Evidence of meeting #15 for Justice and Human Rights in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was minimums.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Catherine Kane  Director General and Senior General Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice
  • Philippe Massé  Director, Temporary Resident Policy and Program, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
  • Paul Saint-Denis  Senior Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dave MacKenzie

Ms. Kane.

3:45 p.m.

Catherine Kane Director General and Senior General Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice

If it's helpful to the committee to know this, we did follow up with respect to that issue of yesterday. We spoke to our legislative drafters. I can provide you with a little bit of information now that might be of assistance. But as Mr. Goguen says, we will follow up on this and ensure that when the opportunity arises, the proper versions can be changed, if that's possible.

I would like to reiterate, though, that legislation is drafted in English and in French separately; one is not a translation of the other. This provision in clause 103, referring to the sexual exploitation of persons with disabilities, was enacted in 1998. The marginal notes that were included in the French and the English versions, as noted by Madame Boivin yesterday and Mr. Cotler today, basically take differing perspectives. One describes it from the perspective of the victim and the other from that of the offender.

That is the way the marginal note appears in the Criminal Code now and has since 1998. That is the way that Parliament enacted it then. The marginal note does not provide part of the interpretation for the provision; it's the offence, and the offence is indicating the exact same elements in English and in French. They're not a direct translation of each other but contain the exact same provisions.

We are not able to change the reference in this bill as it refers to that in the Criminal Code, because that is what the Criminal Code says in the marginal note. If we had an ability to change the marginal note in the Criminal Code in another statute, our drafters have indicated that we would have to be amending that provision; we can't simply amend the marginal note. We would also have to go through and determine where else that provision had been referred to with the same marginal note in brackets in both languages. We would have to do a more thorough examination of where that provision appeared.

The other thing I would note is that to our knowledge, the fact that it's characterized one way in the French version and another in the English in the marginal note has not caused any problems of interpretation. None has been brought to our attention.

Concerning Mr. Cotler's point with respect to how that same provision is referred to in the schedule, relating to what was previously Bill 23-B, in our view it probably could be corrected, because that is not the way the Criminal Code refers to that provision. For internal consistency, it may well be possible that the French version could line up with the other French version as noted in clause 103, for the sake of internal consistency.

I realize this doesn't address your primary concern about the two languages taking a different perspective in the marginal notes, but it would address the internal inconsistency.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dave MacKenzie

Thank you, Madam Kane.

Madame Boivin.

November 23rd, 2011 / 3:50 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

I will be brief, because I just want to correct one thing Mr. Cotler said earlier.

In fact, we were not discussing the substance and we did not propose one option rather than another to the committee. We simply pointed out the error that seemed to us to be obvious, this inconsistency between the language versions, but we did not choose an option. We did not suggest one solution rather than another. What we did was try to see whether we could not immediately correct something that seemed to present a problem and see which side to come down on.

I also did a little research last night and confirmed that this had not actually had any consequences. In fact, it was the first time someone had noticed it. I do note that you are going to take the action that may be required in the necessary context.

3:50 p.m.

Director General and Senior General Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

This may come up another day, some other time in another amendment proposal, to correct the form. It does not create a problem of substance.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dave MacKenzie

Thank you.

We will resume our study of clause-by-clause.

We're at clause 206, and I believe the NDP—

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Delta—Richmond East, BC

It's clause 205.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dave MacKenzie

I'm sorry.

We're at clause 205.

Mr. Harris.

(On clause 205)

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Clause 205 is the introductory clause to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The purpose of the act being amended is “to protect public health and safety and to maintain the security of Canadian society”.

We don't have any major objection to this particular amendment, but we do have a problem with the amendments to that act and we will deal with them as we go through. I'll just say at the outset that we're concerned that the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act changes were initially designed, or at least the government's intention was announced that the purpose of this was to protect applicants for work permits in Canada from potential exploitation.

Our view is that the way to protect foreign workers from exploitation is to ensure the laws within Canada that should be protecting workers ought to be robust and enforceable. The perceived wrong was really about a political response to something that happened in Toronto back in 2006, with the potential for issuing work permits to strippers—or exotic dancers, I think is the term that's used for certain people entering into Canada for that purpose—and the potential abuse of the law. The reality, of course, was that there were apparently only four permits given in the year this was raised as a political issue. So this seems to us to be a political response.

The real objection to the changes comes in the broad nature of the instructions that are essentially non-transparent and give untrammelled discretion to the minister to issue instructions in relation to this matter with respect to work permits—not only instructions that may be given by the minister, but instructions that would not necessarily be public.

They won't be in regulations. They wouldn't be gazetted. They wouldn't be made public. And it could happen by the minister's own issuance of same. The instructions still offer the opinion of the officer as to what the minister's instructions are, as opposed to an evidence-based decision.

In our amendments we are also proposing some independent evaluation of those, as we have done in other sections of the act. I understand there may be some rulings about that, but we will be able to nevertheless demonstrate that what we seek is to improve this legislation. If it cannot be improved by adding some independent adjudication or clarity with respect to what instructions we're talking about here, we would therefore be opposed to them.

Having said that, Mr. Chair, we will support clause 205. I don't know if my colleagues want to say anything else.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dave MacKenzie

Thank you, Mr. Harris.

I'm not sure you're right on the reason for the bill, but I think you're wrong on the date. I think it was somewhere in 2004 or 2005.

Having heard the intervention, shall....

Mr. Cotler, I'm sorry.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

I have a small point, Mr. Chairman.

Maybe I shouldn't be staying up at night reading these things, but this clause starts the section by modification to the Immigration and Refugee Act, and in particular the clause specifies the objectives of the act, which includes in (h) to protect the health and safety of Canadians and to maintain the security of Canadian society.

The change adds the word “public” before “health”, and I have no problem with that, but it removes the words “of Canadians”. So now it reads “to protect public health and safety”—removes the words “of Canadians”—“and to maintain the security of Canadian society”.

Now it may be that the words “of Canadians” didn't mean anything initially and therefore their removal doesn't mean anything now, but I was struck by the fact that they were removed. I am going to ask the witnesses if they could assist us in why they might have been removed, and maybe there's no consequence to the fact that they were.

3:55 p.m.

Philippe Massé Director, Temporary Resident Policy and Program, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Good afternoon.

The intent of the removal of “of Canadians” was to make the objective not specific to Canadians but to any person who would be present in Canada. So it's to actually make it more general, to include both Canadians and any foreign person who would be here temporarily.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Chairman, I have no problem with that. I thought that's what it might have intended, but I think we should know, because that does change the scope of the act just by removing those two words.

That's all.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dave MacKenzie

Thank you, Mr. Cotler.

Mr. Woodworth.