I would remind hon. members that during this 30-minute debate most of the questions and preference are given to opposition members. We will do our best, of course, to accommodate all members. However, I remind all hon. members to keep their interventions to about one minute, and the same for responses.
The hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.
The hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.
Mr. Speaker, when the leader of the NDP went to Washington, in between talking down Canada he managed to find time to have dinner with a man convicted of shooting a police officer. This individual shot Terrence Knox, a Chicago police officer, three times, leaving him permanently paralyzed.
The leader of the NDP seems to put a higher priority on bringing this dangerous and violent criminal to Canada than he does on creating high-paying jobs for Canadians. The leader of the NDP has been clear that bringing dangerous criminals to Canada is one of the values that guide him in what he does.
However, the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca has been somewhat silent on this matter. Does the public safety critic for the NDP agree with his leader that a convicted criminal who shot a front-line officer should be imported to Canada? I would encourage the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca to stand up for victims by standing up to his leader and condemning this irresponsible NDP decision to support a violent criminal.
Mr. Speaker, I am glad to be able to join the debate today on Bill C-279, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity and gender expression).
As my colleagues are aware, Bill C-279 would amend both the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act by adding gender identity and gender expression. I understand that the member opposite now wants to change that with his amendments.
I am cognizant of the need to protect all Canadians from discrimination and hate crimes. I am proud of the fact that Canada is recognized internationally as a country that is deeply committed to the principles of respect for diversity and equality, but I would argue that the bill accomplishes neither of those goals.
The desperate attempt, I would say, by member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca to amend the bill shows that the bill itself is not adequate. The bill is just not up to the level it needs to be in order for anyone to support it in this House. The amendments to the act as proposed by Bill C-279 are largely symbolic and vague, and I would say that they risk introducing confusion to the law. I would suggest as well that the amendments he is making do not add anything to it.
The bill is not properly designed to remedy the supposed social problem that it is aimed at addressing, and I would argue that it is largely unnecessary as well. For those reasons and a couple of others, I will be opposing Bill C-279.
I first want to speak about the fact the bill is unnecessary.
The courts and human rights tribunals in this country have already developed jurisprudence to protect transsexual and transgendered people. The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has already decided several complaints brought to it, and we heard about those earlier from my two colleagues. These complaints have been dealt with using the grounds of sex orientation or disability.
In fact, the grounds of sex in all anti-discrimination laws are interpreted broadly. They have evolved over the years and are usually understood to cover discrimination complaints based on not just sex but on all gender-related attributes, such as pregnancy, childbirth and, recently, transsexualism.
For those few complaints that have been brought by transsexuals—and I think one of my colleagues read four of them—the tribunal has used the existing grounds already contained in the Canadian Human Rights Act, and in fact there is no gap in protection. The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has dealt with the four cases that were mentioned around gender identity and gender expression issues.
Furthermore, in deciding that transsexuals are already protected by federal human rights laws, the tribunal's approach has been consistent with that taken by provincial human rights tribunals as well. They have found that these grounds of discrimination are already covered by their existing codes.
All of these cases were adjudicated within the framework of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which designates sex and sexual orientation as prohibited grounds of discrimination. Both Susheel Gupta, as the acting chairperson and chief executive officer of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, and Ian Fine, who is the secretary general of the CHRC, spoke at committee about that and the fact that it does not need to be extended further than it is now in order to deal with those complaints.
My second problem with the bill is that it is undefined.
I understand that the member is now starting to try to put definition into some of these things because he is afraid he is going to lose the bill, and I think that he should lose it. Expanding the definition of sexual orientation to gender expression and to gender identity in the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code makes who and what is being protected even less clear than it is. If the member's purpose was to clarify the existing grounds, which I would maintain is unnecessary, he could have proposed adding an appropriate definition to the Canadian Human Rights Act. He did not do that. He has come back lately with an attempt to do that, but it was not his intention at the beginning.
In fact, the member's intention at the beginning was that the courts and the human rights commissions themselves would determine the definitions of these things. He was quoted in Xtra magazine as saying:
Once gender identity is in the human rights code, the courts and human rights commissions will interpret what that means.
I would suggest that even with the definition he is trying to add today, he probably is still thinking that hopefully the courts and the human rights commissions will define it. However, I would argue that it is inadequate for a legislator to proceed in this way.
If our role is to bring laws forward, they should be brought forward with enough content that the courts and commissions are not the ones who are defining what those bills are and what they say. I believe that is inappropriate. It is an abdication of our parliamentary responsibility to pass laws that would leave us in a situation like that. For parliamentarians to leave new and undefined terms to the courts and human rights tribunals, I would argue, is risky and irresponsible.
I also want to point out—and I think this is probably something that the member hopes will happen—that when the courts rule on these grounds, they usually assume that the old language was inadequate and that they should make new and broader interpretations and that such broader interpretations must be sought.
Therefore, I would argue that in this case it is not defined properly and that those interpretations are inappropriate for good legislation. The definitions are undefined and inadequate and because of that alone, this legislation needs to be rejected.
There are a number of other things I would like to talk about, and I understand I have some time in the next hour. However, I want to mention that the member said earlier at committee that the United Nations had supported proposals such as his. The reality is that while the Commissioner for Human Rights has called for some of these changes, the United Nations has not supported them. In fact, several of its commissions have turned away from supporting these notions that he has brought forward today.
I look forward to finishing my speech when we meet again.
There are nine motions standing on the notice paper for the report stage of the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca's Bill C-279, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity and gender expression).
While it is not usual for the Chair to provide reasons for the selection of report stage motions, in this case, I have decided to do so, as I have received a written submission from the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca outlining what he feels are exceptional circumstances surrounding the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill in committee.
As members know, consistent with the note to Standing Order 76.1(5), the Chair would not normally select motions that could have been presented in committee.
The hon. member who has submitted motions at report stage was also an active participant in the meeting scheduled for the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. As such, it would appear that the amendments submitted by the member could have been proposed during the committee consideration of the bill. In the present case, however, there appear to be extenuating circumstances.
