House of Commons Hansard #16 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was vote.

Topics

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motion No. 4
Ways and Means
Government Orders

November 14th, 2007 / 3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

moved that a ways and means motion to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2007 be concurred in.

Motion No. 4
Ways and Means
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Pursuant to order made earlier this day, the question is deemed put on the motion, and a recorded division deemed requested and deferred until later this day at the expiry of the time provided for government orders.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Transport

moved that Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (visual identification of voters), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to lead off the debate on Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (visual identification of voters). Everywhere in the western world, governments are taking measures to improve the integrity of democratic processes by trying to prevent voter fraud. Canada is no exception.

After the tabling, in June 2006, of the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, which was adopted by all parties, the government introduced Bill C-31, which followed through on several recommendations contained in that report. While a good number of changes were made thanks to that piece of legislation, the bill before us today deals with changes to the voter identification requirements.

Before Bill C-31 was passed, electors could simply go to a polling station with their voter card and vote. Today, for the first time, electors will have to prove their identity and residence before they can vote. They can do so in three different ways. First, they can present a valid identification card with their photo, name and address. Second, if an elector does not have photo identification they could present two other pieces of identification approved by the Chief Electoral Officer that verify their identity and residence. Third, if an elector does not have proof of identification, they could swear an oath and use a voucher.

After Bill C-31 received royal assent on June 22, 2007, the Chief Electoral Officer decided that these changes would be implemented in time for the byelection in Quebec on September 17, 2007. Albeit quick, this decision was not surprising. It was the Chief Electoral Officer's interpretation of the legislation that surprised the government. Even though the legislation clearly states that electors must prove their identity before they can vote, according to the Chief Electoral Officer, they can vote with their face covered.

Not only is it illogical for a person to be able to prove their identity if their face is covered, but this decision also makes no sense and has many people perplexed. The government was of the opinion that this interpretation of the legislation did not take into account the will and clear intentions of the Parliament of Canada and asked the Chief Electoral Officer to review his decision. The government was not alone in that view. The four political parties of the House of Commons disagreed with the Chief Electoral Officer's interpretation and, in September, unanimously passed a motion in the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs calling on him to review his decision.

Nonetheless, the Chief Electoral Officer has refused to respect the will and intentions of Parliament. On the day of the byelection on September 17, we saw the consequences of that decision. In several locations in Quebec, people deliberately covered their face for no reason. One person even voted with a pumpkin on his head. As a result, the public has called into question the credibility and integrity of the electoral process.

The government cannot stand by and let this happen. A democratic country must maintain public trust in the electoral system. In order to maintain this trust, to ensure that the government's will and intentions are respected and to prevent this from happening again, the government made a firm commitment to make the necessary legislative changes.

We reiterated this commitment in the Speech from the Throne in October 2007, when we stated “—the integrity of our federal voting system will be further strengthened through measures to confirm the visual identification of voters.”

I am pleased to say that we honoured this commitment on Friday, October 26, with the introduction of Bill C-6, which we are debating today.

The bill provides for the simple requirement that electors show their face before being allowed to vote. This legislation will strengthen the integrity of the electoral process: by improving voter identification by making it possible to compare voters' faces with the information on their identification card or on the voter's list; by helping to ensure that only people who are qualified electors, people 18 and older, vote; and by making it possible to identify anyone trying to commit an offence at the polling station, for example, someone who tries to vote more than once.

It is important to note that there is one exception in the bill: a person may vote with their face covered if there is a valid medical reason.

We realize that some customs require women to cover their face in public. We want to clearly state that this bill does not target them. It targets people who want to use those customs to commit electoral fraud.

While the government was compelled to take action to protect the integrity and the credibility of the voting process, it did so strictly and only because of the ruling made by the chief electoral officer.

If these women were dragged into this debate, it is because the chief electoral officer interpreted the act in a way that did not reflect the intent of our Parliament. Consequently, the government had to react.

However, it is important to point out that women who wear the veil never asked to be allowed to keep wearing it when they vote. In fact, these women readily show their face in numerous situations, when this is necessary. For example, they remove their veil when they get their picture taken for a driver's licence or a passport, or when they cross the border, and they never objected to having to show their face to vote.

