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House of Commons Hansard #108 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cmhc.

Topics

Wage Earner Protection Program ActRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

York Centre Ontario

Liberal

Ken Dryden Liberalfor the Minister of Industry

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-55, an act to establish the Wage Earner Protection Program Act, to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

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

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Beauséjour New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 3rd, 2005 / 12:10 p.m.

Ottawa—Vanier Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger LiberalMinister of Internal Trade and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I propose:

That, pursuant to Standing Order 53.1, on June 7, 2005, a take note debate shall take place on the subject of supply management.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

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

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

In my opinion, the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

A recorded division will be deferred until Monday, June 6.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The hon. Minister of Justice and Attorney General still had two minutes left in the time for questions and comments. The hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be brief because I do not have much time left. I have two comments and one question.

My first comment has to do with the importance for the minister of maintaining the integrity of the judiciary, as he has said himself in his speech. This is why he decided against lodging a complaint in Michel Robert's case. However, his predecessor lodged one in 1996 in the case of Justice Bienvenue who had made discriminatory remarks against women and Jews. The then Minister of Justice is now Deputy Prime Minister.

My second comment has to do with the representation of minorities in the judiciary. Going back to the point made by the Minister of Justice and the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, if this is so important, can the minister tell us how many judges are bilingual now, as was asked three times during the April 19, 2005 meeting of the Standing Committee on Official Languages?

In closing, the minister is always telling us that merit is the only argument or the only factor in the judicial appointment process. I have always believed that in politics, rhetoric has to be based on facts. If such is the case, how does he explain that 60% of the Quebec lawyers appointed to a judgeship at the federal level since 2000 have contributed money to the Liberal Party of Canada? If we restrict ourselves to private practice lawyers appointed to the bench, that percentage goes up to 72.4%.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Mount Royal Québec

Liberal

Irwin Cotler LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, concerning the bilingual judges, a study of the matter is under way so we can give an answer.

As to the second question, if there is a certain percentage, it is no more than an allegation. Besides, there is a big difference between a correlation and a causal relation.

I will repeat what I have always said: there is no link between political background and the process of appointment to the judiciary. This process is based on merit only, as I said in my remarks this morning.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles. This motion is similar to another one that was introduced during another Parliament. I agree with the principle of this motion. It is a very intelligent initiative, and it is very good for our country, for the judges, and for the whole system in general.

This motion would result in the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness having a subcommittee created with a mandate to examine the process for the appointment of the federal judiciary and make recommendations for reform. Clearly, the primary goal of those recommendations would be to eliminate political partisanship from the process, which is something we in the Conservative Party completely embrace and favour.

If adopted, this particular process would be completed by October 31, 2005, which would cause a great deal of activity over the summer, but that is what we are here to do. Certainly, this is an issue of great importance.

Before I begin my remarks on the substance of the motion, I must put personal reservations and concerns on the record regarding the wording at the beginning of the motion, wherein the hon. member indicates that we would condemn or, in the words used here, denounce the opinion of a judge. This strikes me as bringing this motion sadly into the realm of political commentary on the judiciary. In my view this somewhat undermines the actual principle and spirit of the motion, which is to move away from partisanship and not indulge in it further.

I have had discussions with the hon. member and I understand his passion for this issue. My own belief is that it would be preferential if in fact we could remove that particular reference and have the issue itself referred to a judicial counsel in the province of Quebec where it would be dealt with in an internal fashion and by an appropriate panel of peers as to the appropriateness or in this case the inappropriateness of this comment that is on the record now sadly outside of a courtroom, which again is problematic.

The removal of the first line would go a long way to improve this motion quite frankly. Having said that, this is a matter that should be above the political games that sometimes get in the way of motions such as this. We in the Conservative Party favour the creation, cleansing or purging of the politics from the political process in which appointments are made to courts throughout the land. They should be transparent and free from political interference.

I have a great deal of respect for the hon. member and the work that went into this motion. I appreciate his longstanding passion and commitment to this issue. He is very consistent in his work in the House and in committee.

