House of Commons Hansard #45 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was internet.


The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-12, an act to amend the Judges Act and to amend another act in consequence, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

10 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Don Boudria Liberalfor the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that the bill be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

Judges ActGovernment Orders

10 a.m.

The Speaker

When shall the bill be read the third? time By leave, now?

Judges ActGovernment Orders

10 a.m.

Some hon. members


Judges ActGovernment Orders

10 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Don Boudria Liberalfor the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

10 a.m.

Erie—Lincoln Ontario


John Maloney LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be able to lead off the debate on the third reading of Bill C-12, an act to amend the Judges Act and to amend another act in consequence.

The bill would make certain amendments to the Judges Act that would ensure appropriate and fair compensation for the federally appointed judiciary in Canada. It is intended to implement the commitments made by the government in its response to the report of the 1999 Judicial Compensation and Benefits Commission.

I would like to emphasize that the chair of the Judicial Compensation and Benefits Commission, Mr. Richard Drouin, who appeared as a witness before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, expressed his satisfaction with the government's decision to implement most of the recommendations enumerated in the commission's report.

The strength of Canada's judiciary is a key factor in our prosperity and health as a nation. As the guardians of the constitutional right of Canadians to have peace, order and good government, judges form an important pillar in our democratic society.

An independent judiciary is essential to the rule of law. Judges must be free from undue influence of any kind, be it from those with money or power. There is a growing recognition that stability, human security and the rule of law are necessary preconditions to economic growth, and there is a growing appreciation that an independent judiciary with the proper resources is the first step down this path.

The Government of Canada is committed to the principle of judicial independence, as it is a fundamental precondition to ensuring the vitality of the rule of law in our democratic system of government. The three constitutionally required elements of judicial independence are security of tenure, independence of administration of matters relating to the judicial function, and financial security. It is in direct support of the principle of judicial independence that section 100 of the constitution has conferred on parliament the important task of establishing financial security of a federally appointed judiciary.

I am very happy to report that during the second reading debate the Bloc Quebecois and the Progressive Conservative Party indicated their support for Bill C-12.

The Canadian Bar Association has also expressed its support for Bill C-12. In fact, in its written submissions to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, the Canadian Bar Association expressed the view that Bill C-12 not only enhances judicial independence in promoting financial security for members of the judiciary but also helps to attract high quality candidates to the judiciary.

I would ask all members of the House for their support. This bill would ensure that our judges are compensated fairly and appropriately in order to maintain the quality and independence of Canada's judiciary.

I want to make reference to the hon. member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, who has proposed an amendment for Bill C-12. His proposed amendment to Bill C-12 would require that the transcripts of testimony heard before the Supreme Court of Canada be made more accessible to the public.

More specifically, the proposed amendment, an addition to section 75 of the Judges Act, would require the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Canada to ensure that testimony heard before the court in open session be recorded in electronic format and made accessible to the public in the same manner as the Debates of parliament.

With the greatest of respect for the member, we cannot accept this proposed amendment as it is not within the scope of Bill C-12, nor is the Judges Act the appropriate place for such an amendment.

Any matter relating to procedure before the Supreme Court of Canada would fall under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Canada Act. Section 75 of the Judges Act applies solely to administrative matters relating to the judiciary.

Further, as members know, Bill C-12 would make amendments to the Judges Act that would ensure appropriate and fair compensation for the federally appointed judiciary. It is intended to implement the commitments made by the government in its response to the report of the 1999 Judicial Compensation and Benefits Commission.

I thank the hon. members of the House for their attention today and ask for their support in the passage of Bill C-12.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, before commencing I would ask for the unanimous consent of the House to split my time with the member for Surrey Central.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

Is there unanimous consent to allow the hon. member to share his time?

Judges ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members


Judges ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, the bill amends the Judges Act to implement the government's response to the recommendations made by the 1999 Judicial Compensation and Benefits Commission. Among those recommendations is a retroactive salary increase of 11.2% for approximately 1,013 federally appointed judges. This would cost the federal government approximately $19 million.

The increase is retroactive to April 1, 2000, and would raise the base salary from $179,200 to $198,000 for judges who sit on appeal courts and superior courts in each province. The salaries for the chief justices in those courts would increase to $217,000 from $196,500. These same increases would also apply to federal court judges.

The judges on the Supreme Court of Canada would remain the highest paid. The eight regular judges would see an increase to $235,700 from $213,000, while the salary of the chief justice would rise to $254,000 from $230,200.