This was confirmed during the committee's hearings on this issue, in September 2007, when a large number of people representing the Muslim community clearly said that women have no problem with showing their face if it is necessary.

The real question that we should ask ourselves is the following: why did the chief electoral officer make the decision that he made, and who did he consult before making that decision? Why did he drag these women into a debate that they did not want and that they had not requested?

Be that as it may, the government felt that it would be reasonable to allow these women to uncover their face in front of another woman.

While this decision ultimately belongs to Elections Canada, we gave that office the administrative flexibility to allow women to uncover their face before another woman.

Surprisingly, some people said that these measures jeopardize the equality between men and women under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That is totally absurd.

Does the fact that women at the border can only be searched by other women threaten the equality between men and women? Of course not, and our bill does not threaten it either.

Others have asked why we did not amend the special ballot process. Quite simply because this process is very different from the regular ballot process on election day.

The special ballot process requires some paperwork so as to create a paper trail.

Voters who vote by mail must register in advance. To obtain a special ballot, voters must provide proof of their identity and residence. They also need to fill out a special request.

Once registered, voters are removed from the voters list and are not allowed to vote at the polling station. With such a complex process, it takes considerable time to evaluate and confirm the integrity of the votes that have been cast. Advanced registration to obtain a special ballot has to be done before election day, not on election day, because of the close scrutiny required in these circumstances.

On election day, throughout the day, many people show up at the polling station asking to vote immediately, but the thorough process for giving out special ballots is not used that day.

That is why the rules regarding voter identification have been adopted in the first place, to prevent voter fraud in these circumstances.

Critics have argued that there was no evidence of voter fraud having occurred because of people having their face covered. Even if this were true, that is certainly no reason not to act. Following that logic, we would wait for our houses to be broken into before putting locks on our doors or wait for someone to drawn before posting deep water warnings. The government will not wait for evidence of voter fraud before taking steps to prevent it.

The government passed Bill C-31 to improve the integrity of the electoral process. Under the new act, electors are now required, and this is a first, to show identification before voting. However, because of a misinterpretation of the act by the Chief Electoral Officer, allowing people to vote with their face concealed, the integrity and credibility of the electoral process has been called into question. That is specifically contrary to the spirit and intent of the legislation.

Our government has therefore responded by introducing the bill on visual identification of voters. This bill requires electors to show their face at the polling station before voting, while providing for an exception for medical reasons and an accommodation for people who normally have their face covered in public.

I hope that all members will work with the government to ensure this bill is passed so that it can be enacted shortly.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, the bill before us is quite complex and raises a number of issues.

My first question to the government, in this case to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, is of a procedural nature. It is something that would facilitate our work on this legislation. Given the seriousness of the issues that will be raised during this debate, we were wondering whether the government had considered or would consider referring this bill to the appropriate committee before second reading so as to give the committee as much latitude as possible to make necessary changes to the bill.

Everyone will agree that this is a very serious issue that we are debating today. We all want to do the right thing. However, since the bill could raise very sensitive issues, would the government consider referring it to committee before second reading?

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I invite my colleague from Ottawa—Vanier to raise this question with his party's House leader. I will do the same with my House leader so that we can discuss his suggestion.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, from the outset, I would like to inform the minister, the government and this House that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of the principle of this bill. However, I would also like to tell the minister that, of course, the bill can be improved, as can all bills introduced in this House.

The problem is that the government, through the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, indicated earlier that the Chief Electoral Officer misinterpreted the legislation by wanting to correct the situation. He criticized the Chief Electoral Officer for taking the action he did. However, the problem with the bill is that it gives the Chief Electoral Officer even greater flexibility to perhaps again make a mistake.

I would like to hear the minister's comments on the following situation. What will happen when a veiled female voter reports to a male deputy returning officer? We all know how the polling divisions are organized in our system: we have the ballot box, the first elections official, that is, the deputy returning officer, and then the poll clerk and the representatives of the various parties, if needed. When a veiled female voter reports to a male deputy returning officer, she can, under this bill, demand or require that she unveil and show her face to a female deputy returning officer. It is in this respect that this bill undermines the principle of gender equality among elections workers.