I believe the motion may not be seen to be on the radar screens of many Canadians but it should be, in particular in light of some very disturbing allegations of Liberal patronage appointments to the bench that stem from testimony given by a Liberal at the Gomery commission.

I would say that many Canadians, particularly those who are in the practice of law or who are associated with the judiciary, are greatly concerned, and with cause, over these damning allegations about political interference and, essentially, reward for political support that led to appointments.

I reiterate my belief that the political partisanship should be set aside when it comes to issues such as this and we as parliamentarians have to try to raise that standard and raise the bar itself.

I will use my time remaining to reference some of the salient points around the pith and substance of the motion.

Canadians have been concerned about the appearance and, in some cases, the reality of the encroachment of the Supreme Court, the supremacy of the courts versus the supremacy of Parliament and the practice of reading into our laws interpretations that could be viewed and, in some cases, very much seen inconsistent with or outside the intent of the law when it was passed by Parliament.

Now there is a normal maturing process and there is a normal living tree analogy that is often used with respect to laws of the land but this atmosphere has led to a renewed interest in just how those who compose the bench at the appellant and at the supreme court level receive their appointments.

In the last few years we have witnessed a number of cases, at both the provincial supreme court level and the Canadian supreme court level, that seem to effectively take away or diminish the supremacy of Parliament. This contradicts, in my view, the intent of the Canadian Constitution and some of the societal values, which are the subject of these court decisions, that are held very dear by Canadians.

Yes, Canadians question the process and the individuals responsible for making these decisions, unelected versus elected. For example, the John Robin Sharpe case comes to mind. The decision by the British Columbia Superior Court and on into the Supreme Court of Canada allowed convicted felons the right to essentially have materials which were deemed by the police in the initial investigation and prosecutors to be of a pornographic nature.

There are other cases that involve the rights of felons currently serving in federal and provincial institutions to vote. This I and many Canadians find repugnant.

As well, we have witnessed how diverse decisions from superior courts of Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and other provinces have dealt with the issue of same sex marriage. This is why I think it is fair to say that part of the Supreme Court decision, on the reference question, as referred to by the government, was to send it back to Parliament for consideration when it came to the definition of marriage itself. Those opposed to judicial activism seemed to be very concerned about the contradiction that appears to be developing.

However I believe they can take solace in the court's decision to do just that, including the chief justice of the Supreme Court suggesting, quite appropriately, that this was a matter for Parliament.

The court's refusal to answer that question could also be interpreted as an admission of parliamentary supremacy in regard to that specific issue. The court's answer that it would not exercise discretion and not address the matter is somewhat unprecedented, in my view, that they would take the very direct step to send it back to Parliament to have this issue addressed by the elected body of the land, the Parliament of Canada.

That is a view the courts have held and a view I think Canadians generally hold. I believe it is a sign that the balance in our system can be struck and that our court system can be respectful to Parliament, just as we should be respectful of the role of the courts.

What it also suggests is that, despite court decisions, the government appeared to be prepared to forge ahead and amend the law as it saw fit regardless of the court's direction. This, I admit, may be a broad interpretation but relevant nonetheless.

By eliminating political partisanship from the appointment process and eliminating the perception or reality of interference, we would be making informed decisions on who comprises the bench based on skill, on academic laurels and on merit which is the critical issue in all of this. We need the best minds, the best individuals and the most qualified persons comprising the bench at all levels. Having spent time in the courts, these are day to day decisions that impact directly on the lives of Canadians, directly in a way that can alter their families, their financial welfare, their very being and their freedoms.

I believe that the role of a judge in Canada equals, in many ways, the role of individual parliamentarians. In fact, in a more practical way, those judges on a day to day basis are interacting with Canadians on the basic rights and freedoms, privileges and protections that need to be supported and above any disrepute or suggestion of political bias.

By eliminating these suggestions and eliminating any direction that would lead to that bias and putting in place a more pristine process, a process that would be beyond any dispute, I believe we would enhance the role of judges in a significant way.

