Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 17
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
The Senate met at 2 p.m., the Speaker in the Chair.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your
attention to the presence in the gallery of our former colleague, a
distinguished member of Her Majesty's Privy Council, the Honourable William
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have received a notice
earlier today from the Leader of the Opposition to request, pursuant to rule
22(10), that the time provided for the consideration of Senators' Statements be
extended today for the purpose of paying tribute to the Honourable Senator Bill
Rompkey, P.C., who retired from the Senate on May 13, 2011.
I remind senators that pursuant to our rules, each senator will be allowed
only three minutes and may speak only once.
However, is it agreed that we continue our tribute to Senator Rompkey under
Senators' Statements? We will therefore have 30 minutes, and any time remaining
after tributes will be used for other statements.
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I
rise today to pay tribute to Senator Bill Rompkey, who retired from this chamber
on May 13. Senator Rompkey was born in Belleoram, a small community on Fortune
Bay in Newfoundland. It is sometimes said that where we are born and raised gets
into our souls — it shapes us and grounds us, so that no matter how far we
travel, we are always of that place. That is certainly true of Bill Rompkey.
Anyone who meets Bill cannot be help but be struck by his deep love of
Newfoundland and Labrador, his passion for its history, its traditions, its
people, its land and, above all, the future of his beloved Newfoundland and
Labrador. It is deep in his core.
Equally deeply ingrained is the desire to help others, to serve the people
around him and to serve his country. We in the Senate have observed Senator
Rompkey's devotion to the men and women of our Armed Forces. He, himself, served
in the Royal Canadian Navy for close to a decade. In 2009, he received the Naval
League of Canada's Robert I. Hendy Award for his contributions to the Navy
League and to maritime affairs.
When he was not off serving his country in the naval reserve, he was teaching
in Labrador. We who have enjoyed his speeches here will not be surprised that
the subject of choice was English. He became principal of Yale Amalgamated
School in Labrador and then was named the First Superintendent of Education with
the Labrador East Integrated School Board, a position he held until he entered
He first ran in the 1972 federal election in the riding then known as Grand
Falls—White Bay—Labrador. He won that election and every election thereafter
until he came to the Senate in 1995. Seven undefeated elections over more than
20 years — that is a quite a feat.
In that time, he held a number of important portfolios, including Minister of
National Revenue, Minister of State for Transport, Minister of State for Mines,
Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism, Parliamentary Secretary to the
Minister of Manpower and Immigration, and Parliamentary Secretary to the
Minister of the Environment.
During the years of the Mulroney government, he held that government to
account with numerous critic responsibilities, ranging from National Defence to
Science and Technology to Consumer and Corporate Affairs.
The breadth and depth of his experience and knowledge is truly amazing.
Of course, upon coming to this chamber, he chaired a number of committees and
served diligently on even more. He held leadership roles in his positions as
Government Whip and as Deputy Leader of the Government.
Throughout his nearly 40 years in Parliament, Senator Rompkey demonstrated
that politics truly can be a high calling, a way to serve Canadians, to help
with problems, big and small, and he did so as a gentleman, with integrity,
wisdom and always tremendous kindness.
The tasks he took on were by no means easy ones. He never shied away from
difficult issues but always stayed true to his commitment to do the best for the
people of his province and his country. He succeeded.
A recent example was the 2009 Coast Guard plan to remove the lightkeepers
from lighthouses in Newfoundland and Labrador and British Columbia. Senator
Rompkey, as chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, took
the committee out to see the lighthouses and meet the people who used and
depended upon them for their safety and security at sea. They travelled by road
and by helicopter to hear directly from the Canadians affected. They then
presented the government with a series of recommendations, notably that the
lighthouses remain staffed by lightkeepers. The government, in what may have
been an unprecedented move, accepted every one of the committee's
A few years ago, I had the good fortune to travel to Labrador with Senator
Rompkey as part of a trip by the Fisheries Committee. I was struck by the strong
bond between Bill and the people we met, a bond forged by his lifetime of
service to that magnificent part of our country.
Honourable senators, even while Senator Rompkey has worked so hard here, he
somehow managed to write several books. These have included books on military
history, a book of war letters and other writings about his beloved province.
I first met Bill — although he will not remember it — some 30 years ago when
he was a member of the other place. Our first meeting was the kind that would
either give rise to a lifelong friendship or kill any chance of cordial
relations altogether. He put me through the classic Newfoundland
"screeching-in" ceremony, and I am relieved to report that I passed and,
indeed, he and I have become close friends.
I cannot end without mentioning one other part about Bill's life that no
doubt marks him even more strongly as a Newfoundlander and Labradorian, and that
is his love of making music. Many of us have had the pleasure of gathering
around the piano while he played songs for all to sing, regardless of the level
or lack of our own singing abilities. Music is joy to him, a joy he has always
Honourable senators, I will deeply miss Senator Rompkey in this place, his
quiet manner, his sparkling sense of humour and his wise counsel.
I will end with a quote that I found on his publisher's website from a series
of questions and answers they once put to him. He wrote:
Life is not a destination but a journey, and it is not a dress rehearsal;
there is just one performance, so make the most of it and do what you want
but do it well.
Bill, Shelagh and I wish you and Carolyn and your children and grandchildren
many happy years in the next stage of your journey together. I know you will
take your own advice and make the most of it, doing what you want to do but
doing it very well.
Hon. Ethel Cochrane: Honourable senators, I rise today to say a few
words about a dear friend who recently took his leave from this place, after a
remarkable 40 years of service on the Hill.
As Senator Cowan has stated, Senator Rompkey held many prominent roles over
the years and contributed to and authored many wonderful books that speak to the
rich history of our province.
The list of his accomplishments is great, but I think it all comes down to
one thing: Bill is a remarkable human being. He is supremely talented, deeply
patient and considerate. He is generous of spirit, and he is kind of heart. He
treats people with dignity and respect, and listens to them, giving his full
attention. It is a rare politician who truly listens, as Bill knows, and I think
that simple characteristic was perhaps the secret of his phenomenal success.
Beyond the seriousness of politics and public service, he also has a great
passion — and, of course, beautiful talent — for music. I could sit and listen
to him sing and play the piano for hours. I recall one particularly gruelling
committee trip, sitting with him at the piano at the hotel, singing along to the
old-time music. While it was a way to fill some time before the next stop on our
heavy agenda, it was also a priceless moment of pure fun. It lifted the spirits
of all of us on that trip, and it boosted our energy so that we could go forward
with a spring in our steps.
As you take your well-earned leave of this place, Bill, I recall the words of
Vera Lynn's classic wartime hit, "We'll Meet Again":
We'll meet again, Don't know where, don't know when. But I know we'll
meet again, some sunny day.
Bill, it has been a sincere honour to serve with you over the years, and I
have truly valued your steady friendship, your open mind and your endless
patience. Of course, as they say, behind every great man is a great woman and,
Bill, I know that is certainly true in your case. I take this opportunity to
wish you and Carolyn, together with your children and your grandchildren, many
healthy and wonderfully happy years ahead.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, given that Senator Rompkey
has been such a strong supporter of parliamentary diplomacy, it is rather
fortuitous that I am able at this time to draw your attention to the presence in
the gallery of the Honourable Kenneth Marende, Speaker of the National Assembly
of the Republic of Kenya, together with a delegation from that assembly.
On behalf of all senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Sharon Carstairs: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak of
someone who was born as a Newfoundlander and chose to become a Canadian; a
husband; a father; a grandfather; a teacher; a sailor; a member of Parliament; a
cabinet minister; a senator; a government whip of the Senate; the Chair of the
Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans; the Chair of the Standing
Committee on Internal Economy; the author of numerous books and articles; the
writer of ditties — about which I will say a bit more — a singer; a pianist; and
a tea drinker. This is Bill Rompkey in one sentence, a bad one, but nonetheless
a sentence, though it does not do full justice to him who, as my colleague has
said, is a very special human being.
I knew Bill peripherally as one does members of the other place, but it was
only when he came to this place that I learned the full measure of the man.
When I became the Leader of the Government in the Senate, the Right
Honourable Jean Chrétien asked me whom I would like to have as my whip. Without
hesitation, I replied, "Bill Rompkey." I wanted him because I knew of his
dedication to making politics work with respect and dignity. I also knew that
Senator Rompkey was well respected by his colleagues and that they would be
hard-pressed not to do as he asked. I was also aware that he would bring with
him Janice Marshall, who had been an integral part of his office both here and
in the other place, and she, too, was equally dedicated.
It was through the hard work of Bill Rompkey that our pay and benefit
packages were improved in the late 1990s. This is not widely known because
others were more vociferous about it, but it was Bill working with the PMO that
made it happen.
Apparently, Bill recently told the story of losing a vote soon after he
became whip and, reportedly, I glared at him, and he then said that he never
lost another. As Bill and I were both high school teachers, he knew what that
teacher glare was all about.
There are many Liberal senators present who will recall the dinners we had
for retiring Liberal senators on their departures. The highlight of each and
every one of these events was the songs Bill would compose in their honour and
which many of us would be delegated to sing.
As good, of course, were the desserts, which Carolyn always brought along.
Bill and Carolyn have been a true partnership throughout all aspects of
Bill's career; you simply do not get one without the other. John and I are very
privileged to call them both friends.
Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, Senator Bill Rompkey's
contribution to this country is, of course, manifold.
In tribute to him today I have chosen to shape my remarks almost solely
around his contribution to the Senate study on the preservation and use of those
great and guiding beacons, Canada's lighthouses and their lightkeepers. As chair
of the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, Bill was determined to
get at the heart of these issues. He described the importance of hearing from
people whose lives are associated with lighthouses in this way:
If we don't see people in situations where they are, we really can't
understand thoroughly what their life is all about and what their area is
Throughout their history on our shores, lighthouses have assumed a distinct
place in the hearts and memories of countless Canadians. They symbolize safe
passage and are entrenched in our nation's heritage. My great-great-uncle James
Munson was a master mariner who, after surviving a wreck off the coast of New
England, became a lightkeeper in Cape Enrage, New Brunswick, in the 1850s.
In the 1990s, three generations later, I worked as a reporter on a
documentary about Machias Seal Island, a 15-acre island off the coast of the Bay
of Fundy. It is the last disputed territory — it is still disputed — near Grand
Manan between Canada and the United States. It is also where Canada's first
lighthouse was built in 1832.
Bill has often referred to the role of lighthouses and their place in
communities. On this tiny island I probed into exactly that, the connection
between people and lighthouses, and know that it is real and worth
Bill is wise, kind and attentive to people. He never bears a grudge. This is
quite an exceptional feat, particularly for someone who has enjoyed such a long
career on Parliament Hill. These are among the best of human qualities. We are
drawn to them and seek them out.
I first met Bill when I was a young reporter in the 1970s. He had just left
provincial politics and was a new federal member of Parliament. Eventually, as
has been said, he would become a member of Mr. Trudeau's cabinet.
Bill has served Canadians well. So, too, has his commitment benefited the
Liberal caucus, and not just during the heyday of the Liberal Party.
Following the 1984 election, when the Liberal seat count dropped from 135 to
40, Bill stood strong and kept Liberals hopeful and engaged. He repeated that
message of hope this year, shortly after the May 2 election. It was a message
Liberals needed to hear.
Here in the Senate, Bill has also been a beacon. His actions and approach
consistently demonstrate that as long as we maintain respect and compassion for
others, what matters to them and why, we are moving in the right direction.
I want to thank you, Bill, and your wife. I want to thank Bill for being the
lightkeeper on this hill. You have been an excellent colleague and will always
be a close friend. I look forward to hearing about the great things you will do
in the future.
Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson: Honourable senators, being a relative
newcomer to this venerable chamber, it has not often been possible for me to
participate in tributes to departing colleagues, having known them for less time
or less well than others.
However, I am eager to join the tributes to Senator Rompkey today because he
has been a mentor, an inspiration and a good friend. It was as a new member of
the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans that I met and worked with
Bill in his last year or so in the Senate. Having worked closely with him as his
deputy chair, I want to tell you all today what a great privilege and pleasure
First, under Bill's able chairing, the committee has done superb work,
especially on the Arctic and its promise for Canada, including two reports. One
was on fisheries in Canada's waters, which have great promise in Nunavut and the
Western Arctic, and the other was Controlling Canada's Arctic Waters:
Role of the Canadian Coast Guard.
