Good afternoon, everyone. This is the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. This is meeting number 45, and we're in the Valour Building. For those who didn't know, the name changed over the summer.
For orders of the day, we want to start with committee business. We are starting the fourth report from the subcommittee that deals with the miscellaneous statute law amendment. We'll see how far we get.
Then on Thursday, the report says that the is appearing to start the discussion on Bill .
Will somebody move that for me?
An hon. member: I move.
The Chair: So moved.
All those in favour of the fourth report?
(Motion agreed to)
The Chair: Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we are looking at a study of a proposal for a miscellaneous statute law amendment act. What has happened is the House has referred this report to us. We're going to have an overview from officials on the process, then we will have a discussion as a committee followed by questions and answers, and then discussion on how we're going to proceed.
Once we're done with this, it goes back to the House. There's actually a bill that gets developed. Is that correct? And this is also happening in the Senate.
With us, we have Monsieur Bélanger, Madame Ladouceur, and Madame Rondeau.
I would like to thank the committee members for having me.
I am pleased to participate in your study of the document titled Proposals for a Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act, 2014.
This document was developed as part of the law amendment program and is the result of significant collaboration between the justice department and members of Parliament. It ensures that updates to the body of federal legislation comply with drafting standards that are applied to current federal laws.
To put the law amendment program into context, I would like to begin with a few comments about the history of the program, the criteria used within the program to determine whether a legislative proposal should be retained and the applicable legislative process. Then, I will provide a general overview of the document's structure and content.
The law amendment program was established in 1975, and it is designed to accelerate the adoption of minor amendments of a non-controversial nature—and you will hear me repeat that phrase—to be made to Canadian laws.
Former minister, Otto Lang, created this new process of making minor amendments to federal legislation. Even back then, the legislative agenda was very busy, making it difficult to make minor changes to or correct the occasional errors in our federal statutes.
Consequently, this program was created to make those changes without taking up too much time in either of the two Houses. Since the program was established, ten bills of this kind have been passed and we are working on the eleventh.
The legislation section of the Department of Justice, which we are a part of, is responsible for the program. This program is a means of correcting anomalies, inconsistencies, archaisms and errors that can sometimes find their way into federal statutes. More specifically, the program uses a bill to allow minor amendments of a non-controversial nature to be made to a number of federal statutes instead of having a specific bill for each amendment.
In certain cases, if the amendments are not made through this program, they may never be made because they are not significant enough to justify the use of the resources needed to draft a bill for that sole purpose.
The legislative process under the miscellaneous statute law amendment program is different from the usual legislative process. Basically, the procedure involves a pre-study of the proposals document by committees of both houses of Parliament before a bill is drafted and introduced. Any proposed amendment that a member of either committee objects to will not be included in the bill that will subsequently be drafted.
The criteria for including a proposed amendment in an initiative under this program are listed on the inside of the cover page of the proposals document. Specifically, the proposed amendments must not be controversial, must not involve the spending of public funds, must not prejudicially affect the rights of persons, and must not create a new offence nor subject a class of persons to an existing offence. The question of whether or not an amendment is controversial is really the main criterion of the program. When former Minister Lang introduced the program he spoke about this main criterion for assessing proposals, that is that they be non-controversial. He said that the determination of that criterion would not be difficult to establish and that a proposed amendment would be controversial as soon as one of the parties expressed opposition to it. This is the essence of the non-partisan process.
Honourable members of the committee, we can assure you that if there is any objection to a proposed amendment in the proposals document by a member of this committee, or of the committee of the Senate that will also be studying the document, that proposed amendment will immediately be withdrawn and will not form part of the bill that will subsequently be drafted.
After the committees of both houses have concluded their review and issued their reports, a bill based on the reports of the two committees and containing the proposed amendments unanimously approved by them will be drafted and introduced in Parliament. Such a bill is customarily read three times and passed without debate or subsequent consideration by committees, as the contents of the bill will have already been reviewed by committees of both houses.
I will now take a few minutes to briefly describe how the proposals document is organized and to summarize its content. A short description of the background of the program criteria and the legislative process of the program can be found on the inside of the cover page of the document. Next to it is the table of provisions, followed by the proposed amendments.
The document contains proposed amendments to 80 acts and the proposed amendments are organized in three parts. Part 1 contains the proposed amendments to several acts organized in alphabetical order according to the English title of the acts. Part 2 contains one clause that makes the same terminology change to several acts by means of a pinpoint amendment. Part 3 contains the coordinating amendments, amendments that serve to coordinate the effects of some of the proposed amendments in the proposals document with other existing legislative initiatives.
