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House of Commons Hansard #81 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was producers.

Topics

Statements Regarding Voting Record of MemberPrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeSecretary of State (Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity)

Yes, Mr. Speaker, I would be happy to review the voting records.

I do know that the party of that member voted to allow the adoption of the bill, unamended. I will review his specific voting record on all of the individual matters.

Quite frankly, I find his submission somewhat disingenuous, given that it is clear that it would not have passed without the support of his party.

I think this is a matter of debate and not a prima facie question of privilege.

Statements Regarding Voting Record of MemberPrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The difficulty the Chair faces is that questions of privilege must relate to proceedings in the House. If the member for Richmond is alleging that the secretary of state committed an act that is contemptuous in some way of the House, it seems to me that the act has to have been committed in the House. It is the general principle on which Speakers operate in dealing with questions of privilege.

In this case, while I am sure it will be helpful to have the secretary of state review the facts on which he made the statement, and we now have a copy of the newspaper article in question, I note that this is a newspaper article and not a statement made in the House, so I am reluctant to get into a dispute. In my view, it is not in the Speaker's jurisdiction what may arise between members for things that happen outside the House and do not concern the House itself.

I am aware that the suggestion that a member voted one way or the other can be a matter of some contention, or what a vote is to be interpreted as meaning, even if it is a yes or no on an issue, it may be interpreted in different ways by different people, but it is not for the Speaker to make rulings in regard to those matters.

Accordingly, I do not feel there is a question of privilege here, but perhaps the hon. members can look at the facts and then if some kind of statement or whatever is necessary, it could be done either inside or outside the House, but I do not think it needs to come back here.

Comments by Member for HochelagaPoints of OrderOral Questions

April 17th, 2008 / 3:10 p.m.

Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry Ontario

Conservative

Guy Lauzon ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

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

During question period, the member for Hochelaga asked the Minister of Justice a question. He said:

Mr. Speaker, what would people say about a Minister of Justice who tells lie after lie, misleads the House, distorts the facts and falsifies the truth?

I think the member should withdraw these remarks and apologize.

Comments by Member for HochelagaPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not know what the member is referring to, since the member for Hochelaga did not ask a question today.

Comments by Member for HochelagaPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Guy Lauzon Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, I apologize, it was obviously not today, but he asked the Minister of Justice a question, and the quote is correct. I think the member should apologize or withdraw his remarks.

Comments by Member for HochelagaPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Obviously it is difficult to establish the facts, since the hon. member is not here. Furthermore, the hon. member indicated that it was not a question asked in this House.

Comments by Member for HochelagaPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Guy Lauzon Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, it was not a question. I apologize for my mistake. It was said during members' statements.

Comments by Member for HochelagaPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I will examine the statements when the blues become available. If there is a problem, I will get back to the House.

Bill C-505--Canadian Multiculturalism Act--Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on a point of order raised on April 9, 2008 by the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River concerning Bill C-505, An Act to amend the Canadian Multiculturalism Act (non-application in Quebec).

I would like to thank the member for Scarborough—Rouge River for having drawn this matter to the attention of the House, as well as the hon. whip of the Bloc Québécois, the hon. House leader of the Bloc Québécois, and the hon. member for Mississauga South for their comments.

The hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River raised two issues in relation to this bill. First, he argued that the bill as formulated is unconstitutional in that clause 2 states, “The Government of Canada’s multiculturalism policy does not apply in Quebec”. This, he believed, was inconsistent with section 27 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Second, he argued that Bill C-505 could be seen as a de facto constitutional amendment. He based this assertion on the claim that the provisions in the Canadian Multiculturalism Act mirror the provisions concerning multiculturalism that are enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If the proposed measure is indeed an attempt to amend the Constitution, the member argued, as his second point, that it should not be in the form of a bill but, instead, in the form of a resolution. His conclusion is that Bill C-505 is not in the correct form and requested either clause 2 be struck from the bill or that the order for second reading of the bill be discharged and that the bill be struck from the order paper.

In his intervention, the Whip of the Bloc Québécois pointed out that one of the criteria used by the Subcommittee on Private Members’ Business in determining the votability of an item is whether or not it appears to be unconstitutional. As the subcommittee did not judge Bill C-505 to be non-votable, the member argued that the matter of constitutionality had been settled.

