House of Commons Hansard #403 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was records.

Topics

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I apologize, as I do not think I communicated my report very well. However, if the House gives its consent, I move that the 90th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented in the House earlier today, be concurred in.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent to move the motion?

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

(Motion agreed to)

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Alleged Process Used to Determine Liberal Caucus Membership—Speaker's RulingPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on April 9, 2019, by the hon. member for Markham—Stouffville concerning an alleged violation of section 49.8 of the Parliament of Canada Act.

In raising this matter, the member for Markham—Stouffville argued that caucus expulsions or readmissions require proper due process. According to her, members of the Liberal caucus were prevented from voting on the rules for this decision pursuant to section 49.8 of the Parliament of Canada Act. She stated explicitly that, in this case, the matter of privilege is very much about knowing which rules apply for expulsion or readmission; it is not about a possible caucus expulsion, as was the issue addressed in my ruling on April 8, 2019. In her view, although the Chair has no role in the interpretation of statutes, it does not relieve the Speaker of the responsibility to ensure that all members are aware of their rights in this House.

In response, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons informed the House that the chair of the national Liberal caucus had indeed sent the requisite letter to the Speaker, specifying that the provisions of the act regarding the expulsion and readmission of caucus members would not apply for the 42nd Parliament. This, in his view, makes this question of privilege moot and removes any confusion as to which rules apply. Furthermore, he argued that it is not the role of the Speaker to adjudicate such matters.

The issue at hand is quite simple: The Chair is being asked, as was the case with the recent ruling on a similar matter, to determine whether provisions included in the Parliament of Canada Act, as they relate to matters of caucus, have been violated. Section 49.8(1) of the act states:

At its first meeting following a general election, the caucus of every party that has a recognized membership of 12 or more persons in the House of Commons shall conduct a separate vote among the caucus members in respect of each of the following questions:

(a) whether sections 49.2 and 49.3 are to apply in respect of the caucus;

(b) whether section 49.4 is to apply in respect of the caucus;

(c) whether subsections 49.5(1) to (3) are to apply in respect of the caucus; and

(d) whether subsection 49.5(4) and section 49.6 are to apply in respect of the caucus.

These requirements, which came into force when the House adopted Bill C-586, Reform Act, 2014, in the 41st Parliament, establish processes for the expulsion and readmission of a caucus member, the election and removal of a caucus chair, leadership review and the election of an interim leader. It is the caucus of each recognized party, not the Speaker, which bears the responsibility for ensuring that these votes are held.

In fact, the only role of the Speaker is to be advised of the caucus decision. Section 49.8(5) of the act states:

49.8(5) As soon as feasible after the conduct of the votes, the chair of the caucus shall inform the Speaker of the House of Commons of the outcome of each vote.

The Speaker's role stops there. It does not, in any way, extend to interpreting the results of the votes, how the votes were taken or interpreting any other relevant provisions.

This is very much in keeping with the general restraint on Speakers when they are asked to interpret the law. Speaker Fraser stated this fundamental principle in a ruling on April 9, 1991, at page 19234 of the Debates.

...the Speaker has no role in interpreting matters of either a constitutional or legal nature.

This is in addition to another limit on its scope of authority, that is, parliamentary privilege and, thus, the authority of the Speaker is limited to the internal affairs of the House, its own proceedings. It does not extend to caucus matters. The member for Markham—Stouffville was right to state that the Speaker bears the responsibility for ensuring that all members are aware of their rights in this House. While caucuses may have some extraneous relationship to the membership of the House, it remains just that. There is nothing to suggest that its proceedings constitute or relate to a proceeding of the House.

This leaves caucuses alone with the authority to govern their internal operations. This is also made quite clear by the wording of section 49.7 of the Act which bars against judicial review, stating:

49.7 Any determination of a matter relating to the internal operations of a party by the caucus, a committee of the caucus or the caucus chair is final and not subject to judicial review.

With the full authority given to caucuses themselves in such unequivocal terms, it is clear that the Chair has no role in the interpretation or enforcement of this statute, even when members feel rudderless without what they feel would be clearly stated and understood rules.

For these reasons, the Chair is unable to conclude that the member for Markham—Stouffville has been obstructed in the fulfillment of her parliamentary functions. Accordingly, I cannot find that there is a prima facie question of privilege.

I thank all hon. members for their attention.

Bill C-93—Time Allocation MotionCriminal Records ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved:

That, in relation to Bill C-93, An Act to provide no-cost, expedited record suspensions for simple possession of cannabis, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the Bill; and

That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

Bill C-93—Time Allocation MotionCriminal Records ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Pursuant to Standing Order 67.1, there will now be a 30-minute question period. I invite hon. members who wish to ask questions to rise in their places so that the Chair has some idea of the number of members who wish to participate in this question period.

The hon. member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.

Bill C-93—Time Allocation MotionCriminal Records ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, again, we see the use of closure by the government. I want to ask a question about the particulars of the legislation it is bringing in closure on.

