Courts Administration Service Act

An Act to establish a body that provides administrative services to the Federal Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, the Court Martial Appeal Court and the Tax Court of Canada, to amend the Federal Court Act, the Tax Court of Canada Act and the Judges Act, and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.

Sponsor

Anne McLellan  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

December 6th, 2007 / 3 p.m.
See context

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, 2007 has been a great year for Canada and a great year for the House of Commons.

Next week is the last week of the fall sitting and the last week before the new year. The sitting and the year have been extremely successful for the federal government, as we have introduced legislation in all of our priority areas and have delivered results for Canadians.

However, since we have only a few sitting days remaining this year to address important tax cuts, security issues and other priority bills still pending, Canadians are expecting us to work very hard in the coming days to produce results for them.

We want to see our priority bills passed in this House and sent to the Senate so that they may become law before Christmas. As a result, next week will be 2007, a year of results week.

We plan to build on our past achievements by debating and passing the budget implementation bill, which would lower taxes for all Canadians by reducing the GST to 5%, as well as by bringing in tax cuts for individuals and corporations.

We will debate Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Canada-United States Tax Convention Act, 1984, which must be passed by Parliament before January 1 to ensure that it is implemented and we can benefit from that.

We will also debate our railway transportation bill, Bill C-8, and our bill on the settlement of international investment disputes, Bill C-9. Both bills will help create jobs and provide economic certainty for Canadians.

Our government will continue to show Canadians that we are serious about tackling crime and strengthening the security of Canadians. Next week, we expect that our security certificates bill, Bill C-3, will be reported back from committee. The bill will then be debated at report stage and third reading. We hope the hon. members of the House understand the importance of passing this legislation so that it may be considered and passed by the Senate before the deadline imposed by the Supreme Court.

We will debate any amendments made to our Bill C-13 on criminal procedure, currently being examined by the Senate.

Speaking of the Senate, the government hopes that the tackling violent crime act will pass the Senate so Canadians can feel safer over the Christmas holidays knowing that the bill has been enacted into law.

Canadians also expect their institutions to be more accountable and democratic. We have built a record of results on this file as well, with the passage of the Federal Accountability Act and Bill C-31 to improve the integrity of the voting process. Next week we will continue with our plans in this area by debating Bill C-29, which closes a loophole in our campaign financing laws that Liberal leadership candidates used to bypass campaign contribution limits last year.

We would also like Bill C-6, on the visual identification of voters, and Bill C-18, on the verification of residence, to be sent back by committee. It is important for these bills to become law, so that they can be implemented in time for the next byelections.

Tomorrow I will also seek consent to send Bill C-30, the specific land claims bill, to committee. This bill to create certainty and allow land claims to be resolved more quickly is a welcome addition and the country will be better off the sooner its process is put in place.

This year, 2007, has been an excellent year for Canada. Our economy is booming, the country is united and there is integrity in government.

We have achieved a lot this year. Our government has delivered real results for Canadians in 2007 and will continue to do so next week and in the new year.

Message from the Senate
The Royal Assent

March 27th, 2002 / 11:40 a.m.
See context

The Deputy Speaker

I have the honour to inform the House that when the House went up to the Senate chamber, the Deputy Governor General was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:

Bill C-51, 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. 5.

Bill C-52, an act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2003— Chapter No. 6.

Bill C-39, an act to replace the Yukon Act in order to modernize it and to implement certain provisions of the Yukon Northern Affairs Program Devolution Transfer Agreement, and to repeal and make amendments to other acts—Chapter No. 7.

Bill C-30, an act to establish a body that provides administrative services to the Federal Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, the Court Martial Appeal Court and the Tax Court of Canada, to amend the Federal Court Act, the Tax Court of Canada Act and the Judges Act, and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts—Chapter No. 8.

Bill C-49, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on December 10, 2001—Chapter No. 9.

It being 11.50 a.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday, April 8, 2002, at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Orders 28 and 24.

(The House adjourned at 11.50 a.m.)

Courts Administration Service Act
Government Orders

February 22nd, 2002 / 10:50 a.m.
See context

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The question is on the motion for third reading of Bill C-30. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Courts Administration Service Act
Government Orders

February 22nd, 2002 / 10:30 a.m.
See context

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate.

This bill is one which I think has already been described as technical in nature, but certainly is a very important bill and one that has laudable aims and goals. On behalf of my colleagues in the Progressive Conservative coalition, we are supportive of the bill, the efforts it entails in making the courts more effective and efficient and, to use the vernacular, keeping the wheels of justice turning in what is increasingly a very complex system throughout this country.

It has salary components and elements of consolidation. The salary components perhaps are those which could be described as the most sexy parts of this bill. In essence, their aim is to ensure that judges remain independent and free of influence. The bill touches upon some of the very tenets of law in that it is meant to ensure there is greater access and efficiency in the administration of justice.

The bill itself touches upon a number of elements that I hope to discuss in my brief remarks, but there is an important component behind all bills that relate to justice.

If I can digress for just a moment, one of the cornerstones of justice is the importance of truth, the importance of the evidence itself being presented in a truthful fashion. All efforts that are made to ensure that this is implicit in the administration of justice are very important. We could learn from this in the Chamber in the process we engage in as members of parliament; the importance of truth, the importance of ministers and of all members to be truthful in their relating of evidence, information and their exchanges within the Chamber.

The bill touches on a large number of other areas of the law. It touches on things such as the Federal Court of Appeal, the Court Martial Appeal Court, the Tax Court of Canada. It amends the Federal Court Act, the Judges Act and other consequential acts.