In his remarks, the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca explained that during clause-by-clause consideration of the bill on December 6, 2012, the committee passed two amendments to the first clause of the text as well as the clause itself, as amended. He stated that the committee did not continue studying the bill.
Even the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca's attempt to seek a 30-day extension for the consideration of Bill C-279 in committee was unsuccessful. As a result, clause-by-clause consideration of the bill did not proceed beyond the first clause, and pursuant to Standing Order 97.1, on December 10, 2012, the bill was deemed reported back to the House without amendment.
The Chair has had to rule on similar cases in the past, including one that came up on December 7, 2012—at page 13030 of the House of Commons Debates—regarding Bill C-377, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations). In that case, due to circumstances beyond its control, the committee was unable to complete its examination before the bill was deemed to have been reported without amendment pursuant to Standing Order 97.1. Accordingly, any amendments that had originally been submitted for the clause-by-clause examination of the bill in committee were submitted again at report stage. The Chair therefore selected those motions at report stage for debate, because it was clear that the members in question had attempted to propose their amendments in committee during the clause-by-clause examination of the bill.
In reviewing the sequence of events related to the bill now before the House, as well as the written submission from the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, I am satisfied that despite the efforts of the member to have his amendments considered by the committee, he was unable to do so before the bill was deemed reported back to the House.
Accordingly, Motions Nos. 1 to 9 have been selected for debate at report stage, and they will be grouped for debate and voted upon, according to the voting patterns available at the table.
I shall now propose Motions Nos. 1 to 9 to the House.
Mr. Speaker, it is truly an honour to rise and speak about a subject that is dear to my heart, which is the replacement and eventual repeal of the Indian Act.
I have to commend my colleague for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River for the courage he has shown in taking on this important issue. This is an individual who, as a first nation man, has conducted his whole life living under the Indian Act. He is someone who has been able to interact with his fellow first nation brothers and sisters for his entire life. This is consultation. It is a degree of consultation that no one in the House currently has, in my opinion, in their past. He has been meeting with people across Canada on this important subject. However, I do know of some recent bills that have not been consulted on.
The member for Edmonton—Strathcona has referred to article 18 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. She is quite right, there is an obligation to consult with indigenous peoples. I wholly support that and I thank the member for bringing it up. However, there are cases where it has not happened.
Yesterday, I was at the justice committee. Currently, Bill C-279 is before the committee and we had witnesses from the Canadian Human Rights Commission. I asked the commission whether that bill had an impact on first nation people. Are first nation communities impacted by this act and does it have an impact on the lives of first nation people? Their answer was yes, that bill absolutely does affect first nation people.
My question then became whether there was consultation on the bill? In fact, there was not. The member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca did not indicate that there was any consultation. I spoke with the Assembly of First Nations, which the member for Edmonton—Strathcona referred to as an important entity with which we discuss these issues. They are the bona fide organization of first nation people. However, they were not contacted on that bill. Also, during those deliberations, the member for Gatineau, in a cavalier way, just set aside that there was any obligation to consult with first nation people on that bill.
Therefore, I take offence to what the member is suggesting. The member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River is truly a hero to me and others in the first nation community for the work that he is doing. To suggest that we are not reaching out to our aboriginal friends is, in my opinion, not reality. It is something that we are endeavouring to do.
I would ask the member to talk to some of her colleagues about some of the bills that they are proposing and the impact they have on first nation people. She shakes her head much like the member for Gatineau, who cavalierly set it aside that there was any obligation to consult with first nation people on a bill that would impact their communities.
As I said, this is an important day. The bill is timely and necessary. With each passing day, the Indian Act is revealed to be unfit for the times in which we live. When it was first enacted in 1876, it disenfranchised first nation people and it still disenfranchises everyone who lives under it today.
Just recently, we have seen a clear example of why the Indian Act must go in my home province. In fact, in Manitoba in Buffalo Point First Nation there are residents, women and children, living in that community who risk being put out on the street because of political disagreements with their chief. Because of these protests, they could have their homes taken away from them and be disenfranchised through the powers granted under the Indian Act.
Imagine if this were to happen off reserve. Imagine if someone disagreed with their city councillor and all of a sudden were evicted from their home and put out on the street. There would be mass outrage and nobody would stand for that. This is the exact point I would like to make about this community and unfortunately sometimes other communities as well.
Disenfranchisement is occurring. It violates not only any sense of justice or decency but all democratic principles, which is one reason and just one reason why the Indian Act needs to be replaced. It is an archaic, oppressive and unjust legislation. It denies aboriginal Canadians the rights they deserve. It denies individual rights. It denies matrimonial and property rights, leaving women in danger of losing everything due to disputes outside of their control.
Many people may not be aware, but the Indian Act denies first nations people the right to control their own wills and estates. The Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development has the power to void the will of a first nations person if he or she so chooses. As my colleague has said, Bill C-428 would repeal the sections of the Indian Act that gives this paternalistic power to the minister. It would be a step toward true freedom and independence for first nations people.
Bill C-428 would also return the authority over the creation of bylaws on reserves where it belongs, with the leadership of that reserve. As it currently stands, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development must sign off on bylaws made by leadership on reserves. First nations people can govern themselves. They do not need this pre-Confederation prison to remain. As with the wills and estates rules, this is a further denial of independence and decision making for first nations people.
The Indian Act has no place in the 20th century or the 21st century. It is time to replace this act.
The member for Kenora, who was here earlier, has done great work as the parliamentary secretary to aboriginal affairs and has been a great advocate for the Métis people in my community and first nations Inuit people as well. I think back to previous members from other parties in that riding who have also done great work. A former member of the Liberal Party, Mr. Robert Nault, who was the then minister of Indian Affairs, brought forward some very innovative solutions, namely the First Nations Governance Act, which I thought was a step in the right direction. Many first nations did not like that approach, but many did.
One of the aspects of that bill on which everyone agreed was the Indian Act needed to be repealed. The starting point that everyone in the House agrees on is the Indian Act must be replaced.
