Evidence of meeting #2 for Subcommittee on Private Members' Business in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was unions.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Harold Albrecht

I'd like to call to order this second meeting of the Subcommittee on Private Members' Business of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. Our orders of the day are to determine whether or not certain items are non-votable.

We have four bills before us: two from the Senate and two from the House. We're going to go in the order in which they were received. Bill C-350 is the first one. I am going to ask our analyst to give his comments on the four criteria.

The other thing all of you should have received is the list of criteria relating to House bills and the criteria relating to Senate bills. There are two separate sets of criteria.

Proceed.

12:10 p.m.

Michel Bédard Committee Researcher

Bill C-350 provides “that any monetary amount awarded to an offender pursuant to a legal action or proceeding against Her Majesty in right of Canada be paid to victims and other designated beneficiaries”.

Members of this subcommittee will recall that we looked at a similar bill earlier in this current session, a bill that had been designated as non-votable. Bill C-350 is similar to its predecessor; nonetheless, it is an improvement as regards its constitutionality.

I note in particular that the provision distributing the money awarded to an offender to victims groups instead, when there are no other claims against an offender, has been removed from the new version. I still have reservations about the constitutionality of this proposal.

I must note, however, that a case could be made for the constitutionality of Bill C-350. Proposed paragraph 78.1(1)(a), it could be argued, could be linked to the power of Parliament over marriage and divorce. Proposed paragraphs 78.1(1)(b) and (c), it could be argued, could be linked to the power of Parliament over criminal law.

I am still not totally convinced that this bill is within federal jurisdiction. However, at this stage of the legislative process, when no debates on the bill have taken place yet, debates may then cast some light on the intent and effect of the bill and where the bill could still benefit from amendments. It may be that some restraint may be appropriate before designating the bill as non-votable.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Harold Albrecht

Are there any questions or comments on Bill C-350?

Mr. Toone.

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Philip Toone Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

I have a question. The previous bill included a fairly specific, and very vague, order of priority. Do you have any comments to make about the order?

12:10 p.m.

Committee Researcher

Michel Bédard

We could look at the provisions of the bill. In particular, we are creating four categories in clause 2 of the bill. The first category, with respect to the order of priority, deals with support orders made by a court. I said in my comments that we could potentially make an argument under the authority of the federal Parliament on marriage and divorce: the federal Parliament could grant priority to this kind of support order.

The proposed paragraphs 78.1(1)(b) and (c) deal with restitution orders and victim fine surcharges. These two types of order have been deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada in one case—in another case, it was the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, if I'm not mistaken—and have been deemed to come under the authority of Parliament under criminal law, since they are related to the sentence.

I was saying in my remarks that, once more, we could make the argument that it falls to the justice system to set a kind of precedent so that offenders pay their penalty, by which I mean pay the victim fine surcharge, in the amount of the restitution order that was made.

Finally, the last category states that the money that remains goes to the offender. Obviously, the offender will have other obligations that will have to be honoured with those amounts and his or her other assets.

I compared this bill with the first version of Bill C-292. I noted one difference, among others, in the previous version of Bill C-292: the balance of the money was being distributed to a victims' group. Regardless of whether there was a complaint or an action of some kind, offenders did not have the money that was rightfully theirs, and that money was quite simply transferred to a victims' group. So this is not in the new version of the bill.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Harold Albrecht

Okay, is there any other discussion or questions?

Mr. Dion.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Could you please explain all that again? If I've understood correctly, in your opinion, the former bill was problematic because it was unconstitutional?

12:10 p.m.

Committee Researcher

Michel Bédard

That's what I said when we studied the bill.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Was it unconstitutional because it ventured into the territory of the administration of justice?

12:10 p.m.

Committee Researcher

Michel Bédard

That wasn't the reason. When we studied Bill C-292, I said that it encroached on the provinces' authority on property and civil rights. We changed the restitution order. It's often under provincial authority, unless the federal government has jurisdiction.

Furthermore, we were "expropriating" from offenders money that belonged to them. It's as if we said that everything that remained of an order no longer belonged to the offender, but would now belong to a victims' group, whether the victims' group, or a victim advocacy group, had a claim of some kind against the offender. It was practically expropriation.

This problematic provision no longer appears in Bill C-350. In the preliminary remarks when we did the study, I said that some questions could still be raised, constitutionally speaking. But we are at the start of the legislative process. As you know, when the courts are required to look into whether a bill is constitutional or not, they are going to study the intrinsic proof, meaning what is said in the House. They will try to determine the pith and substance, justly, through debate and study in committee. Right now, this proof doesn't exist because the debate hasn't happened, and it seems that the bill could still certainly benefit from amendments at the committee stage.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Perfect. Thank you.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Harold Albrecht

Okay, I think we're coming to a consensus. All those in favour of allowing Bill C-350 to be considered votable?

Okay. Bill C-350 is deemed votable.

On Bill S-206, we'll ask our analyst to comment.

12:15 p.m.

Committee Researcher

Michel Bédard

Before we go to Bill S-206, I just have one comment with respect to Senate public bills. I think it's the first time this subcommittee is looking at a bill originating from the Senate. I would like to draw your attention to the fact that these bills are not subject to the four criteria; they are only subject to one criterion. A note was distributed to the members of the subcommittee in that regard. The only question that remains is whether or not a similar bill has already been voted on in the current Parliament by the House of Commons.

Senate public bills cannot be designated as non-votable because of the Constitution or any other reason.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Do we know why?

12:15 p.m.

Committee Researcher

Michel Bédard

Do I know the origin of this rule? It's in the Standing Orders.