Bill C-24 (Historical)
Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006
An Act to impose a charge on the export of certain softwood lumber products to the United States and a charge on refunds of certain duty deposits paid to the United States, to authorize certain payments, to amend the Export and Import Permits Act and to amend other Acts as a consequence
This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.
David Emerson Conservative
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.
The purpose of this enactment is to implement some of Canada’s obligations under the Softwood Lumber Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States, by imposing a charge on exports of certain softwood lumber products to the United States and on refunds of certain duty deposits paid to the United States and by amending certain Acts, including the Export and Import Permits Act. The charge on exports will take effect on October 12, 2006 and will be payable by exporters of softwood lumber products. The enactment also authorizes certain payments to be made.
- Dec. 6, 2006 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
- Dec. 4, 2006 Passed That Bill C-24, An Act to impose a charge on the export of certain softwood lumber products to the United States and a charge on refunds of certain duty deposits paid to the United States, to authorize certain payments, to amend the Export and Import Permits Act and to amend other Acts as a consequence, as amended, be concurred in at report stage with further amendments.
- Dec. 4, 2006 Failed That Bill C-24 be amended by deleting Clause 50.
- Dec. 4, 2006 Failed That Bill C-24 be amended by deleting Clause 18.
- Dec. 4, 2006 Passed That Bill C-24, in Clause 17, be amended by: (a) replacing lines 42 and 43 on page 12 with the following: “product from the charges referred to in sections 10 and 14.” (b) replacing line 3 on page 13 with the following: “charges referred to in sections 10 and 14.”
- Dec. 4, 2006 Failed That Bill C-24 be amended by deleting Clause 17.
- Dec. 4, 2006 Failed That Bill C-24 be amended by deleting Clause 13.
- Dec. 4, 2006 Passed That Bill C-24, in Clause 12, be amended by replacing lines 2 to 13 on page 8 with the following: “who is certified under section 25.”
- Dec. 4, 2006 Passed That Bill C-24, in Clause 10.1, be amended by: (a) replacing line 27 on page 5 with the following: “referred to in section 10:” (b) replacing line 12 on page 6 with the following: “underwent its first primary processing in one of”
- Dec. 4, 2006 Failed That Bill C-24 be amended by deleting Clause 10.
- Dec. 4, 2006 Failed That Bill C-24, in Clause 107, be amended by replacing lines 37 and 38 on page 89 with the following: “which it is made but no earlier than November 1, 2006.”
- Dec. 4, 2006 Failed That Bill C-24, in Clause 100, be amended by replacing line 3 on page 87 with the following: “( a) specifying any requirements or conditions that, in the opinion of the Government of Canada, should be met in order for a person to be certified as an independent remanufacturer;”
- Dec. 4, 2006 Failed That Bill C-24 be amended by deleting Clause 8.
- Oct. 18, 2006 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on International Trade.
- Oct. 16, 2006 Failed That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word "That" and substituting the following: “the House decline to proceed with Bill C-24, An Act to impose a charge on the export of certain softwood lumber products to the United States and a charge on refunds of certain duty deposits paid to the United States, to authorize certain payments, to amend the Export and Import Permits Act and to amend other Acts as a consequence, because it opposes the principle of the bill, which is to abrogate the North American Free Trade Agreement, to condone illegal conduct by Americans, to encourage further violations of the North American Free Trade Agreement and to undermine the Canadian softwood sector by leaving at least $ 1 billion in illegally collected duties in American hands, by failing to provide open market access for Canadian producers, by permitting the United States to escape its obligations within three years, by failing to provide necessary support to Canadian workers, employers and communities in the softwood sector and by imposing coercive and punitive taxation in order to crush dissent with this policy”.
- Oct. 4, 2006 Failed That the amendment be amended by adding the following: “specifically because it fails to immediately provide loan guarantees to softwood companies, because it fails to un-suspend outstanding litigation which is almost concluded and which Canada stands to win, and because it punishes companies by imposing questionable double taxation, a provision which was not in the agreement signed by the Minister of International Trade”.
Report Stage Amendments—Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order
May 7th, 2014 / 4:25 p.m.
The Speaker Andrew Scheer
Before addressing the selection and grouping of report stage motions for Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts, I would like to address the point of order raised on May 6, 2014, by the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.
I would like to thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for raising this matter as well as the Government Leader in the House, the House Leader of the Official Opposition, and the members for Toronto—Danforth, Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, and Winnipeg North for their comments.
The member for Saanich—Gulf Islands raised concerns that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs adopted a motion requiring all remaining questions necessary to dispose of its clause-by-clause consideration of the bill to be put by a specified time, effectively creating a deadline for the debate to end. She argued that this motion contradicts an earlier committee order adopted on October 29, 2013, which gives members from non-recognized parties the ability to speak to their suggested amendments to bills before they are voted on by the committee. Because of the imposed deadline, the member's opportunity to speak to her amendments was interfered with, pursuant to the committee order of October 29, 2013. As such, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands suggested that substantive amendments, even if already voted on by the committee, should be selected for consideration at report stage. Several members rose in support of the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands' point of order.
The government House leader made two central points in response. First, he reminded the House that at report stage the Speaker's authority to select report stage amendments is limited to determining whether they were presented, or could have been presented at committee. Second, he pointed out that the deadline adopted by the committee affected all members the same way, so it is inaccurate to claim that members from unrecognized parties and independents were particularly penalized in this regard.
In examining the matter, it is useful to remind the House of the power of the Speaker to select amendments at report stage. To place the matter in its proper context, it is helpful to refer to the March 21, 2001, statement by Speaker Milliken, found at page 1991 of the Debates, which establishes the guidelines upon which I rely to discharge my responsibility to select amendments at report stage. Speaker Milliken was clear in his intent when he urged:
…all members and all parties to avail themselves fully of the opportunity to propose amendments during committee stage so that the report stage can return to the purpose for which it was created, namely for the House to consider the committee report and the work the committee has done…
These principles are also reflected in the interpretive notes attached to Standing Orders 76(5) and 76.1(5). House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, further expands on these principles, explaining at pages 783 and 784 that:
…the Speaker will normally only select motions in amendment that could not have been presented in committee.