Why does this bill once again give the Chief Electoral Officer this latitude? Why is this bill not clear about the fact that anyone who reports to a polling station must uncover their face for identification purposes, regardless of whether they are a man or a woman?

In closing—I will give a speech later—I would remind the House that in Muslim countries such as Morocco, where the population is 92% to 93% Muslim, women must remove their veils when they report for voting. However, here, it seems we have to be—to use an expression from where I come from, particularly as it concerns religious practices—more Catholic than the Pope.

I would like to leave the minister some time to answer.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

I will remind members that the intention of legislators is quite clear: people have to uncover their faces to vote. There cannot be any question about that. Until now, the law did not require that. As legislators, we have made the commitment to accept that someone be able to vote when they provide identification. Usually it is a Quebec driver's licence, since the member and I are both from Quebec. If voters are asked to show their driver's licence, it is because it provides visual identification.

Let us be very clear on that: the purpose is to have voters uncover their faces. As for the circumstances and the manner in which it will be done, we are saying to the Chief Electoral Officer that we are leaving it up to him.

I touched on that in my remarks. For example, women who enter Canada or fly out of Canada and have to submit to a body search have the right to require that CATSA have a woman do the search.

We find that reasonable. It is just common sense. The member says the system could be improved, which is precisely why we think it is reasonable that someone can make such a request. It does not bother anybody. Officials and staff work at polling stations. The Chief Electoral Officer can look at this issue and clarify it in committee.

Again, I must remind the member that the purpose of this bill is to ensure the integrity of our electoral system beyond suspicion. That is what this is all about.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, we actually opposed Bill C-31 in committee because we did not see the problem that, I guess, the government and other parties saw. The remedy certainly was problematic. In fact, this is a solution that seems to be looking for a problem at this point.

Did the government consult, beyond what the committee heard most recently in September, any other stakeholders in the time period since the procedure and House affairs committee met? Has it consulted various diverse communities and, if it did, what was the feedback on this bill?

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, of course consultations were undertaken by my colleague, the minister responsible, in drafting this legislation and we went forward with this legislation, which we think to be appropriate under the circumstances.

I was closely involved with the byelections in the province of Quebec. I had seen, on numerous occasions during election day, circumstances that were unpredictable. Six months ago, nobody would have thought that somebody would have come into the polling station with a pumpkin on his head and ridiculed the process that we were putting forward.

Therefore, yes, when we came through with this draft legislation the appropriate consultations were undertaken by my colleague. We have here what I feel to be a fair and balanced piece of legislation that represents the will of the members of this assembly, this House, to ensure that our process is one that is above any suspicion and that we have and maintain the best electoral system in the civilized world. In that regard, I am very proud of what we are putting forward here and I do call upon all the members of this House to support it.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise for this side of the House and discuss Bill C-6.

I was quite taken aback by the previous speaker's comment about a punitive voter arriving at the polls with a pumpkin on his head. I had not read that and I wondered if the hon. minister had made a complaint to Elections Canada about that or whether, in fact, any complaints were made to Elections Canada. I can only assume that the comment about the pumpkin on the head of the punitive voter was intended to make light of a very grave situation. It shocks me that the government and ministers of the government, people in the first rows, not even people in the back rows on the other side, would take such a very important issue so lightly.

I stand to be corrected if there actually was a voter who arrived at the polls with a pumpkin on his head, and I see that as a complaint from the hon. minister who may have witnessed it, then I will eat all of the words I just said, including the pumpkin.

Bill C-6 attempts to solve a problem that I submit does not exist. It is rather like that pumpkin on the head, which I presume is a problem that does not exist. What we have is a situation where a major political response is taking hold within the government benches.

The primary question that I hope in my brief remarks might be addressed is: Does Canada really have a problem identifying voters? I will get into the background about Bill C-31, which was studied indepth by a very capable committee of all parties and which, presumably, dealt with these issues and attempted to solve them.

