Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 7 - Evidence for February 18, 2002
OTTAWA, Monday, February 18, 2002
The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights met this day at 4:08 p.m. to consider the future business of the committee.
Senator A. Raynell Andreychuk (Chairman) in the Chair.
The Chairman: Honourable senators, as yet, unfortunately, we do not have a deputy chair. My understanding is that the matter is being contemplated in the confines of the Liberal process and that a decision will be made in the very near future. If we receive an indication of that this week, I propose to call a five-minute meeting to elect a deputy chair so that the steering committee may meet. Promises have been made for several weeks. We have lost some time, but I will try to make up for that.
In the meantime, I have had some discussions with some of the Liberal leadership and I believe that we can proceed with proposing a term of reference and a budget.
I will bring honourable senators up to date on our initial report. We will then discuss future business.
We must have a budget in place for two reasons. Once we have tabled our report, our reference ends and, without a reference, we cannot call witnesses or do anything until March 31, 2002. If we have a reference, then the committee will require a small budget to deal with the legislative process, which is pro forma for all committees, and that sum will be in line with the budgets of all other Senate committees. I will present the budget items at the end. The committee will also need a budget to carry it through to March 31, 2002. That will be a small item because, obviously, we will not accomplish as much as we had hoped.
Our committee is then required to submit an estimated budget from April 1 to March 31, 2003 to the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration. The Internal Economy Subcommittee on Budgets — Senator Furey's committee — has asked all committees to present their budgets before the end of March. The subcommittee will then consider the estimated budgets, and try to deal more fairly with all of the committees than has been the case in the past.
I expect Senator Cochrane will be here shortly, but Senator Kinsella has informed me that he must attend a leadership meeting and cannot be present. Senator Jaffer, who is now a permanent member of this committee, is in Vancouver today and cannot attend. Senator Taylor is somewhere else in the world and cannot be here. I am told that Senator Wilson will arrive at about 4:30 p.m. Both Senator Cochrane and Senator Wilson will be here imminently. I am pleased to see Senator Joyal, who has been very loyal to this committee. Our rules are that everyone shall participate equally, unless we come to a vote. However, I hope we reach a consensus that we will not call for votes.
Upon filing our first report, I received some telephone calls — interestingly, more from the francophone press than the anglophone press — from media interested in the issues of human rights. At least one article, if not two, was written in Quebec newspapers about the report. One article was tied to the terrorism legislation.
Senator Beaudoin: Was that in Le Devoir?
The Chairman: Yes. It reported that it was appropriate to have such a committee because of the intrusion into human rights arising from security concerns.
Members of the committee discussed the possibility of embarking upon a reference at the end of January. However, without a deputy chair it did not seem wise, and there was a time delay.
It is my intention to speak to the report in the Senate in the near future, and I would encourage others to do so also. Hopefully, the report will then be adopted. Two hundred copies have been requested, without too much fanfare, through the human rights constituencies across Canada. Human Rights Commissions have expressed a great deal of interest in our report, and have asked me or members of the committee to speak to them.
I am somewhat disappointed that we were unable to do something more visible, although, in some ways, it may be good that we did not. We are gaining credibility in areas where we should. However, the report and its contents should be disseminated further, and perhaps we should turn our minds to how we should do that.
We did send the report to all members of Parliament, both in the House of Commons and in the Senate. I have received several letters from members in the House of Commons, and some members have contacted me saying they have read the report and are pleased that something is happening on this side because they do not feel that there is the same attention being given to the issue on the House side.
The report was also sent to ministers, and two have replied to me. We re-sent it to Minister Graham and to the Minister of Justice, Mr.Cauchon, and we resubmitted the recommendations we made to them. When new ministers are appointed, papers tend to be misplaced, and I wanted to bring the report to their attention. I have spoken to Mr.Graham personally about the report, and he informed me that he was aware of our work before his new appointment.
We will continue to plug our report. I would encourage all honourable senators to disseminate it to anyone who may be interested, and to talk about the good work our committee does.
The question is, honourable senators: Where we go from here? In the absence of a functioning steering committee, I took the liberty of meeting with our clerk and researcher, Mr.Gates, to go over our old report and see whether we could form some opinion of where we should go from here. I do not, however, wish to cut off debate or any ideas members may have and, in that regard, I would invite you to turn to page 31 of our report. There, we outlined the issues for further study.
The first issue relates to our consideration of Canada's compliance with human rights treaty bodies.
The second issue for further study was Parliament and the treaty-making process; how Canada enters into the treaty-making process, where the parliamentary role, if any, is; and how citizens become aware of these treaties,et cetera.
The third issue for further study was the legislative implementation of international human rights instruments.
The fourth issue for further study relates to reviewing proposed legislation for consistency with human rights. In other words: Do our national laws comply with our international obligations? Do our international obligations take into account our national perspectives and positions?
Another item related to the study of international human rights and Canadian federalism. How do we go about entering into, delivering, and putting into place enabling legislation for these international treaties?
We also looked at human rights treaties not yet signed or ratified by Canada. Professor Schabas and Mr. LeBlanc listed the many human rights instruments that we, as a country, have not yet ratified or have not yet followed up with the appropriate enabling legislation. We considered whether we should be more compliant with legislation.
Another area of study was Canada's assent to the American convention on human rights. There has been much discussion about whether that is a gap in our human rights obligations. We are part of the United Nations system. We have our own Charter, but we are part of the OAS but we are not full members of the Inter-American court. We are also part of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. In the francophonie we have been rather forceful in putting forward a human rights perspective. However, we have been outside of the human rights mechanism in the OAS. As honourable senators will recall, quite a few of our witnesses discussed that.
The final area of study was the right to privacy. There are gaps, differences of opinion and a growing issue as to whether Canada is attaching importance to the right of privacy as some international instruments do. That, of course, gained more prominence as the counter-terrorism legislation wove its way through this chamber.