I would remind all members that the guidelines for selection specify whether amendments could have been presented in committee and whether they were defeated in committee. In the case of the committee's consideration of Bill C-23, all members of the committee, as well as any interested independent member, were given the opportunity to present their amendments at committee, and a certain number of these amendments were defeated. The hon. member is now asking the Chair, in exercising its powers of selection, to evaluate whether the consideration afforded such amendments in committee was sufficient.
It is evident that the committee chose to handle its consideration of Bill C-23 in a particular way. A motion setting out the process to be followed was proposed, debated, and ultimately agreed to. Just as the opportunity to present and speak to amendments was decided by way of a committee motion, the deadline by which debate would end likewise was decided by a committee motion. Such decisions are the exclusive responsibility of the committee. I do not believe that it is for the Chair to second-guess how committees choose to manage their business.
The hon. member has asked that I select motions for consideration at report stage because she was not able to debate them in committee. In doing so, she referred to a ruling I gave on December 12, 2012, whereby I noted that I would continue to select motions from independent members at report stage until such time as a satisfactory method was found for them to participate in the clause-by-clause consideration at committee. I understand that the hon. member found unsatisfactory the opportunities afforded to her at the procedure and House affairs committee in relation to Bill C-23. Other members of the committee echoed they too were not satisfied that certain amendments were not debated once the committee's self-imposed deadline was reached. That said, it remains clear to me that the committee considered and voted on all amendments she is asking me to select.
In 2006, Speaker Milliken dealt with a somewhat analogous situation in relation to Bill C-24, the Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act.
On November 6, 2006, the hon. member for Burnaby-New Westminster raised a point of order regarding the decision of the Standing Committee on International Trade to limit debate and set a strict deadline by which point debate would end.
Though the situation was different insofar as he was a member of the committee concerned, I believe Speaker Milliken's response, found on page 4756 of Debates, was instructive:
I do think that committees are masters of their own procedure. They are entitled to make provisions in adopting orders in the committee that govern the way they are going to conduct their business...The committee is allowed to make amendments to the bill. The committee has imposed rules on how those amendments will be dealt with in the committee and how members will be able to address the issues raised by the amendments. It seems to me that [it] is entirely within the jurisdiction of the committee and indeed [it] is [a] quite normal exercise of its powers.
When the bill was taken up at report stage, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster submitted a large number of the amendments that had been defeated in committee, and asked the Chair to select them on the basis that they had not been debated in committee.
In a ruling I gave as Acting Speaker on November 21, 2006, found on page 5125 of Debates, I declined to do so, reminding the House that:
...the Chair selects motions which further amend an amendment adopted by a committee, motions which make consequential changes based on an amendment adopted by a committee and motions which delete a clause. Aside from this, the Chair is loath to select motions unless a member makes a compelling argument for selection based on the exceptional significance of the amendment.
As far as the Chair is concerned, in keeping with past precedents, I cannot see how the imposition of a deadline for the end of the debate could constitute a justifiable argument for the selection of amendments at report stage that were already presented and defeated in committee.
Notice of Motion
Ways and Means
February 11th, 2011 / 12:10 p.m.
Peter Van Loan Minister of International Trade
Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 83(1), I have the honour to table a notice of a ways and means motion to amend the Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006. I ask that an order of the day be designated for consideration of the motion.
Mr. Speaker, while I am on my feet, I move:
That the House do now proceed to orders of the day.
Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act—Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order
October 22nd, 2009 / 3:10 p.m.
The Speaker Peter Milliken
I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on October 9, 2009, by the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel regarding the use of Standing Order 56.1 to disallow further amendments and subamendments at the second reading stage of Bill C-23, Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act.
The member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel argued that the motion of the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, having been moved pursuant to Standing Order 56.1, should be ruled out of order since it does not fall within the definition of a routine motion as prescribed in that Standing Order. Instead, he argued that the Standing Order was used to limit debate, in the same fashion as moving the previous question.
In addition to agreeing with the arguments raised by the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, the member for Vancouver East expressed concern about the expanded use of Standing Order 56.1 and the “creeping, sort of incremental change” accompanying this, which then led her to question the appropriateness of its use in this case. She added that there are other mechanisms available to the government to manage the amount of time allocated to debate on Bill C-23.
The chief government whip contended that the government was applying Standing Order 56.1 correctly and that there had been previous instances where the Standing Order was used in this fashion.
For the benefit of members, the motion adopted on October 9, 2009, reads as follows:
That, notwithstanding any standing order or usual practices of the House, the second reading stage of Bill C-23, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Colombia and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, shall not be subject to any further amendments or sub-amendments.
As mentioned by the member for Vancouver East, similar concerns over the expanded use of Standing Order 56.1 were raised in 2001 when it was used for the disposition of a bill at various stages. When I ruled on that point of order on September 18, 2001 in the Debates at pages 5256 to 5258, I expressed reservations about the trend toward using that Standing Order for purposes other than for motions of a routine nature. My predecessor had already urged the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to examine the use of Standing Order 56.1, and I reiterated this need for the committee to do so at the earliest opportunity.
In the absence of such feedback, on May 13, 2005 in the Debates at pages 5973 to 5974, I allowed a motion that provided for the completion of the second reading stage of two bills to be moved pursuant to Standing Order 56.1. Again, I highlighted the fact that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs still had not undertaken a study of Standing Order 56.1, and as such, I was not in a position to rule definitively on the appropriateness of that Standing Order's use and I stated the following on that occasion.
I believe having had nothing back [from the committee] I can only allow this one to proceed at this time, particularly so when the time allocated here is much more generous than would be the case under closure or under time allocation…Accordingly the motion appears to be in order.
