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Proceedings of the Standing Committee on
Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament

Issue 1 - Evidence, March 3, 2009


OTTAWA, Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament met this day at 10:04 a.m. to consider the printing of an updated version of the Rules of the Senate, pursuant to rule 86(1)(f)(i), and to consider the progress report on the implementation of interpretation services for Aboriginal languages in the Senate chamber.

Senator Donald H. Oliver (Chair) presiding.

[Translation]

The Chair: Honourable senators, before we turn to the first item on our agenda, I would like to discuss with you very briefly the future business of the committee.

First of all, I am pleased to inform you that Senator Robichaud has been selected as the third member of the steering committee. His experience and perspective on matters will surely be invaluable to the committee.

[English]

The steering committee met last week, and we had a lengthy and detailed discussion of the potential business items before this committee and how we should present and deal with them. Today, we will hear from Charles Robert, Principal Clerk, Chamber Operations and Procedure Office, on the reprinting of the rules and on an update respecting progress on the interpretation of Aboriginal languages.

Next week, we will address the two reports of this committee that were left on the Order Paper during the last session of the last Parliament, which touched on the procedure for questions of privilege and the reinstatement of bills, respectively. Once we are briefed on their contents and objectives, it will be up to this committee to determine how it wishes to proceed with those two reports.

Finally, we will hear from Mr. Robert on the procedural implications arising from the adoption in the last Parliament of amendments to the Conflict of Interest Code for Senators.

On other topics raised, we agreed to initiate a meeting between our steering committee and the steering committee of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration to discuss the issues raised by Senator Nolin at our first meeting. In addition, we agreed to canvass the committee for members interested in participating in a working group to revise the Rules of the Senate in such a way that they are more coherently worded, organized and consistent with both official languages while not affecting the meaning or the impact of the rules. In other words, the changes will be neutral in application but improve the overall quality of the drafting and organization.

One other thing that Mr. Robert will discuss today is new formatting for the Orders of the Day. I think everyone can see the new formatting in the package that has been circulated. The old format had all the same font and same size print. The new one has bold headings saying what the beginning is, what Question Period is, and what the motions are. It sets out the information in a better way. There is no change in substance — the change he will speak to is in formatting.

Honourable senators, with that brief outline, I ask Mr. Robert to begin his presentation, unless there are specific questions that anyone wishes to address before the presentation.

Senator Corbin: Have you added one or two items to today's order?

The Chair: I have added two.

Senator Corbin: What are they?

The Chair: There is a change of name for the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs to add the words ``and International Trade.'' Mr. Robert will discuss that change and, if there is agreement, we can ask that the change be implemented. However, I am getting ahead of him.

Michel Bédard, Analyst, Library of Parliament: With regard to the change of name, this change deals with the reprint of the Rules of the Senate. Is that right?

The Chair: That is what Mr. Robert will speak to.

Senator Corbin: You are springing surprises on us. We have been called to discuss Orders of the Day. Now you are adding items, chair.

The Chair: The only item I added is to say that, for the Orders of the Day, Mr. Robert would like to speak to formatting changes, for example, a change in the font.

Senator Corbin: The changes are already implemented.

The Chair: No, they are not implemented.

The other thing I will do is introduce Michel Bédard, BCL, LLB, LLM, from the Library of Parliament, who will be the researcher from the Library of Parliament who is assigned to this committee for our work. Welcome.

Senator Fraser: In your introductory remarks, you refer to a working group to look at rewriting the rules. Has that group been struck?

The Chair: Not at all; It was only discussed at the steering committee.

Senator Fraser: Will we talk about that sooner or later in this committee?

The Chair: Yes; there has been no discussion on it here yet. The steering committee considered it as something we would raise with the full committee later.

With no further questions, I call upon Mr. Robert to make his presentation.

[Translation]

Charles Robert, Principal Clerk, Chamber Operations and Procedure Office: Honourable senators, the latest version of the Rules of the Senate was tabled in the Senate on October 18, 2005.

[English]

Since that time, there have been two revisions to the Rules of the Senate of Canada: One of them deals with rule 28(3.1), the treatment of user fees and, following consultation with the leadership, how they are to be transmitted to the standing committee that is relevant to the user fee, after 20 sitting days. This revision follows up on the implementation of the User Fee Act that was adopted in 2006, but the rules themselves have not incorporated that rule into the current edition, which was last published in October 2005. As we saw, that created a bit of a snafu in the house some weeks ago.

The other change that Mr. Bédard and the chair made reference to related to the name change of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, which is now the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade. We want to update the rules to incorporate those two changes. As I say, the rules are not up to date and that can create problems.

The normal practice is that either the deputy clerk or I would come before the committee to ask for permission to reprint the rules, having explained what changes are to be incorporated into the newest version.

The Chair: What is this document that we have before us now?

Mr. Robert: Is that item 2, dealing with the briefing note on the Order Paper and Notice Paper?

The Chair: No.

Mr. Robert: Basically, it is a summary of the two rule changes that are being implemented through the authorization of this committee to reprint the rules.

The Chair: Does everyone have before them the document dated March 3, which deals with reprint of Rules of the Senate?

Senator Nolin: Can we ask questions of Mr. Robert?

The Chair: Yes, you may.

[Translation]

Senator Nolin: Mr. Robert, have you considered the possibility of an amendment process based on instructions, since most of us have a version that contains loose sheets? Each time the Quebec Civil Code is amended, all 2,800 pages of the code are not reprinted every year, but merely those pages affected by the amendment.

Mr. Robert: That is a very good suggestion.

Senator Nolin: I think the costs would be lower.

Mr. Robert: Yes, the costs would be lower, and it would all depend on the authorization of the committee. If you are proposing that we adopt this approach, then this is something that we could easily consider. As a rule, we must seek this committee's permission to reprint the rules. This has not been done since 2005.

Senator Nolin: I understand. However, in seeking permission to reprint the Rules, are you looking at reprinting only the amended portions, or the entire document?