All of these issues raise the question of manageability. How we can handle it. It seems to me that we might deal with them by pulling them together. Human rights, treaty making, international human rights, consistency with human rights, the problems of international human rights in our Canadian federalism system, human rights not yet signed and the accession to American convention of human rights seem to come together. They are all parts of a complete study of how Canada approaches its role in and operation of human rights, and its compliance with human rights.
The issue that did not fit neatly was the right to privacy. My suggestion would be to further study the right to privacy at a later date and not include it in what we are doing now.
We could look at Canada's adherence status with respect to various human rights treaties. We were told that Canada has either signed, ratified or has yet to put into place many treaties. We are at some point on the continuum of existing treaties. It could assess whether they are outdated and whether we should not sign them, or whether the reasons we did not sign them in the past are now passé so that we should sign them now. We should address the areas where have we not put in enabling legislation, and assess whether there is a valid reason from the federal perspective— not the provincial perspective— for not entering into compliance within national law.
In struggling with how to do that, we believe that the best way to proceed would be to hire a researcher to go through all these international instruments and signal the unsigned ones and find out why did we not sign them. We want to know the stated reasons for not signing them and some history of them. The researcher could put forward some neutral perspectives on those. With respect to the ratified instruments, we want to know why we have not ratified and implemented them. Are the reasons still valid? For example, we could have dealt with many pieces of terrorism legislation. For some reason, they were not as high on the priority list of the government. Obviously, September 11 drove those to the forefront, and we put them together rather quickly. Would it not have been better if, at an earlier stage, we had put together more thoughtful enabling legislation?
In speaking to people in the academic community, the suggestion is that we hire people to do this work for us. They would, on a neutral basis, collate the information for us. We need to know what instruments are involved and whether we did not sign them for a particular reason. We also need to know what instruments we have ratified. It would take the committee a long time to go through this information treaty by treaty and convention by convention. Therefore, I would suggest that we ask the experts to do this homework for us and present a report. We would then bring in people from the various departments and ask for their opinions on the findings of our experts. They will give us their government's perspectives as to why they have been either languishing or why there are sincere impediments. At the conclusion of our study we will either recommend signing or implementing some of them, or how the government should deal with these.
The first witness we could call would be Mr.Hans Corell, who is the head of the legal department, from the United Nations. We would probably do that by video conference. He is going through a reflective phase with Kofi Annan, doing exactly what we are talking about. Many treaties are still unsigned and unratified by governments and do not form part of the national law. We are coming into line with what the United Nations is hoping to do. It would be good if Canada were ahead of the curve.
Mr.Corell has said that there will be a tremendous push for implementation, and he talked about the fact that we have institutionalized many of our human rights concerns. The effect on the populations around the world is not being felt because there has not been proper implementation. The legal branch of the United Nations will be taking this on. Mr.Corell is reasonably certain that this will be a priority for the United Nations and particularly for Kofi Annan in the near future.
It would be nice if Canada were a leader in this area. This committee could structure itself in such a way that we could advise our government, and perhaps even the UN, on what needs to be done with respect to implementation and what can be done. We could be the impetus for a dialogue with the government and we could encourage it to put this higher on its priority list.
Senator Beaudoin: Is our government interested in the implementation of treaties in this country? In my opinion, that should be given top priority. I am scandalized by the fact that we do not implement treaties even though we have the obligation to do so. I do not understand whyQuebec wants to participate at the international level. They could simply implement our international treaties.
The Chairman: You have a valid point.
Senator Beaudoin: The implementation of treaties, in my opinion, is primary. We are not fulfilling our obligations. I am scandalized to hear that even at the top, the United Nations, they do not have much more than we have. Did they solve the problem?
The Chairman: There is no such thing as solving the problem.
Senator Beaudoin: Did they at least look at it?
The Chairman: Yes, because with Mary Robinson in place— and I am only speaking from my own knowledge— with the present system and the urgency of some of these issues, the United Nations is starting to address implementation. It is not a very old field. The education about and understanding of human rights started after the Second World War, when there was an attempt to reach a consensus of what we mean by international human rights. There followed the process of trying to draw up conventions treaties. That happened in the 1960s and the 1970s. Then signing, ratifying and implementing treaties began. We are now in the operational mode. The consequences of signing are now being felt around the world. Certainly there is a gap— and, Hans Corell will put it well when he speaks to us— between what people say on paper and what they do in practice around the world. We must narrow that gap. The way to start is to ensure that international obligations become a more important part of national agendas.
In fairness to Canada, Canada has been on the leading edge of this. The conventions were signed on different areas. Our witnesses told us that some are in more legalistic fields, some are in labour fields and some are in environment fields. There has not been a pulling together of that. This committee could do a service by drawing attention to this and by having an expert pull them together. We could then enter into a dialogue with government officials and ask the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, who is interested in this, to appear before us. We have a new Minister of Justice. We can enter into a dialogue and, perhaps, become the impetus for change by recommending ways that the government should address this pressing problem.
Senator Beaudoin: I remember a long discussion we had with Minister McLellan.
The Chairman: That was in the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.
Senator Beaudoin: Yes. She told me that she would speak with the then Minister of Foreign Affairs. I am not too sure that we are moving ahead in that direction. With the changes that we have made, it will take time.
The Chairman: I spent some time over the Christmas break thinking about how we could pull it together. After speaking to our researcher and to our clerk, I realize that if we do it convention by convention, we will never get anywhere. We should look at the entire issue.
Senator Beaudoin: Do you mean the structure?
The Chairman: The structure. We should have someone look at all the conventions that have neither been signed nor ratified. We could probably point out some treaties that should be off the books, as they say, because others have supplanted them. Why should we sign an outdated treaty? Some of them go back a long way. It is housekeeping, if I may call it that. It cleans up the record. We may wish to explore other further once we embark upon this research. However, the reason for a treaty not being signed in 1960 may make no sense today. We can engage the government in a discussion of that.
