House of Commons Hansard #110 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was first.

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Points of Order
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am bound to accept your ruling of course, although I note that the ruling by Mr. Speaker Macnaughton was made before the passage of the charter and before the passage of the Official Languages Act, which is binding upon this House of Commons. However you have ruled on that matter.

However I hope there will be an opportunity at some other time, including by the government House leader who has always shown his respect for the Official Languages Act, for us to ensure that the act applies to this House of Commons regardless of precedents that were established before the Official Languages Act became the law of Canada.

The other point I want to make, and which I believe is of equally great importance in this matter, relates to our fiduciary obligation to aboriginal people. We are not here debating any old bill. We are dealing with a bill that has to do with the rights of a people who exist in a fiduciary relationship with the Government of Canada, with the Parliament of Canada and with the Crown of Canada. They are in a status that is unlike the status of others whose positions we may be debating here.

There is an unusual obligation upon us in the House to ensure that there is a full opportunity for all members of Parliament who have an interest in these issues and, indeed, a full opportunity for the people to whom we owe a fiduciary responsibility, the first nations people, to know what was discussed in committee and to be sure that they are in a position to bring forward appropriate amendments to deal with matters in the House.

On Bill C-7 the first nations community had only a matter of hours, on a question that goes to the heart of their capacity to self-govern, to make recommendations after the committee reported. The reprinted bill containing the committee amendments was available for less than 24 hours before the government's arbitrary deadline for the submission of report stage amendments.

Mr. Speaker, at the heart of your office is the duty to protect minorities and minority rights. You will be familiar with the great words of the distinguished clerk of the House, Sir John Bourinot. I quote from Marleau and Montpetit at page 210 which says:

The great principles that lie at the basis of English parliamentary law have...been always kept steadily in view by the Canadian legislatures; these are: To protect the minority and restrain the improvidence and tyranny of the majority, to secure the transaction of public business in a decent and orderly manner, to enable every member to express his opinions within those limits necessary to preserve decorum and prevent an unnecessary waste of time, to give full opportunity for the consideration of every measure, and to prevent any legislative action being taken heedlessly and upon sudden impulse.

This is a matter that goes fundamentally to the interests of a minority in the country but a minority that enjoys special protections under our history and under our practice in the House. Regarding no other group have steps been taken by this Parliament to allow them to sit as members of parliamentary committees when matters affecting their future were considered. For no other group was the process of federal-provincial consultation open to include representatives of those peoples during constitutional discussions, as I have cause to know happened during the preparation of the proposals for the Charlottetown accord.

There is no question that first nations people have an unusual status in the country. There is no question that the subject matters here are of great concern to them. We have seen that before committee and in demonstrations across the country. They have not had the time to consider what was being discussed in committee. They have not had the time to make representations to us in the House as to changes or amendments that might improve the bill. First nations people have had about 24 hours to deal with hundreds, perhaps thousands of years of history that could be changed by a quick decision of this House of Commons.

We have an obligation to protect the rights of minorities generally, but certainly to ensure that the people here, to whom we have a fiduciary responsibility and who are most vulnerable to changes that might be undertaken, have the time themselves to bring forward recommendations for amendments that could be considered by the House.

I respectfully hope, Sir, that you will consider the fundamental importance of this issue and not allow the government to proceed with a bill which, as a practical matter, denies the opportunity for first nations people to consider discussions in committee and to make their own representations as to changes that should be made in legislation that would fundamentally affect their lives.

Points of Order
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will certainly echo the comments of the hon. member from the Conservative Party. I would argue as well that not only have first nations representatives not had adequate time to deal with the fundamental aspects of this bill and how it will affect their communities and their lives, but members of Parliament as well have had inadequate time to deal with the bill.

What I would draw your attention to, Mr. Speaker, is that in the order of business today we are about to go to Bill C-7, and you will note that it says for Bill C-7, the first nations governance act, that we will be dealing with both report stage and second reading concurrently, that is, we will be dealing with them together.

Mr. Speaker, I want to point out to you that about a year ago the bill was very briefly debated in the House and then it was immediately sent to the committee on the basis that it had such a broad scope and such a magnitude and impact on all of the first nations in Canada that the committee would undertake very broad consultations to get people's reactions and so on. The bill subsequently was bridged over a prorogation and in fact, as we know, for the past year the committee has had sometimes very acrimonious debates and discussions about the bill, and now here we are back at report stage.

Even at the committee, in fact, there were something like 200 amendments. Now we are here at report stage with 104 amendments, two of which, I might say, are very substantive changes to the bill. One of them deals with the creation of an ombudsman. Another deals with the establishment of a first nations governance centre.