Mr. Robert: We would be reprinting the rules in their entirety because the two changes would be incorporated. Given the way in which the rules are printed, additional sheets cannot be inserted. It is simpler when they are presented in a three-ring binder. Our supply of copies is almost exhausted. We had to order some reprints of the October 2005 version because we had exhausted the supply of copies at our office.

Senator Nolin: So then, cost is a consideration.

Mr. Robert: That and the fact that we had almost no copies left. We had to order some reprints of the October 2005 version because we had run out of copies.

[English]

The Chair: There is no point in printing something that is two or three years old. We are trying today to obtain permission to update it.

Mr. Robert: Indeed.

The Chair: Because a question was asked in the chamber by a senator from Prince Edward Island, why can we not have rules that are current, and why do we have the 2005 version? That question is the one you are trying to deal with.

[Translation]

Senator Corbin: Item number 2 has to do with adding ``international trade'' to the mandate of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs. I do not understand what that is all about. The committee in the previous Parliament made a recommendation to the Senate and it was subsequently adopted. Now the whole issue is before us once more and the recommendation is being made that the committee amend rule 86(1)(f)(i). It is as if the committee is reporting to the Senate that a squirrel has two ears, and the Senate is agreeing with it. And now, the committee is bringing up the very same matter. It all seems rather unnecessary to me. Senate officials are adding to the Senate's decision with respect to the rules. What is going on here?

[English]

The Chair: This has been the practice in the past but I want to confirm it officially with Mr. Robert. Can you given us the reason why this is happening in this way — why this procedure?

Mr. Robert: The practice has been that when the Senate makes, or authorizes, a change to the rules, that decision changes the rules but does not necessarily change the printed version of the rules until we go before the committee to ask, can we have permission to reprint the rules incorporating the changes that have been made?

To date, that has been the practice — that we come back from time to time as the Senate approves changes to the rules, and ask for permission to reprint. That is all that is happening today.

[Translation]

Senator Corbin: I think it is a waste of time. If, in its wisdom, the Senate decrees that from now on, this is how the rules will read, then we print them and we are done with it. We are wasting time over pointless details.

[English]

The Chair: As usual, you have a good point. At the steering committee meeting with Senator Smith and Senator Robichaud a few days ago, we reached the same conclusion you reached. As a result, we had one of the clerks draw up a proposal as follows and I will read it to you:

That the Clerk of the Senate be authorized to prepare and print from time to time, as required, for tabling in the Senate by the Speaker, consolidated versions of the Rules of the Senate containing any changes approved by the Senate to that time and any minor typographical corrections.

Senator Corbin: We will eliminate this process.

The Chair: Exactly.

Senator Corbin: That is fine with me.

Senator Andreychuk: As I understand it, this change is simple; it is only a title. However, when a change is adopted on the floor of the chamber, it is with respect to the subject matter and the content of that particular item. I understood that the role of this committee is to ensure that the adoption of that paragraph or content makes sense, if I may use that word — that it flows properly and does not contradict other rule changes.

If we take that role away and make the change automatic, who will have that responsibility — it will no longer be the senators — and will we ensure there will be an administrative procedure bureaucratically to handle it? It is one thing to say we will change a rule; it is another thing to say how it impacts other rules and other issues. While a change is routine in most cases, from time to time there have been overlapping concerns, which was the responsibility of the Rules Committee.

The Chair: You are correct and, indeed, you are on the Standing Committee on the Conflict of Interest for Senators. As you know, the Conflict of Interest for Senators Committee made changes to its rules, and as a result of those changes by that committee, changes will be required to the Rules of the Senate, and are mandatory to come before this committee, because they affects other rules. That is an example.

Senator Fraser: To add more of the same on Senator Andreychuk's point, it seems to me it is the job of this committee to ensure that necessary concordance, adjustments and whatnot have been examined before we adopt the report recommending a rule change.

On the point raised by Senator Nolin, is it within the power of this committee to order that, henceforth, the rules be printed in the loose-leaf format? I expect it is a little more expensive upfront because the binder is hardcover, instead of spiral binding. However, once that policy is adopted, then whenever the rules are changed, without coming back to this committee, the administration can be instructed to reprint the relevant pages of the loose-leaf binder and forward them to all senators.

If that is not possible, then the motion you suggested, chair, at least would be an advance from the cumbersome procedure we now have. However, I would like the loose-leaf system to be the standard because it is so much easier to work with.

The Chair: That is a good point.

Senator Smith: I planned to make that exact point. Maybe we are looking to Mr. Robert for confirmation. Particularly if there are only a few pages, we can reprint the pages and replace them. If we have a mailing list, the people who want to be mailed those pages in some library somewhere will receive them. Is that what we are talking about as the new standard format?

Mr. Robert: By and large, yes. I do not think it is a major problem. The only change would be to make sure that the revisions are properly distributed and incorporated into the version of the rules. If we reprint the rules from beginning to end and make it a massive distribution, we are guaranteed that all senators have the same copy, the same version.

Senator Smith: Will our rules be on a website somewhere to ensure that they are always kept up-to-date?

Mr. Robert: Yes.

Senator Smith: That website is the definitive reference point.

The Chair: Returning to the suggestion of Senator Andreychuk and Senator Fraser, it seems to me that if a rule such as the one drafted, which has not been finalized, giving the clerk a certain authority, we could also say that the clerk shall refer the matter to this committee should there be any question of whether there is an impact on other rules. That approach would put the burden on the clerk.

Do you have further questions of Mr. Robert? If not, is it the pleasure of the committee to table the reprinted rules once they are finalized by Mr. Robert?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Carried.

The process for reprinting rules appears to be cumbersome and restrictive. What shall we do with this draft amendment? Do you want it to go back to the steering committee to strengthen the language, in light of the comments by Senator Fraser, Senator Corbin and Senator Andreychuk?

Senator Fraser: I would like that.

The Chair: Is it agreed. We are talking about the motion, ``That the Clerk of the Senate be authorized to prepare and print from time to time. . . .''

