House of Commons Hansard #181 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Taxation
Oral Questions

Noon

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, it is true that the government has not announced a formal plan in relation to this matter, but there has been a great deal of action. A great deal of work has been done over the last 10 months on the subject of child support.

The government is approaching the issue based on three principles. First, that there should be guidelines or a formula provided by statute to assist the court in determining the amount to be paid for child support to relieve the parties of the expense and anguish of determining that through litigation.

Second, that the tax system should be examined to determine that it is fair to both custodial and non-custodial parents in providing the best for the children of separated families.

Third, that there is an effective national strategy for enforcing court orders once they are made.

In relation to the first matter, the federal-provincial-territorial report with respect to child support was published last January. It contains specific amounts in a proposed formula that is now under public discussion. We are learning from that discussion.

Second, in terms of tax, the Minister of Finance has been at work in that area and is completing an analysis of the options.

Finally, in enforcement, we have developed proposals that will be announced with the other two elements of the package which we believe will enhance the enforcement of support orders across Canada.

Taxation
Oral Questions

Noon

The Speaker

This brings to a conclusion question period, but I have a point of order by the hon. member for Crowfoot.

Points Of Order
Oral Questions

March 31st, 1995 / noon

Reform

Jack Ramsay Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order because I believe that the Minister of Justice has contravened the sub judice conventions of this House.

In response to my question on Monday, March 27 he stated, and I quote from Hansard page 11065:

The judgment that has been referred to is under appeal because the federal government believes at first instance it was simply wrong.

He goes on to state:

We feel in good faith the judgment at first instance in Alberta was wrong. We will pursue that appeal with every confidence that we shall win it.

Furthermore, on Wednesday, March 29, the minister, in response to a question by my colleague from Yorkton-Melville, stated, and I quote from page 11193 of Hansard :

The fact is that the judgment has been appealed. We are taking the position in the Court of Appeal that the judgment was in error.

Mr. Speaker, as you know citation 505 of Beauchesne's sixth edition states:

Members are expected to refrain from discussing matters that are before the courts or tribunals which are courts of record. The purpose of this sub judice convention is to protect the parties in a case awaiting or undergoing trial and persons who stand to be affected by the outcome of a judicial inquiry. It is a voluntary restraint imposed by the House upon itself in the interest of justice and fair play.

Furthermore, citation 506(1) and 506(2) state:

(1) The sub judice convention has been applied consistently in criminal cases.

(2) The precedents in criminal cases are consistent in preventing reference to court cases before a judgment is rendered; however, the convention ceases to apply after the judgment is given. Nevertheless, the convention is applied again when an appeal is launched.

Applying the sub judice convention, the hon. minister has put on the record that the Simmerman case is under appeal and he, with respect, has commented on the case. He has stated on more than one occasion that the judgment was an error. Mr. Simmerman's interests could be negatively affected by the minister's comments.

The convention covers all members of the House. This instance, with respect, also brings the issue of undue influence or ministerial interference into play. Ministers must be even more circumspect with their comments and actions due to their positions. With issues within their sphere of responsibility, they must be even more vigilant.

Here we have the Minister of Justice not only discussing a criminal case which is before the Alberta Court of Appeal, but he also stated that the original decision of the Court of Queen's Bench was wrong.

I suggest that this is where section (2) of citation 506 has been contravened, when it states:

-the convention is applied when an appeal is launched.

This convention has come to be especially for cases like this. I think members of the House will agree that the Simmerman's interest of justice and fair play have been compromised by the statements made by the minister.

I also bring the attention of the House to citation 493 of Beauchesne, whereby members are not to make personal attacks or censure judges and courts of justice.

The Minister of Justice on numerous occasions has stated that the decision of the Alberta Queen's Bench was wrong or in error. Furthermore, I would like to bring to the attention of the House to the case, re Oulette Nos. 1 and 2, cited at 32 Criminal Cases, second edition, page 149 whereby the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs at that time was held in contempt by the Quebec Court of Appeal for making disparaging remarks about a trial judge's decisions.

Mr. Speaker, I ask that you rule on the minister's comments and if he has, in fact, contravened the sub judice convention and/or citation 493.

Points Of Order
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I rise in response to the hon. member's point of order.

First, I take very seriously my responsibilities both here in the House and outside, to respect the jurisdiction of the court, to abide by the sub judice rule and to bear in mind that as minister of the crown, I have responsibilities quite different from those judges of the courts of the country.

I contend as well that nothing I have said here or elsewhere in relation to the Simmerman case or its principle has offended the rule against commenting on cases before the courts.

May I first observe that it is passing strange that the hon. member should first ask me about a case in the House and then raise a point of order because I commented on the case in answering his question. It was in answering the very question put by the hon. member that I am alleged to have breached the rule. I was simply responding to a question put by the hon. member, and doing so in good faith.

Second, as I mentioned the other day, when the hon. member raised this point in question period, there is a great deal of difference between on the one hand commenting on the facts of a criminal case which is in process, whether at trial or on appeal, in a fashion that might prejudice the party, the accused, by indicating what findings should be made or who committed what act-that is highly improper-and on the other hand simply observing that we take a different legal interpretation of a statute which, in fact, is what is at issue in the Simmerman case.

