Madam Speaker, the events of the last six weeks have demonstrated that the justice committee has been unable or unwilling to deal with a constitutional crisis. Let me first explain why this is a constitutional crisis.
In this country, our Constitution is both written and unwritten. The written Constitution is found in many constitution acts, such as the Constitution Act of 1867, which is the founding document of our Confederation. It is found in the Constitution Act of 1982, which contains the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, arguably, the bigger part of our Constitution is the unwritten part. The unwritten part of our Constitution regulates the Crown prerogative. It regulates the accountability of the executive branch of government, which is the Prime Minister's Office and his cabinet, to the legislative branch of government. It regulates the division of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the Canadian state.
One important part of this unwritten constitutional doctrine is the Shawcross principle. In fact, it is so important that all attorneys general in Canada at the federal and provincial levels have adopted it as constitutional law, as a constitutional convention. The Shawcross doctrine, in essence, says that the attorney general, as the senior law officer of the Crown, is not to be put under pressure by the Prime Minister or any other minister in the cabinet with respect to a criminal proceeding.
It is an important principle to protect the independence of our judicial system to ensure that no prime minister and no premier can interfere with who gets criminally prosecuted and who does not, who gets criminally convicted and who does not, and who gets sent to jail and who does not. These are foundational constitutional principles, not just in Canada but in all western democracies.
What happened here that is such a crisis? Quite simply, the Prime Minister, last September, told his attorney general, as the top Crown prosecutor in the country, that he wanted to see the criminal trial of SNC-Lavalin stopped. He made that clear to her in his discussion last September. The attorney general clearly indicated to him during that conversation that she had made up her mind and that the director of public prosecutions was going to take this matter to trial.
Over the course of the fall, the Prime Minister and his staff and other ministers put unrelenting, sustained and inappropriate pressure on the attorney general to stop this matter from proceeding to trial. In doing so, they violated the constitutional law of this country, the unwritten constitutional conventions that govern the division of powers between the PMO and the judicial branch of government. If they had not violated the Shawcross doctrine, this unwritten convention, last September, they had clearly violated it by the time Christmas came around.
To add to all of this, the Prime Minister fired the attorney general. Oh yes, that is not what the government will say. The government will say that she was shifted into a new portfolio, Veterans Affairs, but the reality is that the former attorney general was shuffled out of her portfolio and a new Attorney General appointed who seemed much more open to halting the criminal trial of SNC-Lavalin and giving it a deferred prosecution agreement. That is why this is a constitutional crisis. The unwritten convention, the constitutional law of this country, that the attorney general is independent in matters criminal has been broken.
The branch of our system of the Canadian state that can hold the executive branch accountable on a non-statutory, non-criminal breach of our unwritten constitutional conventions is the legislative branch of our government, the House of Commons and its committees. However, that is not what is happening here in this legislature. It is not what is happening here in its committees.
The House of Commons, its committees and its parliamentary parties, recognized under the Parliament of Canada Act, can vote to censor the Prime Minister. They can vote to hold the Prime Minister or the government in contempt of Parliament. They can remove the Prime Minister as head of the Liberal parliamentary party and replace him with another leader. That is how this matter needs to be resolved. It is this legislature and its committees that need to hold the executive branch of government accountable for this serious constitutional breach of the independence of our judicial system.
However, it is clear that the justice committee, being under the control of the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister's Office, has been unwilling or unable to hold the executive branch of government accountable, in part because members of committees are all appointed and essentially sit at the pleasure of the party leader. In the case of the justice committee, the majority of members are appointed by the Prime Minister through his designates.
That is the problem here, and that is why the House needs to order the justice committee to do its work. That is why I am going to move an amendment to the motion on the floor right now, which is seconded by the member for Calgary Shepard. I move:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:
the 14th Report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, presented on Wednesday, June 7, 2017, be not now concurred in, but that it be recommitted to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights with instruction to amend the same so as to underscore its ongoing support for the appointment of Kathleen Roussel to the position of Director of Public Prosecutions and to recommend that she appear before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to discuss matters relating to her mandate.
I move this amendment because the justice committee is clearly not doing its work in holding the executive branch of government accountable. It needs to do its work, and an order of the House would ensure that it does do its work.