The other issue that I want to keep in mind while discussing this issue is that voters who cast their ballots by mail do not, obviously, show their faces. Is there a different standard for someone who is an absentee ballot holder compared to someone who makes the effort to go to the polls to vote? This is a very important question when we discuss the overall scope of voter identification.

Bill C-31 was not perfect. It was the first stab at having people, who present themselves at the returning office, identify themselves in some manner, through some form of identification.

As we know from a sister bill, there are very serious problems being addressed with respect to addresses for rural voters. We have had information on our side that this may not only affect rural voters but that it affects many voters across Canada. That is a serious bill to address a serious problem.

This bill, on the other hand, does not seem to address an existing problem. The rural voters bill, which we will debate at another time in this place, addresses a real issue that has resulted from complaints from people who feel they will be disenfranchised and, upon examination, it seems pretty clear might very well be. The numbers are in the hundreds of thousands across the country and in some ridings it is particularly high, especially in rural ridings in western Canada. That seems to be a real problem.

In this case, we have a situation where no complaint was ever filed to Elections Canada about allegations that during recent byelections in the province of Quebec this was an issue.

I will get into much more substantive issues with respect to our Charter of Rights, which is enjoying its 25th anniversary. That is not spoken of very much by members on the government side. I wish I had a chance to ask the minister, although not the Minister of Justice responsible for charter compliance nor the Minister for Democratic Reform introducing the bill, whether Bill C-6 complies with the charter. All members of the House know that every bill that a responsible government, new or old, brings to the House must be certified as to pass charter compliance.

At first glance, members may think that a roads bill or a bridges bill might not have any charter implications, and they may well not, but when we are dealing with something as quintessential as one's right to vote, which the Canada Elections Act in general deals with, the first thing that should go off in any responsible government is whether it complies with the charter and whether we have an opinion to that effect.

I wish I had the chance to ask a minister whether an opinion was tabled. We do not need to see the opinion but we need assurance from the front benches or any bench in fact that the government has sought and received charter compliance with the bill.

Let us get back to the root of the complaint. From the time of Bill C-31 from the last session, there was a movement to improve the integrity of the voting system. That was the background and the intention of all the hearings on Bill C-31 and the subsequent amendments. What Bill C-31, as amended, did not do was require veiled women to remove their face coverings for voting.

The flap that occurred in practice was during the byelections in Quebec and it was over the strict interpretation by the chief electoral officer, Marc Mayrand, of the bill as amended. He said that the wording did not require veiled voters to reveal their faces at polling stations. Therefore, he said, which is the reason we are here I guess, that either we amend the act of Parliament or we should let him do his job.

The Conservative government is bent on attacking Elections Canada and it is doing so in the courts. It puts the Elections Canada official to an ultimatum of whether “you require an amendment or let me do my job”, the government does the amendment. There is no record of a complaint to Elections Canada about the issues arising or allegedly arising. The Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities was very clear in his remarks. He participated widely and energetically in the byelections in Quebec and apparently witnessed problems. However, I guess he did not have the follow-through courage to effect complaints through the official channels, which would be a complaint to Elections Canada. He did not do that. No one did that. There are no complaints arising from the incidents that were of such widespread and common occurrence according to the government so as to cause us to be sitting here as a priority debating Bill C-6.

I am not suggesting it directly but it may have been the work of the government to create at the time a political crisis to cover other issues involving election campaign financing that the government felt some heat about at the time.

The bill, as presented, is intended, as I understand it from the framers, to explicitly state what they thought Bill C-31 implicitly said.

Mr. Speaker, you are learned in the law and members of the House pass laws and should examine laws. Laws are meant to be interpreted for what they say and not to be guessed at about what they might say. What we have is a situation where the chief elector officer read the law very carefully and did not require people to show their faces. There were no complaints. The question remains: why are we here?

I think we are here because it is seen as politically efficacious for the government to support such a bill. It seems, however, that this bill is targeted at a very specific population. It seems that this bill is attempting to target a group of people who deserve, as much as anyone here, the protection of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It seems that this small group also needs the protection of human rights legislation, perhaps more than every member in this House.

