House of Commons Hansard #114 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was airport.

Topics

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

1:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Bill C-60. On the Order: Government Orders:)

June 17, 2008--Report stage of Bill C-60, An Act to amend the National Defence Act (court martial) and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, as reported (with amendment) from the committee--Minister of National Defence.

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Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

Pursuant to an order made earlier today, Bill C-60, An Act to amend the National Defence Act (court martial) and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, as amended, is deemed concurred in at report stage on division.

(Motion agreed to)

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Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Helena Guergis Simcoe—Grey, ON

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

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1:15 p.m.

Edmonton Centre
Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this important bill to amend the National Defence Act.

First, I want to thank hon. members of the House from all parties for the cooperation in expediting this important bill.

The purpose of the military justice system is to deal with matters that pertain directly to discipline, efficiency and morale of the military.

To maintain the armed forces in a state of readiness, the military must be in a position to enforce internal discipline effectively and efficiently. Breaches of military discipline must be dealt with more speed and frequently punished more severely than would be the case if a civilian engaged in such conduct. As a result, the military has its own Code of Service Discipline to allow it to meet its particular disciplinary needs.

In addition, special service tribunals rather than ordinary courts have been given jurisdiction to punish breaches of the Code of Service Discipline. There is thus a need for separate tribunals to enforce special disciplinary standards in the military.

Bill C-60 is an act that will ensure our military justice system remains one in which Canadians can have trust and confidence. It will enhance the fairness of the military justice system, both from the perspective of the accused person and the Canadian public. It will ensure that members of the Canadian Forces enjoy a right to choose how they will be tried that parallels the rights found in the Canadian civilian criminal justice system.

Remedying an impasse that was created by an appellate court judgment, it will ensure that justice can continue to be done for accused persons as well as for victims. It will preserve the viability of the military justice system in fulfilling its key role to the maintenance of discipline, efficiency and morale upon which the Canadian Forces depend.

In particular, the bill will closely align procedures for the selection of the type of trial by court martial, as well as court martial decision making, with the approach in the civilian criminal justice system, but it will also preserve the attributes that are essential to satisfy the unique needs of the military justice system.

The need for a separate system of military tribunals distinct from the civilian criminal justice system has deep historical roots and was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1992 in the case of R. v. Généreux.

The Canadian military justice system is designed to promote the operational effectiveness of the Canadian Forces in the ways I have already mentioned, but it must also ensure that members of the Canadian Forces are dealt with fairly.

Key to ensuring this over time is the supervisory jurisdiction of civilian appellate courts such as the Court Martial Appeal Court and the Supreme Court of Canada. As with any justice system, these appellate courts sometimes highlight the need for adjustments in our military justice system.

One such instance is the Court Martial Appeal Court's decision of April 24, 2008 in the case of R. v. Trépanier.

The court found that the exclusive power of the director of military prosecutions to choose the type of court martial that would try an accused person, and the duty of the court martial administrator to convene the type of court martial thus selected, violated an accused person's constitutional right to make full answer and defence, and to control the conduct of that defence.

The court held that these provisions of the National Defence Act violated the charter and were of no force and effect. Importantly, the court refused to stay its decision, effectively removing the authority to convene courts martial, an essential step in bringing matters to trial.

Leave to appeal the decision in Trépanier is being sought from the Supreme Court of Canada, along with a stay of execution of the decision. However, neither the appeal nor the stay will provide a clear, timely, and certain solution to the problems created by the Trépanier decision. Left unaddressed, trials by court martial cannot be conducted. Serious offences may go unpunished and victims will not see justice done.

Bill C-60, now before the House, is the government's legislative response to this Court Martial Appeal Court's decision. It will bring clarity and stability to the court martial convening process, and allow the process to continue to function.

First, the bill will simplify the court martial structure by reducing the number of types of courts martial from four to two. The remaining types of courts martial will be the standing court martial, which has a military judge sitting alone, and the general court martial, which has a military judge sitting with a panel of five members.