It can be described best as an omnibus bill. We have seen numerous omnibus legislation in this government's tenure. Some of that has been a very poison and partisan process which often has been used to try to scuttle opposition criticisms of certain elements of legislation. I do not believe that is the case with the bill before the House.

What the bill tries to do is consolidate the current administrative services of the Federal Court of Canada, the Court Martial Appeal Court and the Tax Court of Canada into a single courts administration service. It is aimed at streamlining the delivery of court services.

Often when we hear members of the government use this word, it is fair to say that we expect the opposite because streamlining has really not been this government's forte. In fact, we have seen expansion of bureaucracy under this particular government. However, at least in its intent the bill is certainly trying to streamline the current system. It amends the Federal Court Act and related legislation to create a separate Federal Court of Appeal and it amends the Tax Court of Canada and related legislation that changes the status of the tax court to that of a superior court.

It also goes about amending other federal statutes such as the Judges Act and the Access to Information Act, which we know has been thwarted in some instances very recently by this government, particularly as it relates to the disclosure of charge accounts of senior bureaucrats and ministers. That is unfortunate and is inconsistent with the government's earlier promises to be more transparent and more open in its administration. That certainly has not been the case.

The bill also touches upon the Canada Elections Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Employment Insurance Act, Extradiction Act, Immigration Act, Income Tax Act, National Defence Act and Privacy Act to name a few. This is not the complete list.

I want to talk just for a moment about some of the substantive elements of the bill.

Bill C-30 proposes to change the Federal Court Act so that:

The Court shall consist of two divisions, called the Federal Court—Appeal Division (which may be referred to as the Court of Appeal or Federal Court of Appeal) and the Federal Court—Trial Division.

Under clause 19, section 10(1) of the act would read:

--any judge of a superior, county or district court in Canada, and any person who has held office as a judge of a superior, county or district court in Canada, may, at the request of the Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Appeal made with the approval of the Governor in Council, act as a judge of the Federal Court of Appeal, and while so acting has all the powers of a judge of that court and shall be referred to as a deputy judge of that court.

This would expand the diversity of the actions of judges in that capacity.

This can happen under current legislation but judges need the permission of the chief justice or chief judge of the court on which they currently serve as members, or they would need the permission of the attorney general of the province. It creates a new process to be followed.

Under the bill, section 11 of the act would read:

(1) Every person who is a barrister or an advocate in a province may practise as a barrister or an advocate in the Federal Court of Appeal or the Federal Court.

(2) Every person who is an attorney or a solicitor in a superior court of a province may practise as an attorney or a solicitor in the Federal Court of Appeal or the Federal Court.

It goes on to talk about the attorney, advocate or solicitor being an officer of the court.

Clause 21 of the bill with respect to sheriffs and their actions within the court is of importance and deserves highlighting. Under it, section 13 of the act would state:

(1) The Governor in Council may appoint a sheriff of the Federal Court of Appeal and of the Federal Court for any geographical area.

(2) If no sheriff is appointed under subsection (1) for a court for a geographical area, the sheriff and deputy sheriffs of the county or other judicial division or part of the county within that geographical area who are appointed under provincial law are ex officio sheriffs and deputy sheriffs--

In the constituency I represent in Nova Scotia, Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough, we have an efficient and effective sheriff system due in great part to men like Jim MacDonald who is the high sheriff for Pictou county. The men and women acting in that capacity are custodians of justice in a very real sense. They are called on daily in their duties to help administer. They are the front line deliverers of many services and in some cases are the enforcers of the law.

They work closely with other elements in the administration system like the prothonotary. We are fortunate in Pictou county to have a woman as capable and competent as Doris Scanlan. She and others in the area I represent are doing an extremely good job for the people of Pictou county and surrounding areas.

One of the changes in Bill C-30 that relates to sheriffs would give every sheriff or deputy sheriff of the court ex officio status. A marshal as an ex officio would become a deputy marshall of the court.

There are elements of the bill that speak to the jurisdiction of the trial division. Under subclause 25(3) of Bill C-30, section 17 of the Federal Court Act would be modified as follows:

(3) The Federal Court has exclusive originaljurisdiction to hear and determine thefollowing matters:

(a) the amount to be paid if the Crown andany person have agreed in writing that the Crown or that person shall pay an amount to be determined by the Federal Court, the Federal Court—Trial Division or the Exchequer Court of Canada; and

(b) any question of law, fact or mixed lawand fact that the Crown and any person haveagreed in writing shall be determined by the Federal Court, the Federal Court--Trial Division or the Exchequer Court of Canada.

(4) The Federal Court has concurrent original jurisdiction to hear and determine proceedings to determine disputes in which the Crown is or may be under an obligationand in respect of which there are or may be conflicting claims.

The bill is technical in nature but deals with the nuts and bolts of the administration of justice, be it in civil matters or matters involving the criminal administration of justice.

A number of clauses deal with payment and the affixing or assigning of debt. I am referring to judgments of the court. Clause 50 of the bill deals with section 52 of the existing act which states:

The Federal Court of Appeal may

(a) quash proceedings in cases brought before it in which it has no jurisdiction or whenever those proceedings are not taken in good faith--

That is in essence the power to quash proceedings.

In the case of an appeal from the trial division it would have the power to dismiss the appeal or give judgment and awards the trial division should have given or awarded.

Again, the bill deals with making decisions based on fact, assignment of debt, and declarations or conclusions the trial division may have made that are subject to appeal.