Blair Armitage, Clerk of the Committee: It is in your package after the Order Paper.

The Chair: Senator Andreychuk and Senator Fraser raised valid points, corroborated by the fact that the change made by the Conflict of Interest Committee impacts on the Rules of the Senate, and the changes must be carefully examined. Can this motion go back to the steering committee for further review?

[Translation]

Senator Robichaud: I do not understand at all what we are trying to accomplish. Any changes to the rules must be approved in advance by this committee and a report must be tabled to the Senate. It is then that the change takes effect. There is no need to bring the matter back to this committee, because the Senate makes a decision based on the report initially prepared by the committee.

Therefore, I do not understand why the clerk must come back before the committee and request permission to make changes that were already approved by the committee, and then subsequently by the Senate.

Senator Corbin: That is precisely the point that Senator Robichaud was making. If there are more changes to be made, the committee should consider them before tabling its report to the Senate. Otherwise, it is a never-ending process. This is not an efficient way to conduct the business of the Senate.

When a committee considers a motion, it must weigh all of the possible repercussions in a responsible manner before reporting to the Senate, otherwise it never ends. I agree with Senator Robichaud.

Senator Robichaud: The two changes that we are asking the Clerk to make to the rules have been approved by the Senate, further to the reports tabled by this committee. We have these very reports in front of us. Therefore, I see no point in revisiting these changes.

[English]

Senator Fraser: I think we are talking about two different things to send back to the steering committee.

First, Senator Andreychuk raised the point about triple certainty; that we do not foul things up in some way when we recommend rule changes. It is this committee's job to ensure we do not foul things up, before we make our initial report. If, inadvertently after the fact, we find that we have fouled things up, obviously we would come back to the committee quickly to fix them the way we should have done the first time.

That issue was not the one I raised. The second issue, which I raised, was a purely physical, mechanical point about the way in which the rules are printed and distributed to senators. My recommendation was that the standard format be the loose-leaf binder. Therefore, whenever the rules are changed, which does not happen often but does happen, the administration would distribute automatically — without waiting for a formal presentation to this committee and approval by this committee — reprinted versions of the relevant pages of the rules to all senators.

I do not think that suggestion invalidates the text of the proposed motion here. However, if the committee decides to do what I suggest, we could add a third paragraph to this motion. Given that the administration always discovers complications in these things, I would not mind referring that suggestion back to the steering committee to give time for everyone to ensure we are following proper form.

This issue is not the same as the one raised by Senator Andreychuk.

The Chair: I understand that. Mr. Armitage wants to comment.

Mr. Armitage: I wanted to help clarify the other points, but this comment does not address what Senator Fraser said.

In the instances where the committee has deliberated over a rule change and considered how it would fit within the larger context of the rules, I do not think there has ever been a situation where the clerk responsible for chamber operations has come back with a reprinted set of rules and found any difficulty.

In an instance where the rules were changed on the fly in the chamber, which happens rarely but can happen, or an amendment is made to the rules proposed by this committee in the chamber and adopted there, I am virtually certain — knowing the culture of this institution — that if the clerk were to discover a problem in trying to incorporate the changes, the clerk would refer back to this committee without being required to do so. That is simply our nature and his nature.

I have no comment with respect to the point raised by Senator Fraser.

The Chair: Is there any further discussion?

I invite Mr. Robert to give us his presentation on Aboriginal interpretation. I want honourable senators to know that Alain Wood, Director, Translation Bureau Directorate of Public Works and Government Services Canada is also available to answer any questions honourable senators may have.

Senator Corbin: What happens to this motion?

The Chair: It goes back to the steering committee, as suggested by Senator Fraser. Is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: I thought it was adopted. We had asked earlier that it go back to the steering committee.

Senator Corbin: Then we had a discussion.

Senator Fraser: The motion has gone back to the steering committee. We will have another discussion when it comes back to us.

The Chair: Mr. Robert, did you want to say something about the formatting of the Orders of the Day?

Mr. Robert: Yes, you will have noticed that beginning with the First Session of the Fortieth Parliament, the layout of the Order Paper has been modified to make it easier to follow.

Senator Corbin: I said that earlier and somebody said, no.

Mr. Robert: One thing was not changed: The inside cover was not changed because the Speaker of the Senate did not feel he had the authority to approve it. Rather, he requested that it come to this committee for approval. We have proposed a layout that follows, in some sense, the format and the thinking of the revised Order Paper. Pursuant to what has become a request of the Speaker, we ask this committee to approve changing the format in this way. We think it is much more reflective of the structure of our sitting and how we go about our business.

The Chair: That is clear. Do senators have comments? Are we agreed that they proceed with that formatting?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator Corbin: It would have been nice if the print could have been as large as in the previous version. You have reduced the font from ten-point to eight-point. However, I accept the change.

The Chair: We will move on to interpretation service for Aboriginal languages, on which Mr. Robert will give us a brief presentation. As well, Alain Wood, Director of the Translation Bureau Directorate, Public Works and Government Services Canada, is here today to answer any questions that honourable senators may wish to put.

Mr. Robert, please proceed.

Mr. Robert: On May 14, 2008, the Senate adopted the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament. This report recommended that as part of the confirmation of the ancestral rights of First Peoples, the use of Inuktitut be permitted in the proceedings and deliberations of the Senate, in addition to French and English.

The Rules Committee recommended that a pilot project be developed to introduce the use of Inuktitut in the chamber at the earliest opportunity. The pilot project, as we have conceived of it, consists of three phases. Phase one is the implementation of Inuktitut-to-English interpretation in the Senate chamber. The feasibility of direct Inuktitut-to- French interpretation will also be examined. Phase two is the examination of the feasibility of implementing Inuktitut interpretation in some committees, notably the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples and the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. Phase three, after an evaluation of experiences gained perhaps by the end of the Fortieth Parliament, will be the consideration of expanding the service to include additional Aboriginal languages. This presentation details the steps that are being taken to implement phase 1 — the introduction of Inuktitut to the Senate chamber.