Second, the bill will establish a comprehensive framework for the selection of the type of court martial. It sets out which serious offences must be tried by general court martial and standing court martial respectively, and in all other cases permits the accused person to choose one of the two trial processes.

Finally, the bill will strengthen court martial decision making by providing military judges with authority to deal with pretrial matters at an earlier stage in the process and enhance the reliability of verdicts by requiring key decisions of the panel at a general court martial to be made by unanimous vote rather than by a majority vote as at present. That brings it more in line with what we would see in a civilian court with a civilian jury.

We have had good cooperation at the defence committee in working this through fairly quickly. We went through clause by clause last night at the defence committee and received agreement in almost all respects. One clause was debated and deleted. That did not take away from the effectiveness of the bill that left committee last night.

We have added one important aspect to the bill and that is a mandatory review and report after two years. After two years of the new bill being in force, it will be referred back to a committee of the House or Senate, or both, in a report issued that will guide the House in follow-up action.

An amendment that was defeated was in fact a sunset clause. The danger with a sunset clause is that it would put us back in the same situation that we are in today, where, in effect, the military justice system has ceased to function because courts martial cannot be convened. All of this is done with the best of legal advice from the judge advocate general branch and from a panel of very qualified and distinguished legal minds.

The benefit of all of these legislative amendments is that they will allow the court martial process to function. They will bring clarity, certainty and stability to the military justice system. More importantly, the impact of not making these amendments is that courts martial cannot be convened. The court martial process will become paralyzed. Very serious offences may go unpunished and victims will not see justice done.

Currently, there are about 50 cases that are in danger, as time goes by, of not being brought to justice. That simply should not be acceptable to anybody in the House, the Canadian public, and it is not acceptable to the Canadian Forces.

My plea to members of the House is to pass this measure quickly and get it to the other place, so we can pass it into law by the end of this session. The government is not trying to force something in a hurry. We are up against a timeline. The fact is that the decision came down in Trépanier only about seven weeks ago. For anybody who has been in the House for longer than the orientation session, they will know that there has in fact been fairly quick movement to bring necessary changes like this forward.

It is important that members of the House and all parties come together and pass Bill C-60 that would allow the military justice system to continue, and ensure that justice is done and seen to be done both for the accused and, more importantly, for the victims.

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1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Rota Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-60, An Act to amend the National Defence Act (court martial) and to make a consequential amendment to another Act. Bill C-60 seeks to amend certain provisions of the National Defence Act, which I will refer to as the NDA from now on, to be in line with our constitutional standards.

The Court Martial Appeal Court, CMAC, decision struck down the subsection from the NDA providing for the convening of courts martial in the military justice system.

Bill C-60 addresses the need for a legislative solution. It reduces the number of types of courts martial from four down to two: the general court martial for more serious offences or the standing court martial. It ensures the military justice system is in balance with our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I think that is an important point to make because we want to make sure that our men and women who are in uniform have all the same rights and freedoms as other Canadians. We are not taking anything away from them; we are not giving them anything special. We are just asking them to be at the same level as any other Canadian and I think that is only fair.

What precipitated Bill C-60 was the Trépanier case. On April 24, 2008, the CMAC decision was made for the Trépanier case and this was a catalyst for the bill because the section under attack was deemed unconstitutional. It found that the current provisions in the NDA violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms under section 7. Trépanier argued very effectively that putting the power to choose the type of court martial in the hands of a prosecutor violated his rights to a full answer and defence, and to control his defence.

What are the problems with the current provisions? As I mentioned earlier, it gives exclusive power to the prosecution to unilaterally choose the court martial before which a trial takes place and these provisions are unconstitutional. As a result, these provisions are no longer operative and since they have been struck down, they cannot operate in a military system. Therefore, what we have is a complete paralysis of the justice system within the military.