The sections dealing with the tax court can be viewed as quite complicated but are of great importance. My colleague in the Alliance Party from Saskatchewan spoke quite eloquently in suggesting the administration of justice and civil court actions have become extremely cumbersome and convoluted and are beyond the pale of most average citizens. The ability to access justice and court administration has become cumbersome and almost unattainable in some instances because of the cost. It is cost prohibitive in many instances to take an action to court.

I mention this to underscore the importance of speeding up the way we react to conflicts in the law and the time it takes to get matters to the courts and the judges. We are finding time and again that the Department of Justice is in many instances complicit in efforts to delay justice because it is used as a tactic. It is used as a tactic in all levels of court to the advantage of individuals who have the ability to pay. The government is in a much stronger position if it can drag matters out to the point where people simply give up and go away because they cannot afford a lawyer or filing costs and in many instances cannot afford to wait and put their lives on hold.

This is an extremely important problem throughout the country. I hope the bill will have an impact on it. I am not completely confident it is the solution the government holds it out to be, but I see some merit in its efforts to streamline administration and make the courts more effective.

My hon. friend from Cumberland--Colchester would agree that it depends very much on the professionals and the proficiency of people working in the system. Whether in government, law, business or professional sports, a certain standard and level of efficiency must be applied. It cannot always be imposed by legislation. It must be fostered. It must be encouraged. It must be rewarded in some instances.

I hope the personnel who carry out the administration of justice will take seriously the intent of the bill. This is not in any way to cast aspersions on those who work in the system. I made a statement yesterday in the House about legal aid lawyers in Canada who do a tremendous job with a lack of resources. They go far beyond the pale in terms of the preparation time they require and the extraordinary effort they make to ensure access to justice on behalf of their clients.

It truly is a crisis. I do not use the word lightly because the phrase is often over-used in this place. Prosecutors and legal aid lawyers are labouring under a system that has become bogged down. The wheels of justice have not been turning in an effective way. I am hopeful that Bill C-30 is a starting point. It is an opportunity to revisit and re-examine areas in which we can become more efficient.

I alluded earlier to the Judges Act. One of the upshots of the bill would be to address increasing concerns about judges being susceptible to influence. I will be blunt. I am talking about organized crime, biker gangs or terrorists, either within our country or globally, attempting to influence judges through intimidation or bribes.

As the subcommittee on organized crime made a brief foray into the problem of organized crime in Canada it became clear that the scourge of organized criminal activity had far reaching influence in both criminal and legitimate sectors of Canadian society. We cannot in any way, shape or form allow such influence to permeate the halls of justice.

Thus the issue of judges and justices' salaries becomes increasingly important. We must find a way to ensure judicial independence is always maintained and that judges are not tempted by any outside influence that could compromise their rulings from the bench. This is an element of the bill we in the coalition feel is extremely important and one we embrace and support.

The salaries of federal court judges in recent years have by Canadian standards been seen as quite high. However let us consider the importance of the job they do, the pristine nature of the law, the need for it to be administered correctly and the need to attract the best, brightest, and most ethical. I strongly urge Canadians to think about the issue in that context.

The margin of error for people who administer justice is very small. Sadly, in recent days and years we have seen examples where people who should not have been entrusted with the responsibility have made improper rulings and commentary that have done considerable damage to communities and to the public image of their profession.

The bill would set out the levels of salaries, fix rates of compensation and deal with the duties judges are expected to perform. It would deal with how long they are required or permitted to stay in their positions and how they might be removed for indiscretions. It would deal with designation and salary adjustments if they choose to step down or are removed involuntarily from their positions of responsibility.

The bill is quite voluminous. It touches on important administrative departments and legislation in the current context.

The Access to Information Act is another bill which deserves our attention. There is a change afoot within section 52 of that act. It states:

(1) Any application under section 41 or 42 relating to a record or a part of a record that the head of a government institution has refused to disclose by reason of paragraph 13(1)(a) or (b) or section 15 shall be heard and determined by the Associate Chief Justice of the Federal Court or by such other judge of the Court as the Associate Chief Justice may designate to hear such applications.

This is very apropos to a current situation. The information commissioner, John Reid, has commenced an action because of the refusal of the PMO to turn over certain documents pertaining to the Prime Minister's schedule. Sadly, the issue of whether the documents should be made public is sometimes blurred. The information commissioner is not suggesting the documents simply be made public. He is suggesting he has the right to look at them and determine whether they should be made public.

Mr. Reid is a former member of parliament and distinguished member of the House. It is ludicrous and beyond perverse that the Prime Minister, who is ultimately responsible for appointing the information commissioner and entrusting those responsibilities to him, is in essence saying he does not trust him to make the call. It is somewhat disturbing and inconsistent with any suggestion of transparency in government.

Courts Administration Service Act
Government Orders

February 22nd, 2002 / 10:20 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Michel Guimond Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-30, an act to establish a body that provides administrative services to the Federal Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, the Court Martial Appeal Court and the Tax Court of Canada. It consolidates the administrative services already in place under a chief administrator. This bill also creates a Court Martial Appeal Court and makes justices of the Federal Tax Court into justices of the Superior Court .

The first amendment had been needed for some years, and in fact reflects the organization chart already in place for the other courts, both federal and provincial, that is a court of first instance, or trial court, and an appeal court. The third is a matter of terminology only, not changing the powers and duties of these judges in any way.

I wish to point out to begin with that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of protecting the principles of impartiality and independence of the judiciary from any interference by the executive and legislative branches of government. We are, however, forced to admit that the Minister of Justice, a Quebecer to boot, has not seen fit to extend this protection to the mechanisms for selecting the chief administrator, by having a call for nominations from which the final selection would be made by the House and not by appointment by the governor in council.

