Evidence of meeting #12 for Declaration of Emergency in the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was witnesses.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Vernon White  Senator (Ontario) CSG
Claude Carignan  Senator, Quebec (Mille Isles), C
Jane Cordy  Senator (Nova Scotia) PSG
Joint Chair  Hon. Gwen Boniface (Senator (Ontario) ISG
Joint Clerk  Ms. Miriam Burke

6:35 p.m.

Bloc

The Joint Co-Chair Bloc Rhéal Fortin

I call this meeting to order.

Welcome to meeting No. 12 of the Special Joint Committee on the Declaration of Emergency, created pursuant to the order of the House of Commons on March 2, 2022, and of the Senate on March 3, 2022.

Today's meeting is taking place in hybrid format, in accordance with the order of the House of Commons dated November 25, 2021.

In the event of technical challenges, please advise me, so that we can suspend for a few minutes, if necessary, to ensure that all members are able to participate fully in the meeting.

We will now turn to our agenda, the future work of the Committee.

Does anyone wish to present a motion? I believe Mr. Motz would like to table some motions.

Let us begin with the first notice of motion from Mr. Motz. Motion 1 reads as follows:

That the Committee deem the evidence, including testimony and documents, received by, and published on the websites of, standing committees of the House of Commons and the Public Order Emergency Commission, in relation to the February 2022 public order emergency and matters consequential to it, to have been received by this Committee and may be used in its reports, provided that it shall not limit the questions which may be asked of witnesses appearing before the Committee or documents which may be requested or ordered to be produced by the Committee.

Does anyone wish to speak to this motion?

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Rachel Bendayan Liberal Outremont, QC

A point of order, Mr. Chair.

Just to be sure I understand correctly, will we be reviewing all the Conservative motions?

For our part, we would like to present a motion, when you see fit. Perhaps my colleagues from the NDP or some senators also have motions to propose.

I just want to understand how the meeting will unfold.

6:35 p.m.

Bloc

The Joint Co-Chair Bloc Rhéal Fortin

Personally, I have no objection if you wish to present a motion.

Right now, I just have the eight notices of motion from Mr. Motz. I will read them one after the other, and we may propose amendments.

We can consider your motion after that, unless you have any objection.

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Rachel Bendayan Liberal Outremont, QC

Very well. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

6:35 p.m.

Bloc

The Joint Co-Chair Bloc Rhéal Fortin

Is there unanimous consent on Motion 1?

6:35 p.m.

Voices

Agreed.

6:35 p.m.

Bloc

The Joint Co-Chair Bloc Rhéal Fortin

(The motion is adopted.)

6:35 p.m.

Bloc

The Joint Co-Chair Bloc Rhéal Fortin

The second motion is as follows:

That the Committee direct the Joint Clerks to invite each individual or organization listed on the analysts' work plan, dated May 11, 2022, to submit a brief to the Committee for its consideration, with briefs encouraged to be provided to the Joint Clerks within one month of the adoption of this motion, provided that the Joint Clerks shall arrange for translation of the briefs received and circulate them to Committee members and publish them on the Committee's website upon completion of the translation.

Does anyone wish to speak to the motion?

Mr. Virani, you have the floor.

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Arif Virani Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I am pleased to see you and all my colleagues again. I hope everyone had a nice summer.

With respect to this motion, it may be wise to address it now or we could table it until a bit later.

Our principal preoccupation with this motion is that it seems somewhat premature as we don't know which witnesses will be arriving or what the testimony of those witnesses will be. We do have some concerns. The analysts have done a lot of work. A lot of names have been suggested by the analysts and by the various parties. It might be wise and more prudent to vet those lists and cull them to reduce the number to something more manageable before we entertain motions such as this about submitting briefs.

I will leave my submission there.

Merci.

6:35 p.m.

Bloc

The Joint Co-Chair Bloc Rhéal Fortin

Senator White, you have the floor.

6:35 p.m.

Vernon White Senator (Ontario) CSG

Thank you very much.

Similarly, I'm a little bit concerned about a blanket.... I too would like to get a list of the witnesses and a list of what they've presented to date and when we expect to see those witnesses in the future before going through and asking for what's requested in this motion. I'm not agreeing or disagreeing at this point, but I don't believe we should follow it at this point in time. I would like to delay this one or set it aside for future discussion.

September 22nd, 2022 / 6:40 p.m.

Bloc

The Joint Co-Chair Bloc Rhéal Fortin

It is your turn, Mr. Motz.

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Thank you, Chair.

With respect to my colleagues, I think the idea here was not that every witness who is on the list is.... That's the expectation. I think there are some who we obviously are still going to want here in person, even if they supply a brief. This might provide us with an opportunity to weed out some of the witnesses we may not require. It may be efficient for the working of this committee.

It never hurts to have more information than less. That was the whole idea behind this, which is that we would gain a lot of committee efficiency if we actually invited those who are on our list of witnesses—organizations included—to supply a brief. They don't necessarily have to.

That was our thought.

6:40 p.m.

Bloc

The Joint Co-Chair Bloc Rhéal Fortin

We are listening, Senator White.

6:40 p.m.

Senator (Ontario) CSG

Vernon White

I'd like to look into the whites of their eyes when I'm reading their brief rather than just read a brief. I think we need to be able to debate and ask questions. I've seen the witnesses we've had to date and I don't think I would have accepted just a brief from any of those witnesses. I would have expected to be able to ask tough questions of witnesses.

I would rather do that, at this point anyway. We may end up there, but at this point I would rather have them in front of us.

6:40 p.m.

Bloc

The Joint Co-Chair Bloc Rhéal Fortin

Mr. Brock, you have the floor.