This is the fourth time the government has sought to amend the Judges Act. During the 35th parliament the government introduced Bill C-2 and Bill C-42, and during the 36th parliament, Bill C-37, all of which were relatively minor pieces of legislation.

In April 1998, Bill C-37 was introduced to establish the Judicial Compensation and Benefits Commission. Bill C-37 also increased judges' salaries retroactively, providing an 8.3% pay increase over two years. This meant an average $13,000 pay increase for federal judges, with salaries increasing from $159,000 to over $172,000.

I would be hard pressed to think of any other public servant, or any hard-working Canadian for that matter, who received that kind of pay increase in 1998.

According to Statistics Canada, the consumer price index from 1996 to 1998 rose 2.55%. It is safe to assume that the salaries of most Canadians across the country would be affected by that statistic. Not only have the salaries of judges increased at a rate substantially higher than those of most Canadians, but their salaries are already indexed. I think that is important to remember.

No other senior public servant or any other lower level public employee has been given such a significant pay increase in the last number of years. While the government indicates that the raise is a reasonable one, it is interesting to note that senior public servants have received raises of no more than 5.7%.

It is not only public servants and other public employees who do not receive these types of extensive benefits. The very people who administer our justice system, the people on the ground who do the practical work in looking after the safety and security of Canadians first hand, seem to be ignored.

For example, in 1998, the same year that federal judges were given these generous salary increases, RCMP officers who had their salaries and wages frozen for five years were finally granted an increase of a mere 2% in March 1998, retroactive to January. If the concern is that judges receive these raises to ensure that there is no corruption of our justice system or any undue influence, is the same not true for the men and women who serve in our federal police forces?

A second pay increase was given to RCMP officers in April 1998 and later that year they received another small increase. However, over the five years that their salaries were frozen and in the next year, 1998, the RCMP received an increase of only 3.75%. These frontline officers are putting their lives on the line every day for Canadians, but the average three year constable received an increase of less than $2,000 over those years.

In contrast, the bill would provide an 11.2% increase to judges who are making well over $120,000 or $130,000 a year, some over $200,000 a year. There are so many other people within our justice system who are absolutely vital in ensuring that the system is functioning properly but are not getting the same kind of increase. These are often the same men and women who are forced to cope with the results of several years of cutbacks to the justice system.

One would assume that if money can be found to increase the salaries of judges, then money could also be found to give local police and RCMP the resources they need to do their jobs effectively.

Also, in many provinces crown attorneys do not have sufficient resources to prosecute the cases they are charged with. In this context I am especially thinking of the new legislation the government is bringing forward in respect of organized crime. While I support many of the principles, I wonder about the genuine attitude of the government in failing to provide adequately for the resources for frontline officers and frontline prosecutors to get the job done. There is no question that in the Canadian justice system there is a significant amount of delay and backlog, which needs to be remedied.

Another appalling situation in our country is the embarrassingly low wages paid to members of our armed forces. It is ridiculous that people who protect our nation, both at home and abroad, and put their lives at risk to ensure some measure of security for all Canadian citizens are fighting with antiquated equipment and are often forced to go to food banks to make ends meet. Now we hear that the minister is authorizing a raise in the rents that our armed forces have to pay. I do not think that is acceptable.

I understand from the government that the main rationale for this pay increase for judges is that the federal government must compete with high paying law firms to attract superior candidates to the bench. While I believe that a competitive salary is required to ensure good candidates, I do not believe that there has ever been any great shortage of candidates for the bench.

In such cities as Toronto and Vancouver, where a $200,000 plus yearly income for a lawyer may not be unusual, it is not outside the realm of possibility that such people may not be attracted to the bench for fear of a pay cut. However, in Manitoba, for example, I believe there would be no shortage of competent lawyers available for judicial appointments at $190,000 and, indeed, at perhaps even less considering the compensation packages and extra benefits that come with such appointments.

Perhaps that is a problem of the mandate of the commission and of the restrictions it had. Perhaps those regional differences should be reflected in salaries or expenses. The commission was operating at a bit of a disadvantage. It did not have the appropriate mandate to discuss those kinds of significant differences.

Many Canadians in the legal profession, no matter what their salary, would consider it a great honour to be appointed to a judgeship at any level. Over the past decade there have been an average of eight candidates for every opening on the bench. As I understand it, the eight candidates are previously screened for suitability. One assumes there would be at least one qualified applicant out of the eight. I have great respect for the legal profession. I believe there are many more than eight qualified candidates for one position.

