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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was may.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for Scarborough—Rouge River (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2008, with 59% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act November 26th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for making the clarifications with respect to the earlier remarks of colleagues. I do not think he was referring to my comments.

I cannot disagree with anything the parliamentary secretary said. In the absence of a question, I will just repeat what I said earlier at the end of my remarks.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act November 26th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased for more than one reason to participate in this debate dealing with amendments to the National Defence Act.

First, the statute is in need of updating and there have been significant studies done for the purpose of preparing us for this sequence of amendments.

Second, I had a period in my legal training where I worked for the Judge Advocate General for a couple of years and I have very vivid recollections of the applications of the National Defence Act and the complexity of it at that time.

The engagement by Canada in Afghanistan for close to 10 years now has put the National Defence Act, at least the older parts and its weaknesses, under some stress and has brought out the evident need for change and reform. It is not like we just happened to notice that it needed change. Former Chief Justice Lamer looked at this area of the military justice system a few years ago. He studied it very well and made some great recommendations, many of which are contained here.

We should have no doubt here in the House as to the importance of getting these changes. This is not only a modernization, but it is also an adaptation to our modern standards of justice and, in that context, it is influenced by the more recent engagement of our military forces in some real war operation scenarios.

One of the things I will keep repeating in my remarks is the complexity of the military justice system, which everyone in the armed forces will appreciate, but most Canadians on the street do not. It is complex because people who are in the armed forces are subject, of course, to the Criminal Code, but they are also subject to standing orders, special orders and discipline type rules, and the military justice system is there to enforce all of those rules.

What kind of judge makes decisions about discipline, rules in other countries and the Criminal Code in Canada and elsewhere?

Fortunately, those people who end up making decisions about the conduct, good or bad, of Canadian Forces personnel are all well-trained. However, we need to remember that within the military justice system there are problems and incidents that range from homicides to driving a military vehicle recklessly, or not wearing one's uniform correctly or being rude to a senior officer in a conspicuous way. That is quite a range and those are not all Criminal Code offences. It is not a Criminal Code offence to be rude to a senior officer but it is an offence. However, the people who make the decisions on many of those things, we believe, are reasonably well trained. In every case, it is at least a military officer and, in some cases, it is a dedicated military judge making the decisions.

Most of this military justice system is contained within the National Defence Act. That by itself is very complex legislation, but the components of it that deal with the military justice system are also complex. If we wanted to look back 100 years ago, justice within the military forces was probably very summary, very quick and in some cases brutal. It was handled by officers who, in the whole history of our military, had that authority to police and discipline those people over which they had command.

Some of those incidents, if we look back in time, are pretty rough and rugged. We can look back to the whole history of Canada and the British history and the military justice was very tough. Even in the first world war, there are some very compelling stories of the application of the Canadian military justice system with respect to our serving men and women. There are some very sad stories about very tough application of justice and summary decisions, executions and a very firm hand.

By the time we entered the second world war, there had been some refinements, but generally the decisions made on Criminal Code and discipline matters were made by generals, colonels and people in the higher echelons of the service. It was still pretty rough but, over time, the legal judging of military personnel became more stratified and there were scenarios where officers made disciplinary decisions and provided for punishment at an appropriate level. Then there was the concept for certain types of offences of importing a judge from outside of the unit and having a fair trial of the service member.

We can imagine how complex things can be. In Canada, under the National Defence Act, we have the two concepts of the disciplinary decision making, which involves penalties and applications of penalties and convictions, and we have the Criminal Code, where similar persons make similar types of judgments about the conduct of military personnel here.

If there is a military person in service on a base, the National Defence Act has the authority that the person sometimes can be charged with an offence under the National Defence Act, which is really an offence under the Criminal Code. That jurisdiction was always there. When the military person was off the military base, the police outside of the base would normally take care of it. However, there were always instances where the military police on the base would come in contact with civilian police off the base and the offence itself straddled the base and civilian territory. Therefore, in Canada the enforcement of the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act has been and perhaps continues to be potentially complex.

