Mr. Speaker, speaking on behalf of the Official Opposition, I wish to express my objections to Bill C-58 at the second reading stage. We are not alone, since the Canadian Police Association, including associations of RCMP officers, did so yesterday. I would like to quote from the minutes of a meeting held at their headquarters here in Ottawa on November 14 and 15, on the subject of Bill C-58.
André Girard submitted copies of Bill C-58 introduced for first reading on November 4 and scheduled for second reading on November 17, 1994. If the bill is passed it will give separate employer status to the RCMP commissioner and leave the members vulnerable on all issues of pay and benefits.
It was decided to treat Bill C-58 as CPA priority and direct Scott Newark to take all necessary action to make sure the bill was sent to a parliamentary committee, vigorously debated and defeated.
It was moved by André Nadon, seconded by Jim Davidson:
That the RCMP C and O Division Members' Associations have full support of the Canadian Police Association and that the CPA take all necessary steps to fight Bill C-58 on their behalf.
It was carried unanimously.
Mr. Speaker, our objections to Bill C-58 are two-fold. First, this ostensibly routine legislation is, in fact, aimed at invalidating the effect of the judgment handed down by the Federal Court Appeal Division in the Gingras case on March 19, 1994. I intend to focus particularly on this aspect.
Second, Bill C-58 constitutes an additional obstacle to union membership for members of the RCMP, as well as interference by the legislative with the judiciary, since a case is still pending before the Quebec Court of Appeal. I am referring to Delisle vs the Deputy Solicitor General of Canada and the Solicitor General of Canada, file 500-09-001747-898 of the Montreal appeal district.
I will now discuss my first point. Two of my colleagues in the Official Opposition rose in the House to address this particular matter. The first time was on March 11, 1994, when the hon. member for Laval-Centre, in a question directed to the Solicitor General, asked as follows:
Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Solicitor General. Yesterday, the Federal Court of Appeal ordered the federal government to pay bilingualism bonuses of $800 a year to qualified officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It is estimated that the government now owes up to $4,000 to more than 3,000 officers, as well as to retired officers of the RCMP. Does the Solicitor General intend to abide by the unanimous decision of the Federal Court of Appeal and pay the bilingualism bonus to qualified officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police?
And the Solicitor General's reply:
Mr. Speaker, that decision raises some very complex issues. It is presently under review, and I will have more information about that in the near future.
The "near future" came two months later. On May 10, the hon. member for Richelieu rose in the House to make a statement under Standing Order 31. He said as follows, and I quote:
Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Quebecois applauds the government's decision to finally comply with the Federal Court of Appeal judgment and pay a bilingualism bonus to RCMP members who occupy bilingual positions.
This puts an end to a lengthy dispute between RCMP members and their employer who, must it be reminded, had decided not to provide this bonus, supposedly "to preserve cohesion within the forces".
If it is serious about bilingualism, the government must continue to pay bilingual bonuses inasmuch as it provides true incentive and compensation for the added complexity of bilingual positions.
Considering there is much room for improvement in the federal Public Service, particularly with regard to the use of French, the government must make sure this bonus is awarded for language skills of the highest level to provide services of the highest quality.
That was the end of the statement under Standing Order 31 made by the hon. member for Richelieu.
The government did not appeal the decision of the Appeal Division of the Federal Court. The case did not go to the Supreme Court, although in March, the minister maintained that some very important principles were at stake. We now know why. The minister had decided to take a difficult approach. Instead of asking the Supreme Court for a definitive opinion on the legal aspects of this case, the government decided to legislate, and that legislation is Bill C-58 before the House today. The government decided to go after its own justice, not by appealing to the Supreme Court, but instead by presenting to the House a bill which, to all intents and purposes, is aimed at rendering null and void the court's decision in the Gingras case.
