a similar motion, Motion M-143.
On May 17, 1990, the hon. member for Abitibi--Baie-James--Nunavik, who is still sitting in this House, but at that time was a member of the Progressive Conservative Party, also introduced a motion, M-655, calling for the same thing.
The current leader of our party, the hon. member for Laurier--Sainte-Marie, also called for changes to Bill C-101, on June 1, 1993. My colleague the member for Québec also introduced a motion along the same lines once again, in March of 1995.
I could go on. For instance, during the revision of the Canada Labour Code, part II, I personally proposed major amendments to protect women workers
There are two points relating to that. I was told that when the Canada Labour Code, part II, was revised, as it was last year, amendments would be made to protect female workers, to ensure that women working under federal jurisdiction would have the same rights to preventive withdrawal as women under provincial jurisdiction.
When we came to carry out that revision of the CLC, part II, we presented some major amendments and these were rejected by the minister. Her response: “We will reach a decision when we revise part III of the Canada Labour Code”. This makes no sense any more. This has been going on for ten years.
I have proof of this. They did not want this bill to be votable. That is very disappointing. It is disappointing for women who decide to become pregnant and whose workplaces are not necessarily safe during pregnancy.
Yesterday, a woman named Annie Poirier came to my office. For a while now she has been fighting and working for precautionary cessation of work. I would like to congratulate her for what she does. Her task is certainly not an easy one, because she works in a detention center. Such a working environment is not friendly, especially at the federal level. The employees are not dealing with angels, they are constantly in direct contact with prisoners incarcerated for two years or more.
These women work with prisoners all day long. They occasionally face very problematic situations and, in some cases, situations that can be dangerous for their own health and their baby's health. They live under permanent and very heavy stress. I do not know if you ever visited a federal prison, but it is quite difficult for a woman to work in such conditions. Those who do are not allowed precautionary cessation of work, and that is incredible.
I asked the Quebec department of labour—the CSST in fact, because we are enforcing the legislation with the CSST—to conduct a study in order to see if the CSST could manage the precautionary cessation of work program at the federal level if ever the federal government made commitments in that regard. I was told that it was possible, that the only requirement was that we come to an agreement with the federal government and that the legislation could very well be enforced at both levels of government.
All we need now is some political will on the part of the present government, but it is not forthcoming. Do not tell me that something will be changed in part III of the Canada Labour Code. It is not true.
When part II of the labour code was revised, we invited non political witnesses to appear before the committee because we wanted the minister to understand that it is crucial that living conditions of women be improved. She did not do anything, and it is very disappointing, all the more so because the minister is a woman. She knows what it is like to be pregnant, and what the risks are.
I wanted some action, but nothing happened. I introduced this bill, but it cannot be put to a vote. What is going to happen? I know all my colleagues are going to speak on this issue.
I am deeply disappointed, but I swear I will not give up. Things will change. We will find a way to bring about some changes, because,this situation is unconscionable.
I would like to tell the House about what happened to a young woman who is a flight attendant. Flight attendants are under the Canada Labour Code. If they want, female attendants can withdraw from work, but they must have worked a total of 600 hours, and they will only get 55% of their wages, because they will be receiving employment insurance benefits.
If they could avail themselves of preventive withdrawal, they would get 90% of their salary without having to rely on employment insurance benefits. This is something altogether different.
This young woman, a flight attendant, was on an airplane and a problem occurred. At one point, she had to remain on board four extra hours because of a mechanical breakdown. She could not avail herself of preventive withdrawal, and she lost her baby in her seventh month of pregnancy.
It is unacceptable that such things still happen in our modern society. The employment insurance fund has a surplus of $37 billion and yet we are unable to use a small amount of money to allow women to avail themselves of preventive withdrawal. This is a ridiculous.
However, I believe it is wonderful to see young women like Annie Poirier out there creating coalitions so that women can benefit from what I call a natural basis, a normal basis to survive and give birth.
Giving birth is the most wonderful thing in the world. If one cannot do it in total security, in total health, I wonder in what kind of country we are living. We spend money for all kinds of useless things but we are unable to address particular circumstances to allow women to give birth to healthy babies.
This measure would not cost a fortune. Let us look of our birth rate. The problem is not there. The problem is the absence of will on the part of the government at this time. This is something I cannot understand.
I hope that members who are here will give serious consideration to this bill. I know that I will not be able to introduce it again under its present form. However, I do hope that we hold this debate, because it addresses a critical issue. It has been under discussion for ten years now.
The Bloc is not alone. As I said earlier, the New Democratic Party and the Progressive Conservative Party also took initiative in that regard. I am sure that there are many backbenchers who would like to see this happen one day, but they do not dare to speak out because of the party line. That is part of the political game.
