Point of order, Madam Speaker. I would like to know if the hon. member is speaking in the period for questions and comments or if he is opening the debate on the issue.
Lost his last election, in 2000, with 37% of the vote.
Supply November 22nd, 1994
Point of order, Madam Speaker. I would like to know if the hon. member is speaking in the period for questions and comments or if he is opening the debate on the issue.
Supply November 22nd, 1994
Madam Speaker, the motion before the House today reads as follows:
That this House urge the government to replace the current Members of Parliament Retirement Allowance plan with a pension plan that reflects the current norms for private sector pensions, with a maximum contribution in accordance with the Income Tax Act.
Its wording is extremely vague, when it refers to current norms for private sector pensions. Which private sector pensions? Are we talking about the pension plan for executives at General Motors or Chrysler Canada, or about the pension plans of employees of small businesses in East Montreal? The standards are not at all the same. The wording of the motion is definitely unsatisfactory, and if the wording is unsatisfactory, we can assume that the substance is as well and that the motion leaves much to be desired, as it will in the course of this debate, especially in terms of what is said by the motion's sponsors.
We in the Official Opposition feel that the pension plan for members of Parliament cannot be dissociated from the issue of members' salaries or the entire budget envelope that is allocated to members.
If members were paid $200,000 annually, as they are in the United States, it would be obvious that a pension plan if any, should be very modest in scale. However, when a member's salary is quite low, as may be the case today, it makes sense to have a more substantial pension plan. The two go together. We cannot separate these issues like the compartments they have in submarines to keep them from sinking.
I think it is just petty politics to take an issue that is already controversial and say: "Look at those people in the House of Commons. They are overpaid, they have too many benefits and privileges, they have a shoe shine service, they have people to cut their hair-" and other people to split hairs. I think we have to take a far more comprehensive view, and that is the approach we support.
We can afford to be very detached about this issue, Madam Speaker, especially considering the role of the Official Opposition in this House and its life expectancy, in the light of its political views. So we have a certain perspective that others may not have, in the circumstances. Of course, members should be treated in a way that is commensurate with their responsibilities. To claim, which is petty politics in my book, that members of Parliament are overpaid and make such a pronouncement out of the blue, based on nothing, further erodes the role of MPs in our society.
There was no shortage of occasions in the past for demeaning the role of parliamentarians, a role which is often not obvious. Very few care about the number of hours MPs dedicate to their work, seven days a week. You know, Madam Speaker, 75, 80 and 90-hour weeks are not uncommon for MPs, but who is counting? So, the entire system, both the pay plan and retirement plan, should be reviewed.
We must also be able to attract quality candidates for the position of member of Parliament. My colleague from Glengarry-Prescott-Russell referred to the 1830, 1832 legislation which was in fact designed to allow any citizen, from the richest to the ones from the humblest origins, to have a chance of becoming a parliamentarian. It is not with this kind of abrupt rollback of benefits that we are going to be able to set the course and stay on course, one which is increasingly difficult to maintain.
One has to realize that, normally, MPs are elected to the House of Commons at the peak, so to speak, of their working life, when they are the most productive, building a career, whatever their line of work is. So, at the end of their mandate or mandates in the House, MPs very often find themselves in a vulnerable situation, especially since, as we know, the turnover rate among members of the House of Commons of Canada is one of the highest in Western Parliaments.
Unlike in the United States, where members of Congress serve some 20 years on average, Canadian members of Parliament serve between five and seven years on average, which is an extremely short time. We know what happens to members after they retire or fail to get re-elected, how difficult it is for them to find new jobs, for all kinds of reasons I will not get into at this time. But this is a reality members from all political parties must face. That is why we must make it a little easier for members
who retire of their own free will or who are forced to retire because voters have decided it is time for them to do so.
Because of their precarious position, members of Parliament must be given sufficient financial resources to get back on their feet after retirement or electoral defeat. There is however one thing on which the Official Opposition has always been clear, that is, when a member of the House of Commons has the right to collect a pension from the Government of Canada. We do not find it normal for a person who is barely 30 but who has completed two mandates to be able to collect a pension from the Canadian government immediately.
In our opinion, we should discuss the age at which former members of the House of Commons should be able to collect this pension, by comparing apples with apples. Let us look at how things are done at the RCMP and in the Canadian Forces. This could help us in trying to determine the age at which former members of the House of Commons should be able to collect their pensions.