In his arguments on April 10, the hon. House Leader of the Bloc Québécois argued that the objections raised to the bill were of a legal nature, and not procedural, and reminded the House that the Speaker does not rule on legal matters. He also claimed that the bill seeks to amend an existing law only and has no effect on the Constitution.

The member for Mississauga South stated that the Subcommittee on Private Members' Business, in determining whether or not a bill should be votable, may not be in a position to assess fully its constitutionality. He maintained that the process for dealing with reports of that subcommittee did not afford an opportunity for members to express concerns regarding constitutionality and stated that it was therefore appropriate for the member for Scarborough—Rouge River to seek a ruling from the Speaker.

In light of the issue at hand and the arguments put forth, I would be remiss if I did not refer members to House of Commons Procedure and Practice, at page 542, which states:

Though raised on a point of order, hypothetical queries on procedure cannot be addressed to the Speaker nor may constitutional questions or questions of law.

Mr. Speaker Fraser also succinctly addressed this limited role of the Chair, when he declared in a ruling regarding a similar matter, which can be found in the Debates of September 16, 1991, at page 2179, and I quote:

It may later be for a court to decide that the House has done something that does not have the force and effect of law, but that is a matter for the court and not a matter for the Speaker.

Therefore, mindful of my limited responsibility in this case, I have undertaken to examine the bill only with respect to whether it is in the appropriate form for the purpose that it seeks to achieve.

Let me first address the contention of the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River that amendments to the Constitution must be in the form of a resolution. There is no disputing that the House has in recent years considered several resolutions of the type referred by the hon. member. For example, on November 18 and December 9, 1997, the House adopted resolutions dealing with the school systems in Quebec and Newfoundland respectively; and, on October 30, 2001, the House adopted a resolution changing the name of Newfoundland to Newfoundland and Labrador.

But the House has also seen bills proposing to amend the Constitution. Examples in this Parliament include Private Member’s Bill C-223 An Act for the Recognition and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and to amend the Constitution Act, 1867, standing in the name of the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville; as well as government bills C-22, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Democratic representation) and C-19, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Senate tenure), both standing in the name of the hon. Government House Leader.

I offer these examples simply to explain that this bill cannot be considered not in order simply because it is in the form of a bill and not a resolution. That said, let us examine the actual provisions of the disputed bill.

Bill C-505 consists of two clauses, both of which seek to amend provisions of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. Clause 1 proposes the addition of a new paragraph to the preamble of the act, concerning the special situation of Quebec and clause 2 adds a subsection to section 3 of the act, exempting the province of Quebec from the government's multiculturalism policy. There is no reference in the bill to any other statute or for that matter to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I have therefore concluded that, since the purpose of this bill is to restrict the application of an existing statute and since this bill proposes an amendment to the existing statute to achieve that objective, Bill C-505 is in the proper form.

As your Speaker, I have no authority to rule on the constitutionality of Bill C-505. Accordingly, given that Bill C-505 is in the proper form, deliberations on it may continue in accordance with our rules governing the consideration of private members' business.

I thank the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River for having raised this matter.

The House resumed from April 16 consideration of the motion.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal procedure, language of the accused, sentencing and other amendments).

I should note that the bill was originally introduced as Bill C-13 in the first session of the 39th Parliament. It passed all stages in the House of Commons, was sent to the other place and is back here now with some amendments, which I and my colleagues believe enhance the bill. I will be supporting the bill, and I expect my colleagues on this side will as well.

We support the bill because it would a number of positive things to improve and enhance our criminal justice system. Some of these matters are quite procedural and technical in their nature, but, nonetheless, they are very important to ensure the system in the country works efficiently, effectively and brings justice to all.

Some of the aspects of the bill, for example, increase the maximum fine that can be imposed for a summary conviction offence from $2,000 to $10,000. The $2,000 limit had not been changed for some 30 years. The bill also calls for the suspension of a conditional sentence order or a probation order during an appeal. That enhances this law as well.

The proposed bill also provides the power to delay the sentencing proceedings so an offender can participate in a provincially approved treatment program. That is very important. In many cases we can lock people up and throw away the key, but eventually they will get out and have to be functioning and responsible citizens of our country. Therefore, if we can help someone deal with drug or alcohol abuse or some other social problem, this is to be very much encouraged.

