I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons on April 29, 2010 concerning amendments contained in the report from the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development on Bill C-3, An Act to promote gender equity in Indian registration by responding to the Court of Appeal for British Columbia decision in McIvor v. Canada (Registrar of Indian and Northern Affairs).
I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary for having raised this important matter as well as the hon. members for Labrador, Abitibi—Témiscamingue and Yukon for their comments.
In presenting his point of order, the parliamentary secretary argued that two of the amendments to Bill C-3 contained in the first report from the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, tabled on April 29, 2010, were beyond the scope of the bill as approved by the House at second reading.
The first motion presented by the member for Labrador during clause-by-clause consideration of the bill reads as follows:
That Bill C-3, in Clause 2, be amended by adding after line 16 on page 1 the following:
(a.1) that person was born prior to April 17, 1985 and is a direct descendant of the person referred to in paragraph (a) or of a person referred to in paragraph 11(1)(a), (b), (c), (d), (e) or (f) as they read immediately prior to April 17, 1985;
As reported by the parliamentary secretary, this motion was ruled out of order by the chair on the basis that it went beyond the scope of the bill as approved by the House at the second reading stage. The ruling was appealed and overturned by a majority vote and the amendment was subsequently adopted by a similar vote.
In respect of the second amendment under dispute concerning the short title of the bill, the parliamentary secretary argued that it had only been allowed to proceed because of the adoption of the first amendment. He noted that in the absence of any amendment requiring it, no motion to amend a bill's title was admissible under our rules.
The member for Labrador argued that the court ruling in which the bill responded identified discriminatory provisions related to registration in the Indian Act beyond those specific to the McIvor case. He stated that in its ruling the court of appeal pointed out that there may be other parts of the act that caused gender discrimination. He also drew to the attention of the House that there existed considerable latitude for the government to respond to the court's decision. In doing so, he cited a number of examples where legislation had gone well beyond the modifications to the law required by court decisions. He concluded that the amendment in question was entirely consistent with bills responding to court rulings.
The Chair has carefully examined Bill C-3, the Committee’s report as well as the proceedings in the Committee dealing with clause-by-clause consideration of the bill.
As has been frequently noted, the Speaker’s involvement in committee matters is limited except in cases where a committee has exceeded its authority. The adoption of amendments that are beyond the scope of a bill is such a case.
I would like to remind the House that the Speaker's role in these matters is limited strictly to determining the procedural issue that has been raised. While some members may be of the opinion that a different bill, perhaps broader in scope, ought to have been introduced, I must base my decision on the bill that actually was introduced and approved by the House at second reading.
House of Commons Procedure and Practice, p. 766, states:
An amendment to a bill that was referred to committee after second reading is out of order if it is beyond the scope and principle of the bill.
In the present case, in order to determine the scope of the bill, we need to put this legislative measure in its unique context. Bill C-3 was drafted in response to a ruling of the court of appeal for British Columbia, which struck down certain provisions of the Indian Act based on unequal treatment with respect to registration accorded to the descendants of some Indian women arising out of earlier amendments to the Indian Act made in 1985. The bill seeks to redress the specific inequality identified by the court. As such, it is of extremely narrow scope. It removes gender discrimination arising from transitional effects of the 1985 amendments as they relate to a particular family structure.
The amendment, adding a new sub-paragraph a.1 to the conditions of registration in section 6 of the Indian Act, deals with all persons born prior to April 17, 1985 who are descended from those registered under the Indian Act, or entitled to be so registered, prior to that date. Individuals, whose status is not affected in any way by Bill C-3 as adopted at second reading, would have a different status as a result of this amendment. It may be that the amendment seeks to redress an inequality arising out of the Indian Act, but it is not addressing the specific inequality identified by the Court and initially targeted by Bill C-3. Consequently, the amendment exceeds the scope of the bill as set by the House at second reading and is therefore inadmissible.
The second amendment, changing the short title of the bill, is dependent on the broadening of scope resulting from the first inadmissible amendment. As such, in the absence of any other amendment requiring a change to the original short title, it too is inadmissible.
I therefore rule that the amendment to clause 2 of Bill C-3 and the amendment to the short title are null and void and no longer form part of the bill as reported to the House. In addition, I am ordering a reprint of Bill C-3 be published to replace the reprint ordered by the committee.
I thank hon. members for their attention.