Mr. Speaker, I will forgo the details of the committee chair's report, simply to say that he indicated at what great length there were hearings and discussions across the country.
The bill has now been returned to the House. We are at report stage. The government itself has introduced new amendments, which indicate that in its own judgment the original bill was flawed.
We must remember the purpose of report stage. In speaking about committee stage and report stage, the Speaker said on March 21, 2001:
Accordingly, I would strongly urge all members and all parties to avail themselves fully of the opportunity to propose amendments during committee stage so that the report stage can return to the purpose for which it was created, namely for the House to consider the committee report and the work the committee has done, and to do such further work as it deems necessary to complete detailed consideration of the bill.
Mr. Speaker, it is impossible for the House to consider the work that the committee has done without the transcripts of the committee debates. The work of the committee extends beyond the passage of amendments.
The committee travelled. It took evidence. The committee debated and deliberated on the record. Why would it keep and publish a transcript if it were not primarily for the reason of assisting the House at this report stage and at third reading?
Members of the House are entitled to have the entire case in front of them before we are called upon to judge the work of the committee. I make this case emphatically. We are entitled to have it “dans les deux langues officielles du Canada”, in both official languages of Canada.
These transcripts are not yet available in both official languages. Members of the House were and are today precluded from being able to examine the work of the committee in their language of choice. If we cannot know the evidence, we cannot decide if amendments are needed at the report stage.
The Speaker should not assume that the report stage is simply a matter of setting out party positions. At the report stage all members of the House, especially those who are not members of the committee, have an opportunity to propose amendments. The Chair should not assume that members are always acting as party representatives. There may well be members, who have an interest in the bill, who may have been shut out of the process by their parties or for other reasons. I think, for example, of the member for LaSalle—Émard who is known to have an interest in this matter.
The report stage is the members' opportunity to suggest amendments. However they cannot do that in an informed way unless the full record of evidence taken by the committee is available in both languages.
All members, regardless of party affiliation and regardless of the language they speak, have that right. The committee blues are not in both languages. They are in the language used in debate, but they are not available in translation. This puts a large number of unilingual members at a disadvantage and makes it impossible for them to consider the work done by the standing committee.
The majority of the committee's discussions were held in English. It was almost impossible for the more or less unilingual francophones to understand exactly what was happening during the committee's debates.
As of yesterday at least six meetings, including the most contentious and important meetings, have not been available in both official languages.
One thing is certain, if committee evidence is withheld from members in a language they can understand it is not likely that they will propose amendments.
Bill C-7 is about the rights of first nations. The government is now infringing on the linguistic rights of the members of the House by calling the bill for House consideration before members have available the full record of the standing committee.
The government is making it impossible for members to do the job the Speaker described in the ruling of March 21, “to consider the work the committee has done”.
I want to quote the Constitution of Canada, the charter of rights--