We can also engage the government in a discussion of how they will address this issue in the future. We may make some recommendations about how Canada should address this area. We may even suggest that we could take a leadership role in the United Nations,et cetera. After the homework has been done for us, we could enter into a dialogue with witnesses and government officials with a view to making recommendations. That is how you can pull all the ``further study'' areas into one study.
The one treaty that stood out from the rest was the American Convention on Human Rights. A lot of work has been done in Canada on that, and our researcher could pull that information together. Senator Wilson has had a great interest in this and has both names and papers for us in this area. We could pull that together and start studying it.
We could look at the policy implications of signing and not signing, and at ways and means we could sign to overcome the dilemma of article 4. We should also look at the downside of Canada not signing this Inter-American Convention on Human Rights.There must be economic and foreign policyimplications — not that we should be the experts in those areas, but we should touch on whether signing into the court would help our position in Latin America, Central America and South America. We could do that as a case study. We could start on that almost immediately, while our researcher is doing the broader study. That would appear to be step two on this paper.
The third phase could deal with the whole treaty-making process. This is a fundamental area that would probably take us more than a year, but we could do it in segments. We would look at how Canada, compared to other countries, enters into a treaty-making process and how it integrates that treaty into Canadian law. That is to say, how does the national and international law interface? Australia seems to be light years ahead of us. Only a short time ago they put in place a treaty-making commission. Every other country that I have some knowledge of has been thinking about this and has been moving on this front. Canada seems not to have done it.
We may find that more is being done than we thought, but we could do a valuable interface for a couple of reasons. First, we have been saying that the world is changing. It is becoming more globalized and international. Therefore, these international treaties and conventions have a greater impact on us. It is important that both parliamentarians and citizens know about the impact of that on Canada.
Second, over the last year or two, I have heard that national governments are less important than international structures, et cetera. Australia has attacked this by making the national government more relevant in the international convention scene. That is a role for transparency, a role for Parliament and for society, namely, to look at how we govern ourselves.
I see a greater role for national governments, not a lesser role. That is bringing together how we go into signing a treaty— not to get into constitutional issues but, rather, how we attack modern issues today. That would be the third phase.
I see that all as one study under a reference timely pulled together in a broad mandate so that we can move ahead. It would basically authorize the committee to examine and report on the status of Canada's adherence to international human rights instruments and on the process whereby Canada enters into, implements and reports on such agreements.
We require a broad mandate which will allow us to study all these areas. This may involve research. Since our committee sits at certain, limited times, sometimes our witness may not be available. Therefore, we must be able to move this study forward on more than one front. A broad, general approach that encapsulates the issues that we want to study, both treaties and reports, would be helpful. That is how I envision we might proceed if we wanted to finish the work we started in our first report.
However, we must first put together a budget to deal with the legislative process. That has nothing to do with this study. We also need to submit a budget before March 31, 2002. There is a budget up to March 31, 2002. The $8,000 we would be asking for is for a research consultant, the the person who would pull the human rights instruments together. That seems to be a fair amount for the start of the study, if not for the whole study. The amount for working luncheons is the same figure as for other committees, so we are not being innovative there. We still have membership for three delegates but it is only one.
Senator Beaudoin: We cannot change that.
The Chairman: We did put three delegates forward for a terrorism, law and democracy conference.
There was some talk on the floor of the chamber that we should study the consequences of the terrorism legislation on human rights. That is something we should consider, but from the discussions I have had, I think it should be a separate study. It is difficult to determine what to do that would be helpful and which would not duplicate what is being done by certain academic institutions that are studying this.
It is subject to honourable senators' approval, but I would suggest that our first decision is that we not embark on that study right away. Draft legislation is still coming forward, and this committee certainly does not want to get into a political dilemma. We want to be a consensus committee. Thus, I think we would wait until all of the legislation is in place. We would know what is being done in the community, and we would come back to look at this as a separate study in a couple of months.
In the meantime, a large conference on terrorism, law and democracy, with all of the known ``suspects'', if I can call them that, in this field will take place on March25-26, 2002, in Montreal. The original proposal from the staff is that three delegates should attend. I would suggest that it be only the researcher. That would reduce the figure for that expenditure by $400. The total then would be $6,600.
Senator Wilson: Which line are you on?
The Chairman: No. 3, under the heading, ``Professional and other services,'' it states ``Three (3) delegates....'' My suggestion is that it should be one delegate. The figure for transportation is correct. It provides for one person to travel. Therefore, total should not be $8,350, it should be $7,950. That would be our budget to the end of the year.
The reasoning behind that was that if an honourable senator wished to go to this conference, we would have the means to do it. The conference takes place during the week of March25, 2002, at which time the Senate adjourns for the Easter break. However, I recognize that it will conflict with family obligations.
Senator Beaudoin: Senator Robichaud has informed me that the Senate will be sitting for three days in the last week.
The Chairman: We will be unable to attend that conference if we are voting here.
Senator Beaudoin: I am told that in the last week of March we may be here three days: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Chairman: That is in conflict with the timing of the conference. The feedback from the leadership is that some people have pre-Easter commitments to their families. However, we should plan to be here. That is why I thought it would be important to have our researcher go and obtain materials for us that may be part of our ongoing assessment, that is, how to frame another study on the consequences.
I believe that, if we are to do a study, we must look at the consequences to the criminal law, that is, the rule of law and human rights, and not confine our study to the terrorism legislation. The fundamental changes that have taken place are much broader than that. We have had anti-gang legislation, we have trans-national crime, and we have sex tourism. We have been trying to piece all of that together to achieve the best in human rights. Are we doing this in the best way?
We need time to reflect and think. We have enough on our plate emanating from our old study. We can approach this study when we are comfortable about moving ahead.
In the meantime I think it would be valuable to send our researcherto Montreal.
Senator Joyal: The conference is at which institution?
The Chairman: I have details here for all honourable senators. Our clerk has come prepared.