Now, the anomaly, as I mentioned, is that a person who has been through a trauma and has his or her face bandaged, or a person, frankly, who wishes to have an absentee ballot, can vote without making visual, that is, facial, identification necessary. In fact, we do not even have to go that far. I submit that the effect of option two from Elections Canada's methods of voting puts into play the fact that one can show up at the ballot box or the place to vote and not show one's face.

That seems a little difficult for people to understand, but I will explain. Option one for voting is to provide one original piece of identification issued by a government or a government agency and containing the person's photo. It is one piece of identification. In the province of New Brunswick, that would be a driver's licence. The person shows up at the voting station, shows a picture ID driver's licence and is able to vote.

It is not written in the law. This is where we get into explicit and implicit. It is not written in the law, but it is the practice of Elections Canada, I assume--but it is not in the law--for officials to look at the photograph as submitted and compare it to the person who is before the officials. However, nothing is written in that respect. One presumes, then, that facial visual identification of the voter is required when a person submits the driver's licence with the photo on it.

However, option two is where I say a person does not necessarily have to be visually identified. In that situation, a person could show up with two original pieces of identification authorized by the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada. Both pieces must contain the person's name. One must also contain the person's residential address. There is a long list of what those cards might be, but let us say that they might be the hydro bill as the second piece and the first piece might be the person's social insurance card.

If a person submits those two pieces of information, which do not have the person's photo on them, I submit to members that no one is required under the second option to submit to visual identification. It does not matter what they look like or what colour their eyes are or whether they have eyelashes or not, or for that matter if they have a pumpkin on their head, they are not going to be examined against any standard because two pieces of identification do not have a photo.

The third option, which was sought as an improvement under Bill C-31, was for the potential voter to swear an oath and be vouched for by a registered elector who is on the list of electors. That seems to work very well.

However, we can see that the intention of the parties, the committees and the people who did all of this work on Bill C-31 does not seem to have been put into effect perfectly, specifically as we speak about rural addresses being at odds with the list and, I would submit, secondly, on how we find ourselves here discussing Bill C-6.

Bill C-31 received royal assent on June 22, 2007. It amended the Elections Act to require all voters to prove their identity and residence before voting, with no mention whatsoever of having to show one's face. It is not in the act. It seems to me that if we were to right things, if it is now a requirement that to vote, everyone, including members of this Parliament, would have to show his or her face to vote. and I have just indicated that by absentee ballots or by the submission of the two pieces of identification they do not have to. So why is it now that if I have two pieces of non-photo ID I can vote, but a person who wears a veil for religious reasons must show her face to vote?

Leading into the second arm of my argument, is that not then in violation of the basic right of being treated equally under the law? The charter of rights has a number of profound and entrenched articles respecting people's rights and one of them is to be treated equally under the law.

I submit that this is targeted legislation taking away that equality. That is why it is essential for us to know this, perhaps down the road at committee if this is where this bill ends up. That should be among the first round of questions for the Minister for Democratic Reform, or whoever he sends there that day, to satisfy the committee members as to whether in fact this bill is charter compliant.

What would be the political, social or societal basis for the government bringing forth such a bill? It might be because the government received news from certain community spokespersons that it is okay, that people who wear veils for religious reasons generally remove them for voting purposes anyway. That could be the spokesman on one day.

What we know is that there are people who say different things regarding the requirement for one small group in our community to do something different from what we--the majority, I might add, or just members of Parliament in general--do when we present ourselves to vote. There are political underpinnings for this bill. Frankly, everything that comes from this government is political. Everything is a knee-jerk reaction. Everything is targeted. Everything is intended to divide a country and a segment of a population. That is what the government does.

In that regard, this bill might be quite successful. The government should laud itself for promulgating yet another bill that divides, that targets groups and creates havoc, but what we should be concerned with here in this place is creating laws that are constitutional, legal and non-discriminatory.