When we see that a bill states that appointments are to be made by the governor in council, this is just a roundabout way of saying, “We want to continue the system of patronage we have at present”. The governor in council is in fact a body composed of none other than the Prime Minister and the PMO, which decides on certain appointments. This takes us back to the standard demand by the Bloc Quebecois that these appointments need to be submitted to democratic screening the House and its committees.

If the government, which often makes the claim of transparency, has nothing to hide, why does it allow this power to be left in the hands of the Prime Minister, his cabinet and the Privy Council, which is really nothing but the Prime Minister's department?

This bill could be more effective if it respected the concept of appearance of justice by giving preference to the selection of candidates, rather than a governor in council appointment. The Bloc Québécois presented an amendment in committee to call for nominations in order to select the chief administrator. As members can imagine, given the Liberal majority sitting on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, this amendment was rejected. We believe that the suggestion made by the Bloc Québécois could have preserved the independence of the bench and protected it from government interference.

While an independent administrative body is created, its administrator remains under the authority of the executive branch, namely the Prime Minister's Office, because of the appointment process itself. Why did the government not also want to preserve the independence of the chief administrator?

There is a contradiction here and, as parliamentarians, we are greatly disappointed by that. We were hoping for more. Given the government's intention to undertake a reform in this area, it would have been desirable to extend its scope to the fullest.

In conclusion, the Bloc Québécois feels that the objectives mentioned in the preamble of the bill, which include co-ordinating activities between the various federal courts an increasing judicial independence and responsibilities regarding the use of public moneys, must be supported.

In spite of the flaw relating to the appointment process of the chief administrator, the Bloc Québécois feels that the protection of the principle of judicial independence must prevail. This being said, the Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-30 at third reading.

Courts Administration Service Act
Government Orders

February 22nd, 2002 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Northumberland
Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to lead off the debate on third reading of Bill C-30, an act to establish a body that provides administrative services to the Federal Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, the Court Martial Appeal Court and the Tax Court of Canada.

The principal objective of Bill C-30 is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the administration of the Federal Court of Canada and the Tax Court of Canada through certain structural modifications to these courts. At the same time, these amendments are intended to fully respect the courts' independence and to ensure the continued provision of the high quality of justice that Canadians have a right to expect from these courts.

The bill contains three important structural modifications to the courts. First, the consolidation of the current administrative services of the two, the federal court and the tax court, into a single courts administration service. Second, the creation of a separate Federal Court of Appeal. Third, a change in the status of the tax court to that of a superior court.

The most significant structural modification to the bill is the consolidation of the administrative services of the courts and the establishment of the courts administration service. The service would provide the administrative needs of the federal court, the tax court and the court martial appeal court. This would entail common management of all aspects of administration, including court facilities, registries and related real property and common corporate services.

As hon. members know, our constitution establishes that responsibility and power for courts administration be shared between the judiciary and the government. The government is responsible for providing and is publicly accountable for the necessary resources required to support the courts' functions while chief justices are responsible and accountable for the effective administration of the courts as it relates to the judicial function.

The Supreme Court of Canada has held that to ensure the courts' institutional independence the judiciary must control all matters bearing directly on the adjudicative function.

However, delineating the respective authority and accountability of the government and the judiciary is not always a simple task. There is a large operational and policy area in which both government and the judiciary have an interest and a role.

Thus, in addition to the constitutional imperative that any model developed must respect the role of the judiciary and the government in the administration of the courts, the practical realities of this shared responsibility necessitated collaboration between the government and the judiciary in the development of the proposed structure of the courts administrative service.

The bill would establish a structure that would permit both the government and the judiciary, through the office of the courts administration service, with the chief administrator at the head, to collaborate in such a way as to maximize public accountability and judicial independence.

In addition to being supported by the courts affected by the reforms, these reforms will be welcomed by those served by the courts. The establishment of a single administrative structure will enable administrative improvements and efficiencies to be effectively realized while maintaining the high quality of service that Canadians expect from our national institutions.

I am very pleased to report that during the second reading debate, all parties indicated their support for Bill C-30. I would ask all hon. members of the House for their continued support.

The bill represents an unprecedented opportunity to put in place a model for court administration that will balance judicial independence and public accountability as well as create opportunities for realizing economies and efficiencies.

As hon. members are aware, the bill was introduced by the former minister of justice. I am very pleased to carry forward legislation that in my view creates an innovative structure.

I believe that with its appropriate balance between public accountability and the requisite institutional independence of the courts the service will become a model for other jurisdictions.

I thank the hon. members of the House for their attention today and ask for their support in the passage of Bill C-30.

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

February 21st, 2002 / 3 p.m.
See context

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, we will continue this afternoon with report stage debate of Bill C-5 respecting species at risk.

Tomorrow we will consider report stage and third reading of Bill C-30, the courts administration legislation, and return to third reading of Bill C-27 respecting nuclear safety. Bill C-48, the copyright bill, will be our backup work for tomorrow afternoon if we have time.

Next week, we will return to Bill C-5. We are now in the third day of the report stage of that bill and I should think that the House would want to complete consideration of this bill without much further delay. As early as we can, depending on when Bill C-49, the Budget Implementation Act, 2001, is reported from committee, we will want to try to deal with it at the report and third reading stages.

Thursday of next week, February 28, will be an allotted day.

