House of Commons Hansard #99 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was federal.

Topics

Justice
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Reform

Paul Forseth New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, after that staged fluff question permitted from the government backbench I have a real accountability question.

It has been 736 days since the victims bill of rights disappeared into the black hole of a committee. It has been 329 days since the justice minister promised to reform the Young Offenders Act. A timely fashion is not 736 days for victims and 329 for young offenders.

When will the justice minister exercise some leadership in cabinet and actually do something instead of lecturing us about how complicated these things are?

Justice
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, let me reassure the hon. member that we will be tabling the government's response to the standing committee report very soon.

Let me say, as it relates to victims, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights is in fact holding a national forum in June. I have written to the committee. I have asked it to consider some of the ideas I have in relation to victims. I look forward to hearing what members of the opposition have to say on this important issue.

Asbestos Industry
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister for International Trade.

On the subject of asbestos, the government is delaying lodging a complaint against France before the WTO. However, in less than a week, two new meetings with the French government have produced nothing.

When will the government finally admit it is high time it officially lodged a complaint before the WTO in the matter of asbestos?

Asbestos Industry
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

York West
Ontario

Liberal

Sergio Marchi Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the asbestos file the government has always had the possibility and option of a WTO file on the table. We also said, which has been concurred by many stakeholders from the province of Quebec, that we wanted to pursue the matter with elements of the French government.

We had the visit last month of Professor Got who will be submitting a report hopefully based on science. Yesterday and today we had the minister of state for health, Professor Kouchner who is meeting with our Prime Minister and our ministers.

We are doing everything we can in order to facilitate—

Asbestos Industry
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Winnipeg-Transcona.

The Environment
Oral Question Period

May 5th, 1998 / 2:55 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The minister expressed concern yesterday about the issuing of an environmental permit by the Government of Ontario to a firm called Nova for the export of water to Asia.

Could the minister, having now had more time to consider the matter, tell the House what the government intends to do to prevent this precedent setting export of Canadian water?

The Environment
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Winnipeg South Centre
Manitoba

Liberal

Lloyd Axworthy Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I was in contact this morning with the minister of the environment in the Government of Ontario. We talked about the various options. They will be in Ottawa tomorrow to meet directly with me about the matter. At that time we will take what we hope will be a joint action to deal with this issue.

Taxation
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, Canadian private woodlot owners need to be able to amortize profit to accommodate sustainable forest management. Is the minister willing to change forestry taxation and capital gains regulations to ensure continued and sustainable fibre production on Canadian private woodlots?

Taxation
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the answer to that question has not changed since I responded to his colleague about a month ago. The fact is that woodlot owners who are in normal business have all the rights of normal business people and can obviously take those kinds of deductions and amortizations provided they are in business.

Immigration
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Reform

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, a couple of new immigrants came to my office last week. They are highly respected physicians. They were invited by this government to come to practise medicine in Canada but lo and behold, the professional organizations have refused to allow them to work.

My question is for the minister of immigration. Why is the government misleading immigrants? Why promise and not deliver?

Immigration
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie
Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, clearly, when we meet people abroad who want to immigrate here, we are very specific about our laws and about legislation governing access to the professions within each of the provinces.

That said, I would hope that now, with the federal-provincial committee on access to the professions, we will make progress in this area and will give more immigrants opportunity to practice certain professions in Canada in the near future.

Points Of Order
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Reform

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a point of order with regard to an incident that occurred today at the Standing Committee on Health.

The standing committee adopted a motion restricting members from introducing motions in the official language of choice contrary to the rules of this House and the Official Languages Act. While I voluntarily agreed to submit a motion with the committee in both languages, I am concerned with the committee formalizing this as a requirement in its procedures.

Standing Order 65 outlines the procedure for moving motions. It states:

All motions shall be in writing...before being debated or put from the Chair....it shall be read in English and in French by the Speaker, if he or she be familiar with both languages; if not, the Speaker shall read the motion in one language and direct the Clerk of the Table to read it in the other—

Standing Order 116 states that in a standing committee the standing orders shall apply. Standing Order 116 lists some exceptions such as the election of the Speaker, seconding of motions and times of speaking. However moving motions in the official language of choice is not an exception. Moving motions in either official language is a right granted to members by the authority of this House and by law.