Of course, we are also opposed to double dipping, that is, getting two cheques from the Canadian government. We think that this practice should be abolished. For someone who is already receiving a pension or an allowance because of their past services to the Canadian government to be allowed to continue to collect these cheques while sitting in the House of Commons is not normal either, in our opinion.
We do not intend to compromise on the age at which one may collect a pension or on what is commonly called double dipping.
To consider the issue of pensions, we must look at reality. Many members of this House or of previous Parliaments had a job in which they contributed to a pension fund in the company where they worked. When they came to the House of Commons, they contributed to its pension plan and stopped contributing to their other plan. Often, a member who leaves this House finds that he has contributed for a very short time to a private pension plan, so he will have to continue working for quite a while. He will be penalized because the pension fund is not transferable. We should look into this issue.
I do not think that we can solve these problems with an opposition motion. We will have to wait for a government bill to frame the issue so that we can really debate it.
We now have a five-line motion. I think that a fleshed-out bill should have quite a few more provisions and that a non-partisan review should lead to the government presenting a bill, as the Prime Minister said a few days ago.
Finally, we said that we could consider the government bill very calmly, but surely not in the heat of a debate that stirs passionate feelings against members of Parliament, in which people are led to believe that MPs are literally sucking the teat of state. The whole benefit package of members of the House of Commons, particularly their pension plan, must be the subject of a government bill that is considered as neutrally and objectively as possible, certainly not in the heat of passion and especially not one from people who told us at the beginning of the session that they would cut back their salary, or at least part of it, that they would give back 10 per cent of it and then said that they had made a mistake. "I have unemployed people at home and I cannot afford to set aside 10 per cent." Such an issue so easily inflames public opinion that perhaps we should avoid doing it.
For the reasons which I mentioned, the Official Opposition will vote against the motion before us today.
Public Service Staff Relations Act November 17th, 1994
Mr. Speaker, speaking on behalf of the Official Opposition, I wish to express my objections to Bill C-58 at the second reading stage. We are not alone, since the Canadian Police Association, including associations of RCMP officers, did so yesterday. I would like to quote from the minutes of a meeting held at their headquarters here in Ottawa on November 14 and 15, on the subject of Bill C-58.
André Girard submitted copies of Bill C-58 introduced for first reading on November 4 and scheduled for second reading on November 17, 1994. If the bill is passed it will give separate employer status to the RCMP commissioner and leave the members vulnerable on all issues of pay and benefits.
It was decided to treat Bill C-58 as CPA priority and direct Scott Newark to take all necessary action to make sure the bill was sent to a parliamentary committee, vigorously debated and defeated.
It was moved by André Nadon, seconded by Jim Davidson:
That the RCMP C and O Division Members' Associations have full support of the Canadian Police Association and that the CPA take all necessary steps to fight Bill C-58 on their behalf.
It was carried unanimously.
Mr. Speaker, our objections to Bill C-58 are two-fold. First, this ostensibly routine legislation is, in fact, aimed at invalidating the effect of the judgment handed down by the Federal Court Appeal Division in the Gingras case on March 19, 1994. I intend to focus particularly on this aspect.
Second, Bill C-58 constitutes an additional obstacle to union membership for members of the RCMP, as well as interference by the legislative with the judiciary, since a case is still pending before the Quebec Court of Appeal. I am referring to Delisle vs the Deputy Solicitor General of Canada and the Solicitor General of Canada, file 500-09-001747-898 of the Montreal appeal district.
I will now discuss my first point. Two of my colleagues in the Official Opposition rose in the House to address this particular matter. The first time was on March 11, 1994, when the hon. member for Laval-Centre, in a question directed to the Solicitor General, asked as follows:
Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Solicitor General. Yesterday, the Federal Court of Appeal ordered the federal government to pay bilingualism bonuses of $800 a year to qualified officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It is estimated that the government now owes up to $4,000 to more than 3,000 officers, as well as to retired officers of the RCMP. Does the Solicitor General intend to abide by the unanimous decision of the Federal Court of Appeal and pay the bilingualism bonus to qualified officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police?
And the Solicitor General's reply:
Mr. Speaker, that decision raises some very complex issues. It is presently under review, and I will have more information about that in the near future.