The Arctic is a special, unique and cherished part of this great country and
indeed is a crucial factor in the very identity of Canada. I consider Senator
Rompkey to be an Arctic man, and I say that as compliment. Some would say that
the Arctic is defined as north of 60, but I believe that Labrador and Nunavik
are an integral part of the Arctic. People of these regions share the same
coast, the same challenges of remoteness, climate and, in the Inuit people, the
same cultural and linguistic heritage.
It is sad that provincial boundaries have sometimes worked against the bonds
that Arctic people share in Labrador, Northern Quebec and Nunavut. They have
prevented people with common challenges and a common history and culture from
interacting and supporting one another. However, men of vision see beyond these
artificial barriers, and Bill Rompkey is such a man. As he stated on his Senate
The Inuit of northern Labrador are the most southern Inuit in the world,
but they are brothers and sisters to the Inuit of Nunavut, Nunavik and
His passion for the Arctic is reflected in the good work of the Standing
Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, both before and during my time on the
committee. The committee's reports all stand as enduring testimony to Bill
Rompkey's love of the Arctic and his keen understanding that the Arctic
significantly defines our Canadian identity and, moreover, that it is in
enlightened northern policies and strategies that our future as a great nation
and a presence in the world lies. Bill Rompkey is a northerner and an Arctic
man, and I greatly respect and salute him for that.
I want to pay tribute also to the spirit with which Bill Rompkey chaired our
committee. While at times we encountered government policies that were
short-sighted, if not wrong, under Bill Rompkey's leadership we never went down
the path, in public or in private, of laying the blame on Conservative or
Liberal policies or ministers. It was the government of the day we focused on,
not its partisan character.
The truth is that bad government policies are often carried over from one
partisan administration to the next. The party is often not the source of the
shortcomings; it is simply bad policy sustained by inflexible bureaucracies. In
my experience working with Senator Rompkey as chair of our committee, we never
wasted any time on the blame game sometimes played here in Ottawa. This is
greatly valued and cherished. This is how our committees do our best work.
The results are clear for all to see. One of the key recommendations in our
committee's report on the Coast Guard was that, while Canada's sovereignty in
the Arctic based on our occupancy and geography is clear, the key question is
control of shipping in the Northwest Passage, especially with climate change and
mineral development leading to increased shipping. The report pointed out that,
while ships entering Canadian waters on the Atlantic and Pacific must report at
check points with safety and security information, there was then no similar
mandatory reporting in the Arctic. The committee report came out in December. By
the following summer our government had acted to make NORDREG mandatory.
Then there was our Senate report Seeing the Light: Report on
Staffed Lighthouses in Newfoundland and Labrador and British Columbia, which
was first adopted by the Senate, with a response requested from the government,
on March 21, 2011. Two days later, on March 23, the report's key recommendation
that de-staffing of lighthouses be halted on the east and west coasts was
accepted and announced by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Two days
later: That must be some kind of record for influence and action for a Senate
Hon. Pierre De Bané: Honourable senators, I would like to join my
colleagues in paying tribute to Senator Rompkey.
How can I sum up a parliamentary career that spans more than 38 years,
including 22 in the House of Commons and 16 in the Senate? How, in just a few
words, can I describe a man who was a member of Parliament, a parliamentary
secretary, a minister, a senator, a government whip and a member of more than 20
Senate committees, 20 House committees and four joint committees? And that is
only his parliamentary career. Senator Rompkey was a teacher, a principal, the
first superintendent of education with the Labrador East Integrated School
Board, an author and a lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Navy. If I were to list
all of his great achievements, I would certainly run out of time.
The senator has deep roots in Newfoundland and Labrador.
I had the honour of serving with Bill Rompkey in cabinet, and he was also the
minister responsible for Newfoundland. When he spoke about the people of his
province and constituency, no one could be insensitive to the passion that he
put into representing them.
When I had the honour to co-chair the Special Joint Committee on Canada's
Defence Policy with the Honourable Senator Rompkey while he was in the House of
Commons and I in the Senate, I learned so much about defence and how he felt so
deeply about our forces, in which he had served.
I could talk on and on, but I would like to say that Senator Rompkey has
particularly impressed me in terms of how he related to the constituents he
served. It so happened that in those days I served as Minister of Regional
Economic Expansion, which dealt very much with Newfoundland, and he was so
Senator Rompkey, I want to tell you how much you moved me. You had a profound
impact on me. Thank you so much for your dedication to our country, which you
have chosen, and on behalf of the people of Newfoundland, whom you served with
all your passion.
Hon. Fabian Manning: Honourable senators, it is indeed a privilege for
me today to be given the opportunity to say a few words as we bid adieu to our
colleague and friend Senator William Hubert Rompkey, better known as "Bill,"
as he retires from the Senate of Canada.
As a faithful follower of politics, especially in our home province of
Newfoundland and Labrador, I have witnessed the long and fruitful career of
Senator Rompkey. He has been around the political arena for quite a while, first
elected as a member of Parliament for Grand Falls—White Bay—Labrador, in 1972.
As a note, I was 8 years of age at the time of Senator Rompkey's first election.
He was re-elected four times and, beginning in 1980, held the cabinet
portfolios of National Revenue, Small Business and Tourism, Mines and Transport.
Senator Rompkey was appointed to the Senate of Canada in 1995, representing
For those of you who may not be aware, the people of our province refer to
the region of Labrador as "The Big Land." With its abundance of rich natural
resources, Labrador is a place of exceptional beauty and bountiful harvest, and
it provides a place of great opportunity. As with all opportunities, they are
usually accompanied by some powerful challenges, and I believe that dealing with
the challenges that we have to face always brings out the true essence of a
Member of Parliament Rompkey, or Senator Rompkey, showed us time and time
again that he would face those challenges head-on for the people of Labrador.
Whether it was reaping the benefits of the development of the area's natural
resources, or addressing the environmental issues that accompany any such
development, or being involved in the construction and promotion of the
Trans-Labrador Highway, or his service to the School of Music at Memorial
University, or witnessing the struggles of the people living in a sparsely
populated northern region of the country, or dealing with important issues
concerning the Aboriginal people of Labrador, or addressing the concerns of
thousands of individual constituents, Senator Rompkey became well known for his
hard work, determination, pride and passion on behalf of the people of
Newfoundland and, especially, Labrador.
My sister, Mary, who passed away at the age of 48 in June of 2000 from breast
cancer, called Happy Valley-Goose Bay Labrador her home for 27 years. Many times
I heard her comment in a very positive way about Bill Rompkey — "a true
gentleman," she often said, and may I add that she always stressed the "gentle" part.
I believe I can honestly say that I echo the beliefs of many of the people of
my province when I say that we are better off today in many ways because of the
four decades of representation that Bill Rompkey has provided us.
When I arrived in the Senate, Senator Rompkey was one of the first to welcome
me here and I have had the privilege to work closely with him as a member of the
Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, on which he served as chair
for many years.
Through my experience on the Fisheries and Oceans Committee, I witnessed
first-hand the passion of Senator Rompkey that I mentioned earlier. There was
never any rush to just get the job done. His main focus was to ensure that the
job was done right, and may I happily add that he was a fair man in his role as
Later this week, I will have the opportunity to present to the chamber a
final report of the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, dealing
with staffing of lighthouses in Canada. It was under his guidance that the
committee produced this in-depth report. I am most proud to be following in
Senator Rompkey's footsteps as Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on
Fisheries and Oceans.
Friends, Senator Bill Rompkey has served our province, and indeed this great
country of Canada, extremely well for 40 years. He has left his mark, from the
small community of Belleoram in Newfoundland, to North West River in Labrador,
and most certainly in the halls of power here in Ottawa.
Upon receiving an honorary degree in the year 2000 from Memorial University
of Newfoundland and Labrador, where he had received an education degree 43 years
earlier, in 1957, Senator Rompkey remarked about the Island of Newfoundland and
the Big Land of Labrador. He said, "There is more that unites us than divides
us." How true that statement surely is. Today, here in the Senate of Canada,
which can be very divisive at times, we on both sides stand united in saying
thank you to Senator Bill Rompkey for his years of service to Newfoundland and
Labrador and to Canada.
We wish you and your lovely wife Carolyn, and your family, all the best in
the future, which I hope will always be as bright as the Northern Lights of
Hon. Rose-Marie Losier-Cool: Honourable senators, I would also like to
say goodbye to a dear friend and respected colleague, our beloved Senator
Rompkey. As so many honourable senators have pointed out, during his long
political career from 1972 to 2011, Bill Rompkey always worked tirelessly for
the people he represented and for his beautiful region. He always did so with a
smile, for he is cheerful and courteous, two qualities that are increasingly
rare in politics.
I am particularly reminded of the two very rewarding years I spent as a
member of our government leadership from 2004 to 2006. Senator Rompkey was our
deputy leader, Senator Jack Austin was our leader, and I was the government
A perfect ménage à trois, you might say!
So well-tuned, so smooth, so successful. It was in no small part thanks to
Senator Rompkey that Senate business unfolded so well in those days, and I am
grateful for having been a part of that memorable team and having been a part of
I would also like to congratulate Senator Rompkey on having been a member of
the best profession there is before he entered politics, for, like me, he was
once a teacher. That profession probably allowed him to have a lifelong
influence on many lives and in a way that was much easier than in politics.
My dear friend Bill, please know that we miss you a great deal already. And I
hope the magnificent scenery of your beloved province will not make you forget
us too quickly.
As they say so well in Newfoundland and Labrador: Enjoy. Enjoy good health
and happiness for many, many years.
Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, on behalf of the men and women
who wear the dark blue of the Royal Canadian Navy, I simply want to say a word
in tribute to the tremendous work on behalf of the navy — in this place, in
committee and across the country — that Senator Rompkey has contributed in a
selfless, devoted, always humorous and determined fashion. While the government
deserves the credit for the changes that were made so that our naval services do
not sound in their official nomenclature like a small Nova Scotian insurance
company but actually as what they were and have become, the Royal Canadian Navy,
that process was begun when Senator Rompkey, in a modest conspiracy across the
floor, decided to introduce a motion that would allow the insertion of the word
"Canadian" into the naval official nomenclature to become part of the
discussions before the committee so ably chaired by Senator Wallin.
Today, as the proud men and women of our naval forces around the world now
understand the respect in which they are held by this place, by the government
and by all parties, no one but our retiring friend deserves more credit for
that. It would be a mistake if we did not point that out on this important day.
I am certain that retirement does not mean that he will stand down in the
military sense. I know that his wife has reminded him on several occasions that
"love, honour and obey" does not include lunch. He will have to be out of the
house every day, and in those hours of service I know this country will benefit
from him for many years to come. God bless.
Hon. David P. Smith: Honourable senators, I rise to pay tribute to
Senator Rompkey. I have been honoured to serve with Bill in both Houses of
Parliament: in the House of Commons, going back more than 30 years; also in the
cabinet of Pierre Trudeau; and in the Senate for the last nine years.
Bill is a gentleman, truly. There are a few left; some are even here. I will
not say how many, but whatever the number, there will be one less because of
your departure, Bill.
You have been a good and effective parliamentarian in every sense — in the
Commons, in the cabinet, in caucus, in the Senate, and in making democracy work
in general. You are also an educator, a scholar, an academic and an accomplished
author. You are warm; you are friendly; you smile great smiles and they are
With regard to your writing skills, I actually read your book on Labrador,
not because I had insomnia but because I like history, especially Canadian
history. It was a great book.
Given your interest in lighthouses, I was flirting with the idea of singing
to you that old gospel song, "I thank God for the lighthouse," but I will
Bill, you are already missed. You are a role model for both current and
future parliamentarians. I wish you, Carolyn and all of your family all the best
in the next chapters of your life. I hope you will write quite a few chapters,
and I am sure they will be some good, my son.
Hon. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators, it is very hard to speak in
tribute to one of the most eloquent speakers who has graced this chamber.
Senator Rompkey's voice and the lyricism with which he could evoke those
subjects that mattered to him will not soon be forgotten; nor will we forget, as
so many have said, the songs he had us sing. "The Singing Senators," with our
aging, quavery, creaky, out-of-key voices nonetheless welded into a group that,
thanks to Senator Rompkey, had a wonderful time singing.
We shall not forget his kindness or that wonderful smile. No matter how bleak
the occasion, he could muster up a smile. On the very, very bleakest, he would
smile perhaps a slightly smaller smile and say, "Are we having fun yet?" That
was as close as he would ever get to conveying anything other than joy at being
here with us.
