Evidence of meeting #53 for Canadian Heritage in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was meetings.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Andrew Bartholomew Chaplin

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

I'll call the meeting to order.

We begin with what was meant to have been an hour of committee business, and so let us begin with that.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Seamus O'Regan Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Madam Chair, are we ready to begin?

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

We are ready to begin. We need to discuss the fact that we seem to be in this kind of spot, always caught between votes, and we end up not being able to have two hours of meeting. We end up having an hour or sometimes a half-hour of meeting. We'll never finish anything we're going to do, if this is going to continue.

I would like, before we go any further—

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Why do we want to finish?

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

— to ask, in the name of all that is holy, so that we can finish our media report: can we expand our sitting, so that if we have to go out and vote, we can come back here and continue? Many committees are having to do that now, just because of this situation.

I want to ask you all to think about it, and if you agree with it, maybe somebody can move a motion to that effect in order to finish the current report on media studies.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Thank you, Madam Chair.

With all the other scheduling we have, I still wonder whether we shouldn't just proceed in the normal manner that we've been going forward in, but I'll leave that open.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

You want to proceed in the normal manner—

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Yes.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

—and not expand meetings? We're never going to finish this report.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

We'll get down to it.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Sure we will.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

Okay. I don't get a sense from anybody else—

Yes, Mr. Vandal?

April 4th, 2017 / 4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Dan Vandal Liberal Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, MB

I would like to begin by talking about a motion that I distributed last week.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

Yes. We're going to deal with your motion.

Yes?

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Dan Vandal Liberal Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, MB

It's about motion M-103. I distributed, I think last Wednesday, a motion that I think everyone should have in front of them.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

Excuse me. Order, please.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Dan Vandal Liberal Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, MB

I distributed a motion. I'm assuming everyone has it in front of them.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

I shall read it, Mr. Vandal, if you like, as the chair.

We're dealing with the motion in front of us. You have all received it.

The motion from Dan Vandal (Saint Boniface—Saint Vital) reads:

That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and in accordance with a resolution of the House agreed to on Thursday, March 23, 2017, which read:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should: (a) recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear; (b) condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination and take note of House of Commons' petition e-411 and the issues raised by it; and (c) request that the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage undertake a study on how the government could (i) develop a whole-of-government approach to reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia, in Canada, while ensuring a community-centered focus with a holistic response through evidence-based policy-making, (ii) collect data to contextualize hate crime reports and to conduct needs assessments for impacted communities, and that the Committee should present its findings and recommendations to the House no later than 240 calendar days from the adoption of this motion, provided that in its report, the committee should make recommendations that the government may use to better reflect the enshrined rights and freedoms in the Constitution Acts including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The committee commence a study as requested in paragraph (c) of the motion referenced above; that the Committee devote a maximum of 10 meetings to the study using extended hours as necessary; that the Committee schedule witnesses to appear such that it would complete gathering necessary evidence and give instructions to the committee analysts to draft a report with the objective of reporting back to the House its findings and recommendations.

This motion is open, Mr. Vandal, to debate.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Dan Vandal Liberal Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, MB

Basically, the motion says it all. There has been a lot of discussion on both sides of the chamber on the merits of this motion. It was adopted with a significant majority.

Madam Chair, you spoke to the amount of work we have in front of us. I think one of the key considerations in this motion—and we all know about the content and have discussed it to some degree—is that we have a maximum of 10 meetings to complete the study, including the writing of the report, using extended hours as necessary, because I think there are some occasions when we're going to want to go an extra hour or two to get this done in a timely fashion and move on to other pressing business that we have, and that we schedule the appropriate witnesses—not today, but at some time in the near future—whom we would like to see appear as witnesses to gather the evidence necessary and get going on this important report.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

Is there anyone wishing to speak?

Mr. Anderson.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Thank you for allowing me to sit with the committee and to be around for this issue. We've seen the motion. We're not going to oppose it, although we do have some questions, and I don't know if they're for you or for Mr. Vandal.

The motion covers about seven different components that we've been directed to take a look at. It talks about eliminating systemic racism in Canada, which I believe is different than talking about religious discrimination. We already have two topics there that need to be studied. Then, of course, within the religious discrimination, there were the instructions on Islamophobia.

I guess Parliament also wanted to see a community-centred focus with a holistic response through evidence-based policy-making. I wonder if we're going to have some sort of a discussion about what that means and what we might expect that to look like at the other end of this project.

