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House of Commons Hansard #128 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was police.

Topics

ConstitutionOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

Mr. Speaker, I really wonder why the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs will not merely respond to what the Government of Quebec is asking of him.

Why will he not agree to settle the problem? Why does the minister want to join forces with Alliance Québec and stir up strife and discord between the two communities in Quebec? What is he really after?

ConstitutionOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion LiberalPresident of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I would like to add something in reference to yesterday. We know there is probably a consensus in Quebec at this time for language based school boards. The issue is to find a way to proceed that will ensure that all components of Quebec society can do this in confidence.

Is the Government of Quebec's proposal, the one that is on the table, the way to go? The Government of Canada has no intention of commenting on proposals advanced by this or that group, and is not granting a veto to any group whatsoever.

The Government of Canada is simply saying that, if the Government of Quebec builds a consensus on its proposal, it is highly probable that the Parliament of Canada will be in a position to proceed promptly with modernization of the Quebec school system.

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Prime Minister was asked about a report that a former Canadian prime minister was accusing a former deputy minister of defence of participating in a cover-up of a murder in Somalia.

The Prime Minister said that the Somalia commission had the time and the freedom to investigate these charges. But today Mr. Justice Létourneau, the head of the Somalia commission, had this to say: "To suggest, as has been done, that we have ample time to investigate another high level cover-up and at the same time properly complete our current endeavours is both misleading and unfair".

Will the Prime Minister acknowledge that what he said to the House yesterday about the freedom and the ability of the Somalia inquiry to investigate these charges was misleading and unfair?

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

No, Mr. Speaker, what I said is that this inquiry has been going on for more than two years. There were three extensions. It had the time to call all the witnesses it wanted. It still has a month and a half to call the witnesses it wants and it is up to the inquiry to decide.

We did not intervene. We gave it a clear mandate a long time ago. It accepted that mandate with a time limit. We have given it three extensions. The minister of defence gave very good reasons in asking it to complete its work.

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister says the government did not intervene. The head of the Somalia inquiry also said clearly this morning that the government had interfered with the conduct of an independent public inquiry. What he could not say was whether the government had interfered for political reasons.

I ask the Prime Minister directly did his government interfere with the Somalia inquiry for political reasons. Is there a political reason why the Prime Minister does not want the inquiry to get to the bottom of a high level cover-up in the Somalia affair?

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, there was clearly no political intervention by the government. We have let the commission operate for more than two years. The minister of defence gave some very good reasons more than a month ago to terminate the inquiry by the end of June, following the advice of the leader of the third party who was inquiring and asking the government to close it as quickly as possible so there would not be anything not judged by the commission before the election.

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, that answer is not good enough for Canadians. Justice Létourneau said this morning that the government's decision has precluded the possibility of effectively investigating any cover-up at the senior level. He said the government understood clearly that this would be the impact of its decision to terminate the inquiry because they had informed the privy council of this implication before the decision was taken.

What political reason did the government have for terminating this independent inquiry when it was specifically forewarned that the effect would be to prevent effective investigation of the cover-up at the top?

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the hon. leader of the Reform Party certainly understood this process a lot better in September of last year than he does now.

I think it is fair to say that Canadians who have observed the commission now doing its work since March 1995 understand very well what has taken place there and understand very well what has happened in Somalia.

If the hon. leader of the Reform Party really wants to know what motivated the government to provide a third extension to the commissioners to conclude their work by June 30 it is very simple. It is a motivation that I hoped would have been shared by the leader of the Reform Party. I know it is shared by some of the members of his party who understand that it was time to get on with doing the

work that is required to allow the Canadian forces to do the work they are doing today, the work they have honourably done for a hundred years in this country and the work that Canadians expect them to do on behalf of Canada in the future.

ConstitutionOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Roberval Québec

Bloc

Michel Gauthier BlocLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is taking a big risk by leaving the hon. member for Saint-Laurent-Cartierville in his position as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. It is like appointing a pyromaniac head of the fire brigade: he fans the flames.

Today, the Prime Minister is trying to play down the inflammatory statements made by his Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. The government tells us: "We will wait and see what Quebec wants". Well, Quebec has wanted to settle this matter for the past 20 years. There was a consensus. All political parties in Quebec agreed.

Did the Prime Minister change his tune to avoid embarrassing his Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, who created the problem in the first place with his inflammatory statements?

ConstitutionOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I said it before and I say it again: we will wait until we have the wording of the resolution to be tabled in the National Assembly by the Government of Quebec.

We will listen to the debate that I hope will take place in the National Assembly, and also to the people who make representations, and we will inform you accordingly. That is exactly what we did in the case of Newfoundland, and we will do the same in the case of Quebec.

ConstitutionOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Roberval Québec

Bloc

Michel Gauthier BlocLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs said that he rejected the idea of swapping the constitutional amendment for something else and that there would be no swap, that he failed to see how the government could win points by acting like a used car salesman and that it would lose votes in the process.

Was the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs not acting like a used car salesman himself when he gave Alliance Quebec the impression that its agreement was necessary to get the constitutional amendment, thus giving it the clout it did not even know it had?

ConstitutionOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion LiberalPresident of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I have said this several times but I will say it again, because the Leader of the Official Opposition may be somewhat hard of hearing. As I said time and again, I did not give a veto to any organization whatsoever.

The question that must be asked is this: Is the official opposition saying that even if Quebec's anglophone community, which has more than one voice, had strong reservations about the government's proposal, it would be necessary to proceed regardless? That is a question the opposition should answer.

I have a second question for the opposition, and I will close on this: Does the opposition consider the anglophone community as a pawn, as incapable of making up its own mind? Does it really believe the anglophone community would let itself be guided by the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, that it cannot make up its own mind?

