Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Human Rights

Issue 1 - Evidence

OTTAWA, Monday October 28, 2002

The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights met this day at 5 p.m., pursuant to rule 88 of the Senate, for an organization meeting.


Ms. Line Gravel, Clerk of the Committee: Honourable senators, the first item of business is the election of the Chair. I am ready to entertain motions to that effect.

Senator Lapierre: Honourable senators, I move that the Honourable Senator Maheu do take the Chair of this committee.


It is moved by Senator LaPierre that Senator Maheu become chair of the committee. Is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Ms. Gravel: I welcome Senator Maheu to the chair of the committee.

Senator Shirley Maheu (Chairman) in the Chair.


The Chairman: The second item of business is the election of the Deputy Chair.

Senator Beaudoin: I move that the Honourable Senator Rossiter be Deputy Chair of this committee.


The Chairman: Are there any abstentions or objections? Is it agreed, honourable senators, that Senator Rossiter be deputy chair of the committee?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chairman: The next item on the agenda is the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure. The motion reads:

The Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure be composed of the Chair and the Deputy Chair, and one other member of the Committee, to be designated after the usual consultation; and

That the subcommittee be empowered to make decisions on behalf of the committee with respect to its agenda to invite witnesses, and to schedule hearings.

Senator Beaudoin: Do we elect another member for the steering committee?

The Chairman: It is done after consultation. I will need someone to move this motion.

Senator Fraser: I so move.

Senator LaPierre: With whom would you consult?

The Chairman: The leadership, usually.


The Chairman: The next item is a motion to print the committee's proceedings.

That the committee print 200 copies of its proceedings; and

That the Chair be authorized to set the number to meet demand.

Senator Beaudoin: It is customary for the Chair to be the only person authorized to set the number of copies?

The Chairman: Yes, it is customary.

Senator Beaudoin: Fine then.


Senator LaPierre: We are asking the chair to set the number of what?

The Chairman: The number of copies of our proceedings to be printed to meet the demand.


Five hundred, or two hundred copies. Sometimes, copies are required solely for committee members.


Senator LaPierre: I so move.

The Chairman: Is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chairman: Motion No. 5 relates to the authorization to hold meetings and to print evidence when quorum is not present. I need someone to move that:

Pursuant to rule 89, the Chair be authorized to hold meetings, to receive and authorize the printing of the evidence when a quorum is not present, provided that a member of the committee from both the government and the opposition be present.

Senator Poy: I so move.


Senator Beaudoin: Is it also customary to proceed when a quorum is not present?


The Chairman: It is because very often that we have witnesses coming in from, say, the West Coast. If we do not have quorum, they have wasted their trip and we have wasted money paying for the trip. It has been recommended that as long as there is a member of the opposition present, we can hear witnesses.

Senator Beaudoin: That is right.

Senator LaPierre: That does not mean that there will be any votes.

The Chairman: Just to hear the witnesses.


Senator Beaudoin: We hear testimony from witnesses, but we do not hold any votes.

The Chairman: That is correct, no votes are called.


The Chairman: Motion No. 6 relates to the financial report and states:

That pursuant to rule 104, the Chair be authorized to report expenses incurred by the committee during the last session.

Ms. Gravel: All committee members have that in front of them.

Senator Fraser: I so move.

The Chairman: We have a copy of our first report in front of us, which deals with the expenses of the committee in the previous session of Parliament.

Senator LaPierre: Money that the previous committee spent and for which we assume responsibility?

The Chairman: No, we just have to approve what was done.

Senator LaPierre: Without knowing what was done.

The Chairman: We know. We have it here in front of us.

Senator LaPierre: It is here, but we do not know if they did it right.

Senator Fraser: Impeccably.

The Chairman: Almost everyone around the table was a member of that committee.

Senator LaPierre: I have no problem with that.

Hon. Senators: Agreed.