I have had the opportunity to work with first nations people from across Canada. I have had the opportunity to work with first nations chiefs, councillors and regular community members. There is no question that everyone believes it is time for this act to be replaced. I believe the Indian Act is nothing less than a prison that shackles aboriginal people in our country and prevents them from achieving economic actualization.
We need to proceed with the initiatives that the member has proposed before the House. He started a debate that I am glad we are having. There are opinions from all sides on this matter, but what we can all agree on is that the Indian Act must be replaced. I would hope that at some point in the near future we can get to that moment where first nations people will be enfranchised and have the autonomy they deserve.
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-455, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (electronic products recycling program).
Mr. Speaker, I rise to introduce a bill entitled an act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (electronic products recycling program), with thanks to my seconder, the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.
The bill would ensure that all electronic products containing toxic substances sold in Canada would be disposed of and recycled in a responsible manner. Electronics are ubiquitous in our lives today. Computers, tablets, smart phones and countless other devices help to connect us with each other and participate in the 21st century economy. However, we must use these products responsibly. We must follow the principle of sustainable development, which states that in meeting our own needs we must not compromise the ability of future generations to meet theirs.
The bill is the idea of two bright young students in my riding, Kaitlyn Fung and Wilson Wu, who attend Windermere Secondary School. They submitted this idea as part of my 2012 Create Your Canada contest. I congratulate them for their initiative and work to help build a better nation. They and young people all across Canada know we must act now to ensure the health and wellbeing of future generations.
I hope all members will join me in supporting this important bill and their wonderful idea.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-445, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act (genetic characteristics).
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca for seconding this bill today. I also thank the former member for Burnaby—Douglas, Bill Siksay, who first brought this very important issue before Parliament when he was a member of Parliament. I also thank the Coalition for Genetic Fairness which has done a tremendous amount of work to bring forward this very important issue about Canadians who have genetic diseases and who often face discrimination.
The bill has a simple purpose. It would enact an amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act to add genetic characteristics as a prohibited grounds of discrimination.
Many people may think that this is not something that affects a lot of people but it does. There are very real cases of people who have experienced discrimination from insurance policies or different kinds of disability policies based on their genetic history.
Now that we live in a day and age where we can have genetic testing, this becomes an even more important issue. It is very important and timely that we have a debate in Parliament about the issue of genetic discrimination and we look to this particular amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act as a way of giving people the valuable protection they need as we do for all Canadians.
I hope when this bill comes forward for debate that members will engage in that debate and understand the seriousness of this issue.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)
Mr. Speaker, I, too, have a great number of petitions from Canadians across the country who want Parliament to recognize that every human being has an inherent worth and dignity.
In particular, I have another 1,300 signatures to add to the 1,200 or so I filed yesterday, from people in the area of Scarborough—Rouge River, 100 from the area of Willowdale, 625 from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca and another 700 from everywhere across Canada in 10 petitions. They just keep flooding in.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to follow up on the comments by my colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.
As the member for Edmonton—Strathcona has said, for an institution as important as the RCMP, it is so important that the members within that force know they can rely on proper procedures around sexual harassment.
I, like many others, have a lot of questions about why, with so many incredible and disturbing cases that female officers of the force had to experience, it took so long before any action was taken. It seems to me that when we look at the RCMP, surely the most basic right is for the members to work in a harassment-free environment. As the member for Edmonton—Strathcona has pointed out, often those members are working in very difficult conditions in isolated communities.
It is really just a comment to underline what the member for Edmonton—Strathcona has said about these measures being incredibly important. It is disappointing that the government, even though I heard the minister many times say that he was concerned about it, basically did nothing about it, so it is long overdue.
Mr. Speaker, before I begin my speech I would like to read a bit of the summary of the bill because it puts into context some of my forthcoming remarks. The summary states:
This enactment enhances the accountability of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police by reforming the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act in two vital areas. First, it strengthens the Royal Canadian Mounted Police review and complaints body and implements a framework to handle investigations of serious incidents involving members. Second, it modernizes discipline, grievance and human resource management processes for members, with a view to preventing, addressing and correcting performance and conduct issues in a timely and fair manner.
It establishes a new complaints commission, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (CRCC). Most notably, it sets out the authority for the CRCC to have broad access to information in the control or possession of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, it sets out the CRCC’s investigati2powers, it permits the CRCC to conduct joint complaint investigations with other police complaints bodies and it authorizes the CRCC to undertake policy reviews of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
People viewing this will see that the bill is a comprehensive one with many pages of amendments.
I want to refer briefly to the speech by the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, where he clearly outlined the NDP position on Bill C-42. In that outline he indicated that the NDP does support getting this bill to committee for second reading, but he also raised some concerns. Those are a couple of concerns that I am going to deal with.
The member said:
We on this side agree that there needs to be action to strengthen the RCMP review and complaints body. The RCMP Public Complaints Commission has provided a valuable service but we have concerns about its full independence and its ability to oversee independent investigations....
Finally, there needs to be action in the area of modernizing discipline, grievance and human resource management processes. The minister has cited anecdotal evidence of things that take way too long and we all know that is true. However, what is lacking is clear guidance for RCMP members of what those standards are and how failure of those standards will be dealt with in a judicious and fair manner. In addition, when RCMP members have grievances they need to have the understanding that their concerns can be brought forward in a timely manner and that those grievances can be resolved and not drag on for years and years....
In his conclusion, the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca stated:
—I would stress the importance of both the independence of the RCMP from government and the independence of investigations into RCMP conduct from the government and the RCMP, and also the independence of the commissioner, who really ought to be the chair of this new civilian agency and report to Parliament rather than to the minister of the day.
Those are a couple of aspects that I am going to focus on during my brief time before the House. We have been clear that we welcome the minister's comment that he would entertain amendments to the bill. Although we support the principles of the bill, as I mentioned, we do have concerns. I am going to specifically focus on those concerns around the independent complaints commission and the issue of sexual harassment.