I hope that the rules of the House will change because I find it unacceptable to introduce such an important bill—I consider it important, as important as any other bill introduced here—and then to be unable to vote on it.
However, I would like to see my colleagues, and all the women in this parliament, vote on this bill. There is a lack of will in this regard, because they made sure that we could not vote on Bill C-340.
We work here in the House and also at the committee. We work hard. We invite people to appear before the committee; there is a FTQ-CSN coalition—we can name them all—and they all agree that things have to change.
Do members know what excuse was given by the government the last time? I was told “This is all fine and well, Ms. Guay, it is done in Quebec; we admire you for that, but it is not done in other provinces”. My goodness, let us lead by example. Let us do it here at the federal level.
Let us take our responsibilities toward women, toward our children and toward our families. Let us support them. Let us pass a bill at the federal level. This will force the provinces to do the same in their jurisdictions eventually.
But no, here we never make the first move. We cannot do that; it would be dangerous. We must not speak out too much. There is a lack of political courage. The government has proven to me that it lacks political courage to an incredible extent.
And they had better not talk about the cost, because this will not cost much. In Quebec, we would even agree to have such legislation entrusted to the CSST.
I will listen very carefully to what my colleagues have to say about this bill and I will come back at the end of the debate to draw my conclusions.
Private Members' Business
September 20th, 2001 / 5:50 p.m.
Monique Guay Laurentides, QC
Madam Speaker, I hope more colleagues will be interested in this very important matter.
Before I get into the gist of my speech, I take this opportunity to tell men, women and children who lost loved ones in New York or Washington that our thoughts are with them, and that the thoughts and the prayers of people in my riding of Laurentides are with them.
To start with, we agree with the principle of the bill I said to my friend from Churchill it is time we brought major changes.
In the context of Bill C-284, it bears repeating because we need some background, we know that other members introduced bills that did not make it to third reading and were dropped from the order paper.
I hope that this one will make it, that we will be able to discuss it fully and to amend it as needed, and also that we will get unanimous support to bring about major changes.
As everyone knows, or will know, on May 9, 1992, an explosion at the Westray mine, in Nova Scotia, killed 26 miners.
Then, on May 15, Mr. Justice Peter Richard was appointed by the Nova Scotia government, under the Public Inquiry Act of Nova Scotia, to head a public inquiry into the circumstances of this tragedy.
In November 1997, Commissioner Richard released a 650 page report and this is no short story, which includes, among other things, findings on the criminal responsibility of Curragh Resources Inc., the company responsible for the operation of the Westray mine, and of its management. This very important report confirmed that the company was guilty, but it came out of this pretty well unscathed.
There is a problem with our legislation. I will talk about the Canada Labour Code, because I worked with it and I am sure the hon. member knows about this.
I had proposed major amendments to part II of the Canada Labour Code, which deals with health and safety in the workplace, to impose stiffer penalties on companies when negligence was involved, or when a company was charged. We had also proposed to increase fines and jail terms rather significantly. This was under clause 14 of Bill C-12, and I can provide a copy to the hon. member for Churchill so she can take a look at it.
We had put so much hope in all this, we had worked relentlessly to significantly improve the part on health and safety in the workplace. It had already been ten years since that part of the legislation had last been reviewed. We had proposed major amendments, including amendments to protect women in the workplace. None of our amendments were accepted. At the time, during the last parliament, the political will was not there. I hope the government will be more serious and positive regarding the bill introduced by the hon. member for Churchill.
A great deal of work was done and this should be pointed out, because it was not negligible, by the hon. member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough. He tabled a motion that also died on the order paper when the House prorogued. His was a very important motion, which also sought to review the criminal code. It would have been reviewed by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and it sought to allow the amendment of a recommendation to ensure the protection of people and make sure that such a tragedy never happened again.
I believe the hon. member had almost managed to get unanimity, but we never knew the government's position, because consideration of the motion was never completed.
As I said earlier, we on this side are obviously in agreement with the bill's principle, but there is the whole issue of amendments we might wish to make—I do not know which yet, I will be talking with my colleague—because there are provinces, including Nova Scotia, for example, which at the time was not particularly well protected by provincial legislation for mine employees.
In some provinces, work is already being done. It is serious work. In Quebec, with the CSST, we protect our employees. It is not perfect, but we in Quebec already have a very good system, which is working very well. Care must be taken not to penalize people who are already doing their job well, not to penalize a government that already has plans and is doing an extraordinary job with its employees and its employers. We already have a tribunal that can hand down rulings against companies that are not doing their job well. We can also fine them.
We have all this in Quebec and I am a bit worried. Will this bill interfere in our jurisdiction? If so, we will have to make the necessary amendments. If not, so much the better.
