Mr. Speaker, as we can see from these initial exchanges in the House, Bill C-42 is very substantial and complex. In fact, even those who studied it in committee sometimes are proposing minor changes. So, it is an honour for me to rise today as the official opposition deputy critic for public safety to defend the NDP's position and explain why we will vote against Bill C-42.
Before I get into the substance of my remarks about processes and what happened in committee, I want to say it was a real pleasure and honour for me to work on Bill C-42. This gave me the opportunity to meet members of the RCMP, and I made friends along the way. I met courageous men and women who poured their heart out to explain their position on the bill. Today, I want to sincerely thank them for doing so. They have enabled me to learn more about the RCMP, which is not present in Quebec. That is why we are somewhat less familiar with it, even though it is a national police force.
The NDP supported Bill C-42 at second reading so that this legislation would be studied in committee, because we had many questions about it. We felt that a lot of work remained to be done on this bill. At the time, I very much appreciated the Minister of Public Safety's speech, particularly when he said he was open to amendments from all sides of the House. For us, it meant that the door was wide open to improve a bill that really deserved to be examined. It was also a way of showing Canadians that, regardless of the side of the House on which we sit, we can work together to ensure that bills are the best they can be once we have reviewed them in committee and returned them to the House.
As I mentioned earlier, we supported Bill C-42 at second reading and we were very pleased to study it in committee. In this regard, the first thing I want to mention is that the committee had very little time. Sometimes, we even had to invite several witnesses at once. This meant that we could not ask them very many questions, which was quite unfortunate. Bill C-42 is huge and it deals with many provisions of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act. We therefore did not have time to update this legislation, even though it would have been necessary. I was deeply saddened that the debate was cut short. We did what we could with what we had. We tried to work with that.
The second point I want to mention is the time allocated for committee review. Some RCMP members who worked on a similar bill over 20 years ago told us that, the last time the government amended the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act, the process took over 10 years. By contrast, we had only a few weeks. I think we worked too quickly. However, that is not really a problem since at least we are still here today to spend a little more time on this legislation.
I also found it sad that none of the amendments proposed by the opposition were accepted. The only amendments that were accepted were those proposed by the government. What I found even sadder was that most of these amendments had to do with correcting spelling or translation mistakes. They were not substantive amendments. They merely sought to correct spelling mistakes and typos. It seems as though the bill was drafted in a rush, on the back of a napkin, and that the government then wanted to correct the mistakes it found. That was also a sad thing to see.
Unfortunately, the Conservatives did not take a serious look at the points made by witnesses in their testimony. That is the work that we, as the official opposition, decided to do regarding Bill C-42. We really wanted to take a closer look at what witnesses told the committee, and we wanted to work with them to make substantial and important amendments to give more substance to the bill.
Today, we are back in the House and, considering that none of our amendments were accepted and that the work in committee was done so quickly, we cannot support this legislation. I will explain why a little later on in my speech.
It is also important to mention that RCMP members were not consulted before Bill C-42 was drafted. My colleague, the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, pointed this out at the beginning of his speech, and it is important to remember that.
They were presented with a fait accompli. They were told what was going to be done and what would be introduced. The government did not even deign to ask the members of our national police force what they thought. I am extremely disappointed about this.
Again this morning, I spoke with members of the RCMP. In particular, I spoke with Mr. Gaétan Delisle, who represents the Quebec Mounted Police Members' Association and is someone who has filed several hundred grievances for RCMP members from all parts of Canada. In fact, he is still doing so strongly and passionately.
We talked about some of the clauses in the bill. It can be quite difficult to understand what is in this bill.
We looked at clauses 31.3 and 31.4, and we had a hard time figuring out what they involved. Eventually, we figured out that these clauses really had to do with the grievance process and the possibility of using notes, reports and other material in filing a grievance.
Bill C-42 does not deal just with sexual harassment. I would also like to mention here, for the information of members who do not sit on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, that a very large part of Bill C-42 involves workers' rights.
From now on, they will not be able to use certain important notes or documents in filing their grievances. This applies specifically to one particular case in the RCMP's code of ethics, which says a member cannot disobey a lawful command, except if he can prove that the command is illegal or breaks a law.
Without access to certain documents, notes or reviews as evidence, it cannot be proven that such a command may be illegal, at the end of the day. This is a huge protection for workers that is being taken away, and I think it is totally wrong. We were told in committee that Bill C-42 took rights away from workers. I still cannot believe that no one has been able to remedy the situation.
However, what can we do? This is the way things are; we do not have a majority.
Because I cannot raise all the issues in Bill C-42 that should be discussed, I want to talk about sexual harassment. In this bill, which is supposed to resolve the sexual harassment issue, there is no reference to harassment or sexual harassment.
This is incredible. In fact, this is one of the reasons why we are moving a motion to remove clause 1, the title, because it has no connection with the content of the bill.
Credible witnesses appeared before the committee to give us their views on sexual harassment in the RCMP. As I mentioned earlier, the Quebec Mounted Police Members' Association told us how important it was to mention it in the bill. That would have helped to protect workers in the RCMP, but it was not done.
The committee also met with Ms. Séguin of Quebec's Groupe d'aide et d'information sur le harcèlement sexuel au travail. She spoke passionately about her work, which involves protecting employees who are victims of harassment, regardless of their line of work. She was shocked that there was absolutely no mention of sexual harassment in the bill.
We in the official opposition tried to propose amendments of substance to remedy the situation. Some of our amendments sought to make it mandatory for all members of the RCMP to take training on harassment, in connection with the RCMP Act. Part of the work should have involved education and helping RCMP members do that work.
In conclusion, I hope that I am asked a number of interesting questions because I still have so many things to say about Bill C-42. That being said, I have to reiterate that, unfortunately, for these reasons, we will be unable to vote in favour of Bill C-42.