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House of Commons Hansard #117 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was federal.

Topics

Privilege

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on April 11, 2003 by the hon. member for St.-Hyacinthe—Bagot concerning the conduct of the Chair during several committee meetings of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources.

I would like to begin by thanking the hon. member for St.-Hyacinthe—Bagot for having raised this matter, as well as the hon. Minister of State and Leader of the Government for his intervention in the discussion.

The hon. member for St.-Hyacinthe—Bagot first raised his concerns regarding proceedings of the Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources Committee on April 3, 2003. At that time he claimed that certain procedural irregularities had taken place relating to the use of the previous question during debate. He also raised the issue of the use of unparliamentary language by the Chair of the committee

On April 7, 2003, I delivered my ruling on that point of order and took the opportunity at that time to remind members of our usual practice with respect to procedural irregularities in a committee. Marleau and Montpetit, at page 858, states:

If a committee desires that some action be taken against those disrupting its proceedings, it must report the situation to the House.

At page 128, we read:

Speakers have consistently ruled that, except in the most extreme situations, they will only hear questions of privilege arising from committee proceedings upon presentation of a report from the committee, which directly deals with the matter and not as a question of privilege raised by an individual Member.

I went on to state that the matter should be dealt with in the committee. Order and decorum in committee is an internal matter and the judgment of what is or is not acceptable must be made there. I will not review the portion of my earlier ruling relating to the moving of the previous question, since that issue was fully dealt with on April 7 and is not relevant to today’s discussion.

I will instead direct my remarks to the hon. member's concerns related to the conduct of the committee chair, including the use of unparliamentary language.

As members may recall, prior to the delivery of my April 7 ruling, the chair of the aboriginal affairs, northern development and natural resources committee, the hon. member for Nickel Belt, rose in the House to withdraw the remarks complained of by the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot and to apologize to all members of the House, especially to members of the standing committee, for the language he used in the heat of the moment.

In my ruling, while expressing appreciation for the gesture made by the Chair of the committee in offering an apology in the House, I pointed out that it was in committee that the issue needed to be resolved and it was there that the relationship between the Chair of the committee and the hon. member for St.-Hyacinthe—Bagot needed to be repaired

Despite the suggestion of the Speaker that members of the committee attempt to resolve the issues previously raised, it would appear the hon. member for St.-Hyacinthe–Bagot continues to have grievances about the committee’s proceedings on Bill C-7.

On Tuesday, June 10, 2003, the chair of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources wrote to the Speaker to provide further explanation on the issues at hand. I thank him for doing so and I have shared the content of his letter with the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.

Our parliamentary system is predicated on freedom of thought and expression and indeed encourages active debate. I would remind hon. members that conflict and differences of opinion are inherent in the work we do as members of Parliament. On the other hand, members are expected to conduct themselves with decorum and to show respect for their colleagues in committee just as they are in this place. Establishing and maintaining a working environment in committee that respects both these principles is entirely within the responsibility of the committee and its members.

While it is regrettable that there continues to be tension between members of the standing committee, I would point out once again that there has been no report from the committee. Therefore, the matter remains one which, in the first instance, the committee itself must deal with.

The reluctance of previous Speakers, and of myself on earlier occasions, to intervene in the business of committees is procedurally well founded. Accordingly, as was the case the last time the hon. member brought this matter to the House, I can find no basis for a question of privilege, nor am I willing to intervene in matters that ought properly, and indeed still can be, addressed by the committee itself.

Business of the House

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

Since today is the final allotted day for the supply period ending June 23, 2003, the House will go through the usual procedures to consider and dispose of the supply bill.

In view of recent procedures, do hon. members agree that this bill be now distributed?

Business of the House

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the House

10:10 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, there has been consultation among all parties this morning and there has been consent among all House leaders for the following motion. There are actually two of them. On one I will need a few minutes more, but on this one there is unanimous consent and I therefore would like to submit it to the House. I move:

That all questions necessary to dispose of ways and means proceedings No. 7 be put and decided immediately after the business of supply is disposed of later this day.

Business of the House

10:10 a.m.

The Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the House

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

June 12th, 2003 / 10:10 a.m.

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-45, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal liability of organizations).

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved for leave to present Bill C-46, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (capital markets fraud and evidence-gathering).