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

January 31st, 2002 / 3:50 p.m.
See context

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, this is my first reply to the customary Thursday question about House business. I want to thank all the House leaders and deputy House leaders of the other parties for the manner in which they have received this newcomer into their fraternity of House leaders. I look forward to a constructive relationship.

This afternoon we will continue with Bill C-7, the youth justice bill. If this is completed we will proceed to report stage of Bill C-30 respecting courts administration.

Tomorrow we will debate second reading of Bill C-48, the copyright legislation.

Monday we will continue with unfinished business and Tuesday will be an allotted day. Next Wednesday, we hope to be able to start the debate on second reading of the budget legislation.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

December 12th, 2001 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Andy Scott Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the tenth report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Pursuant to the order of reference of Wednesday, October 3, the committee has considered Bill C-30, the courts administration act, and has agreed to report it with amendments.

Courts Administration Service Act
Government Orders

October 3rd, 2001 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Stan Keyes Hamilton West, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I wonder if you could ask the hon. member to address the issue that is before the House, specifically Bill C-30 on streamlining and the effectiveness of combining the administration of the courts.

Courts Administration Service Act
Government Orders

October 3rd, 2001 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Kelowna, BC

Madam Speaker, we have an interesting bill before us. It is probably one of the simplest and most incontrovertible bills we have seen for a long time. It rationalizes what would appear to be a logical thing to do: to organize these courts under one umbrella and one chief administrator. It makes eminent good sense.

As a business person and an administrator in a previous life I think it makes jolly good sense. It is about time someone did something like this. The auditor general said it would be a good thing to do and it is. On the face of it that part makes excellent sense.

For the benefit of our listeners and viewers this afternoon I will indicate exactly which four courts would be rationalized under one administrative body. They are the Federal Court of Canada, the Federal Court of Appeal, the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada and the Tax Court of Canada.

As we all know there is entrepreneurial bureaucracy in the world. There are entrepreneurial bureaucrats whose function seems to be to increase the number of people under their administration. The salary structure is put together in such a way that the more people one administers the greater one's pay, and of course the greater the responsibility and the more the work expands.

We have created a super administrative body whose chief administrator has one of the most auspicious jobs in the world. The administrator's job is to tell judges they cannot use a particular room on a certain day. That is a tremendous power. The chief administrator can tell judges, who for all intents and purposes are superior, where they can go to practise their art.

I am overstating the case. I am not really serious but I am sure that kind of thing will happen. The independence that my colleague mentioned is a real issue. The way the government states the case in terms of the purposes of the bill is significant. I will read from the bill. It states:

The purposes of this Act are to

(a) facilitate coordination and cooperation among the Federal Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, the Court Martial Appeal Court and the Tax Court of Canada for the purpose of ensuring the effective and efficient provision of administrative services to those courts;

Here is the significant part. Its purpose is also to:

(b) enhance judicial independence by placing administrative services at arm's length from the Government of Canada and by affirming the roles of chief justices and judges in the management of the courts; and

(c) enhance accountability for the use of public money in support of court administration while safeguarding the independence of the judiciary.

Three issues are at stake here: independence, accountability, and not only independence for the justices but independence from the Government of Canada. Is it not interesting that the judiciary should be placed in a position where there is independence from the Government of Canada? I am not entirely sure how a judge would interpret this. In the final analysis the courts are set up by legislation which is a function of the Government of Canada. We do it here.

In one sense we want judges to be independent when they interpret laws. In their interpretations judges should take into account the intent of the Parliament of Canada when it passed the laws. That is what they should do. I want judges to be independent and not influenced by the political vagaries of the day a law was passed. However I want them to know what the intent of the law was.

When the Canadian constitution and the bill of rights were passed certain clear indications were made by the Parliament of Canada. The Supreme Court of Canada later read into those provisions certain clauses, interpretations and definitions that were never intended by the House of Commons.

That means there is independence not only in terms of interpreting the law but in the sense of judges telling parliament what they think it should have done. A power exists in Canada today that ought not to be there as far as judges are concerned.

One might ask whether I am taking this too far. I do not think so. There is evidence that this has happened. We need to be careful in considering this type of legislation which seems so innocuous on the surface. When it is working its way through the system we should examine what its end result could be.

It is interesting that the auditor general not only recommended a body that would tie together the administrative services of the courts under one umbrella, he also suggested some courts ought to be amalgamated. My hon. colleague said there was opposition to amalgamation.

I talked earlier about bureaucratic entrepreneurship. One of the laws of bureaucratic entrepreneurship is that no one shall ever take away one's authority or reduce the number of people over whom one has supervisory responsibility. That is anathema to being a bureaucrat.

Am I suggesting bureaucrats are bad people? Heavens no, I am not. They are wonderful people. They help us a lot. It would be terrible if bureaucrats were not extremely jealous about their positions. They had better be, or what are they doing there?

I want bureaucrats to be truthful and honest. In discussing his experience in the provincial legislature the hon. member indicated that it was difficult to find out from the people he was responsible for what was happening with the utilization of space they were paying for.

I do not blame these people for making it difficult, but there is something wrong with the system when it is that difficult to get at the truth. We need to recognize that as a society. We need to recognize it in the House of Commons.

I will move away from Bill C-30 for a couple of minutes to talk about its timing. Canadians are neighbours of the United States of America. Twenty-two days ago we witnessed a horrible event. Terrorists killed innocent people. Yet here we are today being asked by the government and the House to consider legislation to rationalize the administrative services of our courts rather than legislation to deal with terrorism. I question the timing. How could this be more important than the September 11 tragedy?

