House of Commons Hansard #161 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was billion.

Topics

Sustainable Development
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

York West
Ontario

Liberal

Sergio Marchi Minister of the Environment

Madam Speaker, as members know, Canadians are celebrating Earth Day, the largest international environmental event when over 100 countries will be pausing and reflecting on the status of our environment and earth.

To mark that occasion I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the first ever sustainable development strategy for the Department of the Environment.

All departments by the end of this year will have to table their reports which will be analyzed by the first ever sustainable development commissioner, whom this government appointed a few months back.

I hope we can make the earth a little cleaner and a little healthier.

Federal Court And Tax Court Of Canada
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Prince Albert—Churchill River
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Gordon Kirkby Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2), I am pleased to table on behalf of the Minister of Justice the auditor general's report on the Federal Court of Canada and the Tax Court of Canada.

I am tabling the report in both official languages and I wish to thank the auditor general for his work in this regard.

Government Response To Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Fundy Royal
New Brunswick

Liberal

Paul Zed Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 26 petitions.

Ways And Means
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Scarborough East
Ontario

Liberal

Doug Peters Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions)

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 83(1), I with to table a notice of ways and means motion respecting the imposition of duties of customs and other taxes to provide relief against the imposition of certain duties and taxes and to provide for other related matters.

I ask that an order of the day be designated for consideration of the motion.

Although I am not sure whether one should be proud of this, this is the largest ways and means motion ever presented.

Constitution
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Madam Speaker, I have the honour to inform the House that, later today, I will be giving notice to bring this constitutional amendment resolution before the House and to refer it to a Special Joint Committee, which will be asked to report back to Parliament.

One week ago, on April 15, 1997, the Quebec National Assembly voted unanimously in favour of a resolution for a constitutional amendment that would end the application to Quebec of subsections (1) to (4) of section 93 (education) of the

Constitution Act, 1867.

On receiving such a proposed amendment, members and senators must ask themselves three fundamental questions. First: what amending formula is applicable to this particular case? Second: is the proposed amendment a good thing for the citizens affected by it? And third: does this amendment enjoy a reasonable degree of support from the citizens affected by it? I will give the Govern-

ment's answers to each of theses three questions in the case of the amendment we have received from the Quebec National Assembly.

First question: which amending formula applies? In the opinion of the federal government, section 93 can be amended pursuant to section 43 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Section 43 deals with the provisions applicable to one or more, but not all, provinces. The amendment can be made with the approval of the House of Commons and chaque province concernée'' in the French version, oreach province to which the amendment applies'' in the English version, which is more specific here. This means that the amendment will affect only Quebec, but will not change the constitutional provisions applicable to the other provinces.

Before the constitutional amendment of 1982, it would have been impossible to amend section 93 unless the traditional means provided by the Constitution Act, 1867 had been used. It would have been necessary to ask the Westminster Parliament to ratify the amendment.

The constitutional amendment passed by the National Assembly clearly falls within the class of bilateral amendments provided for in section 43 of the Constitution Act, 1982. The legal opinions we have received are quite definite on that point. And that is what I told my counterpart Jacques Brassard, Quebec's Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, at our first meeting on this matter on February 7 this year.

Since this is a bilateral amendment, it must be debated by each of the two Parliaments. But these debates should not be simultaneous, in order to avoid possible confusion. For each of the four bilateral amendments made to date, the debate was held first in the province's legislative assembly, since the initiative came from the province. And again on this occasion, since the initiative came from the province, and in view of the fact that it concerns one of its areas of jurisdiction-education-it was necessary for the debate to take place first in the National Assembly. That debate has just ended with a unanimous vote in favour of the proposed amendment.

The Canadian Parliament can now play its part. Since the Constitution requires its assent, it must make its own decision as to the value of the proposed amendment. Indeed, it is its duty to do so, since it represents the citizens affected by the amendment, as does the provincial assembly. The Parliament of Canada is also the Parliament of Quebecers. Federal institutions are also the institutions of Quebecers.