The Chairman: Motion No. 7:

Research Staff

That the committee ask the Library of Parliament to assign research officers to the committee;

That the Chair be authorized to seek authority from the Senate to engage the services of such counsel and technical, clerical and other personnel as may be necessary for the purpose of the committee's examination and consideration of such bills, subject-matters of bills, and estimates as are referred to it;

That the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure be authorized to retain the services of such experts as may be required by the work of the committee; and

That the Chair, on behalf of the committee, direct the research staff in the preparation of studies, analyses, summaries and draft reports.

Senator Beaudoin: Agreed.

Senator Lapierre: The committee approves the adoption of reports?

The Chairman: That is correct.

Senator Beaudoin: Of each report.

The Chairman: Only draft reports.


The Chairman: Motion No. 8 relates to the authority to commit funds and certify accounts.


Senator Beaudoin: Pursuant to section 32, authority is conferred on three individuals, namely the Chair, the Deputy Chair and the Clerk.

Senator Fraser: That authority is conferred individually. For instance, if the Clerk needs to cover the cost of an airline ticket for a witness, she is authorized to do that. This comes under the Senate's approved budget.

Senator Lapierre: Who is the Clerk of the committee?

The Chairman: Ms. Gravel.


Senator LaPierre: Ask the clerk if she is trustworthy.

The Chairman: I can vouch for her trustworthiness.

The second part of Motion No. 8 reads:

That, pursuant to section 34 of the Financial Administration Act, and guideline 3:05 of Appendix II of the Rules of the Senate, authority for certifying accounts payable by the Committee be conferred to the Chair or the Deputy Chair together with the Clerk of the Committee.

That means that either the chair or the deputy chair and the clerk will be able to take care of the expenses and pay the bills.

Senator Beaudoin: Pursuant to section 34.

The Chairman: That is correct.

Senator Beaudoin: I so move.

The Chairman: Is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.


The Chairman: Motion No. 9 on the agenda:


That the committee empower the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure to designate, as required, one or more members of the committee and/or such staff as may be necessary to travel on assignment on behalf of the committee.


Senator LaPierre: Do you consult before you travel?

The Chairman: We certainly consult.

Senator Fraser: I so move.

Hon. Senators: Is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chairman: Motion No. 10 relates to the designation of members travelling on committee business and reads:

That the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure be authorized to:

1) determine whether any member of the committee is on ``official business'' for the purposes of paragraph 8(3)(a) of the Senators Attendance Policy, published in the Journals of the Senate on Wednesday June 3, 1998.

Senator LaPierre: I do not know what that means.

The Chairman: This motion is in case someone decides they will travel on business on behalf of the committee without the authority of the committee. Thus, they may be absent from the Senate claiming a Senate business day. If the committee does not authorize them, this would allow our clerk to advise the office of the Clerk of the Senate.

Senator LaPierre: It has nothing to do with whether a senator is absent.

The Chairman: No. It is only for undue use of the words ``Senate business.''

Senator LaPierre: I understand.

The Chairman: The second part of Motion No. 10 reads:

2) consider any member of the committee to be on ``official business'' if that member is: (a) attending a function, event or meeting related to the work of the committee; or (b) making a presentation related to the work of the committee.

Senator LaPierre: Who determines that?

The Chairman: The committee decides and determines.

Senator LaPierre: Can you give me an example? Let us say we authorize Senator Fraser and Senator Poy to go to Timbuktu to study a human rights problem. That reason would have to be given.

The Chairman: That is right.

Senator Fraser: To do that, a travel budget would have to be accepted. What is more likely to come up is that there is a human rights conference in Toronto.

Senator Beaudoin: Or Paris.

Senator Fraser: I am thinking domestically on purpose. It is where Senator Poy happens to live. She would consult with the steering committee. They may say, ``Yes, why do you not come to Ottawa that Wednesday, stay in Toronto and go to the conference for us, maybe even speak at it?''

The Chairman: She would be on official business at that point.

Senator LaPierre: Can someone ask to make a proposal to represent the committee when there is a conference on human rights somewhere?

The Chairman: Absolutely.

Senator LaPierre: For instance, the other day, parliamentarians came from all over the world to attend an event on human rights. Our committee did not exist then. One can make a proposal to our chair, and it will be heard favourably.

