Evidence of meeting #6 for Indigenous and Northern Affairs in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was clause.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

I brought forward a motion within the 48 hours' notice conditions and I was wondering if we might be able to deal with that motion now, as it obviously is timely in relation to our discussion for the passage of this bill.

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Barry Devolin

Yes, we can consider your motion, Mr. Bruinooge.

I believe that the members have this. Mr. Bruinooge is suggesting--you can read it yourselves--that the meeting be extended this evening.

Do you have any comments that you want to make on the motion?

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

I would just like to say that this is an essential bill, and that's why we're here, as elected members of Parliament--to ensure that bills such as this get passed. As we approach the Christmas season, in light of the last two hours of debate that we had, we need to extend time in order to pass Bill C-21.

This was the reason for my motion and hopefully we will get the opportunity to see it passed.

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Barry Devolin

I would just point out to the committee members that given that we have votes this evening, if we were to continue the committee meeting into the evening, we would suspend when the bells start at 5:15 and then we would return 15 minutes after the completion of the final vote this evening. That's an unspecified time, obviously.

Does anyone else have a comment?

Ms. Neville.

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

We will not be supporting this motion. I find this a very offensive motion, in fact. Mr. Bruinooge bills this as an essential bill. It is an important issue we're dealing with, the repeal of section 67. I don't think anybody around this table would dispute the importance of repealing section 67. But this bill could have been brought forward in a different manner. This bill could have been brought forward by this government in a process and in a manner that would have brought onside--and considered the concerns--of those affected by it.

Mr. Chair, this morning you and I and Ms. Crowder attended the signing of the Tsawwassen Treaty, and we heard about the importance of working together, how the bill came about with give and take between the very gifted chief of the Tsawwassen First Nation and the provincial and federal negotiators, and about the goodwill of the provincial and federal governments making it happen. This could have been the case with the repeal of section 67 of the Human Rights Act.

What we have had here, Mr. Chair, is an attempt to stifle dissent in the community against section 67. What we have had are gentlemen who think they know best how aboriginal women should be looked after and how they should be addressed. The views of the women, the views of the communities, and the views of the leadership have been totally disregarded. We've had 20 different presentations here in front of this committee call for consultation, given the many issues around this bill, and we've been caught up in an ideological zeal to rush the bill through without the full consideration of the communities it will affect.

We could almost be there now. We could almost be there if the consultations had taken place in an appropriate manner; if the communication had taken place in an appropriate manner; if the minister had chosen to redraft the bill in a way that would bring in some of the concerns; if an impact study had been done, so we would know what impact it would have on first nations communities. But for whatever reason, the government has chosen to bring this piece of legislation forward, to stifle discussion, to stifle opinions, to say “We know best”.

I guess what concerns me most, particularly after listening to some members opposite last week, is that I'm not even sure the repeal of section 67 is designed to provide human rights for individuals in first nations communities. I'm not sure it isn't a backward way to disassemble the Indian Act as we know it. We have heard that from some of the presenters before. Some of the language we've heard across the way earlier in the week, to my mind, confirms it.

So I would have great difficulty with another attempt to thwart discussion, to thwart an ability to deal with this bill in a fulsome manner.

As I said earlier, the government is responsible for this issue not moving forward in a more expeditious way. If the consultations had taken place, consultations with the leadership, consultations with the communities, and consultations with the women who would have been affected.... We heard eloquently from NWAC about the need for consultation; but no, the government knows best. It's their way or the highway.

I would say to you, Mr. Chair, that we would like to see section 67 of the Human Rights Act repealed. Everybody from my party wants to see section 67 repealed.

They think they know better. They think they know what we think.

I am telling you that this is what we would like to see done, but we would like to see it done in a manner that is appropriate, that is consultative, that is courteous, and that is respectful—and respect seems to be a big thing that's missing from that side as it relates to first nations communities

And I may have more to say.

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Barry Devolin

Thank you.

Before I go to Ms. Crowder, I want to point out to the committee that with the passage of NDP-1, we are now actually dealing with a bill that is fundamentally different from the one we were talking about a few minutes ago. Bill C-21 is no longer a bill whose purpose is to repeal section 67. It is being replaced. With clause 1 replaced in this bill, we are now talking about a replacement of section 67 as opposed to a repeal of it.