Subsection 4(1) of the Official Languages Act reads as follows:

English and French are the official languages of Parliament, and everyone has the right to use either of those languages in any debates and other proceedings of Parliament.

This subsection defines the rights of members of parliament to speak and submit documents in their language of choice in parliamentary proceedings.

The Commissioner of Official Languages in his report to parliament in 1996 recommended that “the Speaker of the House advise committee chairs, referring particularly to subsection 4(1) of the Official Languages Act, that language should not be an obstacle to members of Parliament in the performance of their duties”.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind you of two important rulings with regard to committees and the standing orders of the House. On June 20, 1994 and November 7, 1996 the Speaker ruled:

While it is a tradition of this House that committees are masters of their own proceedings, they cannot establish procedures which go beyond the powers conferred upon them by the House.

In closing, the committee by adopting a procedure restricting members from introducing a motion in the official language of their choice has established a procedure which goes beyond the powers conferred upon it by the House. This committee is in breach of the standing orders and the law.

Points Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Reform

Randy White Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to comment on a similar complaint that was referred to the Commissioner of Official Languages in February 1996 on this issue.

In that case a joint chairman of the Standing Committee on Official Languages refused to accept a motion that was introduced in English only. The chair based his ruling on a resolution adopted by the committee requiring documents distributed to committee members be in both languages. The member complaining argued that this should not apply to motions. The Commissioner of Official Languages studied this case and concluded:

—the joint chair explained her decision solely on the basis that the motions were submitted in only one language....the joint chair referred only to the unilingual nature of the text submitted by the complainant.

We find that by citing language as the only reason for not considering the complainant's motions, the joint chair's decision limited the complainant's right to perform his parliamentary duties in his own language and consequently was contrary to subsection 4(1) of the act.

It is my understanding that this very thing happened today in the Standing Committee on Health. The committee made a decision that limited a member's right to perform his parliamentary duties in his own language. The Commissioner of Official Languages established members rights under the law. I want to ensure that members rights are also protected under the law of parliament.

I would argue that this grievance may go beyond a simple point of order and may very well be a breach of the member's parliamentary privilege in the House.

Mr. Speaker, I would urge you to do as the Commissioner of Official Languages has done and lay down the law to all committee chairmen on this issue in the House. Language should not be an obstacle to members of parliament in the performance of their duties. They should have the right to speak, the right to submit their documents in the language of their choice in parliamentary proceedings.

Points Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have listened attentively to the arguments presented by my colleagues in the Reform Party and I must say that they seem to be right, at first glance. Language must indeed not be an obstacle to performing one's duties as a parliamentarian. Language must never constitute an obstacle.

That said, however, certain practices have been established in certain committees and, according to what I have been told, the Standing Committee on Health has adopted a procedure which requires motions to be tabled a minimum of 48 hours in advance, precisely in order for them to be presented to the committee members in both official languages.

My understanding of the facts is, therefore, the following: MPs who are on the membership of this committee are not in any way limited in their ability to perform their duties within the committee, because they may submit a motion in their language of choice. They merely need to do so in sufficient time to enable all members of the committee to also perform their duties within the committee in a fully informed manner, by having the motion to be examined available to them in their language.

Once again, I respectfully submit that my interpretation is that the rights of MPs on this committee have not in any way been restricted by the procedure adopted by the committee, since any MP on the committee may indeed present a motion in his or her language of choice, but must do so in sufficient time to enable all members of the committee to also perform their duties within the committee in a fully informed manner, by having the motion to be examined available to them in their language also.

Points Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would simply like to make what I think is an important point.

The House leader of the official opposition tells us that the presentation of documents from a third party should be handled in the same way as a motion from a member. I think that there have traditionally been differences in the way the two are handled.

I recognize the point made by the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, who said earlier that he wanted to present a motion in the language of his choice. That is his own very particular issue. But I do not think it is the same as presenting briefs from witnesses. If I draw a comparison with the House of Commons, a parliamentarian may present a motion in the language of his choice but, when he tables a document, the House equivalent of a brief, he may of course only do so if it is in both languages.

My preliminary observation, therefore, is that the two situations are different. One is regularly permitted in the House, and the other is not. The Chair might perhaps wish to apply the practice in the House to parliamentary committees. That is what I wished to add.