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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

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, we listened to the whip for the government side put forward his case. In fact he presented an entire debate on the subject.

The question of privilege that has been presented to you today by the member for Lethbridge is that some method be found to resolve this issue. The issue is not whether the government whip is allowed to bring this motion forward. The issue is the dilemma that my hon. colleague from Lethbridge finds himself in. It cannot be resolved. It cannot be voted on. It cannot be debated. It is just hanging over his head like a sword.

That is the issue of privilege, not the motion itself.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

With regard to this point of privilege I will take the information I have under advisement. If the House will permit me I will reflect on it and I will come back to the House, if it is necessary, to rule on the point of privilege that the member for Lethbridge has brought to the House.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, as a member of this House and a colleague of the member for Charlesbourg and further to the report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, I today demand a public apology in the name of all the members of this House.

I therefore demand a public apology from the member for Okanagan-Similkameen-Merritt for having misled this House by making false accusations that called into question the honesty and integrity of the member for Charlesbourg. I demand an apology from the member, otherwise there is nothing to prevent gratuitous accusations of all sorts from being made against anybody at all.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

The Speaker

Your Speaker is fully aware of the importance of the statement that the hon. member for Charlesbourg began today.

It was explained before the hon. member began his statement it was a solemn declaration. It was not a declaration which would incite debate. I was dealing solely with the statement itself.

There is, of course, an avenue for the hon. member or for the Leader of the Opposition if they so wish to make a further statement, a broader statement. The particular avenue that was chosen today, in my respectful view, is evidently not the one that is going to fulfil what the hon. member wants to do.

If the hon. member for Charlesbourg wishes to pursue the matter, then either the hon. member or the Leader of the Opposition or any member of this House can file a notice of concurrence in the committee report. That can be done by giving a notice to the Clerk of the House. At that point there is an avenue for hon. members to express themselves.

But in the case of this particular statement, my decision is that this is not the vehicle to be used for making such a statement. That is why I have asked hon. members to respect the decision of the Chair, knowing full well that if members want to pursue it, it can be done by the method which I have suggested.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I understand your ruling on the solemn declaration. We may disagree on how we see things, but I accept your ruling.

However, I raised a point of order, and, unless I have misunderstood, I have had no response to my point of order. I did, however, very clearly insist on apologies from the member concerned for having misled the House by intentionally spreading falsehoods about the member for Charlesbourg. This is a point of order and not a solemn declaration. I therefore await your ruling on this.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:40 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member has asked me to rule on the point of order. I will take his request under advisement. I will think about it and if it is necessary I will come back to this House.

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 (with amendments) from the committee, and of Motions Nos. 4 and 5.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

June 18th, 1996 / 3:40 p.m.

The Speaker

I believe the hon. member for Bourassa still has 7 minutes or so left. He has the floor.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Osvaldo Nunez Bloc Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me to continue my presentation on Bill C-30 concerning members of the RCMP.

I would like to make two comments before resuming my speech. I was stunned by the unfounded accusations made by a Reform member against my colleague from Charlesbourg. I think that, with such accusations, the Reform Party will never have a single member elected in Quebec.

My second comment is this: I would like to draw members' attention to the presence in our gallery of a distinguished citizen from my riding of Bourassa, Victorin Bellemare, who is very involved in the social, community and political life of Montreal North. He is accompanied by his family.

As I said, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled in the Gingras case that RCMP members were also members of the Canadian public service and, as such, had rights like the right to organize, to form a union and to negotiate collective agreements.

They do not claim they have the right to strike, as these police officers provide essential services. If the employer and the employees' union cannot agree on working conditions, the police officers would rather resort to arbitration than go on strike.

But they still have legitimate rights. They have rights in terms of occupational health and safety and, like all other public service employees, they sometimes fall victim to work accidents or occupational diseases. Stress, for example, is a very prevalent problem among police officers, who must sometimes work in difficult and dangerous conditions. They should at least enjoy the full protection of all occupational health and safety laws.

I think that, instead of depriving employees like those of the RCMP of their vested rights, the government should set an example for the provinces in the area of labour relations.

It is a disgrace, for instance, that the federal minimum wage is lower that the provincial rates. It is unacceptable that the federal occupational safety and health legislation is not on a par with provincial legislation like Quebec's. Government should be an example to the private sector, and this is certainly not the case at present. Instead, the government is attacking vested rights of workers, in this particular case the rights of RCMP workers.

Take this other important right: the right to precautionary cessation of work for pregnant workers. This is not a right that federal public service employees enjoy, while it is already provided for in Quebec's legislation respecting occupational health and safety. A pregnant employee who works in conditions hazardous to herself or to her unborn child should be either reassigned or allowed to go on leave for the remainder of her pregnancy.

So far, the federal government has refused to bring down anti-strikebreaking legislation. Quebec and British Columbia both have such legislation. Ontario's legislation was just repealed, but the fact remains that this kind of legislation improves labour relations and helps create a social climate conducive to economic development.

I find that democracy has progressed in our society, but not in the workplace, in businesses and in corporations, where labour relations in certain areas are still dictated in an authoritarian way, as in the case of the RCMP. The commissioner of the RCMP has unlimited rights, while the members of this police force have very limited rights.