This introduction presents significant challenges. Issues that need to be addressed include the identification of interpreters capable of providing simultaneous interpretation from Inuktitut to English, and eventually Inuktitut to French; the technical adjustments to allow for the interpretation of three languages; and the space limitations imposed by the chamber with its heritage characteristics. These challenges are not insurmountable barriers to the objectives proposed by the Rules Committee, and agreed to by the Senate. Following the adoption of the report, a working group was established to try to implement them.

With respect to facilities, English and French interpreters occupy a booth on the fourth floor above the south gallery of the Senate. This space is limited and is deemed not suitable for use by Inuktitut, English and French interpretation for the following reasons: It does not meet ISO norms for permanent simultaneous interpretation booths; Inuktitut, English, French interpretation requires three booths with separate access because the different interpreters cannot work when there are no barriers between them, which the existing booth does not provide; and the interpreters prefer to be able to see the senators speaking in the language. Inuktitut offers different challenges and so interpreters prefer to be closer to the floor. This preference has confirmed an idea to try to use the antechamber as a space to locate Inuktitut interpreters. This location would not be permanent but rather a movable location. We would need to install facilities when the requirement to provide Inuktitut becomes evident. In the assessment that was made with officials from PWGSC dealing with the fabric of the building, it was deemed that the most suitable solution was the installation of a portable booth that could be brought into the antechamber to accommodate interpreters working between Inuktitut and English. A second portable booth would be required when direct Inuktitut to French interpretation is implemented.

With respect to the interpreters, it has proven difficult to find a qualified Inuktitut-to-English interpreter, although one has been identified and is undergoing training. During the early implementation of phase one, interpretation into French will be carried out following the English. Sadly, this plan will bring about a staggered interpretation but, at the moment, it is our only viable option if the desire is to bring the use of Inuktitut into the Senate chamber within a reasonable time.

There are attempts to identify Inuktitut-to-French interpreters and we will identify them as quickly as we can. As I mentioned, at present, only one qualified Inuktitut-to-English interpreter has been identified but the objective of the Translation Bureau is to create a pool of 10 to 12 interpreters, depending on how extensively the language is used over time.

For Inuktitut-to-English interpretation to be successful, the translation bureau has deemed it necessary to ensure that terminology in Inuktitut renders parliamentary debate comprehensible and meaningful in Inuktitut. Since parliamentary terminology in Inuktitut is still relatively limited, the terminology used in Nunavut will be of great assistance as a basis for developing the appropriate federal language terminology.

During phases one and two of the project, the translation bureau will develop the necessary parliamentary terminology in Inuktitut. The terminology will be submitted to the Senate for review and approval to ensure that it meets the technical and linguistic requirements of the Senate.

It is proposed that once the service is available, a senator wishing to use Inuktitut in the chamber must notify the chamber operations and procedure office at least one week ahead of the date on which Inuktitut is to be used in the Senate. Any written text available should be submitted five days ahead of time for translation to English and to French. This requirement will be particularly critical during the first part of phase one of the translation so that we can offer French as quickly as possible to the prepared text. In phase one, interpretation will be limited to one day per week to allow the interpreter to work on the development of terminology. We are limiting this translation at the request of the Translation Bureau.

There are three possible options for proceeding with Inuktitut to English interpretation. One, a senator notifies the chamber and procedure office of his or her intention to use the Inuktitut in the Senate. The facilities required for interpretation are set up then for the date indicated. The time for Inuktitut to English interpretation can be used then for a prepared speech, and questions and answers. Real-time translation services will be provided. The Senate Administration will provide a list of dates available for Inuktitut to English interpretation. The facilities for interpretation will be set up and an interpreter made available for those dates.

The possibility of simultaneous questions and answers during debate on a bill, for example, will be a challenge, but we think it is feasible if we can identify and train a proper interpreter. No changes will be made to Hansard as currently produced. It will identify in the English version and in the French version that Inuktitut was used as the language spoken by the senator.

The costs, thus far, are considerable, but not exorbitant. The total cost currently, with the preparation of the communications equipment, the purchase of the booths, the modifications to the chamber amount to roughly $40,000. The Translation Bureau spend considerably more in identifying and training the interpreters. The projected cost is in the neighbourhood of $150,000, but that will not come from the Senate budget. That funding would be provided by the Translation Bureau. Mr. Wood, who is here from the Translation Bureau of Public Works, can give more explanation of the challenge the bureau faces in identifying proper interpreters and building the pool required if we intend to implement this project in a meaningful way.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Robert. In the course of your presentation, you said that a working group has been authorized to implement this project. Who is the working group?

Mr. Robert: The working group includes Hélène Bouchard, Director of Information Services Directorate; Gilles Duguay, Director General of Precinct Services; myself; Alain Wood from the Translation Bureau; Brigitte Desjardins from Accommodation and Planning Projects, Suzanne Leblond from Accommodation and Planning Projects; and Stéphane Nantel, who works with Alain Wood.

[Translation]

Senator Robichaud: You say that you have already taken certain steps to get smaller booths. Is the process now under way? When can senators who want to speak Inuktitut expect to begin doing so?

Mr. Robert: Our target date is sometime before the departure of Senator Adams. We would like the necessary arrangements to be in place before he retires so that at least once, he can address the Senate in his native language.

[English]

The Chair: When does Senator Adams depart?

Mr. Robert: We have to be ready for early May.

Senator Fraser: My questions may be interrelated.

Are we speaking of translation from English to Inuktitut and French to Inuktitut, or from Inuktitut to the other official languages?

Did you say we need three booths?

Mr. Robert: We need two, but we will start with one.

Alain Wood can speak to you about the challenge and capabilities of the interpreters.

The Chair: Welcome to the committee, Mr. Wood. I invite you to respond to Senator Fraser's questions.