This prevents new trials from proceeding and uncertainty about those trials that have already commenced. As mentioned earlier by the previous member who spoke, this could have an impact of up to 50 cases this year. Therefore, the decision that was put forward in the Trépanier case obstructs many victims from obtaining justice due to this paralysis.

Why was Bill C-60 introduced? There was a need to provide a legislative remedy to convene pending cases. We need to modernize and change the provisions to improve their fairness and meet constitutional standards and we need to ensure that the military justice system is fair and does not violate individual charter rights.

We have a need to provide timely and fair trials to individuals so that the victims can obtain justice. To sit here in limbo and not pass Bill C-60 would mean that many people, who are in a situation where they are waiting for their case to proceed, would not have the right to go ahead. That could cause many problems down the road as well in cases where it would take too long. That would be a whole other issue that would come before the courts.

Basically, what we are looking at is legislative reform here today and we are making those changes. They are happening very quickly. I will talk to the rush of this particular bill a little later.

However, I just want to talk to some of the concerns that I have regarding the bill. While I support the bill and understand its urgency, and it is crucial to ensure that there is nothing that we have overlooked, I am a little uncomfortable with passing the bill in under two weeks and without the thorough review that I think it deserves. The role of a parliamentarian is to examine bills carefully and ensure that there are no negative long term consequences.

Last night the defence committee met. The members went over the bill and had long discussions, but I think we could have used probably a few more witnesses just to clarify some of the finer points. Overall though, I am very comfortable with what we have come up with. There have been amendments and that is something that I think has been dealt with fairly handily.

When I spoke earlier, I mentioned about rushing through and that is something that is always a concern when we are passing a bill that will have a long term effect on any legal proceeding. To circumvent any problems that may arise down the road, we proposed an amendment.

The committee has approved that amendment. In order to address the concerns about the speed at which Bill C-60 has been put through, the committee proposed that a mandatory parliamentary review be done in two years. This would ensure there were no flaws or unintended consequences. This would not affect the legislation if passed. It would not paralyze the military system.

One of the other possibilities was to have a sunset clause. My concern with a sunset clause is that if there were a sunset clause and by some act of fate the parliamentary system did not act quickly enough, the act would have to be suspended again and we would be right back where we are today without a proper procedure. The military system would be paralyzed again. It would create an injustice not only to the accused, but to the victim of the crime. A sunset clause is one area that has been looked at and spoken to sufficiently and it is not a viable option, but reviewing the act to make sure that everything is in place and there have been no injustices is probably key.

Ultimately, I support passing this bill to resolve the constitutional violations and to provide justice for the victims, on the condition that a mandatory parliamentary review within two years be in place.

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1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I did not want to go back to the first part of my last presentation. However, some people, and even some members, are still asking me why the military needs to have its own system of justice, instead of trying soldiers in civilian courts. I would therefore like to take a minute to explain to the people watching that this is an international practice. In fact, I believe that all countries have a military justice system.

Anyone who is wondering about the validity of military justice should read the report by Mr. Justice Lamer, the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, who conducted a study of military justice to determine whether it was as valid as civilian justice. He concluded that it most definitely was and added that, although military justice worked well on the whole, he felt some minor changes were warranted.

I just wanted to clarify that, because many people wonder why the military has its own justice system. Some people see this system as an exception and have a hard time accepting it, but all countries have a military justice system, and it would seem that military justice is as valid as civilian justice.

Why is Bill C-60 before the House this week? As I said the last time, the military justice system has a multi-tiered structure. For example, minor offences will be dealt with in summary trials presided over by commanding or senior officers, who do not necessarily have legal training. In fact, nearly 90% of cases are minor offences that will be dealt with immediately in summary trials.

However, there was an urgent need for action regarding courts martial. There are four types of courts martial. A ruling from one of the four types of courts martial can be appealed to the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada, and that is what happened in the case of R. v. Trépanier. On April 24, the appeal court ruled that provisions of the act violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that, as a result, there would be no more courts martial. The government asked whether it was possible to postpone implementing this decision for a year, so that it could make the necessary preparations and adjustments, but the court refused.

