Thank you, Mr. Chair,
and honourable members.
You have a copy of my statement, but I would like to present it.
Thank you for inviting me to appear before you to discuss my competencies and qualifications to perform the duties of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel.
Before I speak to these matters, let me say that it is a great honour and privilege to have been given the opportunity to serve this House and its members.
I will do my utmost to discharge these duties in a manner that justifies the trust you have shown in me.
You have before you a copy of my curriculum vitae. I do not intend to take you through it in detail, but instead wanted to touch on the major themes as they relate to the duties of the Law Clerk.
When I first reviewed the description of the position, it was apparent to me that there were two very different roles. One role, borrowing from a text of the Speaker of the House, is to act as "In-House Counsel" to the House of Commons and Members of Parliament.
The other role relates to the specialized support provided in the legislative context particularly in respect of private members' bills and amendments. To take on this role, a candidate has to be well-grounded in one or the other of those domains. Finding someone with mastery of both sets of skills would be a challenge, I think.
Frankly, my strengths lie on the in-house corporate counsel side of the ledger. In this role, many of the functions are very like those I performed while with two federal crown corporations: the National Capital Commission and Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. These involved, among other things, providing legal advice and support in matters related to contractual obligations, labour and employment law, and litigation, while also serving as part of senior management in terms of corporate governance and planning.
What is different about the position of the Law Clerk is that legal advice and support must also be provided in respect of matters that are unique to the House. Matters of privilege are first and foremost here, but also matters of constitutional and parliamentary law that would not typically arise in other entities or contexts.
However, when I moved from private practice to the NCC, and again from the NCC to AECL, I had to very quickly become adept in areas of the law that previously I had no personal hands-on experience in. I'm a quick study, and whether it was access to information and privacy or the legal implications for my client of the differing approaches of nations to dealing with nuclear liability, these were areas in which I became conversant reasonably quickly.
I want now to touch on the area of legislative drafting support.
Both at the National Capital Commission and the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, I was involved with the legislative and regulatory drafting process in matters related specifically to those two crown corporations.
However, I was also involved with the project undertaken by the Minister of Justice to ensure that all federal legislation spoke equally in English and in French, and in both juridical contexts, the common law and the civil law. I have some experience here, but will need to strengthen my abilities in this area, and have the confidence that I can do so.
I wanted to highlight something else that is unusual about the NCC. It owns real property and assets and conducts programs on both sides of the Ottawa River and therefore in both legal systems. Although my formal legal studies were of the common law and I am a member of the Ontario Bar Association, I have had more than a passing exposure to the civil law regime. I think this is a valuable asset in the in-house counsel role.
A final note is that at both the NCC and Atomic Energy of Canada I practised in a highly regulated environment and one that was subject to considerable external scrutiny. I believe that too will bear dividends in my new role.
I would now be happy to answer any questions you may have for me, in English ou en français.