This government has not done very much to improve the working conditions and life of workers in Canada and in Quebec. On the contrary, when faced with a legitimate strike of rail workers, it thought it wise to bring in back-to-work legislation in this sector, instead of allowing collective bargaining to operate.

The Liberals' labour relations record is very poor. They have demonstrated a favourable bias for big business, but have not shown much concern for the average worker. Instead of helping workers, there are ministers, including the Minister of Human Resources Development, who attack the Canadian Labour Congress and who have made disparaging remarks about its president, Robert White, as well as myself, but for different reasons.

This government claims to occupy the centre, but we can see that it is moving with ever increasing speed to the right, the former Liberal or neo-Conservative right, and that it has done nothing for the working class as a whole, for the workers of Canada and of Quebec.

Last Saturday, a women's march ended its journey here in Ottawa. These women had very legitimate concerns. For example, they were calling for a job creation program designed specifically for women. They were also calling for increases in the minimum wage, day care funding, and grants for women's shelters. All the government comes up with is "niet", there is no money. That is

really a shame because I think the patience of Canadians and Quebecers is running out.

What will it take for the government to act? Does it want a revolt? Does it want people to come and demonstrate daily in order to be granted their legitimate rights, rights which are recognized in other democracies, particularly in Europe? Here, they are destroying the social safety net, eliminating social programs. Where is Canadian society headed with this Liberal government?

My time is nearly up and I will conclude by saying that I am very vigorously opposed to Bill C-30.

Colleagues, I am asking to resume debate. I just want to make sure we understand clearly that we are on report stage of Bill C-30.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Prince Albert—Churchill River Saskatchewan

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I have only a few quick words to say in relation to the second group of amendments that have been brought forward by members opposite. In order to bring forth amendments, a number of factors need to be considered.

First, the amendments must be consistent with other amendments that are brought forward and consistent with provisions already in the statute which is sought to be amended by the provisions that are brought forward. In this case the amendments certainly do not assist in that regard. Therefore they ought not to be brought forward because they do not assist with the internal consistency of the act.

Second, the changes that are brought forward need to be consistent with other statutes and laws. Again, this test is also not met. The amendments that are being brought forward conflict with other pieces of legislation. This is the case when amendments are brought forward in a willy-nilly fashion. They are not fully researched and the implications of each of the amendments are not thought out so that we get consistency with other pieces of legislation.

In addition, some of the amendments are also proposing some type of governance changes. They are being brought forward without any type of consultation that would need to be had to make these types of statements.

In any event, I will say that because of these factors, the government will not be supporting the amendments. With respect to the comments made in relation to this bill, these are merely technical amendments to ensure the maintenance of the status quo after court or tribunal decisions have maybe cast some doubt upon the governance. It is simply to maintain the status quo at this time. These things have been vastly overstated.

The government will not be supporting any of these motions.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Is the House ready for the question?

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

The question is on Group No. 2.

The division is on Motion No. 4. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yes.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

The recorded division on the motion stands deferred.

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred divisions at the report stage of the bill.

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

The vote will take place at 5.30 this evening.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon Liberalfor the Minister of Justice

moved that Bill C-42, an act to amend the Judges Act and to make consequential amendments to another act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Prince Albert—Churchill River Saskatchewan

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to address the House on Bill C-42, an act to amend the Judges Act and to make consequential amendments to another act.

Hon. members are aware that crimes of indescribable brutality have been perpetrated on tens of thousands of people in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. A Canadian judge, Madam Justice Louise Arbour of the Ontario Court of Appeal has been requested by the Secretary-General of the United Nations to serve as chief prosecutor of the UN International Commission on War Crimes for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

The appointment of Madam Justice Arbour to this very important and prestigious international position is without doubt a great honour to Canada. A necessary condition imposed by the United Nations for Madam Justice Arbour to take up this appointment is that her salary and expenses are to be paid by the United Nations during the period in which she will be serving as the chief prosecutor. This requirement relates to the UN's own requirements for the independence of its chief prosecutor and it would require Madam Justice Arbour to take leave without pay from the Ontario Court of Appeal and to receive a salary from the United Nations.

There is no provision in the Judges Act as it is currently constituted for a federally appointed judge to be granted leave of absence without pay to work for an international organization such as the United Nations. Nor does the act permit the salary and expenses of a judge during the period of leave to be paid by any organization or entity other than the Government of Canada. The amendments contained in Bill C-42, which have the full support of the Canadian Judicial Council, would permit this type of arrangement to be entered into by Madam Justice Arbour, and should another appropriate occasion arise, by other Canadian judges.

This bill makes other minor amendments. The bill transfers from cabinet to chief justices the authority to approve judicial leaves of absence of up to six months. This recommendation was made by the 1992 Triennial Commission on Judges' Salaries and Benefits and is endorsed by the Canadian Judicial Council. It allows a judge to request maternity or parental leave without having to seek cabinet approval.