The Chairman: That is correct.

Senator Beaudoin: I so move.

The Chairman: Is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chairman: Next, we will deal with travelling and living expenses of witnesses. We touched on this topic a moment ago when we agreed that two committee members could hear witnesses. Sometimes it is necessary to pay for witness travel. Motion No. 11 reads:

That pursuant to the Senate guidelines for witness expenses, the committee may reimburse reasonable travelling and living expenses for one witness from any one organization and payment will take place upon application, but that the Chair be authorized to approve expenses for a second witness should there be exceptional circumstances.

Senator LaPierre: Madam Chair, if we are discussing the rights of people who are handicapped, and many of them must travel with a second person, that would be an exceptional circumstance; is that correct?

The Chairman: It would.

Senator Beaudoin: There is also the fact that another witness may accompany the person, not necessarily a handicapped person.

Senator LaPierre: I understand.

Senator Beaudoin: At times we may have more than one. That is usual.

I so move.

The Chairman: Is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chairman: Motion No. 12 relates to the electronic media coverage of public meetings and reads:

That the Chair be authorized to seek permission from the Senate to permit coverage by electronic media of its public proceedings with the least possible disruption of its hearings; and

That the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure be empowered to allow such coverage at its discretion.

Senator Beaudoin: I think we need that. The Human Rights Committee is very often on the television. We have an international window. I am in favour of coverage by electronic media, personally. I do not know about the other committee members.

Senator Poy: I so move.

The Chairman: Is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chairman: The time slot for regular meetings is Mondays at 5 p.m. or 5:45 p.m., here in this room. I understand that some members would like to discuss this matter.

Senator Beaudoin: I do not have any problem with the time slot. It was 4 p.m. before, but it could be 5 p.m. The day is good. We have other committees on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Senator LaPierre: We only have one meeting a week. Other committees seem to have two.

The Chairman: In the past, the committee did not even meet every week. It met once every second week. It depends on the desire of committee members. We will deal with that when we get to Other Business.

Senator Poy: Why do we not start earlier and keep the schedule that we used to have so that we have three hours, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.? That way we can cover more and meet every other week.

Senator Beaudoin: I would certainly agree that 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. is very good. That way we do not need more than one meeting a week.

The Chairman: Every second week.

Senator Fraser: If we meet three hours per sitting instead of an hour and a half every week, then we can meet for three hours every fortnight.

I believe there was a difficulty for Senator Jaffer.

The Chairman: It is difficult to arrive from Vancouver without spending Sunday in Ottawa. Senator Rossiter, who lives on the East Coast, possibly faces the same problem.

Senator LaPierre: Is 4 p.m. all right?

The Chairman: I remind senators that the Official Languages Committee also meets at 4 p.m. on Monday. Senator Rivest, Senator Beaudoin and I are all on the Official Languages Committee.

Senator Poy: From 4 p.m. until what time?

The Chairman: I do not know. The Senate has a new committee.

Senator Beaudoin: The Official Languages Committee usually sits for a long time.

Senator LaPierre: Therefore, we cannot meet on Monday.

Senator Fraser: This is a new Senate committee, is it?

The Chairman: It is not a joint committee. It is a Senate committee.

Senator LaPierre: Did we create a Senate committee on official languages?

The Chairman: Yes, we did.

Senator LaPierre: When did we do that?

Senator Beaudoin: One week ago.

Senator LaPierre: Where was I? I thought everyone was against it.

The Chairman: I was in the hospital, so I do not know.

Senator LaPierre: We have a Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages. Who chairs the committee?

The Chairman: They do not have a chair yet. They have not yet met for the first time.

Senator LaPierre: Who is on that committee?

Senator Beaudoin: I am on it.

The Chairman: I am on the committee, as are Senators Rivest, Losier-Cool and Gauthier.

Senator LaPierre: It sits on Monday?

The Chairman: It sits on Monday at 4 p.m.

Senator Beaudoin: Now that it is a Senate committee it will conduct its work more quickly, in my opinion, because it has only nine members.