I want to put this into context as well. There was a report back in September 2007 called “Rebuilding the Trust”. Part of the reason I want to read excerpts from that report is that it does set the table for this legislation, but it also reinforces to the Canadian public the importance of the RCMP to them.
My own province of British Columbia is largely policed by RCMP officers. As many others have pointed out, by and large most RCMP officers are excellent at their jobs. We rely on them and trust them. However, there have been some very serious cases in British Columbia that have called into question some of the disciplinary aspects within the RCMP.
The report, “Rebuilding the Trust”, indicates that the RCMP is a national symbol. It states:
The "red serge" has been a source of national pride and is recognized around the world as a symbol of who we are and what living in Canada means. However, in the last few years, trust in the management of the RCMP has been shaken. This has had a stunning impact on the members and employees of the RCMP and on the Canadians they serve. Trust in the management of the RCMP needs to be rebuilt.
That is an important point because it is not only Canadians who rely on the police for its services who need to have that trust but fellow workers, the men and women who serve in uniform, also need to have the trust of their co-workers. That is an important piece. Members need to have confidence that their co-workers are behaving in an appropriate manner.
Although these numbers are from 2007, they are important. They may have shifted slightly but it does show the breadth and scope of the men and women serving in uniform, and the civilians who support them. This is the section titled, “The Business and People of the RCMP”. It says:
The RCMP is arguably the most complex law enforcement agency in the world today. The RCMP provides, under contract, rural and municipal policing services in all but two provinces, in all three territories and in approximately 200 municipalities and aboriginal communities.
It then states:
There are currently over 27,000 members and employees of the RCMP comprising regular and civilian members of the Force and public servants. The approximately 17,000 regular members are trained as qualified peace officers, are entitled to wear the uniform and are entitled to carry weapons. There are also approximately 3,000 civilian members of the RCMP who are not trained as peace officers. Civilian members provide specialist support to the Force in areas such as forensic science and technology. Additionally, the RCMP employs approximately 4,700 public service employees who are not members of the Force, but who provide specialized services in key areas such as human resources and financial management.
In the report, it was discovered that the task had to expand because they realized that during their consultations there were problems around “accountability, governance and cultural issues that ran far deeper and were more fundamental to the Force than those described in the earlier Investigative Report”.
At the end of this report, there were 49 recommendations for things like board management. One of the recommendations was that:
Legislation should be enacted by the Parliament of Canada as soon as possible to establish a Board of Management of the RCMP responsible for the stewardship of its organization and administration including the oversight of the management of its financial affairs, resources, services, property, personnel and procurement.
There was a recommendation “to establish an Independent Commission for Complaints and Oversight of the RCMP having the attributes outlined in Chapter 2” of this report, and that it “should be established and commence operation as quickly as possible following legislative enactment”.
However, there were far-ranging recommendations that also included issues around health and safety for officers, training, education and ongoing support, such as backup and what happens when an officer is disabled.
Again, it is a comprehensive report with 49 recommendations. Although some of these recommendations were undertaken in this piece of legislation, not all of them were and it would be important for the government to indicate why some of these recommendations were not taken under advisement.
Another report in December 2010, called “From Reform to Continuous Improvement: The Future of the RCMP”, also outlined a couple of other key recommendations, and I will just touch briefly on this. It indicated:
Canadians understand the importance of the RCMP in both its local and its national roles. They want the Force to live up to its well-earned reputation in meeting their needs for community safety and national policing. They know, of course, that in carrying out its complex responsibilities and interacting daily with tens of thousands of Canadians, the RCMP will inevitably get some things wrong – sometimes badly so – even as it gets most things right. When it does make mistakes, they expect the Force to be accountable and to respond openly and effectively to scrutiny. If, as we fully expect, the RCMP acts decisively to improve its performance in the future, Canadians will know that it has learned from its errors as well as from its successes.
The report goes on to say:
To meet new challenges and ever-higher expectations, it is clear that the RCMP must be committed to fundamental change and must have the means to bring about that change. Everyone now understands that – the federal government; the provinces, territories and municipalities for which the RCMP delivers police services; the general public and, perhaps most importantly, the leaders of the Force itself. They also need to understand that change must become a permanent condition of the RCMP.
I know other members have referred to the need for cultural change.
There were a couple of key reforms that the report focused on. One was that “the Council was convinced that the RCMP requires a new framework of governance and management, including a continuing source of outside advice and challenge for senior management, as well as a redefinition of the status of the organization”.
They go on to say that they consistently endorse the concept of a civilian board of management. The other recommendation was also around the board of management. In this particular one, they are suggesting that a board of management for the RCMP would be made up of eminent Canadians chosen for their independence, insight and expertise. The council sees such a board as bringing a broad range of benefits to the RCMP, including things like challenging senior management to make better substantive decisions, and it would add to the credibility of the RCMP management inside government.
Those were a couple of other key recommendations. We can see that all of this has to do with increasing and maintaining the credibility of the force because of the importance of its policing role domestically. I am not even going to begin to speak about the international role that we play.
I wanted to point out that some other provincial jurisdictions are undertaking work around independent police watchdogs. An article out of the Canadian Press on September 10, 2012, indicated that starting Monday, police incidents in British Columbia that end in fatalities or serious injury will be investigated by an outside agency.
This outside agency's primary recommendation came about as a result of public inquiries into two high-profile police-involved deaths: Robert Dziekanski, who died at the Vancouver airport in October 2007 after being stunned with an RCMP taser, and Frank Paul, who froze to death in the Vancouver alley where he was taken by Vancouver police after being ejected from a drunk tank. We also had the very sad case of Mark Surakka's daughter who lay dying for four days after an RCMP officer failed to properly investigate a 911 call.
There are still some concerns in British Columbia, and although this is the province, I just want to point out that there are some steps happening here. David Eby of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association said that his group, which has long advocated for the creation of an independent watchdog, was glad to see this day finally arrived. Its members think that although this is an improvement in the accountability of the province, they would also like to see it have a somewhat expanded role, including looking at previous cases which have been closed.