Imagine how much more complex it is when we have personnel serving outside Canada. They can be in a foreign country on a Canadian base where there will be an agreement between Canada and that other country. They can be in a foreign country where Canada does not have an agreement with that country. They might not be on a military base. The Canadian can be serving on a ship in a port in another country. The Canadian can be serving on a ship, but be off the ship in the port in or out of uniform when a disciplinary offence or a Criminal Code offence takes place. Or the personnel could be in an aircraft.

There are all kinds of scenarios that develop. I do not want to give the impression that Canada and the other countries have not found a way to manage all of this complexity. They have and there are treaties and agreements that deal with the complexities of who is responsible for prosecuting and whose jurisdictions prevail over which personnel.

This bill goes some distance in further clarifying when there is a prosecution under the National Defence Act. It provides a better statutory underpinning for the military police and the Canadian Forces provost marshal administration. This certainly helps those whose job it is to provide the policing and investigatory functions with a better focus and better statutory footing.

When prosecutions take place under the National Defence Act, the person who is accused of a disciplinary offence, if I could put it this way, can be tried and convicted by an officer. It has always been that way in the military.

Fortunately now, though there did not used to be many years ago, there is an appeal process. People can appeal it up the chain of command if they think they have been dealt with too harshly. The bill makes it statutorily clear that the Chief of Defence Staff's powers are the final authority for such grievances.

It is good to know there is a grievance system. As I recalled military history, there did not used to be a grievance system. Once a commanding officer issued a penalty, it had to be delivered on, that was the end of it and some of those penalties were quite harsh.

Other types of offences under the National Defence Act are dealt with by the highest-ranking officer. There is another category where someone is actually appointed as a judge under the National Defence Act. Most of the time these are highly-trained military personnel who are trained as lawyers and become military judges. The Judge Advocate General's department was the home of those military judges.

This statute provides for part-time military judges. It envisages, either because of a requirement for special expertise or a shortage of personnel, the bringing in of a judge from the civilian sector who would be a judge under the National Defence Act. That is a very positive thing. I am sure the core of judges with the Judge Advocate General do not mind that at all. It might help to lighten the workload.

The experience of the Judge Advocate General's department is very complex, keeping in mind all of the complexity I described before. I have mentioned the problem of someone in the forces being a prosecutor, someone else in the forces being a judge and decision maker and then another person in the forces being the person accused. There is an in-house set of relationships which seems to have worked reasonably well, but we can also envisage scenarios where there might have been problems in the relationships between the prosecutor and the judge, between the defence counsel, who is usually a military person, and the accused person who is a military person.

Keep in mind that the military is a lot smaller than the rest of Canadian society, so there could be situations where there might have been some relationship anomalies between the parties that might have or could be seen to have an effect on the disposition of the military justice decision making.

In all fairness, the military has been fairly adjusting to this and avoiding these kind of problems. However, once in a while there can be a difficulty and the accused can feel quite aggrieved.

Again, I go back to the complexity. We can have scenarios where the military persons accused of bringing disrespect upon the forces here or abroad. We can have misuse of military equipment, and we know how much military equipment is out there. People do make mistakes. People in the forces are not allowed to make a mistake. They have to use equipment properly, whether it is a computer, a motor vehicle, a piece of armament, a ship or an aircraft. In those types of scenarios, while they are usually not criminal, they can be.

I recall a case many years ago involving the crash of a Canadian Forces helicopter. The circumstances lying behind it gave rise to suspicions of criminal negligence. Therefore, the matter was not just one of conduct, not just one of possible carelessness or poor planning, it actually became criminal. What looks like just an accident to many people, in the military justice system it can be levered up into something much more serious. It was so long ago that I cannot recall the disposition. However, I do recall the many competing values that were brought to bear on that incident. There was loss of life, loss of a valuable piece of equipment, damage and it was off a military base.

The bill would go a long distance to clarifying some of these relationships for the benefit of the military justice system. It would bring better security of tenure for military judges.

Recalling my comments about the complexity of the relationships, someone who, as a military officer, makes a decision about a disciplinary offence, even a Criminal Code offence, is still in the forces with the individual in relation to whom made the decision. It is not like in our civilian system where we really only get to see the judge during a trial. These men and women serve together in the forces. They can bump into someone for whom he or she may have made a military discipline decision or a Criminal Code summary conviction decision. They can bump into that person a year later on a military base somewhere else.

