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House of Commons Hansard #151 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was police.

Topics

Presence in GalleryOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Presence in GalleryOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. The Chair has received notice from the hon. government House leader that he wishes to raise a point of order with respect to the matter we heard yesterday.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address the matter of privilege raised yesterday by the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River.

I regret that yesterday I was not available to make comments because of the preparation work necessary in order to say what I am about to say today. I do not wish to dispute, of course, in any way the substance or the gravity of the matter raised by the hon. member, but I wish to make a few points that arise from the very importance and gravity of the issues at hand in the hope that it might assist the Chair on making a decision at some point.

The matter involves the finding of a committee of this House that a witness intentionally misinformed it. I suggest it is essential that in your ruling, Mr. Speaker, you should make it very clear to every citizen who may come before a committee of the House the responsibilities that he or she has for providing that committee, and therefore by extension this House, with full and truthful information and the consequences that may follow from a failure by anyone to uphold those responsibilities.

It is not sufficient for us, as a legislative body, merely to take action in an individual case. It should be made clear to all citizens what standards must be maintained by providing information to the House and its committees. I believe that in your ruling, whenever Mr. Speaker is available to make it, that you should endeavour to provide the citizens with a clear statement of these responsibilities. I do believe that we would then have a document that would greatly assist us in the future.

I also hope that in your ruling, Mr. Speaker, you will also attempt to provide the House with an outline of its options should you find a prima facie case of contempt with the issue that is brought before Your Honour. That is the second issue before us. Many of us recall the instance of December 22, 1976 when the House chose to declare a newspaper editorial to be a contempt, but did not pursue the matter further.

We are also familiar with the usual response of the House to prima facie findings by the Speaker, which is to refer the matter to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs for thorough investigation and recommendation as to subsequent action. In other words, that committee, should that be Your Honour's finding to refer it there, would deal strictly with that issue of contempt as opposed to other issues generally.

I have seen, however, some speculation in the media that it may be proposed, should a prima facie case be found, to summon a private citizen to the Bar of the House to be questioned and possibly punished. Such an event has not occurred for many years, perhaps almost a century. I believe that before it is proposed the House should follow such a course, it is essential that members understand in detail what this would involved with regard to: first, the summoning of the citizen and what would happen if he or she could not be found or refused to attend; second, how questions are posed to a person at the Bar, including the need for a debatable motion--and perhaps the Chair could indicate to us whether the motion is debatable-- to approve such a question; and third, the options that are available to the House should it deem punishment required.

I do believe that all these elements would be necessary to hear from in Mr. Speaker's ruling in that regard. That is really the purpose of my intervention today.

The reason I believe such an exposition from the Chair is necessary at this time is precisely because of the gravity of the issues and because it has been so many years since the House has pursued some of these options.

We must remember that a citizen has no appeal from a decision of this House. That is a further issue I invite your honour to consider. It is therefore incumbent upon the House to ensure that it maintains the constitutional dignity of the House and that it is careful to ensure that citizens at large perceive it to be doing precisely that, to be acting on the highest grounds according to the principles of natural justice, more particularly, not to be acting at the improper expense of an individual citizen's rights and freedoms.

For this reason, Mr. Speaker, I ask that your ruling be as comprehensive as possible in order to provide the clear guidance that I believe the House requires and indeed that all Canadians would no doubt want to hear.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Paul Forseth Canadian Alliance New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am quite surprised at the response from the House leader. I would have thought that in these kinds of cases there would have been some advance notice and discussion. I detect some angling for a moving away from the House being able to deal with this issue in a proper manner.

I was very guarded in my comments yesterday by outlining just the last page words in the report itself where it talked about the gravity of the offence.

The House leader is talking in some respects about general deterrence. That is my point: we cannot merely get to a situation where the House says that something is very grave and should not be done, but then fail to act.

I have asked this question. How bad do things have to be before democracy will be defended? In the contents of the report itself it very clearly outlines how Parliament has been offended. Here is the test case for the government and for members of this House as a whole to ensure that democracy itself is defended.

We are coming into Remembrance Week, and I wonder why we have graves of brave Canadians around the world. For what were they fighting? At some point Parliament has to defend its independent role. Parliament is not the government, and in the face of Parliament, the highest court of the land, this House has to defend itself, not only for its own convenience but for future generations. That is why 20 or 30 years from now, when perhaps a similar circumstance is looked at, it will be said, “What was done?”

I bring my comments back to the last page of the committee report to emphasize in the strongest terms that indeed, as has been expressed in the media, I have expressed my opinions that we should push this to the full extent of redress that is available to the House and that has never been lost. We should speak in the 21st century and not rely on 19th century remedies.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think the House understands the predicament we are in, in this matter. However, there have been discussions and, based on the ninth report of the standing committee, the basis for the opinion of the committee that there is prima facie contempt is clear and understandable.