Again, I may ask the indulgence of the committee on an ongoing basis today as we go forward in terms of the rules, because even some of the amendments that we are going to continue to work our way through are incongruous with the bill as it now stands, as amended.

So with the successful adoption of NDP-1, what we have done is replace the old clause 1 with a new clause 1, and thus a new section 67. I think we all may need to wrap our heads around that new reality, that this is in fact what we're talking about now.

I have Ms. Crowder and then Mr. Bruinooge.

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Thanks, Mr. Chair. There are a couple of points I'd like to make. I too will not be supporting Mr. Bruinooge's motion.

Under the normal course of events, I think committees take the time required to consider a matter that's before them, particularly a matter that is so fundamental to how communities will operate. And to suggest that an arbitrary time limit needs to be placed for reasons that are not clear makes one wonder what the agenda truly is.

Certainly the New Democrats support the repeal of section 67. We've heard from a number of witnesses from across the country, from other parties, that they support the repeal of section 67. But people are rightfully concerned about the potential impact.

A number of times at this committee we've talked about the former Bill C-31 from 1985 and the continued consequences that have rolled out from that bill. In fact, as a result of that decision in British Columbia, we've seen a recent B.C. Supreme Court decision on Sharon McIvor that had to do with women's rights in the community and membership and subsequent government actions. So I am not clear on why we would agree to limit debate on this matter.

We know that the government will come to the table in the spirit of cooperation when it suits them. On Bill C-30, the minister, when he was making that announcement, said: The diligence, collaboration and shared insight demonstrated by the task force were instrumental factors in bringing this legislation to life. These qualities also serve as a vivid example of the productive and collaborative attitude that we must all share to ensure the success of a new approach to resolve specific claims.

If I may, I will quote National Chief Phil Fontaine, who said: The AFN is very pleased with the process that was followed in the development of this legislation. It is apparent that when there is a political will, we can always find ways to resolve our differences.

I think the spirit of cooperation and collaboration that was used in Bill C-30 would serve us well under Bill C-21. I would suggest that with that same kind of spirit and will we could fairly quickly resolve our differences around Bill C-21 if people would come to the table with that collaborative process.

My last point is that although my proposed amendment has passed, my understanding of the reason it was ruled out of order initially by the chair was based on advice from legislative counsel. I guess my question to the legislative clerk, through the chair, would be this.

If this amendment proceeds and is reported back to the House in its current form, what is the likelihood of it being ruled out of order on the floor by the Speaker? And if that's the case, what happens to any subsequent amendments proposed at this committee?

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Barry Devolin

Thank you, Ms. Crowder.

I'll answer your last question first. As you say, when you brought forward this amendment at the last meeting, I ruled it was inadmissible because it went beyond the scope of the bill. That was on the advice of the legislative clerk and others. I made that point at that time, and the committee in its wisdom chose to override that decision. That's why it was on the floor.

It is my understanding that if Bill C-21 goes to the floor of the House of Commons, and if a member challenges on the basis of the chair's ruling, the Speaker will then rule as to the admissibility of amendment one, NDP-1. The procedural and legislative experts who will be advising the Speaker are the same people who advised me that it was inadmissible.

So there are two things. First of all, to answer your question, I suspect that the advice the Speaker of the House receives will be the same as the advice I received, given the facts haven't changed and if the advisors are the same people.

As you know, neither the chair of the committee nor the Speaker of the House are necessarily bound by the advice they receive. Ultimately, it is the decision of the chair of the committee or the Speaker of the House. So I don't think we can necessarily presume what the Speaker will do.

Therefore, to consider what the ramifications might be if the Speaker of the House were to overturn that ruling is a great question. I just don't think it's possible to answer it. I point out, with all due respect to my colleagues on the committee, that it was as a result of a majority of members of the committee that we have gone down this road, when the decision was made to overturn the ruling of the chair.

Before I go to Mr. Bruinooge, I just want to clarify once again...because I think this is important, and I'm hearing it in the language again.

If you look at Bill C-21, clause 1 is very short. In the bill as proposed, it says that section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act is repealed--period. That is the entire clause.

NDP-1 says that section 67 is replaced by what follows in the amendment.