The Canadian government believes that the proposed constitutional amendment is a good thing, and I will now explain why.

The origins of section 93 of the Constitution Act, 1867 predate Confederation. This section was included in the Canadian Constitution to grant education to the provinces and to reassure religious minorities as to their rights at the time when the single Province of Canada was about to be divided to create the provinces of Quebec and Ontario. The purpose of the sections was to protect the Catholic and Protestant religious minorities. Those guarantees were then extended to other Canadian provinces.

Until the Quiet Revolution, Catholic and Protestant Quebecers were apparently satisfied with this system based on 19th century political and social values. However, following the report of the provincial commission of inquiry on education in 1966, there were many discussions in Quebec on the appropriateness of a system with denominational foundations. Like most other western societies, Quebec society was now secular.

On the francophone side, the present organization of school boards makes it more difficult to integrate newcomers into francophone society, as provided by provincial legislation.

The anglophone community long regarded the Protestant school board as an institution vital to its development. However, these school boards have never encompassed Catholic anglophones. On the other hand, they have accepted a growing number of children whose language of instruction is French. As a result, there is a danger that in the medium term the anglophone community may lose control of boards that are an increasingly inadequate reflection of the social reality and that, in any case, cannot respond to the needs of the Catholic populations.

That is why many voices, both francophone and anglophone, Catholic as well as Protestant, have been heard over the last twenty years advocating a system based on language rather than religion. A consensus on the need to reorganize school organization along these lines has existed in Quebec for some time.

However, for various reasons, all previous attempts have failed, including the proposal by Quebec's Minister of Education, Pauline Marois, last June. The Government of Quebec then contemplated a constitutional amendment to allow secularization of school organization. This amendment raises the issue of religious rights, but also, indirectly, the issue of linguistic rights, in view of the historically close links between Protestant school borads and the anglophone community.

Let us look first at the religious issue. The contemplated amendment will end application of subsections (1) to (4) of section 93 of the Constitution Act, 1867 to Quebec, and will accordingly eliminate these religious guarantees.

Although Quebecers approve of secularization of school organization, many are attached to religious instruction. Quebec's Minister of Education, Pauline Marois, has already indicated that schools that so wish may retain their denominational orientation. Furthermore, the right to religious instruction is still guaranteed by section 41 of the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms .

Let us now consider the language issue. The proposed amendment would not weaken the constitutional rights of the anglophone minority. The Act which amended the Canadian Constitution in 1982 guaranteed minority language educational rights for the first time, in section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms .

While it is true that the National Assembly does not recognize the Constitution Act, 1982 , the resolution it is sending us is preceded by a whereas'' clause whichreaffirms the established rights of the English-speaking community of Quebec''. Indeed, section 23 of the Charter was drafted at the time bearing in mind Quebec's policies on the language of education. And the Government of Quebec does not contest its applicability. The resolution I am tabling today is preceded by a ``whereas'' clause which reaffirms that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies everywhere in Canada.

Section 23 of the charter provides strong constitutional guarantees to the minority language community. Section 93 guarantees only the existence of denominational administrative structures in Montreal and Quebec City, and the right of dissent in the rest of the province, but it does not protect language rights. Furthermore, the control and management of linguistic school organization are in fact guaranteed by the case law flowing from section 23 of the charter and not from section 93.

In the Mahé judgment (1990), the Supreme Court ruled that section 23 `` confers a right which places positive obligations on the government to alter or develop major institutional structures. '' Since that time, other judgments have confirmed the interpretation of the Mahé decision.

It is true that the scope of the right to instruction in the minority language provided in section 23 varies according to the number of students involved. In the case law, however, the bar for granting the minority the right to establish and control an administrative structure such as a school board, or simply to participate in it, has not been set very high. Although there were only 242 francophone children attending a school in Edmonton at the time of the Mahé decision, the Supreme Court ruled that this created a right for the minority to manage and control its schools through a system of linguistic minority representation within the school boards.

