Debates of April 3rd, 2003
House of Commons Hansard #84 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was united.
- Points of Order
- Government Response to Petitions
- Interparliamentary Delegations
- Committees of the House
- Questions on the Order Paper
- The Environment
- Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries
- Juno Awards
- Pita Aatami
- Juno Awards
- Parthenon Marbles
- National Post
- Daffodil Month
- Joseph Kobolak
- National Post
- Aboriginal Affairs
- First Nations
- Peter Nygard
- Firearms Registry
- Canadian Alliance
- Le Salon du livre de l'Outaouais
- Anti-War Protestors
- Member for LaSalle--Émard
- Member for LaSalle--Émard
- Guaranteed Income Supplement
- Citizenship and Immigration
- National Defence
- Member for LaSalle—Émard
- Canada-U.S. Relations
- Dairy Producers
- Canada Elections Act
- Natural Resources
- Official Languages
- Chambord Plant
- Business of the House
- Message from the Senate
- Free Trade Agreements
- Automotive Pollution Reduction Act
Points of Order
Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like to bring to your attention a situation which arose yesterday in the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources during a debate in connection with a time allocation motion presented by a Liberal member of the committee.
While we were debating that motion, and while my colleague from Winnipeg Centre had the floor, a member of the Liberal Party, namely the member for Miramichi, raised a point of order with the chair of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources and moved the previous question, which is not allowed by the Standing Orders. To quote page 786 of the House and Commons Procedure and Practice :
The moving of the previous question is prohibited in a Committee of the Whole as it is in any committee.
Further on the same page it states:
—the moving of the previous question would prevent Members from proposing amendments and considering the legislation to the fullest extent possible.
In this case, the motion in question was a time allocation motion, and my colleague from Winnipeg Centre had the floor.
The committee chair ignored this procedure, this Standing Order, and allowed the previous question to be moved. We challenged this decision by the chair. It is immediately obvious that the chair was, and still is, in complete contradiction with the Standing Orders of the House, and those applying to committees.
It is true, as you stated yesterday, that the committees are masters of their own proceedings and procedures, but still those procedures must comply with the Standing Orders of this House and those applicable to the proper conduct of committee business.
In this case, the committee—and in particular its chair, by his actions—has demonstrated that it needs to be brought back in order. It has very clearly gone beyond the Standing Orders and, as the preceding citation demonstrates, is preventing the members from doing their job properly and effectively.
I would, moreover, like to submit to you another situation that occurred in this same committee during the first part of its deliberations yesterday. The chair used disgraceful language, unworthy of his office, unworthy of the institution we respect, and unworthy of any member worthy of that name. He used foul language, calling me “chien sale” and “enfant de chienne”. He repeated these terms several times.
I appeal to you today, given these two situations which do no honour to the institution or to the chair of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources. Since the chair of my committee was not able to act as the guardian of my rights and privileges, therefore, according to House of Commons Procedure and Practice , page 261, you are:
—the guardian of the rights and privileges of Members and of the House as an institution.
Moreover, on the previous page of that book, we see that:
The duties of the Speaker of the House of Commons require balancing the rights and interests of the majority and minority in the House to ensure that the public business is efficiently transacted and that the interests of all parts of the House are advocated and protected against the use of arbitrary authority.
Thus, Mr. Speaker, I ask you to intervene, because the chair of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources contravenes the Standing Orders by his cavalier management of debates, and cause the chair to reverse his decision to allow the moving of the previous question.
I also ask you to intervene to have him stop using disgraceful, unparliamentary language that is particularly unworthy of a committee chair, because we cannot continue in this way; we cannot work effectively to defend the interests of the people we represent in this kind of working environment.
Points of Order
Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB
Mr. Speaker, I would like to add a couple of details to the intervention made by the member for Saint-Hyacinthe--Bagot.
He is accurate and what he says is correct. Last night at the standing committee on aboriginal affairs, I had the floor and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs intervened to ask that the vote be now put. The only difference in what I would like to share with you is that the chair ruled that out of order. The chair said that the question could not be put in standing committees. However he then said that if we did not like that ruling, we could challenge the chair.
At that time, the government side members of the committee challenged the chair and the chair stepped out. An alternate was put in, the vote was taken and the wishes of the parliamentary secretary were in fact passed.
