Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
1st Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 143, Issue 87
Thursday, April 19, 2007
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker
Thursday, April 19, 2007
The Senate met at 1:30 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
Hon. Janis G. Johnson: Honourable senators, I rise today to pay
tribute to Agnes McCausland Benidickson, a great Canadian who gave this country
a lifetime of outstanding achievement.
Although many of us in this chamber knew Agnes Benidickson as the wife of the
Honourable Bill Benidickson, a former Member of Parliament and senator, I first
came to know her as the daughter of Winnipeg's renowned businessman, James
Agnes' brother, who is likewise named James A. Richardson, served under the
Trudeau government as Minister of National Defence. Agnes achieved prominence in
her own right, serving as the first female Chancellor of Queen's University and
receiving both the Order of Ontario and Companion to the Order of Canada.
Agnes was a modest woman, and it was her tireless commitment to community and
country that will always be remembered. She was born in fortunate circumstances
and grew up meeting family dinner guests such as Winston Churchill.
The family fortune was built on hard work and constant innovation. In 1926,
for example, her father purchased a rough, open-cockpit bush plane and hired a
war hero to fly it. That single airplane, which Richardson dubbed The City of
Winnipeg, launched the company that would later become Canada's first
Her mother, Muriel Richardson, was likewise a prominent community leader and
was once described as "The First Lady of Canadian Business." From both her
parents, Agnes Benidickson learned the value of hard work and dedication to
one's community. As a young woman during the Second World War, she volunteered
for the Red Cross in Winnipeg. Prompted by the strong social conscience that
drove her for the rest of her life, she went on to serve as President of both
the Canadian Council on Social Development and the national Association of
In 1980, she was elected Chancellor of Queen's University, succeeding Roland
Michener. Normally, the Chancellor of Queen's is a three-year position, but her
tremendous effectiveness in that role resulted in her being re-elected for an
unprecedented 16 years.
She loved her work in public service, so much so that her admiring colleagues
once gave her a licence plate with one word: "Queens."
During her time there, Agnes conferred 64,000 degrees to individuals ranging
from prison convicts to Prince Charles. She was uncomfortable with being singled
out for praise, and upon her retirement, she declined several offers from the
university to name a building after her. Knowing her love of nature, the school
instead named a campus green space, Benidickson Field.
When she attended Queen's as a student, Agnes Benidickson won the coveted
Tricolour Award. Fifty years later, she was deeply touched when the school
renamed the award after her. The award is the highest tribute a student can
receive for extracurricular activity, and the students of Queen's will never
have a better role model. I extend my deepest sympathies to her family.
Hon. George J. Furey: Honourable senators, I would like you to join
with me today to pay tribute to one of the most hard-working members of our
Senate staff, Mr. Serge Gourgue.
Serge is leaving his position as Director General of Parliamentary Precinct
Services to join the ranks of the retired. I must admit that the news of his
retirement left me somewhat disappointed for our institution, but at the same
time somewhat happy for Serge and his wife, Marielle.
As we all know, he has brought his single-minded dedication to everything
that he has worked on in the Senate. A 16-year veteran with the Senate
administration, he ran Parliamentary Precinct Services with the same sense of
responsibility and commitment that marked his years of service with the Canadian
Armed Forces. It is because of that sense of commitment that his directorate is
such an admired and well respected unit in the Senate, throughout the government
and indeed in many other jurisdictions. Our institution has been well served by
this dedicated and loyal public servant.
Whether it is the Accommodation and Planning unit or Protective, Material and
Building Services, everything runs like clockwork. Each directorate is a
testimony not only to his managerial skills, but also to his ability as a leader
and mentor to his team. Indeed, it was always as a team member that he viewed
himself. Whenever there was credit due for successes in enhancing services,
upgrading technology or dealing with the ever-difficult task of juggling
accommodation requirements, Serge always deferred that credit to his team.
Honourable senators, it is now time to accord credit where credit is due.
Please join me in extending a warm and heartfelt thanks to our friend Serge
Gourgue for his meritorious service to the Senate and the Government of Canada
and to wish him, his wife, Marielle, and his family the very best as he begins
this new phase of his life.
On behalf of all the honourable senators, I wish him a well-deserved
Hon. Pierre Claude Nolin: Honourable senators, I would also like to
express the sincere gratitude of this chamber to the Director General of
Parliamentary Precinct Services, Serge Gourgue, who is unfortunately leaving us
to take what I hope is a well-deserved retirement.
Since he first came to the Senate 16 years ago, Mr. Gourgue has taken on a
number of challenges under the Clerk of the Senate and the Parliaments, Mr.
Bélisle. His vision, insight and determination have greatly contributed to
improving safety on the Hill, upgrading the Senate's facilities and services,
and improving the effectiveness, and particularly the efficiency of the services
and of the employees under him who were providing these services.
I would be remiss if I did not highlight his significant contribution to
establishing a workforce that is diverse and more accessible to persons with a
disability, and a healthier environment.
The Parliament buildings are an important symbol of our democracy, our
history and our architecture. Those who have worked alongside Serge Gourgue, in
the Senate or in the organizations with which we interact, will never forget his
active involvement in protecting and preserving these national treasures, all
the while maintaining efficient operations in the Senate and giving the public
access to their Parliament.
We knew we could count on Mr. Gourgue's availability, ingenuity and judgment.
His commitment to serving the Senate has been a source of inspiration to us. He
has excelled in his work, and his leadership has won our admiration.
The Senate administration will not soon forget the extent of his numerous
services, equalled only by the wisdom he has always demonstrated.
Personally, I hold Mr. Gourgue in the highest esteem and I am saddened by his
departure. I am consoled by the knowledge that he has set an excellent example
for those who will succeed him and who will, I am convinced, carry on the values
that he cherished and that have served us so well.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I would like to wish him a happy,
fulfilling retirement. May the well-deserved recognition he is receiving here
today always remind him of our sincere gratitude and unfailing friendship. I
would also like to join his family and friends in wishing him happiness and
contentment in all his future endeavours. For, without a doubt, we know that he
still has many projects in mind and many years ahead to achieve them all.
Thank you, Serge.
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators will have noticed a number of
air force personnel on Parliament Hill today, helping to commemorate Air Force
Appreciation Day. Honourable senators will also know that the air force is the
junior force within the Canadian Armed Forces, but that has not prevented it
from developing a wonderful history. Air crews served as part of the British
Army, Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Navy Air Service during the First World
Following the First World War, the Canadian Air Force was established and in
1924 the prefix "Royal" was added to help create the Royal Canadian Air Force.
During the Second World War, the air force grew exponentially to become the
fourth largest air power in the Allied Forces, having at its peak over 200,000
personnel. In Canada, a vast training organization was established to train air
crews, such that by 1943 Canada was training 3,000 air crew per month. Over a
period of three years, over 82,000 air crew were trained in Canada under the
British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.
Today, the Canadian Air Force is an important and integral part of the
Canadian Armed Forces, providing many different services, including fighter
aircraft as part of NORAD activity; search and rescue operations; aid to
government departments, particularly in the North and on the East and West
Coasts; support to fisheries, immigration and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police;
and gathering information.
For the future of the air force, honourable senators, all of those activities
will continue, including the transporting of Armed Forces personnel and the
resupplying of Armed Forces personnel on operations throughout the world.
With respect to the future of the Canadian Air Force, there is an increasing
use of unmanned aerial vehicles to gather information over large geographic
areas, and the air force's participation in the space program, with astronauts
such as Canadian Air Force Colonel Chris Hadfield.
Honourable senators, there is a reception this afternoon, from five until
seven o'clock in room 236-S, to which I invite all of you. Air force and air
space personnel and retired personnel will be in attendance. They would very
much like to see you drop by for a short while.
Hon. Marilyn Trenholme Counsell: Honourable senators, during our
Easter break I paused to remember a woman who distinguished my province of New
Brunswick perhaps more than any other. The Honourable Muriel McQueen Fergusson,
PC, OC, QC, died on April 11, 1997. A decade later, she is spoken about with
profound reverence, with deep respect, with enduring gratitude and with
This winsome, tiny lady was a monumental figure in New Brunswick, in Canada,
and, yes, right here in the Senate. It gives me a very special feeling every
time I stop to look into her face, on the magnificent portrait hanging beside
our chamber. She speaks to me even today, just as she did more than a decade ago
whenever I had the privilege and the joy of being with her.
In her gracious, utterly simple way, she inspired me and countless others to
hold fast to our ideals, our principles and our vision. She led by example
through her energetic and tireless pursuit of a nobler, more humane society.
The years did not seem to matter. It was the fight against family violence
that kept her spirit so young to the end and for which she is immortalized
through the Muriel McQueen Fergusson Foundation and the Muriel McQueen Fergusson
Centre for Family Violence at the University of New Brunswick.
It is with the utmost humility that I have offered this tribute to the first
woman to have been Speaker of the Senate of Canada, and it is with the deepest
admiration that I will continue to tell her story to others, especially to young
women. The Honourable Muriel McQueen Fergusson continues to be a blessing and a
guiding light for all who seek to leave a positive footprint in the sand when we
have crossed the bar.
Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, as you know, last month the
Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology released its
final report — Pay Now or Pay Later — on my inquiry on the funding for
the treatment of autism.
While I am proud of that report and pleased that the Senate has brought the
issue of autism to the attention of the government and to the people of this
country, this is just the beginning. The next step is for the government to take
the recommendations, put some policies in place and ensure that the Canadian
families who are coping with this crisis are not alone.
A report is nothing if it is not backed by action. Autism affects 50,000
children and 150,000 adults in Canada, and those numbers are growing. This
report draws our attention to a pressing and urgent issue — but it does not
deliver treatment. It does not provide a break for families who are faced with
the full-time care of a high-needs child. It does not pay the bills that are
neglected because of the high cost of private autism therapy. It cannot mend the
marriages that break up due to the stress autism causes in a family. The
incidence of autism is a crisis that requires a national strategy.
We talk about waiting lists for surgery, cataract surgery and knee and hip
replacements — and of course, we need to shorten these waiting lists. However,
we have another waiting list. Children with autism across Canada are on waiting
lists to get treatment. Some will never get treatment because they will not be
eligible after a certain age. Some will be eligible for treatment but no
therapists will be available. Others still will regress into silence and
isolation after their treatment, judged no longer necessary, is withdrawn.
We recognize as a nation the need to tackle health issues together. Cancer,
strokes, heart attacks, obesity; all of these health issues affect Canadians
across the country and we all consider them worthy of national action and
attention. My hope is that the Senate report will take us one step closer to
putting autism on the list of urgent health issues that require our immediate
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, I rise in a belated
tribute to the passing of an extraordinary Canadian and a good friend — June
Callwood. June was a beautiful woman inside and out. June Callwood; what a
lovely name, fresh as spring and as inviting as our trees and forests.
June was more than an acquaintance. She became a friend and advocate for any
good cause that warranted public attention, especially for the underdog. June
was quiet, graceful, elegant and witty; her gentle demeanour hid an inner will
of steel and a heart of great passion and compassion for people and unpopular
People rightly called her "the conscience of Canada," but June was more.
She was a woman of many talents, a Renaissance person, a writer, a commentator,
an author, a licensed pilot, an avid swimmer and sportswoman, and always an
articulate spokesperson for the neglected underside of our society.
June was the first advocate — I believe the very first advocate — for those
suffering from AIDS, at a time when it was not popular in our country. She was
always the first to take on unpopular causes and transform public opinion.
June had no enemies. No one ever said an unkind word about her. She was
blessed with legions of friends and admirers.
June, your race is run, your battles done, your victories won; now come to
Our hearts go out to Trent Frayne and June's wonderful and talented family
and friends. Regrettably, honourable senators, I doubt that we will see the
likes of a June Callwood again in our time.
To you, June, pax vobiscum, Godspeed.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I would like to draw your
attention to the presence in the gallery of the Honourable David Hawker, Speaker
of the House of Representatives of Australia, and a delegation of distinguished
members of the Senate and House of Representatives of Australia. The Speaker and
the delegation are accompanied by His Excellency William Fisher, the High
Commissioner of Australia to Canada.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on
Banking, Trade and Commerce, presented the following report:
Thursday April 19, 2007
The Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce has the honour
to present its
Your Committee, to which was referred Bill C-26, An Act to amend the
Criminal Code (criminal interest rate), has, in obedience to the Order of
Reference of Wednesday, February 28, 2007, examined the said Bill and now
reports the same without amendment. Your Committee appends to this report
certain observations relating to the Bill.