There were discussions yesterday among all parties that it was the intent of all parties not to extend the process to the fullest extent and indeed waive questions and simply deal with the question of contempt.

If the suggestion of the hon. House leader is followed, this matter goes into some sort of limbo. I want to assure you, Mr. Speaker, the committee was very concerned that this matter be disposed of in an expeditious manner, because employees are in a state of limbo themselves, wondering whether there are any further consequences here.

The committee is clear that there must be some expeditious closure. Consequently, I would move, and seek the unanimous consent of the House, that this House do find Mr. George Radwanski in contempt of Parliament, without debate.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I was ready to rule on a question of privilege raised yesterday by the hon. member for Scarborough--Rouge River but then I was notified that the government House leader wished to intervene. He has done so and I want some time to take the suggestions he has made to the Chair under consideration before I make my ruling on this matter.

I understand that some hon. members--and the hon. member for Mississauga South has expressed this--wish to move expeditiously. I propose dealing with the matter as quickly as I reasonably can and I hope to come back to the House tomorrow with an answer to the issues raised by the government House leader. I think it is important that they be dealt with at least in part or whatever parts I think reasonable when I come around to making the ruling on this, but I will move expeditiously.

I think that disposes of the question of privilege.

Now, is there unanimous consent for the member for Mississauga South to move his motion?

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Message from the SenateOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following bill, to which the concurrence of this House is desired, Bill S-10, an act concerning personal watercraft in navigable waters.

Pursuant to Standing Order 135(2), the bill is deemed to have been read the first time in order for a second reading at the next sitting of the House.

(Motion agreed to and read the first time)

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to raise a point of order on answers I have received from the Minister of National Revenue over the last three days.

One of the primary reasons question period exists is so that elected representatives can bring the concerns of their constituents to the attention of the government and ministers of the Crown, and so the government, through ministers, can respond to those concerns. Canadians ought to have the right to expect those responses to be given in good faith and that they can trust the response is the position of their government.

We can all accept from time to time that there will be mistakes or that the information required is not available. This why we on this side of the House understand and respect it when a minister says that he or she does not have the answer but that he or she will look into the matter.

On Monday, I asked a question on a matter of very great concern to my community dealing with a facility already under construction in my riding for the inspection of U.S.-bound trains. This facility would require trains to slow down substantially, causing further traffic tie-ups in my community, as well as security risk issues. The minister told the House, and I will quote from Hansard :

I can assure the member opposite the actions that are being taken are both appropriate and well considered.

The very next day on the same subject, the minister told the House, and again I quote from Hansard :

I can tell the House that no project has been approved—

After that question I asked one of my staff to go immediately down to the site. They took pictures of the actual construction equipment that is operating and continues to operate today on that site, and somebody has approved that work.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

That sounds to me like a debate. The hon. member for Windsor West clearly has a disagreement with the answers he has received but he knows he has wonderful remedies under the standing orders for this and that he can ask for a late show debate on the evening of his choice.

I am afraid that to get into an argument about whether or not a question or an answer is accurate is something that he cannot do under the guise of a point of order. He has to have some procedural problem here and, on the face of anything I have heard so far, there does not seem to be one.

I would invite him to submit a question for a late show debate at the earliest opportunity. I think he asked a question today, if I am not mistaken, so maybe he can do one before 4 p.m. which I believe is the deadline. I think that is the appropriate way to deal with this matter.

On another point of order, the hon. member for St. John's West.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, there is a real possibility that the House of Commons will be in the state of suspension after this week. It is widely rumoured that the Prime Minister will stop the House from meeting with the use of prorogation of the session.

We all know that the Auditor General has in preparation a major report covering a number of matters. If Parliament is prorogued the report would remain secret until a new session is convened. Under the Constitution that could be a year from now.

Each of the sections of the Auditor General Act governing the reporting of the Auditor General to the House contains the instruction for the conveyance of the report from the Auditor General to the Speaker and from the Speaker to the House of Commons.

It is what the Speaker does with the report that should concern each of us.

In various sections of the act it states:

--the Speaker of the House of Commons shall lay each such report before the House of Commons forthwith after receiving it or, if that House is not then sitting, on any of the first fifteen days on which that House is sitting after the Speaker receives it.

There is an obligation on the part of the Speaker to table any report. It is a matter of practice rather than statute that a report is kept confidential until it is actually tabled.

On numerous occasions we on this side of the House have argued that the House should be the first recipient of such reports in order to protect the rights of members to see the reports and to be able to respond to them inside or outside the House.