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, entitled “HIV/AIDS and the Humanitarian Catastrophe in sub-Saharan Africa”.

This report is the work of our Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Development, which is chaired by the hon. member for Mount Royal.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Judi Longfield Liberal Whitby—Ajax, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, entitled “Raising Adult Literacy Skills: The Need for a Pan-Canadian Response”.

The committee is extremely concerned that 40% of working age Canadians lack the necessary literacy skills required for successful participation in our rapidly changing workforce. We have tabled a report with 21 recommendations that we hope will address this.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the clerk, Danielle Bélisle, and our outstanding researchers, Chantal Collin and Kevin Kerr.

I also would like to table the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, entitled “Building a Brighter Future for Urban Aboriginal Children”. The chair of the subcommittee, the hon. member for Don Valley West, has worked extremely hard. He and his committee have eight recommendations that hope to address the concerns of urban aboriginal children.

Finally, I have the honour to table the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, entitled “Listening to Canadians: A First View of the Future of the Canada Pension Plan Disability Program”. The member for St. Paul's and her committee have done an outstanding job with their e-consultation and I know the House would like to congratulate all the people involved.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Wood Liberal Nipissing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs, entitled “Honouring the Pledge: Ensuring Quality Long-Term Care for Veterans”. Pursuant to Standing Order 109 the committee requests a government response within 150 days.

Also I would like to take a few seconds to express my personal thanks to some people for their dedication and help in the preparation of this report. First I would like to thank Diane Deschamps, the clerk of the subcommittee, whose leadership and organizational skills helped keep the committee and me on track and on time, Michel Rossignol, who authored the report, and Wolf Koerner from the Parliamentary Research Branch.

I would like to thank the staff and administrators of all the facilities we visited, regional and provincial authorities and Veterans Affairs Canada officials. Most of all, I must express our deep gratitude to the veterans themselves, who shared their personal thoughts and ideas, quite openly I might add, with members of the committee.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Tom Wappel Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, entitled “The 2001 Fraser River Salmon Fishery”.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government provide a comprehensive response within 150 days of the tabling of this report.

The main thrust of this report is that the 2001 Fraser River salmon fishery was badly managed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Among the reasons for this we find that the pilot sales program failed to do what it was intended to do, which was to bring order and legality to the aboriginal fishery and stability to the commercial fishery. In order to avoid a disastrous repetition of this 2001 salmon fishery, the committee recommends, among numerous other recommendations, returning to a single commercial fishery for all Canadians.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Liberal Stormont—Dundas—Charlottenburgh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Special Committee on the Modernization and Improvement of the Procedures of the House of Commons, as well as the committee's fifth report with respect to the taking of divisions by electronic means.

The task of modernizing and improving the procedures and practices of the House is never complete. We must continually review and evaluate how we do things. We hope that this report, like its predecessor in 2001, will be a contribution to improve the House and the work of its members.

The issue of electronic voting has been discussed and studied by members over the last number of years. During its work, the committee decided to table a separate report on the question of the principle of electronic voting for consideration by members of the House.

Because the committee's recommendations had to be unanimous, there were some it was unable to make. However, those it has put forward have broad support and represent attainable solutions that take into consideration diverse interests with regard to context and modern requirements.

I would like to thank my colleagues on the committee for their candour and the generous spirit of cooperation they brought to this exercise. I also want to thank their staff as well as staff in procedural services for their technical assistance.

Finally, on behalf of the committee, I especially want to recognize the contribution and grace under pressure of James Robertson, our Library of Parliament researcher, and to thank the clerks of the committee, Audrey O'Brien and Diane Diotte.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the 39th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the reports of the electoral boundaries commissions for British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. Pursuant to subsection 22(1) of the act, the committee hereby recommends that the period of 30 sitting days provided for the consideration of objections to these reports be extended by a further 15 days. If the House gives its consent, I intend to move concurrence in this 39th report later this day.

I would like to thank for their work the members of the subcommittee, the staff of the subcommittee and all members who made presentations to the subcommittee on riding boundaries.

If the House concurs in this motion, this subcommittee would be able to continue its work even if the House of Commons should be suspended for the summer.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Gouk Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-443, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

Mr. Speaker, my bill deals with the provision of statutory release which, in fact, requires people to be released from prison after serving two-thirds of their sentence, even if they have done absolutely nothing to earn that leave.