It has been decided, quite properly, that just as we give security of tenure to our civilian judges who work to age 75, we will do the same for our military judges to ensure they have the independence from the forces, independence that they must have to do their job.

The National Defence Act will import the principles of sentencing that currently exist in the Criminal Code. About 15 years ago we spent a lot of time developing those principles. They are in the code. As I say, the National Defence Act amendment has been delayed for so long that it has taken us now 10 or 15 years to put those principles into the National Defence Act. That is all for the better.

There are several other objectives. I am fairly confident that after the committee has a look at the bill, the House will want to give its approval.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act November 24th, 2010

Madam Speaker, the member sits on the justice committee and has had a detailed look at the legislation.

While many of us think the bill could have done more and could have been enacted sooner, it is kind of a snitch law, and we do not have many of those in our Criminal Code.

Does the member think the bill might raise some new challenges. I am not in any way undermining the apparent support for the passage of the bill. There are not very places in our Criminal Code where we say that failure to do a particular thing constitutes a criminal offence. A case where that does happen, for example, is the failure to provide necessities of life for a child.

In this case, given that it is a very brief bill, does the member think the prosecutors might have difficulties trying to prove a negative, or trying prove intent, knowledge and facts that prove a negative, which prove that nothing happened, including no reporting? Based on the member's experience, is this a potential problem? Does he think, as legislators, we may have to spend some more time on this in the future?

Petitions November 24th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition on behalf of residents of the eastern greater Toronto area. With reference to Bill C-544, the petitioners call upon the House of Commons to adopt legislation which would prohibit the import or the export or the slaughter of horses for human food consumption.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act November 23rd, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the one thing I would seriously consider doing in the bill is finding a way to ratchet up the response into the Criminal Code. It is not that everything that happens in this bill has to be criminalized, all the bad stuff, but we need to find a way to take an accumulated happening or event, either by size or quality, and allow it to be moved into the Criminal Code. At least we would be able to hammer down pretty seriously on Canadian-based perpetrators of what I call these anti-social activities.

That is what I would have done. I would have provided a step up into the Criminal Code for some of the more egregious breaches of the prohibitions we have here.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act November 23rd, 2010

Mr. Speaker, it is appearing more and more that our Conservative colleagues opposite are really not debaters; they are voters. They come into the House and follow the lead of their House leader and whip.

There surely are in this bill some debatable concerns. One should not pretend that this bill would solve the problems outlined, even prohibiting these various anti-social activities. The bill would never succeed in eradicating those activities. The bill comes across more as a threat to those who might do it, certainly those in Canada, even if we got all of the institutions and players in Canada to be good boy scouts, which I expect will happen. We have a good reputation around the world for this kind of thing once we regulate or prohibit.

I suspect that our friends around the world, even in the United States of America, Europe and everywhere, will not pay any attention to this at all. They will take every opportunity to continue what they are doing for profit or whatever other motive.

At the end of the day, any tangible global initiative to eradicate, reduce and restrict is going to involve treaties. Whether it starts at the UN or some other mechanism, I would encourage it. However, before we even take that step, it is really important for us to get our legislation right in Canada and understand the difference between all the freedoms we have and the privacies that are protected.

I did not get a chance to go into the definition of commercial activity, but it is important to get the definitions right so that individuals remain as free as they can be in this country and, at the same time, restrict the institutional, business and corporate activity that involves spam and unauthorized collections of personal data. It is treaties that will ultimately be the foundation and groundwork of future successful regulation, in my view.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act November 23rd, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has described a situation involving an impecunious loser. If he had no resources, then the fine was not going to be of much use.

In that situation, that is where criminal law could or should come into play, but the difficulty with criminal law, and even with some of the other enforcement of the fines, the administrative monetary penalties, is that it is quite possible that a lot of this spamming and messaging and a lot of the collection and storage of personal information is going to happen outside of Canada. It is going to be international.

That is why at the end of my remarks I made a fairly brief reference to treaties. We really are not going to be able to get a solid handle on this, in my view, unless we are able to reach outside the country, in conjunction and in collaboration with the other foreign jurisdictions, and that is only going to be done with treaties. With very few exceptions, we cannot impose our criminal law outside the country, so we still have a distance to go.