I stress that this is a matter of practice and this has been reinforced by many assertions that premature disclosure of such a document is contemptuous to the House.

However we know that the House has the ability to waive any claim if it wishes and, in this case, I think most Canadians would agree there is greater public interest to be served by getting this report into the hands of the members and the wider community, including the public servants and departments touched by the Auditor General's report.

Simply put, it is not in the public interest to have this report remain secret because of a claim that the House of Commons requires to see it first.

Certainly the House will want—and the act requires—the report be tabled and be received officially into the records of the House. That action triggers certain things, including the referral of the report to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts under the authority of the Standing Orders.

However it is only practice that keeps the report secret between the time it is received by the Speaker and the moment the Speaker tables it.

I am not prepared to argue that the Speaker should unilaterally release the anticipated report. I do argue that the House should give an instruction to the Speaker to make the report public if Parliament has been prorogued.

While there is an assumption that there will be a new session of this Parliament, this is only conjecture. The election could be called at any time and this report would remain secret from Canadians until after an election. This is not in the public interest.

There is a remedy, Mr. Speaker. Without altering the Speaker's statutory duty to table the report in any new session and this is important the report should be tabled in the new session so that the automatic reference to the public accounts committee is not compromised or laid open to question. Without altering the duty to table, the House could waive its claim to the right of first access and the Speaker could be empowered to make the report available to members and the public when it is received.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I ask for unanimous consent to move that notwithstanding any practice of the House, when the Speaker receives the report from the Auditor General during a period when Parliament has been prorogued, the Speaker shall cause the report to be made available to members and the public immediately; and that the House, in this instance, hereby waives its undoubted right to confidentiality of the report until it is laid before the House.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for St. John's West has, frankly, pulled a fast one. He has made a speech in support of a consent motion that he said was a point of order. I thought he was going to suggest a point of order that required some kind of ruling from the Chair, but clearly he did not. He came up with a motion at the end instead.

While I enjoyed the hon. member's argument, I thought he was going to make some cogent argument that dealt with the rules of the House and invite a ruling from the Chair but he did not.

Therefore this is not a point of order at all. However is there unanimous consent for the hon. member to move his motion?

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

I am afraid there is no consent. I hope the next time he will tell us that is what he is going to do at the beginning and face the consequences rather than make a speech.

National Defence ActRoutine Proceedings

November 5th, 2003 / 3:25 p.m.

Markham Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to section 96 of the Statutes of Canada, 1998, chapter 35, I have the pleasure to table, in both official languages, the first independent review by the Right Hon. Antonio Lamer, PC, CC, CD, of the provisions and operation of Bill C-25, an act to amend the National Defence Act, and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

I also have the honour to table, in both official languages, a second document on the comments by the Minister of National Defence with respect to the first independent review of Bill C-25, an act to amend the National Defence Act, and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

International Labour OrganizationRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Bramalea—Gore—Malton—Springdale Ontario

Liberal

Gurbax Malhi LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to article 19 of the International Labour Organization constitution, member states are required to introduced new ILO conventions and recommendations to the competent authorities.

I am pleased to submit to the House, in both official languages, two copies of the Canadian position with respect to recommendation 193, a protocol to convention 155, and recommendation 194 adopted by the International Labour Organization conference in June 2002.

Westbank First Nation Self-government AgreementRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Miramichi New Brunswick

Liberal

Charles Hubbard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, today I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the Westbank First Nation self-government agreement signed October 3, 2003.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 26 petitions.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Comuzzi Liberal Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour today, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), to present, in both official languages, the report of the 44th annual meeting of the Canada-United States InterParliamentary Group which was held in Niagara-on-the-Lake from May 15-19.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the 53rd report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the Standing Orders relating to delegated legislation.

If the House gives its consent, I intend to move concurrence in the 53rd report later this day

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

David Pratt Liberal Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) your committee, as a result of the briefing received from the National Defence and Canadian Forces ombudsman concerning his report, “Unfair Deductions From SISIP Payments to Former CF Members”, dated October 30, 2003, unanimously adopted a motion that urges the defence minister and government to accept this report and enact the recommendations forthwith.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Diane Marleau Liberal Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the ninth report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

The committee has considered the issue of cases involving the detention of Canadian citizens in certain foreign countries and calls upon the Government of Canada to initiate an independent public inquiry into the Maher Arar case, including the examination of the role that government departments and agencies may have played in his deportation by the United States and his subsequent incarceration in Syria.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations and negotiations among all parties in the House and I would seek unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That the amendment made by the Senate to Bill C-459, an act to establish Holocaust Memorial Day, be now read a second time and concurred in.

This would be forthwith without debate. To clarify, it is to add one word referring to both Houses of Parliament.