Evidence of meeting #25 for Canadian Heritage in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was amendments.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Gary Schellenberger

Welcome to everyone. I call the meeting to order. This is meeting 25 of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

Today we will start with some committee business. We have a notice of motion from the Honourable Denis Coderre.

Mr. Coderre.

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

As agreed at our last meeting, we have a motion. My intention was to make a motion introduced simply by the words "Therefore be it", but after discussing the matter with the clerk, we decided that this would not be enough. I needed to specify the rationale and I can discuss it. I am also open to amendments.

But we must remember Bill C-10 and the fact that points have been discussed that have a direct bearing on audiovisual productions and therefore on television content. I thought that the bill would eventually make its way back here if there were amendments in the Senate. So I felt that it was somewhat redundant to continue studying the bill before us, however noble its goal. I feel that everyone is in favour of freedom of expression and that we all agree that we have responsibilities.

But given that work is presently proceeding on Bill C-10 and that this cause and effect link might cause us to amend Bill C-327, I asked, pursuant to Standing Order 97.1, that the House of Commons proceed no further with Bill C-327 and that the Chair present the report to the House. Therefore, I so move.

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Gary Schellenberger

Thank you.

Mr. Abbott.

April 8th, 2008 / 3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Chair, I recognize the reasons as enunciated by my friend. I wonder if he might be open to three points of amendment. There is some respectful difference of opinion between us on the issue of Bill C-10.

I recommend that we delete the causal clauses up to the final paragraph and use the following three points:

- Bill C-327 has a laudable goal of seeing a reduction of violence in society, particularly as it relates to children;

- Notwithstanding this goal, witnesses convinced the committee that Bill C-327 is the wrong means to achieve the goal;

- The committee unanimously supports freedom of expression, including in the media of film and television;

And then the final clause.

I respectfully recommend that as an amendment. I think it's something we can agree to. We don't really need to engage in the dialogue on Bill C-10.

I apologize, Mr. Chair, I have it only in this form. I'd be very pleased to read it again.

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Gary Schellenberger

Could I have it? Thank you.

Do you want me to read the amendment again?

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Fine.

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Gary Schellenberger

So these points would be replaced by three that say....

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

May I read it?

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Gary Schellenberger

Yes, if you would read your writing.

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Yes. It would read as follows:

- Bill C-327 has a laudable goal of seeing a reduction of violence in society, particularly as it relates to children;

- Notwithstanding this goal, witnesses convinced the committee that Bill C-327 is the wrong means to achieve the goal;

- The committee unanimously supports freedom of expression, including in the media of film and television;

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Gary Schellenberger

Thank you.

We can debate the amendment.

Mr. Bigras.

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Chair, I understand the spirit of my colleague Mr. Coderre's motion. I also understand that the amendments the government has decided to make are friendly, but it seems clear from the four points in his preamble that the member is trying to suggest an ill-intentioned link between bills C-10 andC-327

I have to ask members to recall that Bill C-327, right in its preamble that I invite them to read, makes it clear that the creative freedom of artists in the television industry must be protected. It is also clear that censorship is no solution. In its very principle, the bill rules out censorship and promotes freedom of expression. It is clear that, in its very spirit, my colleague's motion seeks to suggest ill-intentioned links. What does the bill do? It does not seek to become involved in the content of a production. Not one section of this bill seeks to become involved in the content of film productions.

Moreover, the bill does not seek to forbid the showing of films. It simply seeks to put limits on when some films can be shown. Some people have suggested that Bill C-327 is not the appropriate way to attain our goal of reducing violence in our society. I just remind them that the association representing Ontario school boards sent a letter to each member of this committee indicating its support for regulations requiring that films containing violence and rated 13 years and over should be broadcast after 9:00 p.m.

Furthermore, the Centrale des syndicats du Québec, the biggest education association in Quebec, clearly told us that it also wanted regulations. I deplore the link that my colleague Mr. Coderre is making. I do not know whether he is doing so because he wants to make his mark in his new portfolio, but this approach is, in my view, purely partisan, ill-intentioned and attempts to establish links that do not exist. The bill clearly rejects censorship and supports freedom of creative expression. This bill has received support from the Centrale des syndicats du Québec and the Ontario school boards association. Teachers want it, as do others who work with our children every day.

Mr. Chair, I think that my colleagues should show some political courage and at least allow this bill to be studied. That is the least we can do. How do we explain that Liberal members came out in favour of the principle of studying this bill in committee and then made a motion to put an end to all debate and stop committee study of the very same bill? It is totally unacceptable.

We are going to oppose this motion and its friendly amendments. I hope that my colleagues have the political courage to do as my NDP colleague has done and make amendments. Parliament, the House of Commons, wishes the bill to be studied here. I can understand that it may be amended, but we must remember that it is the wish of Parliament, supported by the Liberal Party of Canada, that this bill be studied in committee.

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Gary Schellenberger

Mr. Siksay, and then Mr. Coderre.

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Thank you, Chair.