Similarly, on October 3, 2006, I allowed a motion moved pursuant to Standing Order 56.1 which in part disallowed further amendments or subamendments to the second reading stage of Bill C-24, the Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006. Another motion with such provisions was allowed to proceed on December 12, 2007, in reference to Bill C-28, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2007 and to implement certain provisions of the economic statement tabled in Parliament on October 30, 2007.
As was the case in those two most recent examples, even though the current motion disallows further amendments and subamendments, it still allows members who have not yet done so to speak to the amendment and the main motion. Furthermore, as I then stated in my ruling in the Debates on October 3, 2006 at page 3571:
The motion does not set a deadline for completion of the proceedings, as would be the case under time allocation or closure...There is a significant difference.
This does not, however, negate the concerns expressed by members over time about the need for a clearer and agreed upon understanding of this Standing Order. The following quote from my 2006 ruling still applies in this case:
My predecessor and I have both encouraged the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to examine the appropriate use of the Standing Order. To date I am not aware of any report by that committee on this question.
Should the House feel the need to change the parameters pertaining to the use of Standing Order 56.1, I would suggest once more that members bring their concerns to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. Since the committee has not yet offered clear direction on the definition of Standing Order 56.1, and since motions disallowing amendments and subamendments have been ruled admissible in the past, I rule that the motion moved by the Government House Leader on October 9, 2009 is in order.
I thank hon. members for their attention.
Opposition Motion—Forestry Industry
Business of Supply
March 10th, 2009 / 11:20 a.m.
Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC
Mr. Speaker, first of all l would like to thank the hon. member for Halifax West for his insightful comments.
I thank my Bloc colleague for his motion and want him to know right off that I share his opinion on the need to establish a plan to help the forest industry. My party therefore supports the spirit of this motion. However, my colleague will not be surprised to hear me say that the plan should apply to the industry as a whole and not just to the portion of it in la belle province of Quebec.
The forest industry in Quebec, the Maritimes, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia is facing major challenges these days. If we think back, we will remember that the Liberal government itself put forward a forestry strategy in 2005.
On November 24, 2005, the Liberal government announced, in partnership with forest industry stakeholders, a true plan for the forestry sector, a forest industry competitiveness strategy committing $1.5 billion over five years. This strategy included: $215 million for the development of new technologies in areas such as the pulp and paper industry to enhance its competitiveness; $50 million to support the forest industry to develop bioenergy and cogeneration power technology; $90 million to support innovation in value-added wood products; $66 million in wood product market development; $10 million to enhance workplace skills in the forest sector; $150 million to help forest dependent communities diversify economically; $800 million in loan support to help Canada's forest companies invest to improve competitiveness; and $100 million in loan support for small forest sector businesses.
We can see that the Liberal government had anticipated quite a bit of what is happening today. Upon forming government in 2006, the Conservatives, however, cancelled the plan. Today Canadian forestry workers are paying the price for that action. Instead of investing then in improving technology, skills and competitiveness to strengthen the industry and to save jobs, Canada now faces tens of thousands of job losses. Since the Conservatives took over government, Canada has lost 18,000 forest sector jobs. Not only that, they negotiated a poor settlement on the softwood lumber dispute and we are paying the price today.
As regards the softwood lumber agreement with the United States, the Liberal Party of Canada has always supported a two-step approach to resolving the dispute over softwood lumber—arbitration by the courts and negotiation.
On September 19, 2006, the Liberal Party voted against the agreement on softwood lumber, and, on December 6, 2006, against Bill C-24 on the softwood lumber export fees. The Liberal Party wanted to be sure the Conservative government would respect the North American Free Trade Agreement and keep its election promise to recover all the customs duties collected illegally by the United States.
We believe the softwood lumber agreement is full of holes for the following reasons.
It is a reversal of the position adopted by successive federal governments and supported by NAFTA and World Trade Organization trade panels that our softwood lumber sector is not subsidized.
It compromises Canada's chances of helping a sector already in difficulty, by handing part of our sovereignty over our natural resources to our American competitors. The fallout of such capitulation will be felt in future disputes, which will no doubt arise not only in the softwood lumber industry, but also in other sectors facing the same accusations by our American competitors.
It creates an export tax, which, at the current rate, is in fact higher than the illegal American customs duties of the past.
It strips NAFTA of any credibility as arbitrator of trade disputes and voids the principles governing such discussions.
It drops $500 million into the hands of the American forestry sector, which uses it to fund legal and political attacks against the Canadian industry and another $500 million into the hands of the American government.
And, finally, it contains anti fluctuation provisions that will deny the Canadian industry the flexibility it needs to deal with the unexpected, such as the infestation of the pine beetle.
The Conservatives claim that their softwood lumber agreement put an end to the dispute, but the United States began consultations questioning the forestry policies of Ontario and Quebec within seven months of signing the agreement.
Nova Scotia, British Columbia and Alberta face the same attacks. It is the $500 million the Conservatives handed over to the Americans that is being used to finance these attacks. On April 4, 2007, the Liberal Party announced that a Liberal government would organize a national summit on the forestry sector bringing together the stakeholders—public officials, the localities involved and the forestry sector—to work out responsible measures for the environment and protect jobs in the Canadian localities.
Instead of being proactive in investing to strengthen the industry, the Conservatives are now being reactive, announcing band-aid programs. The Conservatives' lack of vision has led to this crisis in the forest sector and caused many Canadians their jobs.
For our softwood industry, the Conservatives' softwood lumber deal has also been a failure. The Conservatives rushed into a flawed agreement that left $1 billion in the pockets of the United States. The Conservative government said that the softwood lumber agreement would put an end to litigation, yet Canada is back in court.
Unlike the Conservatives, the Liberal Party believes that there is a role for government to play in helping these sectors and the workers who depend on them.
My party has long recognized that action is essential. Accordingly, it is prepared to support a real plan to help the forest industry, a plan that would include a series of specific measures to ensure sustainable development.