It is, in a way thanks to the constitutional amendments of 1982 that the Government of Quebec can proceed as it is intending to do today. It is precisely because the right to instruction in the language of the minority and the concomitant right to administer structures are protected by the Constitution Act, 1982 that it is possible for the Quebec government to propose that denominational rights no longer apply within the province.

Now, moving to the support for the proposed amendment, the third question, it is certainly preferable that a proposed constitutional amendment garner the support of the population in question, including minorities if they are affected. This is especially important when dealing with constitutional matters.

Not that minorities are always right. (By that logic, we would still be under the sway of aristocrats!) But members of Parliament are duty bound to be guided by a favourable bias towards minorities. This princicple applies to constitutional matters in particular, for constitutional democracies exist to protect individual rights as well as minority rights. At least, that is the Liberal government's vision of Canada.

In the matter before us, the Government of Canada notes the unanimous vote in the National Assembly and the existence of a reasonably broad consensus, which includes members of all components of Quebec society.

Some Catholics are opposed to the amendment but their bishops do not object to it.

Some groups from the anglophone community would have liked the national assembly to take this opportunity to strengthen the linguistic minority's constitutional rights. This is, to be sure, a noble objective. The Government of Canada would welcome with open arms any province that wanted to strengthen the rights of its linguistic minority and become an example to the other provinces.

We did not demand of the province of New Brunswick that other provinces adhere to official bilingualism before agreeing to New Brunswick's request to entrench the equal status of its two linguistic communities in the Constitution in 1993. Our passion for equality must never be synonymous with the lowest common denominator.

However, the fact that the constitutional amendment does not strengthen the minority is not a sufficient reason to object to it. The important thing is that the amendment not infringe on this minority's rights and that it garners a reasonable level of support with the minority community.

The broader the consensus, the easier it will be to implement the constitutional amendment under the right conditions. The Government of Canada believes that the parliamentary committee it intends to form could provide an opportunity to broaden the consensus. The important issues raised by the amendment will be studied within a parliamentary framework, in accordance with the democratic culture that Quebecers share with other Canadians. A variety of experts, groups and citizens could thus be given the opportunity to express their points of view and to listen to the responses of their members of Parliament.

In order to match speed with due parliamentary procedure, this will be a joint committee, enabling MPs ans senators to do their word simultaneously.

To conclude, the government is of the view that the proposed constitutional amendment we have received from the National Assembly falls within the class of bilateral amendments provided for in section 43 of the Constitution Act, 1982 . The government believes that this amendment should be passed expeditiously, in accordance with parliamentary procedure, for it will have positive consequences for Quebec society, including both of its linguistic communities.

Quebec society has succeeded in reaching a consensus on a constitutional issue which touches upon the vital issues of schooling language and religion.

This demonstrates the remarkable nature of Quebec society and the extent to which it contributes, in its way, to Canada's greatness.

Constitution
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Pierrette Venne Saint-Hubert, QC

Madam Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to speak to the proposal of the Government of Quebec to amend the Constitution Act, 1867. The Quebec government's objective is to abolish the denominational school system it inherited from Queen Victoria and establish, within its territory, linguistic school boards which reflect the reality of Quebec society today.

The proposed amendment to the Constitution Act, 1867, is relatively straightforward. It would involve adding a new section 93A providing that subsections (1) to (4) of section 93 do not apply to Quebec. The new section would have many advantages. It would fully maintain the application to Quebec of the preamble to section 93, in which the provinces are given exclusive jurisdiction over education, and it would free Quebec of all the constraints in subsections (1) to (4) of the section 93, an essential prerequisite for rebuilding the school system on any other than a denominational basis.

For some time there has been a very broad consensus among both francophones and anglophones on the need to secularize the school system administration in Quebec. More than 30 years ago, the Parent commission appointed by the Liberal government of Jean Lesage recommended replacing denominational school boards with unified school boards that would administer all schools, both French and English, in their respective districts.

