Mr. Speaker, I rise to respond to the point of order raised on Thursday, February 14, by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians concerning two amendments to Bill C-21 adopted by the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
Mr. Speaker, it is not my intention to take up too much of the House's time. However, I do feel that it is important to have a couple of items on record before you give your ruling. The parliamentary secretary shared that in his opinion two amendments adopted in the standing committee should be ruled out of order because he felt they went beyond the scope of the bill.
First, I would like to quote from the sixth edition of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms. At page 205 it states in article 689(2):
The committee may so change the provisions of the bill...other than that which was referred. A committee may negative every clause and substitute new clauses, if relevant to the bill as read a second time.
Article 694 on page 206 states:
Amendments may be made in every part of a bill, whether in the title, preamble, clauses or schedules; clauses may be omitted; new clauses and schedules may be added.
Beauchesne's sixth edition also states on page 205 that:
The objects (also referred to as the principle or scope) of a bill are stated in its long title, which should cover everything contained in the bill as it was introduced.
The long title of Bill C-21, as listed on the bill's cover page under the number assigned to the bill, is “An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act”. Therefore, the principle and/or scope are defined in this title, that is, to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act.
The two amendments in question that are contested by the parliamentary secretary are essentially the addition of new clauses: an interpretive clause, clause 1.2, and a non-derogation clause, clause 1.1. The reason for a non-derogation clause is of much importance, as legislation must be consistent with the constitutional obligations of the Crown.
The clause is important to first nations as it is an affirmation of their rights that are set out in the Constitution and ensures that those rights are respected with respect to any new legislation. A non-derogation clause protects established and asserted aboriginal treaty rights recognized in section 35 of the Constitution. The amendment dealing with this non-derogation clause was accepted by the committee chair.
With respect to the interpretive clause, a review of the minutes of the relevant meeting reveals that the chair admitted that he had received mixed advice from “legislative people” as to its admissibility.
These two additional amendments in no way alter the principle or the “scope” of the bill as stated in the long title, that is, to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act. Furthermore, the parliamentary secretary admitted himself that the said bill contained three specific items: first, it repealed section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act; second, it provided for a parliamentary review of the repeal within five years; third, it included a transitional provision concerning the implementation of the repeal of section 67.
Again, the two amendments in no way alter these three items as presented by the parliamentary secretary. The bill, as amended, still proposes to repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. It still proposes a review and a transitional period for the said repeal. Therefore, I cannot see how the scope or the principle has been affected.
Mr. Speaker, I respectfully request that you rule these amendments to be in order and allow the House as a whole to express itself when the bill is called for debate at report stage.