June 14th, 2007 / 12:30 p.m.
Legal Counsel, Liberal Party of Canada
Under Bill C-24, the banks, being somewhat conservative in their practices, pulled away somewhat, certainly in my experience, from their generosity in the political process. That was not only because their political giving was so limited but was because the status quo, as it stands today, and in the absence of this bill, is that a loan becomes a contribution if it defaults. They can't just be generous and write it off in accordance with their practices, which is one of the exceptions, in which case somebody is going to scream about who gave the politician a break when they do write it off.
There was a very real concern under Bill C-24 about not getting into the situation of becoming an illegal contributor or taking a guarantee that made somebody an illegal contributor because their guarantee did convert anyhow, if called upon, into a contribution.
So the problem already exists. This legislation.... And I did, when it was introduced, call a friend who works for one of the banks. His answer was that there's just no way he'd be recommending to his client that it engage in any loans here. And the point we discussed was just that of the guarantee, the logistical problem of 50 guarantees, and how much paperwork that is for a $50,000 loan over a short term. There's not much profit in those loans, yet you're going to put a lot of person power into it.
But over and above that problem is the illegal guarantee, because the guarantor also made a contribution to another candidate in another riding, unbeknownst.... You're all innocent in doing this. And the unsophisticated but generous person doesn't even realize that he or she has overstepped. Is that guarantee, being an illegal guarantee under this legislation, an enforceable guarantee? The bank has no way of knowing the answer to that question. They don't want to find out by litigation. We lawyers charge enough that it's going to cost them more than any margin or risk they had on the table to begin with.
It's only one conversation, but if you can ask the banks—and I can understand their lack of great desire to get up in public and talk about what they will or won't do in the political sphere—whether they are really anxious to do this business under these terms, I strongly suggest that the answer is going to be “not really”.
Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development--Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order
June 5th, 2007 / 10:05 a.m.
The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie
Before going to orders of the day I would like to give the ruling on the point of order raised by the hon. member for Wascana regarding the use of Standing Order 56.1 to timetable the proceedings on a bill in the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
On May 31, 2007 during routine proceedings the government House leader sought, but did not obtain, unanimous consent of the House to move the following motion:
That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, when the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development convenes a meeting, it shall not be adjourned or suspended until it completes the committee stage of Bill C-44 except pursuant to a motion by a parliamentary secretary and, provided the bill is adopted by the committee, agrees to report the bill to the House within two sitting days following the completion of the committee stage.
He then moved the motion again pursuant to Standing Order 56.1 and the motion was adopted when fewer than 25 members rose to object. A short time later, the hon. member for Wascana raised a point of order regarding the use of Standing Order 56.1. He was supported by interventions from the hon. member for Joliette and the hon. member for Hamilton Centre, while the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons argued that the motion adopted earlier had been appropriately presented under Standing Order 56.1.
Given that a meeting of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development was imminent, I delivered an immediate ruling promising that the Chair would return to the House later with reasons. I am now prepared to do so.
First, the Chair would like to thank all hon. members who intervened on the point of order for their contributions on this question and is particularly grateful that members have taken note of certain key rulings, specifically those the Speaker delivered on September 18, 2001 and October 3, 2006.
A key element in my ruling today is the fundamental precept that standing committees are masters of their own procedure. Indeed, so entrenched is that precept that only in a select few Standing Orders does the House make provision for intervening directly into the conduct of standing committee affairs. In addition to the power the House has to give instructions to committees by way of a substantive motion that is subject to debate, there are, of course, Standing Orders 57 and 78, which can be used by the House to allocate time or for closure proceedings on a bill in committee. It is toward the use of these very instruments that the Speaker directed the House in his ruling of September 18, 2001, on Debates page 5257, where, as the hon. member for Wascana pointed out, the Speaker stated:
The expanded use of Standing Order 56.1 since 1997 causes the Chair serious concern. The government is provided with a range of options under Standing Orders 57 and 78 for the purpose of limiting debate.
Let us now turn to the Speaker’s ruling of October 3, 2006 allowing the use of Standing Order 56.1 to extend, in an open-ended fashion, the debate on Bill C-24, the Softwood Lumber bill.
It should be noted at the outset that when Standing Order 56.1 was used in reference to Bill C-24, the bill was then before the House at second reading, not before a standing committee. In allowing the use of Standing Order 56.1 in that case the Speaker did so with some concern and on the basis that:
The precedents available to me, including my own previous rulings, are [therefore] insufficient for me to rule the motion out of order on this occasion.
This is part of the Speaker's ruling quoted by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. At the time the Speaker had more to say. He also encouraged, as had Mr. Speaker Parent before him, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to examine the appropriate use of this Standing Order, a pretty clear indication of the difficulties with which the House has had to deal when Standing Order 56.1 has been invoked in questionable circumstances.
In the present case, the Chair has looked carefully at the wording of Standing Order 56.1, which states in reference to the House itself that the Standing Order can be used to move motions in relation to “the management of its business” and “ the arrangement of its proceedings”. Interestingly, the only reference to committees in the Standing Order is one allowing motions for “the establishing of the powers of its committees”, suggesting that the rule was meant to be used not to reach into the conduct of standing committee affairs to direct them, but rather in a routine manner, to provide them powers they do not already possess. A review of the previous uses of Standing Order 56.1 appears to support this. The only examples dealing with standing committees or standing committee activity the Chair has been able to find have to do with granting standing committees the power to travel. The power to travel is, as all hon. members know, a power standing committees do not possess and so the use of Standing Order 56.1 in that regard falls squarely within the parameters of the rule.
Accordingly, to repeat the words I used when this matter was first raised, the use of Standing Order 56.1 to direct the business of the committee, of any committee, is a new development in the House and one that I find out of order.
I thank all hon. members who intervened for bringing this matter to the attention of the House.
Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Points of Order
May 31st, 2007 / 10:55 a.m.
Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues for their interventions, although I believe that you will find in your ruling that there has been precedents set, as was in the case of Bill C-24, and you will rule this motion in order.
I just want to respond to my colleague, the hon. House leader for the Bloc Québécois, who was making the argument that perhaps in some manner, witnesses coming from far afield would be inconvenienced. In fact, just the opposite is true. Witnesses are already here, witnesses from Saskatchewan and other provinces, since there is a committee meeting starting in approximately four minutes.
Therefore, there is absolutely no inconvenience to any witnesses. In fact, it gives them an even longer opportunity to present their case before the committee so that the committee will have the ability, should it choose to sit extended hours.
I would argue that there is more opportunity for not only witnesses but committee members to discuss this bill and in fact, that is quite the opposite of closure. It is giving all committee members an opportunity to speak for as long as they wish, which I think, quite frankly, is entirely democratic.
Document for Committee Chairs
May 28th, 2007 / 11:15 a.m.
Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC
Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member for Halton wants to continue to heckle, perhaps he can add to the debate after I am done instead of just shouting out his nonsense.
The reality is that this is a similar document that all parties produce to help train their individual members. I note that this internal document, as I say, is not a government document. It is something that was produced by the Conservative Party to assist our chairs.
Since the NDP members are so concerned about this, perhaps they could reveal to us their playbook or explain their tactics when they were delaying and continue to delay Bill C-45, the Fisheries Act; or Bill C-44, the amendments to the Human Rights Act; or their earlier extensive delay in filibustering Bill C-24, the softwood lumber act. In all of those things they employed tactics to delay passage of government legislation.
What about a chapter from their playbook dealing with moving concurrence motions to obstruct government legislation from following the due process and the procedure that we have become accustomed to in passing through the chamber? Instead, they resort, almost daily, to moving concurrence motions to delay that legislation.
I have remarked that the further training of our chairs, our committee members and, indeed, all of our caucus is to ensure that we are well aware of any procedural tools that we might have as a government, recognizing that we are a minority government and that we are outnumbered, not only in the chamber but at each and every standing committee. When we are confronted, as we have been by the opposition parties, which have become increasingly obstructionist, with a lot of legislation, we need to ensure we use every possible tool at our disposal to get our legislation passed through the committees, passed through the chamber and ultimately passed through a Liberal dominated Senate to become law in order that we can keep the promises that we made to the Canadian people in the last election campaign.
I have been noting that the people of Canada did not elect a coalition government of opposition parties. They elected a minority Conservative government and we have been trying to govern as such.
It is certainly my contention that this is an internal party document and that all parties have similar types of documents. It is beyond the pale that we would start out this final week with this bogus question of privilege.
May 1st, 2007 / 3:55 p.m.
Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Cannavino, Mr. Francoeur, good afternoon. I have a few comments to make. Mr. Francoeur, thank you for your testimony and, in particular, for pointing out the contradiction between the fact that the government wants to have stiffer sentences, but is not concerned about the easy availability of weapons. You will not have to work very hard to convince a number of us.
It seems to me that there are two types of measures that are really needed to fight crime. First, there is the firearms registry. If I were appointed Minister of Justice or Public Security, the first thing I would do would be to look at parole. I do not think that this bill will have a big effect on the problems you are describing.
Mr. Cannavino, you will be pleased to know that the Defence Lawyers' Association supports this bill. They told us—see how all is right with the world!—that in practice, magistrates, justices of the peace and judges did not release people on bail who had committed firearms offences. Obviously, not everyone might agree. I introduced a motion on street gangs, and I hope that my colleagues on the government side in a great gesture of friendship such as we have seen all too rarely over the past few years in this committee, will pass it on Thursday morning.
Mr. Cannavino, you were there when parliamentarians considered Bills C-84, C-24 and C-36. You know how concerned the Bloc Québécois and others are about gangsters and street gangs. People in Montreal and Toronto, especially your colleague Mr. Robinette from Montreal, have told us that drive-by shootings are not covered by the definition of criminal organization in the Criminal Code. Should we not include that immediately? When people are intercepted, a drive-by shooting is not enough to prove that they belong to a street gang and can therefore be charged. They can obviously be charged with homicide and other offences, but it would be better to have a charge of gangsterism, since that delays parole and results in longer sentences.
If we have to choose between a bill like C-35, which seems to us to entrench a practice which already exists, and not being more vigilant with the firearms registry and not changing the definition of criminal organization in the Criminal Code, I would opt for the latter approaches.
I would like to hear from your colleague, Mr. Francoeur, yourself or any of the other witnesses who might like to comment, but I would first say that I find the current system, which allows people to serve only one-sixth of their sentences, totally unacceptable. One-third would be understandable. But the revolving door scenario that you have described does not seem to me to have too much to do with Bill C-35; it stems more from the fact that people can serve just six months of a sentence—Some crimes that allow perpetrators to be eligible for release after one-sixth of the sentence are much more serious than these. Gun smuggling is a real concern. There are people eligible to serve no more than one-sixth of their sentences who pose a much greater danger to society, in my view.
I would have liked us to review this issue of serving one-sixth of sentences and of amending the Criminal Code to change the definition of criminal organization, which seem to me to be much greater priorities than bail for firearms offences, which is basically a non-issue in practice, if we are to believe the people who work on the frontlines.
April 24th, 2007 / 11:35 a.m.
Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice Canada
I won't go into the financial end of it, because I'm on the legal issues committee and we have no mandate on the finances. I rather suspect that will be an interesting issue when we get further down the road.
Basically, Bill C-240 was in the House and Bill C-279 was in the House, and when we did the consultation, the support was for a national one run by the RCMP. That's what we've been focusing on. If the federal government passed amendments to the DNA Identification Act or a separate missing persons data bank act with these kinds of safeguards and consents, etc., then the provinces would be under no obligation to make use of it. It would just be a service there for them to use if they wished. The higher your fee for service, the less likely they are to take advantage of it, I would imagine.