Canadians are appalled that someone, for example, who is sentenced to 12 years gets out after 8 years, having not done anything to earn that parole. We support the concept of parole and early release so that people are out under supervision to reintegrate, but only if they have done something to earn it.

This bill would address that and hopefully change things so that criminals incarcerated in jail would realize they have to mend their ways if they want to be released before the end of their full sentence.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment SubcommitteeRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Subcommittee has been working very diligently the last few weeks to try to hear all members who filed objections to the reports of the electoral boundaries commissions for British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.

The subcommittee had just 30 sitting days in which to hear 10 members from British Columbia, 28 members from Ontario, and 29 members from Quebec. The reporting deadline for all three provinces is next Monday, June 16. Despite the subcommittee's best efforts, production difficulties will not allow our committee to deliver its report and evidence to the Speaker in time to meet the deadline.

In order to allow members' objections to the electoral boundaries reports to be forwarded to the commissions, I move:

That, notwithstanding the Standing Orders and the usual practices of this House, the Subcommittee on Electoral Boundaries Readjustment be empowered to file any or all of its reports with the Clerk of the House when the House is not sitting, and that any report so filed be deemed to be the report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and to have been laid on the Table.

This would allow the subcommittee, in terms of tabling reports in the House, to act on behalf of its main committee should the House not be sitting in days ahead. Otherwise it would be necessary to call the full committee to approve the report in order that the committee could table it with you, Mr. Speaker.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment SubcommitteeRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

The Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment SubcommitteeRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the House gives its consent, I move that the 39th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs presented to the House earlier this day be concurred in.

My first motion allowed the subcommittee to table reports in place of the main committee. This allows the subcommittee to continue its work, if necessary, should the House close down for the summer.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

The Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I move that the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Official Languages, presented on Wednesday, April 30, be concurred in.

Before I get into my remarks, there are two things I wish to state. First, I will not be voting either for or against concurrence of this report because this matter has been brought to your attention on a couple of occasions that, given the content of the report which was adopted by the committee and reported in the House, it might involve a conflict or perception of conflict.

Even though I am moving this motion so that I can seize the House of the content and the subject matter in order to avoid any perception of conflict, I will not be voting for or against this report. I shall abstain if ever it comes to a vote.

Second, I will make all of my remarks in English in order for some Canadians who might be listening and in particular the member who is involved in this matter so he can follow the debate in his own language.

Points of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

The Speaker

Before the hon. member continues, I wish to make a ruling on a point of order that was previously raised in respect of this matter.

The situation before us is this. The hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier has risen to move concurrence in the sixth report of his committee and, in doing so, has provoked a point of order as to the acceptability of his moving concurrence in a report in which he may be perceived to have a pecuniary interest.

The sixth report transmits to the House the following resolution of the Standing Committee on Official Languages adopted April 29, 2003 , and reported to the House on April 30. It reads as follows:

It was agreed,--That the Standing Committee on Official Languages express its support for the initiative of Mauril Bélanger, M.P. (Ottawa-Vanier), in the Quigley v. Canada (House of Commons) case, and request the House of Commons suggest to its Board of Internal Economy to make available a maximum budget of $30,000 to cover a portion of the legal fees incurred by Mr. Bélanger for his role as intervener in this case.

However, Standing Order 21 provides as follows.

No Member is entitled to vote upon any question in which he or she has a direct pecuniary interest, and the vote of any Member so interested will be disallowed.

The House will recall that a point of order was raised on Thursday, May 1, 2003, by the hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast concerning the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Official Languages and arguing that the chair signing the report, which directly concerned his interest, was not in order.

In that case, the Chair explained that the reimbursement referred to concerned legal costs incurred by the hon. member as a third party intervener and not, strictly speaking, a grant of money to the member personally, and noted that there had been no suggestion that the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier stood to receive any direct monetary gain.

I then went on to review the very strict interpretation that has always been given to Standing Order 21 relating to conflict of interest. The House of Commons Procedure and Practice at page 194 states:

--the Standing Orders of the House provide that Members may not vote on questions in which they have direct pecuniary interests; any such vote will be disallowed. The pecuniary interest must be immediate and personal, and belong specifically to the person whose vote is contested.