It is the Law Commission of Canada; the Canadian Association for Security and Intelligence Studies; the Centre for Security and Defence Studies, Carleton University; the Faculty of Law, Common Law Section, University of Ottawa; the Faculty of Law, University of Montreal; and the Institute of Comparative Law, Faculty of Law, McGill University. The researcher's attendance at the conference will assist us in our ongoing work. The research consultant can start the first part of our three-part study.
I will be very candid on the big budget.
Senator Beaudoin: This is a very small budget.
The Chairman: Very small.
Senator Beaudoin: It is only for one month and a half, at most.
The Chairman: Yes. If we are able to agree to our terms of reference today, we could go into the Senate and have it approved. We could pass this small budget conditionally on Senate approval, which is kind of the cart before the horse, but it is about the only way we can manage.
Our recent study was very inexpensive in that the committee did not travel out of Ottawa. We did not stretch our limited resources. While I think that is an appropriate way to use resources, other committees have had the benefit of travel and the research that the travel brings. By being so miserly, we have downgraded the issue of human rights and elevated issues of banking, health, illegal drugs, the environment, energy, and transportation. Other committees of the Senate have been able to do more intensive, exhaustive, and more global research and we, I think, may be doing a disservice for human rights by restricting our venue.
I believe the Senate is handling itself appropriately by asking all committees to submit their requests for the coming year, and then they will assess all of the committees. In considering this general study, I concentrated on content rather on what moneys the committee may require. However, when I received the letter asking that we submit a budget, I was driven to deal with the issue of money.
We are certain that we will be unable to complete our evaluation of international human instruments for $5,000, but we hope to do it for a total of $10,000. However, we put in a figure of $15,000 in the event that we require more research capacity.
We included figures of $8,000 and $8,000 for meals. That figure rather shocked me but, apparently that is what the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs and other committees are submitting in order to provide lunches and dinners.
Senator Beaudoin: That is new for the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.
The Chairman: I am referring to money allocated for lunches, not travelling.
Senator Beaudoin: That is recent.
The Chairman: That has been happening in the last couple of years. I am assured by the clerk, and honourable senators may question him, that that is in line with what other committees are doing. I fell over too when I saw that. You have 20 lunches at $400. That is for all the people who come to these meetings. It is the cost of the committee lunch. You can talk to your chair about that one.
The next figure is for translation services and equipment rentals, if we were to travel. We are being pressured more and more by communications consultants, so we have included that.
There are five possible types of travel, and honourable senators can see how they are broken down. The first issue we have to deal with in our study is how transparent we should be, what level of parliamentary involvement there should be in this whole process, and how citizens' groups and citizens should influence it. There would be merit in going outside of Ottawa. I would suggest a western tour and an eastern tour, and we picked Vancouver and Winnipeg for one, and Montreal and Halifax for the other. The figure that you see is the cost for travelling. That is apparently what it costs to move a committee across Canada.
Senator Poy: This is a budget for two years. Should it not be an annual budget?
The Chairman: Honourable senators will have to choose how we put this forward. We gave figures for a study which would extend over two years. If we wanted to, we could try to do it in one year. We could put forward figures for one year instead. However, I thought that we could not possibly do this in one year, and our clerk's advice was that we would be studying this over two years. We could put in reports and recommendations. However, if we want to do everything we said, it will probably take two years, given the way Parliament sits and all the rumours flying around.
Senator Poy: Would the Senate usually pass the budget annually?
The Chairman: Yes.
Senator Poy: That means we will get half.
The Chairman: That means we will have to decide what we think we can do. The Internal Economy Committee will want to know our full plans, and then they will want a breakdown of what we expect to do this year.
I think, quite frankly, in the second year, the inter-American court study will proceed faster. Very few people in Canada have witnessed its operations and know the people there. There is merit in going to Costa Rica and spending some time looking at how the court functions and meeting with the people in and around the court. Then we will get assessments from both the critics of the court and the proponents of the court. That cost is built in to the budget.
There is, of course, a need to travel to Geneva, to visit with the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations. We would see how the commission operates and meet with all of the relevant agencies. Many agencies housed in Geneva are international, judicial and legal. Even the Red Cross is located there. There is merit in doing that once we start dealing with global issues.
Senator Beaudoin: The need for last three items is self-evident. However, I am somewhat hesitant about the need for including the first two items for travelling west and east. We do not learn very much in public meetings. A significant amount of money is allocated for that, in fact, over $250,000.
The Chairman: There may be merit in travelling, and there may be merit in submitting a two-year budget. I wanted honourable senators to know what I was thinking. Since we do not have a deputy chair, the researcher, the clerk and some others have had input into this.
Is there an alternative? This could be a one-year reference, which would reduce the cost. The reference is large enough for the committee to hear witnesses in Ottawa and elsewhere.
There is merit in putting a two-year budget in, but we could submit a one-year budget. We could put in a two-year, phased budget. It is for honourable senators to decide. We could put in a hard budget for this year and submit a soft budget for the second year. Alternatively, we could drop the second year and come back and ask for more if we do not complete our study in one year. If we put no figures in for the second we would substantially lower this budget.
Senator Beaudoin: Does this budget include the seven points you have drafted?
The Chairman: Yes.
Senator Beaudoin: I want to be sure. I am talking about the points from the report mentioned in the overview for possible study.
The Chairman: Yes.
Senator Beaudoin: Can we study all those points in two years?
The Chairman: Yes. Optimistically, it could take one year. We did something in six months that people said we could not do. We can avail ourselves of existing research. People who have been thinking about these areas are very committed. There is much information in the UN that we can draw on. If we utilize the information that is available, we might be able to move faster. However, we may to study certain areas longer. We will learn as we go.
Knowing how Parliament works, it is probably more realistic to say that this study will take two years. We hear rumours about prorogation and adjournments, and some of them come true.
Senator Beaudoin: The fifth point deals with international human rights and Canadian federalism. That is a beautiful topic. However, we have very little information on this, and little has been done. In my opinion, that topic is important to our country. A significant amount of interest will be raised in Canada if we deal with that point in particular.