I would like to point out, and this is not just to mention the fine work we are doing in Quebec, but when one does something well, one should say so, that lately the CSST has been running a wonderful prevention campaign on television. Of course, when we watch these images and ads,paid for by the government and the CSST, showing a woman falling and injuring herself, or a man who, through carelessness, seriously injures his arm, it makes for some hard viewing, but it is what happens.
As my colleague pointed out, there is a work accident every nine seconds. It is therefore essential that people be made aware, and work remains to be done. I know that we are doing that work now. So far, I have seen a few ads. I hope that this will continue in Quebec and that it will serve as an example to other levels of government, to other provinces, that they will use this form of prevention because it is wonderful, and that we can use it to bring the message home to the public and to businesses. Businesses have responsibilities and they must not shirk them.
We obviously need to tighten certain rules. As I was saying earlier, we have tried and I have personally tried, through Bill C-12 dealing with health and safety, to include preventive withdrawal for pregnant or nursing women. This is an issue that I feel very strongly about. I introduced a bill on the subject, but it did not go all the way. I have another one coming and I hope the government will take it into account.
Quebec has been protecting pregnant or nursing women for a very long time. They have access to preventive withdrawal without being penalized financially, something that does not exist under the federal system. Women who cannot afford to live on employment insurance benefits that would cut their income in half will keep on working in conditions that may be hazardous to their unborn child or to the child they are nursing.
The federal government must change its mentality with regard to this issue. It is so sad to see, in the same building, two female employees, one working under federal jurisdiction and the other working under provincial jurisdiction, who do not have the same rights. We need to modernize our federal legislation and we must be able to make amendments that are not costly. We are not talking about huge costs here. I will even be able to give specific figures when we study the bill.
My heart goes out to all those who lost a loved one among these 26 miners who had to work in difficult conditions. Need I remind members that working in a mine is working in the dark. Their quality of life is just as bad as the quality of the air they breathe. My heart goes out to those families.
I hope that, in the end, those responsible for this tragedy will be made to pay. As legislators, we will bring in legislation to ensure that these people, as well as their families, are protected.
Message From The Senate
The Royal Assent
June 14th, 2001 / 5 p.m.
The Deputy Speaker
I have the honour to inform the House that when the House went up to the Senate chamber the Governor General was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:
Bill C-12, an act to amend the Judges Act and to amend another act in consequence—Chapter No. 7.
Bill S-24, an act to implement an agreement between the Mohawks of Kanesatake and Her Majesty in right of Canada respecting governance of certain lands by the Mohawks of Kanesatake and to amend an act in consequence—Chapter No. 8.
Bill C-8, an act to establish the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada and to amend certain acts in relation to financial institutions—Chapter No. 9.
Bill S-17, an act to amend the Patent Act—Chapter No. 10.
Bill C-17, an act to amend the Budget Implementation Act, 1997 and the Financial Administration Act—Chapter No. 11.
Bill S-16, an act to amend the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) Act—Chapter No. 12.
Bill S-3, an act to amend the Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987 and to make consequential amendments to other acts—Chapter No. 13.
Bill S-11, an act to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act and the Canada Cooperatives Act and to amend other acts in consequence—Chapter No. 14.
Bill C-13, an act to amend the Excise Tax Act—Chapter No. 15.
Bill C-26, an act to amend the Customs Act, the Customs Tariff, the Excise Act, the Excise Tax Act and the Income Tax Act in respect of tobacco—Chapter No. 16.
Bill C-22, an act to amend the Income Tax Act, the Income Tax Application Rules, certain acts related to the Income Tax Act, the Canada Pension Plan, the Customs Act, the Excise Tax Act, the Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act and another act related to the Excise Tax Act—Chapter No. 17.
Bill C-3, an act to amend the Eldorado Nuclear Limited Reorganization and Divestiture Act and the Petro-Canada Public Participation Act—Chapter No. 18.
Bill C-18, an act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act—Chapter No. 19.
Bill C-28, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act, the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act and the Salaries Act—Chapter No. 20.
Bill C-9, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act—Chapter No. 21.
Bill C-25, an act to amend the Farm Credit Corporation Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts—Chapter No. 22.
Bill C-4, an act to establish a foundation to fund sustainable development technology—Chapter No. 23.
Bill C-29, an act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2002—Chapter No. 24.
Bill S-25, an act to amend the Act of Incorporation of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada.
Bill S-27, an act to authorize The Imperial Life Assurance Company of Canada to apply to be continued as a company under the laws of the Province of Quebec.
Bill S-28, an act to authorize Certas Direct Insurance Company to apply to be continued as a company under the laws of the Province of Quebec.