Bill C-42 also recognizes the importance of the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada by including the chief justice of that court on the membership of the Canadian Judicial Council. The requirements of the chief justice of the Court Martial Appeal Court arising out of the representational duties and functions that are inherent to that officer are also reflected in the bill which authorizes the payment of a modest representational allowance of up to $5,000 per year to the head of that court. The chief justices of the Courts of Appeal of the Yukon and Northwest Territories are being granted similar representational allowances.

Bill C-42 would also permit the appointment of up to three judges Canada wide to the provincial courts of appeal which have been experiencing increasing workloads and backlogs over the past number of years.

Finally, the bill corrects some technical errors and clarifies some ambiguous language in the Judges Act.

Bill C-42 is a modest legislative measure but at the same time a significant one because it will permit a Canadian judge to respond to a request by the Secretary-General of the United Nations to take on an international assignment of the utmost importance to the world at large.

I would respectfully urge all hon. members to approve the quick passage of amendments to the Judges Act.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Bloc

Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Judges Act we are being urged to amend through Bill C-42 is based on sections 96 and 100 of the Constitution Act, 1867, which provided that the Canadian Parliament could create a general court of appeal for Canada, as well as appoint and pay superior court judges in every province.

This law sets out the working conditions applying to the judges of the Supreme Court of Canada, the Federal Court, the Tax Court of Canada, the appeal courts and the superior courts in each of the provinces. This law is like a collective agreement for federally appointed judges. It also establishes the Canadian Judicial Council, whose mandate is to make superior jurisdictions and the Canadian tax commission work better.

Through this law, the legislative power exerts obvious control over the judiciary. It is the legislative power that decides how much judges should be paid, what pension and other benefits they should receive, how much leave they can take, and what activities they can participate in.

We are being called on today to review some of the working conditions of federally appointed judges.

Of course, this does not give the government any right to interfere in the judicial process as it has recently, unfortunately, by threatening the Chief Justice of the Federal Court himself to take away all files relating to war criminals and handing them over to the Supreme Court of Canada if the proceedings were not conducted more expeditiously.

Judges appointed by the federal government must be able to perform their duties as their conscience dictates. In order to be independent, they need working relations where the executive branch does not have them over the barrel.

Let us take a look at the main amendments. The existing legislation allows the provinces to create seven positions as judges in addition to the number prescribed by law for each province as well as for the Yukon and the territories. The proposed change to the applicable provision would introduce a degree of flexibility by giving the provinces the power to appoint more judges.

The purpose of the bill is to increase the number of additional judges from seven to ten. The provinces will be able to avail themselves of this provision as required. It seems reasonable to us,

given that how fast cases go to trial and how much work each judge has to do is dependent on the number of judges.

Several amendments are simply designed to clarify the wording of certain sections without changing the scope of the legislation. Let me give you an example. Subsection 27(2) of the existing legislation states that each judge of the Yukon Territory and of the Northwest Territories "who is in receipt of a salary under section 22" shall be paid an allowance, while in the amendment, reference is made to the act instead of to section 22 specifically.

This amendment was necessary because additional judges are not paid under section 22, but under sections 28 and 29. As you can see, we are really talking about technical details. However, it was clearly not the legislator's intention to deprive additional judges of this isolation allowance.

A new paragraph provides that, from now on, only a leave of absence of more than six months will require the approval of the governor in council. Currently, a leave of absence of more than one month requires the authorization of the government. This provision gives more independence to the courts vis-à-vis the executive power.

In light of the fact that an assistant deputy minister recently interfered with the judicial process by contacting the Chief Justice of the Federal Court, we understand the need to ensure greater administrative autonomy to the judiciary. We must make sure judges do not have to beg as regards their working conditions, so that they do not feel at the mercy of the executive. We support this measure.

The most innovative provision in this bill is undoubtedly the possibility for judges to now participate, with the authorization of the government, in international activities.

Until now, judges had to devote themselves exclusively to their judicial duties. Indeed, section 56 of the Judges Act provides that: "No judge shall, either directly or indirectly, for himself or others, engage in any occupation or business other than his judicial duties, but every judge shall devote himself exclusively to those judicial duties".

There exists, furthermore, a tradition requiring judges to avoid involvement in situations that could oblige them to take a stand in public.

It is therefore a departure from our legal tradition to allow judges to take part in international activities. They should, however, obtain prior approval for leave of absence without pay, but they may receive remuneration from an international organization.

We believe that this new avenue will be of benefit to the international community. It will give Canada an opportunity to share its savoir-faire, to demonstrate its abilities to an international audience, without detracting from the impartiality of our courts.

For judges, this bill increases the possibility of an international career in the context of international co-operation projects, and in the creation and operation of international tribunals. Justice is called upon to cross borders. Many crimes cannot be effectively combatted except through international bodies and co-operation between countries.

If our judges cannot participate in projects involving more than one country, Canada may find itself left out of certain debates, in particular those affecting the development of international law and the creation of international law tribunals. It is also an opportunity for our judges to acquire in other countries knowledge and abilities that could enrich our own institutions.

We are in favour of this bill primarily because it will increase the independence of judges and their exposure to the international context.