I'm in a bit of a bind with the motion and the amendment at this moment, because I have tabled amendments with the committee that I would like to have an opportunity to see discussed at committee. My understanding is that if we vote for this amendment and this motion, it would make the clause-by-clause consideration redundant, and those amendments wouldn't be considered. That being said, should my amendments fail, I would support a motion that called for us not to report this bill back to the House, and I would support the amendment put forward by Mr. Abbott.

On the amendment, I don't believe it's fair to link the discussion of Bill C-10 with the consideration of Bill C-327. I don't think it does justice to the work of Mr. Bigras on this issue. Although it was part of the context when we heard the debate on Bill C-27 and the concerns about Bill C-10 and censorship, I think it is unfair to link the two of them in this way, as Monsieur Coderre suggested in his original motion.

So I would support Mr. Abbott's amendment and the motion, but only should my proposed amendments fail. I think it's important that we look at these amendments, Chair, because I think we heard from many witnesses that the issue of violence on television is important to many people. Mr. Bigras has already indicated who some of these organizations are, and we've heard from some others. From listening to these witnesses, we know that there was also a concern that nothing we do be seen as censorship. I think if you consider the amendments I have proposed, you'll see that I've been very careful to remove any references that might support censorship in the original bill and to replace them with suggestions that are in place through some informal mechanism of adoption by the CRTC when it comes to codes of standards and ethics by the broadcasting industry, but that also emphasize what we heard from many witnesses, the need for media literacy or media awareness education, and it adds that to this legislation.

I think it is possible to find something helpful from this bill, and I want to commend Mr. Bigras for being so persistent in bringing this issue forward, because it is something that is of concern to so many Canadians and to so many people around this table. But I would like to see us have the opportunity to discuss the amendments.

So Mr. Chair, given that long preamble, I'm going to support Mr. Abbott's amendment, but when we get back to consideration of the main motion, I'm going to propose that we table it, so that we can consider the amendments that I put forward. And should they fail, I'll be the first person to move that we remove this amended motion from the table so that we can consider it after that process.

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Gary Schellenberger

Mr. Coderre.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Chair, I cannot have my cake and eat it too. As my NDP colleague has rightly said, we should not report to the House and drop clause-by-clause consideration just because I want more information. I understand everyone's sensibilities.

I ask my colleague Mr. Bigras not to take this personally. I am a parent myself and I have been in the House for 11 years. No one here has a monopoly on the truth. Nevertheless, I am persuaded by the arguments of my colleague, Mr. Abbott. As I have said from the outset, BillC-10 is a problem for me because it has implications on the content of audiovisual productions. However, I defer to the arguments made by Mr. Abbott and by other colleagues. We can remove my "whereas" sections that refer to Bill C-327. I concur with that entirely. I can even, if he wishes, withdraw my proposals and endorse his. I have no problem with that.

If my NDP colleague wanted to propose amendments...In fact, the media themselves may have legitimate and valid concerns about the idea. We are playing with broadcast times. Parents also have a responsibility for the way in which their children watch television. I also understand that the government, with its regulatory power, has a responsibility here too.

So I defer to my colleagues' arguments. As the NDP, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party, our duty was to study a bill for the House in its context. We have done our homework. Witnesses have appeared and people have done a fine job. The principles remain, except that as we do this study, we realize that Standing Order 97.1 can be applied. We feel that the Chair does not have to report to the House and that, in the light of everything we have done, we should stop work immediately. This is why I agree completely with the amendment. I will remove all the "whereases" that I proposed.

I would like to remind you that, at the outset, I said that, in my book, as Stan, the great coach in Les Boys might say, the motion was "be it therefore". But for reasons provided by the clerk, I came to understand that we also needed to give clear reasons to justify invoking Standing Order 97.1.

That is what I had to say, Mr. Chair.

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Gary Schellenberger

Okay.

Mr. Del Mastro, welcome to the committee.

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I want to speak very briefly to my support for the motion with the amendment. I think it recognizes the will of the overwhelming majority of the members on the committee. We could probably talk about the various merits of the bill, and I'd like to commend the member for his intent behind the bill, because I think the intention is good. I just don't think it's going to get us where we need to go. Given that there's seemingly very strong support for the amended motion, I'd like to see us vote on that motion and move forward, because I think we're going to speak glowingly of the amendments for a while here, and that may not be necessary.

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Gary Schellenberger

Okay. I have three people on the speaking list. I have Mr. Fast, Mr. Scott, and Mr. Abbott.

Mr. Fast.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Chair, I would ask that my name be left on the speakers list, but I'll make my comments when we're dealing with the main motion.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Gary Schellenberger

Okay.

Mr. Scott.

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

On a point of order, Chair, if we've accepted Mr. Abbott's amendment as a friendly amendment, are we not back on the main motion? I'd like you to clarify the process.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

We need to vote on it.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Gary Schellenberger

We haven't voted on it.

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

So Mr. Abbott's amendment is still standing?