Pursuant to order made on Wednesday, June 13, the House stands adjourned until Monday, September 17, at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Orders 28 and 24.
(The House adjourned at 5.26 p.m.)
Parliament Of Canada Act
June 6th, 2001 / 4:30 p.m.
Don Boudria Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Chairman, I wish to respond to a number of the questions raised by the hon. member.
He is advocating that we base ourselves on other formula for establishing what the salary increase of members of parliament should be. It gives me a good occasion to raise something which I had not before. I draw to the attention of all hon. members page 12 of the Lumley commission report, table 3.1.
The consumer price index between 1991 and 2000 has increased by 21.6%. The average industrial wage increase was 23.6%. The general public wage settlement was 15.2%. The general private wage settlement was 22.4%. The Conference Board survey of wage increases was 31.9%. Members of parliament increases were 6.0%.
I do not know if the hon. member had an opportunity to read that table. If he had, he would know that what he is saying would probably result in a greater increase than the one we have now.
Second, let us look back at a few things historically. I shared some of this with a few colleagues across the way, albeit not all of them but a few. I will give an example, and it is not the be all and end all of examples, but it is certainly one.
In 1963 a judge of the federal court earned $21,000 a year and an MP earned $23,700, 12% more. In 1971 a judge was up to $36,000 and an MP at $33,000. These are the MP salaries grossed up, assuming that everything would be taxable, so that we can compare apples and apples. In 1980 a judge was at $70,000 and an MP was at $66,000. We were still reasonably close. In 1992 a judge was at $155,000 and an MP was at $106,000. In 2000 a judge was at $179,000 and an MP was at $108,000. From 1992 to 2000 the MP's salary had gone up $1,900 a year and the judge's salary had gone up $25,000.
In response to a question from the hon. member from Calgary, I indicated that Bill C-12 was retroactive to April 1, 2001. That is not correct. It is April 1, 2000 that the retroactivity provision of Bill C-12 applies. What that does is it gives a salary now, April 1, 2001, of judges at $204,600 and MPs at $109,000. Today an MP earns 45% of the salary of a judge. Even with this so-called generous increase, MPs will still only make 55% of the salary of a judge. That is how far the salary structure had fallen behind.
Yes, we could say that the amount is excessive. We can say all these things. They are easy to say, a lot easier than defending the bill perhaps, but it does not mean they are right. What is proposed in the bill I believe is right. The Lumley commission proposed the amount. We did not deviate from the 20%. We did not say that it should be 25% or 30%. Using some of the indices it should have perhaps been higher. Using the index that the hon. member wants to propose perhaps would have been lower, but we used the objective one produced in the report. That is why we used that one.
Why are we offering chairs and vice-chairs greater remuneration than others? They are positions with greater responsibility, as are the positions of the House leaders, the leaders of each party and anyone else who holds some of these offices. It is not a matter of whether the Prime Minister appoints them. I could turn around and ask the member about his leader appointing the vice-chairs, which would be equally silly.
What about the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party then allegedly appointing the chairs and vice-chairs in the Senate, and so on? We could spread that nonsense all over the place. It does not accomplish anything. The fact still remains that a chair and a vice-chair of a committee are positions that are, according to the commission, worthy of further remuneration, which is something that exists at the provincial level in many if not most of the provinces in Canada.
In terms of the opt in clause, hon. member wants to know if that means that some members are not deserving of the salary? No. I think all colleagues in the House deserve the salary. That is why I said a while ago, and I do not know whether the member was in attendance when I said it, that I hope everyone will opt in. I also hope that all members will vote for the bill. However, I repeat that even if they vote against it I hope that they opt in anyway because in my view they are still worth the salary.
On the retroactivity, the hon. member asked why we used that date. I answered that in a previous question. It goes back to January 1 because in past reports it went back to the date of the last election. I did not go quite that far back because it was only a few days prior to the beginning of the calendar year and it caused probably greater aggravation than it was worth. So I stopped after January 1.
This report is about the present parliament which started after the last election. That is why that date was used.
Finally, if members do not opt in, they remain opted out. It does not change after the next election.
Parliament Of Canada Act
June 6th, 2001 / 3:55 p.m.
Don Boudria Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Chairman, I will try to answer the several questions that have been asked. Arguably not all of them were on clause 1, but nonetheless I think they are of considerable interest to members of parliament.
On the issue that some hon. members raise as to what they believe to be an April 1 retroactivity clause in this, it is not in the report. Perhaps the mistake, if I can call it that, has occurred by some misreading that Bill C-12 will come into force retroactive to April 1. Maybe that is where it comes from.