The point I would like you to consider, Mr. Speaker, is the chair did not really have the right to be subject to a challenge because he was only upholding the standing rules. He was not making a ruling or an interpretation. He was merely stating what the standing rules were, subject to Standing Order 116, which is the rules of the House of Commons apply in the absence of anything to the contrary.
It was out of order to even have a vote on challenging the chair or to uphold the ruling of the chair. What I would ask you, Mr. Speaker, very simply is to intervene, through a review of what took place at last night's meeting, and to uphold the ruling of the chair when he ruled the parliamentary secretary out of order. That would mean that I had the floor when this intervention took place, that I should still have the floor to carry on speaking on the motion, which was properly before the committee, and that all subsequent business that took place after this intervention would be rendered null and void because it was not an order.
I would ask you to rule then that we revert back to the period of time prior to the intervention of the parliamentary secretary and again to uphold the ruling of the chair that the parliamentary secretary was out of order to call the question and cease debate on the motion. One cannot call the question at a standing committee, as cited by the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe--Bagot.
Points of Order
Don Boudria Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, I want to respond briefly to what has been said because I feel there are a couple of issues that the Chair should consider. I want to eventually draw the attention of the Chair to pages 646 and 647 of Marleau and Montpetit which hopefully will assist the Chair in this matter. I want to preface my remarks to talk about the amount of time that was concentrated for the debate by one member, continuously.
I understand that on Thursday of last week there were some two hours of debate. The day before yesterday there was 13 hours of debate. Last night there was an additional 11 hours of debate by one person.
Points of Order
Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB
That is not accurate.
Points of Order
Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON
The hon. member might think that the person had a lot to say, and that is a legitimate concern. I wonder whether Canadians would accept that somebody speaking for something like 25 hours non-stop on one clause meets the test of what is reasonable. The chair of the committee and other members of the committee had their patience and everything else drawn to wit's end after that kind of activity took place. We are sent here to legislate.
I refer members to our procedural manual, Marleau and Montpetit. There is an incident described at page 647, footnote No. 282. It states:
On March 19, 1990, when the Standing Committee on Finance was considering Bill C-62, An Act to implement the goods and services tax, a motion was made to establish a timetable for completing the examination of the bill which resulted in a debate that went on for 31 hours.
One person spoke for 31 hours. Does that sound familiar? That is roughly the same amount of time of the debate that went on over the last three days.
What did the Chair do? I cite:
The Chair then decided to terminate the debate and imposed a form of closure. His action was based on a case which occurred in the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs in 1984, where the Chair had made an identical ruling in similar circumstances...
I refer your honour to the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence of June 6, 1984. The House will find this reference in Issue No. 36, pages 3 to 7. We are now up to two such precedents for terminating debate. Interestingly enough in one case after 31 hours.
It goes on further to say:
The Chair's right to make such a ruling was challenged and appealed, but the ruling was upheld by a majority of the Committee.
Does that sound familiar, Mr. Speaker? That is identical to what occurred yesterday.
I continue reading:
--when the action of the Chair was challenged in the House, the Speaker ruled that this was a matter within the competence of the Finance Committee, and stated that it was not the role of the Speaker to supervise committee chairmen...
We are now back to where we are this morning.
I draw this to the attention of the Speaker and ask him to review Hansard of March 26, 1990.
When the decision was made yesterday, I understand that the reference which I just read to your honour was also read in committee, so everyone understood under which rule they were operating and where the precedents came for the decisions to be made.
I want to touch briefly on the issue of the previous question to which has been referred. We have a term in the House when we say that the question be now put. That of course does not put the question immediately. The purpose of that in the House is a parliamentary term to refer to the fact that the amendment cease to occur and that we are debating the proposition that is before the House until it expires. That is a different story, I submit to Mr. Speaker, than someone moving in committee that we stop the debate and we vote now.
Maybe the language has some similarity. However, the meaning of it in the committee context is totally different. The meaning when brought to committee to say that this is enough, we now vote, is in fact invoking what is on page 647 of Marleau and Montpetit and elsewhere in our Standing Orders. In other words, people are invoking that we cease the filibuster and proceed with the work of the committee which is why we are sent here.
I will argue with the Chair that is exactly what happened last night, that is exactly what happened in 1990 and that is exactly what happened in 1984. We have three precedents of this.
I do not think anyone can say that the Chair was arbitrary, that he cut off someone after making a 20 minute speech, or a half hour speech or such a short period of time that his constituents or those who he was defending were not heard. How many people do we know who pretend to not have been heard after 31 hours? I challenge anyone to say that if people cannot make their point in 31 hours, could it be that there was no point to be made, or that it had been made several times, repeated and in fact became redundant.