February 15th, 2007 / 9:05 a.m.
Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC
Mr. Chair, the motion I've introduced is further to the testimony we heard — as you'll remember — at the time of the summary of Bills C-95 and C-24, and to the consultations I've had with Montreal police representatives. It has four objectives. And I'll be introducing a minor amendment that I'm going to explain to you.
First, I was very surprised to learn that the existing definition of criminal organization — that is to say a group that is not randomly formed, of three persons or more, one of the members of which commits serious offences, punishable by a prison term of more than five years, resulting in a material benefit, especially a financial benefit — does not cover the phenomenon of drive-by shootings.
This morning, for example, the Montreal police will be holding a press conference. Six crimes like the one I've just described to you have been committed since the start of the year. I don't need to tell you that that's also true in Toronto and Vancouver. I think we have to amend the definition of criminal organization to include acts by members of street gangs and that we wouldn't be able to rely directly on material benefit.
That's why it is not my intention to reduce the scope of the definition of criminal organization. However, I believe we should include drive-by shootings in it. For example, there have been 120 victims of street gang confrontations in Montreal in the past 10 years. That was the first aspect.
The second aspect relates to Mr. Bélanger's remarks, that the warrants that police officers obtain for GPS systems, which are a device used to follow a car, must be harmonized. This isn't wire-tapping; you can't intercept communications. However, it makes it possible to follow a car's movements and to link individuals to each other. It's very useful for making demonstrations in court.
By way of a third point, I'd like to introduce a minor amendment. The idea is that there obviously are more specialized prosecutors. We're winning the battle against organized crime because Crown attorneys have agreed to specialize. That takes two, three or four years of work; you have to be aware of that.
I think there'd have to be specialized attorneys in connection with street gangs. They have to know their modus operandi, how the individuals who belong to street gangs operate. However, I won't be talking about money because I wouldn't want the government to feel bound. We could remove the reference to the $5 million fund. The government could just make a sufficient fund available to the attorneys general of the provinces, over five years, to help them train specialized Crown attorneys. I wouldn't refer to any amount in particular.
In addition, I've learned that the government made specific amounts of money available to the City of Toronto to train Crown attorneys. I wonder whether Montreal, Vancouver and other communities could benefit from that. It's not that we want to be “Montrealists”, but that's a reality.
For the rest, the fourth part of the motion is obviously that the government establish a data base, a Web site where all court decisions and evidence gathered in all street gang trials would be available to all stakeholders. I want to be clear on this, since I took the trouble to state it: all stakeholders, in my mind, are police officers, Crown attorneys and obviously the ministers concerned, but not necessarily defence counsel.
At the trial stage, the Stinchcombe decision will apply and everyone will obviously have access to the evidence. However, I think that the immediate stakeholders, that is to say the police, the public department and the Department of Justice should have access to a secure file.
That, Mr. Chair, is the gist of my motion, even though you're not listening to me, which obviously gives the impression that we're an old couple. I hope that the proposal to withdraw the $5 million fund will help make everyone more comfortable.
February 8th, 2007 / 11:45 a.m.
Commissioner of Canada Elections, Elections Canada
Two phenomena have caused me concern in this. If we have elections every two years, we're in trouble because it doubles the workload. The effects of Bill C-24, which requires more and more reporting of financial matters--I think associations have to report certain particulars now that they didn't have to report before--give Elections Canada a much greater grasp of the financial aspects of how campaigns are run. Elections Canada is getting much better at identifying breaches of the rules, if you will.
So the workload is driven by the increasing ability of Elections Canada to monitor and identify non-compliance, and elections every two years. I would say there's roughly two and a half years' work after a particular election. So if we have an election in 2004, 2006, and 2007, the workload will become quite problematic.
January 30th, 2007 / 9:50 a.m.
Sgt Guy Ouellette Retired Sergeant, Sûreté du Québec
I realize I'll have to be very concise in the next 10 minutes, Mr. Chair.
I was a police officer with Sûreté du Québec for 32 years. I've been retired for six years. I'm highly specialized in organized crime, both biker and Aboriginal organized crime. Most of the case law that was prepared for this committee, whether it be the Leclerc decision, the Carrier decision or the Lindsay-Bonner decision, concerns trials in which I had to testify as an expert witness.
The first anti-gang law was passed 10 years ago on May 2. I followed it, and I'm still very much involved at all levels because I still have to testify regularly across Canada in various cases.
I would have liked to tell you about the opportunity I had to write a book, which unfortunately is only available in French. It concerns the president of the Hells Angels, Maurice Boucher. By the way, those who read the Journal de Montréal this morning will see that picture on the front page. They say the Revenue Department will be seizing Mr. Boucher's houses. I want to tell you that the day we think about seizing their assets, we'll have understood that that's their life blood.
Bill C-53, which parliamentarians passed on November 25, 2005, hasn't yet been used by any police force in Canada. Why? I'd like to tell you right off the bat that organized crime very often takes advantage of the fact that the system is disorganized. It's disorganized because police officers don't talk to each other, because federal agencies don't talk to provincial agencies, because Bills C-95 and C-24, which have become the anti-gang laws, were passed because there were gang wars in Quebec. The rest of Canada didn't care; they were killing each other in Quebec.
We have a bill, Bill C-10, on firearms. Why? Because people are shooting guns in Toronto. And last year in Toronto, 52 murders were committed with firearms, including that of a young girl, Jane Creba, on December 26. Now there's pressure, and we're going to amend the Criminal Code of Canada because, I'm telling you and I repeat, it's the Criminal Code of Canada, not that of Quebec or Ontario.
You'll be hearing from someone from the Vancouver police department two days from now. Do the same thing for Vancouver, and you'll see that there have been very few gangsterism convictions there. You'll realize that, in the other Canadian provinces, when charges are laid for offences under Bill C-24 and C-95, they are withdrawn in exchange for a guilty plea on drug trafficking charges. That's what's called plea bargaining. It has a harmful effect.