Senator LaPierre: May I suggest, Madam Chair, that we alternate with that committee; in other words, that the Human Rights Committee meet one Monday one week and alternate the following week with the Official Languages Committee of the Senate. That would solve our problem. Is that possible?

The Chairman: We cannot control what the Official Languages Committee does.

Senator Beaudoin: The Official Languages Committee will have a heavy workload. I do not disagree that we may be able to alternate, but we have no power until the chair and the deputy chair are appointed.

Senator LaPierre: I thought we were told last year that we should choose committees to sit on that do not sit at the same time. We were sent a schedule in order that there would be no conflict amongst us.

Now I find that the Senate has created a committee after many senators have already chosen their committees. We now have a major crisis on our hands. We will not be able to meet on Monday.

Senator Beaudoin: Why can we not meet on Monday?

Senator LaPierre: The Official Languages Committee meets on Monday.

Senator Beaudoin: That is already the case. The Illegal Drugs Committee sits on Monday as well.

Senator LaPierre: I went once. I do not know why anyone went after that.

Senator Fraser: The Official Languages Committee is to meet at 4 p.m. This committee could schedule its meetings for 5:30 p.m. and sit for three hours. The meetings would be long, but the committee could then sit only every two weeks.

The Chairman: We could meet at 5 p.m. as scheduled.

Senator LaPierre: Would you have to leave?

The Chairman: We would have to leave the Official Languages Committee or have ourselves taken off the committee.

Senator LaPierre: How will that affect Senator Rossiter and Senator Jaffer? Will they have to fly to Ottawa on Sunday?

The Chairman: That may be.

Senator Beaudoin: That may be a problem for at least one of them.

Senator Fraser: Senator Jaffer used to be able to get here late Monday. She had real difficulties getting to Ottawa by 4 p.m., but I have an impression that she sometimes was able to get here by 5 p.m. Am I wrong about that?

Senator Poy: I do not know. However, if you fly from Victoria to Toronto, you arrive at 3 p.m. From Vancouver, to Ottawa, I do not know. I do not know the schedule. One can leave in the morning and still arrive in the afternoon.

Senator Fraser: I know 4 p.m. was a difficulty for her. However, 5:30 p.m. may not be so difficult.

One other element for the committee's consideration is that in the last session, while we were scheduled for three- hour meetings, they rarely ran for three hours.

Senator Beaudoin: Official Languages?

Senator Fraser: No, this committee. This is a smaller committee. It was able to interview witnesses quite effectively without taking up enormous amounts of time. Even scheduling a three-hour meeting for 5:30 p.m. would not, most times, produce a three-hour meeting. It would probably produce a two-hour meeting.

The Chairman: Could we then skip over item 13 on the agenda? We will canvass the matter with everyone's office and return to it later.

Senator LaPierre: One would be limited, Madam Chair, to get other days than Monday. It would be difficult. We have all the other committees. The idea of meeting every two weeks is valid. We can meet from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., as has been suggested, provided a decent dinner with decent coffee is served. It would seem to me that such a proposal would be acceptable and we would meet every other week.

May I make a remark about something that is happening that will take up the time of the committee, namely, the targeting of people by customs officials and by the police. The human rights of many Canadians who are not of French Canadian persuasion, and otherwise, is being seriously affected. Last year, after September 11, when we debated the various laws that were drafted to deal with terrorism, the suggestion was made — and it was taken up by the leaders — that the Senate should act as a kind of ombudsman. I will not exaggerate the words, but it was suggested the Senate should be the guardian of the rights of the Canadian people in the presence of the great tragedy that befell us on September 11 and the effects thereof that we did not know anything about.

The Chairman: We often think alike, senator. Under item 14 on our agenda, I had intended to ask for the thoughts and ideas of honourable senators on the mandate of this committee. Do you wish to pursue the old study that was done? I do not have a briefing on it as yet. I have not had time to speak with the past researchers. We also have Nicole LaViolette's report on the Principal International Human Rights Instrument to which Canada has not yet acceded.