No one can argue that a shift away from partisanship is not a shift in the right direction. I believe the scrutiny by members of Parliament of appointees to the highest court would go a long way to determining the suitability of those wishing to serve and could possibly allow for greater diversity in the views reflected of those who seek to serve as judges.

This is not to in any way diminish the role of provincial bar associations or laypersons' input and the process that we currently have in place. It can all be incorporated into this view and vetting process that is suggested by virtue of the motion. In fact, the motion does not even go so far as to provide the detail of how this process of scrutiny would work.

To many it seems that the reading into the intent of laws in the courts can be viewed as a violation of the basic constitutional principle that Parliament makes the laws, the executive implements them and the courts interpret them.

However the root of the perception of judicial activism is in the Constitution itself. For the first time in Canada a constitutionally entrenched guarantee of civil rights through the Charter of Rights and Freedoms requiring the courts to determine the constitutionality of laws created this scenario and it is unprecedented, I would suggest, based on the British constitutional process in which we now have inserted a charter.

I do not mean to be crude in this analogy but it is like taking a carburetor from one car and putting it into the engine of another car. The system in my view is still working this anomaly.

Some have argued that this insertion of the charter has allowed for the erosion of parliamentary supremacy in which democratic accountability has been replaced by the supremacy of the Constitution as interpreted by the courts.

Should the motion lead to a change in the appointment process, it ultimately would allow for greater public scrutiny. Again, transparency, openness and public scrutiny raises public confidence in the process without jeopardizing judicial independence.

Our party has put forward suggestions, including the recommendation that the name and qualifications of a person proposed for appointment by the Prime Minister to the Supreme Court shall be presented to Parliament which shall after debate make a recommendation on the suitability of the nominee's candidacy. This type of directive would also be applied to the appointment of those at the appellate level.

One contrary view is that this would dissuade individuals interested in serving in that capacity from applying. It is always once again a consideration of the balance in the public interest. I would suggest that anyone qualified or who presents himself or herself as qualified for that position should be prepared for scrutiny, including public scrutiny.

I would not stand in this place and suggest that we should use the American model, not that the American model is frightening. It is what they have chosen to do and I do not think we should belittle that model. However I do not believe it is consistent with the Canadian traditions and the way in which we would pursue this matter. It does allow for perhaps a more public spectacle and an examination that can sometimes go very awry as we have seen in the case of the Clarence Thomas appointment.

A vote in the House of Commons on this particular matter could be conducted and the outcome communicated to the governor in council prior to such appointments being made.

This is not a new matter. As I mentioned, the member who proposed the motion brought forward a similar motion in the last session that would have invoked a process that could have led to a recommendation of Parliament to change the current parameters of these appointments.

If the motion today were adopted it would simply empower the parliamentary committee to study it further. We did have a very involved committee study that reported its conclusions in a discussion paper on the issue. Unfortunately, the committee's recommendations in its main report were insufficient and not acted upon.

The four recommendations in the report were: first, there must be substantive input from all the provinces and territories into the compilation of the lists of suitable Supreme Court of Canada nominees and that the input from the provinces and territories at that stage would not be made public; second, there must be a public review of a short list of nominees before a parliamentary committee, which is what this motion speaks to; third, that parliamentary ratification of the chosen nominee must be achieved and that the form of ratification must not infringe upon the constitutional right of the governor in council to make the actual appointment. It therefore would not be taking that power away but simply buttressing it with parliamentary authority and backing. The last recommendations is: that appointments must be made so that the appointment process becomes mandated, again adding to the legitimacy of it.

Unfortunately, the government has yet to make any substantial changes to the mechanics of the appointment process. I hate to sound dismissive of the process but it really was a sham. The decision had already been taken and the committee was simply being asked to give an after the fact rubber stamp approval of the decision that was taken. It was unprecedented. I would be the first to admit and acknowledge to the Minister of Justice that this was a step in the right direction but it was not consistent with nor in keeping with the commitment to make the process more open to parliamentary involvement and discretion because, as I said, the decision was taken and the consultation was after the fact.

