Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order to seek a ruling on whether two amendments to Bill C-21, adopted by the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, are in order. I submit that these two amendments are actually out of order because they are beyond the scope of Bill C-21 that was set at second reading.
Bill C-21 was referred to committee after second reading, as we all know, and page 654 of Marleau and Montpetit states:
An amendment to a bill that was referred to a committee after second reading is out of order if it is beyond the scope and principle of the bill.
I would like to emphasize that the bill was adopted at second reading and had a very narrow scope. Namely, it contained just three specific items: first, it repealed section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act; second, it provided for a parliamentary review of the repeal of section 67 within five years; and third, it included a transitional provision concerning the implementation of the repeal of section 67.
Page 661 of Marleau and Montpetit states:
Since a committee may appeal the decision of its Chair and reverse that decision, it may happen that a committee will report a bill with amendments that were initially ruled by the Chairman to be out of order. The admissibility of those amendments, and of any other amendments made by a committee, may therefore be challenged on procedural grounds when the House resumes its consideration of the bill at report stage. The admissibility of the amendments is then considered by the Speaker of the House, whether in response to a point of order or on his or her own initiative.
This passage flows from a Speaker's ruling from 1993 when the members of a committee rejected the decision of their chair, who had ruled three proposed amendments to a bill to be out of order. The amendments were then adopted by the committee and included in the report to the House.
Following a point of order raised in the House in respect of this matter, the Speaker upheld the ruling of the chair and ordered that the three amendments be struck from the bill.
Marleau and Montpetit, on page 662, also cites a 1992 ruling by Speaker Fraser. It reads in part:
“When a bill is referred to a standing or legislative committee of the House, that committee is...restricted in its examination in a number of ways...it cannot go beyond the scope of the bill as passed at second reading, and it cannot reach back to the parent act to make further amendments not contemplated in the bill no matter how tempting this may be”.
The first amendment to which I wish to bring to the Speaker's attention is an interpretive clause, which was added as a new clause, clause 1.2, to the bill. This amendment was ruled inadmissible by the chair because it is beyond the scope of Bill C-21.
During the committee's consideration of this amendment, the member for Nunavut stated:
I don't believe we are asking for too much beyond the scope...I want to take it into the House of Commons for further consideration and see how the ruling would be on that in the House of Commons.
Notwithstanding the acknowledged uncertainty of the member for Nunavut with respect to the admissibility of this amendment, the chair's decision was overruled by the committee, which then adopted this amendment.
The second amendment to which I wish to draw to the Speaker's attention is a non-derogation clause, which was also added as a new clause, clause 1.1, to this bill. While the chair did not raise admissibility concerns with the amendment, this new clause clearly adds a new purpose to the bill and is therefore beyond the scope of Bill C-21.
As I have noted, the purpose of this bill is to repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.
Since the bill is silent on how the Canadian Human Rights Act should be interpreted and applied to first nations, I submit that the amendment to add an interpretive clause and the amendment to add a non-derogation clause exceeds the scope of this bill.
Both of these amendments are beyond the scope of the bill by attempting to prescribe how the Canadian Human Rights Act should be interpreted and applied to first nations people on reserve. Since the purpose of the bill is to bring first nations people the basic human rights that every other Canadian enjoys, I question why the opposition would want to water them down.
What is more disturbing is that the opposition was willing to achieve this goal by overriding a fundamental principle of parliamentary legislative practice. It overruled the chair, who rightly ruled an amendment out of order because it went beyond the scope of this bill. These amendments attempt to bring back much of the intent of section 67, which, of course, the bill proposed to repeal.
I believe this view has been supported by the Speaker in his ruling of February 27, 2007 on Bill C-257, which states:
Given the very narrow scope of Bill C-257, any amendment to the bill must stay within the very limited parameters set by the provisions of the Canada Labour Code that are amended by the bill...They argue that these amendments are admissible for they only make clearer the bill's provisions...However, I fear that their views are precisely what Mr. Speaker Fraser meant in the 1992 ruling...when he warned members against being led into the temptation of amendments not contemplated in the original bill.
On Tuesday, January 29, 2008 in a decision on the admissibility of an amendment that was beyond the scope of Bill C-3, the Speaker ruled:
The amendment was ruled inadmissible by the committee chair on the grounds that it was beyond the scope of the bill. It was contended that on the contrary his amendment was within the scope of the bill because it simply expanded the appeal provision already contained in the bill.
Admittedly, the hon. member’s amendment deals with this same principle, namely the right to appeal, but where it goes beyond the scope of the bill is in relation to the conditions under which the appeal may be made...Consequently, even if the principle remains the same, its scope is clearly expanded.
Any attempt to establish how the Canadian Human Rights Act is interpreted and applied to first nations people should be seen as an expansion of the scope of this bill since this clearly introduces new issues which were not part of Bill C-21 as originally introduced.
I would like to conclude by stating that these two amendments, particularly the nature of the interpretive provision, would undermine the universality of human rights principles embodied in the Canadian Human Rights Act and the very purpose of Bill C-21, which was simply to repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. Clearly, these two are beyond the very narrow scope of the original bill.
Mr. Speaker, if you agree that these amendments are out of order, I would suggest that they be removed from the bill, as you did in your previous ruling on February 27, 2007.