JERAHMIEL S. GRAFSTEIN
OBSERVATIONS TO THE FIFTEENTH REPORT
OF THE STANDING SENATE
COMMITTEE ON BANKING, TRADE AND COMMERCE
The Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce has the honour
to report Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal interest
rate), without amendment, but with the following observations.
The Committee has decided to report Bill C-26 without amendment, even
though we have reservations about the Bill as drafted, because of the
First, the Committee unanimously supports measures designed to facilitate
the protection of consumers in respect of payday loan services and does not
wish to delay access to legislated protection for these borrowers, some of
whom we believe to be vulnerable. We have some familiarity with the section of
the Criminal Code that would be amended by the Bill as well as with
issues related to payday lending. In particular, in 2005, we examined a bill
proposed by our former colleague, Senator Plamondon, which also sought to
amend section 347 of the Criminal Code, and — in the context of our
study of consumer protection in the financial services sector — heard from
witnesses on the subject of alternative financial service providers,
particularly payday lenders.
We continue to be somewhat puzzled by the reasons underlying the rapid
growth of the payday lending sector. This growth suggests that the services
provided by such lenders are needed by consumers. Important considerations for
us are the reasons for the emergence and growth of this sector as well as what
appears to us to be a lack of involvement by chartered banks in short-term,
During its recent presentation to us on Bill C-37, the Canadian Bankers
Association indicated that it, too, is perplexed. It also indicated that the
chartered banks provide a range of credit options on a short-term basis.
Nevertheless, the Committee believes that the payday lending sector's growth
may be related, in part, to a relative unwillingness by Canada's chartered
banks to lend to certain borrowers, who then become customers of payday
lenders. Consequently, we urge Canada's chartered banks — which are federally
regulated, belong to an independent complaint resolution mechanism, and are
involved in some aspects of financial education — to begin making short-term,
Moreover, we believe that implementation of the proposed legislation could
result in the federal government granting exemptions to designated provinces
with insufficient assurances that provincial actions would provide the level
and nature of consumer protection in this sector that this Committee seeks. As
well, there is no assurance that all provinces will enact protection measures
following enactment of this legislation. Finally, we are concerned that a
patchwork of non-uniform protection measures could develop across the country.
Thus, we urge provinces, in adopting consumer protection measures pursuant
to this Bill regarding the payday lending sector, to include minimum
requirements in at least the following areas: limitations on rollovers and
back-to-back loans; mandatory participation by payday lenders in an
independent complaint resolution mechanism; mechanisms ensuring full and
accurate disclosure of contract terms; acceptable debt collection practices;
and a right for the borrower to rescind the loan and obtain full reimbursement
no later than the end of the day following the making of the loan. Efforts
made by payday lenders in the area of consumer financial education would also
Consistent with the Committee's mandate, we will continue to monitor
developments in the payday lending sector, and hope that the enactment of Bill
C-26 will allow effective protection to consumers. In our view, if the
provinces fail to meet minimum standards in the areas indicated above, the
federal government should take appropriate legislative action.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be
read the third time?
On motion of Senator Grafstein, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for
third reading at the next sitting of the Senate.
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on
Banking, Trade and Commerce, presented the following report:
Thursday April 19, 2007
The Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce has the honour
to present its
Your Committee, to which was referred Bill C-36, An Act to amend the Canada
Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act, has, in obedience to the Order of
Reference of Tuesday, April 17, 2007, examined the said Bill and now reports
the same without amendment.
JERAHMIEL S. GRAFSTEIN
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be
read the third time?
On motion of Senator Angus, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for third
reading at the next sitting of the Senate.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, with leave of the Senate, and notwithstanding rule 58(1)(h), I move:
That when the Senate adjourns today, it do stand adjourned until Tuesday,
April 24, 2007, at 2 p.m.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, is leave granted?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, my question is for the Minister of Public Works and Government
Services, Senator Fortier. Although he showed a great deal of strong emotions
yesterday, he did not answer any questions.
I will therefore ask the same question again today. Why is it that, when the
Auditor General said:
. . . we found that the government managed its public opinion research
— the minister saw fit to ask for and to provide Mr. Paillé with a budget
from public funds, which he stated may total up to $1 million? He also gave Mr.
Paillé access to all documents, including those on the federal strategy for the
referendum debate. Is the minister not making all federalists vulnerable to the
Hon. Michael Fortier (Minister of Public Works and Government Services):
Honourable senators, I thank Senator Tardif for her question. I would like to
remind her that the 2003 Auditor General's report indicated that there were
concerns arising from a small sample of polling contracts.
It was a promise our party made during the 2005-06 election. There was
nothing secret about it; it was all transparent. If we formed the government, we
were going to ask someone to examine a much larger sample. We shared the
concerns expressed by the Auditor General.
As for the possibility of Mr. Paillé discovering information that could harm
federalism, I will not speculate for the time being. His mandate is limited to
the contracts given by governments for polling. Thus, I am inclined to believe
that the honourable senator's fears are probably unfounded.
Senator Tardif: I am speaking, Mr. Minister, of the choice of an
individual. Will the minister explain to an Albertan such as myself why he chose
someone who not only voted in favour of the referendum but also initiated it and
who, when a minister in Jacques Parizeau's cabinet, contributed to the ambiguous
question of 1995 designed to trick Quebecers into breaking up our wonderful
Senator Fortier: Honourable senators, I was explaining this to Senator
Dawson yesterday. I am talking to an Albertan, but I know she is well aware of
what goes on in Quebec and I am quite pleased about that. The result of the 1995
referendum was especially close and Quebec society has changed. I invite her to
consider the results of the provincial election on March 26. I do not want to
spend too much time analyzing them, but I think the scene is changing in Quebec.
Yesterday I mentioned that one of my sisters voted yes in the referendum.
There are men and women who have moved on to other things. Mr. Paillé came to
Ottawa to the Parliament of Canada; he showed up and accepted a mandate. Instead
of being afraid of being afraid, I suggest that Senator Tardif wait for his
report and, after it is tabled — again, I want to stress that it will be public
— I invite her to read it and if she still has apprehensions, we could discuss
Hon. Tommy Banks: My question is to the honourable minister. I did not
ask a supplementary question yesterday, because I thought I might have been
distracted. However, having checked, Hansard, I see that I was not distracted.
Yesterday, Senator Mitchell put the following question to Senator Fortier —
and I quote:
. . . could the minister confirm today that he has no personal
relationship, no business relationship or no other form of conflict of
interest . . .
— in respect of Mr. Paillé.
The minister did not answer that question directly, one way or the other.
Could the minister answer that part of the question?
Senator Fortier: Is the honourable senator asking me whether I knew
Mr. Paillé personally? If that is his question, my answer is that I knew of him.
I had met Mr. Paillé previously. There are no conflicts of interest. Mr. Paillé
is hired by the Government of Canada for a particular mandate.
I forget the third part of the question.
Senator Banks: The minister has answered all parts, except whether he
has a business relationship with Mr. Paillé.
Senator Fortier: I do not, senator.
Hon. Dennis Dawson: Honourable senators, I did not have a chance to
check with the minister's sisters, but in 1995, one of them was a Liberal member
of the National Assembly and certainly should have been on the no side. She must
have been surprised when the minister took part in the strategy to divide our
country. I do not doubt the minister's allegiance to Canada, nor that of his
family, and I think that strategically voting yes in a referendum does not make
you an evil separatist. We agree that there is a distinction between someone who
actively works on promoting a referendum to divide Canada and someone who, in
good faith, thinks this would put pressure on the government.
That being said, I want to come back to Mr. Paillé. He was described as an
extraordinary man, but are we talking about the same Mr. Paillé who proposed a
business start-up assistance program that resulted in Investissement Québec
filing losses of 66 per cent of the guaranteed financing, when the original
percentage was supposed to be only 35 per cent? Is this the same Daniel Paillé
who proposed a business start-up assistance program that was criticized by
Quebec's auditor general, Guy Breton? Some 2,544 projects failed in 28 months,
which was a failure rate of 75 per cent. Is that the same Daniel Paillé?
Senator Fortier: The Daniel Paillé selected by the Government of
Canada is an emeritus professor of ethics at the Montreal HEC. He is a leader in
this field in Quebec and elsewhere. He is highly respected in Quebec society.
That is the Daniel Paillé who will be conducting the analysis.
Senator Dawson: Have I understood correctly that this is the same
Daniel Paillé who proposed the creation of 54,000 new jobs as part of the
investment program, even though Quebec's auditor general estimated that only
1,900 jobs were created? I can understand that he might be a good professor, but
a minister is allowed to have some doubts.
Is this really the same Daniel Paillé who proposed a business start-up
investment program whose selection criteria were so flimsy that 125 fraudulent
business plans were financed, robbing Quebec taxpayers of $6 million? Are we
talking about the same Mr. Paillé?
Senator Fortier: Honourable senators, if the senator wants to accuse
Mr. Paillé of having participated in a robbery — that is the word he used, and
this is turning into a habit, a virus on his side — then I would urge him to
have the courage of his convictions. People are very outspoken here in this
chamber, but they tone things down when they leave this place. I could go on,
but I would rather not.
I can tell you that Mr. Paillé was selected because he has an outstanding
academic and professional background that matches up very well with the task we
have given him.
Senator Dawson: I was quoting the January 20, 1996, edition of Le
Soleil. That is the Quebec City paper. Perhaps the minister has forgotten
part of his past in that region, which sends a lot of people to Montreal. Mr.
Paillé might have made an excellent chair of the Old Port of Montreal
Corporation. The minister could have chosen him instead of Bernard Roy from his
old office, who was also the Leader of the Government in the Senate's former
It just so happens that Mr. Roy has become the chairperson of the Old Port of
Montreal Corporation. Is he not from the same legal firm, Ogilvie Renault, that
people said was connected with CGI?
Senator Fortier: I am very surprised at Senator Dawson's ability to
smear several people at once. He is like a machine gun out of control. I am not
sure that his colleague Senator Francis Fox, whom I was watching while Senator
Dawson talked about Mr. Roy, is very proud of him. He should not be very proud
Mr. Roy has agreed to chair a board of directors and is going to devote time
to this extremely important corporation in Montreal. Senator Fox can tell you
about it. If you have a couple of minutes, I am sure he will tell you about it
outside this chamber.
Senator Dawson: Honourable senators, can the minister explain the
selection process to us?
Senator Fortier: Honourable senators, Mr. Roy was appointed by the
minister responsible for the Old Port Corporation, Mr. Cannon. The cabinet
unanimously approved his appointment, and we were very proud to be able to count
on a man like Mr. Roy.
Hon. James S. Cowan: Honourable senators, my question today is for the
hyper-sensitive and surprisingly thin-skinned Minister of Public Works and
Government Services. The minister's disdain for this institution is well known,
as is his desire to leave it as soon as he possibly can.
Yesterday, I gave the minister an opportunity to clear up, once and for all,
the public controversy concerning a possible conflict of interest with respect
to the awarding of a $400 million contract to CGI. Instead of seizing that
opportunity, the minister resorted to cheap personal attacks on the reputations
of members of this chamber.
Although the minister makes only brief cameo appearances in the Senate during
Question Period and never participates in our debates or committee work, does he
appreciate that this is intended to be a chamber of sober second thought and, if
so, would he today address the substantive issues I raised yesterday?
Hon. Michael Fortier (Minister of Public Works and Government Services):
I would ask the honourable senator to raise those issues again because, frankly,
I think they were addressed yesterday.
Senator Cowan: I will be pleased to do that.
On Monday, the minister's parliamentary secretary said in the other place
that the contract had not been awarded, and I understand that yesterday he said
that it had. Can the minister clarify that for me?
Senator Fortier: When the department is in a position to announce that
a contract is awarded, whether it is this contract or any one of the thousands
of contracts that it monitors, it will make an announcement.
Senator Cowan: What was the intention of the conflicting comments made
by the minister's parliamentary secretary in the other place on two different
days this week?
Senator Fortier: I cannot answer for my parliamentary secretary. The
honourable senator suggested in his introduction that I only make cameo
appearances. I am here, so ask me questions and I will reply. My reply is the
same as a moment ago: When the department has something to announce in terms of
a contract award, the department will let the public know.