Outside of this, if members became impatient with one another after 31 hours, I am sure everyone regrets that. If people became impatient with one another, that is unfortunate. It says something else. It says that people were at least patient enough to hear all these points before the debate ended and that part of it needs to be heard as well, 31 hours worth.
We have the modernization committee to modernize our rules of the House to make things progress more rapidly. It was sitting earlier this morning.
The hon. member across says that the modernization of Parliament is a waste of time. He may think that. His House leader does not. He has a better point on all this.
Points of Order
Order, please. I would remind the government House leader that we are not on debate. We are on a point of order. Perhaps he could stick to the procedural matters rather than engage in debate, lively and enthusiastic as hon. members are for such discussions.
Points of Order
Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON
Mr. Speaker, I will end my point with modernization is not a waste of time. I disagree with the comment made.
The point I make to the Chair is this. In 2003 after 31 hours in committee, after the two precedents I have cited, after the patience of everyone hearing an hon. member, I do believe the conclusion was appropriate in time.
When we are discussing the procedural angle, I hear someone say to use the precedent of the debate on GST. That is not the point. Whether the debate was on capital punishment at the time, or on abortion or on taxes is immaterial to what the Speaker will judge upon this morning. It is whether the procedures were used properly, whether the precedent was set, whether the precedent was accepted by the Chair, whether what occurred last night was similar, which I conclude it is, with those precedents of before making it valid, whether the committee behaved appropriately and whether the decisions of the committee were valid. I believe they are.
I want to congratulate all members of the committee, even those with whom I profoundly disagree, for their patience over that length of time. I wish the hon. members well in concluding their excellent work on the bill, so that we can continue to legislate on behalf of Canadians.
Points of Order
Dave Chatters Athabasca, AB
Mr. Speaker, I was in attendance at the meeting last night, and was there for some days before, and in spite of the vigorous bluster of the House leader of the government, I think he is clouding the issue.
Certainly in the reference given to you from Marleau and Montpetit, Mr. Speaker, it suggests that the Speaker can and should rule on these matters of committee only in extraordinary circumstances. I would suggest that from what I heard and saw in committee last night the circumstances certainly have become extraordinary. Mr. Speaker, I would urge you to consider that.
The issue is not whether it was a legitimate move to cut off debate after 31 hours. The issue of using closure in committee is a big issue and sets a big precedent in this place. We have operated for some 130 years without closure in committee and I would hesitate to support starting to do that now.
However, that is not the issue. The issue is that a member of the Liberal side of the committee moved a motion to put the question and the chairman of the committee at the time ruled that the motion was out of order because the member for the NDP had the floor. The chairman ruled correctly. That motion was out of order at the time. Then the committee itself challenged the chair and voted down the ruling of the chair. That is the part I would like a ruling on. Was the ruling of the chair correct or incorrect? If the ruling of the chair was correct, then the members of the committee were incorrect in challenging him, voting him down and forcing us to debate what essentially was an illegal motion.
Points of Order
John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC
Mr. Speaker, I will be fairly brief but I have to make some comments after the government House leader made comments about long speeches. He forgets about the GST debate in the House. It is amazing how one changes one's mind when in opposition versus being in the government.
There were many irregularities at that committee. For example, a government member, on a point of order, moved the previous question. Marleau and Montpetit at page 456 states:
The previous question cannot be proposed by... a Member who has been recognized on a point of order.
On page 456 it is also stated that:
The previous question cannot be moved... in any committee of the House.
The rules of the House were breached, Mr. Speaker, two times on one item. Further, the chair pointed out that such a motion could not be moved. This is where I disagree with my hon. colleague. He talked about the chair being in favour of what was going on. The chair moved that the motion could not be moved. The committee overturned his decision. The ruling was not an interpretation of the rules. It was enforcing the rules.
Therefore, in my opinion, the committee went beyond its power, to overrule the chair, whereas if we listened to the government House leader we would think the chair was on the same side as the other people.
The procedural tactic of asking for a ruling and then overruling the chair is dangerous and risky. For example, what would stop a member from asking the chair to rule whether or not the committee could skip the clause by clause consideration of a bill and have it deemed adopted and reported back to the House? The chair would of course rule that such a procedure could not be followed without a motion. The member could move to overrule the decision and the motion could carry. Instantly the government would get the bill adopted without debate because a motion to overrule the chairman is not debatable.