[Translation]

Alain Wood, Director, Interpretation and Parliamentary Translation, Translation Bureau Directorate: Once the facilities are in place and we have one or two Inuktitut interpreters, an Inuit senator whose native language is Inuktitut will be able to address the Chamber in his or her language. His or her words will then be interpreted into English, and then from English into French. Comments will then be simultaneously translated back into Inuktitut.

Senator Fraser: So then, if I were to ask Senator Adam a question in English, he would have the translation.

Mr. Wood: Yes.

[English]

Mr. Robert: I will correct myself on one point. Our goal is to ensure that Senator Adams will have the opportunity to speak his language before he leaves, but it will depend, in large measure, on the ability of the Translation Bureau to identify someone qualified to do the job. We can have the installation ready.

The Chair: You have told us that you have one interpreter already.

Mr. Robert: Mr. Wood has identified one.

[Translation]

Mr. Wood: What I can tell you is that everything will be in place by May to provide interpretation services, at the very least for the occasion in question.

Senator Corbin: While I do appreciate that Senator Adams is held in high esteem, we must not forget our Senate colleague Charlie Watt who also speaks fluent Inuktitut. We need to be certain that everything is in place so that if Senator Watt wishes to speak in Inuktitut the following week, the arrangements and staff are in place.

Mr. Robert: As I see understand it, the facilities will be in place. That will not be problem.

Senator Corbin: So then, all of the other senators will be able to avail themselves of the service.

Mr. Robert: Absolutely.

Senator Corbin: It is a starting point.

Mr. Robert: Yes.

Senator Robichaud: I simply wanted to point out that we tested this out when the committee travelled to Iqaluit to meet with parliamentarians who spoke in Inuktitut. I spoke French to them and interpretation was provided into Inuktitut, and vice versa.

Despite some restrictions, I found the experience to be rather positive and I felt we could go ahead and try it out here.

There will be a slight delay, because we will be going from Inuktitut into English and then into French. You say that you will try and find someone who is capable of interpreting directly from Inuktitut into French, and vice versa.

Senator Losier-Cool: The notice of meeting makes mention of a progress report on the implementation of interpretation services for Aboriginal languages. There are a number of Aboriginal languages, as we all know. We have made great strides in the case of Inuktitut. Does this mean that within a year's time, if a senator speaks in another Aboriginal language, he can expect to receive the same kind of service?

Mr. Robert: As I have already tried to explain, that would really be phases 2 and 3 of this program. We are starting with Inuktitut in the Senate and we will then progress to the stage where it is used in other pertinent committees, specifically aboriginal peoples and fisheries. It will then be up to you to evaluate this experience and determine how the program can be expanded to include other Aboriginal languages in the Senate.

For now, we are focusing on integrating Inuktitut into chamber proceedings.

Senator Robichaud: The senators will speak in Inuktitut and there will be a note in Hansard indicating that they have done so. Would it be possible to have a copy of their speech in Inuktitut appended to the proceedings?

In my view, it would be important for northern residents to have an opportunity to read these comments. It remains to be seen how much time it would take to produce such a document. There are people in Iqaluit who can do this work. All we would need to do is let them know that we are interested in trying this out here.

[English]

Mr. Robert: We can look at it. I confess that, to date, it has not been a focus of much discussion. There are issues with turnaround times and delay. The language is not in an alphabet that we have any experience with.

My problem is that, when you speak about the annex, senator, it is more than the prepared text. It could also include the exchanges that the senator has with his or her colleagues. Once we enter into that situation, we cannot rely upon the prepared text that a senator may have prepared in advance that we could, in some sense, ship to Iqaluit to receive a proper version if we do not receive it from the senator.

The moment we agree, and encourage — as we should — exchanges, then we are into a real-time situation that can create additional delays in terms of preparing the annex.

If there is agreement — and I am thinking off the top of my head here — that this annex be included in the bound version of the Debates, as opposed to the daily version of the Debates, that would give us the necessary lead time to ensure that we could provide that service. If you insist that it be included in the daily version of the Debates, which basically has a 15-hour turnaround time, that poses a real challenge.

The Chair: Senator Watt, are there any facilities for translating written text in Inuktitut at any of the universities in the Ottawa region? In other words, is it necessary to send text all the way to Iqaluit?

Senator Watt: To do what? To prepare the text in Iqaluit? I guess anything is possible. I can see some advantage in working closely with the system in Iqaluit.

You also talked about the lack of availability of the translators. I am not sure where you are looking. Are you looking here in Ottawa, Montreal or Quebec City? There is a pool of translators in Iqaluit. What is wrong with tapping into that?

The Chair: Mr. Wood, do you want to respond?

[Translation]

Mr. Wood: Before I answer that question, I would like to say something about Hansard. If the Senate decides that the transcripts of proceedings in Inuktitut should appear in Hansard, then the technical means to make that happen exist. It is simply a matter of making the necessary arrangements and having the proceedings translated. It would, however, take a bit longer to have everything in place to provide that service. However, I can be done, if that is what the Senate wants.

On the subject of recruitment, the main problem is finding people who can interpret from Inuktitut into French. They do exist, but it is harder to find them than you might think. Add to that the fact that we looking for people who have some experience in the field of parliamentary interpretation. This is a rather unique skill. These interpreters must be familiar with parliamentary procedures, usages and culture. People cannot simply be thrown into this environment without advance preparation. It is critically important for them to understand what is happening. They must be trained, and this further extends our search time.

In the short term, we will be providing interpretation from Inuktitut into English and then from English into French, a less than ideal situation. At the same time, we will step up our search for individuals who can interpret from Inuktitut into French. Then, when someone speaks in Inuktitut, the words can be interpreted simultaneously into the two other languages. A response given in French, for example, will also be interpreted simultaneously into English and Inuktitut. That would be the ideal situation. That is generally the type of arrangement we try to have in place for international conferences.