The Liberals call this, in the title of the bill, “no-cost” pardons. Of course, it is not no cost. It is just that the taxpayer would have to cover all of those costs.

I would like to know, given how limited the debate has been, the answers to a few key policy questions: How much is this legislation going to cost? Why is the government not considering targeting that cost relief to those who need it and those who cannot afford pardons while having those who can afford pardons still pay for them? Why is the government not considering alternatives, such as those proposed by other parties in this place that remove the records without the cost associated with the process that the government would put in place?

Bill C-93—Time Allocation MotionCriminal Records ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

Bill Blair LiberalMinister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question. We believe that, overwhelmingly, those individuals who have these criminal records have been impacted by them and that impact is disproportional to these offences.

One of the reasons we brought forward the legislation changing the way in which we regulate cannabis was to create a regulatory regime that is far more proportional to what is required to control this substance. We believe that there is strong consensus in the House that those records should be dealt with in an appropriate way. We are anxious to have the bill sent to committee so that its members can examine this issue at committee and, perhaps, provide greater insight into the questions posed by my friend opposite.

Bill C-93—Time Allocation MotionCriminal Records ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, the minister failed to answer the question, even though he thanked me for asking it. I asked how much this is going to cost. I asked a number of other things, but maybe he can answer that point right off for us. Of course, it can be studied at committee, but it is his legislation and he should know the cost.

How much would this proposal cost taxpayers if the legislation passes?

Bill C-93—Time Allocation MotionCriminal Records ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, perhaps I can provide a little more specificity. As the member knows, the current pardon system of records suspension, as implemented by the Conservative government, had a very substantial fee of $631 imposed on these applications.

We know that for many of the people who have a conviction for simple possession, that fee is, frankly, a significant impediment to their ability to access these records and, therefore, to get on with their lives, to get a job and to realize their full potential as citizens. We believe this should be accessible.

The exact amount the cost would be is proportional to the number of people who will actually seek this. The high cost is such an impediment for so many people that it would strictly limit those who could take advantage of this opportunity for a fresh start.

Bill C-93—Time Allocation MotionCriminal Records ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is sad that we are seeing again, for the 60th time, the government imposing closure on important discussions that need to take place in the House.

I recall, as I am sure members do, back in 2015 the Prime Minister said it would be sunny ways, that Liberals would respect Parliament and that they would allow parliamentarians to debate these important issues. Instead, 60 times the government has imposed this legislative bulldozer and pushed aside the ability of members of Parliament to speak to the issue.

The issue is pretty fundamental. In this particular case, we are talking about a very complicated, convoluted and admittedly expensive process that the government wants to put in place, yet at the same time, the member for Victoria has presented a solution to this whole issue, which is the expungement of these records. The member for Victoria brought his private member's bill forward and has support from across the length and breadth of this country. Curiously, at the same time as his bill gains momentum, we see the government now bringing in the legislative bulldozer to push through its deeply flawed bill to try to head off the member for Victoria.

Is that not the real reason for closure today and why the government is trying to head off what is a very credible and legitimate bill from the member for Victoria that all members of Parliament want to vote on?

Bill C-93—Time Allocation MotionCriminal Records ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for New Westminster—Burnaby's question gives me an opportunity to explain that we examined the issue of the best way to deal with these existing records and what would have the greatest benefit to Canadians who have these records.

Let me say that the practical effect of pardons and expungements is virtually identical. The exception is that pardoned records are sealed and segregated. They can be reopened only in extraordinary circumstances. Perhaps most important, a pardoned record is actually protected by the Canadian Human Rights Act, whereas expungement is not.

I can say from experience that because these records are not indictable records and for decades the vast majority of people who were charged and convicted of this offence were not fingerprinted, these records do not reside in a single, simple database from which expungements could be applied. In fact, they are often recorded in provincial and territorial databases, so the pardon process where an individual must come forward and identify the existence of the record so that it can be dealt with in an appropriate way is the right way to do this.

Although I know I share with the member opposite and his party a strong desire to redress those records for those individuals, I very sincerely believe that a pardon process is the right way to do it, the appropriate way to do it and will provide the most benefit to those who have these records.

Bill C-93—Time Allocation MotionCriminal Records ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is quite right that there is a difference between expungement and pardons. Expungement, of course, is a legal process that essentially declares that the offences for which people were convicted are no longer an offence and the offences never happened. Therefore, it is obviously superior to a pardon for clearing a person's record.

My question really has to do with the fairness of this. We know the Conservatives made pardons much more difficult for Canadians to get. They lengthened the time period that Canadians had to wait before they could apply. They imposed a drastic increase in the costs of pardons, over $600. We know that cannabis offences disproportionately hurt the most marginalized Canadians: indigenous Canadians, young Canadians, poor Canadians. It is exactly that population of people who are probably the least likely to have the resources to go and apply for pardons in the first place, whether there is a fee or not.