The majority of my constituents, and most likely the majority of Canadians as a whole, would not consider a salary increase of almost 20% for federal judges over a three year period to be the best way to increase the quality of our justice system. We must ask ourselves how the government can justify giving federal judges a salary increase of 11.2% over and above the 8.2% increase they received in 1998.

The increase would in no way remedy the current backlog of federal court cases. That issue must be dealt with by the administration of the courts, the responsibility of which primarily lies with the judges. I have great confidence that the judges are capable of taking steps to ensure justice is dispensed in a timely fashion.

The pay increase would in no way help the thousands of front- line police officers who are at a severe disadvantage in their daily efforts to fight crime. I am not saying judges should not be well paid. They should be well paid and most Canadians would argue that they are. It is a question of whether they should be paid more than they are already.

My party has great reluctance in supporting the bill on the basis that it ignores the real problems of the Canadian justice system and the manner in which judges are appointed. That is another issue we could perhaps leave for another day.

The backlog of the courts would not be remedied by the bill. The appointment process, which many Canadians believe should be reformed to make the judiciary more independent and publicly accountable, would remain the same.

The administrators of the justice system, the provincial attorneys general, crown attorneys, police officers and members of the federal police force, the RCMP, would still be handcuffed by a lack of sufficient resources.

Perhaps nothing can be done with respect to the proposal in view of the structure and mandate of the commission and the constitutional obligations recently imposed upon parliament by the Supreme Court of Canada. However I urge all hon. members to consider a better way of dealing with the issue.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the people of Surrey Central to participate in the third reading debate on Bill C-12, an act to amend the Judges Act.

Before I begin my remarks I would like to congratulate the chief opposition justice critic, the hon. member for Provencher, who has made excellent comments and explained very eloquently the official opposition's position on the Judges Act.

The purpose of the bill is to implement the federal government's response to the report of the 1999 Judicial Compensation and Benefits Commission regarding compensation and benefits for judges. It would amend the Judges Act to increase judicial salaries and allowances, modify the current judicial annuities scheme and put into place a separate life insurance plan for federally appointed judges.

Bill C-12 makes other consequential amendments to the Judges Act and the Supplementary Retirement Benefits Act. The commission is appointed for a four year term and mandated to consider the compensation and benefits of judges and to make recommendations to government.

The commission consists of three members appointed by the governor in council and it should be noted who nominates the three persons. One is nominated by the judiciary, one by the Minister of Justice and one, who acts as a chair, is nominated by the first two members.

The government accepted the commission's recommendation of a salary increase of 11.2% retroactive to April 1, 2000. The salary increase will cost approximately $19 million. The 42 page bill contains nothing but amendments, replacements or additions to previous clauses changing the salaries of 1,013 federally appointed judges. There are also amendments to compensation benefits, early and special retirement provisions, pro-rated annuities, et cetera.

The judiciary had initially proposed a salary increase of 26.3%. It had said the federal government must compete with high paying law firms to attract superior candidates to the bench. However federal representatives told a hearing into judges' salaries earlier this year that there was no shortage of candidates for the bench, pointing out that there had been eight applicants for each federal job over the last decade.

The last pay raise for federal judges was in 1998 when they received 4.1%. In 1997 they received another 4.1%. The judges received more than 8.2% in increases over two years. Judges' salaries are also indexed so they receive annual cost of living increases. While we have no position on judges' salaries and pensions we favour generally that they be comparable to those in the private sector.

In the 35th parliament the government introduced two bills, Bill C-2 and Bill C-42, amending the Judges Act. In the 36th parliament there was Bill C-37. All these bills, including Bill C-12 which we are debating today, have been said to be administrative in nature. Four times the Liberal government has come forward with amendments to the Judges Act.

Another concern I have with the bill is that the pay increase for federally appointed judges is higher than the increase the federal government is prepared to grant much lower paid public service employees. Lately it has been the practice of the government to grant raises to senior officers in the military, to senior bureaucrats and now to judges while dragging its feet on a general salary increase for staff.

While we do not dispute the salaries of appointed judges and others, they should generally be in line with the private sector. It is apparent that staff in the lower echelons of our justice system is being ignored. Public servants should get salary increases in keeping with the average Canadian wage earner. The government has awarded pay raises and bonuses to judges and senior bureaucrats while frontline police officers and lower level public servants receive little or nothing.