Senator Beaudoin: The difficulty for us — and we will have to vote on this, both the chair and deputy chair — is that the best day for this committee to sit is on Monday. We can alternate every two weeks. There are so many other committees that it will be difficult to sit on another day. In regard to the hours, in my opinion, we have now a new possibility. The Official Languages Committee usually sits Monday and Tuesday, and it is has long meetings. They do that every week. That committee will have a heavy workload. If the Human Rights Committee sits at 5:30 p.m., perhaps that is the best solution.

Senator LaPierre: I would so move.

Senator Fraser: I wanted to talk about future business.

Senator LaPierre: Can we just settle on the time?

The Chairman: For the moment, I have not been able to speak with Senator Rossiter and Senator Rivest. Would you allow us to contact them and discuss your feelings with them?

Senator LaPierre: We would like to meet between 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. every other week, on Monday.

Senator Beaudoin: It depends also on the workload.

The Chairman: It also depends on the mandate.

The Chairman: Senator Fraser, you wanted to address the next subject, which is Other Business.

Senator Fraser: I thought you had opened that discussion.

The Chairman: I had.

Senator Fraser: I did not want to jump any guns here.

I should like to suggest that, first, the committee complete the work that has been done on the inter-American court system and on Canada's adherence or otherwise to it. There was a lot of good work done there. The committee travelled to acquaint itself with the court. This, in a sense, applies to the next subject I will raise as well. No one else is looking at that kind of thing. This committee put it on the map, so to speak. It would be a great pity just to drop such a study when, in fact, the committee was probably close to reaching decisions about what it would recommend, at least what it would report.

Turning to the LaViolette report, I did not realize what that title referred to. We had thought that we would look at something that no one else was looking at, namely: What are the instruments to which Canada has not acceded and why? This is not really as arcane or procedural as it may sound. These instruments are important. In international circles, people notice and care about whether this country is or is not part of such instruments. I am not saying that this automatically means that we should sign all proposed instruments. Should this committee conduct a coherent, consistent study of what we have done and why and whether a decision that may have been made 15 years ago is still valid? The grounds on which we should consider that decision may have changed. For example, I do not know how many honourable senators paid attention to the fact that Canada had not acceded to the Optional Protocol of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women. That is probably not a household topic in most places. However, I was getting some grief when I was meeting parliamentarians from elsewhere. They were asking me, ``Why has Canada not signed?'' Now Canada has signed. We signed it on Persons Day, which was particularly fitting. That will actually help me in my dealings with parliamentarians from other countries, in particular with female parliamentarians. If we had continued not to accede, I would have been very happy to have this committee give me solid grounds as to why we should not accede. Then I would have been able in international meetings to argue why that was so.

The Chairman: I appreciate that, senator. As I said, I have not been briefed. Could you supply us with something in writing on what you feel we should really be looking at? I know Senator LaPierre has special thoughts.

Senator Fraser: Those are just two projects, one that had begun and another that was on the committee's list of future business. That does not mean that these studies would eat up all of our time.

Senator Poy: I wish to confirm what Senator Fraser has just said. Because of the amount of work we have done, the report should be completed. I do not know how we should proceed. As far as I know, most honourable senators in the former committee felt that Canada should ratify the agreement. The chairman needs to be briefed on that subject.

On the subject of Other Business, I should like to take on what Senator LaPierre said. From now on, it is also very important to look at what is happening in Canada and with Canadians with respect to human rights.

Senator Beaudoin: I agree with everything that has been said by my two colleagues. It would be a mistake not to terminate this study because in constitutional law the implementation of treaties is a very important matter. We have done all the research, and there is the LaViolette report. We must also report on the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

We should finish that study. I do not think it would take us very long.

The more difficult problem is what we do after that. Will we change our philosophy? Whether it is more Canadian or more domestic than it was, I am quite open on that matter. Certainly, there is the work that has been done regarding the treaties. It is a scandal that we do not legislate to give effect to the treaties that we have signed. Actually, it is more than that. It is nearly unconstitutional.

This matter is not before the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. We do not need to address it because we have done it here.