The Chairman: This was crafted rather quickly. We must be careful when we use the word ``federalism'' not to raise the provincial hackles. We may need to rephrase that. However, this document is strictly for the use of the committee. Your input will be welcomed. Only the reference will go to the floor of the chamber. I would like to know your reaction to this and to hear your comments and any suggested changes.
Senator Wilson: I agree with the three main, broad areas for study. As to our study of the human rights treaty process in Canada, is there any possibility of having a case study around the Kyoto agreement or whatever agreement Canada is considering that it will not ratify? Case studies generally tend to demonstrate a point.
The Chairman: I am not sure Kyoto will be included. We are doing a case study for the first part and, basically, the second will be is a case study arising out of the first.
Senator Wilson: Case studies usually bring things much more to a head than, say, doing a general study about human rights.
As I understand it, the Terrorism Law and Democracy Conference to be held in Montreal on March 25-26 will conduct a major study of the results of terrorism. Since I am certain that some honourable senators will be going to Costa Rica and that I will not, I would be glad to attend the Montreal conference. Other members of this committee can participate in votes in the Senate, and I am sure you will not miss me. I will go to Montreal to get ready for my transformation into a troublesome NGO. That will give me a significant amount of ammunition.
As to the three main areas of study, I hope that the emphasis will be on implementation and on the involvement of Parliament and parliamentarians, which is something that we have not had.
I have two suggestions regarding the proposals for travel in the budget. We may want to tie our public hearings to Canada's reporting to the UN Human Rights Commission and deal with civil and political rights, as well as economic, social and cultural rights. If those are included on the committee agenda when we travel, people will be able to understand the issues we are dealing with. That is what the UN has said about Canada's performance. It will not be up in the air.
On item No. 4 of our proposed budget, I would suggest that, when committee members travel to the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva, they attend one of the committee meetings when Canada reports. We have never done that. Parliamentarians are singularly missing from that. I can attest to the fact that anyone who visits the Human Rights Commission can be exposed to a broad spectrum of interesting bodies, such as the Red Cross and the ILO.
As to our public hearings, I would not underestimate the communications function of our Human Rights Committee travelling. If there is authenticity, and if the public recognizes that we are dealing with some important issues that they can understand, that will do much more for the committee.
The Chairman: I perhaps indicated we should not flag parliamentary participation until we know how it functions. After our study, we will know what constitutes the role of parliamentarians. I believe that is indicated in No. 3. I do not know if the honourable senator was in the room at the time I indicated that. I was trying to phrase it that the way national governments and national parliaments will have to act and react as responsible players will be different as a result of globalization and the international instruments, therefore Parliament should be front and centre.
Senator Wilson: I think that putting forward a two-year budget is a good idea. It indicates what we intend to do in the foreseeable future. We want approval of our budget for the first year, and then we indicate what we hope to do in the future. We ask for a certain amount of money to move to the second phase.
The Chairman: Right now it is all lumped together. If the allocation is to be in two phases we will have to indicate what we anticipate in the first phase. Are you suggesting that the committee should travel in the second year after we have done our homework and we have a firm grounding?
Senator Wilson: Yes. The two-year plan indicates that we are not living from hand to mouth, that we do have a plan, and that we are not proceeding on an ad hoc basis to fill in the time this year.
Senator Joyal: I am concerned by one aspect of our general mandate, which is short-term. In mid-April of this year it will be the twentieth anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I am told, and I have no specific details, that the Department of Justice is contemplating some initiatives. I do not know of the nature of any of those initiatives. It would be odd if the Human Rights Committee of the Senate did not mark the occasion. As Senator Wilson and you have said, Madam Chair, we have only three or four sitting weeks before April 15 and we will be adjourned the first two weeks of April. This means we will be on April15. Our meeting on the April 14 should be the celebration date.
If the Department of Justice is contemplating some initiatives we could not be connected with that up to April15. We are talking about two years of planning. That is a good way of establishing rationale for initiatives. However, in the light of short-term deadlines, what do we put together for the immediate future? Should we contact the Department of Justice soon and ask what they are contemplating? How can we connect with them? I do not know. I raise that issue with you because I feel that the Charter is the umbrella under which all of the other initiatives of the Canadian government are now appraised and viewed, and the instrument by which we are measured internationally.
The Chairman: Have you given some thought as to what we might do?
Senator Joyal: In regard to the Charter there are two points that I feel are of interest. Canadians are very keen about the Charter. Two polls were published recently, one of those about two weeks or 10 days ago.
The Chairman: The Charter scores higher in the polls than many other issues.
Senator Joyal: It scores over and above everything in all regions of Canada. Canadians identify themselves with the Charter after they identify nature, the Rockies, the lakes, the fresh air and whatnot, then it is the Charter. In other words, the Charter has become a key element by which Canadians identify. In my opinion, many observers and analysts have under-evaluated that important element. We still think of the federal system as the catalyst for a fight between two jurisdictions. However, over and above that issue, Canadians want their rights, and that is it. It matters not who is in government, Canadians fight for their rights. The question of jurisdiction is second in the minds of Canadians.
Authors who write about Canadian federalism are stuck on the old, traditional split between the federal government and provincial governments. We might choose to hear some witnesses on that issue.
The Chairman: This may be a function of having put it together too quickly. We need to put more Canadian content into the human rights discussion.
Senator Joyal: In my opinion, the Charter has drastically changed Canadian society. How have the last 20 years impacted the way in which Canada as a society has progressed? How much has the culture of rights become a determining element? People are more conscious of rights. They are more conscious of emerging rights, which are those rights that are not yet entrenched or protected provincially, federally or in the Charter. Nevertheless, people want those emerging rights to protect people from being discriminated against.
The Chairman: Are you suggesting that we have witnesses in a round table on April15?
Senator Joyal: Perhaps something like that would be appropriate.
The Chairman: Any discussion of Canada's adherence to treaties always starts with a reference to the Charter.