The reason I say the government is politically and societally wrong is that it may have relied on the spokesman du jour when this was introduced and it may find that there are in fact other stakeholders who do not agree with its rationale. I might in fact quote items from the Montreal Gazette of September 10.

One comment is from Mr. Elmasry. The item states:

“We don't want to force anybody to change their religious inclination and beliefs”, he explained, pointing out that it is also important for women from religious minorities to vote. “At the same time, there is a certain level of integrity in the election process that we must maintain”.

Those are truisms. Those are things that we stand for.

Later in the Montreal Gazette article, there is a quote from Alia Hogben of the Canadian Council of Muslim Woman. If this is a targeted piece of legislation, and the target group are Muslim women, do we not take the high road in respecting those persons' rights? Do we not take the high road and stand up when it may not be politically expedient and say that this is bad, divisive, charter non-compliant and discriminatory legislation? Do we not take the high road in saying that?

The quote from Alia Hogben, which I will close with, is as follows:

For us, the sad thing is it's always focusing on Muslims and as far as I know it wasn't a request made by Muslims. It probably came up [from] Elections Canada--with good intentions, thinking they would try to accommodate people--but I don't think it's necessary.

Tempest, teapot: we can use the word we wish. We do not think this bill creates a solution, because there is no real problem.

Canada Elections Act
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4 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member's speech on this important item. I am a little confused and want some clarification. In September, all parties in this House supported a motion that the Canada Elections Act be amended to ensure that persons voting at the polls be required to show their faces for identification purposes.

In his speech, the member talked about the bill getting to committee. Is the hon. member going to vote for this bill to move to committee so he can discuss some of his issues? Is he still in support of what the House unanimously supported in September?

Canada Elections Act
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4 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member may realize that sitting where I do in this place I do not speak for the party in general, but I will submit to him my view, which is that this bill is flawed. This bill may not stand up to a constitutional challenge. This bill has human rights implications. I would like to see satisfaction on all of those points. I would like to see an opinion, or even hear of an opinion, or hear whether there was even an opinion asked for from the Department of Justice lawyers with respect to charter compliance. That I would like to know.

I do not think the hon. member could supply me with that today, because I doubt that he in fact has it. It does not sound like the pumpkin-on-the-head response from the Minister of Transport, which would lead me to believe that the government is not taking this bill very seriously from a constitutional point of view. It seems to me that it is acting politically expediently. It is also, I suggest, being somewhat flippant in comparing the real issues of voter identification as canvassed at length by the Bill C-31 committee by making a comment from the frontbench that there was someone arriving with a pumpkin on his head during the recent byelections in Quebec.

I would sit through committees, as would all of us, to find out whether the Minister of Transport will make good on his complaint that people arrived with pumpkins on their heads during the recent byelections in Quebec. I would agree to sitting down and hearing from any minister in the front benches.

Charter compliance and human rights compliance: these are things we must know. Most of the time we are making serious laws in this place. This seems to be a knee-jerk reaction, politically targeted, for no good reason but politics.

Canada Elections Act
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4 p.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I must say from the outset that I have a bit of a problem with some of the comments made by the hon. member, who tends to impugn motives to those who do not agree with his point of view. We know that there were some glitches in the last by-election, precisely because the Chief Electoral Officer interpreted the act as meaning that an elector could have his or her face covered—and covered is not the same as veiled.

Then, people immediately tested that interpretation, and it is unfortunate that this situation allowed some people to make fun of such an important democratic process. In any case, it is precisely to correct a whole situation, so that there is no longer room for interpretation or glitches, that we must develop a fair and equitable identification process for everyone.

I wonder if the hon. member could elaborate on this. In my humble opinion, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms must not take precedence over collective rights.

Canada Elections Act
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4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, I do not agree with the hon. member when she says that individual rights are subordinate to collective rights. I do not agree at all.

Her opinion is different from that of all official parties in this House. I personally believe that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is the foundation of our country. I support the charter in every instance.

I think that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is critical in all the bills that are introduced in this House. The first question that we should ask ourselves is whether the bill can comply with the charter in its entirety.