Senator Cowan: If the contract has not been awarded, will the minister
assure this house that the ethics rules contained in the Federal Accountability
Act will be complied with and that the contract will not be awarded until the
Public Service Integrity Officer has had a full opportunity to determine whether
or not there is, in the words of the accountability act, "a real, apparent or
potential conflict of interest?"
Senator Fortier: As I indicated yesterday, this contract, like the
thousands of others that transit through Public Works and Government Services
Canada, is managed by civil servants. As the honourable senator should know, the
minister is not involved and should not be involved, directly or indirectly, in
the selection or awarding of any such contracts.
In response to the senator's question, the rules and regulations have been
followed, and there is nothing else to add.
Hon. Francis Fox: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader
of the Government in the Senate. I would like to go back to a question I asked
yesterday about gun registration.
In her answer yesterday, the Leader of the Government in the Senate
distinguished between handguns and long guns, arguing that that was why the
government would continue the amnesty for people who do not register long guns,
despite the legislation in the statutes of this country.
I would like to ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether she is
aware that the people in the field do not accept this distinction as a rationale
for such an amnesty.
Yesterday in Montreal, for instance, at a ceremony to pay tribute to the
police officers and constables who participated in the rescue operations
following the tragic events at Dawson College, one of the officers being
honoured, Lieutenant Martin Day, took the opportunity to give his opinion. I
will read the quote as it appeared in the Montreal Gazette:
The control of firearms, in general, should not be weakened but tightened
Lieutenant Francoeur, President of the Montreal Police Brotherhood, went even
In Montreal and in Quebec, there is a very strong consensus on the subject
of maintaining the firearms registry.
He went on, specifically, about the distinction made yesterday by the Leader
of the Government in the Senate, when he added:
If the government takes long guns out of the gun registry, crooks will
simply turn to modified hunting rifles to commit their crimes.
If the government is not moved by the statements made by the Attorney General
of Ontario or the Premier of Quebec — who, during the swearing-in of Jacques
Dupuis as the new Minister of Public Safety, asked him to draft a new bill to
increase control of semi-automatic firearms — perhaps the government would be
more inclined to listen to the people who work in the field day after day and
who are responsible for maintaining order and safety in our streets?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State
(Seniors)): Of course, the government takes into account the opinions of
people who have strong views on this subject. The honourable senator talks about
the Attorney General of Ontario. It was only a few short weeks ago that he was
highly critical of the Liberal opposition for their inaction in supporting the
government on tough laws against guns and on tough crime laws.
With regard to the amnesty, the government is committed to ensuring that
firearms owners comply with the laws of Canada. Effective gun control involves
encouraging compliance among firearms owners and encouraging former licence
holders to come back into compliance with the existing licensing and
registration requirements. That is why we are seeking comments on a proposal to
extend the firearms amnesty for one year.
As I said yesterday, there is a lot of misinformation — and it is deliberate
in confusing the public with the horrific issues of crimes committed by
handguns, both automatics and semi-automatics. This young, deranged man was able
to buy not one, but two handguns in the United States; that just would not have
happened in Canada. In this country, purchasing a gun involves background checks
and a time delay between the initial application of a permit and the issuance of
that permit. If guns are smuggled into Canada and find their way into the hands
of such people illegally, that is a different story. The government is making a
concerted effort to put a stop to such activities by making our borders more
secure against the importation of illegal firearms and by strengthening the
penalties applied to those who use firearms in the committing of a criminal
Nothing has changed. Yesterday, people needed to register if they wanted to
acquire a firearm. Today, if they want to acquire a firearm, they need to
register. Tomorrow and into the future, anybody wanting to acquire any type of
firearm needs a licence. That requirement is not changing.
As I mentioned yesterday, we have allocated, in the budget of 2007, $14
million over two years to improve front-end screening of first-time firearm
licence applicants. This screening will help prevent firearms from falling into
the wrong hands.
Senator Fox: Honourable senators, I can relate to many elements of the
minister's response, but one thing must remain very clear. There is no point in
talking about the Americans. We are talking about the situation in Canada. The
quotations I referred to are quotations from people who work to maintain peace
and order in the streets of Canada's largest cities. They understand the
difference between handguns and long guns. Nevertheless, they are calling for
tighter restrictions. No one in that group supports the government's position to
have an amnesty on the failure to register long guns.
Given this strength of public opinion in Canada — the opinion of columnists
and those who maintain order and peace in the streets of our big cities day
after day — would the government not be prepared to reconsider its position? If
it is prepared to disregard all these opinions, why would this government, the
product of a long Conservative Party tradition of respect for our democratic
institutions — and I go back to Mr. Diefenbaker — instead of taking advantage of
a loophole in the Firearms Act to allow an amnesty, not propose an amendment to
deal with this loophole and ask the opinion of members of Parliament to resolve
the issue democratically instead of resolving it in an unusual way, at its own
discretion, and against the opinion of most people, including the police
officers who face this sort of thing day after day?
I would like to mention one last statement that was heard yesterday in
Montreal, where another group was honoured. Members of the RCMP took part in
operations to dismantle a group called the West End Gang in Montreal. At the
ceremony, Inspector Sylvain Joyal, the officer in charge, said, and again, I
quote Ms. Thompson:
The officer in charge of the RCMP's Montreal drug section, which
spearheaded the project, echoed calls for the government not to weaken the gun
registry, saying his officers used it several times during their
investigation, particularly when planning raids.
Instead of using the power of the act to make an exemption, why does the
government not trust in the wisdom of the parliamentarians elected by the
Canadian people and ask the parliamentarians their opinion on the exemption?
Senator LeBreton: People who acquire firearms in this country must
obtain a licence; and when they have a licence, it is registered somewhere. This
is the situation we face.
The honourable senator's party, when in government, spent time — and money —
I might add, to the tune of over $1 billion — on the long gun registry, which
basically targeted farmers and hunters and neglected the licensing system. It is
this licensing system that the government is trying to strengthen now. The
government and Minister Day are now putting money into the registry to
strengthen the system of licensing and acquisition of firearms at the front end.
Instead of trying to register long guns that are in the possession of
law-abiding hunters and farmers who use shotguns to kill mink and vermin that
threaten their livestock, we are concentrating on implementing the strict gun
control laws that were brought in by the previous Conservative government.
Everyone understands that, when dealing with people who are so clearly ill as
the perpetrator in the horrible situation in Montreal last year, no law, no
matter how stringent, can ever totally protect society against those who wish to
do us harm.
The government is putting its efforts into our tough law-and-order
legislation and into dealing with these issues at the front end by ensuring
proper screening so that firearms do not fall into the hands of dangerous
criminals or people who are not competent to own a firearm.
These measures in no way alleviate the concern of the government, or any of
us, when we hear of terrible incidents, but we are working hard to prevent these
incidents from happening.
Hon. Mira Spivak: Honourable senators, to change the subject slightly,
my question concerns trans fats. The Task Force on Trans Fat delivered its final
report to the Minister of Health last June. The task force was formed in early
2005 after an opposition motion in the House of Commons passed some two and a
half years ago. The task force points out that by the mid-1990s, researchers
estimated that Canadians had one of the highest intakes of trans fats in the
world, especially children. The task force strongly recommended that the
government regulate the trans fat content in food to reduce the threat of
coronary heart disease.
The task force called for draft regulations by this June and final
regulations by June 2008. To date, however, there has been no response and,
according to news reports, there is not even an estimated date of response.
Senator Segal: Feed everybody intravenously — no food ever again. We
will all live forever and be boring.
Senator Spivak: In spite of my honourable colleagues' boisterous
interjection, scientists say that trans fat is not something to joke about. Why
is the government not responding to the task force recommendations?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State
(Seniors)): I thank Senator Spivak for that question. I can imagine the
cartoons that could be elicited by Senator Segal's comments.
Trans fats is a serious issue. The task force reported to the Minister of
Health last June. The minister has been working not only at the federal level
but also with provincial ministers of health. Approximately two months ago, he
released an extensive new Canada's Food Guide, which was extremely successful.
The web page had an incredible number of hits to obtain information.
In an effort to deal with obesity and the effects on our health of substances
such as trans fats, the Minister of Health and others in the government are
working on programs to increase the level of physical activity of our young
I believe it was incorrectly reported in the media that the Minister of
Health is not taking action, when in fact he is taking action.
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Honourable senators, this question is to the
Minister of Public Works and Government Services. I want to go back to Senator
Cowan's question. I am a little confused.
The Minister of Public Works and Government Services has confused everyone
because he said that the awarding of this contract to CGI Group Inc. is the
responsibility of the bureaucrats within the Department of Public Works and
Government Services. He says that he is not responsible for his parliamentary
secretary in the other place.
I am under the understanding that Senator Fortier is the Minister of Public
Works and Government Services. Is he the minister and is he responsible for the
Department of Public Works and Government Services and for the contracts signed
there? Does he meet with his parliamentary secretary on a regular basis to
discuss how questions will be answered in both Houses? Is he responsible for
anything, or is this all smoke and mirrors?
This government hangs its hat on accountability and we see none. He is not
even willing to accept responsibility for the department of which he is supposed
to be the minister.
Hon. Michael Fortier (Minister of Public Works and Government Services):
I do not know if there was a question there.
Senator LeBreton: There were several.
Senator Fortier: I will tell the honourable senator, as I told his
colleague, that things are operating in the manner they should. We have an open
and transparent system. The MERX system has been around for a while. Honourable
senators on the other side may make fun of the MERX system, but it is their
government that introduced MERX several years ago. It is basically an eBay of
procurement, which most suppliers like. The RFPs are there, so people know what
is on offer.
Civil servants run, as they should, requests for proposals. That is the way
it works. I am shocked that the honourable senator is shocked, unless in his
days people were actually in the weeds working on the contracts. That is another
issue, part of which was dealt with by Justice Gomery.
With respect to my parliamentary secretary, if the honourable senator wants
to speak with him, I suggest he does as I will be doing whenever the election is
called. I will be resigning from this place and running for a seat in the other
place. If the honourable senator is elected as I will be, he will be able to
speak to James Moore any time.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I have the honour to present an answer to the oral question raised by
Senator Chaput on March 22, 2007, concerning minority official language
(Response to question raised by Hon. Maria Chaput on March 22, 2007)
Infrastructure Canada manages a program called the Municipal Rural
Infrastructure Program which helps support smaller scale municipal
infrastructure such as water and wastewater treatment, or cultural and
recreation projects, for smaller and First Nations communities.
Minority official language communities benefit from federal funding
provided by the Official Languages Support Programs Branch for education,
services and community development. Within this funding, the Government works
directly in collaboration with the provinces and territories to ensure that
school-community centres continue their important work within the communities.
We will continue to support the construction of new centres or development of
new community spaces within existing centres in order to maximize the impact
on community development.
The Government announced additional support of $30 million over two years
in Budget 2007, of which a part will go to school-community centres.
State of Cultural Initiatives Program
The Cultural Initiatives Program was established in 1985, with three
components: Assistance to Festivals and Special Arts Events, Capital
Assistance and Strategic Development Assistance. This program ceased
activities in 2001-02. It was then replaced by three separate programs: Arts
Presentation Canada (to support arts presenters, such as festivals, and the
organizations that support them), Cultural Spaces Canada (to support the
improvement, renovation and construction of arts and heritage facilities, and
the acquisition of specialized equipment) and the Canadian Arts and Heritage
Sustainability Program (to strengthen organizational effectiveness and build
capacity of arts and heritage organizations).
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Grafstein, seconded
by the Honourable Senator Joyal, P.C., for the second reading of Bill S-204,
respecting a National Philanthropy Day.—(Honourable Senator Di Nino)
Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Honourable senators, let me applaud Senator
Grafstein for his initiative and other colleagues who have participated in this
The Oxford English dictionary defines philanthropy as — and I quote:
Love of mankind; the disposition or active effort to promote the happiness
and well-being of others; practical benevolence, now especially as expressed
by the generous donation of money to good causes.
This is fairly reflected in the preamble of Bill S-204.
I share with the other speakers the recognition of the enormous value and
contribution of philanthropists. They are outstanding citizens, both personal
and corporate, of our country. As a matter of fact, I believe that life in
Canada would be much less secure, much less comfortable and certainly much less
fulfilling without them. Their contributions have helped elevate Canada's
standing in the world rankings of the best places to live. Their generosity has
enhanced our citizens' well-being in health care, education, the environment,
recreation, the survival of endangered species and all other areas of human
Philanthropy has not been restricted to only national and local causes. Its
benefits have been felt in every corner of the globe. The Canadian spirit of
giving back, of sharing and caring, is impressive.
