An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (recognized political parties)

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.


Jim Pankiw  Canadian Alliance

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


Not active, as of Feb. 21, 2001
(This bill did not become law.)


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

February 27th, 2013 / 3:30 p.m.
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Peter Jon Mitchell Senior Researcher, Institute of Marriage and Family Canada

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and committee members, for the opportunity to appear before you today in regard to Bill C-273 on behalf of the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada, a social policy think tank that conducts and compiles research on issues pertaining to the Canadian family.

Just last week another study was published in a peer-reviewed journal that linked the damage done by bullying during childhood to the increased risk of mental health related issues in young adulthood. The consequences of unaddressed bullying are severe.

As I continue to review research and engage with parents, I encounter a high level of anxiety and a sense of helplessness among parents of bullied children. Many of our attempts to stay ahead of the cyberbullying issue are akin to refereeing a soccer game from outside the stadium. As parents and caring adults, we prepare our children, acknowledging that once they enter the online world they're on their own. It is as if we are left peering at the field of play through a gap in the fence. Caring adults are largely absent in the online world of children and teens. Bullies know it, and they thrive where adults are absent.

Conceptually, enforcing the full weight of the Criminal Code on bullies appeals to the popular sense of justice, but this simplifies what is often a complex issue where many bullies are also victims. Functionally, the criminal law occupies the far end of the continuum in a series of bullying interventions among children and youth, the demographic that I want to speak to today.

The Criminal Code can protect victims and the community from escalating harm, but it is a very particular tool within limited circumstances. Before speaking to the specific merits and concerns that I have with Bill C-273, I want to acknowledge two limits to the function of the Criminal Code that should ground our expectations on what it can accomplish.

Use of the Criminal Code will not eradicate bullying.

First, applying the criminal law does not address the nature of bullying. At its core, bullying is a relational issue that requires relational intervention. Canadian clinical and developmental psychologist Gordon Neufeld understands bullying to be an instinctual, social, and emotional issue. Children, like adults, instinctually connect and attach to others, forming caregiving and care-receiving relationships. This is easily observed when watching children play. Neufeld argues that these naturally forming hierarchies facilitate the drive to care for others, but where instinct should draw upon empathy, the bully, often impaired by his or her own emotional trauma, is compelled to expose and exploit perceived weaknesses. Unmaking a bully takes time and requires relational capital.

Second, the Criminal Code is limited in the ability to prevent and deter young cyberbullies. As Wayne MacKay, who chaired the Nova Scotia Task Force on Bullying and Cyberbullying, noted in his report, “...the criminal law, while necessary and useful in certain serious cases, is a limited and often ineffective tool against the social problem of bullying.”

Professor MacKay notes that criminal law has limited impact on prevention and deterrence for young people. In fact, until very recently, the Youth Criminal Justice Act omitted the principle of deterrence during sentencing, in part because of this assumption that youth are less likely to be deterred by criminal sanctions.

American criminologist Thomas Holt summed it up well when he argued, “It's very hard to say that any 14-year-old with a cell phone who can text is going to think about a cyberbullying law when they're communicating with their peers.”

The best response to bullying is a community-level approach that brings together parents, caring adults such as educators, and children and youth. Research demonstrates that home and school environments are key to preventing the escalating nature of bullying.

Authentic relationships between youth and adults are critical to shielding victims and unmaking bullies. Justin Patchin, a criminologist at the U.S.-based Cyberbullying Research Center, who testified before the Canadian Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights, said elsewhere, “The vast majority of cyberbullying incidents can and should be handled informally: with parents, schools, and others working together to address the problem before it rises to the level of a violation of the criminal law.” But of course there are situations where the Criminal Code is necessary to protect victims and the community from escalating harm.

What are the merits of Bill C-273?

First, the bill brings the stated sections of the Criminal Code into the 21st century by addressing common tools of communication. Some have argued that the Criminal Code is already sufficiently broad to encompass electronic bullying behaviours, particularly section 264. The amendment to section 264 may be unnecessary.

Second, the modifications are modest and clarify existing sections of the Criminal Code rather than proposing new sections of untested criminal legislation.

Finally, there are some serious concerns around the implementation of Bill C-273.

First, we can expect that clarifying the Criminal Code in this manner will lead to an increase in its use. Increased use of these provisions may draw more youth into the criminal justice system, many of whom would fare best if dealt with outside the justice system.

Second, the committee should consider how the increased use of the Criminal Code will impact school-based responses to bullying. Could the adversarial nature of the criminal justice process inhibit community-based responses to bullying?

Finally, it remains unclear whether legislation reduces bullying. In the United States between 2000 and 2010, over 125 pieces of legislation were passed mostly at the state level yet the problem seems to remain as persistent as ever in the U.S.

To conclude, bullying among children and youth requires a community-level approach. On some occasions cyberbullying may escalate to a point where the Criminal Code is necessary to protect victims and the community. Bill C-273 appears to be a modest modernization of existing Criminal Code provisions, but at what cost?

Consideration should be given to the possibility that the increased use of the Criminal Code will create a chill on the community-level approach, particularly by drawing more youth into the criminal justice system.

Refereeing cyberspace is a difficult task. Our best approach is to empower parents, educators, and children and teens themselves to work together.

Thank you.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 23rd, 2001 / 10:30 a.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, we are on government business and I wish we would get back to that piece of legislation. However, it was the member himself who brought up private member's Bill C-273 at great length during his conversation.