He also conveyed passion — passion for the people, the history and the land
of Newfoundland and Labrador; and passion for the military people and their
I thought a lot about you in June this summer, Senator Rompkey, when I was
with a delegation to mark the ninety-fifth anniversary of the Battle of the
Somme. On July 1, we were at Beaumont-Hamel and we wept. A couple of days later
we were at Gueudecourt, where the replenished Royal Newfoundland Regiment, just
three months after Beaumont-Hamel, had scored spectacular success, and we sort
of wept again; but then all the people in that delegation who were
Newfoundlanders spontaneously gathered and sang the Ode to Newfoundland.
I thought about you because you would have been so proud of them. They were the
people you have represented here — military people, civilian people, passionate
people who believed in their country, worked for their country, faced danger for
their country and sang for their country. You did all those things, and you
brought us joy as you did.
Then, of course, there is the wonderful woman that my husband refers to as
Madam Rompkey. I do not know how many times I have heard him say: "Oh, there is
a spouse's event.
Will Madam Rompkey be there? Because I will definitely go if she is there!"
She is a wonderful woman. She has a wonderful husband. We are so grateful
that we have had the chance to know you.
Hon. Elizabeth Hubley: Honourable senators, today we pay tribute to a
senator who was known throughout his career not only for his vast knowledge and
leadership abilities, but also for his genuine warmth and friendship. It has
been a great pleasure for me to have known and worked with Senator Bill Rompkey
over the past 10 years. I am delighted to rise today to offer him my
appreciation and best wishes.
Senator Rompkey and I served together on the Standing Senate Committee on
Fisheries and Oceans, and it was here that I really came to know and deeply
respect him. As chair of the committee, Senator Rompkey had a reputation for
expertise and enthusiasm. I was always impressed with his ability to ask the
right questions of the right people. He had a profound understanding of the
issues, which I think came out of his connection to his home province of
Newfoundland and Labrador.
The fact that Senator Rompkey never forgot where he came from and always
represented his home with pride and dedication is, perhaps, indicative of his
long and successful career in Ottawa. Senator Rompkey wrote two books about
Labrador and was a tireless champion for the region's people, resources and
Senator Rompkey's welcoming and open personality meant that he was often
approached to participate in charitable events. I have always appreciated his
contribution to the Canadian Landmine Foundation and fundraising to eradicate
land mines, but more than anything I was grateful for his involvement in our
group, "The Singing Senators." It was thanks to Senator Rompkey and his
wonderful voice that we were invited to sing on more than one occasion.
Senator Rompkey, I wish you, Carolyn and your family all the best in your
retirement. Good luck.
Hon. Marie-P. Poulin: Honourable senators, it seems like only
yesterday that the Honourable Bill Rompkey and I were sworn in as senators on
September 21, 1995. Along with two others in that cohort of four, we dubbed
ourselves as the Class of '95, although there had been two other appointments
earlier that year.
That September cohort has all but graduated — Doris Anderson, Lorna Milne and
now Bill Rompkey. By default, I am the only survivor. I am glad to say that it
is age and not ability that is holding me back.
I look back at the Class of '95 with affection and on Bill Rompkey in
particular. We not only became close workmates but fast friends. From the
beginning of our association in the Senate, I recognized in Bill what every
speaker is noting today: warmth and gentleness that is matched by humour,
intelligence and knowledge.
Yes, what I saw in Bill as early as 1995 was a man committed to public
service, with the emphasis on service.
Bill, you dedicated your life to Newfoundland and Labrador, its people, its
places, and its issues. We saw the enthusiasm with which you served the people
as a parliamentarian here in the Senate, as a member in the other place and as a
minister. We witnessed the astuteness with which you fought for the issues that
your people cared about. We read the books that you wrote telling readers about
the places you love in Newfoundland and Labrador.
I also discovered the respect and admiration your former students still have
for you. Some moved on to become Rhodes Scholars, and others are well respected
Many of us have had the pleasure of listening to you play the piano, Bill,
and when that happens all we want to do is sing and dance.
That is actually what the Honourable Bill Rompkey has been doing for the past
50 years. He makes people feel good about who they are.
Honourable senators, we are losing more than a colleague in this chamber of
sober second thought. We are saying "well done" to a rare renaissance man, a
Canadian from Newfoundland and Labrador who has demonstrated the courage of his
May you and Carolyn enjoy your next projects, Bill. Permit me, as the last
member of the Class of September '95, to congratulate you as you graduate from
this institution summa cum laude. Good luck, dear friend.
Hon. Michael Duffy: Honourable senators, we have heard a catalogue of
the excellent attributes that Senator Rompkey possesses, and I want to associate
myself with all of those, as does my colleague Senator MacDonald from Cape
Breton, who is terribly shy and retiring today, which is a bit unusual.
Back in 1972, I arrived on Parliament Hill at the same time as the class of
that fall election in 1972, along with Senator Munson. We were all green as
grass and we all had a lot to learn. The Senator Bill Rompkey whom we see in the
gallery today is the same young man — generous, interested in others, giving,
caring and marked for greatness.
We will miss you here. I salute you going all the way back to 1972, my
friend. You are a true, great Canadian.
Hon. Pierrette Ringuette: Honourable senators, I would like to join
all the senators who have paid such wonderful tributes today to a remarkable man
from Atlantic Canada.
I met Bill when I arrived on Parliament Hill in 1993. He was a member of the
Atlantic caucus, and he was already showing how he could bring people together,
muster efforts and achieve results.
A little later, upon my arrival in the Senate, I saw Bill in a different
light. And I believe that each one of us today who has spoken about our
colleague would say that there is one word that sums up Bill: harmony — harmony
on committees, harmony in this chamber and, on a personal note, the harmony of
an extraordinary voice.
Bill, the Singing Senators will not have an act anymore, because your harmony
will be missing. We will miss you dearly. I hope that you will have a happy
retirement with your lovely wife, your children and grandchildren. I hope that
you will stay active to defend the causes that you have always espoused as a
true Canadian. Thank you, Bill.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table,
in both official languages, the October 2011 report of the Commissioner of the
Environment and Sustainable Development of Canada, in accordance with subsection
23(5) of the Auditor General Act.
Hon. Claude Carignan: Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate, I
That, if the sitting of the Senate is suspended today pursuant to rule
7(2), committees scheduled to meet today be authorized to meet from the time
of the suspension and for the remainder of the day even though the Senate
may then be sitting, with the application of rule 95(4) being suspended in
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, is leave granted?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to
adopt the motion?
(Motion agreed to.)
Hon. Dennis Dawson: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the
next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That the Senate agree that suicide is more than a personal tragedy, but
is also a serious public health issue and public policy priority; and,
further, that the Senate urge the government to work cooperatively with the
provinces, territories, representative organizations from First Nations,
Inuit, and Métis people, and other stakeholders to establish and fund a
National Suicide Prevention Strategy, which among other measures would
promote a comprehensive and evidence-driven approach to deal with this
terrible loss of life.
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators,
my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It is prompted by
the question she was surprised by yesterday from Senator Tkachuk with respect to
Yesterday the leader said that the response rate to the National Household
Survey this year was 69.3 per cent. She said that this response was better than
that achieved in 2006 with the mandatory long-form census.
To clarify the record, according to Statistics Canada, the response rate to
the 2006 Census was 94 per cent. That is a lot better than 69.3 per cent.
The government may have surveyed many more homes and received more forms, but
we are looking at a significantly lower response rate. Any statistician would
say that it is the response rate that is critical.
Apparently, even the 69.3 per cent, low as it is, is not accurate either.
According to a Canadian Press article of July 7, census workers were instructed
to accept National Household Surveys with as few as 10 of 84 questions answered.
Can the leader provide us with information as to how many of those of the 69.3
per cent fully completed the National Household Survey?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
the figure that I quoted yesterday of 69.3 per cent on the voluntary long-form
census is correct, and the number of households responding was significantly
higher than that on the mandatory long-form census. I believe the statistics
Senator Cowan refers to relate to the mandatory census form. The numbers this
year were extremely high, as they were in previous mandatory short-form census
Senator Cowan: The leader will understand why I perhaps prefer the
opinion of the national statistician on this, rather than her own view. The
report was that it was 94 per cent in 2006. The figure the leader used yesterday
was 69.3 per cent.
Perhaps the leader would take the question under advisement, clarify those
figures and report to the Senate. Let us assume that 69.3 per cent is correct.
Can the leader provide a breakdown of that response rate by specific questions?
If 100 per cent of the respondents counted in the 69.3 per cent sent in fully
completed surveys, then indeed there was a 69.3 per cent response rate. However,
if everyone who was counted in that 69.3 per cent completed 10 questions out of
84, then the real response rate is not 69 per cent but something under 10 per
The reality, I suspect, would be that it is somewhere in between 69.3 per
cent and 10 per cent. Parliamentarians and Canadians will have to rely on this
data for decisions they make with respect to the location of hospitals and
schools and the allocation of all kinds of scarce resources, not just by the
federal government but also by others levels of government and nongovernmental
organizations. They need to know precisely how accurate this data is.
That is the reason why I ask if the leader will obtain, from the government
and the agencies involved, the breakdown of the 69.3 per cent, so that we can
see how many questions were answered and so that Canadians can be assured that
the data they are asked to rely on is accurate. Your government has assured us
that it will be at least as accurate as before and, perhaps, more reliable.
Canadians need to have this information and to understand the nature of it.
Will the Leader of the Government provide an undertaking to this house to
obtain and table that information?
Senator LeBreton: Canadians are law-abiding citizens. They know the
short-form census is mandatory. They abided by the law and filled it out. The
response rate was in the 90 per cent range.
Yesterday, in my answer to Senator Tkachuk, I was referring to the now
voluntary long-form census. I think it was reported that Canadians can give
themselves a pat on the back for their very high response rate to the long-form
census, 69.3 per cent. It was not mandatory.
Last year we witnessed all the hysteria about the government respecting the
privacy of Canadians. The suggestion that Statistics Canada officials were
instructed to accept the long-form only if whatever number of questions were
answered was part of that hysteria. All I can say is that StatsCan has said —
and this is not the government talking — that the National Household Survey will
yield useful and usable data that will meet the needs of users of this
Senator Cowan: I am not complaining about the people who completed the
survey. What I am complaining about, and what I complained about last year, was
the suggestion made by us and many experts that this information would not be as
reliable as the information obtained under the mandatory survey. The government
assured honourable senators that more Canadians would complete this survey now
than when they were required to do it. The fact is, 94 per cent completed the
mandatory survey, and the government figure was 69.3 per cent. One is clearly
An Hon. Senator: You didn't listen to the answer.
Senator Cowan: The Honourable Senator LeBreton did not listen to the
question. It is not a question of me not listening to the answer; she did not
listen to the question. Would the leader take this matter under advisement and
report back to the house the response to the question I asked?
Senator LeBreton: The figure the honourable senator is using is the
response to the mandatory short-form census. I am referring to the voluntary
long-form census. As I have said in this place many times, I had great faith
that Canadians would fill out the voluntary long-form census. Obviously everyone
filled out the census forms that were sent to all households at a very high
rate, which is traditionally what Canadians do.
What I am saying is that Canadians filled out the now voluntary long-form
census to the degree of 69.3 per cent. StatsCan says that this voluntary
long-form census will yield credible and useful information.
I will take the honourable senator's question as notice. However, I am quite
sure that if people were filling out the long-form census, then they would not
fill out two or three questions and send in the form. They would fill out the
Hon. Maria Chaput: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader
of the Government in the Senate.
Last week, I raised serious concerns about the fact that Mr. Persichilli, a
man who until recently wrote anti-French comments in his newspaper column, is
now the Prime Minister's director of communications.
Now, this week, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade has
decided to have business cards printed in English only. I would like to repeat
my question: what message is the government trying to send to Canada's
francophone communities when the Prime Minister's main spokesperson feels there
are too many francophones in Ottawa and Canada's main spokesperson abroad
refuses to include one of Canada's two official languages on his business cards?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I hope, honourable
senators, that I made it clear last week when I answered the question that the
opinions expressed by Mr. Persichilli in the Toronto Star column are not
reflective of the government or of the Prime Minister. In fairness, Senator
Chaput, I would ask you to read the column. The way it was interpreted was much
more severe than what he actually said in the column. Having said that, I am not
in any way defending his position as a columnist. The Prime Minister is a friend
of Quebec. He is a friend of the francophone language and community. He has
proven it in many ways, such as recognition of the Québécois nation, the fixing
of the fiscal imbalance, the granting to Quebec of a place at UNESCO, the
announcement last Friday regarding the harmonized sales tax, and the
announcement today about the Champlain Bridge.