Senator Mercer, in his speech on this bill, listed many colleagues who are
active in the not-for-profit charitable sector. I agree that all colleagues make
a huge contribution in this area, both as champions for many causes and as
Canadians are very generous, although we have a way to go before we come
close to the Americans. It is a goal we should strive to reach. I understand
that during the last decade, charitable giving in Canada has doubled, so watch
out neighbours to the south!
I believe the benefits of sharing, caring and giving are also being globally
recognized more and more. In part, I believe this because of the exemplary
leadership of people like Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffet, Oprah Winfrey —
my favourite, by the way — and Bono, among so many others. The trickle-down
effect must be very satisfying and fulfilling for these wonderful role models.
We also have many generous individuals working out of the public limelight
without whom the spectacular successes we have witnessed would not have been
achieved — and here I include those who set up charitable foundations for this
I happily join with my colleagues in extending our gratitude and admiration
to each and every donor, contributor and volunteer. They make all our lives
better. I also agree that recognizing their generosity is important. However,
frankly, is the declaration of a national philanthropic day the best way to
achieve this? I am not sure.
Charities and not-for-profit organizations such as clubs, schools, hospitals
and other recipient organizations hold a variety of events where appropriate
recognition is bestowed on their donors. Often the names and/or pictures of
donors and contributors appear in a variety of publications.
At times, legislatures and other entities also hold special-recognition
ceremonies for those whose contributions are of note, the highest being the
Order of Canada. Friends, families and community members are made aware of those
who respond to community needs.
Let me digress for a moment. Today, I attended a wonderful ceremony in
Ottawa, the awarding of the 2007 Thérèse Casgrain Volunteer Award, where two
incredibly great Canadians were recognized.
Mr. Daniel Highway from Winnipeg and Ms. Donna Jeffrey from St. John's were
recognized for their outstanding and incredible contribution to society and to
What is the role of government in all of this? Let me talk a bit about what
On behalf of all Canadians, governments provide financial incentives for
those who contribute to qualified organizations. For example, changes allowing
donations of publicly listed stocks to charities without tax consequences to the
donors have been widely, if not universally, applauded and have resulted in
significant increases in donations.
Governments also frequently match donations from private sources. They also
audit the affairs of charitable and not-for-profit organizations to ensure that
they follow the rules set down for them.
I understand the principle of declaring a national philanthropy day.
Colleagues have articulated a variety of reasons. It is difficult to argue
against this idea, but frankly, I do not see where it will result in major
changes to Canadians' willingness to contribute more, or to encourage more
Canadians to give, which is the goal I believe we should strive for.
My concern with the declaration of a national philanthropy day is that after
an initial short period of time its impact will be neutralized. Surely there are
better ways to achieve the stated objectives that would have a more lasting
effect on the philanthropic habits of Canadians.
Some examples may include further improving tax incentives for donors. Should
small donors receive the same tax benefits as those afforded to political
contributors? Should we, through our tax system, better recognize the enormous
value of volunteers? Should the Senate of Canada create its own system for
recognizing exceptional philanthropists?
These ideas are but a few that are floating around that may result in more
philanthropists and more contributions.
Honourable senators, I invite all of you during these debates to look at
these and other ways to encourage and recognize the outstanding contributions of
Canadians and to achieve the objectives that Bill S-204 is attempting to
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Will the honourable senator take a question?
Senator Di Nino: Absolutely.
Senator Mercer: Is Senator Di Nino aware of the fact that currently 14
different national philanthropy day celebrations take place from St. John's to
Victoria on November 15 every year, including a large one in the honourable
senator's own city of Toronto?
Senator Di Nino: With some apology, I have to say, that probably makes
my point. No, I was not aware that a philanthropy day was in effect, whatever
day that may be. I, as one who is involved in this area — I have been called a
professional beggar many times by many people, so much so that some of my
friends will not return my calls any more — was not aware that those
Senator Mercer: The point of the bill is that these celebrations are
going on. For example, in the city of Calgary last year, over 500 people were at
a luncheon from all different charities and groups: churches, schools, social
organizations, universities and hospitals.
Does the senator not see how this day would help enhance the celebration of
philanthropy and of everyone's participation: volunteers, philanthropists, the
donors and also the people who work in the industry? Does he not see the benefit
of a national philanthropy day to highlight that participation so we can all
Senator Di Nino: Honourable senators, as I said in my speech, over a
short period of time it would have some benefit, but over the long term I would
like to see us find ways to achieve the objectives of Bill S-204 in a more
permanent way and in a manner that would achieve the objectives of encouraging
more contributions by more philanthropists. I do not suggest there is no value
to it. I question whether the value is that great, whether we should do that as
opposed to some of the other things I have suggested.
On motion of Senator Comeau, debate adjourned.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Harb, seconded by
the Honourable Senator Keon, for the second reading of Bill S-221, to
establish and maintain a national registry of medical devices.—(Honourable
Hon. Wilbert J. Keon: Honourable senators, I am pleased to rise today
to speak to Bill S-221, introduced by our colleague Senator Harb.
As you are aware, the goal of this bill is to establish and maintain a
national registry of medical devices. This registry would contain the names and
addresses of people who use implantable or prescribed home-use medical devices.
The information would be put forth voluntarily by the users of the devices.
This bill would also require manufacturers and distributors of these medical
devices to notify the registrar if a medical device could pose a risk to the
health or safety of someone using them, presumably someone on the list. Under
the terms of this bill, the registrar would then be required to notify
This bill seems to be a simple way to protect any of us who might have, or
use, some sort of medical device. All they do is put their name on a list and
they will be contacted should something be found wrong.
However, when we dig a little deeper, some serious concerns arise. This bill
calls for a broad-based voluntary registration system. This system will require
careful thought and discussion at committee.
I have been familiar with the existing system for some time. We currently
have regulations in place that cover certain medical devices and contain
specific protocols for patients and physicians to follow. These regulations
include mandatory problem reporting and require all high-risk implantable
devices to be registered.
They also support a system that enables the risks regarding a device to be
communicated to all hospitals and physicians in Canada as well as to the general
public, where it is appropriate.
We must examine carefully how voluntary registration would improve our
existing system of mandatory registration for high-risk implantable devices.
On November 7, 2006, Senator Harb told the chamber:
For medical devices other than implants, the manufacturer, the importer and
the distributor must keep a distribution registry containing information to
authorize a complete and rapid removal of a medical device from the market.
Unfortunately, it has been proven that this system is not without flaws.
He is correct.
He then went on to describe the sad example of a woman in 1985 who received a
Vitek jaw implement. She later developed serious problems and now suffers
intense pain, among other difficult complications. Senator Harb said that her
. . . who, under the Medical Devices Regulations was required to notify her
about the defective implant when the recall came out in 1990, failed to follow
up on the safety alert. He is reported to have said that he did not contact
her because, he said, he "didn't think it was urgent." In fact, she learned
about the recall in a routine check-up at the dentist.
This unfortunate example of a surgeon who failed to comply with the
regulations does not criticize in any way the regulations themselves. While I do
not know the particulars in this case, the fault appears to have been with the
individual surgeon and not with the system.
Honourable senators, I hear also that there could be a potentially
substantial price tag associated with this bill, hitting a health care system
that is already feeling a financial crunch. Remember, honourable senators, that
Bill S-221 proposes a whole new national registry that covers every medical
device. We must consider carefully the logistics of such an undertaking.
As Senator Harb pointed out, a device within the meaning of the Food and
Drugs Act is, as stated in section 2:
. . . any article, instrument, apparatus or contrivance, including any
component, part or accessory thereof, manufactured, sold or represented for
(a) the diagnosis, treatment, mitigation or prevention of a disease,
disorder or abnormal physical state, or its symptoms, in human beings or
(b) restoring, correcting or modifying a body function or the body
structure of human beings or animals,
(c) a diagnosis of pregnancy in human beings or animals, or
(d) the care of human beings or animals during pregnancy and at and after
birth of the offspring, including care of the offspring,
and includes a contraceptive device but does not include a drug. . . .
This definition could include the entire spectrum of medical devices, from
pacemakers to dental crowns. The cost of setting up and maintaining such an
exhaustive list could be enormous.
An additional danger from trying to focus on everything at the same time is
that simply maintaining information regarding the overwhelming number of benign
devices means that crucial data about the higher risk ones could become swamped
and lost in the process.
Senator Harb quoted the Auditor General who, in 2004, stated:
While Health Canada has made progress in important aspects of managing
risks related to medical devices before they are made available for sale, it
needs to better manage risk after they are available for sale.
She also said:
. . . Health Canada does not have a comprehensive program to protect the
health and safety of Canadians from risks related to medical devices, even
though it committed to such a program over a decade ago. Its failure to
deliver such a program compromises Health Canada's ability to protect health
and safety, which could translate into a growing risk — risk of both injury
Honourable senators, we must remember that Health Canada responded positively
to Ms. Fraser's criticism. The report stated:
The Department has responded positively to our recommendations and has
agreed to take corrective action. In some instances, the action is already
Health Canada has already moved on this front in a positive way. It has
developed a third-party registration system to ensure manufacturers meet quality
standards. The department has also completed the process of assessing the
regulatory requirements for conducting testing of medical devices. It also
recently completed current performance targets, processes and corresponding
financial resources to help it better ensure that Canadians have timely access
to medical devices that have also been properly evaluated for their safety and
effectiveness. The department is also in the process of developing an action
plan to address gaps in the post-market issues to ensure that there is
compliance with regulations; unlicensed devices are actively dealt with; and
people are informed quickly when there are safety concerns. The department is
assessing the medical devices program to determine the appropriate program
design needed to do its job, as well as the resources required.
Honourable senators, these examples are only a few of how Health Canada is
already working to ensure that medical devices are safe and that Canadians are
protected. This action is being taken within the existing regulatory structure
because the processes needed to regulate this bill are already in place. As I
said, I dealt with this process myself, sometimes to my great frustration, when
obtaining approval to proceed with implantation devices in the past, but it is a
good system. What is required is careful examination of the processes and
ensuring that everything is working.
Honourable senators, while I commend Senator Harb for raising our awareness
about this entire subject, it requires careful study before we offer adjustments
to an already good system. Hopefully, the Senate committee can find a way to
deal with this complex problem.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I have a question for Senator Keon. Listening to Senator Keon's
presentation led me to think about the concept of a registry and our experience
with the most recent registry. That registry was for a certain number of
millions of guns that was originally estimated to cost $2 million and wound up
costing $1 billion-plus. At that point in time, it should have registered on
parliamentarians that we are probably lousy accountants and that we should be
careful when we propose any kind of a registry.
Does the honourable senator know whether Senator Harb or anyone else has
given any kind of a professional estimate as to what this registry might cost?
In this registry there would be millions more items to be registered than in the
gun registry, and yet the gun registry cost us over $1 billion. Has anyone any
idea how much this registry would cost and how much it would divert from the
existing health care system to register such items?
Senator Keon: I am sure Senator Harb realizes that there is no
estimate at the present time what it would cost to implement the whole panacea.
If this approach were taken, that is a voluntary, large registry as opposed to a
mandatory, narrow registry that Health Canada judges to be the important items,
it would require a great deal of study. Senator Harb understands that. It would
certainly require a careful look by the committee before proceeding with this
change in direction. It will not occur quickly. It will need to be looked at
Senator Comeau: Health is really a provincial field, with the federal
government involved at the safety level, in collaboration with provincial
jurisdictions. Would some jurisdictions not take offence to the federal
government becoming involved in the registering of items under the jurisdiction
of the provinces, or am I wrong?
Senator Keon: To date, registries for implantable devices have been a
purely federal matter under Health Canada's Devices Canada directorate. I
suspect the provinces are relieved that responsibility is where it is. I have
been involved over the years in discussions about how this matter could be dealt
with better. The whole problem with data banks is that we do not have a good
computerized data bank for health yet in Canada. We are working towards it, and
a large amount of money, $400 million, has been poured into it to try to improve
things. Programming would be needed to accommodate the numbers we are talking
about if we go to a voluntary registration system. I do not think the provinces
would want to become involved in that.