In reality, there is a need for parliamentary scrutiny. In fact, appearances before a specialized committee could take place in camera provided the parameters of questions were clearly laid out beforehand, and I believe that is appropriate. There should be limitations on the parameters of those questions. We should state on the record that we do not want to dissuade individuals from coming forward. We do not want to give the impression that this is an effort to pry into people's private lives and private affairs but to get to the central issue of merit, capability and appropriateness.

This does not mean that the committee would have a right, for example, to delve into financial records of an appointee or, for that matter, that the financial records of a person's spouse or partner would be subject to examination. I do not believe that type of information should be given any relevancy in terms of the appointee's ability to interpret the law. If there was some suggestion that, for example, in a federal or provincial court matter there might be some perception of bias or some conflict of interest that could arise because of a person's financial interest, that may open the door, but in general we should not go in that direction because it would, in my view, dissuade many.

The motion is aimed at ensuring the proper representation of Canadian views and values and I suggest that those views and values are not the property of any one political party. Those views and values of members democratically elected to represent Canadians should have the confidence to have input into such a critical issue. In this way we could provide a unique balance and a perspective in the process of judicial appointments that is uniquely Canadian.

I see this committee process as an opportunity to allow members of Parliament to act on behalf of those in their constituencies, those who have elected them to represent them here in the House of Commons, the highest court in the land, to delve into some of those beliefs of the appointees through examination, in some cases, of previous decisions rendered.

Again, I believe that type of examination should be taking place in camera. Those types of discussions are relevant when one examines the merits of appointments and the philosophic belief of judges that does bear on the appropriateness of their appointment.

I reiterate that no one wants to go down the road of confirmation hearings, a public spectacle that very much can damage a person's reputation, but strictly done for the purposes of avoiding political partisanship or the perception thereof.

The motion before us today could lead to the creation of a new appointment process that would invigorate and, in my view, further legitimize the appointment process. It would do away with some of the real and perceived bias, particularly around the appointment of judges to the highest court in the land. This would go to rebalancing what is sometimes seen as an unfair, secretive and partisan process by its very nature.

I believe that we support the spirit and intent of this motion in principle. I still am very much troubled by the preamble of the motion which calls for commentary from the House of Commons. I would have requested a friendly amendment from my learned colleague, my friend from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, yet I understand his position on this clearly. That is why we in the Conservative Party intend to view this as a very open matter, one on which we will be consulting further.

I have appreciated very much the opportunity to participate in this important debate. This debate has far-reaching ramifications not only for the courts, but for the important role that parliamentarians can play in improving the reputations and perception of judges and the confidence Canadians should have in judges who serve them on a day to day basis.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen LiberalMinister of Western Economic Diversification and Minister of State (Sport)

Mr. Speaker, a couple of things came to mind in listening to the member's description of inadequacies, real or perceived, that he expressed concern about.

I would like to have him reflect upon the fact that the Minister of Justice over six months ago laid down with respect to the selection and nomination of Supreme Court justices a very comprehensive process which in every regard meets the tests that the member opposite raised, but for the appearance before a parliamentary committee by the nominee himself or herself.

I listened to him carefully. I agree with his concern, without being critical of the American process. We have seen just over the last two weeks the difficulties with the nomination process for the appellate courts in the United States. Nominees appear before political committees that are highly charged and unavoidably partisan and political. That creates a difficulty in the respect for and the distinction between the independent branches of government, the executive, the legislature and the courts.

I would ask the hon. member why is the process for the Supreme Court justices set up only missing that element of direct challenge? It would be a challenge and inevitably, as we have seen in the United States, a politically charged challenge by politicians. I worry about that.

I also worry about the notion of public scrutiny in the way that the member opposite expressed it in terms of accountability of judges. Judges are independent. It is a legitimate, independent, essential branch of government. It is often overlooked that judges are perhaps in the whole range of the three branches of government, the most accountable because they hear all of the cases and arguments in public. They must give reasoned, detailed judgments. They are appealable, usually at least to two appellate court levels. For their personal conduct they can be censured through a very detailed process by the Canadian Judicial Council and then back to the Minister of Justice after investigation and perhaps an inquiry hearing which can be in public. They can be removed at the end of the day by the House and the other place.

