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House of Commons Hansard #64 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was police.

Topics

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Unfortunately, the hon. member's time has expired. The hon. member for Mercier now has the floor.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

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.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Bloc

Osvaldo Nunez Bloc Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate on Bill C-30, an Act to amend the Public Service Staff Relations Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act.

As you know, I was active for 19 years in the labour movement in Quebec, and more particularly in the FTQ. Before that, I was a labour relations lawyer in Chile. So this is a subject matter in which I have some proficiency.

The right to organize and to bargain collectively has been considered important for a long time, and it is recognized in all democratic countries, by the International Labour Organization, and ratified by most countries. This right does not exclude public servants or other public employees. These employees are also covered by the international conventions of the ILO, and more particularly by conventions on the right to unionize and the right of collective bargaining.

All workers in the private sector, in public corporations or in the public sector enjoy this important right. They can organize and negotiate with their employer. In this case, the employer is the government. We should not discriminate against this group of workers, the members of the RCMP, because they are part of a law enforcement organization. They are unionized members just like all other public servants. They should also be able to negotiate with their employer, which is the government. I see no reason why they should not have the collective bargaining right which is provided for in the Public Service Staff Relations Act.

I am against the militarization of police forces. I think the members of police forces have rights that must be recognized, including the collective bargaining right. It helps to create a better and healthier work environment, particularly between the employees and their boss. When working conditions are set unilaterally by the employer, the employees are, of course, annoyed and dissatisfied. However, working conditions resulting from free negotiations between the employees and the employer will naturally have a positive impact on the job atmosphere.

This is why I rigorously object to this bill. I am also against this bill because it excludes this group of public servants, i.e. RCMP officers, from the occupational safety and health provisions, which apply equally to all employees and workers. I do not see any reason why this group of employees should also be excluded from provisions which protect the rest of the workers.

Also, I do not see any valid reason why this group of public servants, employees or workers should not be entitled to the bilingual bonus. This bonus was introduced for all public servants. These people belong to the public service. They should be entitled to this benefit, which is important because they have to work in English, in French and even sometimes in another language, given the increasing number of immigrants who speak other languages, like Spanish or Italian. I was very glad to meet with officers of the RCMP who could speak Spanish, my mother tongue. These people should be entitled to the bilingual bonus if they are bilingual, that is if they speak both French and English.

For all these reasons, I am against Bill C-30 and, of course, I support the proposals put forward earlier by my colleague from the Bloc Quebecois, the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Prince Albert—Churchill River Saskatchewan

Liberal

Gordon Kirkby LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I would like to address my remarks, in a fairly brief fashion, to some of the issues before the House today with respect to the motions that have been put forward by the member for Bellechasse concerning Bill C-30, an act to amend the Public Services Staff Relations Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act.

With respect to the motions proposed to amend Bill C-30, they seek to do so by deleting three clauses. Each of Bill C-30's four clauses are intended to achieve a specific but interdependent legislative purpose. For that reason none of the individual clauses can be read in isolation from and without reference to the others.

Similarly, changes in one clause are impossible to make without serious consequences for the rest of the bill. The impact of any one of the hon. member's motions if carried would be more legal confusion or uncertainty caused by the conflicting references or gaps in the Public Service Staff Relations Act, the RCMP Act or the Financial Administration Act.

For example, clause 1 cannot be deleted as proposed by the hon. member's first motion. Doing so would leave conflicting references to the RCMP in the Public Service Staff Relations Act. Similarly, doing away with clause 2 of Bill C-30, which is the proposal put forward by the hon. member's second motion, would leave conflicting references to the RCMP under part I of schedule I of the same act.

Conversely, by deleting the third clause of Bill C-30 as proposed by the hon. member's third motion, there would be no reference to the PSSR Act or to the RCMP. If carried, this motion would leave the legal status of all RCMP employees open to question and without legislative basis under federal statute. I am certain the hon. member would not wish to create this type of uncertainty.

The House has examined the first three motions put forward by the hon. member for Bellechasse. I believe the government has clearly shown why these motions are simply not acceptable.

In all legislation brought forward by the government, it is brought forward after due consideration of how modifications to the legislation are consistent internally within the act for which they are presented and also consistent with provisions in other statutes put forward by the government. On a number of occasions, when amendments are brought forward and with respect to all hon. members who bring forward very discrete and distinct amendments to statutes brought forward by the government, often the interrelationship of how these proposed amendments would affect the total bill or how they would interact with provisions in other pieces of government legislation are overlooked. That is the case in respect of the motions which have been brought forward.

A number of issues have been raised by hon. members in discussing this bill. First, the implication was made that somehow this piece of legislation interferes with collective bargaining. That is simply not the case. I will quote from a speech by the hon. solicitor general where he outlines exactly the relationship between the changes that are being proposed in this bill which are merely technical in nature and which merely seek to clarify ambiguities created by a tribunal or court decision in relation to collective bargaining.