What I really want to address here is that we are short-circuiting the established procedure for how we deal with a bill in each of its particular stages. I would refer you to the stages in the legislative process as laid out in Marleau and Montpetit on page 625, where it is stated quite clearly, in referring to the stages of a bill:

These stages “constitute a simple and logical process in which each stage transcends the one immediately before it, so that although the basic motions--that the bill be read a first (second or third) time--ostensibly are the same, and seem repetitious, they have very different meanings”.

I would certainly agree with that, but in this particular case we are already back at report stage and second reading when we have not yet had an opportunity to debate the bill in terms of its principle, especially given that this bill is now likely to be changed substantially in terms of government amendments that are coming forward.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to consider this and to make a ruling that when we have dealt with report stage, that is, when we have dealt with all of the amendments that are before us in the groups that exist and so on, at that point afterwards we would then go back to second reading, which properly we should have done before, to debate this bill in principle. Only then will we be following the logical steps that have been set out in the practice of the House for many years.

To circumvent that is an injustice not only to first nations people, who have had a great deal of concern about this bill, but also to members of Parliament who want to have due time and adequate opportunity to debate and discuss each stage of the legislative process on the bill.

Points of Order
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will add to what my colleagues have already said by passing on a message at the request of my Bloc Quebecois colleagues.

In order to debate a question like Bill C-7 properly, it is important for all proceedings of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs to be available in both official languages. Some of my colleagues wish to be involved throughout the debate, that is at the report stage, and even more so on second reading, if you allow a debate on principles, and they do not have access in French to the bulk of the deliberations on matters of importance in connection with Bill C-7. The bulk of the deliberations were in English only.

Even the Chair, who is a francophone, spoke almost exclusively in English throughout the deliberations. In order to facilitate debate—

Points of Order
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

The Speaker

I have already made a Speaker's ruling on this for the Right Hon. member for Calgary Centre. I therefore do not wish to hear arguments on this point.

If the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot has any arguments on other points, I will hear them, but it is hard to continue the debate when a ruling has already been made on the matter he is raising at this time.

Points of Order
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of privilege.

Is it normal that in a Parliament where the use of both official languages is promoted, that one of the two official languages is not available for debate on an issue as important as Bill C-7? Even first nations have not had all of the privileges needed to assess a bill as important as this one which will shape their lives.

Is it not to be expected that here—

Points of Order
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Speaker

It is not a question of what is normal, it is a question of practice in the House. Nor is it a question of official languages.

In my ruling, I said that even though the blues were not available, the House could go ahead with the study of a bill. This is a ruling that has been handed down by other speakers. The committee minutes are not required to have been tabled in the House before proceeding to report stage. That is the ruling. It is not a language issue.

The hon. member for Calgary Centre also raised the language issue. If we can proceed with report stage in the House without the committee blues, which is the case, then it is case closed. It is not at all a language issue. That is the problem the hon. member now has.

I can hear arguments on other points, but not on the matter of the committee blues. As far as I am concerned, that is not an issue. I repeat that I have already ruled on this matter, based on precedents adopted by at least three of my predecessors here in the House.

If the House wishes to change the Standing Orders on this, as members know, I serve the House and I am prepared to implement a new order. However, for the time being, the rules are clear, the precedent is clear and I have already given my ruling on this point.

Is there anything else?

Points of Order
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, are my rights as a francophone real in this Parliament? Are the rights of francophones in the Bloc Quebecois and all parties real in this Parliament? Can Parliament circumvent the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

As my colleague from Calgary Centre said earlier, the inspiration for early decisions of the Speakers of this House on committee blues was drawn from whatever existed before the days of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

As French-speaking parliamentarians in this House, we, that is I and those of my French-speaking colleagues who want to debate the same way and have the same privileges as our English-speaking colleagues, do not have such a right in this Parliament. Is that what you are telling us?

Points of Order
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Speaker

No, that is not what I said. All I said was that if nothing was available in either French or English, we can carry on with the debate in the House.

So, even if minutes of proceedings have not been printed, we can still carry on. It is not a matter of the rights of one group or another, but a matter of the rights of the House. Speakers have always contended that it was not necessary to have the transcripts of committee proceedings to commence the next stage in the House. Today, we are considering the bill at report stage, and we can carry on.

To deal with the question raised by the right hon. member for Calgary Centre, the other point, and the hon. member for Vancouver East, I want to say that their arguments, while novel, were ones that caused the Chair some concern in that there were no precedents cited by them to suggest that the Chair in the House had any authority to restrain the government from proceeding with stages of bills in the House that have come back from committee or that are here.

To deal first with the hon. member for Vancouver East, she suggested that it was incumbent on the Chair to require that the House have a debate at second reading after the report stage has been disposed of because the bill had been referred to committee before second reading and therefore there had not been a proper debate at second reading.