Senator Comeau: This is a voluntary registry rather than a registry of
high-risk devices, which would make it somewhat mandatory. If we were to pass
this bill at second reading that would give it approval in principle. Would that
not preclude us from having a more useful bill for a mandatory registry of high-risk devices? Might we not be missing the boat on this and not going the right
Senator Keon: We already have mandatory reporting of high-risk
devices, and it is working well. We have not had many problems. There have been
a few, such as with breast implants and so forth, but not many. The question was
raised by Senator Harb of whether we should look at the alternative of a broad-based voluntary registration system. We have to be careful and open-minded and
look at other options. That is the reason I seconded this bill.
On motion of Senator Comeau, debate adjourned.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Di Nino, seconded
by the Honourable Senator Cochrane, for the second reading of Bill C-252, to
amend the Divorce Act (access for spouse who is terminally ill or in critical
condition).—(Honourable Senator Trenholme Counsell)
Hon. Marilyn Trenholme Counsell: Honourable senators, I rise today to
speak on Bill C-252, to amend the Divorce Act, access for spouse who is
terminally ill or in critical condition.
This bill has touched me deeply. My two children were seven and eight years
old when my husband, their father, died of cancer after an illness of six years.
During that painful time it was rare that I thought about myself, because I was
constantly concerned about the children and their well-being, in what was
without a doubt one of the most difficult situations they will ever face in
Yet, they were in a loving family unit, albeit one that had faced the strains
of terminal illness. Sadly, the hypothetical children to whom we are referring
in this bill would not have the comfort and security of the home which I believe
my children had.
The brevity of this bill belies its profound significance. Bill C-252
touches upon issues that go to the very heart of life and death, of family
relationships and of the nurturing of children. In studying this bill and
reviewing all of the speeches and testimony to date, one is struck by the
enormous responsibility placed upon society, especially the judicial system,
when the family ceases to be the cradle of love for its youngest members.
Honourable senators, I have offered this preamble to my commentary on the
substance of the bill because I have found myself ever more deeply involved
emotionally and philosophically as I studied the material which has come to us
on Bill C-252 from the House of Commons. I know that my fellow senators will
experience many of these same feelings later in committee, as they undertake to
give this serious subject the sober second thought that it deserves.
To say that Bill C-252 is no simple matter of legislation is perhaps
reflected in the fact that the bill underwent two changes in wording before it
was passed in the House of Commons. In referring to the wording from the first
version I will abbreviate the text, although if there are questions I could go
back to the full wording. The bill introduced for first reading on May 4, 2006
. . . the court shall ensure that a spouse who is terminally ill or in
critical condition is granted access to a child of the marriage.
Of course, there were problems with that, as I will point out later.
The second version, which was arrived at very quickly, said:
For the purposes of subsection (5), a former spouse's terminal illness or
critical condition shall be considered a change of circumstances of the child
of the marriage, and the court shall then ensure that the former spouse is
granted access to the child . . .
And this was added:
. . . as long as it is consistent with the best interests of that child.
When the bill was first introduced it did not have that clause.
The final wording of Bill C-252, as passed by the House of Commons on March
21, 2007 is:
Section 17 of the Divorce Act is amended by adding the following after
(5.1) For the purposes of subsection (5), a former spouse's terminal
illness or critical condition shall be considered a change of circumstances of
the child of the marriage —
And these are the new words:
— and the court shall make a variation order in respect of access that is
in the best interests of the child.
We can see here that there was a struggle over wording. This, therefore, is
the final wording of Bill C-252, which the Senate is called upon to consider.
In my study of the proceedings, both in the debate in the House of Commons
and in the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, it
became clear that the change of wording from "the court shall then ensure" to "the court shall make a variation order in respect of access" required
prolonged and serious consideration, as well as authoritative support from
officials of the Department of Justice. It was on the advice of the Department
of Justice that the word "ensure" was changed to "shall order" in the final
Honourable senators will realize I am much more comfortable discussing
"terminal illness" or "critical condition" than I am in my undertaking today
to explain these changes to the Divorce Act. I am sure that Senate committee
members, with all their experience in the law, will be eminently capable of
studying the very delicate and consequential issues to which I refer.
Bill C-252 does, by virtue of its content, define a former spouse's terminal
illness or critical condition as a "material change" that directs the law in a
certain direction that leaves it non-discretionary, providing more direction
with respect to what is a change in circumstance.
The second part of the provision, about how the court shall make the order
once that change has been determined, is again discretionary and consistent with
the current law. No constitutional issues are inherent to the changes to be
brought about in Bill C-252.
In committee, discussion took place about whether Bill C-252 would actually
change family law significantly. The question was raised whether Bill C-252
would create more problems for the system of justice despite its seeming will to
be humanitarian. In studying the testimony at committee, I sensed a certain
hesitancy on the part of Department of Justice officials to fully support Bill
C-252. A senior counsel from the Department of Justice said:
I just want to clarify the fact that it is not the department that proposed
this. We proposed different options to be considered.
I expect that our Senate committee will want to continue this discussion. The
possibility of frivolous or vexatious issues entering into the future use of
Bill C-252 in the courts was raised even as an excuse to get custody. Several
members raised that. This possibility was raised because once an individual has
shown that they have a terminal illness or critical condition, there would be a
change in circumstances which would get that individual to the second part of
the analysis, which is the overriding consideration in the Divorce Act in
respect to child custody. That, of course, is "the best interest of the child."
As a physician, I know that the definitions of "terminal illness or critical
condition" would have come from a reliable, authoritative source, most likely
the applicant's family physician or specialist. Here also the Senate committee
may wish to give further consideration to the means whereby such a medical
diagnosis can be verified beyond any doubt. I say this with the full realization
that any physician could conclude that a person's illness is terminal or
critical, yet events can unfold to prove that diagnosis wrong.
Committee members commented on these difficulties:
. . . the lawyer or one of the parties would only have to prove that the
person concerned is in the final stages of a terminal illness or is in what is
referred to as a critical condition. This must be proven first . . . . the
court must ensure that a spouse is truly in the final stages of a terminal
Throughout all of this debate and the hearings on Bill C-252, one is moved
and reassured by the return to "best interests of the child" by each
presenter. To quote the mover of the bill:
I believe it is right that children be ensured a chance to say goodbye to a
parent who is terminally ill or in critical condition, unless such contact
between parent and child is not in the best interest of the child . . . . it
preserves judicial discretion by maintaining that it is the courts who decide
what embodies the best interests of the child . . . . I do not believe that
terminal illness or critical condition is cause for automatic custody . . . .
it cannot trump the biggest factor, which is the best interests of the child.
The issue of "time frame" with respect to an order for variation within the
Divorce Act, 17.(1), on the basis of terminal illness or critical condition was
A terminal illness may provide a person with a life expectancy of 10 years
after the diagnosis. This is an obviously complicating factor to any possible
future variation order under C-252. Additionally, the list of so-called critical
illnesses is long. The debate continued as to whether "critical condition"
could be used to the non-custodial spouse's advantage.
I wish to say again that the brevity of this bill should not be taken
lightly, because the bill does establish a principle of law in that terminal
illness or critical condition shall be considered a change of circumstances
under the Divorce Act, 17(5). In my mind, this is a substantial legislative
change. Yet, in the House of Commons Committee, a rather worrisome discussion
arose as to who drafted the amendment and whether it was Department of Justice
officials. Some of this uncertainty was spoken of as "some grey areas where
there may be some problems." I am confident that fellow senators in committee
will pay due attention to all of these procedural and substantive concerns.
I should like to conclude with a more humanitarian approach — which, after
all, is easier for me than what I have attempted to accomplish in my analysis of
the legal aspects of Bill C-252. I am reminded of the joint House of Commons and
Senate committee report entitled For the Sake of the Children I am
reminded equally of the enormous challenge faced by judges in deciding the best
interests of the child. I ask: Which could be more traumatic — not seeing a
dying parent who had not been a part of that child's life over a long period of
time or coming face to face perhaps with a stranger who is in a condition that
could only be described as frightening for a child? There is no easy answer;
hence the enormous weight of responsibility borne by judges and lawyers in
family law. We share that weight in our deliberations on Bill C-252.
There is so much pain in all of this, especially for the children. Canada's
Divorce Act sets out the criteria for granting custody and access orders solely
on the basis of the child's best interests. This act continues to reflect the
vision of Pierre Elliott Trudeau. I shall quote from one of the members of the
House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights who is referring
to the Divorce Act.
This is not only a nationally recognized standard it is an internationally
recognized standard and it is reflected as such in the United Nations
Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Canada is a party.
To close my remarks, one word symbolizes the spirit of Bill C-252 — that
word is "closure." This very small piece of proposed legislation seeks to move
the law forward so a greater number of parents and children may experience
meaningful and lasting closure to one of the most important relationships any
human being has.
It has been a privilege to study this bill, and I shall follow its journey
through the Senate and committee with great interest.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Are there any other
senators who wish to speak to Bill C-252?
Are senators ready for the question?
Hon. Senators: Question!
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure,
honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Motion agreed to and bill read second time.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: When shall this bill
be read the third time?
On motion of Senator Comeau, bill referred to the Standing Senate Committee
on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Banks, seconded by
the Honourable Senator Dallaire, for the adoption of the twelfth report of the
Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, (budget—study on
the need for a National Security Policy), presented in the Senate on March 29,
2007.—(Honourable Senator Tkachuk)
Hon. Colin Kenny: If I may, this is the budget for the Standing Senate
Committee on National Security and Defence. Obviously, I am in favour of the
budget. Senator Banks spoke to this item at some length a week ago. I would be
pleased to deal with any questions anyone has.
Hon. Terry Stratton: My question is to the Chairman of the Standing
Senate Committee on National Security and Defence. This budget deals with a
fact-finding mission to Newark and Washington. Am I correct that that is what
the budget is for?
Senator Kenny: That is a portion of it. The budget outlines the
committee costs we anticipate for the first two months of the fiscal year.
Senator Stratton: What is the purpose of the committee's trip to
Newark and Washington? I should like to get more information with respect to
Newark. I can understand Washington, but not Newark.
Senator Kenny: Newark is one of the major ports on the East Coast of
the United States. It is a port where we have Canada Border Services Agency
targetters. Our principal reason for going there is to examine their security
arrangements and the effectiveness of us having CBSA targetters in the port.
With regard to Washington, our committee has an ongoing relationship with a
number of committees — the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee
on Intelligence, the House Armed Services Committee, the U.S. Senate Committee
on Armed Services, Homeland Security, the Coast Guard and the Pentagon. We have
had ongoing relationships and meetings with them over the past six years, and
this trip is a continuation of that.
Senator Stratton: With respect, the committee has submitted a budget
that includes, for this trip to Newark and Washington, participation by nine
senators, two clerks, one consultant, two researchers and one media relations
person, for a total of 15 people.
Other committees can travel with maybe 11 or 12 people; this committee plans
to travel with 15 people. I should like an explanation as to why the committee
has two clerks travelling with it, along with a consultant. Moreover, there are
also two researchers travelling with the committee.
There is a second part of to my question. Should fewer than nine senators
travel with the committee, would the chair be prepared to state today that any
unused portion of that travel budget — the portion for those who did not travel
— will be returned in full to the Senate?
Senator Kenny: Thank you very much for that question.
Dealing with the second question first, yes, all funds for any senators who
do not travel would be returned to the Senate. That is consistent with the rules
of the Internal Economy Committee. Funds that are not expended on a trip or
foreign activity — I believe this is the expression — are clawed back. This is
an automatic process that takes place; it is not a discretionary one. I can
assure the honourable senator that officials in the Senate finance department
meet with the clerk of the committee after a trip like this. They review the
expenditures, and any expenditures that were not made for this particular
portion of the committee's activities immediately revert to the central fund of
the committees branch.
As to the first question, we travel with this number of people because trips
to Washington are extraordinarily difficult and complex. The issues that we are
dealing with cover the entire range of the committee's work. We would
anticipate, as I indicated earlier, dealing with their defence community, with
their intelligence community, and with first their responders. The range of
issues covers airports, seaports and borders. Frankly, a trip to Washington is
the major file that we have as Canadians. If that relationship is not
functioning properly, no relationship will function properly. The staff we are
taking are to assist us with meetings that we expect to cover the range of
issues that come to the fore when there is a one-shot visit for a week by a
committee that covers a range of issues.
We bring staff to ensure that we are putting forward the Canadian position as
thoroughly and completely as we can, with the various opposite numbers we have
in the Senate and in the Congress and with officials whom we encounter. The trip
is very demanding and the staff find it to be difficult work.