Senator Joyal: I would suggest that we contact the Department of Justice and ask about their plans. I know they are doing something but, as I said, I am not privy to their discussions. I just heard something through the doors — not that I spy on them.
The Chairman: That is on the record, by the way.
Senator Joyal: Believe me, I measure my words.
There will probably be some celebration on the Hill. I do not know what plans the other place has. There is no doubt, since this is a human rights committee, if there is a place where something should be done, it should be here.
The Chairman: We have access to three hours television coverage, and we could use that productively.
As I say, this needs to be fine-tuned. You have pointed out a shortcoming of this draft. We have taken for granted the Canadian segment of this. We did that because the Canadian Human Rights Commission has been in a difficult situation because of the La Forest report. The government has said it will respond. We did not want to tread on that process so we left that part out, but for how long we can leave it out I do not know. It is, however, an interesting concept to start with the Charter and the implications to Canada in the world context.
Senator Beaudoin: I am involved in two studies, one involving Canadian studies and the Charter, and the other is the big show to be held on April17. It has already been planned, and it will take place here in Ottawa. The Prime Minister and hundreds of experts are expected to attend. I cannot agree more with what has been said.
They asked for our comments prior to April 17. It is on the Charter also. They will occupy the field in mid-March and mid-April. We should be there.
The Chairman: Who is doing this?
Senator Beaudoin: A group of academics from Montreal, including McGill, Ottawa, and other universities.
The Chairman: The usual suspects.
Senator Beaudoin: It is the group involved with Canadian studies. You know about that, Madam Chair. They have asked for a few articles by March 1, 2002, as well as for some two or three weeks after that. This event will last for two or three days. The title of the conference is ``20 years of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.'' Experts from many fields will be there. We should be there.
The Chairman: I will ask for your assistance in two areas. First, could you disseminate any information that you have so the members can participate? Second, Senators Joyal and Beaudoin have given this some thought before because of their having been personally involved with the Charter for a long time. What could we do that fits into our study and highlights the Charter? It would be good evidence and good information for our ongoing study but also a good use of that day.
Senator Joyal: I would suggest that you, as our chair, in your official capacity, be mandated by us to formally get in touch with the Department of Justice and determine what they are contemplating.
As Senator Beaudoin said, some external institutions might decide to do something. There is no doubt universities will probably want to do something and are already planning to do it. Senators Wilson, Beaudoin or myself can always attend in our capacity as persons interested in human rights. However, we are members of the Parliament of Canada. We exist. It is because we exist that we need to mark the celebration in our own way.
We could use a three-hour session with TV coverage to inform the press on the Hill that on that day it will be the element on the Hill. We must define our initiative as a complementary initiative to the one that the Justice Department is planning.
I suggest that, as soon as possible, you contact them. You could then call an informal meeting of the committee and say, ``This is what we are doing and this is what we can add to that on our own.''
Senator Beaudoin: It may be that they are looking for one or two articles dealing with human rights at the international level. Perhaps I will call those who are in involved in that in Montreal and here in Ottawa.
Last week I was asked if I could suggest someone. Obviously, I would suggest this committee do something at the international level. As for the domestic level, they have already many experts in the fields of criminal law, constitutional law, privacy,et cetera. At the international level, we have great experts, but we must be there. Perhaps tomorrow morning I will call them and ask whether we may arrange a meeting between you and those people. In my opinion we should be there. The meeting will be held in the Conference Centre.
Senator Wilson: I would support Senator Joyal. Is there a niche that this committee could fill publicly?
The Chairman: I have heard, and there is some agreement around this table, that we should join initiatives. Anything that can be done to promote would be a positive step.
I will call the Department of Justice tomorrow. I will then meet with all of you informally to see if we can come up with some program for April15 that is helpful to our ongoing work and which will highlight the Charter.
Senator Joyal: I would suggest, Madam Chair, that it could be how the Charter has contributed to shape the Canadian society and initiate the development of a culture of rights among the citizens themselves. I recall an article that I read last summer which was an analysis of the impact of the Charter on the exercise of provincial jurisdiction, that is, how the Charter has been interpreted, and how it is in conflict with provincial jurisdiction. The article was written by a professor who has studied all the Supreme Court of Canada cases over the last 20 years.
Perhaps we could call a panel of witnesses, some of whom could tell us what the Charter has given us, and some of whom, perhaps experts in the field of sociology, could tell us how it has impacted on the minds of people. A representative of an Aboriginal group could tell us about the impact on aboriginal groups.
I am not saying this would be the definite program. Those issues are still pending. None of them has been resolved so far. However, the Charter has framed them in a way in their evolution. That is one way of approaching it. I am sure that we can come up with the names of four or five people who have written on this subject and who would be glad to form a panel of witnesses. We would ensure that a larger number of our colleagues would be in attendance. We would hold a special meeting of the Human Rights Committee, a large one, if I could say so. We would benefit from translation and reporting. That could form part of our contribution to mark the twentieth anniversary.
The Chairman: It could be inserted as an appendix to any future report.
Senator Ferretti Barth: It seems that your main concern is with human rights on the international stage. Should we not be concerned with human rights on the national stage? We also have many problems. Before looking elsewhere, I would like to know what we are thinking of doing here.
Canadians must have access to health care. It is a real problem in various regions of Canada, especially in Québec. People sometimes have to wait two days in the emergency room without receiving any first aid. Such a situation is intolerable. These people have a right to be treated immediately. We could ask the Government what they are doing with the money from Employment Insurance. Could part of this amount be used to help with the problems in hospital emergency rooms?
I live this problem in Québec. When somebody talks to me about human rights, I ask myself: ``What human rights? Who has rights?'' Among our population, nobody knows that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom exists. First, we must first educate people.
I am learning a lot from this committee. In my opinion, we should be concerned with Canadian citizens first. Afterwards, we can look elsewhere.