The "near future" came two months later. On May 10, the hon. member for Richelieu rose in the House to make a statement under Standing Order 31. He said as follows, and I quote:
Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Quebecois applauds the government's decision to finally comply with the Federal Court of Appeal judgment and pay a bilingualism bonus to RCMP members who occupy bilingual positions.
This puts an end to a lengthy dispute between RCMP members and their employer who, must it be reminded, had decided not to provide this bonus, supposedly "to preserve cohesion within the forces".
If it is serious about bilingualism, the government must continue to pay bilingual bonuses inasmuch as it provides true incentive and compensation for the added complexity of bilingual positions.
Considering there is much room for improvement in the federal Public Service, particularly with regard to the use of French, the government must make sure this bonus is awarded for language skills of the highest level to provide services of the highest quality.
That was the end of the statement under Standing Order 31 made by the hon. member for Richelieu.
The government did not appeal the decision of the Appeal Division of the Federal Court. The case did not go to the Supreme Court, although in March, the minister maintained that some very important principles were at stake. We now know why. The minister had decided to take a difficult approach. Instead of asking the Supreme Court for a definitive opinion on the legal aspects of this case, the government decided to legislate, and that legislation is Bill C-58 before the House today. The government decided to go after its own justice, not by appealing to the Supreme Court, but instead by presenting to the House a bill which, to all intents and purposes, is aimed at rendering null and void the court's decision in the Gingras case.
Indeed, Bill C-58 seeks to overturn the decision handed down by the Appeal Division of the Federal Court, on May 10, 1994, in the Gingras case, which concerned the more or less 17,500 members of the RCMP. It should be pointed out that there are three distinct categories of employees working for the RCMP. The numbers I have were updated November 15, 1994, the day before yesterday.
Regular members and special RCMP constables number 15,551, whereas 1,983 civilians and 3,440 civil servants work for the RCMP.
The 15,500 regular members are, in fact, police officers. They are not unionized. The 2,000 civilians are support staff working in laboratories, as technicians or specialists; an unspecified number of them belong to the administrative support category. They are not unionized either.
The 3,500 civil servants are either administrative or support staff such as clerks, secretaries, stenographers, guards, caretakers and the like. They are all hired by the Public Service Commission or transferred from other departments. They belong to unions such as the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
As I mentioned earlier, Bill C-58 seeks to overturn the Federal Court of Appeal's decision. In the Gingras case, the court came to the conclusion that members of the RCMP belong to the Public Service and, as such, must abide by the rules set by the Treasury Board and that they are entitled to the $800-a-year bilingual bonus.
In May 1994, the government announced that it did not intend to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada and that it was going to pay the bilingual bonus to RCMP members, including retroactive payments for some of the years it had illegally denied RCMP members this bonus. All in all, retroactive payments could amount to $30 million.
It seems that the Gingras decision disturbs the RCMP top brass because it means that, in certain cases, other Treasury Board regulations may apply to the RCMP and its police officers. Such regulations deal in particular with employment equity, the enforcement of the Official Languages Act, and working conditions. The right to unionize is being debated as part of the Delisle case, which I will deal with later.
Schedule I of the Public Service Staff Relations Act contains a list of departments and other agencies having the Treasury Board as employer, that is to say that are part of the Public Service, and a list of agencies which are separate employers. The RCMP is listed in Part I of Schedule I, and that makes it a part of the Public Service.
Bill C-58 would remove the RCMP from the Public Service, and therefore the Treasury Board would cease to be its employer. Consequently, the RCMP would be subject to legislation applicable to public servants only if it were specifically referred to in such legislation. Treasury Board policies would no longer apply to the RCMP, except if the RCMP itself decided to follow them, but that would be on a strictly voluntary basis.
Since December 1992, the Financial Administration Act has been the legal basis of the Employment Equity Program set up by Treasury Board in the mid 80s. All departments and agencies having the Treasury Board as their employer are subject to the Employment Equity Act because they are part of the Public Service.
Until recently, because the Commissioner had so decided, the RCMP was not subject to Treasury Board policies despite the fact that the force is listed in Part I, Schedule I of the Public Service Staff Relations Act. However, we should stress that the RCMP differs in some ways from the rest of the Public Service, and that has allowed the commissioner to pretend that the policy on bilingual bonuses did not apply to the RCMP.