I stress that the reason for the rule permitting referral of bills to committee before second reading was to allow the committee greater latitude in its study of a bill. Adoption of a bill at second reading means the House has agreed to the principles of the bill, and the amendments that would be permitted in committee are thereby much restricted because no amendment would be admissible in the committee or at report stage that was contrary to the principles of the bill adopted by the House at second reading.

I understand that the purpose of referring bills to a committee before second reading is to give the committee maximum latitude in the amendments that it may wish to consider. Accordingly, I do not feel it is incumbent on the Chair, the decision of the House having been made to refer the bill before second reading and thereby give the committee this additional latitude, to order that there be a subsequent debate at second reading.

There will be, of course, a debate at third reading of this bill. It is in effect the second crack at the arguments about the principles of the bill and the whole content of the bill as amended, and that means as amended both by the committee and at the report stage. Accordingly, I must rule that the hon. member for Vancouver East has not made a good argument in favour of the Chair intervening in that regard.

To go back to the right hon. member for Calgary Centre, he suggested that it was somehow incumbent on the Chair to defer the report stage on this bill to a later date because the committee's opportunities for amendment were somehow restricted or inadequate.

I am afraid I do not see any authority that he has raised which would give me any reason to think that I ought to deal with matters in this way. I am here to protect minority interests in the House, he is correct, but to argue that the Speaker has some obligation to minority interests outside the House, when I am the Speaker of the House and not someone who is boosted in here with supernatural powers, I think is asking more than should be expected of a Speaker. I think the obligation of the Speaker as servant of this House is to decide matters within the House and decide whether minority rights are in fact being protected.

I know that the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot suggested that I am failing to protect the rights of some people by overlooking the fact that certain documents are not available in both official languages. However, I have already said the following.

I have to follow the practices and rules of this place, and we have proceeded to do different things in this House that sometimes minorities do not like, but it is a question of following the rules.

In this case, the report of the committee was brought to the House last Wednesday. The reprinted copy of the bill was available Thursday morning, I am told, at 9 o'clock. The time for filing amendments was extended until last evening, so in fact we have had Thursday, Friday, in effect the weekend, and Monday, for a review of the draft legislation, whatever was available from the committee in terms of the transcript of its proceedings and so on.

I have seen bills proceeded with in much greater haste than this. I am sure the right hon. member himself remembers many bills that have gone much more quickly than this one. Sure, they may not have been as contentious, and there may not have been as many amendments, but I remember ones where we have had extensive amendments and had a lot of votes in the House. I have not gone back to check the time, from the time of report until it was called for report stage, but I think hon. members will find that it often happens very quickly.

Accordingly, I do not see how the Chair can intervene in this case. I think there has been some time, and whether everyone would agree it was reasonable, of course I would not expect we would get agreement on that kind of point. I appreciate the right hon. member's disagreement with that and the forcefulness of his argument, but in the circumstances I do not feel it is a situation where the Chair may intervene in this matter, and accordingly, I am afraid, I suggest that his point of order is not well taken.

Points of Order
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, this discussion deals with very fundamental questions in our country. I am not of a mind to challenge the Speaker's ruling on the matter because he may well be interpreting the rules as we have them in a way that is defensible.

We often talk about the distinctive nature of this country. We talk more about it now than we have for some time. Two of the elements of the distinctive nature of this country are first, that we are a country that has adopted and respects the spirit of the recognition of two official languages. That is one distinct characteristic of the country that applies to us as much as to other Canadians.

Second, this Parliament, as an instrument of the Crown, has an unusual responsibility with regard to first nations people who have historic rights of self-government that are different and often under threat.

We have a situation now in which a proposed bill has been discussed in committee and where the first nations people, with a remarkable near unanimity, have expressed their profound concern about the legislation.

I do not want to go over the details of it. I simply want to make the point that you, Mr. Speaker, are faced with a decision here where the rules respecting language that you would have us follow and which bind us now are rules that were set before the law was changed.

The second point concerns an obligation that has not been changed and that can never be casually shed. It is our particular obligation regarding the rights of first nations people. The rules may point in one direction. The nature of the country points in another direction. You are the Speaker of the House. You are also consequently an official of this country. We are representatives of this country, its people, its history, and its distinctive nature.

Two of those elements make us a distinct country in the world and make us a community of which so many Canadians are so proud. Two of those elements are at issue here: the official languages and the fiduciary responsibility of this Parliament toward the first nations people.

Mr. Speaker, I do not know how you will resolve this, but I believe it cannot be resolved simply by turning back to the rules and precedents that were taken in other times.