On March 27, 1998, RCMP officers secured a pay raise of 2% retroactive to January 1, 1998. They received a second increment of 1% on April 1, 1998, and an additional 0.7% increase on October 1, 1998. RCMP officers had their wages frozen for five years.

The official opposition will review and closely scrutinize the provisions of Bill C-12, including the annuities scheme.

It seems the government has tailor made legislation to fit certain individuals and situations. Legislation tailor made to fit an individual would compromise the impartiality of our judiciary. The changes proposed to the Judges Act would allow a judge who is married for the second time to another judge after the death of his or her first spouse, also a judge, to collect both or two survivor's benefits upon the death of his second spouse. One could only guess why the government would contemplate such a rare and highly unlikely situation. We will be investigating that and we will be vigilant while debating the bill.

We propose an independent and publicly accountable judiciary that would safeguard Canadians from the arbitrary power of the state. However it must remain the responsibility of parliament, not the courts, to debate and assess the conflicting objectives inherent in public policy development.

It is interesting to note that the last bill to amend the Judges Act, Bill C-37 in the 36th parliament, created the Judicial Compensation and Benefits Commission which provided the federal government yet another opportunity to make patronage appointments. The failure of the current bill to introduce changes to the appointment process means that important and high paying positions in our court system will remain part of the patronage system.

However the Canadian Alliance would like to see the patronage appointment process in the judiciary overhauled to make it more transparent and publicly accountable. One option would be to strike a committee to review and interview candidates whose names would be put forward to the Prime Minister.

The input of the provinces, which are affected directly by decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada, is required in such matters. At the moment there is no input from the provinces in the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Section 69 of the Canadian Alliance declaration of policy, which is always dictated by the grassroots members, states:

We believe that a non-partisan civil service, an independent judiciary and competent leadership of government agencies, boards and commissions are vital in a democracy. We will therefore ensure appointments to these positions are made through an open and accountable process based on merit.

In conclusion, both Liberal justice ministers since 1993 have failed to introduce a victims' bill of rights, address important issues pertaining to drinking and driving or even pass a young offenders act. Instead they occupy the justice committee with administrative matters at the expense of more important issues. The country is experiencing a backlog in the courts and criminal trials are being put on hold, yet the government tinkers with the salaries of judges.

I regret that judges are somehow caught up in the legislation. We acknowledge that judges are very hard working and want to contribute to making our judicial system fairer and faster as well as to making Canada a better country. We are talking about Liberal government mismanagement.

The government's unfair treatment of Canadians who work or are otherwise involved in the criminal justice system knows no boundaries. Its inequitable treatment of Canadian workers extends all the way to the federal court benches. It does not treat the victims of crime fairly, and today we are debating a bill that does not even treat judges fairly.

The bill does not address the multitude of concerns that many Canadians have with the judicial system. My colleagues and I strongly oppose the bill unless it is amended.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to make some remarks with respect to Bill C-12, the Judges Act, which deals specifically with the compensation and remuneration of judges.

We have had an opportunity to review some of the technical amendments. These amendments correct some of the language in the bill to ensure that there is parity, that the French and English versions correspond exactly.

Some of the minor amendments are very technical in nature, for example: clause 12, line 9, removes the language “plus $2,000”; clause 23, section 44.01(6), line 9, amends the English version with “takes effect on the day this section comes into force”.

The Conservative Party supports these amendments and any attempt to ensure consistency in legislation. These amendments would affect approximately 1,000 federally appointed judges. When it comes to the issue of whether it is deserved, I would make the case that judges deserve a fair compensation package given the stress that is involved, the important work, and the ongoing and increasing complexity of the law.

It is also necessary to note the importance of independence when it comes to our judiciary. Some individuals have talked about comparing judges' salaries to those of others in the public sector. There is some danger in doing that. Judges play a very unique role, as do other public servants. However, to try to somehow bring into play the underpayment of armed forces personnel, the need to give greater compensation to the policing community, those in the administrative justice community, leaves the wrong impression and tries to diminish the importance of what judges do. It is a very complex melee that is somewhat like the pay equity argument we have embarked on at various times in the Chamber.

The complexity of the law, the way in which the law has evolved and the interpretation that goes on daily in the courtrooms across the country, is something that is very onerous for judges. We had a comprehensive bill yesterday on organized crime. It is a step in the right direction, but it is legislation that would probably lead to a number of court challenges. That emphasizes the impact of changes in legislation. It also emphasizes the necessity for judges to deal with it and to put in place a proper judicial interpretation of the legislative initiatives that are taken here.