In terms of why the date of January 1 was utilized for this bill, hon. members who were here last time, particularly those who were in House leadership positions and so on, will recall that the last bill took effect the date of the election prior. That is the way it was done before. We could have done exactly the same thing this time. That would have made it retroactive to November 27. It would have given retroactivity of one more month but would have essentially meant adjusting everybody's tax returns for last year. I felt it would be quite a burden, given the small change that it would make. In fact, the tradition would have meant to back it up further, not less than what it is now. That is the reason for that.
Again, I am using the last question first because I did not note and I am only going from memory. How does the bill apply to someone who does not opt in? I will preface my remarks by saying that I hope everyone does opt in, even those who feel obligated for whatever reason to vote against the bill, although I hope there are no one does.
I said that yesterday, I said in media reports and I repeat it again before my colleagues, because I think it is an important consideration. The new bill would not apply for people who did not opt in. In other words, they would remain at where they are now: the old cost of indexation formula, the old salary structure, the old tax free portion, the old accrual rate and everything that exists now.
Immigration And Refugee Protection Act
June 4th, 2001 / 1:35 p.m.
Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Laval Centre, QC
Motion No. 12
That Bill C-11, in Clause 112, be amended by replacing lines 6 to 8 on page 51 with the following:
“Canada for an offence that, if committed in Canada, would constitute an offence under an Act of Parliament punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of at least 10 years;”
Mr. Speaker, I recognize my colleague's usual courtesy. They want me to be the first one to talk. We are now discussing the third group of amendments accepted by the Chair to improve Bill C-11. I am forced to admit that the government is convinced that Bill C-11 is nothing short of perfect.
However, this is not what we heard when we went to the big cities that receive immigrants and refugees. Ninety-nine per cent of those involved said that people are very concerned about how this act will be applied, even more so because there are no regulations associated with the act. Regulations will be drafted later on.
Fortunately, we managed to obtain that the bill would stipulate that the regulations will be tabled in the House and referred to a committee. It is a start. However, as for the amendment that the government should not adopt any regulations before obtaining an opinion, it seems that it has not been accepted since the governor in council will have the power to give effect to the regulations as soon as they are tabled.
There are three amendments in the last group, since one was not accepted. The first amendment, the one I am proposing, is designed to put pressure on the Liberal government.
We know that it takes a lot of time to deal with refugee cases. People have complained about it. Some refugee claimants have to wait for months and sometimes for years before they know where they stand.
I think the federal government is like most people: a bit of pressure helps. If no decision has been made on a claim 90 days after it has been filed, my amendment would require the federal government to assume the social and medical costs.
We know that Quebec is generous. Members need only look at the number of people who decide to live in Quebec when they claim refugee status. It is clear that the future mirrors the past.
However, on the one hand, we hear the minister say that the process should be more rapid and, on the other, the measures in the bill include, for example, the elimination of the appeal or a second refugee claim. We might also need a penalty of some kind. When a contractor does not abide by a contract, there are penalties. Essentially, that is what we are suggesting, a kind of penalty for the government.
I also tend to agree with the second amendment, which has been moved by my Progressive Conservative colleague. He proposes that part of the bill not apply and that a claim for refugee protection “be referred to the Refugee Protection Division for a new determination where the relevant circumstances of the claimant have changed since a previous determination, or specific circumstances prevented part of the evidence from being presented during a previous determination”.
I do not think it will be hard for me to convince hon. members that an individual's circumstances can change very rapidly. We have recently learned of the terrible shooting in Nepal, which wiped out the entire royal family. What is going to happen there now? We do not know, but a week ago things in Nepal were relatively quiet, according to our viewpoint from this side of the world. This is therefore a recognition that, in the real world, individuals' circumstances can change dramatically. The amendment by my hon. colleague from the Progressive Conservative Party is aimed at acknowledging this.
Can we believe that the government is going to support this amendment? If it does what it usually does, I think it will say no. That is its specialty, moreover. If one is convinced that what one already has is total perfection, why say yes to any changes? Yet we are told that the purpose of the opposition in a debate is to improve bills. That is all very fine on paper, but in reality we have trouble proving it.
The last amendment I presented is what certain of my Liberal colleagues would term a cosmetic amendment. It is not really that, for it states as follows: b ) is determined to be inadmissible on grounds of serious criminality with respect to a conviction in Canada for an offence that, if committed in Canada, would constitute an offence under an Act of Parliament punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of at least 10 years;
The bill speaks of a term of imprisonment of at least ten years, but here we are speaking of a maximum term of imprisonment of at least ten years. Hon. members will grasp the difference. To us it is a very important one, as we do not, of course, want to keep major criminals in this country, yet we do believe that a minimum of justice needs to be applied, and that the terms must be clear. Amendment No. 12 is intended as a clarification to clause 112(3)( b ).