Indeed, Bill C-58 seeks to overturn the decision handed down by the Appeal Division of the Federal Court, on May 10, 1994, in the Gingras case, which concerned the more or less 17,500 members of the RCMP. It should be pointed out that there are three distinct categories of employees working for the RCMP. The numbers I have were updated November 15, 1994, the day before yesterday.
Regular members and special RCMP constables number 15,551, whereas 1,983 civilians and 3,440 civil servants work for the RCMP.
The 15,500 regular members are, in fact, police officers. They are not unionized. The 2,000 civilians are support staff working in laboratories, as technicians or specialists; an unspecified number of them belong to the administrative support category. They are not unionized either.
The 3,500 civil servants are either administrative or support staff such as clerks, secretaries, stenographers, guards, caretakers and the like. They are all hired by the Public Service Commission or transferred from other departments. They belong to unions such as the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
As I mentioned earlier, Bill C-58 seeks to overturn the Federal Court of Appeal's decision. In the Gingras case, the court came to the conclusion that members of the RCMP belong to the Public Service and, as such, must abide by the rules set by the Treasury Board and that they are entitled to the $800-a-year bilingual bonus.
In May 1994, the government announced that it did not intend to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada and that it was going to pay the bilingual bonus to RCMP members, including retroactive payments for some of the years it had illegally denied RCMP members this bonus. All in all, retroactive payments could amount to $30 million.
It seems that the Gingras decision disturbs the RCMP top brass because it means that, in certain cases, other Treasury Board regulations may apply to the RCMP and its police officers. Such regulations deal in particular with employment equity, the enforcement of the Official Languages Act, and working conditions. The right to unionize is being debated as part of the Delisle case, which I will deal with later.
Schedule I of the Public Service Staff Relations Act contains a list of departments and other agencies having the Treasury Board as employer, that is to say that are part of the Public Service, and a list of agencies which are separate employers. The RCMP is listed in Part I of Schedule I, and that makes it a part of the Public Service.
Bill C-58 would remove the RCMP from the Public Service, and therefore the Treasury Board would cease to be its employer. Consequently, the RCMP would be subject to legislation applicable to public servants only if it were specifically referred to in such legislation. Treasury Board policies would no longer apply to the RCMP, except if the RCMP itself decided to follow them, but that would be on a strictly voluntary basis.
Since December 1992, the Financial Administration Act has been the legal basis of the Employment Equity Program set up by Treasury Board in the mid 80s. All departments and agencies having the Treasury Board as their employer are subject to the Employment Equity Act because they are part of the Public Service.
Until recently, because the Commissioner had so decided, the RCMP was not subject to Treasury Board policies despite the fact that the force is listed in Part I, Schedule I of the Public Service Staff Relations Act. However, we should stress that the RCMP differs in some ways from the rest of the Public Service, and that has allowed the commissioner to pretend that the policy on bilingual bonuses did not apply to the RCMP.
The decision of the Appeal Division of the Federal Court, made March 10, 1994, in the Gingras case, puts an end to such pretence. From now on, said the tree presiding judges unanimously, the RCMP is part of the Public Service. Therefore, since March 1994, the RCMP has had to apply all Treasury Board policies to its 17,500 employees. Bill C-58 puts an end to that. We must note that civilian employees of the RCMP, numbering approximately 3,440, were always fully subject to Treasury Board policies on employment equity and bilingualism because they were recruited by the Public Service Commission.
The RCMP submits an annual report to the Treasury Board and is included in the Treasury Board's equity statistics. However, the RCMP decided a long time ago to implement the federal policy on employment equity for its 17,500 employees, which include 15,500 peace officers and 2,000 civilians. Instead of submitting an annual report to the Treasury Board and being subject to its rules, the RCMP decided to create its own system of co-operation with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, to which it submits an annual report.
However you look at it, the system is an ad hoc one and, in principle, inefficient. By in effect reversing the March 1994 decision, the government is seeking to exempt the RCMP from the Treasury Board's authority regarding labour relations and conditions of employment. Although the RCMP implements certain policies on a voluntary basis, its goodwill is questionable, given that, for 19 years, it denied its members the bilingual bonus, thereby saving approximately $50 million, or $2.8 million annually.
