House of Commons Hansard #164 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was immigration.

Topics

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

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

Health
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the ninth report of the Standing Committee on Health.

The committee has studied Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Quarantine Act, and has agreed to report it to the House with amendments.

Ukrainian Holodomor-Genocide Remembrance Day Act
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-450, An Act respecting a national day of remembrance of the Ukrainian Holodomor-Genocide.

Mr. Speaker, it is with solemnity that I introduce my private member's bill, the Ukrainian Holodomor-Genocide Remembrance Day Act.

The purpose of the bill is to establish the fourth Saturday in November as a day of remembrance for the estimated seven million to ten million Ukrainians who died a horrifying slow death from starvation in 1932-33 during the famine masterminded, organized and carried out by the Soviet regime under Stalin.

This Holodomor-Genocide inflicted a deep and lasting scar on the Ukrainian community throughout the world. Many survivors of the famine and their descendants later immigrated to Canada. This famine was an attempt to crush the longing for freedom and to erase all aspirations for an independent Ukrainian state.

Part of the Soviet strategy also involved suppressing, distorting and wiping out all information about the Ukrainian famine, now and into the future to be known as the Holodomor-Genocide.

By enacting this legislation and recognizing a day of remembrance of this horrific tragedy, Canada will reaffirm her core values of defending human rights and condemning all injustices committed by humans against their fellow human beings, and to condemn the greatest of all evils, genocide.

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

Income Trusts
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, this petition is with regard to the broken promises from the Government of Canada on income trusts. The petition represents another group of citizens who have been hurt by the income trust fiasco and the broken promises. The petitioners are mostly concerned with the recklessness of this and the fact that there was an emphatic promise that there would be no tampering with income trusts.

With expert witnesses now providing clear evidence that the finance minister's decision has been based on flawed methodology, the petitioners trust that the government will rectify income trusts and make good and undo their broken promise.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

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

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development--Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Before going to orders of the day I would like to give the ruling on the point of order raised by the hon. member for Wascana regarding the use of Standing Order 56.1 to timetable the proceedings on a bill in the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

On May 31, 2007 during routine proceedings the government House leader sought, but did not obtain, unanimous consent of the House to move the following motion:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, when the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development convenes a meeting, it shall not be adjourned or suspended until it completes the committee stage of Bill C-44 except pursuant to a motion by a parliamentary secretary and, provided the bill is adopted by the committee, agrees to report the bill to the House within two sitting days following the completion of the committee stage.

He then moved the motion again pursuant to Standing Order 56.1 and the motion was adopted when fewer than 25 members rose to object. A short time later, the hon. member for Wascana raised a point of order regarding the use of Standing Order 56.1. He was supported by interventions from the hon. member for Joliette and the hon. member for Hamilton Centre, while the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons argued that the motion adopted earlier had been appropriately presented under Standing Order 56.1.

Given that a meeting of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development was imminent, I delivered an immediate ruling promising that the Chair would return to the House later with reasons. I am now prepared to do so.

First, the Chair would like to thank all hon. members who intervened on the point of order for their contributions on this question and is particularly grateful that members have taken note of certain key rulings, specifically those the Speaker delivered on September 18, 2001 and October 3, 2006.

A key element in my ruling today is the fundamental precept that standing committees are masters of their own procedure. Indeed, so entrenched is that precept that only in a select few Standing Orders does the House make provision for intervening directly into the conduct of standing committee affairs. In addition to the power the House has to give instructions to committees by way of a substantive motion that is subject to debate, there are, of course, Standing Orders 57 and 78, which can be used by the House to allocate time or for closure proceedings on a bill in committee. It is toward the use of these very instruments that the Speaker directed the House in his ruling of September 18, 2001, on Debates page 5257, where, as the hon. member for Wascana pointed out, the Speaker stated:

The expanded use of Standing Order 56.1 since 1997 causes the Chair serious concern. The government is provided with a range of options under Standing Orders 57 and 78 for the purpose of limiting debate.

Let us now turn to the Speaker’s ruling of October 3, 2006 allowing the use of Standing Order 56.1 to extend, in an open-ended fashion, the debate on Bill C-24, the Softwood Lumber bill.

It should be noted at the outset that when Standing Order 56.1 was used in reference to Bill C-24, the bill was then before the House at second reading, not before a standing committee. In allowing the use of Standing Order 56.1 in that case the Speaker did so with some concern and on the basis that:

The precedents available to me, including my own previous rulings, are [therefore] insufficient for me to rule the motion out of order on this occasion.

This is part of the Speaker's ruling quoted by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. At the time the Speaker had more to say. He also encouraged, as had Mr. Speaker Parent before him, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to examine the appropriate use of this Standing Order, a pretty clear indication of the difficulties with which the House has had to deal when Standing Order 56.1 has been invoked in questionable circumstances.