Then, we're going to have to give some direction on some sort of system to collect data to contextualize hate crime reports. That's a very different assignment than taking a look at systemic racism and religious discrimination. We're instructed to conduct a needs assessment for impacted communities across Canada.

Madam Chair, that seems to be a very large job to be touching on, with dozens of impacted communities across Canada. Then, we need to present our findings to the House.

We have 240 days to do this. I don't know how we could do this in 10 meetings, particularly if we're talking about hearing the witnesses, completing this assignment, and then writing a report. Typically, reports take four to six meetings, particularly if they have some disagreement within them.

I'm just wondering if you or Mr. Vandal could maybe give us some direction on how it would be possible for us to make a good study that's going to be considered to be useful across this country on such short notice, and with such a short time frame?

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

Well, I would be interested in what anyone else has to say, but I just wanted to say, with regard to the process, that once we get to dealing with the motion, we usually have a meeting—it can be one hour or whatever—to discuss scope of themes and how we do the work we do. The analysts would present some ideas to us on how we can fulfill some of the questions that you asked about, Mr. Anderson.

I think we cannot change what is in the motion, as you well know, unless we go back to the House. You've commented on systemic racism and religious discrimination. In order to change what is in this motion, agreed on by the House, we have to go back to the House and ask them to change it. I think that's going to take us God knows how long, and so, really, we are sort of stuck in this.

How we interpret it is up to the committee and up to the analyst giving us some advice on how he sees this flowing out. Then, we'll have a full discussion in this committee on what we see.

I think Mr. Vandal made an interesting insert here, which is, “using extended hours as necessary”.

It is not without precedent for committees to use extended hours in order to get their work done. We saw this happen when we had the question on the Safe Streets and Communities Act that was repealed. We saw that the committee met for seven hours to get it done in one sitting.

Sometimes, given that we have had, in this particular session, break weeks coming out of everywhere, we have really been held back in terms of getting our work done. Three-thirty means that either we have a vote before 3:30 or we're called in for a vote at five o'clock. We tend to not even do the two hours of our meetings, as we've been noticing in the last while, and that's why at the beginning I talked about extended hours.

I think we need to consider that we need to get the work done, and to get the work done we need to do what is necessary, which is to work at all kinds of new and interesting hours. Finance committee is doing this all the time. A lot of committees do it, based on what they're doing and their ability to proceed.

We have at least three studies on the table. We haven't had the 48 hours yet—I don't think—but Ms. Dabrusin sent us another study. We have museums from Mr. Van Loan. We have Mr. Vandal's motion on aboriginal sports. We have a lot of work to do if we intend to finish it, and, I might add, we have to finish our report on media and communities.

I have to tell you that there is not a day that goes by without somebody in the media calling and asking, “Is your report finished?” I think we really need to get our work done, and I just want to place that on the table in regard to your question, Mr. Anderson, about how we are going to fit this all in. We just have to make a decision that we have to fit it in.

Mr. Nantel.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Let's not kid ourselves: the votes disrupting our work are meant to disrupt our work. If we extend our sitting hours, it could take bargaining tools away from the opposition. One of your responsibilities, as the government, is to manage the situation and anticipate the consequences.

That's the name of the game.

I am not really in favour of extending our sitting hours.

It is entirely appropriate for Mr. Vandal to put forward motion M-103. Given the wording, I don't really think it can be debated. It's up to us to decide how we want to approach it.

I implore the committee to adopt an organized approach. We need to clamp down and be more organized. This is our first study, and it is never-ending. We are simply moving in a triangle. We are stalled, and it's complicated.

Nevertheless, we will have no excuse for the next study. I'd like us to agree on a very specific approach as soon as possible. In other words, we should determine the number of weeks, the deadline for proposing witnesses, and, with the help of the clerk, the schedule for the appearance of those witnesses. That way, it will all be laid out very clearly, and we'll have as few surprises as possible.

You are absolutely right, Madam Chair. The media are constantly after us about the study. Imagine what will happen in the case of motion M-103. We have to be disciplined.

I'm going to discuss it with the clerk, Mr. Chaplin.

I expect the committee to be very disciplined. We have to work with that in mind, particularly when it comes to providing our witness lists. We really do need to be as stringent as possible.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

Thank you.

By the way, Mr. Nantel, everyone recalls that last Thursday at 5:00 p.m. was the deadline for witnesses, but since we didn't seem to get a list of witnesses from everybody, we may just have to look at making sure we get one.

The important thing about doing a study or bringing in witnesses is that we need to give the clerk time to be able to call the witnesses so that they have a week, minimum—

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Exactly.