Since then another trend has developed favouring linguistic school boards, an approach strongly supported by anglophones. All the governments that tried to replace denominational school boards with unified school boards and linguistic school boards came up against the uncompromising provisions of section 93.

In 1984, the National Assembly passed legislation to reorganize school boards on the basis of language of education. This legislation was thrown out by the courts because of section 93, although it merely diminished the territory of denominational school boards, without removing the boards.

Subsequently, we had Bill 107 in 1988. To comply with the provisions of section 93, this legislation provided that linguistic school boards would be established but denominational school boards would continue to exist. This legislation never came into force, because implementation would have led to unprecedented fragmentation of the public school system.

For instance, the City of Montreal would have had four school boards: one Catholic, one Protestant, one francophone and one anglophone. By adding linguistic school boards on top of existing denominational school boards, the new plan would create a school system that was fragmented, segregationist and costly, at a time when the emphasis was on streamlining administration, on integration and intercultural dialogue and bringing together citizens of all origins and faiths.

We must realize that section 93 clearly puts certain constraints on attempts to modernize school boards in Quebec.

Some may think that the proposed constitutional amendment violates the rights of the anglophone minority in Quebec. However, section 93 does not have the slightest connection with the rights of the anglophone minority in Quebec. It concerns neither the language of education nor language teaching. It concerns only the privileges granted at the time to two specific groups on the basis of their religious affiliation. In the 19th century, in Quebec City and Montreal, some English speaking Catholics preferred at the time to be identified as Catholics.

The assumption that constitutional guarantees for Protestant school boards were intended to protect the anglophone minority has already been rejected by the courts.

In this regard, I refer you to a decision by the Supreme Court in 1981 in which the court stated that section 93 provided religious and not linguistic guarantees. The theory that section 93 protects the anglophone minority was not upheld either by the drafters of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, who felt it appropriate to introduce section 23, which serves to guarantee rights to education in English in Quebec and the right for this education to be provided in institutions of the anglophone minority.

If we want to promote the rights of the anglophone minority in the area of school administration, we would do much better to permit the creation of linguistic school boards, as the Government of Quebec is proposing, than to maintain the Protestant school boards. Quebec's demographic reality imposes this approach.

Of the students enrolled in primary or secondary public education in Quebec, whose mother tongue is English, 34.3 per cent consider themselves Catholic, 32.4 per cent consider themselves Protestant and 33.2 per cent practice another religion or declare none.

On the Island of Montreal, the variances are much more impressive: 43.4 per cent of anglophone students consider themselves Catholic compared with 10.4 per cent who consider themselves Protestant. The others, some 46.2 per cent of Montreal's anglophone students, hold other religious beliefs or have none.

Maintaining existing Protestant school boards is no guarantee for either the Protestant or anglophone minorities. Furthermore, no political party in Quebec and none of the organizations involved in the matter to a varying degree has any argument with maintaining the English educational networks in Quebec from kindergarten to university.

Raising the spectre of alleged language persecution as a means of opposing the reform of school boards, as Alliance Quebec is doing, it totally absurd. The effect of the reform will in fact be to enable anglophones to administer the schools that provide teaching in English.

Since the National Assembly voted unanimously in favour of a resolution to amend section 93 of the Constitution Act, 1867, since a broad consensus was formed in Quebec on the question, since the Government of Quebec has given the anglophone community some reassurance in amending its proposed resolution to reaffirm the enshrined rights of English speaking Quebecers, we are entitled to ask why the federal government now wants to put the proposed constitutional amendment to a joint parliamentary committee.

In his speech, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs said there had been a consensus for 20 years in Quebec on the need to reorganize the educational system. By setting up a joint parliamentary committee, the minister now wants to establish a broader consensus on the constitutional change. However, the scope of this consensus leaves me with the impression that he wants unanimity on the issue.