In the present case, the Chair has looked carefully at the wording of Standing Order 56.1, which states in reference to the House itself that the Standing Order can be used to move motions in relation to “the management of its business” and “ the arrangement of its proceedings”. Interestingly, the only reference to committees in the Standing Order is one allowing motions for “the establishing of the powers of its committees”, suggesting that the rule was meant to be used not to reach into the conduct of standing committee affairs to direct them, but rather in a routine manner, to provide them powers they do not already possess. A review of the previous uses of Standing Order 56.1 appears to support this. The only examples dealing with standing committees or standing committee activity the Chair has been able to find have to do with granting standing committees the power to travel. The power to travel is, as all hon. members know, a power standing committees do not possess and so the use of Standing Order 56.1 in that regard falls squarely within the parameters of the rule.

Accordingly, to repeat the words I used when this matter was first raised, the use of Standing Order 56.1 to direct the business of the committee, of any committee, is a new development in the House and one that I find out of order.

I thank all hon. members who intervened for bringing this matter to the attention of the House.

The House resumed from June 4, consideration of the motion that Bill C-35, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (reverse onus in bail hearings for firearm-related offences), be read the third time and passed.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today at third reading of Bill C-35, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (reverse onus in bail hearings for firearm-related offences).

Bill C-35 proposes that, at the appearance stage and in some cases even at the preliminary investigation stage, the onus be placed on the person charged. Before the trial, the accused has to be able to show that he can be released. At present, as a general rule, the crown prosecutor has to demonstrate that the accused should not be released on bail because he poses a danger to the public. The Criminal Code provides for some exceptions, however, and in those cases the accused must prove that pre-trial detention is unjustified. These exceptions are: breach of release conditions, involvement in organized crime, terrorism, drug trafficking, smuggling or production, murder, treason or war crimes.

With Bill C-35, the Conservative government wants to expand this list of exceptions. So it will be up to the accused to prove to the judge that he may be released without causing concern for society in connection with any and all of the following offences: attempted murder with a firearm, discharging a firearm with intent to wound, sexual assault with a weapon, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, hostage taking, extortion, firearms trafficking or possession for the purpose of trafficking, or any offence involving a firearm if committed while the accused is bound by a weapons prohibition order.

The Bloc Québécois is reluctant to expand the list for reverse onus, since this approach affects the important notion of presumption of innocence. However, we like the idea of giving police officers the most effective tools for conducting investigations and bringing people to justice. We agree that in certain cases, an accused should not be released and must be detained until the trial starts.

As I was saying to my colleague from Hochelaga, similar provisions existed elsewhere in the Criminal Code, for example the gangsterism provisions passed in 2002. It is true when release conditions have been violated, when someone who was already out on bail or probation violated the conditions. If an individual already tried once to dodge the legal system and violated the conditions, it is completely understandable that he will not be released. There are situations, of course, when it is prudent, justifiable and perfectly comprehensible for the Crown to say that an individual should not be released, for example when evidence might be destroyed, when the individual may not appear as required for his trial, or when the individual poses a danger to the victim or the community.

We had a number of concerns about the relevance of Bill C-35 before it was referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Our first concern was the lack of studies or analyses showing that reverse onus effectively deters people from committing crimes with firearms. Second, the bill would have inevitably led to a greater number of incarcerations in institutions that the provinces own and operate. These institutions are often crowded already, and they need funding commensurate with their responsibilities.

Last, we doubted that this bill would help curb the trade in illegal arms. However, witnesses who appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights provided assurances on two points. First, the bill must be constitutional and must therefore respect the principle of the presumption of innocence; and second, in practice, a person accused of any of the crimes included in the bill is generally detained before trial. The testimony of two defence lawyers was the determining factor in our decision. They told us that, in practice, amending the act would not bring about injustice because reverse onus would, in actual fact, change very little.

I would like to quote William Trudell, the Chair of the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers, who summarized the situation in these words:

The bill provisions, as elucidated now in Hall with a tertiary ground of public confidence in the administration of justice, are already there. It is extremely difficult for someone charged with this type of offence to be released on bail.

In her testimony, lawyer Isabel J. Schurman gave a good description of the situation covered by Bill C-35 when she said that there is de facto reverse onus in the case of firearm-related offences and that, in fact, the chance of obtaining bail is very slim in such cases.

In addition, setting aside the committee testimony confirming the practice of law in this specific situation, it is important to remember that the accused will still have an opportunity to be released on bail. Bail will be granted even if someone is accused for the second time of one of the crimes listed in the bill.

Reverse onus pertains only to release or detention pending trial. It has nothing to do with guilt or innocence. Bill C-35 therefore will not serve as a shining example of initiatives to improve public safety, something this minority government often boasts about. As well, the passage of new legislation will not necessarily dissuade firearms traffickers from selling weapons. Many of the weapons on the streets of our cities are smuggled into the country. Consequently, reverse onus, as provided for in Bill C-35 on bail hearings for firearm-related offences, seems to pose a real challenge. The question is to what extent the bill will reduce the number of firearms in circulation.

My colleagues will understand that we have a responsibility to consider how to prevent crime. Unfortunately, many questions will remain unanswered, even after Bill C-35 is adopted at third reading. Would taxpayers' money be better spent on preventing crime and putting more police on our streets? For example, would it be more effective to assign more police officers to strategic areas than to throw more people in jail and deny them the right to release on bail?