So, since April 24, we have been in a kind of legal limbo. We were summoned and told why action was urgent. The Bloc Québécois understood the urgency. We did, however, want to revisit certain elements, and that is why this bill is at the third reading stage today.

When the Court Martial Appeal Court brought down its decision, we told ourselves that a bill needed to be introduced to make changes. The government took the matter seriously and prepared Bill C-60. But what struck us as less serious is that it took one very important aspect before the Supreme Court. In fact, the government considered the judgment in R. v. Trépanier as having constitutional repercussions, which it wanted to have settled by the Supreme Court. That seems to us to be incongruous. I had confirmation of this yesterday from some military lawyers. In fact, the government can examine what constitutional changes arise out of this judgment, but there is also a danger. The Supreme Court of Canada—and this was confirmed to me—could study Bill C-60 and recommend that changes be made to it.

We could then end up on a collision course between the Supreme Court and the Parliament of Canada in connection with Bill C-60. That is why we speak of incongruity. The House will probably not get the point, but we would recommend to the government that it quite simply back off from its Supreme Court appeal, because it might cause complications. This is strictly our point of view, but one worth raising.

I will now return to the point raised by my Liberal colleague. We were in favour of a sunset clause in order not to end up in the same trap as with the veterans charter.

I remember a few years ago, at more or less this same point in the session, when everything becomes urgent, that the focus was on the importance of a veterans charter.

It was passed much more quickly than Bill C-60. It actually went through all stages in one fell swoop. That ended up causing huge problems later on. The fact is that, when legislation is passed that way, no witnesses are heard and no discussions take place. We move right along, with the consequences this entails.

Understandably, to prevent the same thing from happening with Bill C-60, we suggested a sunset clause. This clause allows the legislation to be passed but ensures that, two years from now, it will have to be passed again. That is different from what the Liberal Party is proposing, which my hon. colleague discussed earlier. The Liberals are proposing a complete overhaul in two years. Let me remind the House of what that means. The committee can meet and make recommendations to the minister to change some things, but the minister may well come out and say that he does not accept the recommendations and will not change those aspects we would like him to change.

So, should a problem arise after Bill C-60, the first thing that would happen is that we would have to wait two years. Then, after the overhaul takes place, the minister will not be required to act on the committee's recommendations. With a sunset clause, however, we start afresh. What has already been done is not redone, of course, but if problems have been encountered in the application of the act following its passage, we would be on much stronger footing to argue our position and amend the legislation per se.

We were very disappointed when the two majority parties, namely the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party, did not adopt the sunset clause.

I want to talk about the Liberals' attitude. I have noticed a change in the Liberal Party in the past few months, namely when it comes to debating Afghanistan. I remember quite well the Liberal Party saying that the mission would end in 2009 and that it would not be extended beyond that. Much to everyone's surprise, the last time the Liberal Party talked about Afghanistan it said that it would support the Conservatives and allow the mission to carry on until 2011. The same thing is happening in the committees. I sense a change in attitude. The Liberal Party is probably doing well in the polls. It already sees itself forming the next government and it is already reacting as such. It does not want to complicate matters. Instead of adopting important principles, perhaps it should be a little more flexible because soon it might occupy the benches on the other side of the House.

I see that the Liberal Party is in bed with the Conservative Party. I noticed that with respect to Afghanistan and I often see that in the Standing Committee on National Defence. I cannot wait to point this out to my Bloc Québécois colleagues in caucus tomorrow. This is systemic and that is too bad. Sometimes some parties will close their eyes on important principles at the thought of ending up on the other side soon and in an attempt, while they are still on the opposition side, not to create a problem they will have to deal with once they are in government. That is the sad reality. The Conservative Party and the Liberal Party will be bedfellows from now on. In my opinion, that was very apparent in this bill, just as it was in the debate on Afghanistan.