There was also the shooting of Ian Bush, a 22-year-old sawmill worker who was arrested after having an open beer at a hockey game in Houston, B.C. He ended up being shot in an RCMP cell in 2005. Although that was investigated and the case is closed, many community members and family members are still not satisfied. They would like to see that independent body have some oversight there.
Ontario has an arm's-length watchdog to conduct investigations into police-involved deaths. Alberta has its own oversight unit similar to Ontario. Nova Scotia has now appointed a watchdog. Quebec is considering the same. My point in raising these is that there are other examples of independent watchdogs, and presumably one of the things that the government is looking at and considering is what works with some of those independent bodies, what does not work and what we can learn from it.
In the time remaining I want to turn to the issue of sexual harassment lawsuits. I agree with my colleague from Welland that there is a systemic problem within the RCMP. When more than 200 women, both current and former RCMP officers, join Constable Janet Merlo in a class action lawsuit against the RCMP on the grounds of sexual harassment, those numbers speak to a broad problem. That does not even begin to touch on the number of female officers who have not come forward.
A story in the Globe and Mail stated that it obtained an internal report which said that a survey of 462 members of RCMP's “E” Division in British Columbia has found that female members do not trust the force's system to deal with harassment complaints and frequently avoid reporting instances of perceived wrongdoing:
Participants strongly expressed that they were fearful of coming forward to report harassment as it could hinder promotional opportunities, have a negative impact on their careers, and possibly cause them to become a scapegoat for anything supervisors wanted to fault them with.
The opinion was also expressed that the RCMP is known for moving the complainant rather than dealing with the problem. I am going to touch on a very recent case in British Columbia. It goes on to say that the internal report makes it clear that there remains much work to be done inside the RCMP to solve a problem that has persisted for decades. The author of the report, diversity strategist Simmie Smith, pointed out there is confusion with the RCMP between harassment and bullying.
In addition, the report points out that the majority of respondents did not feel that harassment was rampant inside the force, but they still expressed frustration at the handling of existing cases and the high number of unreported cases.
A point has been made that certainly not every female officer has been harassed and not every male officer does the harassing, but again, I point to the 200 officers filing a class action lawsuit. It does speak to a much broader problem.
A majority of the respondents expressed that they had no faith in the current reporting system.
The Summary Report on Gender Based Harassment and Respectful Workplace Consultations decried the “significant failure to report incidents” by Mounties, adding that the lack of formal complaints has resulted in “pent up” frustrations in the force.
Again, although Bill C-42 does reference some changes around human resource management, it does not specifically address the issues around sexual harassment and the ongoing problems.
The report talks about removing the complainant rather than dealing with the problem, and we recently had a case in British Columbia that was adjudicated. It was a staff sergeant who ended up being moved into British Columbia after there were several serious complaints against this officer's conduct within the force. I will read a couple of lines of the synopsis of the decision. It says:
Seven allegations of disgraceful conduct were established against the member.... The board considered both dismissal and a considerable demotion but paid great deference to a joint submission and imposed a sanction consisting of a reprimand, the forfeiture of 10 days' pay, a demotion from the rank of Staff Sergeant to Sergeant, a recommendation for transfer, and a recommendation for continued counseling.
When I read through this report, in the decision on the sanction, the board indicated that:
The seven incidents of misconduct describe a disturbing pattern of activity covering a period of years, involving inappropriate behaviour affecting a number of women who, in one way or another, were directly involved with [the staff sergeant] in his capacity.
It goes on to name his various jobs, and that the “gravity of this misconduct in its totality is such that dismissal was in the forefront of the Board's collective mind”. It also says that:
Victim Impact Statements were particularly troubling, revealing wounds which on a personal and an institutional level will require some time and attention to heal. It will take considerable effort to rebuild the damaged trust in our organization, and the Board can only hope that its decision in this matter will prove to be an important step along that path.
The member forfeited 10 days' pay and received a demotion, and the warning in the board's conclusion says:
The board recommends a transfer to a suitable position. In the Board's opinion, such a position should ideally be one which removes this member from working in the direct vicinity of the complainants and takes into account the potential (albeit limited, given the expert evidence) risk to other employees.
The member for Welland and the member for Hull—Aylmer mentioned that there are cultures within organizations and if we do not establish clear anti-harassment policies in these organizations, women would not feel comfortable coming forward.
In conclusion, we will be supporting the bill going to committee for review. We hope that the minister will truly entertain amendments that look at strengthening some of these aspects of the bill.
Order, please. I would remind hon. members to watch the chair from time to time. I realize that members want to address other members in the chamber, which is perfectly acceptable, but they should watch the chair on occasion so that the chair can indicate how the time is going.
Questions and comments. The hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity today to speak at second reading of Bill C-42. It is called An Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts, but the government has chosen to call it by its short title, the enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police accountability act. The government is fond of naming these bills in some sort of public relations move. This is intended to cover everything that is included in the act but also to respond to public concerns.
It is fair to say that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was an institution that, up until recent years, had a great deal of respect among Canadians, whether they be members of the policing field or members of the general public who looked to the RCMP as the embodiment of a system of justice that had high standards of professionalism and respect from the public and from other police officers.
I started practising law in 1980 and in my early days the RCMP was known by other police forces as the senior police force in Canada. The police forces in my jurisdiction and others would look to the RCMP in terms of standards, whether they be of training, establishment of procedures and investigative procedures or standards of ethics and conduct, and this went on for many years.
I am only saying what many others have said before me, including members of the RCMP, many of whom I have spoken to over the last few years. There is a great deal of concern about the institution itself and about its ability to ensure the level of trust and respect that a police force demands. Others have rightly spoken about the high regard in which the RCMP is held throughout the world in terms of its effectiveness, its investigative ability and the forensic and technical expertise it has and lends to other forces throughout the world. In terms of training in other nations under various international agreements and United Nations efforts, we have made a significant contribution through the RCMP.
