Evidence of meeting #25 for National Defence in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was recommendations.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Wassim Bouanani

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

I have a point of order, Madam Chair. She's repeating what she said before—

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

No, I said that the other day. Madam Chair—

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

This is more like a filibuster than something new. I believe that orders do require new information to be presented.

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

Thank you, Madam Gallant.

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Madam Chair—

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

Carry on.

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

I am simply pointing out that I believe we would not be in this position if we had members who gave each other the courtesy of putting motions in advance—not leaking them—and letting us have discussions before meetings start so we can then have real discussions on real topics here.

As far as summoning people, this individual has not refused to come to this committee. I think this is a very bad precedent. I mentioned—

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Madam Chair, again she is repeating things that have already been put on the record.

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Madam Chair, I have not said that previously.

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

She is just wasting time—

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

I would like to put on the record—

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Let's get on with this so we can get on with the study.

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Madam Chair, I would like to put on the record that if you look at the annotated standing orders, you will see that there are a handful of people in the history of this Parliament—it's in a footnote at the bottom of the page—who have been summoned to Parliament. This committee alone is adding almost half of that number. In the history of this committee, we hadn't summoned anyone until this study. Now it seems to be routine that we're going to summon someone who has not said “no”.

That's the main point I wanted to make, Madam Chair. I will allow other colleagues to speak, but I may have a lot more to say later on.

Thank you.

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

Thank you very much.

I'm going to suspend the meeting for 10 minutes.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

I'm calling this meeting back to order.

I think Mr. Bagnell is up next.

Before we carry on, I just wanted to let you know that the plan was to do the mental health report on Monday, but it looks like there were some missing recommendations that weren't included in the report. They've been sent off for translation. I'm just proposing that we do CAF and COVID on Monday instead; then we'll do mental health on Friday, when we get those recommendations translated and into the final report.

Does anybody have an objection to that? No? Okay, thank you very much.

Mr. Bagnell, go ahead.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Thank you very much, and thank you for the health break. I needed it.

I had a longer intervention, but I—

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

I'm afraid, Mr. Bagnell, you'll need to put your headset on. Thank you.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Sorry.

I'll be brief this time. I had a longer intervention. One of the things I asked about the last time was to hear the opinion of some others on making this serious change and precedent. I'm not sure how many times a witness has been co-operative in these calls with the clerk and did not refuse to attend, and when that's ever occurred, if they've actually dropped the hammer and summoned such a person.

I appreciate that Ms. Alleslev and Mr. Garrison are going to give their views on that, so I'll save the rest of my intervention until I've heard those.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

All right. Thank you.

We have Madam Alleslev, please.

April 16th, 2021 / 3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Leona Alleslev Conservative Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill, ON

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

There's no question that we're all obligated to the members of the Canadian Forces, past and present, and to all Canadians, to get to the bottom of this. We cannot fix a system if we don't understand how it was broken and what went wrong. Therefore, we need to understand if it was the process that was wrong or if it was people not following the process. At no time during this study have we heard from someone in the Prime Minister's Office, which is why this one witness is so critically important. It's the one witness, in one of the highest offices in the land, who can provide us with critical information to understand exactly where the system or where individuals may have failed to ensure that the Canadian Forces is an environment free from sexual misconduct.

Not all motions are created equal. To have a motion that says we need to summon someone, when we have had that person on our witness list for six weeks or longer, is not necessarily a surprise, and therefore does not require an 80-minute suspension of a critical meeting to be able to determine exactly what we would want to do on that.

We're hearing from the same Liberal members making the same points over and over again when we're supposed to, in a debate, have new information. I'm sure that's not an indication—or at least I hope that that's not an indication—that the Liberals are filibustering and trying to ensure that we don't get to a vote on this critical witness, because this witness will make a significant difference. If there is no cover-up, then I'm sure there's no need for the Liberals to continue this debate, which could be viewed as working to prevent us from getting to a vote to bring this critical witness to this important study in a timely fashion.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

Thank you, Madam Alleslev.

We have Mr. Spengemann, please.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

Madam Chair, thank you very much again.

I have a couple of points. I think the fundamental points that I'm building in various ways—and I'm quite prepared to spend more time expanding on them, if necessary—are twofold. One, this is not an appropriate instance for the committee to exercise its power to summon a witness. Again, it maybe worth circling back to the clerk or to you, Madam Chair, to get us some information on the historical use of that tool. I think colleagues have already pointed out at this committee that it's not been used, but under what circumstances committees may have contemplated issuing a summons and may have decided wisely against it may also be worth a thought.

I say this in part because of the historical deference to not using the tool, the weight of the tool, the implication that this tool has a pejorative impact on the witness as being summoned in a sense that it implicitly and very openly—

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

I have a point of order.

The member is rehashing comments, statements and arguments that he's already stated before a number of times. If he has new testimony or new arguments to make, we'd listen to them, but they're just repeating themselves to run out the clock.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

I appreciate the comment. I was just about to extend my argument into a secondary argument that, with your indulgence, Madam Chair, I'm going to make now.

It is that it's not just the historical precedent of not using the summons; it's also the potential chilling effects that such a summons could have on witnesses, especially in an area as sensitive as this, with respect to the inquiry that we are conducting into sexual misconduct, harassment and, in worst-case scenarios, assault within the Canadian Armed Forces. The exercise of a summons here would open the door to summoning, potentially, ministerial staff of other administrations, of other governments, but it may also lead to a much easier decision to summon somebody who may stand in a more proximate relationship, individually or as an organization, to victims. Victims may receive the impression that this committee is quick to fire summonses if they don't sort out their scheduling quickly enough, and that witnesses essentially would be forced to appear, rather than wanting to appear with the confidence that they can come forward on their own accord.

That, in my submission, Madam Chair, is not a constructive direction for this committee to take.

The minister himself has been here. The minister accountable for this issue is very open to finding solutions. He's said it many times. He's been in front of this committee for six hours and has said what there is to say on the issue. He's the person to whom staff are accountable.

The other thing I would say in this instance, Madam Chair, and I only say it because Ms. Alleslev just used the term, is that the Conservatives started with the conclusion that there was a cover-up. That of course puts you on a track of wanting to summon just about everybody to substantiate the cover-up. In the hours that have been spent in front of this committee so far, there has not been a shred of evidence put forward that there is a cover-up.

The Conservatives, then, in my submission are locked onto a track such that they have no option but to fire off summonses in order to attempt to prove the cover-up that will not exist.

Madam Chair, I suggested earlier—and I really would be interested in hearing views of colleagues on this suggestion—exploring the mechanism of using the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure to determine the actual availability of Mr. Marques. If, as Ms. Alleslev said, it is so important that he appear, let's find out whether he can appear within the parameters the committee has just agreed upon this afternoon.

Instead of talking about this, we could be spending the afternoon talking about potential recommendations, which I understand are due to our clerk this afternoon. It would have been great to hear colleagues in an exchange of constructive views on what recommendations they might consider appropriate and in fact necessary in the report we are going to put forward to the Canadian public, to the government and to members of the Canadian Forces.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

Thank you, Mr. Spengemann.

Go ahead, Mr. Garrison, please.