This situation is deplorable. I am calling on my colleagues to rise above this partisan battle. In studying bills, they have to defend the interests of the people, the troops or any other group. That has to be the priority in any analysis and the hope of sitting in government benches must not govern their behaviour in Parliament.

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1:35 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are here today really on an emergency basis because of problems arising from the Federal Court of Appeal decision in the R. v. Trépanier.

The problems we are addressing with regard to the military justice system precede Trépanier. That decision came down at the end of April of this year. The problems the court was addressing in that case, and which were resolved rather summarily by dismissing the charges against Corporal Trépanier, stem from a long-standing frustration on the court's part that successive governments have not dealt with the needed reforms in the military justice system.

In this regard, it is important to recognize that Justice Lamer was commissioned almost six years ago to prepare a report. He prepared a very lengthy and detailed report of the analysis of the problems with the military justice system and set out very clear and specific recommendations on how to deal with those problems. That resolution surfaced first in a bill under the former Liberal administration and then in the form of Bill C-45 under the current Conservative administration.

The process has been very slow. We heard from the parliamentary secretary that Bill C-60, which is before us today, was a very quick process, and he is accurate in that regard.

The overall process has been extremely slow and unacceptably slow for the Federal Court of Appeal. For that reason, the court struck the section down in the National Defence Act that dealt with this part of the military justice system and, in effect, dismissed the charges against Corporal Trépanier.

Those are serious charges against him, with no reflection on whether he is guilty or innocent of the charges. The reality is, at this point, if that decision stands, then the charges will not be dealt with on their merits.

What was determined in the Trépanier decision was the system that allowed exclusive authority to the prosecutor to determine the type of trial an accused person would have within the military justice system was simply unacceptable in the context of Canada today, and in particular with regard to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Bill C-60 addresses this issue. Again, the bill is the same as in the recommendations from Justice Lamer and what is still contained in Bill C-45.

The government has been very slow on moving Bill C-45 ahead. It has given priority to a number of other bills and let this one languish, and that is unacceptable. Any number of other issues may be confronting our military justice system, in terms of issues under the charter, that could find us in the same situation in the next few months or the next year or two.

We absolutely demand that the government move Bill C-45 forward rapidly so we can deal with it. It has substantial support from all the opposition parties. Some specific provisions need to be corrected and some additions need to be made to it, but the bulk of the bill is one that has wide support among all the parties. I urge the government to move rapidly on it when we come back in the fall.

With regard to the specific provision in Bill C-60, as we have heard from some of the other speakers, with the exception of a couple of the paragraphs and clauses, it had all party support. In particular, by limiting the jurisdiction or the authority of the prosecutor and giving much more democratic and civil libertarian provisions to the accused, so the nature of the trial would appear at least on the surface to be more equitable, these have all been incorporated in the legislation in the form of Bill C-60.

I point out in particular that we have done away in Bill C-60 with the former format of having four different types of trials that there could be. We have reduced the number to two, which again, to a great extent, mirrors the situation in our criminal justice system generally for civilians in this country.

If Bill C-60 is passed, we will have a system where there will be a single judge, and generally speaking that will be for the less serious offences, and the accused will have the right to choose a judge and a five member panel, which would be in the form of a jury, if I can make the analogy with the civilian system.

In addition to that, although we have had panels in the past, a combination of a judge and a three member panel, there will now be five members on the panel. As opposed to the current system, the panel will have to be unanimous in its decision if a person is to be acquitted or convicted, again mirroring the situation in our criminal justice system and generally in our society.

That is a major step forward. There were several others perhaps of less significance, but it is a bill that all the parties were prepared to support.

Yesterday in committee we made two changes to the bill. One was to delete a whole clause. There was quite some disagreement over this in terms of the discussion. In particular, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence argued strenuously at the time, as he is wont to do every so often, that by deleting clause 28 in its entirety, we would be taking rights away from the accused. I know he still believes that.