What we need in our society today is a commitment to honesty, truth and the recognition that terrorism does not arise out of poverty. Terrorism does not arise out of the fact that someone did not get his way. Terrorism arises from a heart that wants to kill or destroy, for whatever reason. There is evil in the world. That is what gives rise to terrorism. The best laws in the world will not prevent evil. All they can hope to do is push it back a bit so it does not become the force it could become.

The hon. member from the coalition indicated the establishment in Halifax of the Hell's Angels. The group had a storefront advertising the fact that they were there. We would not call them terrorists at this point; however, what goes on in the hearts of people who are organized for the specific purpose of defying the law?

What goes on in the mind of a judge who issues a perfunctory punishment to people who deliberately and in an organized manner grow marijuana? The judge slaps them on the wrist with a $5,000 fine. They laugh at the judge and say it is an expensive business licence, and they carry on doing business.

It used to be that law enforcement officers and the judges who found these people guilty could confiscate the material they used to grow the marijuana, or whatever the criminal offence was. They cannot do so any more.

What has happened to us? What has happened to our school systems? The system does not seem to care any more whether students cheat on an examination. Yes, we make noise and tell students they shall not cheat, but the kids go home and say that everyone is doing it. What is wrong when students feel they cannot perform too well because they will be frowned upon up on? They do not make their best effort.

We need to move ahead with truth, honesty and integrity so we can do the things that will build our society and make us strong. That is the strongest instrument against terrorism we could possibly devise.

Does that mean we should not have good legislation against terrorism? Of course we should. However we should also challenge parents, school teachers, MPs and every leader of the community to instill into the hearts and minds of people that it is important to pass good laws, obey those laws and make sure our kids do the same.

We need to be sure Bill C-30 achieves its purpose of giving independence to the administrative body. That is what we need to go for. However it will depend on judges who have the right heart. It will depend on administrators who have the right heart. The intent of Bill C-30 will need to be observed by the judges who are asked to interpret and apply it.

Courts Administration Service Act
Government Orders

October 3rd, 2001 / 4:05 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Kelowna, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the erudite analysis of Bill C-30 that my hon. colleague from Provencher just gave us.

Given his experience as attorney general and, in his previous life, as a practitioner and a member of the bar, would he agree with the comments of Alex Macdonald, the former attorney general of British Columbia, regarding the prodigal law in the justice system in Canada? He said that the law states that the amount of time it takes to bring a case to its culmination depends directly on the amount of money and the amount of time available to service the case.

The auditor general showed us that roughly less than 50% of the courts actually were occupied by judges and lawyers hearing cases. There is a tremendous inefficiency here. It must have taken a lot of ingenuity on the part of the judges and lawyers to bring it up to 50% because clearly their interest would be to make sure they have access to the space and that it would be free and independent as it possibly could be.

The auditor general has provided us with a tremendous insight here. He was able to unearth something that apparently was clear to everyone, yet at the same time these people had a vested interest to make sure they did not find that.

Could the member comment on the prodigal law and on the vested interest that individuals have in making sure that the space is available in the public sector that they want but may not need?

Courts Administration Service Act
Government Orders

October 3rd, 2001 / 3:50 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, I appreciated the comments made by the member of the coalition. I am pleased to participate in the discussion regarding Bill C-30, the courts administration service act.

The bill would consolidate the administrative services of the Federal Court of Canada, the Court Martial Appeal Court and the Tax Court of Canada into a single courts administration service. It would create the position of chief administrator of the courts administrative service. The bill would also create a separate federal court of appeal and change the status of the tax court to that of a superior court.

Bill C-30 is the government's response to the 1997 report of the auditor general entitled “Report on the Federal Court of Canada and the Tax Court of Canada”. The report reviewed the possible regionalization and or merger of the Federal Court's trial division and the Tax Court of Canada as well as the consolidation of their administrative support services. The report also presented the results of an audit of the registry services of the two courts.

The member for Winnipeg--Transcona indicated that he had some concerns about the auditor general moving into what he classified as a policy initiative. I welcome that kind of initiative by a public servant. It gives members of the House a clearly laid out plan and suggestion. Ultimately it would always be up to members of the House to determine whether or not we would accept that policy recommendation.

Bill C-30 enacts only the report's recommendation to consolidate the administrative services of the two courts, although it may be viewed by some as a first step toward an eventual total merger.

The arguments in favour of the proposed consolidation of the administrative services in Bill C-30 appear to be reasonable and sound calculations. The main concern articulated by the auditor general was that significant improvements were needed in the area of court registry cost effectiveness.

Among the existing problems cited were poor planning of facilities, lack of information technology and the fact that the supply of courtrooms exceeded the combined needs of both the federal court and the tax court.

With respect to the excess of courtrooms available, the auditor general simply noted what most members of the bar have been stating for years. His affirmation of this in the report was an important step which we can now use to proceed.

The report examined the physical facilities of both courts to determine whether they were being planned or used in an effective manner. The conclusion of the auditor general was that the two courts had an oversupply of courtrooms and that the actual use of courtrooms was low. The Federal Court's rate of use of its own courtrooms was about 21% based on data from 1993 to 1995.

Other users account for about 16% of overall use and total use amounts to only 36% of total availability. The tax court's use of its own courtrooms is slightly higher at 35% to 38% and total use ranges between 37% and 41%.

If we were any kind of a private business that needed to account to shareholders for efficiencies, our shareholders would have this board of directors out on its ears. We are in fact accountable but not just to shareholders. We are accountable to the voters of Canada. This kind of glaring problem staring us in the face demands action.