Clearly, Bill C-12 is going to be passed before the summer recess. It is also clear that summer in the House of Commons will begin before June 21. I think it a great shame that this is preventing us as parliamentarians and as individuals from taking decisions which could make the Immigration Act, which, let us remember, is already 25 years old, this being its first overhaul, a piece of legislation whose purpose would truly be to help hundreds of thousands of people, many thousands of families. Yet the government wants to pass the bill as is.
I find this disturbing. One wonders whether the government listened to the various stakeholders who shared their views with the committee. The people who appeared before us are competent individuals.
Those who testified included the Canadian Bar Association and the Canadian Council for Refugees. We also heard from academics, researchers, and community groups, who are daily trying to meet the basic needs of people who have applied for refugee status, immigrants who are arriving in a new environment and who need help in getting properly settled in Canada and in Quebec.
It is as though the government had decided, from its lofty perch, that all these fine people knew nothing, had seen nothing, and were incapable of analyzing a situation or showing any logic.
If this bill is any indication, logic which is coupled with a sense of humanity must frustrate this government. We on the opposition benches believe strongly in logic, but we believe just as strongly in a sense of humanity, generosity and openness to the world at large.
It is not too late. If, by chance, the government were to pass the 11 amendments under consideration today, that would already be a step forward. Right now, I will not be able to take such a step. I must take my seat.
April 6th, 2001 / 10:30 a.m.
Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to make some remarks with respect to Bill C-12, the Judges Act, which deals specifically with the compensation and remuneration of judges.
We have had an opportunity to review some of the technical amendments. These amendments correct some of the language in the bill to ensure that there is parity, that the French and English versions correspond exactly.
Some of the minor amendments are very technical in nature, for example: clause 12, line 9, removes the language “plus $2,000”; clause 23, section 44.01(6), line 9, amends the English version with “takes effect on the day this section comes into force”.
The Conservative Party supports these amendments and any attempt to ensure consistency in legislation. These amendments would affect approximately 1,000 federally appointed judges. When it comes to the issue of whether it is deserved, I would make the case that judges deserve a fair compensation package given the stress that is involved, the important work, and the ongoing and increasing complexity of the law.
It is also necessary to note the importance of independence when it comes to our judiciary. Some individuals have talked about comparing judges' salaries to those of others in the public sector. There is some danger in doing that. Judges play a very unique role, as do other public servants. However, to try to somehow bring into play the underpayment of armed forces personnel, the need to give greater compensation to the policing community, those in the administrative justice community, leaves the wrong impression and tries to diminish the importance of what judges do. It is a very complex melee that is somewhat like the pay equity argument we have embarked on at various times in the Chamber.
The complexity of the law, the way in which the law has evolved and the interpretation that goes on daily in the courtrooms across the country, is something that is very onerous for judges. We had a comprehensive bill yesterday on organized crime. It is a step in the right direction, but it is legislation that would probably lead to a number of court challenges. That emphasizes the impact of changes in legislation. It also emphasizes the necessity for judges to deal with it and to put in place a proper judicial interpretation of the legislative initiatives that are taken here.
Fortunately, in Canada we have not seen any active attempts, at least that have been reported, to influence the judiciary by organized crime, but we must be vigilant. We must maintain the scales of justice and ensure that justice continues to be blind to outside influences on decisions made by the judiciary. We must ensure that it never happens. Part of this, I would suggest, comes from a fair compensation package.
We must ensure that our judiciary is independent, at arm's length and is feeling secure in their occupation. Thus, our party would support an attempt for a fair salary to preserve judicial independence. The Conservative Party has a long standing interest in the administration of justice and in ensuring that the judiciary are given support. Much of that support must come from financial stability.
The government accepted the recommendations that came from an independent Judicial Compensation and Benefits Commission. The board made recommendations after broad consultations and examinations of all economic factors that should have been considered.
First reading of the bill occurred on February 21, 2001, and the Judges Act would implement the recommendations made by the 1999 Judicial Compensation and Benefits Commission. The legislation does not come out of thin blue air. It came about from recommendations of an independent commission. It also followed a 1997 supreme court decision that established new constitutional requirements for determining compensation, requiring every Canadian jurisdiction to have an independent, objective and effective commission. It takes away the normal allegations that we often see pertaining to interference and an unfair process.
The bill would also increase salaries and allowances, improve the judicial annuities scheme and put in place a separate life insurance plan for federally appointed judges. It would make consequential amendments to the Judges Act and Supplementary Retirement Benefits Act.
In recent years, because of the increasing complexity of the law, although there is no shortage of applicants, many judges weigh heavily the decision to leave private practice and enter into a new form of service to the law. That decision, I am sure, is one that many members can appreciate for many members of parliament have left behind other careers to come and serve their country in this Chamber. It is very much analogous to the decision that judges take when leaving their profession to serve a higher calling, to serve the courts and their country in the form of interpretation and administration of the law.