In the case of a person serving a youth sentence who has received an adult sentence, the bill clarifies that the remaining portion of the youth sentence is converted to an adult sentence. This follows through on some of the changes that were made previously to the Youth Criminal Justice Act and something I think many Canadians often do not fully comprehend.

There is an impression that young people can commit crimes at will, flaunt the system and do not receive the types of sanctions that many Canadians think they should. However, we need to understand that if we put young people in jail, they can become hardened criminals. If they are not rehabilitated or given the appropriate treatment, in jail they will become even worse criminals. When they get out, they will offend again.

It is important that all criminals be rehabilitated while they are serving their time. At the same time, the youth criminal justice changes we made when we formed government allow a judge, at his or her discretion, to sentence a young person as an adult if, in the view of the judge, that young person deserves to be sentenced as an adult.

If I recollect correctly, the cutoff is age 14, and that is a very young. When people tell me that the age should be reduced further, I tell them that it is not something I would advocate. In fact, 14 is young enough. I think many judges would not be inclined to impose an adult sentence on someone of those young years unless the circumstances warranted it in the view of the judge. Nonetheless, it is important to have that provision so a judge can have the flexibility to do things like that.

One aspect that is not in the bill, although I hope it will come at some point in time, is an initiative that our government started. After two years of serving as government, I am surprised the Conservatives have not really acted upon it. It has to do with the modernization of investigative techniques.

I notice in the bill there are amendments which call for the use of telecommunications to forward warrants for the purpose of endorsement and execution in a jurisdiction other than the jurisdiction where the search warrant was obtained. Therefore, there are measures in the bill dealing with telecommunications, but we still do not have legislation to modernize investigative techniques for our law enforcement personnel. Let me describe what that is.

If we look at our Criminal Code today, if law enforcement officers can convince a judge that there are significant grounds, the judge can execute a search warrant. However, the search warrants and the wiretapping warrants are tailored to technologies that have been superceded, although not completely, and replaced by other types of media, other types of technology.

For example, wiretapping warrants on our books today, in terms of law, deal mostly with land phone lines. We know criminals today use wireless devices. They use cellphones, computers and the Internet. The problem is our laws are archaic in the sense that the police cannot tap these types of technologies. The problem, again, is criminals have moved ahead of law enforcement. In fact, some criminals will make a few calls on a cellphone and then chuck it away. They will do the same for other kinds of wireless devices.

When we were the government, we began a process to modernize these investigative techniques. It raised some concern in certain quarters that this was calling for a change in the ability or the power of the police to seek out a wiretap. The reality is it changed nothing in that regard. Law enforcement would still have to convince a judge that the wiretap was necessary. The only thing that it would do is it would allow the wiretap to be executed against a cellphone number, or a BlackBerry, or an Internet account, or some other telecommunications device.

While there is some confusion and some angst among citizens and others about what this type of legislation would do, in fact, it would do nothing more than what is on the books right now. It would not give the police the power or the authority to wiretap someone's line without a duly executed warrant by a judge.

The Conservative government talks about how it is getting the job done and how there has been 13 years of inaction. Here is something upon which the government should be acting.

There are a couple of other issues with telecommunications companies and servers. There are costs associated with adapting this technology or being in a state of readiness. If a warrant is executed by law enforcement officers, they need to have the capability and capacity, the technology within their own shops. There are costs associated with that.

There are also costs on a going forward basis if we require these telecommunications companies, like a server or mobile phone company, to retrofit to ensure their technologies are capable of putting these wiretaps on this technology. If this law were passed, companies would have to ensure the technology was engineered in such a way that if a warrant were executed, they could implement the wiretap on a cellphone, or on a BlackBerry, or on an Internet account. I believe this is holding the government back from doing something on this initiative, and that is a wrong reason.

Why should we be compromising the safety and security of Canadians because some telecommunications companies are anxious and nervous about the costs they would be faced with to adapt and execute this type of technology?

When we were the government, there were a lot of discussions and negotiations back and forth. My recollection is that there was some compromise, some meeting of the minds, as to how to move forward in this particular environment.

If my memory serves me correctly, these companies indicated a willingness on a going forward basis to build in the technologies and infrastructure needed so they would be in a state of readiness for warrants like this to be executed. I am not sure where those discussions went finally, but it is a matter of negotiation.

As for retrofitting, that is a bigger issue. It is a question of making the law come into force so the companies would have to retrofit all their technology, which is a big ticket item, and that is a matter for negotiation with the government.