Therefore, the legislation the government is proposing would leave many Canadians effectively without a pardon where, with a simple act of this Parliament, we could expunge the records of all Canadians for simple possession. We should do that because it is no longer a crime in this country. The current government did that for crimes that were on the books against homosexuality. The Liberals used expungement then. Why did the government use expungement to clear the records of Canadians who were convicted of homosexual offences, but will not do it with respect to Canadians convicted of cannabis offences?

Bill C-93—Time Allocation MotionCriminal Records ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a very important question. I appreciate the opportunity to clarify this.

With respect to those offences, they were expunged earlier as a result of an acknowledgement that certain criminal charges and the criminal law were in fact unconstitutional and were a violation of the Canadian Human Rights Act. In acknowledgement that the application of those laws was in fact a violation of both our laws and our human rights legislation, we believed that expungement of those records and dealing with them in that way was the appropriate path forward.

I would differentiate that with the legislation that existed in this country for over a century with respect to the criminal prohibition of the possession of cannabis. That law has been ruled many times to have been constitutional and not in violation of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It has also never been suggested that it is a violation of the Canadian Human Rights Act. That law was properly enacted, it was properly enforced, those prosecutions were properly conducted and those convictions were properly registered. That is a fundamental difference from those charges that related to the LGBT community and that is why we treated them in a very different way.

Those offences and those convictions for cannabis have had a disproportionate impact on the individuals who have those convictions. In particular, I am happy to acknowledge, as I acknowledged when I first spoke of this issue in the House nearly two years ago, that this disproportionate impact is something that requires redress. The impact on minority communities, indigenous communities and poor communities has been disproportionate and the impact on those individuals has been more significant in the quality and the outcome of their lives. Therefore, we believe that the right thing to do is to move—

Bill C-93—Time Allocation MotionCriminal Records ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Oshawa.

Bill C-93—Time Allocation MotionCriminal Records ActGovernment Orders

April 11th, 2019 / 10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, here we are again with a government that is so disorganized and preoccupied with its scandal that it cannot seem to get anything organized and moving through this House, so we are faced with closure again.

My constituents have a lot of questions about this issue. One of them is the cost of these pardons, as well as the precedent.

My hon. colleague has had a wonderful, honourable career in the police force for many years, and I have a question for him today regarding precedent. We know that in the past, many Canadians have applied for these pardons and paid for the pardons themselves. Now the government is moving forward with this initiative without even allowing us to debate in the House how much the pardons would cost and how the Parole Board would filter out those who have been convicted of marijuana offences in conjunction with other offences.

I would like to find out, and my hon. colleague should know, is if this is a precedent. Is this something for which people who have had pardons in the past will be expecting the government to refund them or anything along those lines? How much is this going to cost us?

Bill C-93—Time Allocation MotionCriminal Records ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is very clear in Bill C-93 that we speak very specifically to a certain set of offences.

On October 17 of last year, legislation came into effect that fulfilled our promise to legalize and strictly regulate the production and distribution of cannabis. We have done that for a number of reasons, but overwhelmingly, our intent is to reduce social harm, to do a better job of protecting our kids, to displace the criminal market from this enterprise, to protect the health and safety of Canadians and to provide the opportunity to individuals with records to have those records properly pardoned so that they can get on with their lives. We deal with regulatory offences in a far more effective, far more proportional and far more appropriate way.

It is an acknowledgement of that significant change and the way in which we control cannabis in this country that we believe it is absolutely appropriate, and I believe we have agreement on this, for individuals who have such records, who otherwise have led exemplary lives, to be pardoned of those records so that they might get on with their lives.

Bill C-93—Time Allocation MotionCriminal Records ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am a little stunned to hear the hon. member, who is a former senior police officer in this country, arguing that a pardon is the same as expungement.

If anyone would know, it is he who would know that expungement means that when people go to the border or volunteer for a soccer group or boys and girls club, they can honestly declare they do not have criminal records, whereas with a pardon, people have to declare at the border they have criminal records. Remarkably, I read in the news this week that one of the Liberal MPs said that if people with pardons have a problem at the border, there is a number they can call and they will get help. It was the most extraordinary thing I have ever heard.

I would like to hear from the member how he can argue that a pardon is the same as expungement, which is exactly what the member for Victoria is calling for.

Bill C-93—Time Allocation MotionCriminal Records ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to offer a little perspective from my experience.

We know that many Canadians have records and have gone through the border. We also know that American authorities and authorities in other countries may have access to information about that historical conviction. Quite frankly, if the question put at the border to a Canadian attempting to enter the country is whether that person has ever been charged or convicted of such an offence and he or she says no, the Americans may have evidence of that historical record. From their perspective, there is no legal effect of expungement, and they would deny entry to that person, perhaps permanently, on the basis of that individual not telling the full truth.

However, a pardon has a legal effect at the border. Under our Canadian Human Rights Act and as acknowledged by the U.S. authorities, if a Canadian goes to the border and says he or she has no record for which he or she has not received a pardon, then that is the truth, and the Canadian will be able to enter that country. It is actually much to the advantage of Canadians who are travelling to and from Canada into other countries, particularly the United States, to have a well-documented record of that pardon so that they can tell the truth at the border and not be impeded from entering the country.