That is the appropriate role I would suggest to the member opposite for the political process, the legislative and executive process, to play in this highly accountable system we have. I would hope that the member opposite, being a former officer of the court himself, a prosecutor, would understand and be forthright in protecting and celebrating the quality of the judiciary in this country, which I know he appreciates. If there are misapprehensions about that quality, as with the rest of us who have appeared before the courts, he must constantly reinforce it in the public's mind so that there is not the false perception that there is something wanting in the quality of our judiciary. Our judiciary is renowned around the world. The jurisprudence coming from our Canadian courts is as respected as if not more so than that in any other jurisdiction in the world.

My question is simply if the member's concern is that we not go to a politically charged system of appointment, of vetting of nominees by politicians as in the United States, what is missing in the Supreme Court of Canada selection process announced six months ago by the Minister of Justice, but that final point?

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, in a very direct way I would say to the member that what is missing is actual meaningful input before the decision is actually taken.

The process that we have seen, and I acknowledge in respect to the hon. Minister of Justice, was a new process. It was in keeping with some of the recommendations that came from the committee, but in my view it did not go far enough because the decision was already taken.

I do not take issue with what the hon. member has said as to the responsibility not only for members of the bar and officers of the court, but for parliamentarians as well. We must acknowledge the incredible talents and incredible people we have serving the people of Canada and serving in international roles, as we saw with Madam Justice Arbour.

I am not prepared to go as far as the hon. member, just as I would not go so far as to defend every member of the House of Commons, past or present. There will always be those in every profession for whom we are less than proud, but it is really much about public confidence. It is really much about the issue of allowing the people of Canada to feel that there is some element of direct accountability, not in an insular way through professional organizations such as bar associations and judicial councils where certainly they are accountable insofar as there are processes for removal, but I go back to the central issue.

I am not saying we should be electing judges, but I am saying that elected individuals should play a greater role in having actual discretion that is taken into consideration and respected by the executive branch which ultimately acts on those recommendations, acts on that information provided.

This is a process of such significance and great importance as put forward by my colleague that there is a greater need for public confidence. There is a greater need for public involvement through elected officials, even if it be in an in camera process where there is direct interaction with the Supreme Court nominee. I see no difficulty with that.

I think many members of the bar and many potential candidates would be prepared to come forward and subject themselves to some degree of scrutiny. Why would they not ? If they want that position, why would they not be prepared to simply state that and state their reasons?

It is not sullying the reputation of judges to suggest that they should be treated like anyone who is applying for a job to go before a body of essentially peers as parliamentarians and say, “This is why I want to serve the public in this capacity. These are my qualifications. This is the merit I bring to the job”. What could be more straightforward than that? What could instil greater public confidence to know that level of scrutiny, not for the purposes of dissuasion, embarrassment or any kind of inappropriate prying, but simply greater respect for the Parliament of Canada to have input into what will ultimately be a decision taken by the Prime Minister in conjunction with consultations with the Minister of Justice and others who also play an important role in the selection process?

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Stephen Owen Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the response from the hon. member. I wonder if he is thinking, when he comments on the procedure for the selection of Supreme Court of Canada justices, of the ad hoc process that took place at the last selection process and not the new process that was suggested six months ago where members of Parliament do have a direct role, not just after a decision has been made, but in vetting a list of recommended people. They have the right of leave under that process to reduce from eight prospective nominees to five and three. There is a very direct prior role in that process.

I must say that I respect the comment which was said in very measured, respectful terms, that members of Parliament would not inflame the situation or make inappropriate remarks, comments or questions to a nominee or to the Minister of Justice with respect to a nominee. As someone who has practised before the courts and has had an experience here for the last four years of courthouses and this magnificent House and the tradition it reflects, the solemnity of the process, the rules and conventions of courts and houses of Parliament, I can only reflect on the conduct in the House on a daily basis. Frankly, if the member opposite or myself, as officers of the court, as lawyers, had behaved in court the way that many members in the House behave on a daily basis, we would have been thrown in jail.