Is this a stalling tactic? Democracy has spoken in Quebec, and Parliament has no lessons for Quebec on the democratic process. The 15th anniversary of the patriation of the Constitution serves to remind us. On the subject of democracy, it is absurd to have senators, who have no democratic legitimacy in either Quebec or Canada, on the joint committee. Need I point out that the senators are not elected but appointed directly by the Prime Minister.

The Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs states that the committee will submit its report on May 31. We all know that the general elections will be called in a few days, thus dissolving the committee. This means then that we are not about to see the actualization of the Government of Quebec's proposed constitutional amendment.

Despite all, the Bloc Quebecois is prepared to take part in and work with the special standing joint committee on the Quebec government's proposed constitutional amendment, so long as it sits this week to permit passage of the amendment before Parliament is recessed.

I hope that the federal government will act in good faith in the process so that the amendment of section 93 of the Constitution Act may be done as quickly as possible and in accordance with the wishes of the government and National Assembly of Quebec.

Constitution
Routine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley East, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a privilege to respond today on behalf of the Reform Party of Canada to this ministerial statement.

I note that the Reform Party has not taken a position as a caucus on the issue since it was just tabled in the House today. However I would like to express a few thoughts which may guide individual members during the discussion of this important issue and which may help members of the Reform Party in their decision about whether to vote for the resolution.

I am somewhat surprised but pleased that this request to change the Constitution comes from a legislature which denies the validity of the Constitution. I suppose we in Parliament are pleased that although the political rhetoric from Mr. Bouchard is running high, his actions run contrary to his words in actual fact with his recognition of the Constitution as the rule of law in the country. He is abiding by it. We in the Reform Party wish that he would make a public commitment to abide by the Constitution with respect to the

question of the sovereignty of Quebec. I will return to that theme in a moment.

Reformers are committed to the principle of grassroots participation in decision making, especially when it comes to our most basic law, the Constitution. Decision making on political issues needs to be pushed as far down the political ladder as possible to those most affected by the decision.

Although politicians in the legislature of Quebec have voted unanimously for the resolution, there is a large group of people from whom we have not heard. Those are the parents of the children in the schools. They may support the resolution or they may be against it, but the point is that we simply do not know. There have been no public hearings held on the resolution in Quebec as far as I know. That is a fundamental flaw in the political process which the government has not addressed.

Many Reform Party members will vote against the resolution for this reason alone. We are changing the legal rights of religious minorities and other minorities without hearing from the people who might be affected. As I mentioned, many Reformers will find that very unpalatable and very hard to support.

I am pleased that at least the federal government is referring the resolution to a joint committee. It is my hope that the government will take its time and not rush the matter through without hearing from all those affected, simply because there is an election in the offing and the federal government may want to appease the Government of Quebec. I hope that will not happen.

In my province constitutional change must be approved in a provincial referendum before any change is accepted by the province of British Columbia. I believe that is the proper way to do it.

The last time we dealt with a change to the Constitution in Parliament was at Newfoundland's request. Most Reform Party members found that although we had questions about whether it was a wise decision and questions about minority rights and all the things that concerned us, most of our concerns were put at ease. There had been wide public consultation in the province of Newfoundland. There had been public debate. There had been a referendum on the question. The people of Newfoundland expressed the opinion that they were in favour of the change.

If the province of Quebec had done that on this issue and come to the House asking for the change, it would have been so much easier to support, knowing full well that the people had been consulted in the most democratic way by having a referendum on the question.

When the joint committee begins its investigation some questions will be raised, if the committee is allowed to do its work properly, by parents, bishops, minority groups in Quebec, Alliance Quebec and others. They will come before the committee to raise several questions.

They will raise the question that it is not wise or prudent to toss aside a century old tradition and constitutional requirement to have confessional schools. They will say it is not good enough to make a blanket declaration that Quebec society is now secular and therefore that justifies broad changes to the Constitution.