However, we have seen, at sometimes very senior levels of the RCMP, a failing that needs to be corrected. The most recent controversy has been about complaints of sexual harassment and, more importantly I suppose, the failure to adequately respond to the question of sexual harassment. Although we do have incidents of sexual harassment, as the report published today pointed out based on a survey of 426 members of the RCMP in British Columbia, the majority of respondents did not feel that the harassment was rampant inside the force. However, they expressed frustration at the handling of existing cases and the high number of unreported cases.
That is not saying it is rampant throughout the force, so we are not condemning the RCMP when we talk about the existence of sexual harassment cases. However, we are condemning the institution both for failing to respond properly to those incidents that have been reported and for failing to provide an atmosphere in which reporting can take place and—because primarily we are talking 99% of the time about women who are subject to such sexual harassment—in which they actually have a safe place to bring forth their complaints knowing it is the complaint that will be dealt with and not them.
That is important. It is important that the public have a clear understanding, belief, trust and faith in our senior police force representing the nation in symbolic ways, whether it be on our coins or through the musical ride. The RCMP is well known as a symbol of Canada and of respect. Even the ancient comment, which I suppose is praise, that the RCMP is the force that always gets its man or woman as the case may be, is emblematic of the esteem in which this organization is held in the popular culture of Canada. However it has to be fixed.
The question here is whether or not Bill C-42 is that fix. We know that the RCMP and the authorities within the RCMP need to be able to deal with bad behaviour. We know we need to have effective civilian oversight, and this has been commented on in various speeches here for many years. We also need a fair grievance procedure, one that ensures that grievances, whether they be about sexual harassment, pay and benefits or the conduct of some officer towards an individual, are dealt with fairly and in a timely manner. These are things that have to be done.
In this atmosphere, where we are talking about one of the principal recent reasons—the issue of sexual harassment—for the public outcry for accountability of RCMP officers and the force itself, what I find surprising is that in this bill we do not have a standard or even a statement with regard to sexual harassment and the unacceptability of it in an organization and in employment relationships. It may be a matter of policy in some organizations. In an institution of this nature, which is regarded as quasi-militaristic and has a hierarchy of authority where officers are expected to listen to and obey the commands of senior officers, more particularly there is a need to ensure that officers who have authority over others are prohibited and exhorted in a specific way not to abuse that authority, especially when it comes to the serious issue of sexual harassment.
Today's news, as mentioned by the previous speaker, is of the release of a survey done five or six months ago, interviewing a fairly large number of British Columbia members of the RCMP, and an internal report that found female members do not trust the force's system to deal with harassment complaints and frequently avoid reporting instances of perceived wrongdoing:
Participants strongly expressed that they were fearful of coming forward to report harassment as it could hinder promotional opportunities, have a negative impact on their careers, and possibly cause them to become a scapegoat for anything supervisors wanted to find fault with.
The opinion was also expressed that the RCMP is known for moving the complainant rather than dealing with the problem. In that context, I have to challenge the minister's statement in his speech yesterday that all we need to do is give the front-line managers power to make decisions, in fact, give them more power to deal with circumstances in situations.
We are supporting the bill at second reading and our public safety critic, the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, spoke very eloquently yesterday on it. We are supporting it because we do know there is a need to fix some of the problems in the RCMP and provide for a greater accountability and an ability to deal with these problems. However, we want to ensure we do not see merely a pendulum swinging one way and then the other, giving more authority and power to those at the top without ensuring that the job that needs to be done gets done. This is what I see and fear about this legislation.
We need timelines to deal with grievances. We need timelines to deal with situations. We need standards, particularly around conduct and behaviour. In that respect, a code of conduct is a good thing. However, we also have to make sure there would be due process.
I have a worry that the checks and balances are not there when I see a grievance procedure that gives the commissioner final and binding decision-making authority that he can delegate to somebody else, who in turn can delegate it to somebody else below him or her. It would be a final and binding decision without any reference to third parties, civilians outside or standards that may exist in other elements of public life.
This is a concern that has been raised within the military where there are similar circumstances. The grievance boards do not have sufficient outside involvement and it is all done within the context of the military circumstances, just as with this bill, where there would be an internal grievance procedure that would not have the checks and balances we would want.
Many of the matters that are dealt with are not specifically policing matters but rather of compensation, fair treatment or whether a dinner allowance was properly awarded. Yes, these things should be dealt with quickly, but with fairness and not arbitrarily.
We need due process in terms of grievances and conduct that may result in dismissal without powers arbitrarily set with the commissioner. The proposed legislation would give the commissioner the absolute right to appoint or discharge members, but it could be subject to a conduct board, which is probably a good thing.
If we are going to have a code of conduct, we have to have someone able to interpret and apply it. However, from my opportunity to peruse it, it is not clear in this proposed legislation who would actually do that or who the members on the conduct board would be. This is something that the committee would look closely at. We would like to see a code of conduct that specifically prohibits and explains what sexual harassment is, for example.
We do have codes of conduct with respect to the use of force. Clearly, the conduct of the RCMP and policing communities in the use of force in certain circumstances is another issue that has brought about concerns from many people. We had the Dziekanski investigation and hearing in British Columbia and there are other instances throughout the country that question the behaviour of RCMP members and police officers on other forces. It is not an exclusive issue to the RCMP, but behaviour, standards and conduct are brought into question and challenged.
These are the subject of lawsuits in some cases, and inquiries and other investigations. There has to be a proper code of conduct for that. There has to be a disciplinary procedure when it is necessary to impose discipline. There has to be due process to ensure that officers themselves are protected when they find themselves accused of certain breaches of conduct. It has to be fair. I believe the word used yesterday by my colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca was “balance”. There has to be a balance struck that does not simply let the pendulum swing one way because there is a perception that there is insufficient authority being exercised.
I want to talk about something else that others have mentioned, namely that legislation alone is not going to change the culture within the RCMP. It has to come from leadership and education. It perhaps also has to come by involving people from outside the force, that is by having them come in to help in solving some of these problems. The RCMP internally has been aware of these problems; they are not new. There has been report after report expressing concerns about the structure of the RCMP and the problems there, yet we do not see solutions. They are not all going to come from the top. The leadership has to come from the top but other people can be brought in to solve the problems.