Fortunately, in Canada we have not seen any active attempts, at least that have been reported, to influence the judiciary by organized crime, but we must be vigilant. We must maintain the scales of justice and ensure that justice continues to be blind to outside influences on decisions made by the judiciary. We must ensure that it never happens. Part of this, I would suggest, comes from a fair compensation package.

We must ensure that our judiciary is independent, at arm's length and is feeling secure in their occupation. Thus, our party would support an attempt for a fair salary to preserve judicial independence. The Conservative Party has a long standing interest in the administration of justice and in ensuring that the judiciary are given support. Much of that support must come from financial stability.

The government accepted the recommendations that came from an independent Judicial Compensation and Benefits Commission. The board made recommendations after broad consultations and examinations of all economic factors that should have been considered.

First reading of the bill occurred on February 21, 2001, and the Judges Act would implement the recommendations made by the 1999 Judicial Compensation and Benefits Commission. The legislation does not come out of thin blue air. It came about from recommendations of an independent commission. It also followed a 1997 supreme court decision that established new constitutional requirements for determining compensation, requiring every Canadian jurisdiction to have an independent, objective and effective commission. It takes away the normal allegations that we often see pertaining to interference and an unfair process.

The bill would also increase salaries and allowances, improve the judicial annuities scheme and put in place a separate life insurance plan for federally appointed judges. It would make consequential amendments to the Judges Act and Supplementary Retirement Benefits Act.

In recent years, because of the increasing complexity of the law, although there is no shortage of applicants, many judges weigh heavily the decision to leave private practice and enter into a new form of service to the law. That decision, I am sure, is one that many members can appreciate for many members of parliament have left behind other careers to come and serve their country in this Chamber. It is very much analogous to the decision that judges take when leaving their profession to serve a higher calling, to serve the courts and their country in the form of interpretation and administration of the law.

In recent years there has been growing concern for some decisions made by judges. However, I would suggest that this is not reason enough to deny that judges play a crucial role. Organized crime is on the rise in Canada. It was addressed somewhat yesterday with the introduction of a package of changes to our laws. New legislation, such as this one, goes some distance to addressing this very serious matter, but it is crucial that judges would now be required to interpret this law.

Like many other institutions, we have seen judges in recent years come under attack for their salaries and the compensation they receive when compared to the low end of compensation. It sometimes seems somewhat askew, but I would encourage people to keep in perspective the salaries that are received at the high end, that is, the salaries that are sometimes paid to athletes and movie stars, and the role they play and the return they offer to society. It is important to look at the entire scheme when one considers the pay scale.

The judicial compensation and benefits commission has been appointed to a four year mandate. It is required to consider all these factors in arriving at its recommendations. When one considers the private sector scale in the area of the law, many judges take a pay cut upon assuming a role on the bench. There are many lawyers who are making modest salaries, for example those who continue to strive to administer the law in crown attorney offices.

Legal aid is often not mentioned in these deliberations. There are many legal aid lawyers who later go on to make significant contributions in courtrooms in their current occupations. They also go on to serve the country nobly as members of the bench, as judges.

Arguably it is the best training ground. I have often compared it to a MASH unit when it comes to triage and the medical profession. Legal aid lawyers and crown attorneys who are working in provincial and supreme courts across the country go on to become fantastic judges. I have borne witness to that myself. I had the opportunity to work with some individuals who later were elevated to the bench.

Referring back to the commission, its recommendations were based on research comparing judges' salaries to lawyers' salaries in the private sector and to performance bonuses of senior federal deputy ministers. It looked at the importance of salary and benefits in attracting the best of the best, the outstanding candidates that we require to administer the law.

The Judges Act would officially establish the judicial compensation and benefits commission, requiring the commission to convene every four years and report its recommendations within nine months. There is a very strict mandate and timeframe within which it must review the adequacy of judicial compensation. The commission would also consider the economic conditions at the time, the cost of living, overall economic position of federal judges, the financial security of the judiciary to ensure judicial independence, and the need to attract the best of the best.

Recommendations are not binding but the supreme court in its decisions requires the government to publicly justify any decision and acceptance of recommendations. These salary changes have already been put on the record. They range in the area of $200,000 for the Chief Justice of Canada, the puisne judges, and various federal court judges across the country.

The increasing complex legal malaise that faces judges and lawyers is something that we must consider when weighing the question of compensation. There has been quite a lengthy commentary about the need to compensate members of the RCMP, members of our armed forces and other public servants.