The decision of the Appeal Division of the Federal Court, made March 10, 1994, in the Gingras case, puts an end to such pretence. From now on, said the tree presiding judges unanimously, the RCMP is part of the Public Service. Therefore, since March 1994, the RCMP has had to apply all Treasury Board policies to its 17,500 employees. Bill C-58 puts an end to that. We must note that civilian employees of the RCMP, numbering approximately 3,440, were always fully subject to Treasury Board policies on employment equity and bilingualism because they were recruited by the Public Service Commission.
The RCMP submits an annual report to the Treasury Board and is included in the Treasury Board's equity statistics. However, the RCMP decided a long time ago to implement the federal policy on employment equity for its 17,500 employees, which include 15,500 peace officers and 2,000 civilians. Instead of submitting an annual report to the Treasury Board and being subject to its rules, the RCMP decided to create its own system of co-operation with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, to which it submits an annual report.
However you look at it, the system is an ad hoc one and, in principle, inefficient. By in effect reversing the March 1994 decision, the government is seeking to exempt the RCMP from the Treasury Board's authority regarding labour relations and conditions of employment. Although the RCMP implements certain policies on a voluntary basis, its goodwill is questionable, given that, for 19 years, it denied its members the bilingual bonus, thereby saving approximately $50 million, or $2.8 million annually.
If one of the purposes of Bill C-58 is to stop the payment of bilingual bonuses to members of the RCMP, we can conclude that the government is adopting the Reform position. Do the Liberals intend to eliminate the bilingual bonus throughout the public service? If the government announces that it intends to pay the bonus to members occupying bilingual positions or if the RCMP commissioner decides to continue the bonus voluntarily, we can still say that the bill undermines the bilingual bonus policy, because the commissioner can terminate the bonus at any time.
It seems that the Official Languages Act applies differently to the RCMP: service in both languages, equitable hiring, language of administration, language of instruction at the Regina school and other similar provisions.
The member for Nanaimo-Cowichan believes that the Federal Court's decision in the Gingras case means that military personnel would also be entitled to the bilingual bonus. Unfortunately, under the act, military personnel are not considered part of the public service.
The Public Service Staff Relations Act specifically excludes members of the RCMP. They cannot, therefore, apply for certification to the Public Service Staff Relations Board, although the Delisle case I mentioned earlier may change this. While Her Majesty in Right of Canada, represented by the Treasury Board, is ultimately their employer, members of the RCMP are excluded from the definition of "employee" for the purposes of the Public Service Staff Relations Act.
At any rate, since RCMP members are presently part of the public service, this means that the RCMP remains subject to Treasury Board policies and standards. Only organizations with separate employer status are not subject to TB policies. Separate employers are paid a lump-sum each year, but are not required to comply with general policies regarding official languages or employment equity for example. Bill C-58 excludes the RCMP from the application of TB policies.
The Financial Administration Act under which the Treasury Board was established sets several standards regarding the public service and government finance administration, except as specifically provided in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and any other act that applies to the RCMP, such as the Official Languages Act.
Bill C-58 provides for Treasury Board policies to no longer apply to members of the RCMP. Paragraph 7(1)( e ) of the Financial Administration Act states clearly that the Treasury
Board may act on matters relating to, and I quote: "personnel management in the public service of Canada, including the determination of the terms and conditions of employment".
Bill C-58 would add to the RCMP Act a provision by which paragraph 7(1)( e ) would not apply to the RCMP. Therefore, terms and conditions of employment would be determined by the commissioner of the RCMP and the RCMP Act. This act does provide that staff may appeal to the RCMP external review committee.
Without Bill C-58, the RCMP would presumably have had to gradually comply with Treasury Board occupational standards. I do not have the full list of TB standards and cannot compare them to those in effect within the RCMP under the RCMP Act, but I note that the Treasury Board has powers in the following areas: first, administration of the Employment Equity Act; second, administration of the Official Languages Act; third, financial management; fourth, annual expenditure plans; and fifth, personnel management and determination of terms and conditions of employment.
As far as personnel management is concerned, it is interesting to note that, under Section 11(2) of the Financial Administration Act, the Public Service Commission is partly responsible for personnel management in other departments. In the case of RCMP members, however, it is the Treasury Board which plays this role.