Mr. Speaker, you must review the transcripts of that committee, because the abuses are such that it requires your intervention. I am aware that the Speaker would not normally rule on a committee's proceedings; however, in extraordinary situations the Speaker has a duty to get involved.
The other matter at the committee was that insults and verbal abuses were exchanged and the chairman had much difficulty maintaining order. I understand that not only was there the language quoted by the Bloc member, which is accurate, but also a very personal threat was made against a member of that committee. It is a total abuse of the privileges of the House when a chairman makes a personal threat to somebody in a meeting of a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I think this deserves your attention. It is not something we should treat lightly. It is a committee that has gone amok. It is an example of this government, which has problems with its leadership, but we should not have to put up with that as members of the House. The way the government is running the committee needs your personal intervention and rulings so that this never happens again. Certainly there should be apologies to the member of the House who had the personal insults and threats made to him in committee.
Points of Order
I think the Chair has heard enough on this point. I am concerned that the matter appears to be spinning into a debate about what happened in committee. The Chair has some concern, because it seems to me I heard a point of order on this matter yesterday from the hon. member for Vancouver East. My recollection of her comments was that this committee was sitting in camera. Part of her complaint was that the proceedings of the committee being in camera and the debate taking place in the committee that involved whether or not there would be some limitation on time of members was part of the discussion in the committee.
If these committee proceedings are in fact in camera it will be difficult for the Chair to see what happened by examining the committee records. I have heard a fair bit here on the floor of the House this morning, which considering the matter was in camera strikes me as odd, but I am concerned that the whole issue seems to be spilling into something outside of the committee that was in fact sitting in camera. At least I sense that it was; I have not heard anyone tell me that it was not, except that I heard the member for Vancouver East tell me it was yesterday. I am somewhat concerned about it.
I also feel that I have heard enough from hon. members at this point. I am going to take the matter under advisement and find out what I can, given the circumstances that I have indicated to the House. If I need to hear further from hon. members, I will come back to the House and indicate I am prepared to hear further argument on the issue before I make a decision. In the circumstances, I think it is time we moved on to other business.
The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot had an opportunity to make a presentation on this matter. I think we should end the discussion at this point. The Chair can review the facts alleged by the members in the House and see what it can find out concerning the committee and the process.
I will come back to the House with a decision, but if further input is needed in this regard, I will get it soon.
Government Response to Petitions
April 3rd, 2003 / 10:30 a.m.
Geoff Regan Parliamentary Secretary to the 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 30 petitions.
Wayne Easter Solicitor General of Canada
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to advise the House that the government has listed seven more entities pursuant to the Criminal Code and under the Anti-terrorism Act.
The newly listed entities are as follows: Jemaah Islamiah; Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan; Basque Homeland and Liberty; Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade; Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia; United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia; and National Liberation Army.
This listing is a public confirmation that these entities are engaged in terrorist activity. The consequences are severe, not only for terrorists but for those who support them. It is now a crime to knowingly participate in, contribute to, or facilitate the activities of these entities. Any person or group that is listed may have its assets seized and forfeited. Those who deal with the property or finances of these entities are subject to severe penalties, including up to 10 years' imprisonment.
As I have said before, the list is a work in progress. I can assure the House that the assessment process for other possible listings of those who support terrorism continues.
Today's listing brings to 26 the total designated since last July under Canada's Anti-terrorism Act, and, under Canada's United Nations suppression of terrorism regulations, Canada has listed and frozen the assets of more than 370 entities.
Whether through our domestic listing mechanisms, the signing and ratification of international agreements, or the presence of our troops in Afghanistan, we have offered our unwavering support in the war against terrorism, and we will continue to be a full partner in the international effort to deny terrorists sanctuary and a base of operations.
My message to the House, and to all Canadians, continues to be that we cannot consider ourselves immune and we cannot afford to drop our guard.
We will continue to work closely with our neighbours and with government departments and agencies at all levels to ensure that we are as safe as we can possibly be. We are committed to taking the steps needed to protect our citizens. Public safety is, and continues to be, our absolute priority.
Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Canadian Alliance, the official opposition, I welcome this opportunity to respond to the Solicitor General's statements regarding the listing of a further seven entities pursuant to the Criminal Code.
