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

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

I'll stay here.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

Thank you. You can hang out with us, if you like.

Now, Mr. Reid, continue.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

I must say I don't agree with that interpretation of the rules, but if you wish, Mr. Anderson, who is a sworn-in member of this committee at the moment, could ask whether there is unanimous consent for me to be here.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

I'd be happy to do that.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

We have it now that you, Mr. Reid, are substituting for Larry Maguire.

4:30 p.m.

A voice

This does not take effect as long as Mr. Maguire is at the table.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

Can he not just sit there, even if he's not going to speak?

4:30 p.m.

An hon. member

Okay, I'll go.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

We're sending you to the back of the bus, Larry. I'm sorry.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

To be honest, I'm not sure whether you would prefer to have me keep the floor or cede the floor and put myself back on the speakers list. I'm open to either option.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

No, you're already speaking, so continue now. It's all been sorted out. You were asking Mr. Vandal some questions.

April 4th, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

That's right. I'm actually moving on to propose a counter way of looking at this. I mentioned the importance that Canadians assign to this issue. I mentioned as well the scope of motion M-103, which is very considerable. It's not merely about Islamophobia—not that it could be dealt with quickly—but is also about all forms of systemic racism.

The motion makes a point of distinguishing between that and religious discrimination, so we are talking about two distinct phenomena, although you could argue that they are two phenomena that overlap very considerably, like Venn diagrams. The point is they are two things, both of them vast in scope, given the large number both of different races, forms of racial discrimination, and of religious discrimination that exist both in Canada and internationally.

Then it asks us to take note of House of Commons petition e-411. We have to find out exactly how we ought to do that and what these words mean. Does it mean that the terms of e-411 are equal in merit to this? Petition e-411 contains some subject matter not contained in M-103, which of course is the reason for citing it.

Finally, we are then asked to undertake a study of how the government should:

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....

Now, evidence-based policy-making involves collecting evidence. How one does this in 10 meetings, of which some at least are being devoted to actually writing a report, revising the report, and so on, is quite frankly beyond me.

Then we're supposed to advise how the government could:

collect data to contextualize hate crime reports and to conduct needs assessments for impacted communities....

I think this one would take less time, because this was one of the subjects addressed in the report of the inquiry panel of the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism, the nearest parallel we have to these hearings on Islamophobia and systemic racism, and something on which, Madam Chair, you served as a member some years back and which I chaired.

There we discussed ways in which data collection could be improved. This, then, would not, I think, take too much time. It would still take an entire meeting, if we were to be successful in lining up the people who conduct this sort of data collection—police forces, StatsCan, and so on.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

Mr. Reid, I was going to make a suggestion about resolving the problem of the number of meetings, but go ahead.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

All right. That gives an idea of the scope, which is very considerable. Then I want to turn to make the point about just how big our task is compared with that of the hearings of the inquiry panel of the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism. That had a much narrower scope. It was just anti-Semitism. It was not any form of racism, unless you treat anti-Semitism as a form of racial rather than religious discrimination.

At that time we required 10 meetings for evidence collection on its own. I haven't gone back to examine, although the records would exist, how many meetings it took us to negotiate and work on the final report, but certainly it was a number of meetings. I must say, in my memory they seemed interminable, but obviously they were of a fixed number, and we can find that number for you.

That was 10 meetings just for the witness part of the process. Mr. Vandal's approach involves giving ourselves 10 meetings for everything, including the drafting of recommendations. If we take all the 10 meetings for witnesses, it would lead to there being no time at all for preparing a report. Really, then, I think we're talking about something like four or five meetings for witnesses; we're talking about large numbers of witnesses having to be struck from the list.

Madam Chair, I don't know what number of proposed witnesses you've received thus far.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

I don't know, because we have not yet received any from the Conservatives or New Democrats yet, so I can say to you that we don't know what it would be.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

What? Yes, we have sent them.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

You have sent yours in?

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Yes.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

When we undertook the media study, we had 350 witnesses, and we sat down as a committee and pared it down. There was lots of duplication. We decided we would list our witnesses according to whether they were academic, whether they were community, whether they were going to speak about X or Y. We were thus able to pare down. Even so, we took a year to do it, but we had other studies in between.

We did that, and I think it's part of what we will do once we are devoting a meeting to the scope of this study.

Have you finished, Mr. Reid?

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

No. Let me ask this question of Mr. Vandal.

The paring down exercise, in which we take all of the witnesses whose names have been submitted—assuming it can be done in one meeting, which is, I would suggest, highly unlikely for the practical reason that there are issues relating to availability of witnesses, and some of these will be persons from overseas.... Scheduling, as I recall from my recent experience in the electoral reform committee, for witnesses who are scattered far and wide as these witnesses would be, involves a series of exigencies based on time zones, availability, booking rooms that have connections for video conferencing, and so on, all of which tends to add to the number of meetings.

Why, then, lock in 10 meetings? We do, after all, have until November.... Forgive me; 240 days takes us to November 25 or 27, or something of that nature. I am at a loss as to why we can afford to give only 10 meetings.

Let me ask another question to Mr. Vandal, if I may. Is the paring down exercise intended, in the wording of this motion, to be one of the 10 meetings, when our witnesses are reviewed together?

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Dan Vandal Liberal Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, MB

I had anticipated that we would discuss this motion today, as we are doing now—and you have brought up some good points. I would have anticipated that, much as was the case for other studies we've embarked upon, we would take an hour or two at an appropriate time—maybe next Thursday or maybe next Tuesday—after everyone has submitted their witness lists. We would come to an agreement on the witnesses and the framework.

There would be another meeting for the terms of reference and witnesses. Then we would let the administration go about scheduling the witnesses in the appropriate time slots, much as we've done with other committees in which we've started studies, both here and in other committees that we're on.

We realize it's ambitious. We are all reasonable people around this table. Ten meetings is going to be a very tight timeline, but I think it's achievable. If it's not achievable, we're going to probably find out around meeting five, six, or seven, when we could perhaps revisit this question, whether it's achievable.

But I think that, by giving ourselves a concrete goal with a set of criteria and terms of reference, which I don't think we will discuss today, it's very achievable. If it's not, being reasonable people we could revisit the issue somewhere before the 10th meeting.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

In your mind, Mr. Vandal, because you're the one who wrote the motion.... I actually don't know the answer to this question. We have one meeting for what we've called the “paring down exercise”, or the review of the witnesses—

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Dan Vandal Liberal Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, MB

—or part of one.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Right; that's true, conceivably.

—and we have one or part of one for terms of reference.

Let's say we do them both in one meeting. Do we now say that this is one meeting down and we're only allowed to have nine more, or is it in addition to the 10?

I'm asking this because this is very germane; this is at the heart of it. You've said we should only have 10 meetings, and I'm trying to find out what's in and what's out so that we can govern our own actions and not discover after the fact that we've run out of time.

That's a reasonable request to make. You're free to go either way; I'm not trying to pin you down. I just want to know one way or the other.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Dan Vandal Liberal Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, MB

This discussion we're having now, in my mind, is not part of the 10 meetings. The discussion we will have on the paring down of the witnesses is not part of the 10 meetings, unless it goes on for the entire meeting and at one point we realize we're having a problem. I think, though, that 10 meetings with witnesses and report-writing is achievable, as per the schedule we have, and if it's not, being reasonable people we can revisit it at a subsequent meeting, before the 10th one—