I note that the RCMP Act and some other acts make an exception for the RCMP given the nature of its work. Therefore, at this time, RCMP members' terms and conditions of employment are not identical to those of other public service employees. Among other things, RCMP members are excluded from the definition of "public servant" in the Public Service Staff Relations Act and cannot form a union.
So we can ask ourselves why the government is not proposing at the same time to grant civilian employees of the RCMP-about 2,000 office and support workers-the same rights and privileges as their 3,400 colleagues who are already part of the public service. After all, neither group is composed of law enforcement officers.
There is also an RCMP External Review Committee, whose mandate is "to provide an independent review of grievances, formal discipline, and discharge and demotion appeals filed by members of the RCMP". But, as the external committee points out in its annual reports, no document clearly spells out its jurisdiction. A member of the RCMP can ask the RCMP Commissioner to review a demotion or discharge. The Commissioner then asks the external committee to review the decision before settling the matter himself. The Commissioner is not required to follow the recommendations of the external committee.
The external committee also notes in its annual report that the decisions of the RCMP arbitration committee cannot be appealed to the external committee. Again, everything rests on the good will of the RCMP Commissioner, who ultimately becomes both a judge and a party in the disputes that may arise within the RCMP. How can we leave the terms and conditions of employment up to the good will of the RCMP Commissioner?
The external committee also stresses in its annual report that the grievance procedure is even more complex. In some cases, the Commissioner himself determines what kind of grievances can be submitted to the external committee.
Let us now talk about the RCMP as a separate or almost separate employer. The Treasury Board is the employer of the Public Service and all public servants, according to the list in Part I of Schedule I to the Public Service Staff Relations Act. The RCMP is now listed in Part I of Schedule I and Bill C-58 would replace the expression "RCMP" in this list with "civilian employees appointed or employed in accordance with section 10 of the RCMP Act", who number 2,000. It would exclude the peace officers in the RCMP, who number 15,500. This same law presents a second list, in Part II of Schedule I, of sectors of the federal public service that are distinct employers.
Note that the expression "federal government employees" takes in all government employees, including those who work for Crown corporations and the military. In all, there are 550,000. The Public Service does not count employees of Crown corporations, the military and personnel of separate employers, who number about 235,000 in all.
In particular, the separate employers in Part II of Schedule I include the Communications Security Establishment, CSE, and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, CSIS.
Bill C-58 does not add the RCMP to the list in Part II of Schedule I, neither does it add the 15,500 members of the RCMP who are peace officers to this list. Therefore, the 15,500 members of the RCMP who are peace officers will have the same status as members of the Canadian Forces; that is, they do not even appear in Part II of the schedule.
In fact, only the personnel not paid with public funds, namely the employees of bars, restaurants and other service establishments on military bases, are listed there. However, the Commissioner of the RCMP would have the status of a separate employer. I think that not putting the 15,500 members of the RCMP who are peace officers in Part II of Schedule I would give
the commissioner even more absolute control over his staff. Why? For what purpose? That is the hidden agenda in this bill.
I now come to my second point, very briefly, because to a large extent it is now before the courts. Bill C-58 further infringes on the unionization of members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and is unacceptable interference of the legislative authority in judicial matters, since a case on this issue is pending before the Quebec Court of Appeal. It is the case which I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, Delisle v . the Deputy Attorney General of Canada and the Solicitor General of Canada, which is to be heard by the Montreal District Court of Appeal in the coming months.
In this legal proceeding, the plaintiff, Gaétan Delisle, a member of the RCMP and member of the Quebec provincial association of the RCMP, is asking the courts of this country to declare unconstitutional all the provisions which prevent the Canadian Labour Board from issuing a certificate of accreditation for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and especially for its employees who are peace officers.
The officers who are the plaintiffs in these proceedings are basing their argument on section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which provides for freedom of association. These plaintiffs argue that the freedom of association gives them the collective bargaining right, hence the right to unionize. This is an issue the Court of Appeal will have to settle, and I do not think that we, as legislators, should hinder the Court of Appeal and influence any interpretation it might give.
The plaintiffs before the Quebec Court of Appeal, the police officers of the Quebec section of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, also refer to the equality rights enshrined in section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Why is it that in every Canadian jurisdiction, and especially in provincial jurisdictions, police officers can join a union, but that the federal legislation prevents members and police officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police from unionizing? Can we talk about inequality pursuant to section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? This is another issue upon which the Quebec Court of Appeal will have to decide.