Senator Corbin: I do not think our objective should necessarily be to have all speeches given by senators in Inuktitut printed in the following day's Hansard. There could be a time lag. It could be noted at the appropriate spot in the minutes of proceedings in French and in English that a senator spoke in Inuktitut and that the transcript in Inuktitut will be available in three days and appended to the minutes of proceedings and evidence of the Senate. I think this reasonable arrangement will satisfy just about everyone. There is no need to delay the printing of Hansard merely because someone spoke in a language, albeit a traditional language in Canada, that is not one of the two official languages.

I would like us to consider this option. Then, the arguments presented could be withdrawn and people would for the most part be satisfied.

[English]

Senator Fraser: Along the same lines, I wanted to suggest — but it was suggested ahead of me — that it would be important that the bound version of the proceedings include the Inuktitut text, and it would need to be as an annex, not part of the actual proceedings. We do not want constitutional problems. The Constitution says that our debates are published in English and French. I suspect, as an annex, nobody would have any difficulties.

If Inuktitut text was circulated within three days, that would be fine. Given statutory holidays, and the fact that other people take holidays even if they are not statutory, I wonder if we might allow a little more than three days. In the meantime, we would need to ensure that the clerk has, to the extent possible, the written text and the original available for anybody who needs to consult it. In case of any conflict between the English and French versions, for example, we can go back to the original.

I do not think any of these things should delay us. It seems to me that great progress has been made. Whatever we do in terms of recommendations should not have the effect of delaying this measure.

Senator Keon: Chair, you raised a point about using local resources from some of the universities. I tend not to agree with that point. The transmission of material to and from Iqaluit is relatively simple. We have a good base there for this whole development, and I think we should not go outside it.

The Chair: Any other comments?

Mr. Robert: I have one brief one. This briefing is for the benefit of this committee to tell you where we are and what efforts have been made to implement this project. The expenses have not yet been approved. I need to go to internal to seek the funds so that we have the signoff necessary to go ahead with drilling and a few other things for the communications systems, once there is an agreement as to how that approach should be taken.

The Chair: That approval is for the $40,000?

Mr. Robert: That is right.

The Chair: Senator Duffy had his hand up earlier, and I apologize. I did not mean to ignore you.

Senator Duffy: Senator Watt alluded to this point earlier: What kind of cooperation can we have with the Nunavut government? It seems to me a lot of this work as already been done by them. What can we learn from them? Are we already working with them? Is there some way we could either contract with them to have them provide services for us or to assist us in the search for the personnel we need?

[Translation]

Mr. Wood: In fact, we went to Iqaluit in February 2008 on a fact-finding mission to see how they operate. It was certainly an eye-opening experience. In terms of recruitment or hiring freelancers, we are exploring the option of working with contractors who currently work for the Legislative Assembly of Iqaluit. Scheduling is a problem, but yes, we are exploring our options and finding out what resources are currently available.

[English]

Senator Andreychuk: For information, you are saying the booths will be portable to start with. Where are you contemplating putting those booths? Will they be constructed or will you use some of the technologies? Everywhere I go, where there are portable booths, they splash over into the conferences, et cetera. It is horrific, and it is a real trial for the translators as well. I am curious where they will be located, as an experiment.

Mr. Robert: In terms putting something in place in a relatively short period of time, the only viable space that could be used is the antechamber. The booths would be inside the big doors but not inside the double doors that lead directly into the chamber. Again, they would be there only temporarily so that the impact on the ambience, if you like, of the chamber will be minimal.

I suspect that in the long term we would like to look at revamping the fourth-floor booth or take advantage of new technologies when, at some point — maybe in our lifetime — the Centre Block is closed for renovation from top to bottom. At that time, there would be opportunity to consider what would be the most advantageous way to bring about the linguistic changes that the Senate is contemplating.

There is the possibility — not on the horizon right now — that if we wish to give proper respect to the Native languages, there could be multiple languages used on one occasion. We do not have the facilities right now to carry out that possibility.

However, if we like the experiment and if it encourages us to go this way, then certainly when the building is closed for renovations, translation would have to figure in the kind of changes we would make.

[Translation]

Senator Corbin: The woodwork and the interpretation booths in the Senate should not be cited as a reason for not implementing this service. It is my belief that rights take precedence over woodwork.

Canada lags a little behind world trends. There would not be a European Parliament if interpretation services were not available in 40 or 50 languages. We play host to an ever-growing number of foreign visitors who speak neither French nor English, or who speak these languages very little. I wish that this would become a reality. I realize this committee will do nothing at this time, and that the Senate will not take any action either, because we are still bound by the Official Languages Act, while we ignore at the same time traditional laws.

Eventually, I think we need to follow global trends and offer universal interpretation services, any time a request is made. I am looking to the medium and long terms. Sooner or later, it will have to come to that. Furthermore, if we need to make some physical alterations to the meeting rooms of Canada's Parliament, then we should decide right now to consider our options. We cannot continue to gaze at our navels, if you will excuse the expression.

Senator Robichaud: When the Senate and house chambers will be relocated, we would need to have the proper facilities to continue providing this service. Some major changes will be needed, and perhaps this would be the time to go forward with them.

[English]

The Chair: I thank Mr. Wood and Mr. Robert for your presentations on this subject matter.

Senator Nolin: While Mr. Robert is here, can we ask him a few questions?

The Chair: Yes, we are now open for new business.

[Translation]

Senator Nolin: Mr. Robert, I would like to share with my colleagues a conversation we had last week about the possibility of having a rules code which, like the Criminal Code, would contain decisions and jurisprudence.

Mr. Robert: An annotated code.

Senator Nolin: Precisely. I would like to share your reaction to this idea with my colleagues.

Mr. Robert: You talked about the possibility of having an annotated code or annotated rules which would, by citing precedents, points of order and questions of privilege, really explain past rulings by the Speaker that were supported by the Senate. This would provide us with a better understanding of how the rules have been interpreted.

The first phase of this project would involve looking at how the rules could be amended, as mentioned by the Speaker, in such a way as to make them clearer and to present them in a more orderly fashion.