Senator Stratton: When is this trip? I know it is shown here as April,
for seven days and six nights. Obviously, the committee would be travelling
during the time the Senate is sitting.
Your overall budget includes a senior military adviser, 12 months at $3,308;
a military adviser for enlisted personnel, three months at $500; a full-time
national security adviser, which we removed from approval on the budget because
we need an explanation from the subcommittee on budgets with respect to that; a
senior intelligence national security adviser, 12 months at $3,308; a
writer/editor/researcher, 67 days at $100; a communications consultant, 25 hours
at $200; and clerical assistance, 12 months at $3,085.
Apart from the full-time clerks, is that an accurate list of assistants of
Senator Kenny: Yes, sir.
Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, I want a point of clarification
from my colleague, the hard-working and determined chair of the committee.
I heard the honourable senator say that part of what he wants to do in
Washington is to impart the Canadian position to our colleagues on the other
side. Would he be speaking extemporaneously with the authority of this chamber,
or perhaps with some mandate from the government of the day of which we are not
aware, or is there some mandate of which we should be aware? I would be
interested in any advice the honourable senator could give us in that respect.
Senator Kenny: It is an interesting exercise for us because we feel
sometimes a bit schizophrenic. We spend a great deal of time being critical of
governments of both stripes here in Canada. Yet, once we cross the border, the
tiger actually can change its stripes and we spend a great deal of time
defending what we believe to be the government of the day's position on dealing
with the United States.
We do not believe there is room for division on foreign affairs, so we go
forward with a consensus approach. We endeavour, for example, to move forward
subjects such as the border issue. Thus far, all of our reports have been
unanimous. We have always supported the government's position. We intend to do
that. Canada has only one government and we are in the United States as
Canadians supporting that.
Senator Segal: In view of the continuing discussions between our
respective leaderships relative to the membership of the committee the
honourable senator chairs and the Foreign Affairs Committee, is he at all
troubled by the extensiveness of the activity while members of the Conservative
minority in this house are not actually sitting on the committee, with no
indication of how long that situation may continue?
Senator Kenny: I am extraordinarily troubled by the situation. The
members opposite who have been sitting on the committee have made significant
contributions throughout the work of the committee. Their work is
extraordinarily valuable, and they cannot return to the committee soon enough to
Senator Segal: Further to that, has the steering committee in any way
reflected upon the possibility of not being as active until our two leaderships
resolve whatever difficulties may continue to exist?
Senator Kenny: No, that is not an option open to us. The rules of the
Senate are clear that committees are structured in a way that one side or the
other cannot stop the work of a committee by not attending a meeting. We have
not contemplated that at all.
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators, I think that the
questions raised by Senator Segal are interesting in that the work of this
committee perhaps should have been delayed because of the absence of the
honourable Conservative senators.
As the sponsor of Bill C-293 in the Senate I hope that it will be referred to
the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee as soon as possible.
I also think that the absence of voices from the other side of government is
untimely, but I hope that our work on a bill from the other place will not be
stalled because their members are absent, which I find absolutely unbelievable.
It is high time that the other side start working responsibly to respect the
nature of the institution, which means participating in debates and ensuring due
passage of wide-ranging legislation — not just reports.
Does Senator Kenny not think that their presence would be extremely useful
and that it would have a much more positive effect on the progress of work?
Senator Kenny: I agree, and I call for the question.
Senator Stratton: I did not get a clear answer on the dates for this
trip to Newark and Washington in April. Today is April 19.
Senator Kenny: I apologize to the honourable senator. I believe we are
looking at the third week in May.
Senator Segal: To be perfectly clear, I am comfortable with awaiting
direction of my own leadership related to attendance at various committees and
having leadership from both sides sort this out in an appropriate fashion. My
question was not about whether the Rules of the Senate in any way
prohibited the committee from doing its work in the absence of Conservatives,
but rather whether the honourable senator's own steering committee had given
thought to the appropriateness of proceeding on these sensitive and important
matters. I think I understand the senator's response to be that his committee
gave that consideration and decided to proceed notwithstanding. I wanted clarity
between us with respect to that.
Senator Kenny: The steering committee is proceeding with the plan that
was adopted by the full committee. Its work plan is continuing.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure,
honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Some Hon. Senators: Yes.
Some Hon. Senators: No.
Motion agreed to and report adopted, on division.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Banks calling the
attention of the Senate to the failure of the Government of Canada to carry
out its constitutional duty to appoint qualified persons to the Senate.—(Honourable
Hon. Wilfred P. Moore: Honourable senators, I join this debate out of
concern for the future of this institution, out of concern for the proper
functioning of Parliament as a whole and out of concern for the rights of
provinces that do not appear to receive much consideration from the current
I would like to thank Senator Banks for raising this important issue. He
rightly draws our attention to a problem that needs to be addressed soon. We
cannot sit by as this institution atrophies as a result of the Prime Minister's
policy of refusing to fill vacancies.
In preparing my remarks for today, I was surprised by yesterday's
announcement that the Prime Minister intends to depart from the policy he has
followed for the last 14 months and appoint a new senator for Alberta. At first
I thought my remarks might now be overtaken by a change in the government's
stance, but I realize my concern over the lack of appointments is now even more
justified. As a senator from Nova Scotia, it is hard to accept that the Prime
Minister allows vacancies from smaller provinces to pile up, some seats having
gone unfilled literally for years. Yet, when it comes to his own home province,
which has no vacancies, the Prime Minister has announced an appointment before a
seat even becomes available.
Some Hon. Senators: Shame, shame.
Senator Moore: This apparent double standard is all the more reason
for me to participate in Senator Banks' inquiry. Consequently, I join the debate
with a view to drawing attention to what I regard as an emerging crisis in
What struck me most about Senator Bank's speech introducing this inquiry was
his observation that the situation today is not the result of inadvertent
omission or negligence. To a certain extent, we are used to the gradual turnover
of membership of this place, and that turnover entails a regular occurrence of
vacancies when senators retire, resign or depart from this life. The situation
we are now in, with 12 vacancies, has, to a certain extent, crept up on us.
However, as Senator Banks has noted, this level of vacancies is well beyond the
norm. If we have a larger number of vacancies in the Senate today, it is not
because the Prime Minister has forgotten us. It is not because he has been busy
with other files. No, it is the opposite. We are missing more than 10 per cent
of our membership because of the overt and wilful omission of the Prime
Minister. He refuses to carry out his constitutional duty to appoint senators,
and he has brazenly said as much on the public record.
Honourable senators, I speak to this inquiry as a senator who represents Nova
Scotia. My own province is currently the most aggrieved from the standpoint of
both the number of vacancies and the proportion of vacancies. Currently, three
empty seats are from my province. That means, the people of Nova Scotia have
three fewer people working on their behalf in Ottawa than they are entitled to
under the Constitution of Canada.
To ensure that the record is complete, let me outline the current vacancies.
Senator John Buchanan retired on April 22, 2006, nearly a full a year ago.
Sadly, Senator Michael Forrestall passed away in June of last year. That was ten
months ago. Finally, Senator Michael Kirby resigned October 31, 2006, nearly six
months ago. None has been replaced. All these vacancies have occurred since Mr.
Harper became Prime Minister.
What are the people of Nova Scotia to do? They are entitled to ten senators.
Their ten senators are part of the compromise that made Confederation possible.
Sorry, but the Prime Minister has decided unilaterally that we are not getting
our three replacements. He chooses to ignore the Constitution except when it
suits his political purposes.
Senator Banks quoted the Prime Minister, and I think it bears repeating. As I
have said, the Prime Minister has not forgotten us. He has openly declared that
he has stopped making appointments altogether. When he appeared in a Special
Committee on Senate Reform last September, he said, "I do not intend to appoint
senators, unless necessary."
There you have it. He simply refuses to fill vacancies, but what is he saying
to the people of Nova Scotia about their rights under the Constitution: "You
have seven senators, and you are not getting any more"? That is what the Prime
Minister is saying to Nova Scotia.
Proportionately, Nova Scotia has a Senate deficit of 30 per cent. Imagine
such a state of affairs in another context. Imagine if Ontario or Quebec were
deprived of seven Senate seats each. Imagine if Ontario were missing 31 members
in the other place, or if Quebec were missing 22 members. That would be
Honourable senators, it is equally intolerable for Nova Scotians. Nova
Scotia, of course, is not the only province affected by the unilateral decision
of the Prime Minister to cease all appointments. The Maritime division is
grossly under-represented, with more than 20 per cent of its total delegation
Honourable senators, the Constitution says that the Maritime division is
entitled to be represented equally in the Senate. Section 22 of the
Constitution Act, 1867 says in part, ". . . Four divisions shall . . . be
equally represented in the Senate. . . ."
I do not know whether the Prime Minister learned his math, but a 20-per-cent
vacancy is not equality.
For the Maritime division to be equally represented, the Prime Minister needs
to carry out his duty and advise the Governor General to summon qualified
persons to fill those vacancies under section 32 of the Constitution Act,
Honourable senators, I have done some calculations to determine what the
state of affairs would be if the current Parliament continues to its maximum
term of five years. Under the current policy of the Prime Minister, by February
2011 the total number of vacancies in the Senate would rise to 33. That is
nearly one third of the total number of seats in this place. Nova Scotia's
vacancies would rise to four, nearly half its seats. The Maritime division would
be missing a total of eight seats, exactly one third its delegation of 24
Ontario and Quebec would have a deficit of eight seats each; exactly
one-third of their delegations. Newfoundland would be missing two senators; a
full third of its representation. The Western division would be down by 21 per
cent, five seats overall, with British Columbia in the worst situation having
only three senators, or 50 per cent of the representation to which it is
entitled. Finally, two of the three territories would have no representation at
Honourable senators, the situation today is deplorable and we must bring
pressure to bear to remedy it before it gets worse. I also want to take a moment
to assess the wider impact of what is happening. By his wilful omission, the
Prime Minister may be creating a precedent of constitutional significance. It is
one that I believe cannot be allowed to stand. I would not like to see the
current state of affairs interpreted in some future situation as being a
constitutional convention. That is why we must actively pursue the issue today
and ensure that the record clearly shows that this Prime Minister is not acting
in accordance with the Constitution of Canada.
The Prime Minister's refusal to fill vacancies opens a door to future abuses.
Let me give honourable senators one scenario that I think is entirely possible
if the current situation continues unchallenged.
Imagine a future Prime Minister who has designs on Senate reform. He or she
might have a particular interest in the first E of the so-called Triple-E model
— equality of seats. In past constitutional negotiations, some provinces have
appeared willing to reconsider the seat distribution in the Senate, but in every
case those seats were also a bargaining chip. The provinces that were prepared
to give up Senate seats in a redistribution were also looking for consideration
in return; some concession in another aspect of the overall constitutional
Continuing with this scenario, along comes a prime minister who decides to
act unilaterally. He or she could do what Mr. Harper is doing right now — refuse
to fill vacancies until all provinces have an equal number of seats. Nova
Scotia, while legally entitled to 10 Senate seats, might, in practice, have only
six seats, maybe as few as four. By this method of attrition, all provinces
would become more or less equal in Senate representation.
Well, honourable senators, that is not how the Constitution of Canada works.
In the current scenario, if the Prime Minister wants to change seating
arrangements here, let him propose a constitutional amendment and secure the
consent of the provinces.
The Prime Minister cannot be allowed to strategically neglect his duties in
an effort to achieve indirectly that which he cannot achieve directly. The Prime
Minister cannot refuse to obey the law in a unilateral effort to radically alter
the Senate without the consent of the provincial legislatures. I do not know
whether that is the objective of Prime Minister Harper, but his position today
could well lay the ground for a future prime minister to pursue that course.
Honourable senators, I share Senator Banks' concern about the implications
for one of our most basic democratic principles: The rule of law. I find it hard
to believe that in the 21st century, almost 800 years after the Magna Carta and
159 years after Nova Scotia was the first colony in North America to establish
responsible government, we have to stand here today and argue that the
government must obey the law. Sadly, the Prime Minister has brought the debate
to this level.
I urge honourable senators to take up this issue. It is too late to persuade
the Prime Minister that his policy is ill-advised. Representation in the Senate
is one of the rights that my province enjoys under the Constitution of Canada.
It is not for this or any other prime minister to unilaterally undertake an
executive, republican-style action to deny this foundational right of Nova
Scotia. It is part of my province's shared commitment to the Canadian
I call upon my colleagues from Nova Scotia to bring their considerable
influence to bear. I hope that two Nova Scotians in particular will help
persuade the government to change its mind. I am thinking particularly of
Senator Comeau, the Deputy Leader of the Government in this place; and Senator
Oliver, the chair of our Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee.