We should finish what we started and, following that, discuss what the new tendency will be, if there is a new tendency. I do not know. We must be very careful. We have a Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. We have this committee. There is no problem with the two coexisting. It should be like that and continue like that. Linguistic rights, of course, are before another committee, the Official Languages Committee.

There is space for the three big areas. There is no doubt about that. There may be a different philosophy and direction. I was pleased with the first philosophy. Now that we will terminate our report, it is time to discuss where we will go. That depends on the chair, the steering committee and all the members.

The Chairman: We need your input and your thoughts on the issues, Senator Beaudoin. The only way I can assess the work that honourable senators would like to continue with is by having your thoughts either on record or in a little note to the steering committed.

Senator LaPierre: I really have no idea where we are.

The Chairman: We are still dealing with Other Business.

Senator LaPierre: What is the American Convention on Human Rights? Have we signed that? It is in the last paragraph of this document I received today. The following information was prepared by the clerk of the committee for the use of its members, under which it notes, under this reference: the committee's initial focus was on whether Canada should ratify the American Convention on Human Rights.

Senator Poy: We have not ratified it.

Senator LaPierre: Are we studying that?

Senator Fraser: We are already studying it.

Senator LaPierre: That is what the committee has been studying; that is what you want to finish.

Senator Poy: It is finished. The report was being written when Parliament prorogued.

Senator Fraser: It is nearly done.

Senator LaPierre: What is this LaViolette report? Is that another thing?

The Chairman: The LaViolette report was requested by the last committee. It was given to the committee on September 16.

Senator LaPierre: It has nothing to do with the American Human Convention on Human Rights?

Senator Fraser: No, it deals with all the other international human rights instruments.

Senator LaPierre: The other international human rights instruments that have been proposed and that Canada has signed but has not promulgated?

Senator Beaudoin: Has not implemented.

Senator Fraser: The report deals with which instruments we are part of and which are the ones we are not part of and why.

Senator LaPierre: Have we begun to do a study of that?

The Chairman: Where has that document come from?

Senator Fraser: We commissioned it.

The Chairman: No, this document here.

Senator LaPierre: I received it this morning. I asked for it. I asked for documents on what this thing is all about.

The Chairman: What it had done.

Senator LaPierre: I was told this.

The Chairman: I do not have that one.

Senator LaPierre: The study on the American Convention on Human Rights is almost finished. The report has been prepared or is almost finished; is that right?

Senator Beaudoin: It is almost finished.

Senator LaPierre: That will not take any time.

The Chairman: May I ask who has the report?

Senator Fraser: I believe there were a few witnesses that we still wanted to hear. It is not an enormously time consuming undertaking.

Senator Beaudoin: Two points should be considered: first, whether we should sign the agreement; and, second, the role of the Inter-American Court on Human Rights. Finally, we have to refine the legalities of the implementation of treaties. We are not faithful in that regard, which is a terrible mistake, in my opinion. I do not think it will take much time.

Senator Fraser: The thorny bit is this: Shall we recommend reservations on any portion?

Senator LaPierre: I do not know what you are talking about. Are you talking about the American Convention on Human Rights?

Senator Beaudoin: Yes.

Senator LaPierre: Does that include the LaViolette report?

Senator Fraser: No.

Senator LaPierre: That is an entirely different study.

Senator Beaudoin: It is indirectly related.


Senator Lapierre: It is important to know exactly what the committee will be doing.

Senator Fraser: We had almost wrapped up our first study on the inter-American system of human rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Some problem areas had been identified, specifically womens' rights and abortion rights. The hearings were extremely fascinating and enlightening, from an intellectual standpoint. I had a least one question concerning the rights of journalists.


The Chairman: If I may, I should like to interject. I will be briefed on this issue. Then we will be briefed as a full committee. Senator, you will be brought up to date on the subject. However, we will do it at a briefing where we are all together and we can have a round table.

Senator LaPierre: I am convinced that we have to look at Canada. I am convinced that there are great human rights issues in this country that must be tackled and must be tackled not so much in the light of international experience but in the light of our own Canadian experience. There is a considerable amount of human rights abuses that affect the marginal people in the country, for example, the Aboriginal people, et cetera. There is also the targeting issue that I talked about before. Tackling that issue is very very important.