It is not to deny in any way that those salaries must be reviewed and elevated as well. It is not to suggest that if we compensate judges fairly we should not be focusing attention on these areas as well, or to deny that there are other very important pieces of legislation in the legal field that we should be examining.

Other members have mentioned the need to bring forward a youth criminal justice act and the important fact that after seven years it has not happened. There is also a need to examine a plethora of other legislative initiatives. We have seen the government's failings and shortcomings when it comes to addressing issues of the day.

Our party supports the concept that we must move on a number of areas in the near future. It is not to suggest that the bill should be given any great priority. It is the government's decision to set the priorities in terms of the legislative timetable. It is in everyone's interest to move the legislation before us forward and to get on to other important issues of the day. When that happens it would allow some of these other fields to be considered. When the legislation receives passage we can then look at other areas in terms of compensation.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will briefly say a few words about the bill. It has come up in the previous parliament. We are disappointed and will not support it for the reasons the critic of my party mentioned.

I will bring up two important issues. First, I will look at the California example which could have been adopted by this bill or another bill. It deals with the issue of re-organizing our criminal justice system to make it more efficient and expeditious.

To improve convictions and make the system less expensive we should consider a public defender system. We should work with the provinces to implement a public defender system to ensure quicker, fairer and less expensive convictions.

The public defender system has worked in California. It has been compared to our present system and absolutely no difference was found in the manner or fairness of convictions. However the public defender system was found to be more expeditious and less expensive. Given the backlog in our present system, I encourage the government to look at the California model which would go a long way to increasing the efficiency of our judicial system.

The second issue is the manner in which judges are chosen. As we have heard today from members of other parties and my own, we take issue with the manner in which judges are chosen. It is not as equitable as it could be. There are other ways of doing it.

They elect judges in parts of the United States and that system works very well. U.S. judges are not chosen in the same manner as ours. Elections give people a say in selecting the judges they would face in a court of law. The election of judges is efficient at a certain level, provides for public scrutiny and allows people to compete and be evaluated for the position who would not otherwise be able to. Furthermore, candidates are judged upon their record. They are also prevented from running in the manner in which we run as members of parliament.

Lastly, I am happy to see the government's organized crime bill move toward adopting RICO style amendments. In our country, organized crime costs taxpayers about $17 billion a year according to 1996 statistics. The number doubles when we take into consideration people who are killed or injured and the psychological damage inflicted upon their families.

I encourage the government to look at amendments similar to the RICO act south of the border. RICO has enabled the U.S. to put a dent in organized crime. The tools of our judicial system for dealing with organized crime have to date been paltry. The problem is massive. There are some 18 organized crime groups within our country today. Seventy per cent of the money they generate comes from illicit drugs. That is a scourge for all of us in our communities.

The summit of the Americas will take place April 20 to 22. As host, we have an enormous opportunity to bring forth a comprehensive plan to deal with the illicit drug trade. For the first time there is agreement in South America. I met with the secretary of state and president of Colombia a month and a half ago. During my visit a great commitment was given on the part of that country, which has been racked by the drug trade, to put the issue on the table. Let us talk about a pragmatic approach to the illicit drug trade. I hope it will be put on the table and that the 34 nations attending will address it in a pragmatic way.

Here are a few solutions that can be employed. First, remove tariff and non-tariff barriers and double taxation systems for countries and expand the free trade movement.

Developing countries that are producers of illicit drugs, like Colombia, Peru and parts of Brazil, do not need aid, they need trade. If we are to help the poorest of the poor within those countries we must remove the trade barriers that impede them from being economically self-sustaining.

Kofi Annan, the secretary-general of the United Nations, stated very clearly that people in developing countries need trade barriers removed and that the western developed countries are impeding their removal. It would be far less expensive, more efficient and fairer if we removed barriers to trade.

Second, Canada and other countries of the hemisphere need to employ RICO-like anti-racketeering amendments to attack the organized crime gangs involved in the production and sale of drugs.

If we are to attack organized crime gangs we must chase the money. The people in the Hell's Angels do not wear leather. They wear Armani suits. They hide behind the law and use it to their advantage when they are being chased.

We need to make the law work for law-abiding citizens. We need to make the law work for police officers. We need to make the law work against organized crime instead of allowing crime gangs to hide behind it. That is why enacting RICO-like amendments, going after the money and business interests of crime gangs and cutting the economic legs from under them are the most efficient ways to deal with them. I encourage the government to put this on the table at the summit of the Americas.