This is a very timid first step in trying to regulate this type of activity.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act November 23rd, 2010

Madam Speaker, this is an important piece of legislation we are debating here today, if for no other reason than it having been long delayed in finally being dealt with by the House.

I am advised by credible sources that Canada is the only G8 country that does not have legislation governing spam. This legislation deals with more than spam, but the bill's moniker out there on the street is that it is an “anti-spam” bill. So this is what Parliament is attempting to legislate on, and in my view, the bill could have a massive potential impact in the world of electronic commerce.

I am also advised that for a period of time some of the business organizations in our country were uncomfortable with provisions in the initial bill. Some amendments have been made to the initial bill, and I believe those organizations support it now.

It is incredibly important for us to ensure that if this bill is passed at second reading, which I believe it will be, the committee that studies it has the fullest consultation possible with professionals and businesses in this field to ensure that we deliver the best bill we can without impairing our electronic commerce, while protecting the privacy and other amenities that almost all Canadians would agree with.

The bill itself begins by attempting to prohibit. I say “attempting” because it is all very well for us to pass a law that prohibits or criminalizes or somehow regulates something, but the proof is in the pudding. The bill has to have an impact on the street, and in order to prohibit, there must be reasonable enforcement; and in order for there to be enforcement, there has to be a resourcing of those officials who would police or regulate.

This particular bill embarks on a course that has been followed in other legislation. It would allow the private sector to do some forms of enforcement or to participate in the organization of the regulation or enforcement. That is a positive step, but my point is that we just cannot pass a bill that prohibits and purports to regulate; we must also look to the issue of the means and modalities of enforcement. I note that while there is not a Criminal Code type of prohibition, the bill does have some significant potential financial penalties that could be applied.

But just because I stand here and say the bill has financial penalties, and just because we enact it, does not mean that those financial penalties will be brought to bear. The mechanisms of enforcement that involve quasi judicial and judicial enforcement have to be properly resourced.

I will deal with each of the prohibitions in the bill later in a little more depth, but at this point I just want to list them for the benefit of my own remarks.

The first thing that the bill would prohibit is spam itself. In other words, it would prohibit the sending, without the consent of the recipient, of what I call “junk”, what the bill calls something else, and what some people on the street call “spam”. Most of us who work on computers and receive emails are familiar with that type of communication.

The bill would prohibit false statements that disguise the origins of the email or the intent of the email. That involves a communication where the sender disguises what the message is about or inserts some piece of information that would entice the receiver to open it up.

Third, the bill would prohibit the installation of unauthorized programs. While I personally have not known myself to be victimized by this, I know it is a huge problem when emails bearing these bad news programs are opened up and somehow they worm their way into a computer's operating system. In some cases it can have dire effects on the computer system.

Fourth, it would prohibit the unauthorized collection of personal information and email addresses. The real core of that particular prohibition is the personal information piece. I will speak more about that later. That is a huge component of this and one which will have to be managed carefully under this legislation when it is finally put in force.

This series of prohibitions and the other statutory pieces that are proposed arose out of the report of a task force that completed its work about five years ago. I mention that only to indicate that the bill has good grounding in the private sector. The task force brought together industry and government in a way that produced a listing of these problematic issues with the Internet.

While we may have been showing some leadership five years ago, it is clear that we have been really slow to get this legislation enacted. Why it has not been a priority I can only guess, but if anyone wanted to look at the order paper, one would see a list of about 10 or 15 criminal law amendments jamming the legislative calendar when I and most people around the House know that most of those criminal law amendments could have been put into one bill and dealt with together.

However, our Conservative colleagues, and perhaps it was not even our Conservative colleagues, but under the leadership of the Prime Minister or whoever is driving the bus, a decision was made to clutter our parliamentary legislative agenda with all of these separate criminal law amendment bills. Forgive me for making this sidebar reference. I do not want to call all these criminal law amendments spam, but they could have been put into one, two or three bills. It would substantially reduce the number of bills the House and the other place have to deal with.

