House of Commons Hansard #39 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was benefits.

Topics

Canadian Human Rights Commission

10 a.m.

The Speaker

I have the honour to lay upon the table the annual report and the employment equity report of the Canadian Human Rights Commission for the year 2000.

Privilege

10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege this morning as my rights as a member of parliament have been abused again.

I speak of the annual report of the Canadian Human Rights Commission which you just tabled in the House immediately prior to my speaking, but which has been reported extensively in the press this morning. For example, the Toronto Star and other papers have reported it at length.

This contempt of parliament by this unelected and unaccountable commission and the Minister of Justice is quite obvious. This is the second time in a month and a half that the commission has leaked one of its reports to the media prior to it being tabled in the House of Commons. I raised this as a question of privilege on February 15, 2001 at page 714.

When it comes to government doing business, I sometimes have to wonder if this House means anything to it or is it just a superfluous adjunct as it jumps over the heads of this institution to communicate directly with Canadian people.

Mr. Speaker, I ask that you speak out and protect the privileges of this House and its members.

Erskine May describes contempt as:

—any act or omission which obstructs or impedes either House of Parliament in the performance of its functions, or which obstructs or impedes any Member or officer of such House in the discharge of his duty, or which has a tendency, directly or indirectly, to produce such results may be treated as a contempt even though there is no precedent for the offence.

We do have precedence here. There are news articles, as I have referred to, the Toronto Star , the Hamilton Spectator and the London Free Press , detailing the exact contents of the annual report of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Annual reports to parliament are to remain secret and confidential until tabled in the House of Commons. Other agencies, crown corporations, the auditor general and so on are able to respect this tenet. Why is it that the Canadian Human Rights Commission believes that it is above the normal protocols and trashes them instead of respecting them?

The member of parliament for Provencher raised a similar point of order on March 14, 2001 at page 1646 of Hansard when he argued that his rights as a member of parliament were breached because of the contempt shown by the Minister of Justice to this House in excluding members of parliament from briefings on a bill prior to it being tabled in the House. Yet the media had the contents and substance of the bill published prior to its tabling.

Mr. Speaker, you ruled on March 19, 2001, at page 1839, that the member for Provencher had a prima facie case of privilege. Today we have a repeat of the same situation. The media had the contents and substance of the annual report while the members of parliament are in the dark.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission falls under the purview of the Minister of Justice.

While the commission is a quasi-judicial body, it still has to answer to both the minister and to parliament. There is a pattern here where the minister has contempt for this honourable and venerable institution.

Mr. Speaker, the situation is becoming intolerable. I ask that you find that there is prima facie case of the breach of my privileges. Since you ruled that way so recently, and it was obviously ignored, I ask that you recommend that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs deal with the matter sternly.

Privilege

10:05 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I agree generally with what the hon. member has said. It is unfortunate, though, that he has chosen to trivialize such an important issue by somehow alleging that this has something to do with the government.

First, the commission reports to parliament. The Speaker just rose and tabled the report. This has nothing to do with an action of the government.

An action of the government, which I regret, occurred some days ago in the House for which instructions were clearly given about a protocol and giving these kinds of media briefings under embargo, which, as we now know, were not respected by members of the media. The Chair indicated to ministers that these things could only be done if done in a secure way, which I read to be a lockup or some such thing, but that was a different issue altogether.

Mr. Speaker ruled on the previous item and we accepted the ruling that he gave of prima facie and it is still before a parliamentary committee for further study.

In the case today, this was not a report that was given for the government to table. This was a report given directly to parliament and tabled in the House by the Speaker of the House. If someone has breached that, which obviously has happened, then I agree with the hon. member across. I do not object to what he has raised in the sense that it indicates rules were broken.

Where I do disagree with the hon. member is on the personal comment he made about the Minister of Justice, alleging that she was personally involved. He should retract his comment as he has no proof of that. The hon. member knows that the minister does not report that document. He knows that the minister is responsible for the estimates of that organization. That would be the same as alleging that because I am responsible for the estimates of Elections Canada, I am somehow responsible for the tabling or non-tabling, or the actions or non-actions of the Chief Electoral Officer, or that somehow the Minister of Justice would be responsible for adjudication of the supreme court. That is inappropriate and the hon. member knows that.