Lastly, we need not only tougher penalties for drug traffickers but a new approach toward treatment. What we know today about drugs and neuroscience shows very clearly that drug addicts have a medical problem. I believe we need to approach addicts in a medical fashion.

There are some very good programs. Some European models have 60% one-year success rates for hardcore narcotics abusers. That is extraordinary. Why do those programs work? They work because they focus not only on detox and counselling but on medical treatment and skills and job training so that addicts can stay away from the drug environment. Getting addicts away from the drug environment is critical because re-entering that environment sets off a neural cascade within their brains that prompts them to renew the drug habit. The European model is an effective one. I can only impress upon the government to adopt it because there is an alignment of the stars.

The Latin American countries believe we should put more emphasis on consumption than on production because dealing with the issue at its source, as we have done historically, has not worked. The Americans for the first time have said very clearly that we need more emphasis on consumption. Senator McCain agreed when he was in Colombia.

In conclusion, the plan is there. The government has an opportunity to take it to the summit of Americas so that our country and our hemisphere can be a safer place to live.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.


Sue Barnes Liberal London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I presume that was a speech on the Judges Act. I heard a few sentences about it. That is the bill we are talking about.

I very much believe in the three pillars of democracy: this parliament and its elected members; a free press; and an independent judiciary. The last aspect is very important to me and I think to all members on this side of the House, contrary to what I heard in the member's speech.

The hon. member advocated the U.S. model of electing judges. He said that it was a good model. That model contradicts the independence of our own judicial system. Judicial elections in the U.S., as we have all seen on our television sets, are based on a judge's conviction rates. It is a totally different system.

I value as a citizen of the country a free and independent judiciary. I do not want my judges up for re-election. I do not want them pandering to perception, as opposed to what their job has to be, which is interpreting the law that elected members of parliament are here to put in place.

The judiciary has a responsibility. It is one pillar of a very important democracy. Far too often we are looking to some distant hill, even if it is just south of our border, when maybe we should take the time to think through these positions and value what we have here. I am very much in favour of keeping our judiciary a non-elected body.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a question of what the member believes is an independent judiciary. Does she believe that the appointment by one person, for example the Prime Minister, is an independent review of who should be sitting on the bench?

My comments in no way, shape or form reflect on our judiciary. We have many good judges, excellent judges, superb judges. However some are not. I am speaking personally when I say that at some levels of our judiciary we should give the public the opportunity to have input into who should be judging them. It is better if we have the public at large judge the judges rather than one person appoint a judge, that person being the Prime Minister.

Battle Of Vimy RidgeStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


John Finlay Liberal Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to remind my colleagues and all Canadians that next week will mark the 84th anniversary of one of the most pivotal events in our nation's history.

On Easter Monday, April 9, 1917, in what is considered one of the most important allied victories of World War I, Canadian soldiers attacked and captured Vimy Ridge. It was a costly victory that resulted in 10,602 Canadian casualties, half the attacking force, nearly 3.600 of whom made the supreme sacrifice.

However the Battle of Vimy Ridge also marked Canada's entrance on to the world stage as a sovereign country in its own right. Indeed Brigadier General Alexander Ross, a battalion commander at Vimy Ridge, later remarked that in that battle he felt he had witnessed the birth of a nation.

This Monday I ask all Canadians to join me in remembering those who fought so valiantly at Vimy Ridge for freedom and their country's nationhood.

Maury Van VlietStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, Dr. Van Vliet, president and chairperson of the 1978 Commonwealth Games, died in his sleep early Wednesday morning at the age of 87.

Dr. Van Vliet may be best remembered for his contribution to the games that put Edmonton on the sporting map before the 2001 World Championships in athletics.

He will also be remembered for building sports education at the University of Alberta, first as its director of physical education from 1945 to 1962 and then as the founding dean of the faculty of physical education from 1962 to 1976.

Dr. Van Vliet was the recipient of half a dozen honorary degrees. He was given dozens of awards and honours over his lifetime. Some of the highlights include the Order of Canada and a place in the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 1997 as a sports builder. He was a member of the University of Alberta's Wall of Fame in 1985.

On behalf of the official opposition, I express our deepest sympathies to his wife and his children.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, Canadians were shocked when U.S. President George W. Bush announced recently that he was abandoning the Kyoto protocol on global warming.

As the world's largest producer of greenhouse gases, the United States has a responsibility to live up to its environmental commitments. European leaders have acted swiftly to remind the president of his responsibility, denouncing his about-face.