There are complaints about a log jam and that bills are piling up in the pipeline. I know the Minister of Justice will react to this and he will want to explain why the government chose to put 15 bills through the pipeline instead of two or three. Those bills have cluttered the legislative agenda much in the way that spam clutters our inboxes and our individual computers.

There is always a complaint that there is so much legislation that is not getting through the House. I know that complaint is coming. If it does not come today, it will come tomorrow, next week or at the end of the year. In my view, with respect to all of those bills, the government has to be the author of its own misfortune, if there is misfortune. However, I can report that there is some reasonably judicious, if I can use the term, management of all of those bills. We will certainly do our work.

In any event, regarding this anti-spam legislation, we have failed in an international sense, in my view, to provide appropriate leadership. We are a technologically advanced country. We have a parliamentary House that is sensitive to the issue. We had a task force in place five years ago. There was a report. A bill was created at some point and then it just seemed to languish.

In fairness to the government, we have had a sequence of minority governments and shorter Parliaments. I do accept the will of the Canadian electorate in creating these minority Parliaments, but the downside is that we do not get a good long run at the legislative calendar. It gets cut short by elections. I know my colleagues on the Liberal side will relate to this. It also gets cut short by prorogations, as has happened conspicuously a couple of times around here. In any event, we are muddling along and doing our best.

This particular bill is addressing a huge challenge, as has happened in the legislation of other countries. The Internet is new in human history. We do not really have all of the nouns and adjectives to describe exactly what it is. It is an entire universe of activity, communication, buying and selling, and conveying all manner of data. Without a lot of human experience in this field, the human race is grappling with whether, first of all, this particular field should be regulated.

The answer to that in the beginning was no. Many advocates behind the Internet, as it was originally born, took the view that it should be unrestricted and free, that it should be allowed to develop and flourish as another means of human communication and human endeavour.

It quickly became apparent that people with good motives and people with bad motives began using the Internet and its modalities for their own purposes. In some cases, those purposes were seen to be anti-social, and there is a general consensus on this. For example, there is the perpetuation of some form of criminality, to steal, to defraud, to abuse our children, or to steal from our privacy. Those are just some of the alleged anti-social forms of activity that appear on the Internet.

Ultimately we, as legislators, and the task force five years ago, reached the conclusion that there had to be some restraints. The restraints are described in this bill as prohibitions.

I do not underestimate the vastness of all we are trying to regulate as, just to look at it in this country, we are only a piece of the global Internet. This bill is trying to do that, but I suppose it could try to do it in a way that is sensitive to the capacity of the Internet to do good things. I will speak to that later if I have time.

It seems to me that anyone with the capacity to store electronic data could engage in the business of collecting data on persons and institutions. If one really put one's mind to it, one could come up with quite a good collection of financial and personal data. That by itself would not be good or bad necessarily. It could be used for bad things, or it could be used for good things.

It is not clear to me whether the bill really deals with this, but what if those who collect such data began to artificially assemble in the Internet false persons, non-existent identities of persons or institutions? One could, I am sure, create in the Internet world something that looked like a person, that seemed like a person, that had an identity of a person but that really was not a person, and that false identity, that non-existent but Internet-existent thing could do good things or bad things.

I realize my remarks are a bit on the philosophical side, but the capacity is out there to do this. It could be said that this bill comes close to regulating that, but I am not sure it does and I am not so sure that we have seen all of that develop in the Internet. We see little bits and pieces of it developing here and there, but I am thinking in terms of an Internet bad guy or an Internet good guy with all of this data and using it for good purposes or using it for bad purposes. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I do not think this bill really deals with that.

I want to deal with each of the categories of prohibition.

The first one is spam without consent. That is easy for most of us because most of us have experienced it. I know from remarks made today that in Canada there are nine billion pieces of spam a year. That is a lot of territory. The cost is $130 billion a year.

It is not because the spam shows up on one's computer that it is costly. The fact is that the communications infrastructure that carries all of this stuff costs money. Whoever is spending money for Internet services is actually bearing the cost of carrying the spam. Are the spammers paying their fair share? They might be. It is not clear. I have not seen that addressed with a great deal of precision. I suppose I could say if the spammers were paying a commercial rate for all of their unwanted spam it might lower the cost burden on those users who do not send out spam and it might lower the cost to everybody. However, I will leave that aside.