Honourable senators, the government's absolute adherence to the Official
Languages Act and linguistic duality is reflected in everything the Prime
Minister does and every word he utters. Mr. Persichilli is a very solid Canadian
citizen and very qualified in communications. He has taken up the position of
communications director in the Prime Minister's Office. Other people have been
hired in the Prime Minister's Office and are mindful and concentrating on
matters of linguistic duality and Quebec.
With regard to the business cards of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, that is
again an example of relying on information in the newspaper. As I reported to
the chamber yesterday, Minister Baird's business cards are printed in both of
Canada's official languages.
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh!
Hon. Pierre De Bané: Honourable senators, I wish to ask the Leader of
the Government in the Senate a question.
The Federal Identity Program, the FIP, was created 42 years ago in 1970, and
was complemented in 1974, 1976, 1978 and several times since. The whole purpose
of the FIP is to ensure that all departments and agencies present the graphics,
image and values of the Government of Canada in a consistent and coherent way,
without exception. No one is allowed to disregard the guidelines issued under
One of the fundamental characteristics of the program is that it rejects the
idea that Canada's two official languages are equal but separate. When
communicating with the public, whether Canadian or foreign, both languages must
appear on all documents and signs that identify the Government of Canada and its
officials, departments, institutions, et cetera.
Never before has a minister of the Crown printed different English, French
and bilingual business cards at taxpayers' expense, despite warnings from his
own department that he was violating FIP guidelines.
As honourable senators know, every time a senator has asked the Senate
printing office to print business cards in one language, the request was
politely declined. They have to be in both official languages.
The minister that is mandated to showcase the image of Canada abroad is the
only minister to have violated the FIP in 42 years.
The leader may answer me by saying yes or no to the following question: Will
she give this house the assurance that she will recommend to the minister that
he throw away those unilingual business cards, reimburse taxpayers the cost of
printing the cards, and follow the example of the Prime Minister of this country
who complies to the letter and the spirit of the Federal Identity Program? Yes
Senator LeBreton: My answer is exactly the same as my answer to
Senator Chaput. The business cards of Minister Baird, the Minister of Foreign
Affairs, are printed in both of Canada's official languages.
Hon. Pierre De Bané: Honourable senators, Prime Minister Harper has
said that Canadians do not like their government to take them by surprise. Last
week the Government of Canada decided to name a building in Ottawa after former
Prime Minister Diefenbaker due to his eminent services to our country. Years
from now, Canadians would be surprised and offended if the Government of Canada
decided to ignore the tribute that was given to former Prime Minister
Diefenbaker last week in honouring him by giving his name to a building.
How ironic and cynical that the government that made the announcement
honouring Prime Minister Diefenbaker has decided to downplay the identity of the
building that housed the headquarters of the Department of Foreign Affairs and
was named years ago after former Prime Minister Mike Pearson. Mr. Pearson was
the deputy minister of that department, minister, Prime Minister, Nobel Peace
Prize winner, President of the General Assembly of the United Nations and played
a critical role in the resolution of the Suez Canal crisis. Now the department
is emphasizing the postal civic address and skipping the name of the department.
How is it that a government that names a building after former Prime Minister
Diefenbaker finds it totally abnormal to recognize another distinguished Prime
Minister of Canada whose name was given to that building so many years ago?
People are not only surprised, they are offended. To do those two things at the
same time shows the pettiness, the nastiness and the meanness of this
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Is Senator De Bané
suggesting that people in this country should be offended by naming a building
in honour of the Right Honourable John George Diefenbaker?
Senator De Bané: It is exactly the opposite.
Senator LeBreton: The honourable senator outlined the many successes
and the many ways to honour Lester Pearson by mentioning he was Prime Minister,
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. He might wish
to know for historical fact that Mr. Diefenbaker played a very significant role
on the international stage. As a matter of fact, Mr. Diefenbaker attended the
League of Nations meeting which was the forerunner to the United Nations being
established. Mr. Diefenbaker was there and led the charge against apartheid in
Therefore it is very fitting that the building at 111 Sussex Drive be named
the John G. Diefenbaker Building, just as it is fitting that another building
and the major airport in the country were named some time ago after Lester B.
I fail to grasp the intent of the honourable senator's question. We have in
no way minimized the significant contribution made to this country and in no way
undermined the historical references to Lester B. Pearson. It was not a surprise
when we named the building after Mr. Diefenbaker. It was announced in the media
and press notices were sent out.
I was honoured to be the master of ceremonies of the event. There were many
people there, and I think it is a very fitting tribute to a great prime minister
— a tribute far too long in coming.
Senator De Bané: Honourable senators, I think the leader did not
listen to me. I said the government was justified in naming that building after
former Prime Minister Diefenbaker for his eminent services to our country. If,
by a big mistake, one day in the future a Canadian government tried to ignore
that tribute by downplaying the naming of that building, that would offend the
Canadian public. That is what I said.
When I said that, I added that it is quite surprising that at the same time
we did that — and I concur with that decision — we decided to downplay the
naming of the headquarters of Foreign Affairs by emphasizing from now on the
civic postal address of that building on Sussex Drive, skipping the name that
was given to it.
I fully agree with the naming of a major building in honour of former Prime
Minister Diefenbaker. I am saying that at the same time we have decided to
downplay the other one. I see that as quite mean and petty and not honourable of
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I do not see any evidence of
that anywhere. As for the honourable senator's supplementary question, these
news stories might have mentioned the name of the building in the address. I saw
one news story that said it was one of the very few business cards that actually
mention the building. For example, my business card does not say "Parliament
In any event, I wish to assure the honourable senator that there was no
effort, nor will there be any, on the part of our government to downplay the
significant role of any great Canadian who has made a contribution to this
country. As a matter of fact, one of the things I am proudest of about our
government is that we are making sure that Canadians understand the
contributions many great Canadians have made to this country.
We are going through a process of ensuring that Canadians are aware of our
history, including the many Canadians, men and women, who contributed to the
building of this country. No one in the government would in any way be party to
undermining the great contribution of the Right Honourable Lester B. Pearson.
Hon. Nick G. Sibbeston: My question to the Leader of the Government
today deals with regulatory reform in the Northwest Territories.
In the Northwest Territories, lands and resources is a complex issue because
it is not just Crown land; it is lands that are owned by First Nations, and the
territorial government is also there. In recent years, the federal government
has taken some initiative in streamlining, simplifying and making more efficient
the regulations that govern land use, environmental matters and approval for
A number of years ago, Mr. McCrank, from Calgary, produced a report dealing
with the matter. More recently, John Pollard, from Hay River, studied the
matter. Both of them have provided reports to the government and the minister.
I would like the government leader to confer with Minister Duncan and tell
him that the matter of regulatory reform in the North has been studied and
reported on. What northerners need now is a decision. Will you please tell the
minister to hurry up?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank the
honourable senator for the question. I very much appreciate his question and the
detail it provided.
I will be very happy to communicate his request to the minister. I do not
know how far I would get by telling people to hurry up, but I will be happy to
seek direction from the minister as to the status of these files.
Hon. Robert W. Peterson: Honourable senators, my question is for the
Leader of the Government in the Senate.
The government keeps claiming that they are not dismantling the Canadian
Wheat Board, only giving farmers marketing choice. However, the key asset —
indeed, the only asset — the Canadian Wheat Board has is its single-desk
authority, its unique single-desk ability to price discriminate, which means
getting the top price in each individual market, not the lowest common
denominator in every market.
Without it, there is not much point in having a Wheat Board. There is no
halfway. You either have a single desk or you have an open market, period. How
is the Canadian Wheat Board supposed to function with no single desk, no capital
base and no grain handling facilities?
Here is what the chair of the Canadian Wheat Board said:
We have been very clear with the federal government that the CWB cannot
transition from its current marketing structure to any other type of company
without an infusion of significant operating and financing capital,
regulated access to terminals, assistance in an ownership structure, and
other measures to safeguard a fledgling company in its formative years. . .
. Minister Ritz has said he wants a strong and viable organization.
Then it is time to share his plan for achieving that goal. Otherwise, with no
money, no assets and a complete dependence on competitors to even accept
deliveries, any new entity cannot be "strong and viable."
Is your government prepared to provide the Canadian Wheat Board with
regulated access to terminals and shipping facilities and sufficient financing
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
it has been clear for quite some time that the government intends to give
Western grain growers marketing choice. We do not believe in the monopoly.
Marketing choice means they will have the choice of selling their grain directly
or through the Canadian Wheat Board.
When you boil it all down, honourable senators, as a government we believe
that markets need certainty and farmers need freedom of choice.
Senator Peterson: If you give Western farmers the right to market
their own grain, will you also be providing producers in supply management the
same opportunity? If not, why not?
Senator LeBreton: I have answered that question before. The government
is committed to our supply management system.
With regard to the grain producers, we are providing freedom of choice. We
ran on it; it is clear the farmers support it; and we simply want to ensure that
farmers in the West have the same marketing choice for their grains that farmers
in Ontario do.
Hon. Claude Carignan (Deputy Leader of the Government) tabled the
answer to Question No. 2 on the Order Paper by Senator Downe.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Jaffer calling
the attention of the Senate to the deteriorating human rights situation of
the Baha'i people in Iran.
Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to the
inquiry placed on the Order Paper by the Honourable Senator Jaffer with respect
to the circumstances faced by Baha'i citizens in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The lessons of history are not prisons that shape our choices. However, if
and when those lessons are ignored, we give the worst of history, its most
horrific and criminal excesses the best chance to repeat themselves at the
expense of all humanity. It is in this precise context that we must look at the
Islamic Republic of Iran and its treatment of its Baha'i citizens with a frank
and cold eye. We must do so with the highest regard for Iran's history,
civilization and culture and with nothing but the greatest respect and regard
for its people, who have the same right to freedom, economic opportunity and
happiness as we have. We must also look carefully and with clarity at events
within Iran, the way that government acts, its designs on genuine democrats at
home and its explicit oppression of minorities within its own borders.
I will not dwell on its a historical and essentially genocidal view and
purpose with respect to the Republic of Israel, not because its stance is in any
way sane, but because whipping up anti-Israel hysteria and hatred has been the
truck and trade of most despots, extremists, religious charlatans, dictators and
other anti-Semites over the breadth of history — not only in the part of the
world that Iran seeks to dominate but also elsewhere. In recent times, forces of
darkness in locations as diverse as Venezuela and Malaysia have embraced this
age-old and tiresome game. Going with the flow in the face of this is a
reprehensible lack of spine, but as a general practice when it comes to hating
Jews and Israel, it is counted upon by the common currents of fascism, communism
and all the extremes on the flanks seen in many political histories. Few
countries have been completely immune in the East or West, Christian, Islamic or
non-denominational worlds. That excess on the part of the Islamic Republic's
supreme religious, political or Revolutionary Guard leadership is, since the
days of the end of the reign of the Shah in 1979, not particularly unique,
however loathsome and disreputable.
What is new and horrific is what has been done to imprison, oppress and
intimidate the proponents of the Baha'i faith within Iran. Any government that
would employ its hired revolutionarily guards to mow down its own citizens, who
simply desired a fair count of the votes in the last general election, is
capable of anything. What they have done to Iranians of the Baha'i faith speaks
to the essential inhumanity and embedded intolerance that typifies this
particular Iranian government's distorted view of Islam and the manipulation of
the most extreme interpretations of the Quran for its own narrow political and
History tells us something here which President Ahmadinejad and the al-Quds
Brigade of the Revolutionary Guard cannot wish away. If you would oppress and
kill your own people in large numbers because of their politics and religion,
then when the opportunity comes to do the same in neighbouring countries or
throughout a region where people of different politics or religion would oppose
your domination, it is even easier for you to oppress or kill foreigners. Mr.
Stalin and Mr. Hitler taught us that decades ago.
It is time that we cease the hopeful view that the Islamic Republic of Iran's
present administration is but a brief eccentric event in what should be a
peaceful and constructive force in the politics of the world and its own region.