This is an internal report that was commissioned after Commissioner Paulson was appointed. The commissioner himself has vowed to root out so-called dark hearted behaviour in the RCMP. Rooting things out is one thing, but changing the culture is another. It is a little harder job. It is not simply a matter of passing legislation. It is a matter of replacing the culture with a new culture based on respect: respect for each other, respect for women, respect for citizens and respect for the fact that police officers are given significant authority to use force in keeping the peace. That is something that has to be used with great care. It is a big responsibility that we give to police officers. From those to whom that responsibility is given, much is expected.
What is interesting in the response to the internal report, a pretty damning report referred to in today's Globe and Mail, is that the majority of the respondents in the report said they had no faith in the current reporting process. That is why we have unreported cases of sexual harassment and other forms of harassment. That is a fairly damning conclusion by individual members of the RCMP in this internal report. This results in severe morale problems and also a lack of faith in senior officers and the structure itself.
One response by Deputy Commissioner Callens, who is the commanding officer of the B.C. RCMP, was to send more than a hundred officers for training to ensure greater timeliness and follow-up to complaint investigations. Indeed, this is what the RCMP said in a statement. Well, follow-up and timeliness is one thing, but there are also other aspects to this whole notion of how does sexual harassment exist in the first place. Why is it tolerated? Is there a culture of toleration? Is there something more deep seated that has to be dealt with outside of legislation but internally within the RCMP? It is a big job and they may need outside help to do that.
Therefore, I realize this is a big task and that the legislature cannot fix everything by legislation. Nonetheless, the legislation itself is a step in the right direction. We support the notion of having more authority to deal with problems and having things dealt with in a more timely fashion.
We are concerned about some of the measures here. There need to be a lot of changes in the bill before it will be acceptable to the official opposition. We will work assiduously in committee to help make that happen.
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to see you back in the chair again in this session after a summer of working hard for your constituents. I say that not to get extra time for my comments here, but to let you know that we are very pleased that you are here.
I will be supporting Bill C-42 at second reading because, while it falls short on a number of accounts, it is still a step in the right direction and should, hopefully, help the membership of the RCMP receive better personal protection in its workplace and could help restore public confidence in this institution. I say that because police officers like other first responders put their lives at risk every day when they are on the job and Canadians are very grateful for their sacrifices. It only makes sense that while they are busy protecting Canadians, the members of our RCMP staff can go to work knowing that they, themselves, are protected in their own workplace.
In a majority government the government has an opportunity to make a real difference and has an opportunity to take real action. Unfortunately the bill does not far enough. I will support it going to committee because I think in committee we can make this a bill that everyone in the House can be proud of as well as in the RCMP.
We can go further on these issues as there needs to be a clear anti-harassment policy in the RCMP, one which contains specific standards for behaviour and specific criteria for evaluating the performance of all employees. Such a policy is needed to serve as a basis for a fair, disciplined process, but will not be guaranteed, unfortunately, with the passage of Bill C-42 as it now stands.
Also, Bill C-42 does not go far enough in directly addressing the concerns of women serving in the RCMP. New Democrats are calling for urgent action to foster a more inclusive and safe environment for women in the RCMP. This bill has been introduced without the benefit of the findings of an internal gender audit of the RCMP, ordered by the commission that is currently under way but not yet completed. The Conservatives' approach does not make women in the RCMP a priority.
Another criticism I have heard from members of the public, who are affected and concerned about the implications of Bill C-42, is that the proposed new civilian complaints commission looks remarkably like the current RCMP public complaints commission, especially in that it would not be a fully independent commission reporting to the House of Commons. Instead, it would continue to report to the Minister of Public Safety.
The new commission would also have serious restrictions on its ability to undertake independent investigations and its findings would be presented only in the form of non-binding recommendations to the commissioner and to the minister. Removing these restrictions, allowing truly independent investigations and making those recommendations binding is needed. Removing these restrictions on the independence of the new commission will be a major issue for us at the committee stage.
The proposal also fails to create an agency with any teeth since primary investigations into accidents of death or serious bodily harm will largely be contracted out to municipal or provincial police forces, even though some of those police forces have no civilian investigation body or are still conducted by the RCMP itself.
Bill C-42 is a step in the right direction, so I will be supporting the bill at second reading in the hope of improving it at committee.
I believe our RCMP personnel deserve better and with some improvement I am certain that public trust will once again be restored in this most important national institution.
My hon. friend from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca made some very interesting comments yesterday, and I would like to further some of the things he had to say.
The first is that we really should have had this legislation much sooner. There is an urgency for the public in terms of confidence in the RCMP. There is an issue where RCMP rank and file members are working in a workplace climate that is not always supportive of the difficult and the very dangerous work they do. Of course it is important to the RCMP leadership, which is charged with the task of making those necessary changes, but, first and foremost, I believe there is a necessity to restore the confidence of Canadians in our international police force.
The RCMP has long provided excellent service to Canadians coast to coast to coast, but over the previous years, dating back to the Liberal government, we have had increasing questions about incidents involving use of force where public confidence has waned in the RCMP. That is a problem, not just for the public, but also for serving members of the RCMP.
The bill's second purpose, as stated, is to promote transparency and public accountability in law enforcement. We could not agree more that this is essential if we are to meet the first objective, which is to restore public confidence in the RCMP. The only way to do that is through enhanced transparency and public accountability.
The third reason for reforming the RCMP Act, which is stated in the bill's preamble, deals with the relationship with provincial, regional and municipal governments that hold contracts with the RCMP. They have entered into those contracts in good faith, but often feel they do not have adequate input into the policing of their jurisdictions, or adequate accountability measures for the RCMP when they have questions about what has happened in those jurisdictions.