Senator Comeau: Do you want to campaign on it in the next election?
Senator Moore: Yes, I will campaign on you not doing your duty.
Both honourable senators are well placed to advocate for the rights of Nova
Scotians within government. We all have a duty to at least try to bring about a
change in attitude that will see the Prime Minister fulfill his duties, that
will see the Senate and Parliament functioning fully, and that will see the
people of Nova Scotia properly represented in their national institutions.
Hon. Jane Cordy: Will the honourable senator accept a question?
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Moore, will
you accept questions?
Senator Moore: I will.
Senator Cordy: I thank the honourable senator for his excellent
speech. Being from Nova Scotia, I certainly share his concern that we would have
only 70 per cent of our representatives in the Senate to voice the concerns of
Nova Scotians, particularly concerns such as the Atlantic Accord and other
things about which we are not hearing from many of our colleagues on the other
As the honourable senator was speaking, I heard the Leader of the Government
in the Senate saying, when he talked about Nova Scotia having seven senators,
that Nova Scotia still has one more. I wonder if the honourable senator could go
over with us what is currently in the Constitution and what agreement was
reached in 1867 in Prince Edward Island when Canada became a country and how it
came about that we would have 10 representatives from Nova Scotia.
Senator Moore: I thank the honourable senator for the question. As we
all know, as a result of the discussions by the Fathers of Confederation, the
agreement was that Nova Scotia would have 10 senators, that New Brunswick would
have 10, and that Prince Edward Island would have four, making up the Maritime
delegation. It is not just Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island
individually; this is the Maritime division. That was the foundation of the
country. That is the basis on which Nova Scotia and those other two provinces
negotiated with the other then provinces of Canada to enter into Confederation,
and the reason they were given those seats was to counterbalance the
representation by population in the other place.
Senator Cordy: If the Constitution is not changed and not opened, then
Nova Scotia is entitled to 10 Senate seats; would that be correct?
Senator Moore: That is correct; it has not changed. If it is to
change, the consent of the provinces must be obtained. The Constitution Act of
1867 is very much in place and in effect. It is a matter of having the Prime
Minister discharge his duties and fill the vacancies.
Hon. Tommy Banks: Senator Moore referred to the Constitution. Section
22 of the Constitution is where the number of senators, to which he has just
referred, is set out and where it says that the Maritime division has 24
senators. However, section 32 talks about what happens when there is a vacancy
among those numbers. Can the honourable senator imagine, if it was not intended
that that should operate in the way that it says when a vacancy occurs, why
there would be a separate section in the Constitution that describes precisely
what happens when a vacancy in the number of Senate seats that is set out
elsewhere in the Constitution Act occurs? Is there any other reason that
possibly exists in the Constitution?
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Moore, I am
sorry to advise you that your time is expired. Are you asking for more time to
Senator Moore: Honourable senators, I would ask for time to answer the
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it agreed,
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Moore: I am sure that honourable senators are familiar with
the principle of section 32 of the Constitution Acts, 1867 to 1982, which
32. When a Vacancy happens in the Senate by Resignation, Death, or
otherwise, the Governor General shall, by Summons to a fit and qualified
Person, fill the Vacancy.
It is clear that vacancies were envisaged and that the founding fathers
intended that they be filled forthwith.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Do any other senators
wish to speak?
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators, I would put a
question to Senator Moore.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Moore's time
has expired with his response to the previous question. However, an honourable
senator may speak to the inquiry if he or she wishes to do so.
Hon. Joseph A. Day: I did not want to cut off honourable senators on
the other side, who seemed to have many questions during the time that Senator
Moore was speaking. It seems that they no longer have any questions. I would
move adjournment of the debate.
On motion of Senator Day, debate adjourned.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Joyal, P.C.,
seconded by the Honourable Senator Robichaud, P.C.:
That the Senate congratulates the Honourable Noël Kinsella on his
appointment as Speaker and expresses its confidence in him while acknowledging
that a Speaker, to be successful and effective in the exercise of the duties
of that office, requires the trust and support of a majority of the
Senators.—(Honourable Senator Banks)
Hon. Tommy Banks: Honourable senators, I took the adjournment of the
debate on the motion of Senator Joyal because I agree with him that recent
developments in the House of Lords give us a useful model for reflection on the
method of selection for the presiding officer in this house.
The motion before honourable senators is something that I wholeheartedly
support on its face. I am happy to congratulate the Speaker of the Senate on his
appointment. I have no doubt that every member of the Senate has full confidence
in him because he has so ably presided over this place since February 2006. I
have a particular interest in Senator Joyal's initiative because I believe that
the procedure could become a practice that, in future, would ensure that the
Senate will always have a Speaker who enjoys the confidence, if not the direct
mandate, of his or her peers.
Given the flexible and evolutionary nature of the Westminster-style of
institutions after which Canada's Parliament is modelled, this approach could
lead us to a convention or a practice whereby the duty to appoint a Speaker,
expressed in section 34 of the Constitution Act, 1867, would be exercised on the
recommendation of, or at least with the collaboration of, the Senate.
As Senator Joyal has told honourable senators, the House of Lords now elects
its Speaker. In fact, the position of the British government was quite emphatic
that it wanted to rid itself of the authority to appoint the presiding officer
of the House of Lords. That position was expressed by the Leader of the Lords,
Baroness Amos, in debate on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne
in 2005. She said:
It remains the Government's view that the Speaker of this House should not
be appointed by the Prime Minister. We believe that the House will be stronger
if it seizes the opportunity to take the Speakership into its own hands. This
House needs a presiding officer of its own, and I will resume discussions with
the usual channels to explore the scope for consensus.
The same option is available to this chamber, but it would not be so readily
achieved as it was in Britain because it would require a formal amendment to the
Constitution Act, 1867. Some honourable senators might recall that in 2003,
Senator Oliver made such a proposal when he introduced a bill to provide for the
election of the Speaker of the Senate. He did so on the grounds that such an
election would reinforce the Speaker's position and better enable our presiding
officer to carry out his duties. I agree with Senator Oliver's view that the
Speaker could carry out his or her role more effectively if she or he were to
enjoy a mandate, or at least an overt expression of confidence as expressed in
this motion, from the body over which he or she presides.
I would not be opposed to a formal amendment to the Constitution to address
this question and bring about such a solution, but all in this place know well
the challenges that lurk when such a path is considered. I note that our
esteemed former colleague and noted constitutional expert, Senator Beaudoin,
expressed his opinion on Senator Oliver's bill to provide for the election of
the Speaker of the Senate by secret ballot. Senator Beaudoin took the considered
view that such a bill would be a valid exercise of the authority to amend the
Constitution under section 44 of the amending formula and that provincial
consent, which applies to other changes, would not be required. Others have
cautioned that such a change might engage the 7/50 rule or even the unanimity
rule. As I have amply demonstrated in the past, I am not a constitutional
expert, but Senator Beaudoin's analysis is persuasive.
However, this place need not go down that difficult path. Senator Joyal's
approach saves honourable senators from the problem of sorting out complex legal
and constitutional issues. It is clear that there is wisdom in Senator Joyal's
approach because it is a much easier way to move forward than is the legislative
route. Senator Joyal has told honourable senators that the House of Lords
elected its first Speaker in 2006. This development followed on the adoption of
the Constitutional Reform Act, 2005, which dealt primarily with the
modernization of the Office of the Lord Chancellor.
My understanding of the traditional view is that the Speaker of the Senate
was modelled on the Lord Chancellor, who was a mere mouth of the House with no
authority to intervene in the proceedings of the Senate to restore order unless
invited by another senator, on a point of order to do so. Even this rule, as an
interpreter of procedural rules and practices, has always been tempered by the
possibility of an appeal to the Senate of a ruling from the chair. This place
has seen a couple of appeals just in the short time that I have been in the
Senate. The drafters of Canada's Constitution did not endow the Speaker of the
Senate with a mandate from senators. Consequently, in the early years, the
Speaker was given no authority over them. Another reason frequently cited for
depriving the Speaker of the Senate of a larger role is that the rules expressly
reflect the presumption and, I suppose, the fear that the Speaker would function
as an active partisan and participate in the deliberations of the Senate by
leaving the chair from time to time; and honourable senators have seen that
For many years, Speakers of the Senate, for the most part, have carefully
avoided partisanship and have remained above the political fray. In 1906 and in
1991, the Senate made changes to the Rules of the Senate to establish and
then to expand the authority of the Speaker so that he or she would have
authority to intervene and maintain order. The majority of such authority is
found in rule 18 of the Rules of the Senate and, despite the minor
expansion of the Speaker's authority over the years, the Senate remains a
largely self-regulating chamber, similar to the House of Lords. The rulings of
the Speaker of the Senate are still subject to appeal. Thus, the Senate is the
ultimate master of its own proceedings.
I know that some senators would prefer to revert to the old days when the
Speaker had no authority to regulate. The senators who share that view might be
concerned that the motion before the house might do more than merely legitimize
an appointed Speaker — it might embolden him or her to take a more activist role
in the Senate. The British example and the example in the other place have shown
us that a change in the status or the method of election of the Speaker need not
result in a change to his or her function or role in the respective chamber.
The new situation in the House of Lords has not occasioned any explicit
change in the role or the authority of the presiding officer there. Far from
providing the Speaker with the authority to maintain order, Standing Order 19 of
the House of Lords used to prohibit the Lord Chancellor from doing anything as
the mouth of the House without the consent of the House of Lords first-hand.
That Standing Order was repealed in its entirety in May 2006 as part of a
series of amendments that provided for the election of the Lord Speaker. At
first blush, this repeal might be regarded as the first step in gradually giving
the Lord Speaker the kind of authority granted to the Speaker of the Senate
under rule 18, or even the much more sweeping authority of a Speaker of the
House of Commons.
However, when we look more closely into the deliberations of the House of
Lords, we find some fairly clear indications that their decision to elect a
Speaker did not change their view of his role one iota. Let me quote from the
second report of the House of Lords' select committee on the speakership of the
house of July 12, 2005, at paragraph 14:
There is widespread concern that any change in the role currently performed
by the Lord Chancellor would be a "slippery slope" ending in a loss of
self-regulation. Instead of exercising self-restraint and old-fashioned
courtesy, Members might be tempted to stand their ground. This could
ultimately lead to a Commons type speakership which nobody wants, and is
wholly inconsistent with self-regulation.
They go further, at paragraph 18, in saying:
If the Lord on the Woolsack were permitted to assist the House in this
limited way, it is important that he should observe the same formalities as
any other Member of the House. He should always address the House as a whole,
and not any individual Member. He should never intervene when a Member is on
his feet. His function would be to assist, and not to rule.
I point this out merely to reassure honourable senators that an initiative
like the motion of Senator Joyal, which is now before us, may help us achieve
the goal expressed by Senator Oliver to reinforce the Speaker's position and to
better enable her or him to carry out her or his duties; but it does not have to
entail a change in the role, function or practice of our chair.
Honourable senators, Senator Joyal made the point in his remarks about this
motion that we need to look into the issue more closely. As I said near the
beginning of my remarks, I think that this motion has, on its face, merit and
that we ought to pass it. At the same time, the broader issue of the future of
the speakership of this place should be examined in a methodical way through the
kind of extensive committee study that was undertaken in the House of Lords.
Honourable senators, I want to thank Senator Joyal for putting this important
issue before us. I commend his motion to your careful attention, and I believe
that it merits our support as an important first step in the modernization of
the speakership of our house.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Are honourable
senators ready for the question?
Hon. Senators: Question!
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure,
honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Motion agreed to.
Leave having been given to revert to Other Business, Other, Inquiry No. 6:
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Mitchell calling
the attention of the Senate to the stated intention of the Canadian government
to weaken the Kyoto Protocol, and to dismantle 15 climate change programs,
including the One-Tonne Challenge and the EnerGuide program.—(Honourable
Hon. Tommy Banks: I did not realize that this item was on its
fifteenth day, and I know there are other senators who wish to speak on it.
Therefore, I am wondering if I could have permission of the house to have the
motion stand in my name until the next sitting of the Senate.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is leave granted,
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
On motion of Senator Banks, debate adjourned.