There is not a shred of evidence that a truly democratic election with a truly
democratic outcome will be allowed to transpire. Mr. Hitler was elected fair and
square in 1933 under the then rules of the Weimar Republic. That was the end of
free elections until the post-war Federal Republic of Germany, which followed a
world war that destroyed much of Europe and killed in excess of 50 million human
Am I suggesting that the oppression of Iranians of the Baha'i faith by the
present government, combined with the repression of democratic forces and the
subversive and well-funded Iranian activity to destabilize Lebanon, Palestine,
Syria and Iraq constitute a similar existential threat to large parts of the
world's population? Yes, honourable senators, that is precisely what I am
Our duty, as allies of various partners in the region, including Sunni Arab
states or our Turkish NATO allies, including the people of Lebanon, Palestine
and Israel, who seek the freedom to make their own decisions about their own
countries and futures, is to be clear and outspoken about what evil and
malevolent intent guides the present leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
To ensure that in every way at all levels, with our allies and with respect to
our geopolitical interests, we are preparing for and planning all that may be
necessary to contain this vile and sadistic administration. This aggressive and
inhumane administration, if unchecked and unpunished for every excess and
inhumanity, will be the cause of a third world war as sure as we serve together
in this upper chamber this afternoon.
What is necessary here is not just the reactive contact group's continuing
best efforts on some measure of nuclear restraint and international inspection.
Canada's new office of religious freedom should join with other similar units
around the world to promote a collective course of action on behalf of the
Baha'i faith community in Iran and erect a series of serious challenges in
different bodies around the world for the Iranian government to face. This
should be known as the Baha'i sanctions so that our Iranian friends understand
precisely our collective humanitarian and principled intent. Religious
oppression is always the first and most consistent instrument of the tyrant;
failing to engage it directly only feeds the beast.
It goes without saying that Canada's military, intelligence, diplomatic and
other networks at home and abroad should be focusing on the granular threats
posed by various Iranian forces around the world. These include places like
Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine. We must work with friendly military,
diplomatic and intelligence forces amongst our partners in the Middle East,
Europe and Asia, who have diverse relationships with the Iranians, in order to
achieve a coherent and concerted effort to frustrate the wilful domination of
the region and a world that depends on that region by the Republic of Iran's
leadership. I leave the specific measures, dynamics and aspects of that joint
initiative and plan for defence and engagement to the experts in uniform and the
various military, diplomatic and clandestine services around the world. I say
simply that we must all prepare now, and we must all do our part.
Canada, among other nations, has walked out of and boycotted meetings where
President Ahmadinejad has spewed his hateful and vile discourse, one that
defiles the United Nations by its presence and despoils the wondrous and
culturally heroic and rich history of the Persian people, for whom this warning
that I offer today diminishes in no way my respect and affection.
It would be a good thing if our foreign minister urged his colleagues across
the civilized world to join him in calling in the respective Iranian ambassadors
in those capitals to deliver the very same stern message about the way the
Baha'i faithful have been treated. We should advocate that a series of "Baha'i
sanctions," new, precise and impactful, be imposed universally by countries of
good will and common humanitarian belief.
This did not happen to the Germany of the 1930s. A world then beset by
economic uncertainty and serious impacts of a calamitous depression looked the
other way as the oppression, imprisonment and extermination of minorities within
Germany first, then amongst its neighbours, then through all of Western and
Eastern Europe proceeded. When engagement finally came with the United Kingdom
and its Commonwealth allies, including Canada, standing alone against the
Germans between 1939 and 1941, and the Americans and Russians entered alongside
after being attacked themselves, millions had already died, and the machines of
war and extermination were well launched, to the utter expense and horror of
humanity for generations and decades to come. This is what we must act now to
The suffering heaped on our Baha'i friends is neither isolated nor
peripheral. It is systematic and brutal, especially when the Baha'i are known as
a peaceful faith that embraces the sanctity of all religions. The official
Iranian oppression of Baha'i is more than the canary in the mineshaft. It is a
clarion call to humanity and to free peoples and democracies everywhere to look
directly at the harsh colours of the Iranian reality and not look away until the
challenge is faced head on.
(On motion of Senator Tardif, debate adjourned.)
Hon. Sharon Carstairs rose pursuant to notice of June 23, 2011:
That she will call the attention of the Senate to the Report of the
Auditor General specifically with respect to the Aboriginal Child Welfare
She said: Honourable senators, last spring I brought to the attention of this
place the number of Aboriginal children in care in my province. I subsequently
have learned that there are now more Aboriginal children in care throughout this
country than the number of children who in total attended residential schools.
This should cause all of us to look at this matter very carefully.
Perhaps a good place to start would be to look at the June 9, 2011 report of
the Auditor General and to examine the concerns that she raised with respect to
Aboriginal children on reserves. Let me quote directly from that report. She
It is clear that living conditions are poorer on First Nations reserves
than elsewhere in Canada.
In our view, many of the problems facing First Nations go deeper than the
existing programs' lack of efficiency and effectiveness. We believe that
structural impediments severely limit the delivery of public services to
First Nations communities and hinder improvements in living conditions on
reserves. We have identified four such impediments:
- lack of clarity about service levels,
- lack of a legislative base,
- lack of an appropriate funding mechanism, and
- lack of organizations to support local service delivery.
She went on to say that the reason for lack of clarity about service levels
was because the federal government has not clearly defined the type and level of
services it supports.
As to a lack of legislative base, the Auditor General states that the federal
government has often developed programs without establishing a legislative or
regulatory framework for them.
As to a lack of an appropriate funding mechanism, the Auditor General has
stated that there is uncertainty about funding levels.
As to lack of organization to support local service delivery, she stated
there were few organizations to support service delivery within First Nations
The Auditor General went into more details with respect to child and family
services. For example, she restated what had been stated earlier, in 2008: that
First Nations children were eight times more likely to be removed from their
homes than other Canadian children. She stated that First Nations children were
the most vulnerable members of society, that 5 per cent of all children were in
care, and noted that had there had been no notable improvement in the number of
First Nations children in care since 2008. She stated that in the 2008 audit,
INAC was asked to define its expectations for culturally appropriate services,
but she noted that INAC has still failed to deliver and to define comparability.
She also stated that the department has not conducted a review of all social
services available in the provinces to see even whether they are the same as to
what is available to children on reserves. She found that the progress in child
and family services was unsatisfactory.
As with my earlier inquiry, I implore our Standing Senate Committee on
Aboriginal Peoples to examine this issue.
Honourable senators, many of us frequently pay lip service to the statement
that children are our most precious resource. Aboriginal children are Canadian
children. I believe they, too, must be valued, and yet it would appear that they
are significantly devalued in our society. They have the poorest health and
educational outcomes. They have the highest suicide rate. They have less money
spent, by 20 per cent, on their welfare when they are taken into care.
Honourable senators, it is imperative that this institution take the
initiative and study the means by which all children in Canada have equal value.
(On motion of Senator Tardif, debate adjourned.)
Hon. Maria Chaput, pursuant to notice of October 4, 2011, moved:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages be authorized to
examine and report on the use of the Internet, new media and social media
and the respect for Canadians' language rights; and
That the committee report from time to time to the Senate but no later
than October 31, 2012, and that the committee retain all powers necessary to
publicize its findings until December 31, 2012.
(Motion agreed to.)
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators,
pursuant to rule 67(2), the sitting is hereby suspended until 5:15 p.m. At 5:15
p.m., the bells will start ringing for the call of senators for the vote at
Honourable senators, before we leave, I should like to remind you that there
will now be a reception in the Speaker's quarters to honour Senator Rompkey and
his family. All honourable senators are encouraged to go to the Speaker's
quarters as we rise.
Honourable senators, do I have permission to leave the chair?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(The sitting of the Senate was suspended.)
(The sitting of the Senate was resumed.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Carignan,
seconded by the Honourable Senator LeBreton, P.C.:
That, during the remainder of the current session,
(a) when the Senate sits on a Wednesday or a Thursday, it
shall sit at 1:30 p.m. notwithstanding rule 5(1)(a);
(b) when the Senate sits on a Wednesday, it stand adjourned at
the later of 4 p.m. or the end of Government Business, but no later than
the time otherwise provided in the Rules, unless it has been suspended
for the purpose of taking a deferred vote or has earlier adjourned;
(c) when the Senate sits past 4 p.m. on a Wednesday,
committees scheduled to meet be authorized to do so, even if the Senate
is then sitting, with the application of rule 95(4) being suspended in
relation thereto; and
(d) when a vote is deferred until 5:30 p.m. on a Wednesday,
the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings, if required, immediately
prior to any adjournment but no later than the time provided in
paragraph (b), to suspend the sitting until 5:30 p.m. for the
taking of the deferred vote, and that committees be authorized to meet
during the period that the sitting is suspended;
On the motion of the Honourable Senator Tardif, seconded by the Honourable
That the question be referred to the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures
and the Rights of Parliament for consideration and report.
Motion in amendment negatived on the following division:
THE HONOURABLE SENATORS
THE HONOURABLE SENATORS
THE HONOURABLE SENATORS
Hon. Percy Mockler: Honourable senators, I move that the original
question be now put.
The Hon. the Speaker: It is moved by the Honourable Senator Mockler,
seconded by the Honourable Senator Wallace, that the previous question be now
On debate, the Honourable Senator Cowan.
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I
had intended to speak to the main motion, but now I will speak to Senator
I want to first express my regret and my disappointment at the result of the
vote that has just taken place. In my view, the debate that took place yesterday
established beyond question the advantages of referring the motion of Senator
Carignan, which would change our procedures, to our Standing Committee on Rules,
Procedures and the Rights of Parliament. Some of our most experienced colleagues
sit on that committee, such as Senator Fraser, Senator Comeau, Senator Stratton
and Senator Smith. How could we do anything but benefit from the expertise that
they would bring to bear on Senator Carignan's proposal?
However, the government rejected Senator Tardif's very reasonable suggestion.
Instead of following the precedents of consensus and unanimity that we followed
in the past and that are hallmarks of this institution, and which Senator Tardif
placed very clearly and completely on the record yesterday, the government has
decided to proceed unilaterally over our serious and, I suggest, most reasonable
What is the urgency? Why now? The government's legislative agenda is, to put
it kindly, remarkably light at this point in time. What is even more remarkable
is that it follows on clear demonstrations of the willingness of those of us on
this side to reach reasonable accommodations with the government to ensure that
the government's legislative agenda is able to move forward in a timely fashion.
I would challenge my colleagues on the other side to disagree with that
statement. Over the last couple of years, we have consistently demonstrated
that, despite our opposition to measures the government has introduced, we have
never done anything but ensure that those measures are dealt with in a timely
fashion. We may have voted against them as we went along or expressed serious
concerns, but we certainly did nothing on any occasion to obstruct the timely
consideration of the government's agenda.
So why are the procedures, consideration and respect that we, the Liberals,
offered when we had a majority in this chamber not now reciprocated by the
Conservative majority? Why are the rules of the game being unilaterally changed?
I cannot believe that our more experienced colleagues on the other side, who
have lived through the ebb and flow of politics that takes place in this place,
can be comfortable with the government's approach and with the government's
proposal. To paraphrase a well-known saying, why would you want to do onto
others as you would not want them to do to you?
Abuse of the legitimate rights and interests of the minority by the majority
is not leadership, it is bullying.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Cowan: It is profoundly disappointing to me that at its very
first opportunity, the new majority in this chamber has chosen to proceed in a
manner that discounts our precedents and disregards the legitimate needs and the
role of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition and of every individual senator in this
In my view, in the current circumstances the best thing we could do is to
follow the long string of precedents that have been established to facilitate
the work of our committees on Wednesday and return to the motion which has been
regularly passed without a single dissenting vote year after year.
If I had had the chance to speak before Senator Mockler made his legitimate
motion, I would have proposed an amendment which would have permitted the
chamber to meet on Wednesdays at 1:30 and to adjourn at four o'clock. There is
absolutely no need, and this government has not demonstrated a single instance
nor persuasive arguments to indicate why it is necessary for them to proceed in
this fashion now.
If there had been a single instance where this party, my colleagues on this
side of the house, had obstructed the legitimate desires and needs of the
government to have their agenda dealt with expeditiously, that would be one
question; but Senator Comeau was not able to indicate, nor was Senator Carignan,
a single instance where that had happened. We did disagree with their proposals,
and disagree with their proposals we will continue to do, but to take this
action now with no demonstrated need is, I suggest, an abuse of the power of the
majority over the minority.