Again it illustrates the concern that I voiced earlier. I have no problem with the consolidation of courtrooms and administrators and the like to improve efficiencies. My concern, which I see as an apparently inevitable road that we will go down, arises as we move toward the independent administration of the courts by judges. As the members responsible for taxpayer dollars, how do we ask judges to account if we turn this over to them?

Looking at the rate of use now, I think most judges would say we would not have much trouble trying to beat that record. Therefore, we as parliamentarians, and specifically the Liberal government, have done nothing to encourage efficiency in that respect. That may be a good reason for saying that the government has done nothing to encourage efficiency and that the courts should do it. I have a better plan which involves this side of the House sitting in the government benches, but that will have to wait for a number of years.

The auditor general's report claims that consolidation of courtrooms and registry offices could yield major savings, perhaps $1 million just in leasing expenses. The auditor general further estimates that millions of dollars of possible savings could be gained if all recommended changes within the report were implemented.

Let us take a brief look at the report's specific recommendations to consolidate the administrative services to the Federal Court of Canada, Trial Division and the Tax Court of Canada.

The report recommends the consolidation of corporate services for the court registries, estimating the savings at $600,000 per year. The report states that consolidation could greatly facilitate improved planning and use of resources, as well as increase the opportunity to plan for federal judicial centres that would meet the needs of the courts, federal boards and tribunals.

Of course many of the issues reviewed in the auditor general's report are not new to the two courts being considered. Many of the recommendations of the auditor general have been previously endorsed by the courts.

As part of a government wide series of program reviews in 1994, the Federal Court undertook a review of its activities. The Federal Court's program review recommended that the government consider consolidation of judicial responsibilities presently held by different courts and different tribunals.

The Federal Court's program review suggested that the government also explore amalgamation of the Federal Court with the tax court and opportunities where by responsibilities of boards and commissions could be dealt with more appropriately, by a trial court for example.

The tax court also recommended to the government a possible consolidation of corporate services among the Supreme Court of Canada, the Federal Court of Canada and the Tax Court of Canada, as well as quasi-judicial commissions, boards and tribunals.

They believe a consolidation could eliminate duplication of work and harmonize policies and procedures in areas such as personnel, finance, security, administration and information technology.

Although the bill only proposes to consolidate the administrative services of the two courts, a move which would not face much opposition from each court, I would suggest, as I stated earlier, it may be viewed by some as the first step toward a total merger of the courts.

While consolidation of the administrative services of the courts as outlined in the bill is a reasonable solution to the many problems articulated by the auditor general, a total merger of the courts is a far more contentious issue. The tax court and legal counsel appearing before that court are known to be strongly opposed to a merger. Those employed by the tax court believe that the efficiency of the court would be lost in a merger and maintain that the hearing of tax cases requires a specialized court.

The tax court indeed has highly specialized judges and it is seen as efficient and effective by the lawyers who appear before it.

The tax court also maintains that most of the significant problems in registry services are related to the Federal Court and not the tax court. It argues that there would be increased delays in hearing tax cases if the tax court merged with the Federal Court. Furthermore, the judges of the tax court joined the court with the understanding that they would deal primarily with tax matters. They may view a merger that requires them to deal with other matters as a breach of that understanding.

Tax counsel have stated that at a minimum judges experienced in tax law are needed to hear cases and that if the courts are merged a separate tax division should be established. I do not think that is a radical suggestion. We have done that with other superior courts in the area of provincial superior courts. For example, we would have a general court of justice and then a specialized family law division. I do not see as being a negative thing. Indeed, I think we could respect that specialization and yet still have the flexibility of ensuring that the courts and the courtrooms are used more effectively.

However, many of the counsel also maintain that tax court judges are already working at full capacity, so in their case they argue productivity is not an issue as has been suggested by some may be the case in the Federal Court.

Currently the administrative services of the various courts are independent of each other. The bill creates the position of a chief administrator who would have the rank and status of a deputy head of a department, creating another layer of government, and that is a concern.

Furthermore, the chief justice of the tax court, when he reviewed the auditor general's report, did not agree with all of the calculations that indicated the need for increased cost effectiveness of the court nor with the methods used to determine possible advantages of a merger.

Those are my comments. I am prepared to move ahead on the bill, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.

Courts Administration Service Act
Government Orders

October 3rd, 2001 / 3:30 p.m.
See context

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Madam Speaker, Bill C-30 is a fairly large and cumbersome bill. It is one that deals with a number of technical changes that touch on the establishment of a body to provide administrative services to the Federal Court, the Court Martial Appeal Court and the Tax Court of Canada. The bill essentially deals with amendments to the Federal Court Act, the Tax Court of Canada Act and the Judges Act and consequential amendments that flow from them.

The bill, although procedural and voluminous, is one that is important. It is one that has to occur to attempt to streamline a very complex system that is already in place. It is an attempt to consolidate the current administrative services of the Federal Court of Canada, the Court Martial Appeal Court and the Tax Court of Canada into a single administrative service.

The legislation comes about as a result of a number of triggering mechanisms, including, as mentioned previously, the auditor general's steady, guiding hand in influencing this action from occurring as well as the court case of Valente v The Queen.

The attempt here is obviously to strike the age old balance of judicial independence and achieving a certain level of service. The Progressive Conservative/Democratic Representative coalition supports the legislation. It is one that requires a great deal of attention to detail and perhaps, most appropriately, that will occur at the justice committee.