Another issue I would like to comment on concerns collective bargaining. It has been suggested that Bill C-58 was drafted to prevent unionization within the force. However RCMP members have never had the legal authority to enter into collective bargaining and Bill C-58 does not change that. Collective bargaining is a completely separate issue from Bill C-58 and would have to be dealt with by the government and Parliament as a separate legislative matter.

I have been advised that collective bargaining is not a natural or inherent right but a right granted by Parliament only. Collective bargaining rights have never been extended to the RCMP members under either the Canada Labour Code, the Public Service Staff Relations Act or the RCMP Act. The Federal Court of Appeals decision in the Gingras case has done nothing to alter this fact.

I would like to observe in passing that the only issue dealt with by the court in the Gingras case was whether RCMP members were entitled to be paid the bilingualism bonus. The plaintiff raised no other issue and the court's ruling did not go beyond it.

I want to indicate that where qualified, individuals in the RCMP within positions that are designated bilingual are and always will be allowed to avail themselves of this bonus as long as the bonus exists.

Since May 1974, the RCMP has had its own system for addressing labour-management issues and which since 1989 has been provided for in regulations made pursuant to the RCMP Act. This is the RCMP division staff relations representative program, the DSRRs for short.

The program is an internal staff relations program intended to provide a communications network whereby members at all levels can voice their views and concerns through elected member representatives. The members of each division across the country elect at least one full time representative and two part time representatives. For example, "E" Division in British Columbia has six full time representatives and 31 part time representatives, all elected by the members of the division. These divisional representatives have direct access to all levels of management including the commissioner and the solicitor general.

The DSRRs also serve on 11 national committees that deal with issues such as pay, travel and relocation, and health and safety to name but a few. Consultation between management and these committees is ongoing. In addition, conferences involving the commissioner, deputy commissioners, all commanding officers and the DSRRs are held twice a year with the DSRRs setting the agenda.

There is also the RCMP external review committee which provides neutral third party review of certain types of grievances, formal disciplinary and discharge and demotion appeals referred to it from the RCMP.

Furthermore, Bill C-58 does not create a separate employer status for the RCMP. This requires separate and specific legislation. However a consultative process is currently under way in the force involving the DSRRs, which is examining the advisability of moving toward such status.

I should also confirm that Bill C-58 gives no additional power or authority to the commissioner. The bill simply confirms the status quo regarding the force that existed before the Gingras decision.

Again and to conclude, the purpose of Bill C-58 is to remove ambiguities raised by the Gingras decision and to confirm that the primary legislative authority governing the operation and management of the RCMP is the RCMP Act.

As I have indicated, the changes that are being brought forward by the government are merely technical in nature. They serve to remove any ambiguity created by the court decision as to how the management of the RCMP resolves that in favour of the status quo. As has been indicated, these are only technical changes. There have not been major changes or anything that would in any manner change substantively the governance of the RCMP.

With the greatest of respect to those who have put forward different points of view and to those who have put forward the points of view that there have been major changes, I wish to inform the hon. members I am certain it is simply a matter of error on their part. Major changes have not been made. To assure this House, if major changes were ever to be undertaken, it would be a significantly larger process than has been dealt with in this case where merely technical changes are required.

Point Of OrderGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Reform

Philip Mayfield Reform Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Yesterday during question period the Minister of Justice was asked if he would table a letter from the RCMP and he agreed to table that letter.

May I request that this letter, which to the best of my knowledge has not been tabled, be tabled forthwith.

Point Of OrderGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice perhaps can assist the House on the question just raised by his colleague.

Point Of OrderGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Prince Albert—Churchill River Saskatchewan

Liberal

Gordon Kirkby LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, first, we are in the middle of a debate completely unrelated to the point of order that had been brought forward by the hon. member.

The Minister of Justice made his statement yesterday. No doubt he will be living up to that commitment in due course. I would just proffer that statement at this time for the satisfaction of the hon. member.

Point Of OrderGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Perhaps the hon. member for Cariboo-Chilcotin would indicate whether the letter he is referring to has something to do with the matter before the House now.

Point Of OrderGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Reform

Philip Mayfield Reform Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, it has to do with the business I raised. That letter is necessary for the continuing discussion. We would appreciate having it tabled.

Point Of OrderGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Gordon Kirkby Liberal Prince Albert—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the hon. member, the request that was made yesterday of the minister to which he replied in the affirmative has absolutely as much to do with this debate as nuclear physics has to growing apples.

I would suggest that the hon. member simply await the reply of the minister.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-30, an act to amend the Public Service Staff Relations Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act, as reported (without amendment) from the committee, and Motions Nos. 1 to 3.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

June 18th, 1996 / 12:55 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to take part in the debate on Group No. 1. Is it over?

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Usually, we hear all the interventions before the parliamentary secretary takes the floor but I do not think there is any problem.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

No, that is fine. I shall speak on the next group of motions.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Fine. Is the House ready for the question?

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question!

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The question is on Motion No. 1. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour will please say yea.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The division on the motion stands deferred. It will also apply to Motions Nos. 2 and 3.