As the saying goes, what goes around comes around.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators,
I rise to speak to Senator
Mockler’s motion that the original question be now put. I had not been expecting a
closure motion, a guillotine motion or a motion for the previous question at
all, so I am taken a little bit by surprise. This body of procedure, this
collection of procedure motions has several names in many incarnations,
depending on the seriousness of the situation. I have not been able to look up
anything, but I have read copious amounts on this subject over the years.
My understanding, first, is that closure, previous questions, guillotine, and
the lesser form of time allocation motions are supposed to be used in instances
of prolonged obstruction by the opposition. Had I had even 25 minutes or half an
hour to do some research, I could put some precedents on the record.
However, so that honourable senators can understand, this form of motion is
intended to throw the house into a state of dictatorship. Those are the words
that some authorities use. These are the words of those who have been seasoned
in this process.
Usually, in the House of Commons, it was moved by a minister of the
government, by the way. I could be wrong on that — I have not read on this for a
while — but my understanding is that it was usually moved by a minister, not by
a backbencher. The Senate is different. If I am wrong on that, I apologize in
Honourable senators, it is a procedure to be resorted to, but rarely, because
of the seriousness of its invocation and the seriousness of its consequences. It
is a signal that the entire system has broken down, that the house is incapable
of functioning properly, adequately and sufficiently, and that the government
has been forced, compelled by circumstances to resort to this extreme
instrument, which is to put the house into a state of dictatorship.
It is a debatable motion and it can be adjourned. I do not foresee anything
like that happening in the next few moments, but honourable senators should
understand the solemnity and the grievous nature of the process that has been
I heard a few remarks back there about using these processes or something for
the last 10 years. The record shows that these processes are rarely invoked, and
for good reason. They should never be employed routinely or for routine matters.
That is number one.
Honourable senators, I do not have any notes in front of me, so I apologize
again. The next point is that these motions should be called upon when the
matter required to be adopted by the house is of some urgency — not daily
routine, but some urgency — again, when the government has no choice but to
resort to this extreme instrument.
Further, it is supposed to be used only when the question before the house is
a matter of significant public policy and a question of some concern to the
public. These matters are well recorded. We have had leaders here in the Senate
who were formerly leaders of the government in the House of Commons, who were
proud to announce that to us here.
I remember vividly, I believe it was Senator Allan MacEachen who informed us
that in all the years when he was a minister in the House of Commons, he never
once moved such a motion. There are slight differences between these motions,
but, as I said before, I do not think that such an instrument should be invoked.
Honourable senators, let us understand that none of these conditions pertain
here — not the prolonged obstruction, not the urgency and not the public
interest. It must be for the public good and on — the fact that the issue is
important to the public.
Therefore, honourable senators, I am surprised and bewildered, not shocked,
but bewildered and puzzled. I do not think it is necessary. I do not understand,
and maybe I could be enlightened. In any event, senators, I would like to put
that on the record.
This previous question motion was moved suddenly. We could have been informed of
this, those of us who like to read on these matters. I think the house would
have been well served.
Let us understand, honourable senators, the issues that are before us. I want
to return to a point that I made yesterday, the important point for me in the
motion before us in paragraph (c), but before doing that, I would like to
differentiate between proposals to the Senate that are of a mechanical nature
and proposals that are of a substantive policy nature. I think we should
understand what is happening here. For example, paragraph (a) in this
motion states clearly:
when the Senate sits on a Wednesday or a Thursday, it shall sit at 1:30
p.m. . . .
That is largely a mechanical question. There is no rule that says the Senate
shall not sit at 1:30, so this alteration here is of a mechanical and lesser
The one that concerns me, honourable senators, is paragraph (c), which
when the Senate sits past 4 p.m. on a Wednesday, committees scheduled to
meet be authorized to do so, even if the Senate is then sitting, with the
application of rule 95(4) being suspended in relation thereto; . . .
Let us understand the duration of the time of this suspension. We may suspend
the Rules of the Senate, but a suspension that continues for a year or
two or three could hardly be called a suspension. That is a fundamental
alteration. It is a shift. It is not a procedural shift or a mechanical shift.
It is a substantive policy one.
Let us be clear, honourable senators, about what we are talking about here.
Even the wording of the motion reveals that, because paragraph (a) says
"shall sit at 1:30 p.m. notwithstanding rule 5(1)(a)," and paragraph (c)
says "with the application of rule 95(4) being suspended . . ."
Have senators ever heard of a rule that was suspended indefinitely, for the
life of a session just begun? You would be concerned if your child came home
from school and told you that he or she had been suspended from school
indefinitely, that is for a year or two or three or four or five, which a
session of Parliament may last.
Honourable senators, let us understand that this is a substantive question
and a substantive shift in policy. I say that, senators, because rule 95(4),
which is being suspended for several years being the remainder of the session,
states very solidly and strongly, in plain words:
A select committee shall not sit during a sitting of the Senate.
It is in the imperative: Shall not. It is not "may not" but "shall not."
Let us understand that when weekly the government leader or committee
chairmen would rise here and seek the agreement of the Senate for committees to
sit during a sitting, they are asking for an exception to the imperative rule.
However, we cannot suspend, that is ignore the rule for three years. If any
committee chairman asked the Senate for authority to ignore this rule for three
years, I would submit to you that chairman would be denied it unanimously.
Honourable senators, let us understand what is being said here. I am trying
to understand the logic. The fact of the matter is this, and I will say it
again, rule 95(4) states:
A select committee shall not sit during a sitting of the Senate.
Honourable senators, that rule is there as the embodiment of Her Majesty's
claim to the attention of all senators, their undivided attention, to the
business of this place in this Senate.
Let us understand clearly that the rules around Senate attendance, whether
they be the constitutional requirements to attend in so many sessions or even
all the systems that the Senate has built up over the years for keeping
senators' attendance, flow from rule 95(4).
Honourable senators, the phenomenon of senators' attendance has always been a
critical one, and not only for senators. Honourable senators should understand
that the phenomenon of attendance and absence from duty was a critical one for
judges as well. I always tell senators to think of this place not as two
caucuses facing each other across the way, but as a house of judges. Think of
this place as the honourable, the high court of Parliament. Then try to contemplate
the fact that the Queen's officers, the Queen's judges, would not have to be
here in the Senate for a hearing of the court for three years. I have never
heard of that. I would ask you to rethink it. I honestly think that some
senators really do not understand the serious issues that are involved.
However, that is a substantive matter that should not be dealt with in this
way. Rule 95(4) dictates that it can only be exempted from by way of exception.
That is by individual exception. This rule is supposed to uphold the primacy of
our attendance in this house, in this chamber, at the top of our minds and at
the top of our processes. In addition, it upholds the primacy of the house over
its committees. Let us not forget that. It is all contained in our oath. I would
also add that rule 95(4) demands the primary use of senators' time to be in this
In any event, honourable senators, these questions are before us, and there
it is. Having said that, I do not think that —
The Hon. the Speaker: I regret to advise the honourable senator that
her 15 minutes have expired.
Some Hon. Senators: Five minutes.
Senator Cools: In any event, honourable senators, as I said, I had
agreed with the thrust of the motion. I do not understand why this item —
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, it being six o'clock,
pursuant to the rules, I must vacate the chair to return at 8 p.m., unless the
house advises otherwise.
Hon. Claude Carignan (Deputy Leader of the Government): Perhaps we
could not see the clock. No?
The Hon. the Speaker: There is no agreement to not see the clock;
therefore, the house stands suspended until 8 p.m.
(The sitting of the Senate was suspended.)
(The sitting of the Senate was resumed.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, the sitting is resumed, and
I recognize the Honourable Senator Cools.
Senator Cools: Honourable senators, I do not know how much time I have
left. Perhaps the clerks at the table know. Five minutes? Thank you.
Honourable senators, I took some time during the break to read on this
phenomenon of motions for the previous question. I am concerned that the motion
for the previous question and the siege as the house goes into a system of
dictatorship, is contrary to the principles of this, our system which eschews
arbitrary power. Let me explain what I mean. Arbitrary power and uncontrolled
authority are not recognized in any of the principles of our system.
Honourable senators, I have been trying to discern the limits on the use of
previous questions. I have discovered that there are limitations on the use of
motions for the previous question. I would like to put this on the record, if I may.
I would like to quote Mr. Josef Redlich from The Procedure of the House of
Commons, 1908, at page 227:
For this reason there are further limitations on its applicability.
We are talking about the motion for previous question.
It may not be moved on a motion relating to the transaction of public
business or the meeting of the House, or in any committee or on any
This is confirmed by Erskine May in the 10th edition of A Treatise on the
Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament and in the 23rd
edition, 2004, which states at page 396:
The previous question cannot be moved upon a motion relating to the
transaction of public business or the meeting of the House.
This is the plain and ordinary meaning of these words.
This is also found in earlier versions of Mr. May. In 1893, the 10th edition,
it says the same thing. Let me put the whole thing on the record from the 1893
edition. At page 269 it states:
The previous question has been moved upon the various stages of a bill,
but it cannot be moved upon an amendment; though, after an amendment has
been agreed to, the previous question can be put on the main question, as
amended. Nor can the previous question be moved upon a motion relating to
the transaction of public business or the meeting of the house, nor in any
There is a serious problem here, honourable senators, since the motion in
question is particularly about sittings of the house and, in general, about the
transaction of public business, that is, the Rules of the Senate. I wanted to
put that on the record.
I do not know if a point of order would be in order or desirable, but it is
crystal clear from this that the use of a previous question does have some
limits. Perhaps the Leader of the Government or the Deputy Leader of the
Government could clarify for us the limitations on the use of a previous
question, or someone could raise a point of order if someone is predisposed
to do so.
There are limits because the essential essence of the law of Parliament is
that arbitrariness is unacceptable and, most important of all, that fair play
should prevail at all times. In addition, when a rule is used to curtail our
freedom of speech and debate, there are some instances to which it cannot be
Having said that, honourable senators, I want to say that I find the whole
matter very disturbing. Previous questions are not amenable for routine matters.
As I said before, there is no urgency, no obstruction, and there is no public
policy and no public interest. There is no public interest and no matter of
public policy before us. What it is, really, is an amendment to the rules of the
house concerning how we transact our public business, and set the meetings of
In any event, honourable senators, I thank you very much for your attention.
These are not little, routine matters. The use of the previous question is not a
simple matter of saying that we are in a hurry or someone is in a rush. It has
to be a momentous matter, and that is not what is before us. As I said before, I
remain quite bewildered about it.
Honourable senators, it is crystal clear to me that if we review Mr.
Beauchesne and others — and, remember, they are not the authorities; they are
reference books — they are mostly talking about bills. These motions for the
previous question have been moved on bills and on different stages of the bills,
but I can find no precedent whatsoever for the use of a previous question on the
kind and quality of motion that is before us today.
I would suggest, honourable senators, there is something very, very wrong in
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators, I do not pretend to have the
mastery of the parliamentary experts that Senator Cools has. However, at the
beginning and at the end of her remarks, she made a fundamental point, namely,
that we are now engaged in considering the previous question on a matter about
which there is, in fact, no urgency and no public interest. This is a motion
that has been brought to the Senate for the convenience of the government.
However, parliaments do not exist for the convenience of governments;
governments exist if the Parliament agrees to let them exist.
What is being done here tonight is, to use Senator Cowan's word,
"bullying." It is a decision by the government to use a gag to impose, in
effect, a further gag. It is so profoundly unparliamentary that I cannot believe
that colleagues in this house are willing to support it. It is absolutely
shameful, and we should all be ashamed that our beloved chamber is being
subjected to it.
Hon. Tommy Banks: Honourable senators, I would not ordinarily presume
to opine on a question like this, but I guess the fact that my time here is
coming short gives me bravado.
As always on matters of this kind, Senator Cools nails it and brings to the
front of our minds the fact that we have come to pay less and less attention to
some of the things that are very important in this place. This place, as Senator
Fraser has said, is not a function of the government. We are not here to be
functions of the government. We have made that mistake in the past, and it has
always come back to bite us.
However, this is an egregious example, as Senators Cools, Fraser and Cowan
pointed out. It is misuse of a procedural device. Even if we all agreed to do
this, if there were no disagreement on this side for this proposal, if we all
said, "Yes, let us do that; let us make this work more quickly, efficiently and
with a lot less trouble," even if no one tried to oppose the imposition of the
use of this procedural device, we would all be making a terrible mistake.