In late November, the Solicitor General stood in the House to announce the addition of six entities to the list initiated on July 23, a list that contained a meagre seven terrorist organizations. On December 11, the Solicitor General rose again to announce that Hezbollah was finally being added to the list but only after enduring weeks of relentless pressure from the official opposition. Again, on February 12, the Solicitor General listed a further three. At this time we criticized the Solicitor General for his failure to recognize and list Jemaah Islamiah and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
I am therefore pleased today to learn that almost two months after the Canadian Alliance, the official opposition, requested these dangerous and known terrorist organizations to be added to the list, the Solicitor General has finally listened.
Why is it taking so long for the government to recognize the obvious? Why is it taking so long to list these entities that have been recognized and listed by the United Nations and the United States? We have condemned and will continue to condemn the government for the inordinate amount of time it is taking to compile the list of known terrorist entities, which includes as of today only 26 while the United Nations has identified some 200.
The Solicitor General has just said, and I quote, that “...we cannot afford to drop our guard...We are committed to taking the steps needed to protect our citizens. Public safety is, and continues to be, our absolute priority”.
I must point out that I cannot accept this statement given recent revelations that the anti-terror databank is in jeopardy because of the lack of funds. The Canadian Public Safety Information Network, a consolidation of key justice and police data systems, including CPIC, will allow information sharing between federal and provincial law enforcement and justice agencies as well as the exchange of information between Canada and the United States. The terrorist attacks of September 11 highlighted the importance of information sharing between our two countries.
In closing, I urge the Solicitor General to find the money to ensure that the anti-terror databank is not threatened. I would suggest that he abandon the firearm registry and better utilize the money on the war on terrorism. Then and only then will he truly be making public security a priority.
Robert Lanctôt Châteauguay, QC
Mr. Speaker, as the Solicitor General indicated, seven new entities have been added to the list, bringing the total number to 26.
With respect to these seven new entities, the only problem is that no reasons are given to explain why they are on this list.
The first group, Jemaah Islamiyyah, is on the UN list, as are the second, third and fourth groups mentioned. However, for the fifth group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia, no reason is provided. In 2002, Parliament debated a motion demanding and forcing the Colombian government to negotiate with this guerilla movement and not to take armed action.
This group, obviously, must have an opportunity to make representations in order to negotiate. The House asked the Colombian government to negotiate with this guerilla group.
It is surprising, therefore, that today this group has been added to the list, without any reasons or explanations being provided. This group is, we know, on the American list, but it is strange that the report tabled in May 2000 in Parliament has not been respected or acted upon. I would like to make this distinction and demand an explanation from the Solicitor General.
It is important to remember that we asked that this be amended because, initially, we opposed the creation of such a list. Why? Because, clearly, the Solicitor General has not provided any proof, yet this group has been added to the list. The government is doing the opposite of what Parliament had asked in a motion.
Entities are obviously being added to the list without justification; names will, no doubt, be added to the list without these groups being able to find out why. I wonder why they are on the list. The Solicitor General is making recommendations without explaining his reasons.
The same is true for the National Liberation Army. The House's actions must be respected. We are not saying that such specific recommendations to the list should be contested, but reasons must be given as to why these groups have been added. We must not forget that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia is the group that abducted Ingrid Betancourt. The decision to add such a group to the terrorist list endangers the lives of hostages such as Ingrid Betancourt. I find this quite problematic.
Joe Comartin Windsor—St. Clair, ON
Mr. Speaker, looking at this list of seven additional banned groups, the obvious question that jumps out is, why these? Why, for example, the three groups from Colombia and none of the paramilitary groups that have clearly been responsible for the torture and death of numerous labour leaders in that country?
There are more labour leaders killed in that country by those paramilitary groups that are closely attached to that government and to the military. Why are they not on the list? We have no reason to believe that these groups should be on the list because there is a lack of information. There is inherently a fault in the way this system works.
The resources that we have for the intelligent services are not adequate enough to tell us whether any of these groups should be on the list. There are not enough resources to go after all the other groups that might be terrorist groups. We do not have the ability to do that from a financial standpoint. Yet we go ahead and do this.
We are trying to convince the country that somehow this protects us from terrorism. It is a total falsehood. It is simply a situation where the government is building this smokescreen implying that it is trying to do something about terrorism. It is not moving our battle against terrorism whatsoever. When we look at it from a civil liberties standpoint, there is no basis on which we as parliamentarians can stand here and have any comfort that the civil liberties of this country are being protected. It is just the opposite. We must be very concerned that there may be many injustices coming out of this system.