Electronic filters that software provides do make a difference. It is a big help to Internet users around the world to have filters to clear out most of the spam.

I do want to point out a problem which is particular to members of Parliament and the way they manage their immigration files.

Many of us in the House have large numbers of immigration files where constituents have brought matters to the MPs. I recently came across a situation of a potential immigrant who was in the queue waiting for his application to be processed. An email was sent to him advising him of the need for a further piece of documentation. He never got that email. As a result, 90 or 100 days later, his file was dropped, closed, terminated, by our immigration department because there was not a response. The thinking is, why did that happen? Clearly, the email was sent to the right address. There is some sense that a filter on the recipient's computer may have blocked it and, regrettably, we do not know how to fix that kind of problem. Filters are usually good, but sometimes they are not.

The enforcement under this bill would be with the CRTC, the Privacy Commissioner and the Competition Bureau. The fines would be between $1 million and $10 million. They are administrative monetary penalties and would not be delivered by a judge but by these organizations.

I hope we do find teeth and enforcement. Time will tell. I only raise one caution. We should make sure, in this bill, that we do not restrict political communications or communications from religious groups, and I hope our international treaties will begin to reflect these issues involving the Internet.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act November 22nd, 2010

Mr. Speaker, this legislation is the minimum and the government, either because it could not or, in ways that have not been explained here, did not want to look for additional time.

There was an event around the year 2000. It was a court decision called Feeney. The Supreme Court of Canada had disallowed an area of criminal law that involved search warrants and the ability of police in hot pursuit to enter a dwelling house. The court disallowed the provision and said that Parliament had six months to fix it and son of a gun if Parliament did not go into an election. Therefore, the Department of Justice and parties had to go back to the Supreme Court and say that they could not fix it because Parliament was in an election. That added another six months. Then when Parliament came back, we had to get the legislation passed through the House and the other place.

However, the point I am making is that, with leadership and determination, it is possible for the government to go to the court and say that it can do a better job on this, that it can hit a home run if it has a reasonable amount of time. If the parties to the litigation, the government and the court that made the decision did get together on this, in a sense, this could have been done.

In many ways, what I have just described paints a picture of an opportunity being missed here. If the court can expand six months to two years in the Feeney Supreme Court case, I do not see why we could not have bargained for a bit more time in the McIvor case, and done a better job in this resolution.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act November 22nd, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on this particular legislation.

While there is not any major overt controversy on the floor of the House at this time, there clearly appears to be a huge residue of discomfort out there in the real world among our first nations with this legislation and its failure to go a further distance in resolving some of these unresolved issues of equality, in particular gender equality among our first nations.

The legislation deals with the issue, at least on the margins, of who is and who is not a member of a registered Indian band. That has a whole lot to do with the lives of a whole lot of people.

The legal fact of whether or not one is or is not part of a band can affect a person's life hugely in many of our first nations localities. It is not just simply whether one is a member as in whether or not one is a member of the Rotary Club, it has to do with whether one is actually a member of a band, a living organism of people, a group who have a cultural, historic and an existing and dynamic presence in many of the parts of our country today.

This, of course, does not include most of our large cities but as we right these definitions about who is and who is not registered or registerable we are actually dealing with a huge bundle of rights and obligations of these persons as a class.

That, as I said, can have a whole lot to do with what that person is, how that person carries on his or her life, and in this particular set of circumstances that this legislation is intending to cover the court has accepted the allegation that the current definition is discriminatory. In fact, I have not heard anyone say that this is not the case. In fact, I am hearing members say that there is existing and additional discrimination that will continue even if this legislation is passed.

I can only ask the question, why we could not have tried to take a little more time and developed some legislative amendments that would be more comprehensive, more targeted, and hopefully fully address the issue of this legal or illegal inequality.

I know there are probably first nations women out there who would say, “You really ought to do that”, and it seems to me if we were really showing leadership the government through the Department of Justice could have proposed that the government go back to the courts, go back to the litigants in this case and propose a time sequence for consultation, even if it did involve a year--it has already been way over a year--or two or three and get the parties to agree that this was an opportunity for such consultation with some deadlines and attempt to bring on legislation that would fully resolve this bundle of equality issues.