We are embarked upon a course of making two terrible errors, honourable
senators. The first is the use of the device, as Senator Cools has pointed out,
of effective closure of debate on an important matter, but it is an important
procedural matter. The second mistake we would be making would be to adopt the
There are reasons for the Rules of the Senate, honourable senators.
There is a reason for rule 95(4). It is very simple. There are 105 senators, and
rule 95(4) says that committees of the Senate may not, except with leave of the
house, meet while the Senate is sitting. If it did not say that and we were all
off at committee meetings, there would not be anyone here to do the business of
the Senate, or insufficient attention would be paid.
I have never understood the rationale for Wednesday adjournments at four
o'clock. The reason I have never been able to understand it is I serve on
committees that meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays and we have to ask for leave of
the Senate to sit if a minister is coming. Otherwise, that leave is not
ordinarily granted. We sit here sometimes until 9 or 10 o'clock while witnesses
wait in committee rooms for the business of the Senate to be done because there
is no such provision on Tuesdays and Thursdays as there has been, for some
reason, on Wednesdays. As I say, I have never understood that provision, except
that, I guess, a lot of influential people serve on committees that meet on
The point that Senator Cools made is that ordinarily in this place — and we
must all remember this — if we wanted to meet when the business of the Senate
was being conducted in this place, chairs or deputy chairs had to ask for the
leave of the Senate to do so. It was an exception to rule 95(4), and there is a
reason for that.
Honourable senators, if we are to tear down this house, we should do it only
if we think that the house we will build in its place is a better one. No one
has suggested that imposing this blanket exception to the rules, as Senator
Cools has pointed out, is any improvement in the way this place works.
Honourable senators, this proposal will come back to hurt us. What goes
around, comes around.
Senator Eaton: Yes, it has; it has.
Senator Banks: This is not merely inconvenient; it is not right. We
will go down this road at our peril. It is a terrible mistake.
I move adjournment of the debate. Sorry, Senator Mitchell wishes to speak.
Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, I have a couple of things to
say about this matter.
I begin by saying that I have seen it all before. I thought it was an
isolated period in time and an isolated form of government. It actually makes me
feel quite old — and I am one of the youngest people in this place — because I
have seen this before and it is coming around again.
When I was in the legislature in Alberta, for one brutal period — I do not
know if it was three or two months — that Conservative government had a majority
— emphasis on "that Conservative government" — and jammed through closure 18
times. It was like they could not broach the idea of someone actually wanting to
disagree with them.
Senator Eaton: Thank God we did.
Senator Mitchell: Senator Eaton, not only do you want us to debate
only what you want to debate, but now you will not even let me talk about the
few little things I want to talk about. Would it be okay if I just get this out?
Senator Eaton: "Few little things," you say.
Senator Mitchell: The point that I want to make is that they invoked
closure 18 times in literally weeks. I thought that was bad, but now I look back
and say that at least they had the guts, every time they wanted to invoke
closure, to bring it before the legislature, which was televised, to bring it
out in front of the public, debate it and make their arguments for why they felt
they had to end debate suddenly and intensely because of circumstances with
respect to a particular piece of legislation, budget or issue. However, at least
they had the guts to come every time.
Now what we have is a brand new form of closure. I would have never imagined
it; I have never seen it before. I will call it "perpetual closure." You get
to do it every week at four o'clock, and you only have to pass it once. It is
almost insidiously brilliant in the way that you have figured out a way to
manipulate the rules of this important parliamentary democratic institution.
It is not enough that you would have the courage to jam through legislation
when you felt it was necessary in anticipation of maybe, just perhaps, feeling
that it might one day or every Wednesday be necessary. You are invoking
perpetual closure. Probably one day the successor to Senator Cools will be
talking about how that established a new and unsavoury parliamentary precedent.
In fact, after I saw closure used 18 times — it was many times after that —
and I see this happening now in even a more insidious way, I am almost beginning
to believe that closure is a core Conservative value and that it runs in the
face of some sense of real democratic value that this place is worth a great
deal. This chamber, this parliamentary institution, has intrinsic value. When I
hear honourable senators standing up and talking about clutter on the Order
Paper and dismissing the views of hard working and dedicated people in this
place who are committed to this process, I find that the level of lack of
respect and dismissiveness of this important institution is almost breathtaking.
To see it taken a step further, to actually invoke —"anticipatory closure," is
to further my sense of describing this as breathtaking.
Yes, this is closure — limiting debate, freedom of speech. Senator Finley is
so vocal on freedom of speech. I want to say "articulate," and probably from
time to time he is even articulate. He was just on about cutting off those ads.
I agree with him on that one.
It is interesting that when it comes to freedom of speech that is not quite
as convenient for that side, suddenly freedom of speech is not valued the way it
should be in an institution like this, of all places. It is expendable; it is
perpetual closure; it is anticipatory closure; it is the convenient form of
freedom of speech, not the freedom of speech that you put up with because it is
fundamentally important to democracy, even if it is not quite as convenient for
you or your side as you might like it to be.
The other thing that is galling for me is that there is not all that much
evidence that government legislation has been thwarted in the Senate Chamber by
the Liberal opposition. There was not even much evidence that government
legislation was ever thwarted or delayed when we had a majority in this
The argument was made very well by our leader. Show us exactly where we
delayed things inordinately in any way that thwarted what this government wanted
to do. On the other hand, on one occasion when this side was in government, we
actually defeated legislation passed by the House of Commons, and we allowed
much other legislation passed by the House of Commons to die on the Order Paper.
I do not know that the evidence is such that there should be any thought by
the government that we will delay inordinately what it wants to pass. In fact,
it is almost as though the government is buying its own myth.
I do not know how many of you were here when one of my former colleagues in
the legislature was here, Senator Nick Taylor. He had two sayings. One was
"They are meeting themselves coming the other way," and the other was, "They are
drinking their own bath water."
That is, in a way, what this proposal amounts to. The government has bought
this idea that somehow we, the opposition, have inordinately delayed their
legislation. I can give lots of examples where we have actually assisted in
passing legislation quickly. I will give several examples in which I was
instrumental. Of course, many would think I would be the last person who would
ever want to assist the government in anything.
On the Nahanni park legislation we were asked by the Minister of the
Environment to facilitate the bill. We got that through with unanimous consent
the first or second day after it arrived here. The Minister of the Environment
asked if we could facilitate getting the bill on the Haida Gwaii park through.
We got it through, and then he could not deliver on it in his house. We did not
delay that legislation.
I felt that the ethanol bill was very important. There was huge resistance to
it because some people thought we were burning food. On our committee it was the
Liberals, namely, me, who worked to get that legislation through when we had a
majority. We did not thwart that legislation. We were reasonable. When
reasonable arguments were made, we worked with you to make that work.
The government has no evidence that we would delay legislation, and there is
much evidence to demonstrate that we have not delayed, that we have facilitated
and expedited legislation.
In addition, although you often do not allow it, we often offer to pre-study
bills before they come here. There is lots of evidence of cooperation on our
part, even when we had a majority here, when we had some power in this place.
You know that critical to democracy is the ability for governments to listen
to other arguments, to not be afraid of other arguments, and to not react as
only bullies react when they have power, that is, to jam it through, to commit
what I think in this case is nothing but gratuitous violence. You do not have to
do this. You do not have to abuse or dismiss this institution. You do not have
to undermine what it stands for by bringing in what I am now calling "perpetual
closure," which is fundamentally unnecessary now and a fundamental affront to
democratic debate in this house.
Hon. Tommy Banks: Honourable senators, I rise on a point of order.
Senator Cools said that she might raise this point, but since she did not, I
will. She brought to our attention, through her citations of both Beauchesne and
Erskine May, a possible prohibition on the use of the procedural device of
moving the previous question in matters having to do with meetings of the house.
I was convinced by her citations that there might be some merit to the point
that the use of the motion to put the previous question is out of order in the
present circumstance, and I ask that Your Honour take that into consideration.
The Hon. the Speaker: Are there comments on the point of order raised
by Senator Banks?
Hon. Claude Carignan (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, with respect to the point of order, I think it is important to quote
rule 1(2) of the Rules of the Senate:
The Rules of the Senate shall in all cases be interpreted as
having priority over any practice, custom or usage described in any of the
appendices to the rules. Any conflict between the appendices and the rules
shall be resolved by reference to the rules alone.
Rule 48(2) clearly states:
The previous question refers to a motion "that the original question be
now put". . . .
I have heard all kinds of words, such as "guillotine," but the motion to
extend the hours and to permit the Senate to be effective by allowing work to go
on in committee and here in the chamber at the same time is a main motion.
Therefore, rule 48(2) is clear that the previous question can be put for this
type of motion.
In light of rules 1(2) and 48, I think it is clear that this point of order
is not valid and should be rejected.
Hon. Joan Fraser: Rule 1(2) is basically about the Rules of the
Senate having priority over material that is described in the appendices to
the Rules of the Senate. I think rule 1(1) is more useful. It says:
In all cases not provided for in these rules, the customs, usages, forms
and proceedings of either House of the Parliament of Canada shall,
mutatis mutandis, be followed in the Senate or in any committee thereof.
In addition to customs, usages, forms and proceedings within our own
Parliament, all senators know that Speakers have historically regularly relied
on other authorities where appropriate. I would suggest that Senator Banks is
right, that Senator Cools made a sufficiently persuasive case that that Your
Honour should take this matter under advisement.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: I rise to speak on Senator Banks' point of order.
This subject is far more complex than meets the eye. The Rules of the Senate
are not the authority for the Rules of the Senate. The Rules of
the Senate find their authority and power in section 18 of the British North
America Act, in what we call the ancient law of Parliament. This is a term I use
a lot. I have said this before, honourable senators. There are two areas of law
that are the least studied in the country, and yet they are the most complex of
all areas of law. They are the law of Parliament and the law of the prerogative
of the Queen in respect of the law of Parliament.
Honourable senators, I do not want any confusion with other branches of the
law of the prerogative. I speak of the law of the prerogative in respect of the
Queen having an active role in the legislation process of the house. It is not
the Royal prerogative of mercy or honour or any of those. It is the notion is
that the Queen is ever present in the proceedings of the house in that mace and
in the Senate rules.
Our rules can be traced to the law of the Constitution Act, 1867.
I would like to put the relevant section of the Constitution Act on the
record for those senators who may not know. This Constitution is a work of art
written largely by a brilliant fellow named Sir John A. Macdonald. I would
invite you to listen to him. Let us remember that the BNA Act, 1867, began as
the 72 resolutions adopted at the Quebec Conference.
I want to share with honourable senators, especially those who worship at the
altar of Sir John A. Macdonald, of which I am one, that Sir John A. Macdonald
personally drafted at least 44 of these resolutions. That is well known, but it
is believed that he drafted as many as 50. The man knew what he was doing. The
power for these rules and the law of Parliament is to be found in section 18 of
the BNA Act, 1867:
The privileges, immunities, and powers to be held, enjoyed, and exercised
by the Senate and by the House of Commons, and by the Members thereof
respectively, shall be such as are from time to time defined by Act of the
Parliament of Canada, but so that any Act of the Parliament of Canada
defining such privileges, immunities, and powers shall not confer any
privileges, immunities, or powers exceeding those at the passing of such Act
held, enjoyed, and exercised by the Commons House of Parliament of the
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and by the Members thereof.
Honourable senators, section 18 of the BNA Act is the basis for the Rules
of the Senate, not vice versa. Any rule of the Senate should be traced to
one of the privileges of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom. There are
some dubious rules in our rule book, undoubtedly. I want honourable senators to
understand that the original recorders of these processes in Canada, Mr. Todd,
Mr. Bourinot and Mr. Beauchesne, used to be loyal to the exact words used by the
original voices of speakers on the floor of the House of Commons in the U.K.
Their words were scripted and quoted into the body of rules in Canada. Our rules
have largely been drawn from the actual expressions on the floor of the houses
over the years.
I once raised the matter in committee. Rule 20 of the Rules of the Senate,
about strangers in the house, was taken verbatim from a motion by former Prime
Minister Disraeli. Let us understand that the constitutional power to make our
rules comes from the ancient law of Parliament received into Canada by section
18 of the British North America Act.
For example, a rule states that there shall be three readings of a bill in
each house, not two, not twelve. They used to do more readings, but the practice
of three readings has its origins in the same law of Parliament. For example,
could we make a new rule that we do not need three readings in the house? I
submit that if we did, it would not be consistent with the BNA Act. Enough said
I move on to the important point that no Senate practice can overcome or
defeat the plain and ordinary meaning of the words of Senate rule 95(4) which
states: "A select committee shall not sit during a sitting of the Senate."