Many Quebecers may well want these changes. That question will be put by the bishops and by many others that have contacted our office and other MPs' offices saying they want to have a say in the matter. They want to put some questions and bring their concerns to the table. I am sure that would be one way they would do that.

People will come forward to say that in the past there has been positive contribution from many confessional schools or religious schools. The schools have been a check and balance on the Government of Quebec using its influence within the school system to mould the future youth. It is interesting how so many different players are involved in moulding our youth. Certainly the parents have the primary role but many other factors mould the next generation.

Our schools are a big factor. Our religious institutions suffice it to say have a huge influence on the next generation. I do not know the numbers exactly of how many are Catholic or Protestant and how many are French or English. They help to balance the third influence, the government.

People will raise the question that it is a good check and balance on the system to have different players such as parents, religious authorities, the government, people devising curricula and all the different factors coming into play to help mould the next generation. Sometimes those checks and balances are necessary to make sure that no one group forces its agenda on the table.

I hope the hearings will allow those people to come forward. The government will realize that sometimes it is not always wise to throw the baby out with the bath water. There are some necessary checks and balances. Many people will be coming forward to indicate that these changes take some of those checks and balances away.

The rights of linguistic and religious minorities must be respected in Quebec as in all of Canada. The resolution has the potential, many people will argue, to abuse those rights. We have assurances from the minister that he does not believe that will happen. We have assurances from the Bloc that will not happen.

The record of the separatist government in Quebec is not very good. In some statements its members have made they have blamed ethnic minorities and other people for different actions, everything from unemployment to whatever. During the hearings people will be bringing forward the idea that religious and linguistic minorities may be losing some of their rights through this change. Again that will be discussed. The joint standing committee

that will be struck will want to review that in detail to make sure it is not the case.

I hope the federal government will avoid any rash political decisions in this most important debate because an election is probably only three or four days away.

I hope it is sincere in that it does want to allow a joint Senate-Commons committee to do the investigative work, to call witnesses, to put people's minds at ease where it can be done, and to raise any troubling concerns that people in Quebec may have about this proposed constitutional change.

I hope the federal government will do that. I think this is a most important debate that we will be entering into and it will centre around our desire to preserve our values of tolerance, our appreciation of the past, our religious freedoms and our national unity. I look forward to that debate. I thank the minister for his intervention.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Bill Graham Rosedale, ON

Madam Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade relating to circumpolar co-operation.

This report is unanimous and has the support of all parties that participated in it. It concludes a year long study by the committee and makes 49 recommendations developing a stronger Canadian foreign policy to meet the increasingly important challenges of circumpolar co-operation heading into the 21st century.

I believe every party cooperated and collaborated to prepare this report, proving that this House can work together for the good of all Canadians.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table an answer to the report.

Interpretation Act
Routine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Mac Harb Ottawa Centre, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-408, an act to amend the Interpretation Act (definition of child).

Madam Speaker, this bill is co-sponsored by my colleague from Mississauga East. It harmonizes all federal government legislation to bring it in line with the December 13, 1991 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

It was agreed at that convention that country members will harmonize all their legislations when dealing with the definition of a child so that a child is defined as anyone under the age of 18.

Currently Canada lacks a uniform legal definition of who is considered a child. This lack of legal definition poses particular difficulties when we try to describe rights and responsibilities of older teenagers, especially those between the ages of 16 and 18.

In Canada inconsistent and often contradictory laws and regulations do not always provide a sufficient basis for a stable and adequate policy toward children. In some cases contradiction can be found in existing legislation. For example, the definition of a child as defined by the Income Tax Act set the upper limit of eligibility for the child tax benefit at age 18. At the same time, under the goods and services tax, a child is considered to be a dependent child until he or she is 19.

In light of Canada's commitment to children, it would seem only logical that we undertake a task of harmonizing all federal legislation dealing with children, in particular by ensuring that our legislation is in conformity with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

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

Divorce Act
Routine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Mac Harb Ottawa Centre, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-409, an act to amend the Divorce Act (definition of child).