Would it not be wiser to postpone this bill for six months or even longer until the court rules on the rights of the police officers and other bargainable employees of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, should they be successful with their court challenge?
For all these reasons, we will vote against Bill C-58 at the second reading stage.
The Late Hon. Eugène Marquis November 16th, 1994
Mr. Speaker, it is with sadness yet with serenity that we learned yesterday of the passing of the Hon. Eugène Marquis, who represented the riding of Kamouraska in this House at one time.
Mr. Marquis was born in St. Alexandre, Kamouraska, in 1901. He was the son of Joseph Marquis and Eveline Michaud. Upon completion of his classical studies, Eugène Marquis received his law degree from Laval University. Upon being admitted to the Bar, he was appointed susbstitute to the Attorney General of Quebec.
In 1931, Eugène Marquis married Véronique Chabot -who happens to be my aunt as she is my mother's sister- in Ste. Claire de Dorchester. Destined for politics, he ran in the 1945 general elections as a candidate for the Liberal Party of Canada, when the Right Hon. William Lyon Mackenzie King was Prime Minister of the country, and the voters of Kamouraska put their trust in him. They did so again in the next election, in 1949, when the Right Hon. Louis Saint-Laurent was Prime Minister of Canada.
On August 24, 1949, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister of Canada, the Hon. Eugène Marquis was appointed to the Superior Court of Quebec, of which he would eventually become the associate chief justice.
Mr. Marquis's legal career spanned both criminal and civil law, and whether on the bench or in private practice, whether representing the State or the Attorney General, his great humanity was recognized by all.
I have the honour of having four parishes in common with Mr. Marquis, parishes that were in his riding when he was a member of Parliament and have now become part of the riding of Bellechasse: Saint-Damase-des-Aulnaies, Tourville, Sainte-Perpétue and Saint-Omer. Eugène Marquis was also an active member of the Knights of Columbus, making a valuable contribution to the furtherance of this organization's social mission.
To his children, Monique, Louise, Yves, Michel and Jean, I offer my deepest sympathy, as well as to his colleagues from the Barreau du Québec and all those who worked with him in the judicial system in Quebec and Canada.
Communications Security Establishment November 15th, 1994
Mr. Speaker, allow me to first congratulate the member for Scarborough-Rouge River, who also happens to be chairman of the Sub-committee on National Security, on presenting motion M-38 to the House.
Who could be in a better position to present such a motion than the chairman of the Sub-committee on National Security! I believe that this is tangible proof that we need better control. I support the motion presented by the member for Scarborough-Rouge River, subject to some reservations I will explain and a few changes I will suggest.
When talking about an agency such as CSE, the Communications Security Establishment, it is good to give a brief historical background. My colleague for Scarborough-Rouge River went back to 1941, but I would like to review, if I may, the legal instruments which, during the post-war era, produced this institution as we know it today.
CSE first started as a unit of the National Research Council, under Order in Council 54-3535 dated April 13, 1946. CSE was the successor to the civilian and military intelligence services which, during the war, had worked in co-operation with similar British and American services.
On April 1, 1975, responsibility for this communications unit of the National Research Council passed to the Department of National Defence. CSE's mandate was never officially defined by a statutory instrument, but it is generally understood that its mandate should be limited, by the Privy Council, to Canada's external security.
While we are entitled to expect that CSE's activities are targeting communications from or to foreign countries, or relating to foreign embassies, or any communications involving at least one foreigner, recent and serious allegations lead us to believe that CSE may have intercepted, without any legal mandate, with or even without ministerial authority, conversations and communications between Canadians, in Canada, and that it may even have eavesdropped on leaders of the Quebec sovereignist movement who are operating legally and legitimately.
Since CSE is accountable only to the Privy Council, its executives and its agents may have become somewhat too lax. Therefore, it seems imperative for the Security Intelligence Review Committee, commonly known as SIRC, to review the operations of CSE, while, of course, maintaining the authority of Parliament and of the Sub-committee on National Security over CSE's activities.
