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Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Human Rights

Issue 7 - Evidence for February 21, 2002

OTTAWA, Thursday, February 21, 2002

The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights met this day at 9:34 a.m. to elect a deputy chair and to give consideration to a draft budget.

Senator A. Raynell Andreychuk (Chairman) in the Chair.


The Chairman: Honourable senators, the purpose of this meeting is to allow for fair and necessary consultations when there is a midstream change in the chair or deputy chair of the committee. Our deputy chair, Senator Finestone, turned 75 and retired, so we have a vacancy. Since the vacancy is to be filled by our Liberal colleagues, I understand that they are in a position to do so.

I need a motion for the election of the deputy chair.

Senator Ferretti Barth: I should like to propose our colleague Senator Fraser.

The Chairman: We do not need a seconder. Are there any other nominations? Is it agreed, then?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chairman: We will signify in the usual manner.

Senator Fraser: Thank you very much.

The Chairman: I am pleased that Senator Fraser has joined our committee. We are in a phase that is somewhat technical. There are many background documents to bring everyone up to speed, so she has many large binders of information to read that the rest of us have ploughed through.

I hope, Senator Fraser, that you enjoy the work. I think it is an area where you will feel that you have accomplished something for a broad spectrum of Canadians and others. We look forward to your involvement.

Senator Wilson has just arrived.

We have just elected Senator Fraser, and I am sure you concur.

Senator Wilson: I cannot do too much now but to say congratulations.

The Chairman: We also have the budget that we looked at, which we tentatively said was the budget that we wish to propose for the year 2002-03. I remind honourable senators that we put in our legislative budget of $2,500, and our emergency budget to March 31 went through, which was $7,900. How much we will be able to make use of is contingent on how quickly the Senate adopts our order of reference. I had hoped to move the motion yesterday, but we always collapse the list and some committee chairs were found wanting yesterday. I hope we can get it through the Senate today, meaning that we could then sit in March, but I am told that until such time as the reference passes the Senate, we cannot go for the emergency money and we cannot, therefore, have witnesses. Effectively, with no legislation before us and with no reference before us, there is no way we can start to hold committee meetings. That in turn means that I cannot set the dates in March. The two tentative dates in March that seemed available were March 11 and March 18. In light of these technicalities, I cannot set the dates. As soon as we get the reference, we will check in with the steering committee as quickly as possible to get the money, and then we will put the dates out as quickly as we can.

This budget is not the budget that determines anything we do in March. It is the budget that starts April 1. It is exactly the same as we studied at during our meeting. We determined this was the minimum we would ask for in 2002- 03 because this was definitely what we could manage in that year. We could probably manage more, but in light of the costs and time frames, we decided this would be the most reasonable budget to put forward.

For newcomers, the top two issues that have a money tag attached to them are the Inter-American Court assessment and the human rights consultations that we hope to do. Those are the issues that involve big money. The big studies, of course, we will do by video-conferencing. The majority of witnesses will either come to Ottawa or give evidence by video-conference. We will not do consultations in Canada until the year after, unless something changes.

I need a mover for this budget.

Senator Fraser: Before we move the budget, Madam Chair, the second line of the title of page 1 of the draft that is before us calls this a budget for a special study. It is not for a special study but for committee work, is it not?

The Chairman: I talked to the Clerk of the Committee, Till Heyde, and apparently all studies by all committees use the term ``special.'' I told Mr. Heyde I did not like that term because we now have real special studies. In the minds of most honourable senators it means not from a committee but from some senator who stands up and says he or she wants to study euthanasia or illegal drugs, et cetera. He said that if I found it so difficult, he would remove that term. I thought he had. Where did you find it?

Senator Fraser: Page 1, second line of the title: Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights, special study of Canada's adherence.

The Chairman: We will delete that. I will amend that to say ``study of.'' We do not need to say ``special.'' He took it out of the letter that I signed. We will be unique because I asked about energy and transportation, and he said that the proper form is to say ``special'' every time. I said that perhaps we can signal to Internal Economy that this is getting confusing. We will drop that since it is not a requirement of Internal Economy, but rather a practice.

Senator Fraser: That will make me happy.

The Chairman: May I have a motion?

Senator Fraser: So moved.

The Chairman: Is everyone in favour?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator Cochrane: You mentioned the date of March 11 and another date before which we cannot hold meetings. Might it be that we will not be able to meet again until after Easter?

The Chairman: I hope we can meet before that time, but that might be the case. When one looks at the dates, we do not have much time. I am told that Internal Economy is meeting the first week in March, so the earliest we could hope to hear from witnesses would be March 11 and then March 18. I do not have my calendar here.

We are restricted to Mondays for our committee meetings. We have been sitting from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. I propose to continue holding meetings at that time unless I hear otherwise. I know that Senator Beaudoin has a conflict.

Senator Beaudoin: If we do not sit before April, I do not have any problem. On Monday, in the afternoon or at night, I am all right.

The Chairman: I think there was a majority feeling that 4:00 to 7:00 was still the best time. Senator Beaudoin has a class to teach at 6:30 and would have to miss the last hour.

Senator Beaudoin: For the meetings held in March.

The Chairman: In March only. That is all dependent on Internal Economy and the Senate chamber. I will not worry about that until it happens.

Anticipating that we will be able to start our hearings in April, since the committee said it wanted to sit but not every Monday because some members have travel difficulties, we will have to sort that out at the steering committee and put proposed dates out to members of the committee as quickly as we can.

Senator Wilson: If we do not sit until April, I will be gone.

The Chairman: We will sit somewhere.

Senator Wilson: I will not give my big farewell speech now, in case we meet in March. In case we do not meet, I simply wish to say that I appreciate being on this committee, which is why I joined the Senate. I think that the committee is moving very well. I will be sorry not to sit in on the next stages. I will be watching from the gallery, and I will be bugging quite of few of you through e-mails as to why you are not doing this and that. I will become a troublesome NGO person again. I would have liked to have remained on the committee for the purposes of continuity, too, because I see there is quite a change in membership.

The Chairman: Some senators are standing in today, but we still have other changes.

Senator Wilson: That is my point, because a lot happens, as you know.

The Chairman: I will reserve my thanks because you are the guiding voice that we all look to, but my hope is that you will be one of our first witnesses with respect to the parts of our forthcoming study on which you are an expert.

Senator Wilson: I hope so, too.

The Chairman: I am sure the prodding e-mails work because if I get an e-mail from Senator Wilson, I jump. I know that what she is saying about our work and about human rights is dead on because she has the contacts, the experience and the commitment. We have been well served.

Senator Fraser: I have one very small item. As it happens, I am having lunch today with Senator Finestone and I would like to say to her that the committee sends her its best wishes. Is that all right?

The Chairman: Absolutely.

The committee adjourned.

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