Madam Speaker, this act also amends the definition of a child of the marriage in the Divorce Act by including in the term persons between the ages of 16 and 18. This also reflects the definition of child proposed by the United Nations in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, an agreement which was ratified by Canada in 1991.

According to Statistics Canada there are about 1,869,000 people between the ages of 15 and 19, representing approximately 7 per cent of the total population. This age range is perhaps the most significant development age of one's life and includes not only physical changes but also social, intellectual and psychological development.

It is important for us to review the way we define our children both legally and socially and seek to clarify the rights and responsibilities of parents, the state and, most important, children.

The spirit of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is to ensure that countries develop and maintain legislation to serve the best interests of the child. Basically this amendment will do just that.

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

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act
Routine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Mac Harb Ottawa Centre, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-410, an act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act.

Madam Speaker, the purpose of this bill is to ensure that there is a standard school leaving age of 18 years across Canada by making provisions for the definition from the Canadian health and social transfer to a province if the school age is not 18 years.

About 30 per cent of all children in Canada leave school before they reach the age of 18, many of whom get low paying jobs or end up on employment insurance or social assistance. Some can not really carry on a full and productive life.

The purpose of the legislation is to set a standard age for when a child could leave an educational institution, an apprenticeship program, a learning facility or a vocational training facility.

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

Canada Pension Plan
Routine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Mac Harb Ottawa Centre, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-411, an act to amend the Canada Pension Plan (definition of child).

Madam Speaker, this bill amends the definition of child in the Canada pension plan to reflect the definition proposed by the United Nations in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, an agreement that was ratified by Canada in 1991.

Also, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was the first internationally recognized document stating a legal code of rights and measures that should be undertaken to ensure the worldwide protection of children. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on November 29, 1989 and was ratified by Canada on December 13, 1991. The convention is predicated on previous United Nation manifestoes beginning with the Geneva declaration in 1994, the universal declaration of human rights in 1948 and the declaration of the rights of the child in 1959.

This amendment would ensure that the best interests of the child are protected.

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

Members Of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act
Routine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Mac Harb Ottawa Centre, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-412, an act to amend the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act (definition of child).

Madam Speaker, this bill amends the definition of a child in the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act to reflect the definition proposed by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, an agreement which was ratified by Canada in 1991. It will also streamline this act.

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

Young Offenders Act
Routine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Mac Harb Ottawa Centre, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-413, an act to amend the Young Offenders Act (definition of child).

Madam Speaker, this bill amends the definition of a child in the Young Offenders Act to reflect the definition proposed in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, an agreement which was ratified by Canada.

To date there is no uniform legal definition of child in Canada. The word child is both broadly defined and used commonly in everyday language. As a result this contributes significantly to the legal ambiguity which often occurs when the court attempts to distinguish between childhood and adulthood.

Most statutes assign their own definition of a child and frequently use terms such as minor, dependant or young person to refer to those individuals under the age of 18.

For example, the Young Offenders Act defines a child as a person who is, or who in the absence of evidence to the contrary appears to be, under the age of 12, while those between the ages of 12 and 18 are considered young persons.

Notwithstanding the different aspects of the Young Offenders Act when we deal with offences, this bill makes the unequivocal statement that a child is anybody under the age of 18 and then we can move on and deal with the other aspects of the legislation.

It really ensures that we have uniformity in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

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

Bank Act
Routine Proceedings

April 22nd, 1997 / 10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Mac Harb Ottawa Centre, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-414, an act to amend the Bank Act (definition of infant).

Madam Speaker, this bill deals with the definition of the term infant. The Bank Act refers to a child as an infant. This amendment provides the definition of the term infant for the purpose of ensuring that it is interpreted consistently with the definition of child proposed in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as a person who is less than 18 years of age.

The term infant is used instead of child in this act because of wide use of infant in the common law of contracts to mean a minor.

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