However, I am surprised that it has taken two and a half years to negotiate something that would be reasonable in the circumstances. With the passage of time, the safety and security of our citizens have been put at risk. I do not think that is acceptable.

In fact, when we had the new civilian Commissioner of the RCMP, Mr. Bill Elliott, come to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, I asked him if the tools he needed to deal with this type of technology were there to make sure we were up to date with the technologies the criminals were using. He indicated that it would be an improvement if enabling legislation were in place so that we could beat the criminals at their own game.

Therefore, I encourage the government to bring forward legislation such as this, which would modernize our investigative techniques and give the police the same tools that criminals have. Does it make any sense for police officers to be using land line phones when the criminals are using not land lines but other technologies? It seems to me that this is an initiative that could have been incorporated into this bill, but it was not. I do not know where that particular item is.

We find in this bill that there are some improvements in the process that deal with our justice system. As I said earlier, I think some of them are more housekeeping in nature, but it is important housekeeping. It is something that I would encourage this House to support.

As an example, the amendments say that a summary conviction trial with respect to co-accused can proceed where one of the co-accused does not appear.

Another feature introduces changes to the process with respect to the challenge of jurors to, among other things, assist in preserving their impartiality.

It also brings in other amendments with respect to language rights provisions of the Criminal Code. This is a very important part of this legislation.

It means that an accused is informed of the right to be heard by a judge or a judge and jury who speak the official language of Canada that is the language of the accused, or both official languages of Canada. The amendments to this bill codify the right of the accused to obtain a translation of the information or indictment on request.

These are very important elements. We live in a bilingual country. We value our bilingualism. It is part of our national heritage. It is part of our strength as a nation. We also respect the right of individuals to be heard and listened to in the official language of their choice, one of the official languages of this country. I think that is also a very important part of Bill C-13.

I encourage the House to get on with this bill. It has been here before, it has been in the other place and it is back. Again, while sometimes the members in the other place are criticized, or that institution itself is criticized, there are many fine and competent people over there who can add value to legislation. In this case, I think they have done that.

I would encourage members of this House to support Bill C-13 in its current form. I certainly will be voting for it.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Penny Priddy NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will resume with my discussion about recognizance with conditions. I ended my remarks by saying that it is a basic tenet of our system that a person has to be proved guilty of doing something or plotting something in order to be detained. Arresting and holding people with no evidence against them is totally unreasonable.

Furthermore, on release these individuals would be subject to a peace bond, but unlike those subject to a peace bond, these people may have done absolutely nothing wrong. The purpose—

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order. I am sorry, but we have a point of order from the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, we are debating Bill C-13. I believe the member is speaking to Bill S-3.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Penny Priddy NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, my apologies. I thought we were resuming debate on Bill S-3.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

We are debating Bill C-13. Is there anybody who would like to rise to speak to Bill C-13?

Is the House ready for the question?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed from April 16 consideration of the motion that Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

When the House was last debating this matter, the hon. member for Surrey North had the floor. She has five minutes left, which I presume she wants to exercise.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Penny Priddy NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, forgive my eagerness to speak to the many flaws in the bill.

As I say, this bill supposedly has a provision for the arrest of a person involved in an imminent terrorist threat, thereby disrupting the terrorist activity. We support the idea that we should disrupt an activity like that, but if someone is planning a terrorist act, the Criminal Code already allows for him or her to be arrested and held for up to 72 hours.

The bill also says that persons will have a peace bond for something that they may not even have done. We have never seen this before with peace bonds. Why do we need this? Under the Criminal Code mechanism, if no evidence is found leading to charges against the person, he or she must be released. That is what the Criminal Code says.

However, Bill S-3 goes one step further, and that is the problem. These individuals are released under conditions. There could be a variety of conditions. They may be perfectly reasonable for somebody who is convicted of being involved in terrorism, but not when there is no evidence of doing anything wrong.

It is extremely unjust. As Craig Forcese said, “One would imagine that a peace bond is likely to be ineffectual in relation to a suicide bomber”.

The last point I would make about this, and civil liberty groups have sharply criticized this as well, is that if a person is detained, a file is opened on that person. If a file is opened, it stays with that person and impairs his or her freedom to travel and apply for a job. It is a negative stigma that stays around the individual.

