Mr. Speaker, I will pick up where my colleague had to leave off abruptly. This Bill C-30, with its four short sections, simply blocks, voids and erases the effects of the court decision in the Gingras case. This bill will anger all police officers and all members of the RCMP.
If I had been told a few years ago that one day I would stand up in the House and support the RCMP, I would have smiled, to say the least. But in this case, the members opposite ant the public absolutely have to understand that this police force and many of its members have long sought unionization. But they are mistreated by this bill which negates the result of their action; after all, if a ruling was handed down, it was because there had been complaints, and the case went to court because everything else had been tried first without success.
The bilingual bonus was the focus of the court decision.
But the decision in Gingras was far from limited to the bilingual bonus, because to rule on eligibility for the bonus, the court had to determine the status of the employees. The legislation was such that, as the library research service has indicated, the only employer of the RCMP would appear to be the Queen. However, there is no direct link between the Queen and the Commissioner.
The judge wanted to determine the status of RCMP personnel. In doing so, he ruled that they were members of the public service and that they could be governed by part II of the Canada Labour Code dealing with occupational safety and health, and that they were eligible to receive the bilingual bonus, something which is not clear in any act, as long as it was also granted to others. In fact, the government complied with the ruling and started paying the bilingual bonus to RCMP personnel. Eventually, RCMP personnel might even have gained the right to become unionized.
For sometime, 16,000 RCMP personnel, 18,000 counting civilian employees, thought that they were public servants within the meaning of the act, and that they were governed by the Canada Labour Code. But what does the bill do? It abruptly eliminates the beginning of such recognition, the ability to have some rights recognized.
My colleague was absolutely right when he concluded by saying this was not good-to say the least-for staff relations. I think it is extremely bad.
When a group-not necessarily everyone-which is often the most conscientious, the most professional and the most vocal one, wants to have a say regarding staff relations, wants to get fair conditions and wants to put an end to paternalism and arbitrary decisions-that is basically what unionization is about-, the government is bound to create a great deal of discontent if it resorts to its supreme power, the power to introduce legislation, to take away, with just four small clauses, what these workers thought they had finally won after years of efforts.
It is not good to have people in a position of power such as RCMP officers feel they are treated in a very unfair and arbitrary manner. Their status will almost be like that of the military. It is generally understood-I am not an expert in this field-that, in the army, the commanding officer is the authority. This is understandable, given the structure and the role of the army.
However, police officers must make decisions during the course of their work. They must take part in the organization of their activities. They have a right to be protected by the occupational safety and health regulations. They are professionals who want a degree of responsibility. They are law enforcement officers and they must comply with the notion of authority, but they also wish to negotiate their conditions of work with the authority appointed by the government.
With regard to the bilingualism bonus, which concerns mostly francophones in Quebec and Ontario, it is particularly sad that the government is using this bill to remove the legal bond that had been acquired to obtain it. We can also understand-we know this is true for military life-that for francophones, life in the RCMP has not always been easy. Contrary to other public servants, they are not entitled to this bonus they have been claiming for a long time. Moreover, thousands of those who are claiming it are now retired. We can then understand the tremendous frustration this bill generates.
I cannot help but totally agree with the recommendation made earlier by the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, our critic for labour relations, who said that the government should not proceed negatively and try to restore a statu quo ante that cannot exist any more. Indeed, once a court, setting up a legal precedent with a well-founded decision, has come to the conclusions arrived at in the Gingras ruling, it cannot be just wiped out in four paragraphs. This is impossible.
There is nothing in this bill that says what actual conditions will apply. There is nothing either that says how the workers will be covered with regard to occupational safety and health. This is intolerable. This creates conditions that either feed the anger that is latent or is starting to emerge, or it generates something that is never desirable either in a private business or in a public organization, a feeling of discouragement or rejection. Many are coming to think: "If they give us no more consideration than that, we will act the way they consider us".
In the area of labour relations-and it is like this also in many areas of life-people behave according to the way they are treated. Thus, it is highly unacceptable for an organization as important as the RCMP to treat its members like irresponsible children, because that is what it amounts to.
Therefore, we, in the Bloc Quebecois, will continue to plead for the RCMP to have the means to be a more open police force, more responsible for its operations and also more transparent toward members of Parliament and the public.