Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a point of order with regard to an incident that occurred today at the Standing Committee on Health.
The standing committee adopted a motion restricting members from introducing motions in the official language of choice contrary to the rules of this House and the Official Languages Act. While I voluntarily agreed to submit a motion with the committee in both languages, I am concerned with the committee formalizing this as a requirement in its procedures.
Standing Order 65 outlines the procedure for moving motions. It states:
All motions shall be in writing...before being debated or put from the Chair....it shall be read in English and in French by the Speaker, if he or she be familiar with both languages; if not, the Speaker shall read the motion in one language and direct the Clerk of the Table to read it in the other—
Standing Order 116 states that in a standing committee the standing orders shall apply. Standing Order 116 lists some exceptions such as the election of the Speaker, seconding of motions and times of speaking. However moving motions in the official language of choice is not an exception. Moving motions in either official language is a right granted to members by the authority of this House and by law.
Subsection 4(1) of the Official Languages Act reads as follows:
English and French are the official languages of Parliament, and everyone has the right to use either of those languages in any debates and other proceedings of Parliament.
This subsection defines the rights of members of parliament to speak and submit documents in their language of choice in parliamentary proceedings.
The Commissioner of Official Languages in his report to parliament in 1996 recommended that “the Speaker of the House advise committee chairs, referring particularly to subsection 4(1) of the Official Languages Act, that language should not be an obstacle to members of Parliament in the performance of their duties”.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind you of two important rulings with regard to committees and the standing orders of the House. On June 20, 1994 and November 7, 1996 the Speaker ruled:
While it is a tradition of this House that committees are masters of their own proceedings, they cannot establish procedures which go beyond the powers conferred upon them by the House.
In closing, the committee by adopting a procedure restricting members from introducing a motion in the official language of their choice has established a procedure which goes beyond the powers conferred upon it by the House. This committee is in breach of the standing orders and the law.