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Evidence of meeting #53 for Justice and Human Rights in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site.) The winning word was tribunal.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Ian Fine  Acting Secretary General, Secretary General's Office, Canadian Human Rights Commission
Susheel Gupta  Acting Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Human Rights Tribunal
Diane Watts  Researcher, REAL Women of Canada

4:20 p.m.

Acting Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Human Rights Tribunal

Susheel Gupta

That's my understanding.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Thank you.

You said in your opening presentation that the tribunal is quasi judicial, which essentially means court-like. I want to challenge that proposition.

You'll agree with me that a complainant before the tribunal is not required to bankroll his own legal counsel.

4:20 p.m.

Acting Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Human Rights Tribunal

Susheel Gupta

No, that.... A complainant is required to bring their own case forward.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

But the commission provides an investigator and provides representation for the complaint at the tribunal, correct?

4:20 p.m.

Acting Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Human Rights Tribunal

Susheel Gupta

I think Mr. Fine could answer that. Not in every case does the commission participate at the tribunal.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Okay. You'll agree with me, though, that the tribunal has no jurisdiction to award costs in favour of a respondent if the complaint is dismissed.

4:20 p.m.

Acting Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Human Rights Tribunal

Susheel Gupta

That is correct.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

You'll agree with me that the strict rules of evidence are relaxed at tribunal hearings, including the admissibility of hearsay.

4:20 p.m.

Acting Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Human Rights Tribunal

Susheel Gupta

That is correct. It's up to each individual member to decide, in their own case, how strict to be with the rules of evidence.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

My last question is regarding disclosure, that a respondent, if subject to a tribunal hearing, is not entitled to depose the complainant in advance.

4:20 p.m.

Acting Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Human Rights Tribunal

Susheel Gupta

Neither party is able to.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Thank you.

Do I have any time left?

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dave MacKenzie

No, you don't.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Thank you.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dave MacKenzie

Mr. Côté.

November 27th, 2012 / 4:20 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

My thanks to the witnesses for accommodating the vicissitudes of life in Parliament. Like all my colleagues, I apologize.

The committee charged with the task of reviewing the Canadian Human Rights Act, chaired by former Supreme Court Justice Gérard La Forest, came to the following conclusion. Let me quote a few lines:

To leave the law as it stands would fail to acknowledge the situation of transgendered individuals and allow the issues to remain invisible. While these issues are clearly related to sex, this ground may not cover all those encountered in the transgendered experience, especially in the decision to undergo a sex change and its implementation. To say transsexualism is a disability seems to make it a medical matter rather than a matter of life experienced in the opposite gender.

Clearly, former Justice La Forest came to the conclusion that there were some shortcomings that could infringe the rights of transsexual and transgendered people.

4:25 p.m.

Acting Secretary General, Secretary General's Office, Canadian Human Rights Commission

Ian Fine

That's correct. That was Justice La Forest's conclusion. In fact, he recommended that gender identity be added as a ground to the act.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Great.

When the Standing Committee on Justice examined BillC-36, we looked at the possibility of adding an aggravating factor in order to better protect seniors against abuse. I quote my colleague Mr. Seeback who said that the bill also dealt with reporting the behaviour. That would be very useful: it would be nice to know that that sort of behaviour would be reported in every community in the country.

In his speech in the House, my colleague Mr. Goguen said about Bill C-36 that the change would send a clear zero-tolerance message about elder abuse.

Do you think that the bill as presented would allow us to reach the same or similar objectives? I am talking about the amendments to the Criminal Code.

4:25 p.m.

Acting Secretary General, Secretary General's Office, Canadian Human Rights Commission

Ian Fine

I'm sorry, but I just don't feel that I have the ability to address the criminal aspect of this bill or the previous one, and I would feel more comfortable with the changes around the proposed amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

I quite understand.

Let us go back to what might be called the rights deficit for an important part of the population.

In the testimony we heard last Tuesday, we were told about the Trans PULSE study and I am going to quote some figures from it. The study gathered data from 433 trans people. It found that 43% of those 433 people had completed postsecondary studies, which is noteworthy in itself. But 50% of them earned less that $15,000 per year and 71% of them earned less than $30,000 per year.

In another study done by Egale Canada, 74 transgendered youth said that they were victims of harassment and 34% of them had been the victims of physical violence.

Can we say that there is a rights deficit and that we currently have a problem in terms of the rights of transgendered people?

4:25 p.m.

Acting Secretary General, Secretary General's Office, Canadian Human Rights Commission

Ian Fine

We have the same information available to us. Clearly, we are disturbed by the findings of some of the reports, and certainly around issues concerning mental health, depression, and suicide—all of those statistics are alarming. Clearly, we believe that it is important to add these grounds because these people are marginalized; this group of Canadians is marginalized.

We believe it is a good thing to add this to broaden the protections in the act, to ensure that transgendered people are protected, specifically given what that group has suffered in our society. We think that would be a good thing to extend protections.

Certainly, we know there is a concern around overlap of grounds, but in our experience we have seen that with other grounds under our act, around race, national or ethnic origin, and colour. Oftentimes, we see overlap between the grounds, but we know that it's very important for the transgender community that these grounds be added to the act. We certainly support that.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dave MacKenzie

Thank you. That ends our time.

We were scheduled for one hour and we're just about right on.

I'd really like to thank the panel. We had no interruptions today, and I'm sure the committee learned a great deal.

We'll take a short break.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dave MacKenzie

I understand, Madame Boivin, that you have a motion you wish to move.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Given the time, Mr. Chair, I wanted to see if my committee colleagues would allow me to make a motion. If we do not have time to finish the amendments today, we could continue next Tuesday in order to get this done. We cannot do it on Thursday because the minister is coming to see us.

I would like to make that motion.

Did you hear me?

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dave MacKenzie

Yes. The clerk explained it to me.