The Chairman: What you are saying is very true. As it is written, it seems that it speaks more about international aspects. However, we are trying to say that the international treaties form the machinery that is part of our Charter, and we want to ensure it works as one piece. We were reminded by Senator Joyal that we must continue looking at the pieces in Canada in which we were leaders to see whether they are functioning and how they have changed us.
On the one hand, we say the Charter is a magnificent piece of legislation and has helped us. On the other hand, we recognize that there are still miles to go to make that Charter a reality for all people.
We are trying to marry our international obligations with our national obligations, and to find out how our international obligations can strengthen our national resolve and vice versa. Maybe this draft is a little too slanted, but certainly from our debates it appears that we talked just as much on the ground here as we did over there. This was not intended to be definitive. It was intended to be a first draft.
Senator Ferretti Barth: This is taking a lot of time. I am thinking of the sick people in my community. Before something can be set up, these people are going to die. Nothing happens quickly. The slowness of the Government scares me. It is like a concert that starts well and ends badly. That's parliamentary life. Rules take time. The Human Rights Committee may already exist but there must be an organization in our parliamentary system which can take direct and focussed action.
The Chairman: Your point is well taken. We must touch more on the Canadian aspect in order to balance this paper. However, this committee picked one area because we recognize that we cannot do everything, and we have to do it as fast as we can. I think some of your concerns can be addressed through other committees of the Senate and through other agencies. We have a lot of work to do, you and I, and Senator Wilson wants to leave us. I do not understand; she should be here to help us.
Senator Wilson: You made the rules before I joined.
To follow up on what Senator Ferretti Barth said, my point is that we should ensure that some people do attend at the UN Human Rights Commission, which monitors Canadian participation and implementation of the international human rights treaties. Canadians understand the issues of housing, education, health, and a welfare system. Unless we are specific, many Canadians will not understand what this is all about. I think the linkage is there. We have signed international treaties, but what do they mean nationally?
The Chairman: Do we have a consensus? If so, I need a motion.
I am being told we do not have a date on this resolution. My proposal is that it be one year hence. We can always extend that. We are proposing a two-year study, but we should say one year.
Senator Beaudoin: I would prefer one year, but I am open.
The Chairman: March 31, 2003 is the date we should insert. I prefer shorter time periods.
Senator Beaudoin: It would be easy to extend it another year.
The Chairman: To me it was either December 31, 2002, or March 31, 2003; for consistency with budget approvals, perhaps it should be March 31, 2003. If there is some agreement, can I have a motion?
Senator Poy: I so move.
The Chairman: Is there agreement?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chairman: Any disagreement?
There being none, I will find out how we can do something on April 15 that will be within the mandate of this committee so that it will benefit our work here.
Senator Beaudoin: I would like to know a little more about that. As I understand it, it is proposed that April 15, 16 and 17, three days or two and a half days, will be set aside for the recognition of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This will be in the Congress Centre.
The Chairman: I cannot tell you what we will do. However I believe that there is a consensus that we do something here in committee, since our committee meets on Mondays between, 4p.m. and 7 p.m., and that includes April 15. That may well conflict with that three-day conference.
Senator Beaudoin: If it is before, there may be no conflict.
The Chairman: I must do the homework before I can say what we will do. I must find out from the Department of Justice what the government plan is; then I will consult with you to share some ideas about what we can do before we tie it down. I will need your feedback.
Senator Beaudoin: We should invite representatives from the Department of Justice and from the academic world to spend one, two or three hours with us. That meeting should be televised, in my opinion. It could even take place one week before April 15.
The Chairman: We may not be sitting that week.
Senator Joyal: We will not be sitting the second week of April.
The Chairman: We will have to manage the times and the issues. I would suggest that you leave those matters with me and I will explore the possibilities. Then I will discuss those matters with you and, hopefully, get some new ideas.
Senator Poy: Could we have some indication of whom you might invite?
The Chairman: I have no idea what Justice is planning. I will call the department tomorrow and, once I know what their plans are, we can get together and discuss what we should do.
Senator Poy: Since we are concentrating on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, perhaps we could invite people from different communities across the country to come here. There would then be a great deal of interest across the country in watching that afternoon program.
The Chairman: As soon as we have something, we will bounce it back and you can make suggestions. Our starting point is to contact the Department of Justice. I had suggested that Senator Joyal do that, but he nicely turned it back to me.
Senator Joyal: I did so because I am not a standing member of the committee, and you are the Chair and, as such, you would be acting in an official capacity. Since we intend this to be an initiative of the Senate, I think that our inquiry should come from the Chair. It is not because I do not want to talk to them, believe me.
The Chairman: While we are discussing April, we had been talking about meeting the Dalai Lama at the Steering Committee. However, the gentleman has taken ill and is in a recuperative state. I am told that he is recovering now, but he has cancelled all his engagements, including his trips to Canada, Great Britain and elsewhere. That meeting is therefore postponed for now.
We will now deal with the budget. First, I need a motion that the committee adopt the draft budget for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2002, subject to Senate approval of the order of reference moved today. That covers the small item for $7,950 for the research consultant, the working luncheons, the one membership to the conference and travel to the conference in Montreal.
Senator Wilson: I so move.
The Chairman: Is it agreed?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chairman: We will now proceed to the other small budget for legislation, the mandatory one, for $2,500. We will not use this unless a bill is referred to our committee. We already have the budget for this year. This refers to the coming year, 2002-03, for the whole year.
Senator Beaudoin: That is $2,500?
The Chairman: Yes, it is used in the event that a bill is referred to us. That is the minimum figure put forward for every committee with the idea that we are obliged to study any proposed legislation that may be referred to us. We got it last year, and we will get it again this year, although we have not had any legislation referred to us yet. We reduced the figure from $4,500 last year. Since we did not use any of that, we are only putting in $2,500. My guess is that we will not use it.
Senator Beaudoin: What do we do with that money?
The Chairman: We have the right to use this against the budget, but if we do not use the money, it the Internal Economy Committee reallocates it.
Senator Beaudoin: I so move.