While I agree with the principle of what he has raised, the gratuitous accusations against the Minister of Justice and against the government are wrong and should be withdrawn. That being said, I agree with the point that he has raised about the inappropriateness of the commission or anyone who by negligence wilfully allows a report to leak out.

Privilege

10:05 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have to sit here with some amusement watching the feigned indignation of the government House leader over these personal comments.

However, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that because of the proximity in time, given your ruling, there is an opportunity here to bring this matter also before the procedure and house affairs committee to look at it.

The government House leader is right. The Minister of Justice is not personally responsible, but this goes to the principles of governmental and ministerial responsibility.

Privilege

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

We have a situation here where a report, which was prepared by an officer of the House of Commons, a person who reports to the House of Commons directly, has obviously been given to the media, based on the information I am hearing in the House today.

The report stands permanently referred to the justice and human rights committee of the House. It seems to me that the appropriate course in the circumstances is for that committee to undertake its study of the report, as I am sure it will in due course. It is free to call the head of the commission and anyone else it sees fit to come and explain what has happened and the circumstances. It seems to me that would be the appropriate course.

Should the procedure and House affairs committee, as part of the work it is doing on the question of release of documents that has come to it as a result of my previous ruling, want to look at the matter, it is of course free to do so.

What I would suggest to the hon. member for St. Albert, the government House leader, the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough and all hon. members is that we let this go to the justice and legal affairs committee. If the committee has concerns about what has happened and feels that something inappropriate happened, I will allow the hon. member for St. Albert, if he wishes, to bring this matter back to the House. We will treat it as a matter of privilege and deal with it at that point.

However, I think that since this is a matter involving an officer of the House, I do not see that today there has been necessarily a breach of the privileges. The matter can be investigated by a committee. The committee can come back to the House or the member can come back to the House and raise it as a question of privilege when we have heard the evidence on it. There will be evidence. This matter is before the committee and making a finding today that sends it to the committee again is unhelpful.

I am aware that the procedure and House affairs committee is looking at the other matter as a result of my ruling and I am sure that should it choose to do so, it could look into this matter also, but certainly the justice and legal affairs committee can do so.

I hope that hon. members can deal with it there and then, if we have to, we will come back to the House and deal with it here.

Estimates
Routine Proceedings

March 29th, 2001 / 10:10 a.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie
Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure

Mr. Speaker, I would like to table, on behalf of my colleagues, part III of the Estimates consisting of 87 departmental expenditure plans and priorities.

These documents will be distributed to the members of the standing committees to assist in their consideration of the spending authorities sought in part II of the Estimates.

Air Traffic Complaints Commissioner
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Algoma—Manitoulin
Ontario

Liberal

Brent St. Denis Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Transport and pursuant to Standing Order 32(2) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the first report of the air travel complaints commissioner, Mr. Bruce Hood.

Government Response To Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River
Ontario

Liberal

Derek Lee Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

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

Points Of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. This morning I just heard about contempt for the House and it had to deal with another issue. There is contempt in the House once again.

The Toronto Star has an article about Ottawa extending benefits to more veterans. Of course we all want more benefits for our veterans but the statement by the minister is that the announcement by the veterans affairs minister could come as early as Thursday with regard to allowing benefits for those Canadians who served in the gulf war or Balkans. They are to be awarded full veteran status.

This should not have gone to the Toronto Star until it came to the veterans affairs committee and to the House. This is total contempt—

Points Of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member is aware that ministers are free to make announcements in the House, in committee or on the street. The House for a long time has not enforced any right, and indeed it is questionable whether it ever had any right, to demand that all announcements be made here.

I know the hon. member may be outraged that the statement was made somewhere else but these things happen and the Chair is powerless to do much about it.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Mac Harb Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade on the issue of softwood lumber. This represents the first report of the subcommittee on international trade disputes and investments.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the second report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts with regard to international financial reporting guidelines and standards for the public sector.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109 of the House of Commons, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to the report.

Proportional Representation Review Act
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-322, an act to provide for a House of Commons committee to study proportional representation in federal elections.

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the bill is to begin a study of the idea of proportional representation in terms of changing the voting system in Canada. We are one of few countries in the world that does not use some measure of PR.

The purpose of the bill is to look into what model might be appropriate and then put that model before the Canadian people.

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

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River
Ontario

Liberal

Derek Lee Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?