That did not happen and most of my colleagues in my party, if not all who are very active on behalf of constituencies that have first nations communities, are disappointed with that.

Is there a resolution in this bill? No. I understand there were amendments proposed at committee. They were found to be out of order. I know that all of us in the House would be very pleased if there were a scenario that had the first nations somehow coming together with a resolution for us.

I and many of our colleagues in the House have accepted that it is preferable for us in the House not to make law for our first nations, involving first nations matters.

It is much preferable that our first nations manage their own affairs; albeit, under the aegis of our Canadian Constitution and legal framework. I think by now most of our first nations accept that. However, I as a legislator, many times, have had to note the fact that some of our first nation citizens resent this House, our federal institutions, purporting and actually legislating and making policy decisions with respect to first nations when those people who are governed by those laws and policies would prefer very much to make those decisions themselves.

I think over time the policies of the federal government are leaning in that direction of empowering our first nations to do more and more of their own governance. They do much of it now. However, the remaining bits and pieces in the Indian Act still make it a responsibility of this House, of the federal government, of the federal jurisdiction. I guess the buck stops here in Parliament or in Ottawa. If there has to be legislation, if there has to be a policy decision made and there is not a consensus among our first nation communities on how it should be done, then those decisions have to be made.

I recall approximately 15 years ago, at one of our committees, the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations, where a particular regulation under the Indian health regulations was found to be unconstitutional. The particular regulation authorized, empowered, federal officials working in the health envelope, where there was a contagious disease found on a first nation's land, to enter into any building, any place, and remove the people and actually destroy the building.

Thinking from the present, it is almost unbelievable that we would have a regulation that would empower somebody to do that, keeping in mind that one of these buildings, one of these places, could have been a dwelling house.

In some ways I suppose we could plead that history has allowed this to happen. Over 200 years ago many of our first nations did not have permanent settlements. They moved from place to place. While that was a very good way of interrelating with the land and was quite sustainable, they tell me, most of our first nations now are permanently settled. This particular regulation allowed federal officials, for health purposes, to go in and just take the people out. They did not need a judicial warrant. They did not need anybody to sign anything. They would just go in and take the people out and get rid of the building. That regulation was actually on the books.

This particular committee, in doing its work on behalf of Parliament, noted this and asked the government to remove the regulation. My recollection is that the committee had to move to a disallowance. It was the committee itself that brought the matter to the House. I believe there was an order from the House to revoke the regulation, and that happened.

Subsequent to that, I am presuming that the government would have re-enacted other regulations to try to deal with those types of situations, but nothing so egregious as to allow federal officials to go in and physically remove people and destroy a building.

That was 15 or 20 years ago. It was also near the beginning of a time in our history where we began consulting much more meaningfully with our first nations.

That has a nice ring to it, but our first nations are not one big happy family in one place. They are spread out across the entire country, from one ocean to the other, to the other. So it is not easy for government to accomplish a comprehensive consultation.

Our first nations are usually willing to engage in those consultations, but the whole concept of consultation has been neglected somewhat in the last number of decades and there is a big distance that we have to go.

As we move to the present, we have the B.C. Court of Appeal decision that determined that the provisions of the Indian Act were unconstitutional because of gender discrimination. When those things happen, it gets sent down the street, and in this case to Ottawa to fix and we had a certain amount of time to do it. This legislation is the result. As I said before, I regret that it is not more comprehensive.

As one legislator out of the 300 or so in this place, and I am probably joining with others, I am prepared to support this bill somewhat reluctantly.

One, it is not comprehensive. It does not deal with the full range of the alleged discrimination. It is alleged and I think accepted, but it does not deal with it.

Two, because of the shortness of time, which I do not think we tried to alter, we did not engage in any meaningful consultation. As a result, we do not have a product that we are proud of that does comply with the court decision. The Department of Justice tells us this.

Therefore, I am prepared to vote in favour of it on that basis. I just hope that in the months and years to come we will find a way, not managed by this House but by the government, to consult meaningfully with our first nations to preempt problems such as this and empower our first nations to deal with these types of issues in the way they should.