So we have essentially changed the basic nature of this bill, from one that repeals section 67 to one that takes the current section 67 and replaces it with another one.

Given that the committee in its wisdom chose to overturn the ruling of the chair in terms of the admissibility of NDP-1, and subsequently, given that the majority of members of the committee in their wisdom chose to vote in favour of NDP-1, for the balance of these hearings we must proceed on the basis of what has been decided so far--namely, that we are replacing clause 1 with NDP-1.

As I said earlier, we had this conversation this morning, when I spoke with the legislative clerk, that if this passes it ripples through the following amendments that are going to be brought forward. So the nature of the discussion we are going to have about some of the upcoming amendments will be quite different from what it would have been if this had not been adopted by the committee.

Mr. Bruinooge.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I just want to address a few of the positions put forward by both Ms. Crowder and Madam Neville.

In relation to Madam Neville, she referred to the word “ideology”. I prefer “philosophy”. And yes, philosophically, I do have very strong positions on this bill. That's why I have been advocating so strongly for our position.

I sleep quite easily at night, and I'm sure she does as well, but nonetheless we have different opinions.

Madam Crowder asked what good reason we had to call for a limitation to this debate. But I think going through the evening isn't necessarily a limitation. There are multiple hours tonight hopefully to take care of this.

The reason I put this motion forward is because of the fact that it seems, just based on much of the rhetoric heard in our chambers that we reside in here in Ottawa, that various political parties are suggesting that there's going to be an election in the very short term, as soon as we arrive back.

I'd very much like to see this passed and hopefully sent to the Senate. Perhaps there's a way that we could maybe repeal section 67 before the next election.

That is my goal, and that is why we asked for a limitation of time. Of course, we might not be here next Thursday, which is the next scheduled time to debate this. On Tuesday we have another scheduled meeting on behalf of Mr. Lévesque.

So that is the reason I put forward this motion. Hopefully it will pass, but based on what I've heard, I don't imagine it's going to. Nonetheless, I think my reasons are valid.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Barry Devolin

Further on Mr. Bruinooge's motion, I have Mr. Albrecht, Mr. Warkentin and Monsieur Lévesque.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I just wanted to comment on the statement that Ms. Crowder made earlier when she said that the NDP supports the repeal of section 67.

Mr. Chair, you've already clarified that the action we've taken effectively takes that argument out of our hands right now because we're dealing with a bill that has been replaced.

I think it is incumbent upon us to move expeditiously on this issue. We know it has been 30 years that this issue has been a temporary measure, that section 67 has been there, and it's time that we act on it.

The other point is with regard to delaying this. I want to go back to a statement that Ms. Crowder made in our last meeting, where she indicated that the Canadian Human Rights Commission had actually asked us to include an interpretive clause.

I know that I'm going to have to tie this together to the current motion, but it relates to delay.

What in fact was said at that meeting--I'll quote directly from the meeting in April 2007--was the following:

While many agree on the need for an interpretative provision there are differences on how this should be achieved. Some have suggested that an interpretative provision be added to Bill C-44. In our special report on section 67, A Matter of Rights, the Commission recommends that an interpretative provision be developed post repeal in dialogue with First Nations, to allow for needed dialogue, analysis, and consideration to take place without unduly delaying repeal.

The point that I want to make very clear is that she was very concerned, because at the end of that sentence she says that this should take place “without unduly delaying repeal”. Again we're coming back to the matter of delay.

She went on to say, further down, that having this interpretive clause included in section 67 might actually indirectly reinstitute the very effects that the repeal is intended to relieve.

So on two counts, we have obvious reasons to move ahead in terms of making this decision. I think it's incumbent upon us to sit late tonight and get this matter resolved as quickly as possible.

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Barry Devolin

Thank you.

Mr. Warkentin.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Further to the submission that was brought forward by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, in the implementation of an interpretative provision, of which...and Ms. Crowder is correct, they did recommend.... But they specifically said, under the implementation of this, “Therefore, the Commission recommends a two-step process. First, repeal section 67 immediately.”

As far as I'm concerned, if we were to follow the recommendation, as Ms. Crowder has suggested we do, tonight would be in line with the recommendation of “immediately”. Then they go on to the second process that should be initiated.