I have a simple question. As one of those parties that he has deemed to be fringe, is the 10% requirement a defence mechanism that the member is putting forward because he recognizes that the official opposition has fallen down miserably in trying to put forward that opposition to the government and must depend now upon those same fringe parties that he refers to, that is, the NDP, the Conservatives and the Bloc members? Quite frankly, the credibility of the official opposition has been eroded to the point where no one will believe them or listen to them any longer. Is this only a defence mechanism to try to make sure we do not have the opportunity, with the limited resources and the limited questions we have, to in fact put forward questions in a much more effective manner than the member's party has been able to do?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 23rd, 2001 / 10:20 a.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I could not help but notice the righteous indignation the hon. member cloaks himself in when he speaks of hypocrisy and of his efforts to bring about an elected Senate.

I hope that would include the newest member of the Senate under the reform alliance banner. In that other place, I would suggest it is only appropriate that, in keeping with official party stance, he would step down and run in British Columbia. I would hope the hon. member would encourage him to do so.

I also must refer briefly to the member's private member's bill, Bill C-273, in which the Progressive Conservative Party is referred to as a fringe or marginal party. I take exception to that and think the hon. member, in all humility, might rethink the wording of the bill.

The Progressive Conservative Party, as we all know, goes back to the very origins of the country. It has run candidates in every election since Confederation and has run candidates in every region of the country. I ask the hon. member to reflect with some hubris upon the roots of his own party, the Reform Party.

When his party first arrived in the Chamber many people used the same unkind words, fringe party or marginal party. From those humble roots his party has now achieved official party status and has become the official opposition.

I caution the hon. member to perhaps choose his words carefully and reflect a little bit more broadly on the origins of his own party when he starts castigating and using that type of inflammatory language in the Chamber.

I would be very interested to hear his comments.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 22nd, 2001 / 4:50 p.m.
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Lorne Nystrom NDP Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I wish to say a few words in support of Bill C-9 which is before the House at second reading.

The bill, as my colleagues have said, comes out of an Ontario Court of Appeal ruling on March 10, 1999, almost two years ago. It suggested that parliament violated the charter of rights when it made a decision in the old elections act that before a name could be listed on the ballot, a party had to have at least 50 candidates. Now there has been a recommendation to change that from 50 candidates to 12 candidates, reflecting the ruling we have in the House of Commons that to be an official party of the House of Commons it must have 12 members in its caucus.

We certainly agree with that. We think it is the right way to go. In terms of the elections act, anything we can do to democratize the process, to make the process more inclusive and more empowering for as many Canadians as possible, is the right way to go. That is what this is doing in a very small way.

Before I go on I want to say, Mr. Speaker, that I am splitting my time with my colleague from Palliser.

Regarding inclusiveness, one thing struck me about the debate today. I wonder if anyone from the Canadian Alliance wants to comment on this when I sit down. A few days ago in the House, one of its members introduced a private member's bill that would go in exactly the opposite direction. That was the member for Saskatoon—Humboldt. His private member's Bill C-273, would amend the Parliament of Canada Act in terms of recognizing official parties in the House of Commons. The bill says: “This bill will provide that in order to receive official party status, a political party would at least have to have 10% of the seats in the House of Commons and members of parliament from at least three different provinces”. In other words, the Alliance bill would not recognize the Bloc Quebecois as an official party.

I know my good friend from Vancouver is a very progressive member of the Alliance Party, so I am not surprised he opposes this private member's bill.

However, maybe the party could clarify its stance. This bill, sponsored by the member of the Alliance Party, would exclude the Bloc Quebecois as an official party of the House because it only has MPs from one particular province. It would exclude the NDP because it does not have 10% of the membership of the House. It would exclude the Conservative Party because it does not have 10% of the membership of the House. That means it would exclude 63 MPs, so we would have 63 independents. Is that democracy? Is that inclusiveness? The three parties together received the votes of roughly one-third of the Canadian people.

I know the minister for financial institutions is scandalized by this kind of lack of democracy across the way. I would like to have the Canadian Alliance clarify where it stands on this very exclusive bill that has been put forth by the member from Saskatoon.

The bill we have before us today goes in the opposite direction. It says we should recognize an official party's name on the ballot that has at least 12 candidates recognized by the chief electoral officer. That is the way to go.

The goal is to have an electoral system in our country that is more inclusive, that is more democratic, that is more transparent, that is more available and that is more egalitarian to each and every single citizen regardless of who we are and where we come from.

Again, it is very strange to hear the Alliance Party criticize the Canada Elections Act for being tough on so-called third party advertising. Third party advertising should be regulated. Political parties represent different points of view and have strict spending guidelines at the national and the local levels. We must adhere to those guidelines and stipulations.

However, we have the Alliance Party advocating a wide open season, depending on how deep one's pocketbook is for special interest and lobby groups that want to get out there and spend a lot of money in fighting various political parties and political campaigns. Once again, this shows that it is not really concerned about basic and fundamental democracy which is so important to the ordinary citizens.

Parliament Of Canada ActRoutine Proceedings

February 21st, 2001 / 3:10 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jim Pankiw Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-273, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (recognized political parties).

Mr. Speaker, this bill would provide that in order to receive official party status a political party would need at least 10% of the seats in the House of Commons and members of parliament from at least three provinces or territories.

The bill would therefore prevent fringe parties such as the Progressive Conservative Party and the NDP, with only 4% of the seats in the House of Commons, from receiving the benefit of financial resources that come with the distinction of official party status.

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