My assessment of clause 28 was just the opposite. By leaving it in, we were curtailing the rights of the accused. Ultimately we were able to reach a consensus among the opposition parties to delete it. I know I have not convinced my colleague, the parliamentary secretary, but I will continue to try to do that to establish that we were right in deleting it. In the end, the opposition parties voted that down.

Another issue came up for debate in committee, which resulted in a change, not the one we necessarily wanted or not the only one we wanted. We were quite supportive of the position that the Bloc Québécois took, its critic in particular, in wanting a sunset clause. It is simply bad legislative process to run bills rapidly through the House. We know from many years of bad experiences that when we do that, we expose ourselves, as a legislature and our community as a whole, to mistakes being made.

I know my colleague from the Bloc has been very clear on a number of occasions that he is experienced. I have had the same experience as well where we have agreed to run a bill through rapidly and then, in retrospect, have realized that we made a mistake or simply left a gap in the legislation. The Bloc member's proposal to put in a sunset clause seemed to me to make good sense. We were supportive of it and, unfortunately, could not gather enough support to press it through.

The mandatory review that the Liberals proposed, which was adopted ultimately by a majority of the committee, and is in the bill before us today, has two major problems. We know, again, from many years of experience in analyzing mandatory reviews that all too often they are never conducted.

One of the flaws in our legislative process is that there is no penalty to the legislature or the government if we in fact do not put in place a mandatory review. Even though the legislation is clear that we have to, if it is not done, there is no penalty. There have been repeated occasions where bills have passed through the House, become law and the mandatory review is never carried out, or is carried out years after it is supposed to be.

The other problem with the mandatory review, and my colleague from the Bloc mentioned this, is that even if it is done, there is no imperative on the government to accept the recommendations that come out of it. It can simply say that it will not proceed with the recommendations and the changes needed are never pursued. Whereas with the mandatory sunset clause, the government would no choice but to address the issue if in fact a major problem arose.

Although overall we in the NDP support the legislation, we have serious problems with not having the sunset clause. Beyond that, hopefully the bill will resolve the issue that Trépanier has created and we can continue with the criminal justice system within the national defence system.

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1:45 p.m.

Independent

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

Mr. Speaker, first I want to mention something that I believe is important although it is not related to this debate. Yesterday, in my speech on Bill C-29, I talked about the lack of consideration and the unfairness that independent members have to endure. Our presence in this House is just as legitimate as that of the 304 members with party affiliation.

The Conservative government, among others, regularly seeks the unanimous consent of the House to deal with certain issues as quickly as possible. All parties and independent members should at least be informed. It is essential if we want to do our job. I repeatedly—and being as persistent as I am, when I say repeatedly, I really mean it—asked both the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and the Chief Government Whip to have the decency to inform all four independent members. They just chose to be stubborn and took a malicious pleasure in not doing that, even when other independent members or myself were in the House when a motion was introduced.

I have no reason not to do my job by letting bills or motions go through by unanimous consent without being consulted, which means without even knowing what it is about.

As members of Parliament, the essence of our work continues to be to develop legislation that is fair and equitable. Therefore, it is only normal to know what it is that the government wants to ram through the House of Commons. That is what I wanted to say on this.

Bill C-60 seeks to correct a problematic situation created by the court martial appeal court in the Trépanier case. The fact that an accused cannot choose before which court he can defend himself was ruled inconsistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the chief military judge more or less lost the power to convene a court martial. The government wants to break this impasse before the end of the session, to allow courts martial to be convened.

The bill also introduces other procedural changes. Most of them are clarifications made necessary by other judicial decisions, such as clarifying the limitation period with respect to summary proceedings.