With good reason, during the previous debate in this House, I said that detention offers a certain degree of protection to society. On the other hand, I added, rehabilitation and the rebuilding of social relations are more difficult to achieve once there is recourse to incarceration, not to mention the fact that prisons are often considered to be schools for crime and a great networking opportunity for criminals.

Those are some areas we might reflect on more deeply. This government wants to be seen as fighting against crimes committed with firearms, but it is ready to dismiss the gun registry on the sole grounds of inefficiency and exorbitant program costs. For example, it is letting the registry go to seed by failing to keep it up to date and by extending the full amnesty for holdouts who refuse to register their firearms. Does this not demonstrate a certain inconsistency in terms of the government's goal of making our society more secure?

In conclusion, the Bloc Québécois will get behind Bill C-35 and will support it at third reading so that it can be sent to the Senate. The reason for our support at the end of the legislative process is that the bill will have no major impact on current practice. However, I repeat, shifting the burden of proof will not solve the problem of the traffic in weapons. Bill C-35 will have no effect on that trend. The approaches that the Bloc Québécois advocates reflect the concerns of the people of Quebec with respect to justice. Providing better protection for our citizens means attacking the root of the problem, in other words, the causes of delinquency and violence.

As I mentioned in some recent remarks concerning Bill C-10, poverty, inequality and feeling excluded will always be the breeding grounds of crime. As a consequence, firearm-related crimes always remain as a difficult social problem to eliminate. Again, and this time I will avoid debating the inconsistency that I emphasized previously, that is the government’s claim that it is acting effectively on the problem of firearm-related crimes while at the same time it is weakening the gun registry.

Like my colleagues, I believe that a greater sharing of riches, working toward better social integration and emphasizing rehabilitation represent essential solutions for the prevention of crime.

Unfortunately, this government always has that unproductive tendency to ignore those approaches. It thinks it can achieve security by filling the penitentiaries. What a sad social observation for a government that wants to give the impression that it is doing something, even though what we have here, as Bill C-35 demonstrates, is only the appearance of action.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member on her comments, but as a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I have a question.

I heard testimony from defence lawyers who said that existing practices in criminal courts are the same as Bill C-35 hopes to establish. Indeed, the bill will not bring about any major changes, because judges, attorneys and defence lawyers already practice some of the things set out in the bill.

Does the hon. member intend to accept the lawyers' testimony as true, since they are the ones working on the front lines of justice and they indicated that this is already their practice?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

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

Indeed, during testimony heard in committee, all witnesses said they were in favour of the bill. Only two witnesses were opposed, namely, William Trudell, president of the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers, and Isabel Schurman, who is a defence lawyer. The two dissenting testimonies in committee came from those two lawyers. They told us that this bill could prove to be of no use, because de facto preventive detention is already the norm for all crimes committed with a firearm.

This perhaps explains why the Bloc Québécois did not support this bill in the beginning. Indeed, as we have always said, the reverse onus principle poses a problem for the Bloc Québécois. However, in very specific cases of crimes committed with a firearm, all the witnesses heard in committee were in favour of this bill, and those who did not support it simply said that it was redundant because it was, de facto, already used in all such proceedings.

The committee was nearly unanimous in approving this bill, which is why the Bloc Québécois supported it.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her speech. As she said, and although we will also support it, this bill gives the impression that it will fight gun crimes more effectively. But this is not true since, as we know, judges already have a certain amount of leeway in these cases.

She also talked about how we should focus more on the causes of crimes. For example, I know that in my region, in my riding, we have been trying to obtain funding for a project that aims to help young people obtain not only basic job training, but also life skills: how to dress, how to apply for jobs. We have had many problems finding funding, from the federal government or other sources.

I think these are the types of programs that would really help keep vulnerable young people and youth at risk from joining gangs, and so forth.

I wonder if the member would have any thoughts on this type of program, which would really help prevent crimes.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

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

In fact, the Bloc Québécois is just as concerned as my colleague about this government's approach, which gives the illusion of fighting crime. We find that the amounts invested by the government in this form of repression do not attack the root of the problem. To do that we must ask ourselves if the amounts spent on policing, all these forms of repression and detention in penitentiaries are monies invested in the well-being of all our citizens. Why not allocate monies to the rehabilitation of youth, to prevention and training? Why not provide more means and tools to prevent crime rather than constantly focussing on applying repressive measures and imprisonment?

In my opinion, opening penitentiaries and multiplying the types of detention do not reduce crime; they have the opposite effect. The Bloc Québécois is in favour of prevention, rehabilitation, and social integration.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I realize that the member's intentions are good but this side of the House has put millions of dollars into programs for my province and provinces across the nation to help children stay away from gangs. This is a very important aspect that helps prevent crime.

What would the hon. member say to a family whose mother was killed at four o'clock in the morning in Winnipeg, Manitoba by a group of kids who stole a car and ran into her van? What would she say to the family members when they say that the laws are not strict enough and that these kids get away with absolutely everything?

We also need to have a dialogue about the victims of crime and putting in tough laws that will be a deterrent to this kind of crime happening in the middle of the night in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

What would the member say to the family members who just lost their mother?