A fourth measure, also as stated in the preamble of the bill, is to promote the highest levels of conduct within the RCMP. This, of course, is a goal that is shared by governments, RCMP members and the public at large. Day in and day out the vast majority, virtually all of the RCMP members, strive to meet those levels of conduct. However, we need clear statements of what happens when those levels of conduct are not met, with clear consequences and procedures that would also protect the rights of RCMP members who have dedicated themselves to the service of Canadians so they do not find themselves subject to arbitrary procedures as part of discipline.
Finally, the bill's preamble states that we need to reform the legislation to create a framework for ongoing reform so we do not find ourselves in this situation again 25 years later, since government after government have failed to address these questions and failed to provide leadership on these issues.
We in the official opposition can agree on the goals expressed in the legislation and I believe we can go further. We can even agree on the key areas for action identified in the summary of the bill. Although the bill's summary counts the areas of action as only two vital areas, I would count three.
First, we agree that there needs to be action to strengthen the RCMP review and complaints body. The RCMP Public Complaints Commission has provided a valuable service, but we have concerns about its full independence and its ability to oversee independent investigations.
Second, we believe there needs to be a framework to handle investigation of serious incidents involving members, incidents that involve death or serious injury, which will help enhance transparency. In this day and age the public has said very clearly that it does not accept that the police forces investigate themselves in very serious incidents. We believe an independent investigation would not only benefit public confidence, but it would also benefit those who serve in the RCMP by guaranteeing the public would understand the outcome of those investigations and where their names are cleared, they would be cleared once and for all.
Finally, there needs to be action in the area to modernize discipline, grievance and human resource management processes.
The minister has cited anecdotal evidence of things that take way too long, and we all know that is true. However, what is lacking is that clear guidance for RCMP members of what those standards are and how a failure of those standards would be dealt with in a judicious and fair manner.
In addition, when RCMP members have grievances, they need to have the understanding that their concerns can be brought forward in a timely manner and that those grievances can be resolved and not drag on for many years.
Therefore, we do agree on the areas in which we need to make reforms to the RCMP Act.
In particular, we believe it is crucial to allow the RCMP commissioner reforms in the area of discipline to deal with the climate of sexual harassment that exists in the RCMP. We would like to see leadership from the government in mandating the commissioner to bring in a clear anti-harassment policy and a clear process, which would contain specific standards of behaviour with regard to sexual harassment and specific criteria for evaluating the performance of all employees in this important area.
However, having said how much we agree with the objectives of the legislation and with the areas that need to be reformed, I am not standing today in the House simply to present bouquets to the minister. We in the opposition have our concerns both about government inaction by Liberals and Conservatives and government inaction in particular in the areas of transparency and accountability.
The government has been in power since 2006. Yes, it inherited a record of inaction, but it has been six years, three ministers and two RCMP commissioners and we are just now embarking on the process to reform this legislation so we can get measures which would make a real difference in the performance and the work lives of RCMP members now in 2012.
In the meantime, more than 200 women members of the RCMP have joined lawsuits alleging sexual harassment within the RCMP. There has been an ongoing series of problems with loss of public confidence in the RCMP in investigations of serious incidents.
We have wasted valuable time. Numerous studies have presented solutions to these problems. I give the government credit for appointing a task force, which reported back in 2007, nearly five years ago. It reported back with important proposals for reforming the culture of the RCMP, discipline of the RCMP and important recommendations to the Public Complaints Commission.
An internal review was completed in 2008 of the process of using independent observers in police investigations of themselves.
In 2006 Mr. Justice O'Connor made recommendations in the Maher Arar inquiry with regard to the national security activities of the RCMP.
Most recently former public complaints commissioner Paul Kennedy made recommendations both on investigations of serious incidents, which was tabled in 2009, and also when he appeared before the justice committee in January of last year to give recommendations on increasing the independence of the job that he used to hold.
There is no shortage of advice available.
However, in a question that was asked earlier of the minister, it is unclear why the government chose to pick only certain recommendations and a certain piece of all of those reports. It is hard to see the overall theme that guides this legislation.
We have said that government leadership is required, and that means more than just legislation. Therefore, I cannot let this opportunity go by without pointing out some of what the government has done in the area of the RCMP and the Public Complaints Commission.
Just this past week, the government issued layoff notices to two staff members of the RCMP Public Complaints Commission when we are in the midst of reforming it and the commission is in the midst of a massive study of the sexual harassment complaints that have taken place in the RCMP. Why has the government chosen to lay off staff members at the complaints commission in the midst of this crisis over sexual harassment that the commission is trying to address?
Also in the last week, we saw layoff notices given to 149 support staff members of the RCMP across the country, including 42 support staff in British Columbia alone. These are people who provide important services to help the RCMP do its job on a daily basis. These were not uniform members who received layoff notices but people who work everywhere from the forensic labs to personnel recruiting and in all the other very important functions that support the basic duties of the RCMP.
When it comes to the Public Complaints Commission in the RCMP, the government has been following a peculiar practice. When Mr. Kennedy produced his strong recommendations on investigations, the response of the government was to fail to reappoint him to the job. Having appointed him in 2005 and giving him annual reappointments every year, when his very strong recommendations came out suddenly he was no longer the government's first choice for the job of public complaints commissioner.
Ian McPhail, the new interim commissioner, was initially given a one-year term as interim chair and has now been appointed for another year. I am emphasizing one year because we are talking about someone who should have independence from the government to do the job of providing civilian oversight for the RCMP. How can someone do that job with any confidence when at the end of every year he or she could lose his or her job?
While I am encouraged to see that the new legislation talks about terms of up to five years for the new chair of the civilian review agency, I am concerned that the government will continue its practice in making only annual appointments, which gives it far too much power over what should be an independent commission.
Those are just some of the concerns that I have outlined with respect to Bill C-42. However, I am happy to be part of the committee that will deal with these issues should it pass second reading.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca for talking about sustainable development. We had a bill in the House on corporate social responsibility for Canadian companies working overseas and it was defeated.
Could the member comment on the need to have that kind of corporate social responsibility for Canadian companies that operate in countries like Panama?
The electoral district of Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca (British Columbia) has a population of 120,669 with 91,003 registered voters and 229 polling divisions.
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