I have said that we regard the legal interpretation put on the Criminal Code and the relevant sections at trial as not being the correct one. In fact, the Alberta government is appealing. The appeal is expected to be heard by the Alberta Court of Appeal in about September of this year. The federal government is now considering whether it will intervene in the appeal to put its point of view before the Court of Appeal.

There is precedent for the proposition. I say there is nothing at all wrong with a minister saying that we take a different legal interpretation of a statute than that put on the statute by a court.

It follows that the interpretation relied on by the court at first instance is not in accord with our interpretation. I suggest what is an issue here is that first we must show proper deference and respect to the court and its process and second, nothing must be said or done by a minister or a member that would prejudice the rights of parties in a pending case with respect to matters of fact.

I say that neither of those principles has been offended by anything I said or did. This point of order is without foundation.

Points Of Order
Oral Questions

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish to comment very briefly to add to what the hon. minister said.

First, in terms of the sub judice convention and citation 505 of Beauchesne's, it is obvious its purpose is to protect the parties in the case before the court. A member of Parliament has asked a question in the House to which the answer was the position the government would be taking vis-à-vis a particular case in an appeal.

It stands to reason that if the government is appealing the case, it is appealing it because it feels the original decision was in error; otherwise there would be no point in appealing a particular decision.

Second, the reference to the Oulette case is extremely inappropriate; it does not apply to this case. That particular issue had nothing to do with a comment made on the floor of the House of Commons, as the Speaker will obviously determine when he reviews the material surrounding that case.

Mr. Speaker, finally, you will recall through all cases I remember in the House of Commons where the sub judice rule has been invoked, it has been invoked and usually ruled on by the Speaker to ensure members do not ask questions in the House that are sub judice.

If there is a case to be made here, it is that the question should not have been asked as opposed to should not have been answered. Therefore, I am forced to turn the table around and to urge the Speaker that if someone is admonished, it should be in such a way as to remind the hon. members not to ask questions when the questions are sub judice.

Points Of Order
Oral Questions

12:10 p.m.

Reform

Elwin Hermanson Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring two more facts to light with regard to this point of order.

First, when the question was asked, it was asked with regard to orders in councils that had been ruled out of order by this case. The question was whether or not the Minister of Justice had the authority to continue making those decisions. It was not a reflection on the case in Alberta.

The second point I would like to make is this. The federal government did not have intervener status in the provincial court case, so the federal justice minister really had no authority to make an intervention in a case that was not under his jurisdiction.

Those are two very important points that need to be brought to your attention, Mr. Speaker.

Points Of Order
Oral Questions

12:10 p.m.

The Speaker

Colleagues, I am going to take all of the debate under advisement. I want the House to recognize and realize that in the case of a convention, it is under the discretion of course of the Chair to make whatever appropriate decision there is.

I would like to point out to all hon. members that the case of a convention is like an agreement, a tradition that we go by in this House of Commons.

Whenever a case has been before the courts, there has been no question there cannot be reference to that case in the House of Commons.

Most of the time this is left in the hands of the members, in their good judgment. In the case of a member asking a question he or she should take into consideration whether there is any infringement on this convention in any way.

On the other hand, when a responder is put in that position, he or she also must weigh this. Basically it comes down to members themselves.

With regard to this case, two cases have been put forth. I will look at all the interventions put forth. I am sure the House will give me the time to review precisely what was said in the original statements.

If there is need to come back, I will but I would like some time to review the whole matter again and perhaps give a little more direction to the House as to what direction we should be going in the case of a convention of the House.

If members would leave this with me, I will get back to the House at the earliest time if necessary.

Ways And Means
Oral Questions

12:15 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Minister of Finance and Minister responsible for the Federal Office of Regional Development-Quebec

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to the provisions of Standing Order 83(1), I have the honour to lay upon the Table a Notice of Ways and Means motion to amend the Excise Tax Act.

I ask that you designate an Order of the Day for the consideration of the said motion.

Government Response To Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

St. Boniface
Manitoba

Liberal

Ronald J. Duhamel Parliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to a number of petitions.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Rompkey Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the first report of the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs, in both official languages, on its deliberations on Bill C-67 with amendments.

Buffalo And Fort Erie Public Bridge Company Act
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst
New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young Minister of Transport

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-81, an act to amend an act respecting the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Company.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Simon de Jong Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to introduce two petitions. One petition is from people in my constituency in Balcarres and Fort Qu'Appelle.

The petitioners request that Parliament support laws that will severely punish all violent criminals who use weapons in the commission of crimes, support new Criminal Code firearm control provisions and support legislation that will repeal and modify existing gun control laws that have not improved public safety.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Simon de Jong Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, the other petition is from people across Canada.

The petitioners point out the importance of the social programs as the fabric of Canadian society, the importance that Canadians have access to proper health care, old age security, et cetera.

They are petitioning Parliament to maintain and enhance the social programs which are our right and heritage.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Reform

Werner Schmidt Okanagan Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions to table.

The first petition calls on Parliament to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to protect individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Reform

Werner Schmidt Okanagan Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition calls on Parliament to reject the legislative proposal and to direct the Minister of Justice to reconsider his approach with respect to the gun legislation.