The previous two speakers have alluded to the fact that there will be an opportunity at committee to delve into the details because time and time again we are reminded that the devil is often in the details. The justice department has, on many occasions, been renowned for bringing in legislation that has this large pith and substance to it. When one takes the time to examine it, there are often nuggets of change that are quite substantial and that sometimes get lost in the forest and do not appear so readily when one looks at a bill of this size at first glance.

Some of the other amendments that will come about as a consequence deal with federal statutes, such as the Judges Act, the Access to Information Act, Canada Elections Act, Corrections and Conditional Release Act, Employment Insurance Act, Extradition Act, Immigration Act, Income Tax Act, defence and privacy, to name but a few. One can quickly glean that the bill has incredible reach. It touches on a number of existing statutes. The changes themselves, although administrative in nature, are quite substantial.

The court shall consist of at least two divisions: the Federal Court of Appeal and the Federal Court trial division. These changes that deal with the way in which the courts currently conduct themselves will have a significant impact.

My friend from Provencher and my friend from Winnipeg--Transcona talked about judicial independence and the salaries that are tied to it. The debate about judges having the capacity to set their own rates of pay is a debate that has been very interesting and often emotionally driven. To add controversy to that, legislation passed last spring will now tie in any future changes to the salary structure of members of parliament. Our salaries will be impacted by the rate of pay that judges receive. That can lead to an entire debate in and of itself.

Suffice it to say that the true intent behind giving judges a salary and setting their salary separate from the political process is to avoid any real or perceived interference from outside sources, be they political or, in a more nefarious way, I would argue, although some might suggest that the political influence can be just as nefarious, organized crime.

There has been ample evidence that organized crime is on the rise. It has reared its ugly head in many cities and towns throughout the country.

It is presenting itself time and again in a very aggressive way as we saw recently in the city of Halifax where the Hell's Angels opened a storefront operation, advertising in bright fluorescent lights their presence in the city.

There was legislation before the House in recent months that attempted to aid police in the difficult task of combating organized crime. There is a lot more to do in that regard. The resources, the training and the sophistication used by organized crime elements have to be motivation enough for us to step up every effort to give our law enforcement agents every bit of help in terms of resource support and legislative support.

Bill C-30 is very much in its purpose the pith and substance to keep the judiciary separate from that type of influence. Organized crime is not beyond attempting to influence the decisions of judges. It is not beyond any sort of act that is intended to destabilize or to bring the administration of justice into disrepute.

We have seen bold new efforts and aggressive acts on the part of organized crime. One could even make the leap to say that terrorism is in and of itself a more sophisticated and often a more philosophically driven form of organized crime. The results are staggering.

We are still reeling from the effects of September 11. The seriousness is there to underline the necessity of giving judges complete impartiality. That is a very difficult task indeed. Their financial compensation and salaries are often a way in which interference and influence can be exerted.

The coalition supports the legislation. We feel that it is necessary to bring about the changes, particularly in the area of the Judges Act where in recent years growing concerns were brought to bear about the increased elements of interference and influence.

Salaries for judges in the Federal Court are now tied to a schedule. No one would suggest for a minute that they are undercompensated when one compares those salaries to others working in the private sector. If we are to attract the best and the brightest and those individuals most capable of administrating and administering law in the country, those salaries must be commensurate with the ability. That has to be the number one priority in terms of the selection of judges and ensuring that we get the best people on the bench.

The other sections of the act to which I have referred that impact the Elections Act and Corrections and Conditional Release Act deal with changes that are meant to streamline and bring about greater efficiency in the administration of those acts.

The Extradition Act deals with a clause wherein the Federal Court and the court of appeal in the province in which the committal of a person was ordered have exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine applications for judicial review under the act made in respect of a decision of the minister pursuant to section 40.

There is a change where the court of appeal may grant relief under a section of the act on the grounds that a trial division or a Federal Court of Canada also grants relief.

All these interconnected and related sections of the numerous acts are covered under Bill C-30. It is one that took a great deal of time and effort to prepare. We are looking forward to having an equal opportunity at the justice committee to review the work of the justice department. I am sure we can present and advance the very best legislation possible.

Courts Administration Service Act
Government Orders

October 3rd, 2001 / 3:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have just a brief comment on Bill C-30, formerly Bill C-40. It is a bill, as members will know, to establish a body to provide administrative services to the Federal Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, the Court Martial Appeal Court and the Tax Court of Canada.

The principal goal of the legislation, as I understand it, is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the administration of these courts while at the same time preserving the appropriate balance between judicial independence and financial accountability.

I understand that pursuant to a seminal case on judicial independence known as Valente v The Queen, the Supreme Court of Canada itself has indicated that the proposed structure satisfies in its mind the constitutional test for institutional independence, because this would certainly be one of the concerns people might have about the legislation.

The legislation follows again, as I understand it, upon the recommendation of a former auditor general who had recommended a complete merger of the Federal Court and the Tax Court of Canada as a means to address the administrative inefficiencies he identified but the government decided not to go this far. In my judgment it was probably right in not listening totally to the recommendations of the auditor general.

I might say in this context that I sometimes find, as I have said in the past, that the auditor general goes beyond what is required and goes much farther down the road in policy making and policy recommendation than I feel the auditor general ought to. I find it is often the case that the auditor general's office not only identifies inefficiencies or problems but then goes on to make recommendations, almost like an independent policy think-tank. I have had correspondence with previous auditors general on this but I do not want to grind that particular political axe this afternoon.

All I want to say is that although the bill is lengthy in terms of how much paper it consumes, the idea is pretty simple. The sooner we get this to committee and deal with it the better.