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Evidence of meeting #3 for Subcommittee on Private Members' Business in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was take.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Michel Bédard  Committee Researcher
Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Olivier Champagne

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Are there any concerns, questions, or comments?

Seeing none, that will proceed.

We'll move to motion 312.

11:40 a.m.

Committee Researcher

Michel Bédard

This motion asks that a special committee of the House be appointed and directed to review subsection 223(1) of the Criminal Code which states that a child becomes a human being only at the moment of complete birth, and to answer various questions.

This motion does not seem to fall outside federal jurisdiction; it does not clearly violate the provisions of the Constitution; it does not concern questions that are the same as ones already voted on by the House in private members' motions in the current session; and it does not concern questions that are currently on the Order Paper as items of government business.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Proceed.

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

I have some comments.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Okay.

Mr. Toone.

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

I want to point out that today is International Women's Day. We're debating a bill that has to do with abortion. I thought this had been decided over and over again. I'm shocked and appalled that it's being presented today to this committee. The thought of bringing it to the House would appall me even more.

This has been decided over and over again. I might remind people that in Tremblay v. Daigle, all of the Supreme Court judges voted in favour of allowing Ms. Daigle to have an abortion. The question in that case was precisely this: when does a person have legal rights? At what point does a child get its rights? Is it at conception? Is it at birth? When exactly does a child get rights? It has been decided. In fact, it's been decided in this country since the thirties with Montreal Tramways Co. v. Léveillé. And we're having this debate again?

The Supreme Court has ruled—

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Mr. Toone, I need to remind you that the purpose of this committee is to decide on the votability of motions and bills based on the four criteria. You've commented earlier that we're having a debate that should happen in the House. I think you're entering now into an area of the same nature.

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

I appreciate what you're saying, but I don't agree. When the Supreme Court rules on questions of human rights, that is the law of the land. It is the constitutional law of the land. They have ruled on this. They have decided that this is the state of law in this country. It was a charter case from Quebec. I don't see how we can simply put aside the constitutional acts of this country. As far as I can understand it, that's part of the job of this committee—to look at the human rights in this country.

I consider this bill quite out of order. I want to remind people that this is International Women's Day. There's a room full of men deciding whether this is going to go forward. I had a conversation this morning with people who told me that they can't believe that we still have an International Women's Day. I guess we do because we're having this debate and I find it appalling.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Mr. Reid.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

I'm assuming that Mr. Toone is saying that this is a violation of the Constitution Acts, 1867 to 1982, including the Charter of Rights, section 2. That would, in essence, be the rationale. Is that correct?

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Yes, I'm referring to sections 2, 7, and 15.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Sorry.

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

The 1982 Constitutional Act?

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

I'm trying to make sure I—

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Yes, it's sections 2, 7, and 15.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

All right.

So sections 2, 7, and 15 of the charter. It's on the basis of the Tremblay v. Daigle case as opposed to—

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

A woman has a right to choose.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

It's not based on the Morgentaler decision; it's based on the Tremblay v. Daigle decision.

Is that correct?

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Yes. The Morgentaler decision didn't specifically deal with where life begins. That wasn't a central part of the Morgentaler decisions, though it was an incidental part. But in Daigle v. Tremblay, that was the central question, which is the central element of this bill.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Mr. Reid.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

We're not a court, but in order to make an intelligent decision we have to be familiar with the cases. I apologize. I remember the case distinctly. Jean-Guy Tremblay was a hard man to like, to say the least. But I can't comment intelligently, because I haven't read through the case. If it is acceptable to the other members of the committee, can we set this one aside and return to it later? We might have a chance to actually read the case and have an intelligent as opposed to a completely uninformed position on this. Right now, I'm uninformed about this decision.

Would that be acceptable?

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

The analyst has a comment to make.

11:50 a.m.

Committee Researcher

Michel Bédard

Just with respect to the Constitution and the nature of the motion, it's an instruction from the House of Commons to one of its committees to proceed to study. The Constitution actually protects the House of Commons from outside interference because it's part of its privilege. The House of Commons could ask one of its committees to study any subject. Also, with respect to the Tremblay v. Daigle case, my recollection of the case is that it was not a criminal law case, but a civil case. The legal dispositions which were at play in this case were an expression of the Civil Code of Quebec.

I would also like to draw the attention of members to the last paragraph of the motion, which is a question to be instructed to the special committee: “...what are the options available to Parliament in the exercise of its legislative authority in accordance with the Constitution and decisions of the Supreme Court to affirm, amend, or replace” the section of the Criminal Code.

I just wanted to bring this to—

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you.

Mr. Dion.

March 8th, 2012 / 11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

That's exactly my point.

I am sorry, Mr. Toone, I share your outrage, but in this case the motion asks for the creation of a committee to examine a problem. Nothing comes before the right Parliament has to debate issues. Parliament is a forum for debate, by definition. I fail to see on what constitutional basis we could prevent the House of Commons from debating issues, even things we don't like.

This does not concern seeing whether Parliament can invalidate a court decision; nothing in the motion asks for that. It is asking Parliament to study, to create a committee, to examine an issue, to make a recommendation. I don't see how we can oppose it.