Mr. Speaker, in his speech on the first group of motions, the parliamentary secretary said that they were only minor changes on which the opposition needs not ask so many questions.
We always thought the opposite, and the government's approach had been to say that they were in fact only technical changes. The bill was referred to the committee on government operations when it should at least have been sent to the justice committee or the human resources development committee, considering the radical and major changes it brings to the overall working conditions of RCMP officers and to their relations with their superiors.
This not an innocuous bill. We were told that it deals only with the payment of the bilingualism bonus to RCMP officers, but then one has to see on what legal grounds the decision was based. That is one of the biggest flaws in the reasoning of the parliamentary secretary.
A few moments ago I said that the Gingras decision was a trial decision of the Federal Court, but, in fact, it was an appeal decision of that court. The Appeal Division of the Federal Court ordered the payment of the bilingualism bonus to RCMP officers only because it could rely on a legal analysis saying that those officers have the same status as public servants. But if the officers are part of the public service, that means that they are covered by all applicable rules that stem from Treasury Board decisions and legislation applicable to the public service, including the bilingualism bonus policy.
The Appeal Division of the Federal Court did not decide on its own that they were entitled to the bonus, it had to make a legal analysis of the situation. So, the whole question should not be downplayed.
In clause 4, and this is quite revealing, there is a derogation or interpretive clause that has a clearly retroactive effect. The clause reads as follows:
(1) For greater certainty, the Canada Labour Code does not apply to members, and members are not part of the Public Service within the meaning of the Public Service Staff Relations Act , nor part of the public service within the meaning of section 11 of the Financial Administration Act .
The purpose of Bill C-30 is quite obvious. If the government wished to keep this position, all it had to do was go before the Supreme Court and plead its case. In this country, we do not legislate retroactively except in very rare cases and for good reason. It is a way of legislating, referred to as nunc pro tunc in latin, by which the government is trying to ensure retroactively that if the officers were to go back to court and if Bill C-30 perchance were passed, they would be told that the law has been changed and that their rights can no longer be recognized.
Canadian courts do not need clause 4 in Bill C-30. It is up to them to determine what the state of the law is pursuant to the general provisions applying to every citizen. One clause, clause 4, is written only for RCMP officers. This clause does not apply to everybody. It applies only to one class of citizens. The government takes their measurements, the size of their coat, pants, shoes, and hat if they need one, and says that these people, RCMP officers, are not covered by the Canada Labour Code.
As my colleague for Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup mentioned a few moments ago, as did my colleague for Mercier, labour relations are a serious problem in the RCMP. There is an unhealthy climate, and a constitutional state such as ours cannot tolerate that labour relations be subject to the pleasure by the prince, in this case the commissioner of the RCMP, who dictates working conditions and refuses to share his supervisory powers with the country's regulatory agencies. We believe there should be a system, which could be unique to the RCMP, that would give members of this force the right to free collective bargaining.
Such free collective bargaining does not exist. Of course, there are divisional representatives who do their best but, as I was saying in my remarks on the first group of motions, the climate is such that the basic trust that should normally exist between management and employees is just not there. There will be a need for an outside agency to come it and help settle the disputes and legitimate grievances that may arise.
The myth that the RCMP exists outside our society must be destroyed. RCMP members are first-class citizens who have the right, like everybody else, to have their grievances heard by courts that are not prejudiced against them. When you look at the existing
grievance adjudication process, the adjudicators can only make recommendations. They cannot make binding decisions.
I mentioned earlier the case of Staff Sergeant Gaétan Delisle, mayor of Saint-Blaise, who was reprimanded and who basically received a notice of discharge because he was a candidate in an election. That shows how serious the problem is. No other police force in Canada could have done this. Members of the RCMP are no different from members of the Sûreté du Québec, members of the OPP and members of most municipal police forces. Their right to free collective bargaining must be recognized.
The Gingras decision does not say explicitly that members of the RCMP can be unionized under Part I of the Canada Labour Code, but it opens the door. So let us allow the legal debate to take its course. Given that RCMP officers are considered members of the public service, does Part I of the Canada Labour Code apply to them? If so, they can be unionized under the Code. If, after this is done, it becomes apparent that it is not the appropriate regime for their collective bargaining framework, there will still be time to legislate a different framework, which could resemble what has been done in the case of the Sûreté du Québec.
The vast majority of RCMP officers are not claiming the right to strike. We could therefore consider a binding arbitration, or final offer, mechanism, as was often mentioned. In this sense, I support the motion to delete clause 4. The motion presented by my colleague, the hon. member for Calgary Northeast, is nonetheless a lesser evil, in the sense that if we had to include the right of police officers to unionize by leaving clause 47.6 in Bill C-30, the recognition that Part II of the Canada Labour Code, as it relates to health and safety at work, applies, would at least be a consolation prize.
I am therefore in favour of the motion by my colleague, the member for Calgary Northeast, but only for these reasons. I believe that the deletion of clause 47.6 basically resolves the entire issue and that the right to collective bargaining under the Canada Labour Code is the same everywhere in Canada.