There is no practice or usage of the Senate that can defeat that rule, which is
drawn directly from the law of Parliament. It is Her Majesty's command that she
should have primacy when she summons us here to attend upon the important
business of the place. Honourable senators, there is no real reason for there to
be a previous question before us because the conditions for using such harsh
measures do not pre-exist the moving of the motion for the previous question.
This is a British system which is a system of placing limits on the exercise
of power by ministers and governments. That is why we call it "limited
government." That is why we call it "mixed government." It is a combination
of representation and prerogative law. That is what this is. One cannot rely on
arbitrariness when the system is inherently opposed to arbitrariness. This is
why there are the rules about notice, time, and process. For years the
publicists of the 19th century wrote volumes about the inherent righteousness in
the British system of Parliament. All of them will tell you that this system
eschews arbitrariness and despises abuse of authority. Honourable senators, I do
not want any misunderstanding. It has always been understood that when we come
to certain kinds of questions, such as how we conduct our affairs called the
transaction of public business, we should seek greater agreement, not less.
Honourable senators, there was no notice, and there has been no emergency
that demands the suddenness of today. I spent my two hours downstairs reading on
the limits on the use of the previous question, because it is in the nature of
the British system to always have limits to the exercise of power. That is the
meaning of the British system. I was raised on a diet of this. I want to tell
you something, very few know anything about this, but we were raised when I was
young to uphold this system because it is within this system that a man named
William Wilberforce could succeed to defeat powerful interests and to carry
public opinion to bear within the representative assembly called the House of
Commons to offer relief to the miserable. You have to understand.
Honourable senators, I was raised to believe that we hold this system; that
it is a privilege for us to uphold this heritage and to look up to William
Wilberforce, who was able to end a practice of enslavement of other human
beings, which John Wesley once described as the scandal of America, as the
scandal of human nature and as the scandal of religion.
Honourable senators, I was raised to accept that if we serve the public, if
we choose to be public men and public women in public service, then this body of
law and this body of thought was given to us as an entailed piece of property,
that we are supposed to pass this torch and uphold these principles.
I am descended from what we call free coloured people. In 1791 there were
10,000 of them in Jamaica. These people were the products quite often of
miscegenation and these free coloured people were so fiercely independent-minded
as to be able to buy their way out of slavery — can you believe this? — by a
process called manumission. At the time, in some of those islands, the
prohibitions were so great that there was a charge of 1,000 pounds for one of
those individuals to buy their way out of slavery. Those people have a long
history of independent thinking. I want you to know my roots in this are very
deep, and my family was involved in bringing responsible government in Barbados.
Let us understand that I grew up on a diet of this and on the notion that you
uphold the principles, and it is our duty to uphold them, not to trample them. I
am not saying that you are trampling; but I am telling you that this is my
Your Honour, I was trying to avoid asking you to rule on this, but I am
making sure that I am clear. I am trying to be clear.
Honourable senators, the literature on these motions for the previous
question seems to suggest that the questions must be extremely serious. Most of
the time they are about bills. I could be wrong here; there has been no time to
research this. Many of the motions for the previous question moved here in the
Senate have been about bills. Maybe the former leaders could remember. I
immediately wanted to discover the limits to which such excessive power is
subject, because all power is subject to limits. This is what I found in merely
two hours. I could be wrong. There was a time when these motions were confined
to ministers. I did check that. There was a time — not any more, but there was a
Honourable senators, I would like His Honour to have the references I cited.
One of them is Mr. Joseph Redlich, a very famous man, The Procedure of the
House of Commons, volume 2, 1908, page 227. In this passage, Mr. Redlich
The previous question is therefore, it will be seen, a double-edged
weapon of opposition. For this reason there are further limitations on its
applicability. It may not be moved on a motion relating to the transaction
of public business or the meeting of the House, or in any committee or on
Honourable senators, this is new information for many, because I do not
believe that most senators have given much thought to the limitations on a power
that is so great and so enormous. I see one former deputy leader nodding. That
is all I am asking. What are the limitations of the power on which you are
relying and invoking to obtain adoption of this motion?
I also invoked Erskine May, the tenth edition, of A Treatise on the Law,
Privilege, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament. These were the days when
Erskine May was writing Erskine May. Erskine May is no longer Erskine May, by
the way, but that is another story for another day. It was published in 1893. It
says at page 269:
The previous question has been moved upon the various stages of a bill,
but it cannot be moved upon an amendment; — though, after an amendment has
been agreed to, the previous question can be put on the main question as
Then he continues:
Nor can the previous question be moved upon a motion relating to the
transaction of public business or the meeting of the House.
In other words, the use of this system, this process, this power of previous
question motions, is not intended to be used on what I would call these basic,
fundamental, daily matters; these matters demand greater agreement and greater
time invested in coming to understanding and agreement.
Then, finally, Erskine May's Treatise on the Law, Privileges, Proceedings
and Usage of Parliament cites this again, at page 396:
The previous question cannot be moved upon a motion relating to the
transaction of public business or the meeting of the House, or in committee.
Honourable senators, that is the situation. Besides, it is not up to me to
prove that the government does not have the power. When the government moves to
use a power, it is up to the government to state the premise and the rules, the
same rules that Senator Carignan was just invoking. The onus is always on those
who exercise power to show the source of their authority. We reverse the process
a lot here, but when you invoke a power, that is the nature of the exercise of
power. Those who exercise it have to show the power on which they rely.
I have gone to some length here to counter that and to say that my limited
research of two hours demonstrates quite clearly that there are limitations on
the use of these motions for the previous question. It appears from my reading
of the substance of this motion before us that its substance and purpose do not
fit within the purposes of the use of previous question motions.
Honourable senators, these matters sound so complicated, but trust me, there
is an inherent logic to them. It is a whole system working together and if you
have any doubt, we should always ask, "What did Her Majesty intend?" For those
of us who worship at the altar of Sir John A. Macdonald, what did he intend? I
mean that quite seriously.
I have already said that I am in agreement that we should sit from 1:30 until
four o'clock on Wednesdays. I have already said I disagreed with sending the
the committee; I did not think that was a good idea. I have already said that
most people here were quite willing to agree to the timing. However, this motion
does not fit into the guidelines, from what I can see, for the use of previous
There is something very sad about this situation because it is unnecessary.
Human conflict is a very funny thing; when you look back on life, most conflict
I would submit, honourable senators, that there is no real need for this
previous question motion before us. The same end can easily be accomplished
using other ordinary means.
The Hon. the Speaker: I wish to thank all honourable senators for
their contribution to this point of order raised by the Honourable Senator
Banks. I, too, spent part of the break between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. in
anticipation, but not with any sense of prophecy. I had the opportunity to
examine the contemporary procedural literature. First of all, I want to state
that I am prepared to rule now because I am comfortable with what I will say.
However, I respect the will of the house. It is the honourable senators who
regulate this house. The Speaker's job is to follow the rules that the house has
established and to try and interpret those rules in an equitable, thoughtful and
just manner. Should the Speaker fail at any time in doing that, he or she will
be corrected by the will of the majority of the house, which I think is a
superior system to that in the other place. For me, the will of the house is the
lumina pedibus meus the light at the feet of any Speaker.
The question that has been raised basically is whether or not the motion by
the Honourable Senator Mockler, seconded by the Honourable Senator Wallace, for
the previous question to be put is in order or not. My reading of rule 48 — and
I will not repeat it, it is there for all to read — is that it is very explicit
and clear, as adopted by the house.
It is, as many have indicated, rarely used. Some of the points that Senator
Cools has made, speak to why that particular procedure is rarely used, but that
does not mean it is not used or never used. It is up to the members of the
chamber to determine whether or not a member is going to use that rule and bring
forward a motion that the previous question be put.
It is my ruling that the motion is in order, in that it deals with a matter
for which full notice was given. There were opportunities for discussions during
the notice period. There are still opportunities for a full debate on the
It is the ruling of the chair that the motion is in order. If there is no
further debate, I will put the question.
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, I want to thank Senator Cools for having contributed to the point of
order and Senator Banks for having raised it.
Many important points have been made and I thank both honourable senators for
their in-depth knowledge of the rules and procedures of the Senate, as well as
their commitment and dedication to the Senate as an institution.
We have heard many interesting speakers present points of view this evening.
In the last 50 minutes, we have heard from Senator Fraser, Senator Banks,
Senator Mitchell and Senator Cools. I really think that we need to take the
time, as a group, to reflect on what has been said in the last 50 minutes.
Therefore, I move the adjournment of the debate.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to
adopt the motion?
Some Hon. Senators: Yes.
Some Hon. Senators: No.
The Hon. the Speaker: Those in favour of the motion will signify by
Some Hon. Senators: Yea.
The Hon. the Speaker: Those opposed to the motion will signify by
Some Hon. Senators: Nay.
The Hon. the Speaker: In my opinion, the nays have it.
And two honourable senators having risen:
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, there will be a one-hour
bell. The vote will be taken at 9:58 p.m.
Call in the senators.
Motion negatived on the following division:
THE HONOURABLE SENATORS
THE HONOURABLE SENATORS
THE HONOURABLE SENATORS
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, I would like to
remind you about the events of these past few weeks, which definitely surprised
many of my fellow Quebecers.
First, there was the installation of the Queen's portrait in every embassy
and at the Foreign Affairs building. I am talking about the Queen of Canada, and
I believe that the interests of Canada have been well served by her role in
Canada, which is entrenched in the Canadian Constitution.
More recently, a bill about the flag was introduced. It is probably a symbol
of Canadian unity, particularly for those who served Canada abroad and, in some
cases, lost their lives.
These events stem from decisions made by governments of a democratic country
with a British parliamentary system. I do not know if this applies to you, but I
have given a few short courses on the British parliamentary system to
parliamentarians. This system is often compared to the American system, which is
a presidential system, because it has a Senate. However, I believe we should
explain the difference between the two institutions.
I believe that the Canadian Senate replicates the House of Lords. Even though
it is thought that Quebec does not respect British institutions, there are some,
such as myself, who have served in politics, either in the House of Commons or
the Senate, because we believe in federal institutions. I believe in our
Canadian institutions and I have spent 30 years of my life ensuring that these
I would like to call the House of Lords the "House of Lords and Ladies." I
know that you usually say "the House of Lords." That is more or less the
result of a gentlemen's agreement, but I add now "ladies' agreements."
As far as I am concerned, what we are dealing with today is a lack of a
gentlemen's agreement. There are some gentlemen and ladies here who are willing
to make an agreement. They are willing to go to committee, discuss the question
and come back with recommendations. This is the process that we respect; it is
the process that has been in place. If need be, I guess we would all vote
For me, democracy is measured by its treatment of minorities. As you know,
French Canadians are a minority. It is not easy to be a minority in a country
where the majority of people are not of French origin. When I go out West, I
have to explain to certain people that we are not recent immigrants, that we
were here many hundreds of years ago. We celebrated the four hundredth
anniversary of Quebec City in recent years.
We actually obtained full independence as a country in 1935, because at that
time we were given the right to decide upon our foreign affairs. I am proud of
all the events in our history.
I always think that the majority rule should apply only in the best interest
of our citizens. I ask myself and I ask you how this measure will best serve
Canadians. How can the majority explain its refusal to use the normal channels
to better serve Canadians?
Honourable senators, trust your peers. We are here working for the same cause
as you — the well-being and benefit of Canadians.
We have the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of
Parliament to examine the proposal that was made by our colleague and report
back to us on its usefulness so that, in the end, we can discuss it.
We are talking here about traditions. We are talking about objectives that we
must meet to change a rule that has always worked well for dealing with Senate
I have been a senator for 16 years and I must say, with regard to the request
for consent at 4 p.m. to go to committee, that I have not felt it to be a
problem. To our new colleagues, I can say that there has always been cooperation
and, for most of those years, we were in the majority.
Our institution and its members will emerge stronger rather than bitter at
having the majority impose a rule whose usefulness is unknown. The trust among
us will continue to exist as long as we are treated with respect. As for me,
this evening, I must say that I am very disappointed at the way this motion was
imposed. I do not even know if my colleagues are interested in thoroughly
reviewing that. I am not certain, and that is why I move that the Senate be
(On motion of Senator Hervieux-Payette, debate adjourned.)
(The Senate adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m.)