In recent years there has been growing concern for some decisions made by judges. However, I would suggest that this is not reason enough to deny that judges play a crucial role. Organized crime is on the rise in Canada. It was addressed somewhat yesterday with the introduction of a package of changes to our laws. New legislation, such as this one, goes some distance to addressing this very serious matter, but it is crucial that judges would now be required to interpret this law.
Like many other institutions, we have seen judges in recent years come under attack for their salaries and the compensation they receive when compared to the low end of compensation. It sometimes seems somewhat askew, but I would encourage people to keep in perspective the salaries that are received at the high end, that is, the salaries that are sometimes paid to athletes and movie stars, and the role they play and the return they offer to society. It is important to look at the entire scheme when one considers the pay scale.
The judicial compensation and benefits commission has been appointed to a four year mandate. It is required to consider all these factors in arriving at its recommendations. When one considers the private sector scale in the area of the law, many judges take a pay cut upon assuming a role on the bench. There are many lawyers who are making modest salaries, for example those who continue to strive to administer the law in crown attorney offices.
Legal aid is often not mentioned in these deliberations. There are many legal aid lawyers who later go on to make significant contributions in courtrooms in their current occupations. They also go on to serve the country nobly as members of the bench, as judges.
Arguably it is the best training ground. I have often compared it to a MASH unit when it comes to triage and the medical profession. Legal aid lawyers and crown attorneys who are working in provincial and supreme courts across the country go on to become fantastic judges. I have borne witness to that myself. I had the opportunity to work with some individuals who later were elevated to the bench.
Referring back to the commission, its recommendations were based on research comparing judges' salaries to lawyers' salaries in the private sector and to performance bonuses of senior federal deputy ministers. It looked at the importance of salary and benefits in attracting the best of the best, the outstanding candidates that we require to administer the law.
The Judges Act would officially establish the judicial compensation and benefits commission, requiring the commission to convene every four years and report its recommendations within nine months. There is a very strict mandate and timeframe within which it must review the adequacy of judicial compensation. The commission would also consider the economic conditions at the time, the cost of living, overall economic position of federal judges, the financial security of the judiciary to ensure judicial independence, and the need to attract the best of the best.
Recommendations are not binding but the supreme court in its decisions requires the government to publicly justify any decision and acceptance of recommendations. These salary changes have already been put on the record. They range in the area of $200,000 for the Chief Justice of Canada, the puisne judges, and various federal court judges across the country.
The increasing complex legal malaise that faces judges and lawyers is something that we must consider when weighing the question of compensation. There has been quite a lengthy commentary about the need to compensate members of the RCMP, members of our armed forces and other public servants.
It is not to deny in any way that those salaries must be reviewed and elevated as well. It is not to suggest that if we compensate judges fairly we should not be focusing attention on these areas as well, or to deny that there are other very important pieces of legislation in the legal field that we should be examining.
Other members have mentioned the need to bring forward a youth criminal justice act and the important fact that after seven years it has not happened. There is also a need to examine a plethora of other legislative initiatives. We have seen the government's failings and shortcomings when it comes to addressing issues of the day.
Our party supports the concept that we must move on a number of areas in the near future. It is not to suggest that the bill should be given any great priority. It is the government's decision to set the priorities in terms of the legislative timetable. It is in everyone's interest to move the legislation before us forward and to get on to other important issues of the day. When that happens it would allow some of these other fields to be considered. When the legislation receives passage we can then look at other areas in terms of compensation.
April 6th, 2001 / 10:15 a.m.
Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the people of Surrey Central to participate in the third reading debate on Bill C-12, an act to amend the Judges Act.
Before I begin my remarks I would like to congratulate the chief opposition justice critic, the hon. member for Provencher, who has made excellent comments and explained very eloquently the official opposition's position on the Judges Act.
The purpose of the bill is to implement the federal government's response to the report of the 1999 Judicial Compensation and Benefits Commission regarding compensation and benefits for judges. It would amend the Judges Act to increase judicial salaries and allowances, modify the current judicial annuities scheme and put into place a separate life insurance plan for federally appointed judges.
Bill C-12 makes other consequential amendments to the Judges Act and the Supplementary Retirement Benefits Act. The commission is appointed for a four year term and mandated to consider the compensation and benefits of judges and to make recommendations to government.
The commission consists of three members appointed by the governor in council and it should be noted who nominates the three persons. One is nominated by the judiciary, one by the Minister of Justice and one, who acts as a chair, is nominated by the first two members.