Yesterday, the bill was referred to a committee, which heard experts. The committee did its job. Its report is published in the blues. The committee cancelled the transitional provision in clause 28 and ordered a mandatory review, within two years of this bill becoming law.

This not only makes perfect sense, it is also good insurance. Given the speed at which we are proceeding to deal with this issue before the end of the session, at least we can be assured that, in two years from now, this issue is going to be re-examined and it will be possible to take action.

In conclusion, I believe that legislative work can be done diligently and respectfully, and I think it is important to point this out today.

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1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Pursuant to order made earlier today, Bill C-60, An Act to amend the National Defence Act (court martial) and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, is deemed read a third time and passed on division.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement Act
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1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement Act
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1:50 p.m.

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure for me to stand today in relation to Bill C-34 and speak at third reading.

This is important legislation, which culminates after much time, in relation to the B.C. treaty process, the first historic modern treaty out of British Columbia. Our government is very proud to have achieved this incredible treaty.

I thank all the opposition parties for their support on the bill and we look forward to sending it to the Senate for final ratification.

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1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am very excited to rise today and talk about this historic agreement that has very great support in three governments.

As we know, last week a historic agreement was made. It was a day for the ages when we had an apology for first nations people.

I also remember the day when the member for LaSalle—Émard made that agreement. I remember the great tears flowing for residential schools. That apology finally came.

However, as everyone said that day, it was just the beginning. It is not the end. The next step in the process is to actually improve the lives of first nations people. The agreement last week allowed us to move forward together to solve those problems. One of the tried and true methods is a template of the agreement that we are about to approve in this Parliament today.

I want to compliment the Tsawwassen First Nation, especially Chief Kim Baird and her council, and the B.C. government, led by Gordon Campbell. It is a great day for the people of Tsawwassen and those of Delta, Richmond, Vancouver, British Columbia, and indeed all of Canada.

I congratulate those people who have been working on this since 1993, with the statement of intent to enter the treaty. There were all sorts of members of Tsawwassen First Nation, many negotiators and people from the three governments.

This is very exciting and historic because it is the first urban claim south of 60 to occur in Canada. It is a great day for the 358 Coast Salish people who make up the Tsawwassen First Nation.

The traditional territory of the Tsawwassen First Nation covered 279,000 hectares. Tsawwassen rights will be extended on that territory. These are certain rights, as occur in all the modern treaties; for particulars, fee simple land of 724 hectares, 290 from the reserve, 372 from the Crown, from B.C., and 62 that are still in the municipality of Delta.

This is also a historic agreement because it is the first to be approved under the B.C. treaty process, so its ramifications could extend far ahead of this agreement with the 358 Coast Salish people. It could have ramifications for thousands of other first nations people in British Columbia.

Another exciting element of this is of course that it was a negotiated settlement, not a litigated one. It is of course much better when governments and people come together to come to a historic agreement like this rather than fighting it out in the courts. I know that this particular government certainly prefers that way of solving issues rather than having governments legislate.

The vote on this was also exceptional, with 130 members voting for it and only 50 against, which is 69.5%, a huge majority. I do not think we have ever had a Government of Canada with that type of majority.

I will continue after question period.

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1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

There will indeed be 16 minutes left for the hon. member for Yukon. We will now have statements by members.

International Boundary Commission Centennial
Statements By Members

June 17th, 2008 / 1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure of informing my hon. colleagues that the International Boundary Commission, the agency responsible for making, maintaining and mapping the Canada-U.S. border, is celebrating its centennial this month.

Through the IBC, Canada and the United States have collaborated for over 100 years to peacefully maintain the longest shared border in the world, 8,893 kilometres long, from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Arctic Ocean.

The work of the IBC is fundamentally important to our national interest and to law enforcement, land administration, customs and immigration, and the management of transboundary resources.

The IBC exemplifies the close and enduring Canada-U.S. relationship.

I ask the Speaker and my fellow members of Parliament to join me in celebrating the centennial of the International Boundary Commission.