There are very specific recommendations. I know there has been a lot of talk about what the Canadian Human Rights Commission...and we may debate whether an interpretive clause is necessary or not, but if we use them as an argument, they specifically spelled out that the repeal should happen immediately.

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Barry Devolin

Thank you.

Monsieur Lévesque.

December 6th, 2007 / 4 p.m.

Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I am going to show our colours right away, just as we have done previously. The Bloc Québécois is here with the goal of representing the interests of all Quebeckers, whether they be First Nations or not.

The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador has come out strongly against Bill C-21 which reproduces Bill C-44word for word. Discussions on Bill C-44 had been suspended in order to allow the government to consult First Nations. All stakeholders asked for this, except one. Ten months were allowed. Instead of holding the consultations, the government called together the committee again in an attempt to break that motion that has been confirmed not once, but twice.

Now they come to us with Bill C-21. Even if the government were to do a complete about-face tomorrow and offer all of Canada to the First Nations, we would say no, because First Nations have not been consulted. Under section 35 of the Human Rights Commission, there is a commitment to consult First Nations.

When the Human Rights Act was put into effect, a section was included requiring consultation with people. This is also why section 67 has been put on hold as First Nations wait to be consulted before the act is changed completely, which has never been done.

For this reason, the Bloc will be voting against.

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Barry Devolin

Thank you, Mr. Lévesque.

Ms. Crowder is next.

Again, I remind members of the committee that Bill C-21, as now amended, does not contemplate the abolition of section 67. We're beyond that now. We're not talking about a bill that says it is going to repeal section 67. What we are now talking about is a bill in which section 67 is replaced with the body of NDP-1. That is a significant difference. I think we all need to reorient.

We can have the question when those who are on the list have spoken. At this point I have Ms. Crowder and Ms. Karetak-Lindell.

Ms. Crowder.

4 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Thanks, Mr. Chair.

Since my colleagues opposite raised the issue about the immediate repeal and an interpretative clause, I think it's predicated on whether people feel that there's bargaining in good faith. Given our experience on this committee, it's difficult to feel that if we were to agree to go ahead with the bill as it stands without the amendment—and I know we're beyond that—that the steps that were outlined in the Canadian Human Rights Commission would actually be put in place.

We've had two motions at this committee that in the past have called for consultation, which the government has chosen to ignore. We now have the government attempting to again limit debate on this tonight. They called us back in the middle of the summer after the committee had clearly signalled that they wanted a consultative process that the government didn't implement.

I can only speak for myself, but that's why we feel it's important that the bill includes the elements that offer some form of protection to the collective and individual rights that first nations came to the committee with and spoke so eloquently about. I find it very difficult to support the motion that says we will sit tonight and finish the business when we haven't had some of those pieces of information that the majority of the committee previously asked for.

I want to reiterate my position that I won't be supporting this motion.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Barry Devolin

Thank you, Ms. Crowder.

I'm not suggesting whether we should or should not support Mr. Bruinooge's motion. All I'm saying is that, if we did, and if this was finished tonight, what would be finished tonight would be this bill in the currently amended form, which does not repeal section 67. I think that we've crossed that bridge.

Again, this is not to suggest a course of action to anybody, but for those who adamantly support NDP-1, in some ways you would think they would be the ones most in a hurry to get this finished, because now the bill reflects what they actually want.

Anyway, I leave it to the committee members to decide whether they will support Mr. Bruinooge or not.

Ms. Karetak-Lindell.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Thank you.

I have more of a procedural question. I'm looking at the motion by Mr. Rod Bruinooge in relation to the committee stage of Bill C-21, and as you just reminded us, it is now a very different-looking Bill C-21. But he knew that would be the case before he put this motion through, so you can't really blame the opposition at this point, because he knew he was outnumbered.

I want to go back to procedure, and I want a clarification. I came in a few minutes late, so I apologize. You had just suspended to review something. My understanding is that Ms. Crowder wanted unanimous consent to withdraw her amendment NDP-1. Am I correct?

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Barry Devolin

That is correct. That was her request when we started.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Okay. My understanding is that every member on this side--and there are seven of us--had no objection.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Barry Devolin

We did not have a recorded vote. There were people who said no--

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

No, but you asked for unanimous consent.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Barry Devolin

And we didn't get it.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

So somebody must have said no.