Then again, on May 12, the hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast rose to contest that the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier had filed a notice of motion for concurrence in the sixth report. The Chair noted the objections and said he would return to this matter in the event the motion was moved, and today that has happened.

I have reviewed the arguments presented in this case, both on May 12 and today, and I can find no grounds for ruling the motion out of order. Standing Order 21 is quite explicit that the prohibition relates to voting. The hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier has explained already that he will not be voting on the motion he has proposed and the Chair is, accordingly, satisfied that it is in order for him to move the concurrence motion and debate may proceed accordingly.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will begin by giving a brief chronology of the events leading up to this day and perhaps into the near future.

In the spring of 2000, a gentleman by the name of Louis Quigley, who is a resident of Riverview near Moncton, New Brunswick, wrote to the Commissioner of Official Languages of the day complaining about not being able to follow the debates in the House of Commons in his own language. Mr. Quigley is an anglophone and the cable distributor in his municipality offered strictly the floor sound.

Whenever someone intervened in the House in French, he could not follow that discussion and interventions. This is because the cable distributor for Riverview has opted to only broadcast the floor sound, instead of broadcasting two channels, one in English and one in French.

Mr. Quigley wrote to the Commissioner of Official Languages in the spring of 2000. In October 2000 the Commissioner of Official Languages tabled the reports of the inquiry that was conducted in this matter. The reports concluded that the Official Languages Act obliges the House of Commons to ensure that all citizens of Canada have an equal access to the debates of the House of Commons in both of Canada's official languages.

In December 2000, after the report of the Commissioner of Official Languages had not been accepted by the Board of Internal Economy of the House of Commons, Mr. Quigley sought redress at the Federal Court Trial Division, as the Official Languages Act entitled him to do.

On December 5, 2001, the case was heard in Halifax. It was a case where the Commissioner of Official Languages was granted intervener status defending the recommendations of her committee.

On June 5, 2002, Judge O'Keefe of the Federal Court Trial Division ruled in the Quigley case and stated that indeed the House of Commons was subject to the Official Languages Act, with special reference to article 25 of that act. Judge O'Keefe ordered the House of Commons to ensure that where its debates were available to Canadians that they be available in both official languages within a year.

One June 21, 2002, the Board of Internal Economy appealed the decision of the Federal Court Trial Division. On July 29, 2002, the Standing Joing Committee on Official Languages issued a press release after it had met stating essentially that: first, it welcomed the decision of Judge O'Keefe of the Federal Court Trial Division; second, it regretted the decision by the Board of Internal Economy to appeal that decision; and third, it would consider seeking for itself intervener status.

On September 16, 2002, Parliament was prorogued and all committees were disbanded.

On September 27, 2002, and it gets a little complicated here and that is why these things have to be put on the record, the Attorney General of Canada advised the Federal Court that it would not seek a leave to appeal this decision. It was satisfied and accepted the decision of the Federal Court Trial Division.

On October 10, 2002, the other place made a decision to create its own official languages committee, thereby causing the House to review its own regulations to have its own standing committee. There was some delay in setting up the committee, which occurred on November 7, 2002.

In that timeframe the decision to seek intervener status had to be made because the ability to do so was closing. Acting on my own, but with the full knowledge of the members of the official languages committee, I sought intervener status. There were no objections from Mr. Quigley and no objections from the Commissioner of Official Languages. The Board of Internal Economy also had no objections as long as I sought it personally, which I did.

On November 22, 2002, I obtained intervener status in this case, which I believe might be heard at the end of September 2003 in Halifax.

The reason why I and the committee felt it was important to seek intervener status was because we felt that the House of Commons was subject to the Official Languages Act and that the invocation of privilege, although we recognized privilege, had its limits.

In this case our view is that it is up to the House to decide whether it wishes its debates to be broadcast, and no one will ever question that privilege, certainly no member of the committee. However once that decision has been made, it is our view, mine in particular, that the House must ensure that these debates are available to all citizens through their cable distributors in both of Canada's official languages.

As the past co-chair of the joint committee and current chair of the Standing Committee on Official Languages, I thought it was my responsibility, as it is that of the committee, to ensure that the Official Languages Act was respected. The act itself gives such a mandate to the Standing Committee on Official Languages. Therefore it has had an interest in this issue since day one.