However, like Ceasar's wife the SIRC must be above suspicion but, unfortunately, this not the case at the present time. This review committee is made up of five members. Three were appointed on the recommendation of the party which governed during the 34th Parliament, the Conservative Party. These three appointees are Mr. Jacques Courtois, Mr. Edwin Goodman and Mr. George Vari.
There are, therefore, more Conservative members in this committee than in this House. We can see, already, that the Official Opposition is not represented on the committee, and this is not acceptable.
Another member is Mrs. Rosemary Brown, Chair of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. She is working full time for that organization and we did not have a chance to meet her when the SIRC appeared before the Sub-committee on National Security. Mrs. Brown was appointed on the recommendation of the New Democratic Party which was then the third party in the House, but has now lost its party status.
Finally, the last member is Mr. Michel Robert, whose qualifications we will not contest. Our only questions are: Could Mr. Robert be slightly over-worked, since on top of being a member of the SIRC he is also working, at the government's request, on a settlement in Oka? On the one hand he must work with ministers of the Crown, and on the other he must investigate the activities of the Canadian Intelligence Security Service. Maybe he should drop one job and concentrate on the one he is best suited for.
But in order to have a watchdog, a review committee, a renewed SIRC instead of the "circus" we have at present, it is imperative that the current members of the committee resign so that new appointments can be made that better reflect the 35th Parliament. This way, three appointments could be made by the government on the recommendation of a minister of the Crown, in all likelihood a Liberal, one on the recommendation of the Official Opposition and one more on that of the third party, that is to say the Reform Party of Canada. This would be an example of democracy in action, since the SIRC, like the Senate, remained unchanged after the election.
So, I do support the motion before us, but at the condition that new members be appointed to the SIRC, especially since the current members systematically refused, when testifying before the national security committee on September 13, to answer questions put to them by the committee on behalf of the House of Commons which is supreme in that respect.
How could we trust any longer individuals who refuse to co-operate with the elected representatives of the people and hide behind an overly finicky interpretation of Section 54 of the National Security Act to say that they account to the minister and nobody else? I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, but as long as the members of the SIRC will claim to be accountable only to the minister, there will be a serious credibility problem with the very institution of Parliament as well as with the House of Commons, as a component of the Parliament of Canada. The SIRC members must be replaced with individuals who understand that, until the contrary be proved, in this country, the lawful, fundamental and primary authority rests with the representatives elected by the people to sit in this House.
I will conclude with the following amendment proposal: I move, seconded by my colleague from Berthier-Montcalm:
That the motion be amended by adding after the words "Establishment (CSE)" the following: "and to table an annual report in the House on the aforementioned activities".
Canadian Security Intelligence Service November 1st, 1994
Mr. Speaker, let me point out to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons that one of his own members made this serious allegation.
Considering the allegations that democratic organizations were infiltrated by CSIS, that the conversations of members of the Quebec government were monitored by the CSE and a bomb was placed aboard an Air India plane by a CSIS agent, will the government agree to set up a real public inquiry on the actions of federal secret agents?
Canadian Security Intelligence Service November 1st, 1994
Mr. Speaker, while the Minister of Canadian Heritage continues his soul searching and is probably getting ready to confess all, let me address another issue. My question is for the Deputy Prime Minister.
CSIS is back in the hot seat. According to a book entitled Betrayal , which will hit the stands this week, CSIS asked one of its agents to plant a bomb aboard an Air India plane in Rome in 1986, so that Sikh terrorists would be blamed for it.
Does the government intend to check such troubling allegations and does it acknowledge that, if they are proven true, the strongest measures should be taken against such criminal activities?
Ethics October 31st, 1994
Mr. Speaker, are we to understand from the answer, or rather the lack of answer, from the Prime Minister that the ethics counsellor did advise him either to ask for the Canadian heritage minister's resignation or to force him to leave Cabinet?
Ethics October 31st, 1994
Mr. Speaker, what is going on here is extremely serious. We heard from the Prime Minister himself that there is profound disagreement between him and his ethics counsellor.
Would the Prime Minister tell us what recommendation the ethics counsellor has made to him in relation to the actions of the Canadian heritage minister?
Communications Security Establishment October 27th, 1994
Mr. Speaker, how can the Prime Minister claim that his government has nothing to hide when his Minister of Defence refuses to release any information on the CSE's mandate, activities and budget, and even refuses to give the name of its director, even though it appears in the government telephone directory?