Points of Order
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

The Speaker

I believe the right hon. member has forgotten two things. In my ruling I cited three Speaker's rulings on this issue. One was from 1965, but the other two were from 1984 and 2000, both after the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Official Languages Act had been enacted.

I am sorry to disappoint the right hon. member, but in my view those rulings were made at the appropriate time. They reflect the existence of certain practices in the House which bind me, and at no time has the House sought to change the rule in respect of committee reports and transcripts of committee proceedings.

Notwithstanding the fact that those two rulings were made, ample opportunity was there for the House to adopt changes in its practice if it wanted to. It chose not to. I am sure the right hon. member would agree with me that it would be inappropriate for the Chair to start playing fast and loose with the rules by changing them at his whim because certainly my opinion on what the rules ought to be might be quite different from his on certain points and similar on others. It is not for me to make those changes.

The second thing, with respect to the fiduciary obligation he mentions, will no doubt be the subject of discussion in the House during the course of the debate. I point out to him that the committee report that has brought this bill back is in both official languages. The reprint of the bill and all the amendments that the committee proposed to this bill are in both official languages and are available here for debate. There are no doubt others moved and proposed by members which are on the Notice Paper that we will hear about presently. Those are also available to the House in both official languages.

Certainly, the question of fiduciary responsibility of the Crown to first nations people will be the subject of debate during the discussion of this bill, I have no doubt about that. But I respectfully suggest that it is not for the Speaker to determine when debate on this bill will start. That is a matter for the government, as has been the practice in the House since 1867. The government normally calls the business of the House and accordingly, I will now call for orders of the day.

Points of Order
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Rick Laliberte Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I wish to offer a copy of the Indian treaties that created this country. This is a treaty nation that we call Canada. When we created this country, we negotiated with the Crown by treaty negotiation.

This is a copy of treaties I would like to bring forward to the House so that when the relationship of the aboriginal people, the first nations of Canada, is being debated in the House this body of evidence, the true relationship between the Crown and the original nations of the country, is reflected upon.

I present this to you, Mr. Speaker, for your deliberation on where these treaties can be placed in this debate.

Points of Order
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

The Speaker

I thank the hon. member for Churchill River.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-7, an act respecting leadership selection, administration and accountability of Indian bands, and to make related amendments to other Acts, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

First Nations Governance Act
Government Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 4:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

There are 104 motions in amendment standing on the Notice Paper for the report stage of Bill C-7.

The Chair will not select Motions Nos. 31, 32, 36 through 40 and 86 since they require a royal recommendation.

The Chair will not select Motions Nos. 2, 3, 7, 12, 15 through 20, 22, 24, 33, 41, 44, 50, 51, 72, 73, 75, 81, 83, 89, 100 and 101 because they could have been presented at committee.

The Chair will not select Motions Nos. 25, 34, 35, 47, 77, 87, 95 and 97 because they were defeated at committee.

All remaining motions have been examined and the Chair is satisfied that they meet the guidelines expressed in the note to Standing Order 76(5) regarding the selection of motions in amendment at the report stage.

The motions will be grouped for debate as follows:

Group No. 1, Motions Nos. 1, 13, 14, 21, 23, 26 to 30, 42, 43, 45 and 46.

Group No. 2, Motions Nos. 4 to 6, 8 to 11, 48, 49 and 52 to 70.

Group No. 3 is Motions Nos. 71, 85, 93 and 99.

Group No. 4, Motions Nos. 74, 76, 78 to 80, 82, 88, 90, 91, 94 and 102 to 104.

Finally, Group No. 5 is Motions Nos. 84, 92, 96 and 98.

The voting patterns for the motions within each group are available at the table. The Chair will remind the House of each pattern at the time of voting.

I shall now propose Motions Nos.--

First Nations Governance Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I think the only thing I can do is reserve the right to raise this matter at a later point.

I must tell you, sir, that no one who was present in those committee hearings would believe that there was an opportunity to move the amendments that you have ruled were capable of being moved in committee. That is simply not the case.

There have been points raised on the floor of the House about the proceedings in the committee. I believe there is a ruling still outstanding from the Speaker with regard to precisely that point.

However, what is incontestable is that that committee was conducted in such an unruly way and conducted in a way that rammed through the government's agenda without the opportunity for parliamentarians to propose amendments. It is simply not credible to anyone to suggest that the amendments could have been made at that time.

In one meeting last week, in the space of less than an hour and a half, the chair of that committee suspended hearings to his own call six separate times. There was no opportunity to present amendments. For the suggestion to be made now that there was an opportunity then and that it precludes our opportunity now to improve the bill is an affront to democracy and to Parliament.

I do not know under the rules what we can do about it. I want to signal now my intention to reserve my right to raise parliamentary matters with regard to behaviour which is not only unfair to Parliament, but fundamentally unfair to first nations people.