The Chairman: I will now turn to the big budget. Does the committee wish to put in a firm budget for one year and have, in hand, a second budget for the second year, or do you want to lump them together as a two-year budget? We have to put them in separately.
We will not pass this big budget until such time as the Senate approves the order. We will have to hold another meeting to discuss this later, but I would like some feedback on how you want it structured. Do you want it to show year one and year two, with approval for year one? That is what we will be asking for.
Senator Beaudoin: I would prefer that.
The Chairman: We will not be travelling this spring. We are talking about travelling once in the fall and once next spring. That is all we can manage. We would be looking at two travelling committees outside of the country in the year 2002-03, and the two trips across the country. We will then have built up a track record, I hope, of good reports.
Senator Beaudoin: Is it of such great importance to travel west and east? I am not convinced that it is, but I will not object to that.
Senator Wilson: It is important for the sake of visibility. The public will understand what we are doing that is connected with their lives.
Senator Beaudoin: I would suggest that we consider the money involved.
The Chairman: Many Senate committees with mandates comparable to ourstravel. Their costs are equal to what we are putting forward. The Fisheries Committee, the Defence and Security Committee, and the Energy Committee have all travelled across Canada. Of course, the full committee has to travel together, with capacity for translation reporting and so on. It is very costly. Travel throughout Canada is extremely expensive.
Senator Beaudoin: We do not even hear about it.
The Chairman: I hear about it all the time.
Senator Wilson: They always ask me to attend the Toronto hearings.
Senator Beaudoin: I mean in general.
The Chairman: You must come to the Internal Economy committee to hear about it.
Senator Wilson: Unless we spend money, the committee is not taken seriously. Whether we like it or not, that is the way it is.
The Chairman: We are giving short shrift of the constituency interested in this. I hope human rights is fundamental to most Canadians, not just a segment of our population.
Senator Beaudoin: If it were a necessity, I would approve.
The Chairman: One way to encourage the participation of Canadians is to travel to where they live. However, if we were in a cutback mode, this committee would not incur this expenditure, nor would any other committee. If other committees have made the compelling case that they need to reach out to the community, I think we can make an equally compelling case.
Senator Beaudoin: We do not do that in the Legal Committee.
The Chairman: Legal is a very special committee. It is not a travelling committee.
Senator Beaudoin: I prefer that.
The Chairman: The Social Affairs Committee has been travelling in the course of its study of the health care system in Canada.
Senator Ferretti Barth: Finance is not a travelling committee, though.
The Chairman: No. The National Finance Committee, the Internal Economy Committee, Rules, Legal and the Library are not. A case can be made for the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs not travelling. They do not travel because their counterpart on the same issues in the House of Commons often travels. For example, it did not travel when dealing with youth justice. However, the House of Commons committee travelled to every part of this country on Bill C-3.
Senator Beaudoin: Yes, but we were better than them.
Senator Wilson: The Subcommittee on Human Rights in the Commons has visited Colombia and Sudan, but those were country-focused studies. It has nothing to do with what we are doing. This is the kind of issue that the Canadian public needs to be educated about. One way to do it is by being present there.
Senator Beaudoin: For you, it is a question of educating the public.
Senator Wilson: To some extent, yes.
The Chairman: It also involves feedback from the public. The kinds of witnesses we will here from in Ottawa will be the academics and those representing organizations. However, we reach a point in preparing the report of the committee where Senator Ferretti Barth's point becomes important, that is, how it impacts individuals. These people may not be organized. We need to hear from them as well as from national organizations. We are doing it to prove— as I hope to prove to Senator Ferretti Barth— that our adherence to the social and economic covenants in the United Nations helps us bring human rights down to the people in Montreal. Equally, we have done a good job of bringing the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and our Human Rights Commission to the world. We do not have to do it because the Human Rights Commission, Max Yalden, et cetera, have gone around the world to show them what a Human Rights Commission can do and they have shared their experience.
Senator Ferretti Barth: They never reach the small people. Maybe educated people like you, Senator Beaudoin, Senator Wilson, and others, know all this, but I have lived with these people. For 30 years, I tried to make them understand that the law protects them. They do not know that.
The Chairman: We will try to be of some assistance to them.
Senator Ferretti Barth: They are not aware of their rights.
The Chairman: We hope to be able to educate and to make a difference.
As soon as I am aware of a deputy chair in the offing, I will find a time— and, that will probably not be a Monday— to bring the committee together for the legality of the appointment of the deputy chair and for the passing of a budget, if we have the order of reference. It will be a 15-minute meeting to deal with the formalities.
Is there anything else?
Senator Poy: If you have completed this discussion, I should like to raise the matter of Zimbabwe and what is happening there. As a committee, can we send letter to their government?
Senator Beaudoin: The Government of Zimbabwe?
Senator Poy: Yes. As you know, they have an upcoming election.
The Chairman: In trying to get the support of all senators, I said that we would not be a lobby or an advocacy group. We have some fundamental work on the machinery of human rights, et cetera, to do it. Therefore, it may be premature to go down that route as a committee for two reasons. First, this is not the area we were studying. If we were to enlarge our area of study, then why would we not study China next, or Tibet, and so on? We may want to go that way, however. That may be a matter for the collective wisdom of the Senate of the day. However, we have chosen to look at the machinery and not to get issue specific. I am trying to impress upon everyone that we are here to press for policy changes by the government rather than issues because there is a well-organized group. Second, it would be ill-advised of us to do something unless we study it and to do so we would then require an order of reference.
This is an issue close to many of us around the table. I am already twinned with parliamentarians in Zimbabwe. If you prepare a resolution, you could present it to us individually and we can do something about it, for example, cause an inquiry. I would be delighted to join you on it. We must find mechanisms. As I keep telling everyone, my role is as Chairman of the Human Rights Committee. However, my commitment to human rights spans many other things I do as an individual. That is where we could go with that one. We could do it as individuals because it is an important issue. It is not the only one, however. There are a couple of others coming up, for example, elections that we should be very worried about.
The committee adjourned.