My second point is also a matter of human rights: same-sex marriages. That issue is not a question of religion. It is not a question of the sanctity of marriage. It has nothing to do with homosexuality. It has to do with the fundamental rights of a group of people who have a sexual orientation that is not that of the majority. Their rights are sacred and need to be protected and need to be examined by this committee — not by the legal committee, which is a different matter, but by this committee, which looks at things in a different light and with a different view.

I do not think I could sit on a committee which would not accept that the fundamental human rights of gays and lesbians are being seriously affected by the unwillingness to accede to same-sex marriages.

If you want that in writing I will certainly send it to you, Madam Chair.

Senator Beaudoin: That is interesting. However, we must be careful. I agree that the philosophy Senator LaPierre is describing may be the object of study by the Human Rights Committee. We consider, rightly or wrongly, that when we a bill amends the Criminal Code, it usually goes to the legal committee. When it is a more philosophical question, it may very well come before this committee.

Senator LaPierre: We might illuminate the legal committee. Obviously, they are still in the Middle Ages.

Senator Beaudoin: It is a good committee.

Senator Fraser: An excellent committee.

Senator Beaudoin: It is an excellent committee. I believe that the question of the same-sex marriages will be studied in the Legal Committee in terms of the Criminal Code and may very well be studied here also for another aspect, which I would call the philosophy.

This committee is not as legalistic as the Legal Committee or the Official Languages Committee. We must be careful. We all agree that it is a committee that is not at all partisan in any way. Even in the Legal Committee, it is not very often that we have a partisanship problem. That is not the role of the Legal Committee or of the Human Rights Committee.

This is a difficult question. It all depends on what the chair, the deputy chair, the steering committee and the new committee will decide. I am quite open. The Human Rights Committee is certainly a committee where we talk about our problems inside and outside of Canada. I agree. Perhaps the Canadian aspect was not present enough. Although, the treaties are signed by Ottawa and are legislated and implemented by the provinces and Ottawa.

We are a new committee now; there is no doubt about that. What we do we is up to the committee to decide.

The Chairman: Perhaps we should leave matter that for another meeting. I would still like to have your thoughts on paper. Senator LaPierre, I would ask that you do the same and send me the subjects you would like to see study.

Senator Fraser: I shall be glad to write you a memo as well, Madam Chair. I just wish to observe that there are many bodies looking into domestic human rights matters in Canada. Many parliamentary committees find themselves considering domestic human rights matters. Certainly, outside of Canada, there is no shortage of NGOs, special conferences and university faculties. However, very few bodies have taken the kind of systematic look at Canada's role in the world in human rights that this committee was setting out to do. I would be very sorry to miss that opportunity, to let it go.

Senator Beaudoin: The international aspect?

Senator Fraser: That is correct.

Senator Beaudoin: I agree. We should study human rights inside and outside of Canada. Human rights are the same all over the world. We should have a presence in this regard, but it is up to the committee to decide.

Senator LaPierre: Do we have a Web site?

The Chairman: Yes, we do.

Senator LaPierre: Is it an active Web site, or is it just a Web site in which we post things?

Ms. Gravel: We have an e-mail address. People can contact the committee via e-mail.

Senator LaPierre: Do you post some of the letters that you receive and the answers that are given on your Web site?

Ms. Gravel: No, we do not.

Senator LaPierre: A Web site is a living instrument. It is the most living instrument of communication the world has ever devised. It is imperative that it be used by legislators effectively to communicate with the Canadian people, particularly the young. Therefore, Madam Chair, I plead with you to look into whether we can have a Web site in which the young can participate. At the end of the day, it is the living of these rights that will make their lives useful and compatible with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I travel across this country and I talk to thousands of young people. They always raise the question of human rights and where we are going with freedom and liberty.

The Chairman: Thank you, senator. We will certainly investigate the utilization of our Web site to date and where we can go with it.

If there is nothing else at the moment, I declare the meeting adjourned to the call of the chair.

The committee adjourned.

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