Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a point of order to ask you to select the amendment I submitted for debate and vote at report stage on Bill C-13, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act, the Competition Act and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act. I understand that you will be giving a ruling on this after question period today, and I wanted to make sure that I made this submission before then, as this is a motion that was proposed and defeated in committee.
As stated in the note to Standing Order 76(5), the Speaker can select a motion that was defeated in committee to be debated at the report stage, “...if the Speaker judges it to be of such exceptional significance as to warrant a further consideration at the report stage”.
I would like to explain why this motion warrants consideration and why it is of such exceptional significance to members that it should be considered again. The motion is to amend clause 12 of Bill C-13 to add “gender identity” to the definition of “identifiable group” in subsection 318(4) of the Criminal Code concerning hate crimes.
Mr. Speaker, as you know, the House previously decided on this issue during its consideration of Bill C-279, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity). Clause 3 of Bill C-279 replaces subsection 318(4) of the Criminal Code and in doing so adds to the definition of “identifiable group” those members of the public distinguished by gender identity.
Clause 12 of Bill C-13 would replace that same subsection 318(4) of the Criminal Code and would add to the current definition of “identifiable group”:
...any section of the public distinguished by national...origin, age, sex...or mental or physical disability.
However, clause 12 of Bill C-13 does not use the current definition in the Criminal Code, as amended by the House by Bill C-279, and therefore deletes a provision by omission. If the House adopts Bill C-13, we will not protect transgender Canadians from hate crimes, despite having already affirmed this principle in this same Parliament.
This one amendment to the Criminal Code makes up half the substantive content of Bill C-279, my private member's bill, which passed third reading in this House on March 20, 2013. The members of this House will recall that it was passed by a majority of members in a vote of 149 to 137 with support from all parties. Again, a change to the Criminal Code proposed in Bill C-279 is a short and specific proposal to offer protection from hate crimes to transgender Canadians. In all likelihood, the 149 MPs who supported Bill C-279 at third reading would also support the motion I proposed in committee had they had the opportunity, since this motion is identical in content to that proposed in Bill C-279.
With Bill C-13, as it will be reported back to the House later today, the government would be, in effect, attempting to override this part of Bill C-279, which was passed by a majority of MPs in the House of Commons.
I believe that the note to Standing Order 76(5) was written specifically for situations like this one. This is an exceptional case in which a motion defeated in committee because of five government MPs would most certainly be supported by at least 149 MPs if it were moved in the House, and it would therefore pass. If the vote were held in the House of Commons rather than in committee, the outcome would be completely different. You can therefore be assured, Mr. Speaker, that this motion is not of a repetitive, frivolous, or vexatious nature or of a nature that would merely prolong unnecessary proceedings at the report stage. This would not be a repeat of the committee stage, since the outcome of the vote would likely be very different from what it was in committee. Some MPs would certainly oppose the motion, but it seems obvious to me that a majority of MPs would once again vote to provide protection from hate crimes to transgender Canadians.
There are several precedents where the Speaker referred to the note to Standing Order 76(5) to identify a motion as being of exceptional significance to the House as justification for selecting it for debate at the report stage, even though it had been proposed and defeated in committee. Mr. Speaker, let me remind you of those precedents.
One involves Motions Nos. 3 and 4 at the report stage of Bill C-23, an act to modernize the statutes of Canada in relation to benefits and obligations. On April 3, 2000, the chair occupant said to the House:
Motion No. 3 in the name of the member for Burnaby—Douglas is identical to the text of a subamendment moved in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights during a meeting on March 23, 2000 and defeated in a recorded division. Motion No. 4 in the name of the member for Elk Island is similar to another motion moved in that committee. Under normal circumstances such motions would not be selected for consideration at report stage. I have looked carefully at the two motions and after appropriate consideration, I am convinced that they do fulfill the requirements to be selected in that they have such exceptional significance as to warrant a further consideration at report stage.
Another example took place on February 18, 2002, at the report stage for Bill C-5, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada. Speaker Milliken stated as follows:
...there are motions similar to those that were rejected by the committee. Usually, such motions are not selected, because they would generate discussions that have already taken place in committee. However, the note in the Standing Orders allows the Speaker to select these motions if he deems that they are of such importance that they deserve to be examined again at report stage. I believe that these motions respect that criterion and therefore they will be selected for the debate.
Lastly, I would like to refer to the precedent established on June 10, 2005, at the report stage for Bill C-43, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 23, 2005. Again, Speaker Milliken had originally rejected Motions Nos. 5 and 6 at the bill's report stage. After hearing a point of order raised by the chief opposition whip, he reversed his ruling and selected the motions for debate at the report stage. In response to a question from a government MP who disagreed with him, the Speaker said:
Motion No. 1 to amend clause 9 to put back in words that were deleted in the committee was allowed. I understand they are the same words. I allowed those to be debated because, as I say, the minister made submissions that indicated he thought this was a matter of public importance. I am prepared to make the same arrangement with respect to Motions Nos. 5 and 6 and I have so ruled.
Mr. Speaker, my request is even more significant, if we consider the precedent that would be set if this motion is not selected for debate. The House previously decided on the issue of gender identity when a majority of MPs chose to include provisions in the Criminal Code that would protect transgender Canadians. Without the amendment I have proposed, Bill C-13 would do exactly the opposite. It would reverse a decision reached democratically in the House following several hours of debate and a recorded division.
It is also worth noting that the 149 MPs who supported Bill C-279 included many government MPs. The five Conservative MPs who opposed this amendment to Bill C-13 in committee were not representative of all their colleagues. By allowing the government to rewrite subsection 318(4) of the Criminal Code to eliminate the changes made by Bill C-279, we are going against the wishes of the majority of MPs in the House who supported that bill. What this means is that if a majority government does not support a piece of private member's business, which is the case for Bill C-279, it can introduce a government bill reversing the provisions of the private member's bill. All the government has to do is ensure that the members who sit on the committee during the clause-by-clause study of the government bill are among those who opposed the private member's bill in question. I believe this creates a dangerous precedent for private members' business.
This amendment is of significant importance for MPs and for public safety, as demonstrated when Bill C-279 was debated in the Commons and was considered by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The amendment should be selected for debate at the report stage so that all MPs may decide on this issue. This is not a matter that can be resolved by a mere handful of government MPs on a committee of the House. It deserves to be considered again in the full House of Commons.
Given that this motion is of exceptional significance to the debate at report stage, and in view of the precedents available to the House, I respectfully request that you select it for consideration at the report stage of Bill C-13 and that you allow the members of this House to vote on it separately as a stand-alone motion and one not tied to any of the other votes at report stage proceedings.