Let us keep in mind that we are talking about people who may have done absolutely nothing wrong. New Democrats will not and cannot support a bill that will punish people who are not guilty of any criminal activity.

As I mentioned earlier, many members of other parties in this House are also opposed to this legislation. I am speaking now specifically for my Liberal colleagues, as many of them took a very principled stand and voted against this legislation when it came to the House earlier in the session. They did the right thing. They stood up, but what will they do now?

I expect that they may do what they have done all along since the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville won the leadership of the party. They may sit on their hands. I find it particularly egregious that Liberals would support the bill when I know many members of their caucus share the same concerns I have voiced here today.

Voting for Bill S-3 is not like voting for the budget as a strategy to avoid an election. Standing shoulder to shoulder with the Conservatives and voting for Bill S-3 is giving approval to major changes and it strikes at the heart of Canadian values. I am calling on my Liberal colleagues today to do the right thing and vote with the NDP against the legislation.

I understand that members of the Bloc Québécois are on the same side of the issue as we are expressing, so a Conservative-Liberal alliance will be what it will take to pass Bill S-3. I hope Liberals have the courage to take a stand. As I have already said, ensuring public safety is about protecting quality of life. A good quality of life depends on a balance between freedom and security.

The investigative hearings are flawed. They do not accommodate the guidance of the Supreme Court of Canada. This is vulnerable to misuse. The recognizance with conditions provision is fundamentally opposed to a core value in our justice system: that a person must be guilty of doing or plotting something in order to be punished.

Therefore, both provisions of Bill S-3 are flawed beyond repair, but the NDP's main reason for opposing the legislation is that in point of fact it is unnecessary. The Criminal Code can be used to attain the goals that I have spoken of today.

Many groups have spoken to the standing committee. I think we will be hearing from other speakers later in the day who have talked to Muslim and Arab groups, who know there are particular people who may be more vulnerable to these kinds of conditions under Bill S-3, just as they were under Bill C-3.

It is simply unacceptable to take something that has been a core value of this country for so long, which is that one must be guilty of something for us to punish that individual, and throw that away and say no, we just have to think that someone might think about doing something. It is unacceptable to say that we do not actually know that someone will do something, but we are still going to find that someone guilty and punish him or her by placing conditions upon that person.

It is simply unacceptable. It hits at our core values. As Canadians and as parliamentarians, we should absolutely reject any kinds of changes that go down what is a very slippery slope toward taking away the freedoms of Canadians.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member if she could tell us what are the consequences, in her opinion, for individuals who may be condemned—if we can say that—to having to sign a recognizance with conditions? What are the consequences, in today's world, that an individual will have to live with afterwards and, if the suspicions about them were completely unwarranted, what means are available to remove this mark from their file?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Penny Priddy NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think many people will look at the conditions in the bond and sign it but not understand what the conditions will mean in what they are able to do in their lives.

Let us think for a minute. People frequently travel back and forth across the border between Canada and the United States. They will get to the border, the border officials will check their name and they will find they have a peace bond against them. They will likely be refused. They may have family in Europe, the continent, India or wherever. Many people go back and forth to visit family. I have, as others have. They will be refused.

They need to make a living. Will this be reported to their employer? When they go to change jobs and people do proper reference searches, which they should do, of course, what will show up is that the person has been detained and has had to sign a peace bond to be out in the community. For employers, who may have a variety of people to pick from, and certainly in many areas they do, then the person with the peace bond will, most likely, not be selected. It has now affected his or her employment.

What if this is a mom who is in the hospital delivering her baby. She may require some medical assistance, assistance from social services around parenting or a public health nurse. If people look at her file and find that she has a peace bond against her, will that influence the way that people hover and watch the way she raises her child, although potentially she may have done nothing wrong?

My colleague raised a very important question about travel and employment. If people do have a peace bond, I do not think that many of the people who will be doing a reference check or a check for medical or social services will wonder whether the person was really innocent even though she or he has a peace bond. Most people will assume that the person is guilty and that she or he has done something wrong. That negative stigma and that file will stay with the person.

What can people do about it? My understanding is nothing. Actually, they can go to jail for a year by refusing to say anything, but in that case they would not find themselves with the peace bond. However, their only other option is to say nothing and potentially go to jail for a year. They do not have an appeal process. They do not know why they have been picked up and detained. As in Bill C-3, they have very little recourse to protect themselves.