If one of the purposes of Bill C-58 is to stop the payment of bilingual bonuses to members of the RCMP, we can conclude that the government is adopting the Reform position. Do the Liberals intend to eliminate the bilingual bonus throughout the public service? If the government announces that it intends to pay the bonus to members occupying bilingual positions or if the RCMP commissioner decides to continue the bonus voluntarily, we can still say that the bill undermines the bilingual bonus policy, because the commissioner can terminate the bonus at any time.
It seems that the Official Languages Act applies differently to the RCMP: service in both languages, equitable hiring, language of administration, language of instruction at the Regina school and other similar provisions.
The member for Nanaimo-Cowichan believes that the Federal Court's decision in the Gingras case means that military personnel would also be entitled to the bilingual bonus. Unfortunately, under the act, military personnel are not considered part of the public service.
The Public Service Staff Relations Act specifically excludes members of the RCMP. They cannot, therefore, apply for certification to the Public Service Staff Relations Board, although the Delisle case I mentioned earlier may change this. While Her Majesty in Right of Canada, represented by the Treasury Board, is ultimately their employer, members of the RCMP are excluded from the definition of "employee" for the purposes of the Public Service Staff Relations Act.
At any rate, since RCMP members are presently part of the public service, this means that the RCMP remains subject to Treasury Board policies and standards. Only organizations with separate employer status are not subject to TB policies. Separate employers are paid a lump-sum each year, but are not required to comply with general policies regarding official languages or employment equity for example. Bill C-58 excludes the RCMP from the application of TB policies.
The Financial Administration Act under which the Treasury Board was established sets several standards regarding the public service and government finance administration, except as specifically provided in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and any other act that applies to the RCMP, such as the Official Languages Act.
Bill C-58 provides for Treasury Board policies to no longer apply to members of the RCMP. Paragraph 7(1)( e ) of the Financial Administration Act states clearly that the Treasury
Board may act on matters relating to, and I quote: "personnel management in the public service of Canada, including the determination of the terms and conditions of employment".
Bill C-58 would add to the RCMP Act a provision by which paragraph 7(1)( e ) would not apply to the RCMP. Therefore, terms and conditions of employment would be determined by the commissioner of the RCMP and the RCMP Act. This act does provide that staff may appeal to the RCMP external review committee.
Without Bill C-58, the RCMP would presumably have had to gradually comply with Treasury Board occupational standards. I do not have the full list of TB standards and cannot compare them to those in effect within the RCMP under the RCMP Act, but I note that the Treasury Board has powers in the following areas: first, administration of the Employment Equity Act; second, administration of the Official Languages Act; third, financial management; fourth, annual expenditure plans; and fifth, personnel management and determination of terms and conditions of employment.
As far as personnel management is concerned, it is interesting to note that, under Section 11(2) of the Financial Administration Act, the Public Service Commission is partly responsible for personnel management in other departments. In the case of RCMP members, however, it is the Treasury Board which plays this role.
I note that the RCMP Act and some other acts make an exception for the RCMP given the nature of its work. Therefore, at this time, RCMP members' terms and conditions of employment are not identical to those of other public service employees. Among other things, RCMP members are excluded from the definition of "public servant" in the Public Service Staff Relations Act and cannot form a union.
So we can ask ourselves why the government is not proposing at the same time to grant civilian employees of the RCMP-about 2,000 office and support workers-the same rights and privileges as their 3,400 colleagues who are already part of the public service. After all, neither group is composed of law enforcement officers.
There is also an RCMP External Review Committee, whose mandate is "to provide an independent review of grievances, formal discipline, and discharge and demotion appeals filed by members of the RCMP". But, as the external committee points out in its annual reports, no document clearly spells out its jurisdiction. A member of the RCMP can ask the RCMP Commissioner to review a demotion or discharge. The Commissioner then asks the external committee to review the decision before settling the matter himself. The Commissioner is not required to follow the recommendations of the external committee.