I have two examples to cite on this point: one occurred in Ottawa and concerns the Hells Angels Nomads, who are based in Ottawa, in your beautiful city; the other one occurred in Oshawa, another project of an Ontario police department. The guy is going to be sentenced to six years for drug trafficking. But we have the Canadian Conditional Release Act. On a first sentence for drug trafficking, an individual is eligible for parole after serving one-sixth of his sentence; that's called accelerated parole review. As a result, a guy who is sentenced to six years can get out of prison after one year.
What's been done? If he had been convicted on gangsterism charges, the penalty would have been longer, harsher, but we could have asked that he at least serve half his sentence. That would delay his conditional release by the same length of time and would send a message. However, the message we're sending right now is this: we're charging you with engaging in gangsterism, but someone in British Columbia, the president of the Hells Angels, is filing an application to challenge the wording of section 467.11 because it isn't clear. Oops! Another trial is being held in Quebec in which lawyer Benoît Cliche is also challenging section 467.11. And now the blows are coming from everywhere. If you need information that the Vancouver police department has gathered as part of their investigation, I can't give it to you.
It's very, very hard to exchange information. That goes as far as it went in the Lindsay-Bonner case, which you have in your case law report. The Ontario Provincial Police was required to go and execute a search warrant in the exhibit vaults of a British Columbia police department to obtain evidence that would help it convict criminals on gangsterism charges.
We have to stop making up stories, splitting hairs and believing that we're good and nice. We'll be able to deal with organized crime if we talk to each other and if everyone in the system works together.
You parliamentarians have to decide on the fate of Bill C-10. You're leading the parade. You'll have to decide, to conduct a clause-by-clause consideration of a bill on firearms. Thank you! You're giving police agencies tools. Now they have to use them. Thank you! You're giving Crown attorneys tools. Now they have to use them.
Before Bill C-10, section 95 of the Criminal Code contained a provision stipulating that the minimum penalty for possession of a firearm was one year in prison, if the holder was charged with an indictable offence. But only a fine is provided for if the individual is found guilty on summary conviction. I'll tell you that, in my 10 years of fighting organized crime very closely with the units in the field, in a number of cases, people are charged under the summary conviction procedure in order to avoid work, save time and avoid a trial. So the criminals pulled up, took out their little case and paid the clerk their little fine. And we had to start all over again!
As regards gangsterism charges, subsection 515(6) of the Criminal Code provides that it is up to the accused to provide evidence in order to obtain his release, to give the system guarantees. It wasn't normal that there was an extensive operation in Toronto in which 125 individuals related to street gangs such as Jane Finch and another, the Jamestown Crew, were arrested. It wasn't normal that, for the vast majority of these people, it was the third time this year that they were arrested because they hadn't been charged with gangsterism and that the justice system had released them for all kinds of reasons.
For the majority of people who are charged in Quebec, there are automatic release investigations, particularly as regards organized crime. Moreover, I would say that, in more than 60 or 70 percent of cases, people will be detained following their release investigation, which is conducted with the assistance of police officers, experts and so on.
We have another problem in Canada. We want to have laws, we want to have a lot of things, but we have a big file on the Italian mafia. I checked with Claude a little earlier: we don't have an expert witness who can testify in order to prove gangsterism.
I've been retired from the Sûreté du Québec for six years, but I don't have a successor. I'm retired. When you retire, you're supposed to be at home in a rocking chair watching the cars go by your house. But they call me regularly because they have a problem and have to provide evidence of gangsterism. It takes an expert witness who is able to tell the story. So organizations have to provide for that.
It's not normal for a guy like Harry Delva, who, as he told you, is in the field in Montreal North and Ville Saint-Michel to tell you that, every day, in the pool of emerging street gangs, he sees youths of five, six, nine, 10 and 15 years of age, which corresponds to the real police definition of street gangs. However, every six months, he's forced to fight with various departments in order to authorize a program to train a successor. There's nothing permanent in his work, and he has no security. However, it's announced that there will be 2,500 police officers or more and $10 million to invest in prevention programs. Bu, every six months, he is forced to fight for $90,000 in funding. And yet he's the one who has them in his face every day.
I'll conclude by telling you that, in the few minutes you've allotted me, organized crime has fought the disorganized system. The day we manage to regularize the situation and work together just a little bit, there will be no more criminals. I wrote in my book that I find it hard to understand why 15,000 police officers can't control 150 bikers. The answer is simple: we all have to work on the same side and stop fighting over details. Give us the tools we need, and the police officer in the street will make his observations, the investigator will investigate, the attorney will do his job, the judge will decide, the conditional release guy will manage the sentence, and you'll pass laws to help those people. You have a social responsibility toward the citizens of Canada. But there won't be any difference between a gangsterism crime committed in Quebec and another committed in British Columbia, and no one in British Columbia...
Only three years ago, in 2003, the Hells Angels did a big national run in British Columbia. Quebec police officers who went to help their British Columbia colleagues were told that, if one of them was seen monitoring a Hells Angels member, he'd be put back on an airplane and sent home. Such is the fight against organized crime in Canada. I don't want to be very negative, because I still like doing what I do, and I still say yes when I'm asked to go and testify, but I think we have to stop thinking that we're good, that we're nice and that everything is going to solve itself. We all really have to work together.
You represent different ridings in Canada. Apart from Mr. Bagnell, from the Yukon, where the British Columbia Hells Angels go from time to time, all of you have horror stories to tell, whether it be about the Hells Angels in Windsor, the Bandidos in London, street gangs and bikers in Moncton, or about Asian street gangs that do drive-by shootings in Calgary. The same thing is going on in Montreal with the Haitians. The same is true anywhere else in Canada.
So from the moment we work together, we'll achieve good results. Thank you.