[English]

If you look at the rules right now, elements are scattered throughout that are not particularly logical and well ordered. There are also language problems, such as the use of the passive negative in English, and faulty translation in the French because it was based on a translation. It is a bit problematic.

In fact, the idea for this project began more than a dozen years ago under the speakership of Senator Molgat. A team was struck to prepare a revision of the rules without changing the sense but rendering them simpler to understand and easier to use, with headers, subheaders and marginal notations that would be easier to follow.

Senator Nolin, you want to take the project one step further, to provide references to decisions relevant to a particular rule where decisions have been rendered, that assist in the interpretation and understanding of that rule. That would be, in some sense, phase two of the project.

We have already prepared a working draft of what would be Senate procedure in practice, a manual that would be the equivalent of Beauchesne, and exist as a working copy inside the Chamber and Procedure Office. At a time when the Rules Committee deems fit, we want to present that project for your review and for your determination as to whether you believe it would have value in better understanding the practices that have developed in the Senate over the last 140-plus years.

The Chair: It would not necessarily need to be phase two, if you have prepared the document with the annotations already.

Mr. Robert: Yes, if you wanted, we could present you with chunks or blocks as early as next week.

Senator Fraser: In loose-leaf form?

Senator Nolin: I am sure they have it in loose-leaf.

Mr. Robert: We will punch the holes and put it in a notebook for you, senator.

[Translation]

Senator Robichaud: We have just approved the printing of the rules, with a few changes. This means that if we follow your suggestion, a new edition will be printed shortly. Correct?

Senator Nolin: There will be two documents.

Senator Robichaud: However, in the case of the rules, sometimes the French is not of the same calibre as the English. That is not what you meant by ``annotated.''

Senator Nolin: No.

Senator Robichaud: An explanation would be provided as to why a rule is interpreted a certain way.

Senator Nolin: That is right.

Senator Robichaud: I am talking about ensuring agreement between the two versions. Could that take some time?

Mr. Robert: The Speaker mentioned the possibility of striking a subcommittee to examine this proposal this summer. Ensuring that the rules are well drafted, clear and easy to follow would be another phase of this project. Phase 3 would be the incorporation of both versions. Phase 2, however, would consist of drafting a procedural manual which explains how things are done at the Senate. Of course, the manual would contain references to the rules, but it would also refer to practices that do not flow from the rules, but rather from conventions and constitutional agreements.

Senator Robichaud: I do not have a problem with that at all. Getting back to the version on the table, the mere fact of having both versions say the same thing would help. How long will it be before we have this document? Rather than print a new version that incorporates these two changes, why not wait? I do not like to do things twice.

Mr. Robert: The challenge would be to get your approval to have the rules basically rewritten. That is quite another matter. The meaning of the rules did not change when they were revised and renumbered. However, it is really not up to us, the Senate administration, to share our thoughts on this matter with you. It is your job to evaluate the work done and to approve the proposed changes.

Senator Robichaud: Which brings us back to the working group suggested by the Speaker.

Mr. Robert: Yes.

Senator Robichaud: So then, we proceed immediately to reprint the rules and incorporate the minor changes, and later, we go ahead with another printing. Fine then, if that is how it must be, but if it were possible to reprint the rules and incorporate all of the changes all at once, then that would be my preference.

[English]

The Chair: Mr. Robert said earlier that they are running out of the 2005 edition, and more are needed as of yesterday. Rather than print more of that edition, as soon as they have permission they will start printing, and they cannot wait for the revisions and the work that will be done in the summer, fall and later.

Senator Robichaud: If you say so, Mr. Chair.

The Chair: I am not saying so. I am trying to report what we have heard from Mr. Robert.

[Translation]

Senator Nolin: Mr. Robert, following up on Senator Robichaud's question, how much time are we looking at? Let us say this working group begins to meet on a regular basis.

Mr. Robert: It all depends on you. The text already exists. The rules need to be updated to take into account the handful of changes that have been approved over the past few years.

Senator Nolin: It is a matter of refining or reworking the existing text. How much time would we be looking at?

[English]

The Chair: Are correcting the problems in the two official languages in the rules?

Mr. Robert: As I mentioned, this project began under Speaker Molgat, so something already exists that needs only slight modifications in order to take into account the latest rule changes. If there is a desire on the part of the committee to deal with this project, we can provide you with working copies tomorrow.

Senator Corbin: Do it.

Senator McCoy: They are logical and I have used them more than the illogical 2005 rules, so I heartily recommend them in English. I did not look at the French version.

Senator Andreychuk: I want clarification because the more we talk, the more confused I become as to what this working committee will do. I understood it would update the rules in the sense of having the French and English in a proper version, and perhaps do some ordering.

The Chair: We have heard that is already done.

Senator Andreychuk: However, the Molgat rules went further than that. I was on the committee at the time. We did not proceed because there were more fundamental changes than merely ordering.

The Chair: Are you talking about the Molgat rules that Senator Andreychuk has mentioned?

Mr. Robert: Yes, they were the inspiration.

The Chair: Were there substantive changes?

Senator Andreychuk: Yes.

Mr. Robert: There were limited substantive changes where the rules suggest we can ignore the Constitution whereas the rules were written to say that we cannot. For example, rule 4 says we can, with unanimous consent, waive any rule. The Constitution says that the quorum of the Senate will be 15. We cannot waive the rule to change the quorum by the body of the Senate.

This next example is something that has concerned me for some time. The Constitution says that all decisions will be made by a majority. One rule says that all decisions will be made by a majority, but then in two other places in the rules it says, if they want to rescind they need two thirds. Well, two thirds is substantially more than a majority.

When we prepared the draft for presentation to the committee, we highlighted those parts of the rules where we thought there were indeed, as Senator Andreychuk said, substantial changes to be considered, but by and large, the objective of the exercise was to render the rules easier to understand because the passive negative is not an easy idiom in English, and the French was poorly translated and needed to be corrected.