Our Prime Minister has said that Canada is committed to implementing our obligations made at Kyoto by seeking recognition of our exports of clean energy to the U.S. and our sustainable forest management practices.

Environmental protection is not an option for our future. Prevailing winds spread emissions to Atlantic Canada from the U.S. northeast, so this decision will hurt people of all ages in our region. That is one more reason the president's decision is so disturbing and so wrong.

Para TranspoStatements By Members

11 a.m.


David Pratt Liberal Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, many of my constituents and indeed many citizens of Ottawa are virtual captives in their own homes because of a local Para Transpo strike. The collective agreement between the two parties expired on December 31, 2000, and the union has been on strike since March 10.

Despite the federal government appointing not one but two mediators to assist the parties in their negotiations, Para Transpo drivers remain off the job. I applaud the excellent efforts of the Minister of Labour and her staff, but I encourage everyone involved to do more.

This strike is having a very real impact on the lifestyles and everyday needs of those who rely on Para Transpo services. This regrettable and unfortunate situation cannot continue. I strongly urge the union and the employer to return to the bargaining table and make every effort to settle this dispute.

I also strongly urge concerned residents to call Laidlaw Transit and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279. Let them know that our community needs their services now.

Health Care SystemStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, because of its interest in the real concerns of Canadians, the Liberal government yesterday announced that it was launching a royal commission of inquiry on health care in Canada.

Mr. Romanow will be the sole commissioner. His report is to be submitted to the Prime Minister by November 2002.

As part of his inquiry, Mr. Romanow is being asked to examine the long term development of the health care system. He is also being asked to make recommendations on the amendments needed to maintain a universal health care system in Canada, given technological and demographic changes.

The commissioner has already indicated that he intends to undertake a real dialogue with Canadians in order to discuss the choices available to them in the 21st century.

This initiative is an example of the Liberal government's desire to improve the quality of life of Canadians.

Government Of CanadaStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government has failed to deal effectively with the agriculture and softwood lumber crises, with nurses' strikes and the health crisis, with the low dollar and high taxes, with transport and the crumbling infrastructure, with gasoline and home heating costs, and with unsafe communities and regional alienation, among others.

We must remember that the Liberals came to power by misleading Canadians on their promise to scrap, kill and abolish the GST. The Prime Minister refused to allow an independent inquiry into the Shawinigate affair.

The Liberals voted against their own red book promise of creating an independent ethics counsellor. Now, by refusing to replace the junior minister for multiculturalism for her deliberate smears, the Prime Minister has established the lowest ethics standard for cabinet in our history.

What do we call this? We call it an unaccountable, arrogant, weak and corrupt Liberal government that lacks vision.

Charles DaudelinStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Diane St-Jacques Liberal Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, it was with profound sadness that I learned this week of the death of a great artist from Granby, Charles Daudelin.

Charles Daudelin was an icon of Quebec's art history. He was one of its most versatile artists, working in almost all artistic mediums. Particularly striking were the huge and magnificent sculptures he produced over the years.

He made puppets and, with his wife Louise, operated them in various parks in Quebec, much to the delight of children. He showed work in many exhibits, some of them in other countries.

He received many awards over his lifetime, including the Paul-Émile Borduas award, the highest distinction in visual arts in Quebec. This award, which he won in 1985, recognized his dynamic contribution to integrating sculpture and architecture, and the groundbreaking role he played in the evolution of the arts in Quebec.

Part of the legacy the great Charles Daudelin left us stands on view in front of public buildings in many cities—

Charles DaudelinStatements By Members

11 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Champlain.

Béatrice Morrisseau GagnonStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Marcel Gagnon Bloc Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, Béatrice Morisseau Gagnon will celebrate her 100th birthday on April 18. She is my mother.

The eldest of 17 children, she inherited a huge task when her mother died in childbirth with the last one. After raising all of them to adulthood, she saw some go off to serve in the 1939-45 war. This courageous woman had nine children herself, and now has 105 descendants.

She knew wealth, but she came to know poverty as well when the depression started in 1929. What sustained her was her faith in life and in her Creator, and her love of music. Her piano was always there when she was feeling low. Without a shadow of a doubt, she can say “Mission accomplished”.

On behalf of her 105 descendants, including Laurent, who is but a few hours old as I speak, and whom I welcome into this world, I send my mother all of our love and best wishes for a happy one hundredth birthday.

Béatrice Morrisseau GagnonStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.