January 30th, 2007 / 9 a.m.
Randall Richmond Deputy Chief Prosecutor, Organized Crime Prosecutions Bureau, Department of Justice (Quebec)
Thank you very much.
My name is Randall Richmond. I have been a lawyer and a prosecutor since 1983, and prosecutor for the Province of Quebec since 1988.
I began pleading organized crime cases in the 1990s and I worked in the Proceeds of Crime Bureau (BLPC) from its inception in 1996. In 2000, when the Quebec Ministry of Justice created the Organized Crime Prosecutions Bureau (BLACO), I was named deputy chief of this office, a position that I still hold today.
In addition to my administrative and supervisory responsibilities, I personally pleaded the cases borne from the shooting for journalist Michel Auger. I also pleaded the trial borne of Operations Springtime 2001 and implicating the Hells Angels Nomad Donald Stockford and his associate, the former Hells Angels national president, Walter Stadnick.
The minutes of proceedings of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights indicate that the committee wishes “to examine the overall effect on gangsterism of Bills C-94 and C-24, adopted in 1997 and 2001”.
As a practitioner specialized in organized crime cases, I can say without any hesitation that the legislative changes brought about by Bills C-95 and C-24 have been extremely helpful and have had a significant impact on our fight against organized crime in Quebec. We have used the tools provided to us by these two bills on a regular basis and continue to do so.
The changes that have been most useful to us can be summarized as follows: wire taps are available more easily and for longer periods of time; infiltration of criminal organizations is easier; pre-trial custody is easier to secure; sentences are longer; and convicts have to serve more time in jail before being released on parole.
Quebec was the first province to apply these new measures and remains the one that has applied them the most. In the Organized Crime Prosecutions Bureau alone, we have charged over 1,000 people since 2001, due in great part to the tools provided by C-95 and C-24 which facilitated the investigations. The acquittal rate in these cases is less than two percent.
Since the creation of the Organized Crime Prosecutions Bureau, its prosecutors have secured the convictions of 286 people for criminal organization charges.
Consequently, we have met the following objectives.
First, end the biker gang war that caused 174 deaths and 150 attempted murders.
Second, break up and put an end to the Quebec Nomads chapter of the Hells Angels as well as the puppet club, the Rockers, by securing sentences of 20 years in prison for the Nomads and 15 years for the Rockers, on average.
Third, suppress crime by the Hells Angels across Quebec. Consequently, as of 2005, half of the Hells Angels in Quebec had been neutralized because they were either in jail, on parole, or on the run.
Fourth, break up and put an end to the Bandidos biker club all across Quebec.
Other beneficial effects of our work are worth mentioning: putting an end to biker impunity, putting an end to the climate of fear, and exposing the true nature of the criminal biker gangs. Obviously these results cannot be explained exclusively by the new anti-gang provisions of Bill C-95 and Bill C-24. They must be attributed to the combined effect of the legislative changes with other measures, such as the creation of specialized police task forces, with the participation of different police agencies; lengthy police investigations that targeted whole criminal organizations; the use of civil infiltration agents; the creation of specialized teams of prosecutors, such as the Proceeds of Crime Bureau in 1996 and the Organized Crime Bureau in 2000; the construction of the Grouin Judicial Services Centre; and the renovation of several courtrooms around Quebec, which allowed for the instruction of several mega-trials in different places at the same time.
The results obtained demonstrate that it is possible to prove gangsterism, but one should not conclude that it is easy to do so. On the contrary, it can be arduous. In almost all of the cases where we have charged gangsterism, this came after lengthy investigations of 12 to 24 months, during which wiretapping and physical surveillance were carried out and prosecutors were involved as legal advisers during the investigations.
In addition, in 90% of the cases, the prosecution had at its disposition a special witness, that is, an informant witness or a civil infiltration agent. The special witness facilitates the proof of gangsterism, because he has been a member of that organization and has participated in its activities. He can, therefore, testify to the existence of the organization, its structure, its hierarchy, the identity of its members, and its criminal activities.
A notable exception to this is the recent case of R. v. Aurélius, where 15 people were convicted, including five for charges of gangsterism, without the help of a special witness. In this groundbreaking case, the first to convict a street gang of gangsterism, the prosecution had to rely on evidence from wiretaps, physical surveillance, and about 40 drug purchases made by police undercover officers. It goes without saying that all of these investigative techniques can be expensive.
In conclusion, proving gangsterism with the present legislation is indeed possible, but the necessary resources must be available for investigation and prosecution.
With regard to Bill C-10, it is likely that for most prosecutions of a crime committed with a firearm, proving the use of a restricted or prohibited firearm will be easier than proving a connection with a criminal organization. However, there are cases where long-barrelled guns are used by criminal organizations; for example, see the case of R. v. Rodrigue at the Supreme Court of Canada in 2005. There are other cases where firearms are used in crime, but never found by the police, which can make it more difficult to prove the use of a restricted or prohibitive firearm than to prove the connection to a criminal organization.
So there are indeed circumstances where the connection to a criminal organization can be seriously considered as an aggravating factor in sentencing for a crime committed with the use of a firearm.
Statements By Members
December 8th, 2006 / 11:15 a.m.
Helena Guergis Simcoe—Grey, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand here in the House as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade and tell members that a lot of hard work and negotiations went into the softwood lumber agreement. Not only am I proud that Bill C-24 passed, but I am also proud to be part of a government that does what it says it is going to do and works as a team.
On Wednesday I was disappointed to see all but two Liberal MPs stand in the House of Commons and vote against the softwood lumber agreement. This is shameful, given the support for the agreement by the provinces, including the province of Quebec, where the new Liberal leader is from, and the support from industry, labour and unions in Quebec.
How could the Liberals not support an agreement that is obviously in the best interests of Canada? This further demonstrates the Liberal tradition of playing political games. By not supporting the deal, the Liberals are putting their own partisan interests ahead of the needs of all Canadians.