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Reform

Bob Mills Reform Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, it has finally been revealed that the government knew, prior to shutting down the inquiry, that Fowler, Anderson and Campbell could not be called to testify.

According to the head of the inquiry, the government's suggestions that Fowler and gang could testify have been erroneous, unfair, not realistic, impossible and misleading.

Would the Prime Minister agree with Commissioner Desbarats that his government, through its political interference, is trying to make the inquiry part of the Somalia cover-up?

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I have been extremely careful since coming to this responsibility not to comment on the agenda of the commission.

Let me say that immediately upon becoming Minister of National Defence I said at that point that I hoped and we expected the commission would report by March 31, as its mandate called for. That should not have come as a surprise to anyone.

Subsequent to that, based on a request by the commission, the government for the third time extended the hearing period and has asked it to report by the end of June. There is no question that if the commissioners decided they were not going to call certain witnesses then obviously they could not appear to testify.

The decision always rested, since March 15, 1995, with respect to who would be called and what would be done with the commissioners and not the government. They chose the road they

did and they were completely at liberty to do that. However, the government did make the decision that it was in the best interest of the Canadian forces in turning the corner on what we have to do to ask the commissioners, after three extensions, to report by June 30.

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Reform

Bob Mills Reform Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, that sounds like more question avoidance. The Prime Minister and the former defence minister said we would get to the bottom of this. The minister said he would not get involved. He certainly got involved by shutting it down.

The inquiry chairmen say that the government used them to solve its political problems. They say that the government precluded the inquiry from investigating a high level cover-up. This is unprecedented and shameful political interference.

My question, as it was yesterday, is what is the Prime Minister trying to hide.

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, no one is trying to hide anything.

Is the hon. member and his party suggesting that when an inquiry is begun in this country it should run until such time as all the commissioners, all the parties thereto and all the lawyers involved in the procedure are satisfied that every witness has been heard, that every document has been recovered and that every question has been answered?

If that is the position of the hon. member and his party, that from here on in this country when an inquiry begins it is appropriate to ask for extensions and it is not interference when we say yes but it is when we say no, then the hon. member and his party should go on record and say just that.

The ConstitutionOral Question Period

February 12th, 1997 / 2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice.

On June 20, 1996, the Minister of Justice told the Senate committee on legal and constitutional affairs that the bilateral amendment of term 17 of the Terms of Union of Newfoundland with Canada did not apply as clearly in the case of section 93 of the Constitution Act, 1867.

Would the Minister of Justice, the protector of Canada's Constitution, confirm the remarks of his colleague, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, and that section 93 may be amended bilaterally by the Quebec and federal governments according to the proposal Quebec made last Friday?

The ConstitutionOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion LiberalPresident of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, under section 43 of the amending formula of the Constitution Act, 1982, we can confirm without hesitation.

The ConstitutionOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, my supplementary is still for the Minister of Justice, a real lawyer, who knows about the Canadian Constitution.

Given what he said yesterday in the scrum, will the Minister of Justice confirm his objection to anglophone Quebecers obtaining protection above and beyond that already accorded under section 23 of the 1982 Constitution?

The ConstitutionOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion LiberalPresident of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it is not up to the Government of Canada to comment on the proposals that will be made by the various groups in the debate that has just started on the modernization of the Quebec school system.

The ConstitutionOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Reform

Jack Frazer Reform Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the chairman of the Somalia inquiry has accused both the Prime Minister and the defence minister of political interference with the inquiry, interference unprecedented in Canadian history.

Before the decision was even made, the chairman had advised the privy council that such interference would cause a whitewash, yet the Prime Minister proceeded to shut down the inquiry anyway.

My question is to the Prime Minister. Why did the Prime Minister choose a whitewash over the truth by closing down the inquiry? Are his interests in the Canadian forces or are they strictly political?

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I must say that I am astounded by the tone of the question from my hon. friend.

As I have often said in this place, the hon. member had a distinguished career in the Canadian forces. Surely if he is staying in touch with his colleagues who are still serving in the Canadian forces both in Canada and elsewhere around the world he would know that what we are doing is construed by many as being absolutely essential to the future of the Canadian forces because we have to get on with doing the things that are required.

The one thing I will say in response to my hon. friend's question is that we have not interfered nor do we have any intention of interfering in the process that involves the Somalia inquiry.

I have as much respect for the judicial process and I am sure the hon. chairman of the Somalia inquiry has for the political process and the need to keep the two very separate all the time.

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Reform

Jack Frazer Reform Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I served for 36 years in the armed forces and I was proud of that. Incidents that have happened since Somalia have caused me to question whether I can still be proud of it. I wonder if the minister realizes the impact of the inquiry.

The Prime Minister, the defence minister and the justice minister all admit to being lawyers, but now their appointed lawyer, Justice Létourneau, has accused them of political interference in the process of the Somalia inquiry. He said that in future judges may have to think about whether they will accept serving on an inquiry because of political interference.

Has it been worth it: a cover-up, a whitewash? Is it worth sacrificing judicial independence for selfish political gain?

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the member has touched on a question that is of vital importance, as I indicated in an earlier response this afternoon.

If judges or other Canadians called on to participate in this form of inquiry make it a pre-condition that once the inquiry begins they be allowed to continue as long as they wish to ensure that everybody is heard, that every question is addressed and that every document is examined, then that is a legitimate question.

We need to know from my hon. friend whether the commission or anyone else in this place, or anyone else who is observing this scene, agrees with that kind of a prospect, that once a process called a commission of inquiry has begun that not only is it a whitewash, it is a carte blanche.