The government accepted the commission's recommendation of a salary increase of 11.2% retroactive to April 1, 2000. The salary increase will cost approximately $19 million. The 42 page bill contains nothing but amendments, replacements or additions to previous clauses changing the salaries of 1,013 federally appointed judges. There are also amendments to compensation benefits, early and special retirement provisions, pro-rated annuities, et cetera.
The judiciary had initially proposed a salary increase of 26.3%. It had said the federal government must compete with high paying law firms to attract superior candidates to the bench. However federal representatives told a hearing into judges' salaries earlier this year that there was no shortage of candidates for the bench, pointing out that there had been eight applicants for each federal job over the last decade.
The last pay raise for federal judges was in 1998 when they received 4.1%. In 1997 they received another 4.1%. The judges received more than 8.2% in increases over two years. Judges' salaries are also indexed so they receive annual cost of living increases. While we have no position on judges' salaries and pensions we favour generally that they be comparable to those in the private sector.
In the 35th parliament the government introduced two bills, Bill C-2 and Bill C-42, amending the Judges Act. In the 36th parliament there was Bill C-37. All these bills, including Bill C-12 which we are debating today, have been said to be administrative in nature. Four times the Liberal government has come forward with amendments to the Judges Act.
Another concern I have with the bill is that the pay increase for federally appointed judges is higher than the increase the federal government is prepared to grant much lower paid public service employees. Lately it has been the practice of the government to grant raises to senior officers in the military, to senior bureaucrats and now to judges while dragging its feet on a general salary increase for staff.
While we do not dispute the salaries of appointed judges and others, they should generally be in line with the private sector. It is apparent that staff in the lower echelons of our justice system is being ignored. Public servants should get salary increases in keeping with the average Canadian wage earner. The government has awarded pay raises and bonuses to judges and senior bureaucrats while frontline police officers and lower level public servants receive little or nothing.
On March 27, 1998, RCMP officers secured a pay raise of 2% retroactive to January 1, 1998. They received a second increment of 1% on April 1, 1998, and an additional 0.7% increase on October 1, 1998. RCMP officers had their wages frozen for five years.
The official opposition will review and closely scrutinize the provisions of Bill C-12, including the annuities scheme.
It seems the government has tailor made legislation to fit certain individuals and situations. Legislation tailor made to fit an individual would compromise the impartiality of our judiciary. The changes proposed to the Judges Act would allow a judge who is married for the second time to another judge after the death of his or her first spouse, also a judge, to collect both or two survivor's benefits upon the death of his second spouse. One could only guess why the government would contemplate such a rare and highly unlikely situation. We will be investigating that and we will be vigilant while debating the bill.
We propose an independent and publicly accountable judiciary that would safeguard Canadians from the arbitrary power of the state. However it must remain the responsibility of parliament, not the courts, to debate and assess the conflicting objectives inherent in public policy development.
It is interesting to note that the last bill to amend the Judges Act, Bill C-37 in the 36th parliament, created the Judicial Compensation and Benefits Commission which provided the federal government yet another opportunity to make patronage appointments. The failure of the current bill to introduce changes to the appointment process means that important and high paying positions in our court system will remain part of the patronage system.
However the Canadian Alliance would like to see the patronage appointment process in the judiciary overhauled to make it more transparent and publicly accountable. One option would be to strike a committee to review and interview candidates whose names would be put forward to the Prime Minister.
The input of the provinces, which are affected directly by decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada, is required in such matters. At the moment there is no input from the provinces in the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Section 69 of the Canadian Alliance declaration of policy, which is always dictated by the grassroots members, states:
We believe that a non-partisan civil service, an independent judiciary and competent leadership of government agencies, boards and commissions are vital in a democracy. We will therefore ensure appointments to these positions are made through an open and accountable process based on merit.
In conclusion, both Liberal justice ministers since 1993 have failed to introduce a victims' bill of rights, address important issues pertaining to drinking and driving or even pass a young offenders act. Instead they occupy the justice committee with administrative matters at the expense of more important issues. The country is experiencing a backlog in the courts and criminal trials are being put on hold, yet the government tinkers with the salaries of judges.
I regret that judges are somehow caught up in the legislation. We acknowledge that judges are very hard working and want to contribute to making our judicial system fairer and faster as well as to making Canada a better country. We are talking about Liberal government mismanagement.
The government's unfair treatment of Canadians who work or are otherwise involved in the criminal justice system knows no boundaries. Its inequitable treatment of Canadian workers extends all the way to the federal court benches. It does not treat the victims of crime fairly, and today we are debating a bill that does not even treat judges fairly.
The bill does not address the multitude of concerns that many Canadians have with the judicial system. My colleagues and I strongly oppose the bill unless it is amended.