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Brock Conservative Brantford—Brant, ON

I also welcome back every member of this committee. It's good to be back and it's good to see smiling faces.

I think there is a middle ground here. I think the spirit is perhaps lost in the language of this particular motion.

We are trying to move this committee forward with a reasonable expectation of an end date. Keeping that goal in mind, when I reflect upon the sessions that we had last year, one word comes to mind. I was left with this pretty much each time I attended. It was frustration. It was frustration given the format of this committee and the nature of a very brief five-minute overview, which for some witnesses only scratched the surface. It was frustration at the limitations we have in terms of the minutes assigned to each particular questioner. These are issues we're going to get into later on this evening or, if not today, some other day.

I think it's very appropriate that I address Senator White's commentary head on. I agree with him that, wherever possible, it is always preferable to have witnesses attend and to be able to question those witnesses. I'll use the term “cross-examination”, given my previous background.

We have such a volume of witnesses left to be heard. I think if we, on a week-to-week basis, start to project the number of witnesses for the following week, we may come to a conclusion that some witnesses are not as controversial as others. Therefore, we could invite them to submit a written brief that we'd all be satisfied with. Moreover, say we do get a written brief. We are not precluding any member's ability, with this particular motion and other motions, to have an opportunity to question a particular witness.

I think it was necessary for me to put on the record a more robust background as to why we drafted that particular motion.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

6:40 p.m.

Bloc

The Joint Co-Chair Bloc Rhéal Fortin

Thank you.

Mr. Green, you have the floor.

Senator White, you will be next.

We are listening, Mr. Green.

6:40 p.m.

NDP

The Joint Chair NDP Matthew Green

Thank you very much.

I would like to take the opportunity to go on the record and say that I certainly share some of the frustrations that have just been identified. I think, reflecting back on our opening statements, that the general intention of this committee was that it be a fact-finding committee, to be able to establish a certain set of facts so we could then provide recommendations back to the House of Commons and the Senate on what was, in my opinion, a fairly important, extreme and historic moment in Canadian history.

I think using this to provide what I read, in the spirit of the motion, as a bit of a deposition statement that goes beyond introductory remarks and that would allow these witnesses to establish the facts as they see them would give us a better ability, when in person, to question those facts rather than use the five minutes to establish facts that in many cases, quite frankly, they were just refusing to provide us. I want to put it back on the table that we had many witnesses come to this committee and just flat out refuse to co-operate. I think that's a problem.

I'm in favour of a written process that goes beyond introductory remarks, and particularly on some of the more sensitive issues, things that we might deem necessary to be read and kept in camera given the sensitivity of the security of the matter, I would like to see and have the ability to prepare for some of these witnesses in more meaningful ways.

I'll conclude with this: My frustration over the summer was that through the media and through FOI reports we were able to establish more facts over two months through the media doing their work than, in my opinion, we were from the witnesses who were present here. Oftentimes, I would find that witnesses were refusing to provide answers that they knew would eventually become public just, in my opinion, in order to frustrate this committee.

I'd like to move beyond that and hopefully get a greater level of seriousness from witnesses so that when they come here they're going to come prepared to answer the questions we have at hand after establishing the facts that they're going to be presenting to this committee through this motion.

6:45 p.m.

Bloc

The Joint Co-Chair Bloc Rhéal Fortin

Thank you, Mr. Green.

Senator White, you have the floor.

6:45 p.m.

Senator (Ontario) CSG

Vernon White

I almost promise this is the last time, Mr. Chair.

If nothing else, I would like to actually have a chance over the next two weeks to go through the list of witnesses we've had and the material we've had, because—I have to be honest—I can think of maybe only two witnesses for whom I don't have a request for more information. I'd like us to adjourn this for at least the next couple of weeks until I can go through a list of witnesses we've had and what our projection is and maybe then hear it again.

Is that okay?

6:45 p.m.

Bloc

The Joint Co-Chair Bloc Rhéal Fortin

What do you think, Mr. Motz?

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Chair, if I may, again, it's our motion. I would agree to that.

We could suspend discussion on this until we have a chance to look at some more witnesses and then bring it back in maybe two or weeks or 10 days from now.

6:45 p.m.

Bloc

The Joint Co-Chair Bloc Rhéal Fortin

Does everyone agree to suspending our consideration of Motion 2?

We therefore suspend our discussion of Motion 2.

Let us move on to Motion 3:

That the Committee send to each individual or organization listed on the analysts' work plan, dated May 11, 2022, written questions submitted by the members of the Committee for response, provided that (a) members shall provide their questions to the Joint Clerks within three weeks of the adoption of this motion; (b) members may designate up to five questions per individual or organization as “priority questions”; (c) individuals or organizations shall be directed to respond (i) to priority questions within three weeks of the Joint Clerks sending them, and (ii) to all other questions within six weeks of the Joint Clerks sending them, provided that a failure to respond to questions shall be approached by the Committee as if a witness declined to respond to an oral question asked at a Committee meeting; and (d) the Joint Clerks shall arrange for translation of the responses received and circulate them to Committee members and publish them on the Committee's website upon completion of the translation.

Mr. Green, you have the floor.

6:50 p.m.

NDP

The Joint Chair NDP Matthew Green

In a practical way, on the way it reads, I would assume that it's every member who would get the opportunity, or would it be allocated based on seats in terms of us getting five and you getting 15? I take that and I put it up against the witness list, and I just don't know if it's practical, if I'm being honest, in terms of what is before us.

That's not to say when witnesses arrive, should there be answers that are left unfulfilled, then maybe there can be an amendment to this that would codify our ability to have follow-up questions, within reason, that would demand for the evidence to be returned, and not necessarily make it as an optional response to committee.