The external committee also notes in its annual report that the decisions of the RCMP arbitration committee cannot be appealed to the external committee. Again, everything rests on the good will of the RCMP Commissioner, who ultimately becomes both a judge and a party in the disputes that may arise within the RCMP. How can we leave the terms and conditions of employment up to the good will of the RCMP Commissioner?
The external committee also stresses in its annual report that the grievance procedure is even more complex. In some cases, the Commissioner himself determines what kind of grievances can be submitted to the external committee.
Let us now talk about the RCMP as a separate or almost separate employer. The Treasury Board is the employer of the Public Service and all public servants, according to the list in Part I of Schedule I to the Public Service Staff Relations Act. The RCMP is now listed in Part I of Schedule I and Bill C-58 would replace the expression "RCMP" in this list with "civilian employees appointed or employed in accordance with section 10 of the RCMP Act", who number 2,000. It would exclude the peace officers in the RCMP, who number 15,500. This same law presents a second list, in Part II of Schedule I, of sectors of the federal public service that are distinct employers.
Note that the expression "federal government employees" takes in all government employees, including those who work for Crown corporations and the military. In all, there are 550,000. The Public Service does not count employees of Crown corporations, the military and personnel of separate employers, who number about 235,000 in all.
In particular, the separate employers in Part II of Schedule I include the Communications Security Establishment, CSE, and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, CSIS.
Bill C-58 does not add the RCMP to the list in Part II of Schedule I, neither does it add the 15,500 members of the RCMP who are peace officers to this list. Therefore, the 15,500 members of the RCMP who are peace officers will have the same status as members of the Canadian Forces; that is, they do not even appear in Part II of the schedule.
In fact, only the personnel not paid with public funds, namely the employees of bars, restaurants and other service establishments on military bases, are listed there. However, the Commissioner of the RCMP would have the status of a separate employer. I think that not putting the 15,500 members of the RCMP who are peace officers in Part II of Schedule I would give
the commissioner even more absolute control over his staff. Why? For what purpose? That is the hidden agenda in this bill.
I now come to my second point, very briefly, because to a large extent it is now before the courts. Bill C-58 further infringes on the unionization of members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and is unacceptable interference of the legislative authority in judicial matters, since a case on this issue is pending before the Quebec Court of Appeal. It is the case which I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, Delisle v . the Deputy Attorney General of Canada and the Solicitor General of Canada, which is to be heard by the Montreal District Court of Appeal in the coming months.
In this legal proceeding, the plaintiff, Gaétan Delisle, a member of the RCMP and member of the Quebec provincial association of the RCMP, is asking the courts of this country to declare unconstitutional all the provisions which prevent the Canadian Labour Board from issuing a certificate of accreditation for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and especially for its employees who are peace officers.
The officers who are the plaintiffs in these proceedings are basing their argument on section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which provides for freedom of association. These plaintiffs argue that the freedom of association gives them the collective bargaining right, hence the right to unionize. This is an issue the Court of Appeal will have to settle, and I do not think that we, as legislators, should hinder the Court of Appeal and influence any interpretation it might give.
The plaintiffs before the Quebec Court of Appeal, the police officers of the Quebec section of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, also refer to the equality rights enshrined in section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Why is it that in every Canadian jurisdiction, and especially in provincial jurisdictions, police officers can join a union, but that the federal legislation prevents members and police officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police from unionizing? Can we talk about inequality pursuant to section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? This is another issue upon which the Quebec Court of Appeal will have to decide.
Would it not be wiser to postpone this bill for six months or even longer until the court rules on the rights of the police officers and other bargainable employees of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, should they be successful with their court challenge?
For all these reasons, we will vote against Bill C-58 at the second reading stage.