I worry about having too much confidence in the solemnity of that questioning process over individual nominees.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I find myself very much in agreement with my colleague's remarks, particularly with regard to the tempestuous and very partisan conduct that occurs in this place. I would, however, say that throughout my remarks I have not suggested that we do this in the circus like atmosphere that sadly question period has become and some of the debate itself.

Again, as with bar associations and all professional associations, there is an undeniable and very real responsibility on the individuals who comprise that body to try to raise the standard themselves or suffer the consequences, to which my colleague has referred. I agree that the contemptuous behaviour here would very often and very likely in a court of law result in the bailiffs taking away offending solicitors and incarcerating them.

Our Sergeant-at-Arms is not empowered to conduct such removal, except on very rare occasions where they might touch the mace or make remarks that were unparliamentary.

The central issue is the enhancing and the shining up, so to speak, of the reputation of judges that instills greater confidence from the general population.

In response to my colleague's suggestion, I believe this new process, which we have yet to see implemented, may again move in that proper direction. An in camera session involving parliamentarians having direct interaction with judges is not something I would hope the Minister of Justice would rule out of hand as something that could be pursued. The option should be considered further by a committee, which is why my personal support in spirit for the motion exists, but for the reservations I have over the denouncement of a judge.

Again, I appreciate participating in a debate of this nature and the tone that we have maintained throughout it.

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12:50 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are two parts to the motion that is before us today.

The first part has given both the previous speaker from the Conservative Party and particularly the Minister of Justice substantial concern as to whether we are crossing a line between the parliamentary wing of government and the judicial wing.

The second part of the motion is simply, as a preliminary, to establish a subcommittee of the justice committee calling upon Parliament as a whole to support the establishment of that subcommittee which would have as its mandate in purpose to prepare recommendations as to how the judicial appointment process is dealt with in our country at the Superior Court, Appeals Court, Supreme Court and Federal Court levels.

At the outset, I will indicate that we have taken the position as a party that we would support the motion.

The concern raised by the justice minister, in particular of this crossing over the line, is somewhat overplayed. I recognize the sensitivity of maintaining that constitutional framework. It is one that I think any lawyer in the country would recognize the importance. I think our average citizen would recognize the importance of having independence between wings of government.

I do not believe the motion goes so far as to cross the line and imperil the judicial independence. I think every member has spoken how highly in regard we hold that principle.

The reason I do not believe we are doing this is the fact that as members of Parliament, and I including the justice minister, we have the responsibility to absolutely guarantee to the Canadian citizenry that the judicial appointment process is one where one's political affiliation or ideological orientation is not up for consideration in denying one the right to become a judge. That is why the comments from Mr. Justice Robert in Quebec were of such concern to us.

I think the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles in particular felt the intensity of the comments. Earlier this morning he set out a number of occasions where in effect Justice Robert appears, at least, to be clearly repeating the statements that if one is a supporter of sovereignty for the Province of Quebec that in some fashion disentitles one to be considered or to be appointed as a judge at the federal level.

That is not a position our party would support. It is not a position of a country that has a Charter of Rights and Freedoms that guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of association, where the Supreme Court of Canada has recognized that there is an informal constitutional right if a province is to determine to separate how they separate and where issues around sovereignty and provincial rights, in particular, are constantly before our court, to deny somebody who has a particular ideological bent with regards to independence of the province of Quebec the right to sit on the bench.

I believe it is not only something that we are doing, it is something we should be doing. I believe as members of the House we have to say to the Canadian public, and perhaps in particular in these circumstances to the citizenry of the province of Quebec, that their affiliation to the sovereignty movement would not disentitle them to be considered as judges.

I believe this is the intent of the motion. It certainly is the intent of myself and my party in expressing our, and I do not want to use too strong a term because it is important not to do that, real concern on the comments made by Mr. Justice Robert.

I am perhaps being a little too lawyerish, although the minister was, but I want to address these comments more specifically--

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

An hon. member

A disease in the profession.