Hon. Marie-P. Poulin, pursuant to notice of March 27, 2007, moved:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights, in the spirit of
reflection and commemoration of International Women's Day and the 25th
anniversary of the patriation of the Constitution and its Canadian Charter of
Rights and Freedoms, be authorized:
(a) to examine and report on all issues related to female representation
in Parliament, including the barriers to the participation of women in
(b) to propose positive measures for electoral and other reforms that
(i) promote gender equity in Parliament, and
(ii) achieve an increase in the number of women in Parliament; and
(c) to consider the status of female representation in other legislative
assemblies for comparative purposes in formulating proposed measures; and
That the Committee present its report no later than June 29, 2007.
She said: Honourable senators, the road to gender equality in Canada has been
long and sometimes strewn with obstacles, and there is still a long way to go.
Although the women's suffrage movement of the early 20th century made it
possible for Canadian women to vote and even stand for election — the first time
being in the 1917 Alberta election — it was not until the historic Persons
case, over a decade later, that women achieved equality with men. Let us
remember this important little part of our history.
In 1921, women's right to vote was extended to federal elections, yet women
were not considered eligible for Senate appointments. A brave group of women
from the West, who came to be known as the Famous Five, were not intimidated by
a 1928 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that held that women were not persons and
therefore were not eligible to enter the upper chamber. In an appeal to the
Judicial Committee of England's Privy Council, this decision by the Supreme
Court of Canada was overturned in 1929. One year later, the first woman was
appointed to the Senate.
It is difficult to understand that at the beginning of the 21st century it
took a ruling by the highest court of appeal of the mother of Parliaments to
recognize women's basic humanity.
Less than 80 years ago, under the British North America Act, women were
considered "persons" when it came to sentences and punishment but not when it
came to rights and privileges.
The courage and intelligence of the Famous Five — Nellie McClung, Emily
Murphy, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Louise McKinney and Irene Parlby — opened the
door to political life for women in Canada, but full equality eluded them. In
fact, proportionally speaking, women are still under-represented today in
Honourable senators, in the spirit of these early reformers, I stand before
you today to propose measures to correct this imbalance in our country's
Over the years, great strides have been made in putting an end to widespread
discrimination and improving gender equality. However, equality before the law
has not proven sufficient to overcome de facto discrimination. We must do more.
We need new thinking and a new approach in order to encourage half the
population to give more thought to entering public life.
The time has come to make sweeping reforms and convince women to enter
politics in sufficient numbers to propel the best and brightest to influential
That is why, honourable senators, I would like to propose today that the
issue of female representation in Canada's Parliament be referred to the
Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights for consideration. The committee could
examine our electoral laws, political party financing, and the problems and
obstacles facing women when they seek election. It could then make
recommendations to correct the imbalance we have in Parliament.
Allow me to illustrate my point with statistics presented by the Expert Panel
on Accountability Mechanisms for Gender Equality. Although the figures may have
changed slightly since 2005, they provide a general idea of the situation.
First, women make up only 20.9 per cent of the members of the House of
Commons and 34.7 per cent of the members of the Senate. Second, in the
provinces' legislative assemblies, only 20.2 per cent of the members are women.
Third, women make up only 20.7 per cent of the federal deputy ministers and 25.8
per cent of the judges appointed by the federal government.
Recently, it was reported women accounted for only 14.4 per cent of corporate
officers positions and 11.2 per cent of board directors. Moreover, 7.1 per cent
hold the highest titles, and only 0.04 per cent of these corporations are headed
by a woman. In other words, less than 1 per cent of the companies in question
are led by women.
Canada prides itself on its equity and inclusiveness. However, Canada ranked
fiftieth out of 177 countries evaluated by the Inter-Parliamentary Union at the
end of last year, with respect to female representation in Parliament.
My proposal for a fresh look at female political representation in Canada
comes at a propitious time. This week we celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary
of a profound and historic milestone in Canadian history, patriation of our
Constitution and its inclusion of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The
significance of this occasion is not lost upon us, as I entreat you to give my
remarks your most careful consideration and, with your concurrence, to refer the
issue of women in politics to our Committee on Human Rights.
Throughout history women have struggled to be recognized as equals. Heaven be
praised that we live in a more enlightened era, one that is, however, darkened
by the continued subjugation of women in many parts of the world. This sharpens
the point that bold action is needed, even in our country, to shake off the
shackles that culturally, attitudinally and sometimes inadvertently put women in
a lesser role than men.
It was in 1946, 61 years ago, that the United Nations established the
Commission on the Status of Women. In 1995, the Beijing Platform for Action
identified inequality between men and women in positions of power and
decision-making. In 1997, the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of
All Forms of Discrimination Against Women was established with Canada as a
signatory. Moreover, it was through such dedicated groups as Canada's National
Action Committee on the Status of Women, the National Association of Women and
the Law, the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women and the Canadian
Council of Canadians with Disabilities that the original wording of section 15
in the draft of the Charter was expanded to provide a wider field of equality
Yet, despite long-standing and persistent efforts, the rate of women in
parliaments around the globe appears stuck — stuck at 16 per cent — in Canada,
at 20 per cent in the House of Commons and at 34 per cent in the Senate. A 30
per cent rate is considered necessary for critical mass, that is, the sufficient
number of women needed to begin seriously impacting the political scene. By the
end of 2005, only 18 countries had met the 30 per cent target.
Honourable colleagues, the Liberal Party of Canada, of which I am president,
is proud of it efforts to encourage more women to seek public office. The party
is actively engaged in seeking women to be candidates in at least 33 per cent of
the 308 seats in the House of Commons. My hope is that by implementing a
voluntary system, the Liberal Party of Canada will encourage other political
organizations across the board to adopt their own objectives.
Yes, honourable senators, the time has come for the Senate of Canada to raise
the issue of women in politics to a new level; to explore options, whatever they
may be, to increase female representation in Parliament, whether it be through a
system of proportional representation or two-member constituencies — one male,
one female — or attaching gender balance to the public funds available to
There are so many options. What method of reform would be most effective to
ensure a balance in the Parliament of Canada is unclear at this time. The
Charter of Rights and Freedoms gave each individual the same protection before
and under the law. However, it is well argued by those knowledgeable about
constitutional law and by organizations that strive for female equality that
those very laws create a "sameness" between men and women. This sameness
perpetuates the status quo. Rather than "formal rights," it is by now
recognized by equality groups that in order to achieve gender parity,
substantive rights are necessary if women are to achieve their potential as full
partners in Canadian society.
Much has been written on gender discrimination, and I will not dwell upon the
countless reports and studies that, at the end of the day, amount to the same
thing: Women are not equal partners in the affairs of our country.
Section 15 of the Charter is a significant vehicle for the promotion of
social, political and economic change through the legal system, yet the Charter
does not give authority to political parties or the government to impose
something beyond "formal rights" — that is, substantive rights that have
Honourable senators, I refer to an excellent paper by lawyer Melina Buckley,
who pointed out in her paper on substantive equality and Charter adjudication in
It is not enough to accept existing legal and social institutions as they
are and only work toward ensuring that opportunities within society are
equally available to all; the institutions themselves have to be transformed.
Substantive equality entails changes at all levels of society: individual
behaviour, perceptions and attitudes; ideas and ideology; community and
culture; institutions and institutional practices; and, deeper structures of
social and economic power.
In a similar vein, the expert panel on accountability mechanisms for gender
Today, the concept of equality acknowledges that different treatment of men
and women may sometimes be required to achieve comparable results given their
similarities and differences, and their varying histories, roles and life
Finally, I bring to you the words of former Justice Claire L'Heureux-Dubé who
said in 1999:
Unless the government implements positive programs to remove barriers to
equality, it will be signalling tolerance of discrimination and indifference
to the expectations of women. . . .
Now is an opportune moment to examine the prospects of women in politics by
referring this matter to our Human Rights Committee.
Honourable senators, I call upon your support. I thank you for your attention
and interest in a matter that affects not only half the Canadian population, but
also all future generations of our men and women.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): I wonder
whether the honourable senator would entertain a few questions.
This is a request for an order of reference to the Human Rights Committee.
Generally speaking, these requests are discussed at committees. There are a
number of advantages in doing this, obviously.
For example, if such requests for orders of reference are discussed at
committee, members tend to buy into the value of the study being proposed. It
establishes a list of priorities and provides every member of the committee a
chance to postpone their areas of interest in order to study this one.
In other words, the members themselves buy into what the committee should
currently be studying. Has this been discussed at the committee? Is the
honourable senator proposing this on behalf of the committee?
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I regret to inform
Senator Poulin that her 15 minutes have expired. Does she seek leave to
Senator Poulin: Yes, honourable senators, I would ask for five more
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is leave granted,
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Poulin: I would like to thank Senator Comeau for his question.
I am not a member of the Committee on Human Rights. I have had very informal
discussions with members of the committee. Many honourable senators would like
to know if we can improve the balance between men and women. I do not think that
this issue has been formally discussed at committee.
Senator Comeau: As a rule, out of courtesy, one should submit a
request for a study to the members of the committee. It is up to them to decide
if they are interested in studying the issue. Following discussions in
committee, the chair or deputy chair can state either that the members are
interested in conducting a study, or that they are not prepared to set aside
other studies they wish to undertake in favour of addressing the subject of such
a motion. This procedure avoids encroaching on the committee's authority to
decide which issues to study.
In other words, I am not talking about informally seeing if a couple of
friends will support this; but rather, a true proposal to the members of the
committee so they can discuss it. If they suggest that they will put away their
studies in order to take this on, that would be much better than bringing it
directly onto the floor where we must ask these kinds of questions immediately
and the members of the committee are put in an uncomfortable position.
I sit on a couple of committees, and when somebody brings an order of
reference to the floor of the Senate which has not yet been discussed at the
committee, I take offence to that, because the committee must now tackle an
order of reference when it had other work of higher priority.
As a courtesy, would it not be proper for the Human Rights Committee to look
at this and determine whether they will take the honourable senator's order of
reference on as well or give it a higher priority?
Senator Poulin: First, no offence was intended, as the honourable
senator can well imagine. It is the tradition of our chamber that when a motion
is tabled in the house, we take a bit of time to discuss it. People would like
to speak to the motion. That provides ample time for the committee to review.
In no way would it be the intention for this motion to circumvent any other
agenda item of the Human Rights Committee, which is doing excellent work for
Discussions of the motion in this chamber would provide time for the
committee to review, and I would respect the opinion of the committee.
Senator Comeau: Are we not putting the cart before the horse? Could we
not have had the committee look at this? In that way, the committee could tell
the chamber that this is a study it wants to undertake and that it considers it
to be of primary importance, rather than an honourable senator bringing forth an
order of reference that has been discussed with a few people. The honourable
senator does not even sit on the committee.
My suggestion would have been as a courtesy to the members of that committee.
I am not suggesting that any member does not have a right to bring an order of
reference; anybody can do that, but it is a common courtesy.
Our committees work very well. I have often heard that our committees are
seen as the crown jewel of the Senate. The reason they work well is because
collegiality, consensus and compromise exist. Sometimes members of those
committees must put away their areas of interest.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: The five minutes are
up. Is there a final answer?
Senator Poulin: I thank Senator Comeau for his comments. Many of us
have been here for many years. Both approaches have been used to table a motion,
and I am very respectful of both.
As I said to honourable senators, no discourtesy was intended in any way
towards my colleagues who sit on the committee, which I authentically respect.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Poulin's time
Would you like to speak, Senator Dallaire?
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: I rise on a point of order. The Deputy
Leader of the Government is speaking to more than just the honourable senator's
motion. I am wondering whether it is appropriate to discuss that at this time.
There is provision for a senator to put forth a motion in this way.
The motion could be adopted and the order of reference given to the
committee. We could impose a time frame of one or two years, perhaps.
That would still be due process, unless I do not understand it. I understand
that the honourable senator does not want his budgets and plans to be thrown
completely off balance.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Does Senator Comeau
wish to speak on Senator Dallaire's point of order?
Senator Comeau: Honourable senators, this is not a point of order;
rather this is Senator Dallaire's opinion, which could well raise some
discussion. I never suggested that Senator Poulin could not talk about an order
of reference in the chamber, but I would like to clarify that Senator Dallaire's
opinion is not a point of order.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, I
agree with Senator Comeau that this really is an opinion, and I hope that both
leaders will take that into consideration.
On motion of Senator Tardif, debate adjourned.
The Senate adjourned until Tuesday, April 24, 2007, at 2 p.m.