Senator Andreychuk: Mr. Chair, I raise that question because — I should be leaving this place, I guess — I was there when those rules were filed sometime back, and I think, with respect, there are even more fundamental changes; but the committee had not started the study yet because I think one Parliament ended and another started, and we never resurrected them. The question is whether we should return to the Molgat examples. The study was a valiant attempt at that time but ran into substantive issues, or does the new committee have authorization to do what it deems appropriate to update the rules today? That is one question.

The other is Senator Nolin's point. I hope that we will always have the rules as rules. There are constitutional issues, and we need another document that is like Martin's Annual Criminal Code, which refers to a rule and gives provides cheat sheets, as I call them, but I would not want to be bound by previous decisions because new senators will have innovations.

The working group needs to be guided as to what information they work from. If we start from the Molgat project, there is a dating problem and there were fundamental issues there that no one has discussed yet.

The Chair: As most of you know, I am new to this committee and most of you have a lot of experience. I have learned more in the last half hour as to what has or has not been drafted that I am now confused, as well as Senator Andreychuk. I had no idea that all this work had been done.

Senator Corbin: I have three points. One is seeking information. Senator Brenda Robertson was instrumental in chairing a committee, or the committee, at one time. She or the committee produced a document that, according to the wishes of the Senate in those days, was put on the table and continues to be on the table, and it is for reference purposes. It has no authority whatsoever.

Can you confirm that the document is still on the table? Is it being used and, if so, for what purpose?

Mr. Robert: The document to which you refer, I think, was produced in 1991. It has not been updated. We still use it because it provides a collection of excerpts from the authorities that help us to understand the evolution and changes that have occurred in practice. We make use of the document when we prepare drafts for rulings.

Senator Corbin: Are the clerks the only people who use that document? Senators do not use it?

Mr. Robert: No one is forbidden to use it, but the clerks tend to use it.

Mr. Armitage: If I may correct one thing, we did undertake to do a review of that companion and update some of the references to use more current authorities, but nothing has been done to finalize that undertaking.

Senator Corbin: You did that on your own authority without reference to this committee, sir?

Mr. Armitage: The temerity of clerks!

[Translation]

Senator Corbin: My second question concerns the working group suggested by Senator Nolin. I agreed to this suggestion. Can we agree on the meaning of ``working group''? Are we talking about a subcommittee of this committee? What type of working group do you envisage?

Senator Nolin: Are you referring to the conversation we had last week?

Senator Corbin: Yes.

Senator Nolin: I will defer to the steering committee. However, I believe a working group is much more than a subcommittee. It does not follow any specific parameters, it branches out in every possible useful direction and reports back to the main committee. Decisions are then made.

Senator Corbin: There are a minimum number of formalities to follow when striking a committee of this nature. Which senators will serve on this committee? Will there be balanced party representation? Will staff be called upon to help this working group do its job? Will the working group produce a formal report that will then be tabled to this committee?

Senator Nolin: That is why I asked the steering committee to get in touch with the members of the board of Internal Economy. They will work together on developing an approach with a view to achieving this objective. If they want to go with a joint committee or with a working group, the choice will be up to them. We must not get bogged down with the mechanism as such. Rather, we need to have a clear idea of the goals that we are pursuing.

[English]

Senator Corbin: My third point, Mr. chair, concerns what has been the occasional practice of the Speaker of the Senate to convene from time to time so-called leadership people to have lunch with him on certain days and discuss matters pertaining to rules. Does that exercise still take place, as far as you know?

Mr. Robert: No, it does not.

Senator Corbin: Has it been abolished?

Mr. Robert: It is not being followed.

Senator Corbin: It was a private initiative by the Speaker of the day. I forget who it was. I think it was Senator Molgat.

Mr. Robert: It was.

Senator Corbin: That answers my question.

The Chair: With respect to your number two question, two working groups were being considered in the steering committee. First, you will recall that at our last meeting, Senator Nolin raised a question, and gave an explanation of a form of working group that had completed work between the Rules Committee and Internal Economy. As I understand it, that working group had about seven people: an independent, three Liberals and three Conservatives. That is one group.

For the second working group, it was agreed in the steering committee to canvass members to see if there was any interest in participating in a working group to revise the Rules of the Senate in the summer in such a way as to make the rules more coherently worded. That group would be the second so-called working group; but the first flowed from the remarks made to this committee last week from Senator Nolin about work between the Internal Economy Committee and the Rules Committee.

Senator Fraser: I have a suggestion, which may or may not be useful. I remember having the Molgat document many years ago, but I have moved offices three times since then, and there is no way I could find it. I was struck when two of the senators for whom I have the highest respect gave diametrically opposed opinions on this document. I thought Senator Andreychuk made a good point when she said the working group should have some kind of a mandate. I suggest that, as someone said, we ask that the Molgat document be distributed to all members of the committee and that we all be charged to look at the document so that we can then ask the working group, at least: Is this the basis upon which you want to work, or do you want to start de novo?

The Chair: That is a good point. Is there any other business to come before the committee at this time?

Senator McCoy: How are you selecting this working group? Are we being asked to volunteer?

The Chair: The steering committee will canvass the committee to see if there is an interest. There is no group now.

Senator Corbin: I do not think that is a good approach because the group may produce a report that will not meet the acquiescence of a majority of the committee, and we will have to start all over again. Why do we not formalize the whole thing?

The Chair: Leave it to the steering committee. All the steering committee has said is that they will canvas. Let the steering committee do their work: canvas, talk to people and find out their views, and then come back to this committee.

Senator Corbin: Can you tell us about the next meeting, if we have one?

The Chair: We need to have a meeting of the steering committee to talk more about it. After that meeting of the steering committee, we will send out a notice.

Senator Corbin: Do you think there will be a meeting tomorrow?

The Chair: I thought there would be but I am told there is not, so we will talk about that.

Senator Smith: Next Tuesday, we meet at the regular time, in the regular place.

Senator Fraser: Is the regular time for this committee 10 a.m.?

Senator Nolin: Nine-thirty.

Senator Fraser: Today was only an aberration.

(The committee adjourned.)