Following the proposed amendments is a section with the heading “Explanatory Notes”. This section contains the explanatory notes and descriptive notes for each proposed amendment. The descriptive notes provide short explanations of the reasons for the proposed amendment.
The proposed legislative amendments in the document can be grouped together according to theme. They correct grammatical, spelling and terminology errors. They also correct typographical errors, errors in references, the use of outdated terms, and discrepancies between the French and English versions.
Some of the proposals you will be looking at update the names of provinces and territories. For instance, several proposals update the name of the province of Newfoundland to Newfoundland and Labrador, following the 2001 constitutional amendment to that effect.
Other proposals correct the name of certain courts in federal acts to adapt them to organizational changes. In addition, certain proposed amendments ensure the use of non-sexist terms in the English version: for instance certain instances of “chairman” are replaced by the more neutral term “chairperson”.
The document also contains proposals repealing certain legislative provisions that today are null and void, such as provisions dealing with veterans of the South African War of 1899-1902, also known as the “Boer War”. Since there are no longer any beneficiaries for these provisions, they are null and void and can be repealed.
Finally, some of the proposed amendments were also the subject of comments from the Standing Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations. Those amendments will in certain cases resolve issues raised by that committee.
Those are my introductory remarks. My colleagues Claudette Rondeau and Julie Ladouceur and I are available to answer your questions.
First of all, for whoever did the detailed work involved in this, my compliments and respect. To repeat what Mr. Goguen said, it's clearly something that requires a great deal of detail and patience. If it's you, well done, and if it's those who work under you, please pass along our regards.
I have two specific questions. The first one relates to something that you said in your statement, and I just want to make sure that I understood it.
From what I understand, there are no more beneficiaries of the South African War.
But I read in here the explanatory notes reference the fact that there are no longer veterans.
I just want to be real clear. Having served on the veterans committee, I am aware that there are benefits paid to survivors of veterans, that when we eliminate the reference to the South African veterans, we are not going to get into any problem with the survivors of.... I understood that to be what you said in French when you said, “il n'y a plus de bénéficiaires”, which would be different than—
I want to start by saying that these discrepancies were not detected when the bills were being written. Otherwise, they would have been avoided.
As for how we are made aware of them, it is part of a process: statutes are constantly being examined to see if they are still up to date or if they need to be modified. Perhaps the government wants to move ahead with other legislation. We are always looking at the existing statutes. During that process, there are times when we, or the departments responsible for enforcing the legislation, notice errors.
You asked if these discrepancies are pointed out to us following court rulings. I need to be careful here. If this were the result of a legal decision, or part of one, it is reasonable to think that it could spark some debate. In such cases, it would not meet the criteria of being non-controversial.
Basically, these proposals are the result of re-reading statutes, as written by the federal public service. The nature of our work is such that we are constantly studying statutes.
Yes. They are co-drafted by legislative drafters. They work together in an environment that involves various processes, including revisions, printing of bills and so on. The quality of federal statutes is very tightly controlled, in both English and French. We work with revisers and jurilinguists.
Despite the control mechanisms in place and all of the care that goes into drafting legislation, errors can creep in and need to be addressed. To be honest, if these are the only ones we have found in 13 years, we're not doing too badly.
As I mentioned earlier, it can sometimes happen that we realize after the fact that a provision could have been better written. In that case, it's not really a question of discrepancy. For example, in one of the provisions, a conjunctive phrase is repeated, which is not necessarily a good thing in French. We're taking advantage of this process to make these kinds of improvements or corrections.
That is an overview of the way statutes are written, in English and French. The writing is done very carefully. You asked if we review what happens in the House and I can tell you that our colleagues who are responsible for instructing us on writing bills pay close attention to the work being done in the House. Everything we need to know, as the people responsible for writing statutes, is communicated to us.
Actually I'm going to quote from our Library of Parliament—
I will do so because it is excellent. I put a question mark beside this as well.
This is my question. Clause 8 “proposes to amend section 73(4) of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act in order to “correct terminological errors” in both the French- and English-language versions”. The English excerpt reads as follows:
[...] the costs of distress or, in the Province of Quebec, the costs of seizure are a security on the property [...]
It is replaced by the following:
[...] the payment of the costs of distress or, in the Province of Quebec, the costs of seizure, is secured by a security on the property [...]
The French version states “les frais de saisie constituent une sûreté de premier rang”. It is replaced by “le paiement des frais de saisie est garanti par une sûreté de premier rang”.
I would just like you to explain to us why the change is necessary and how it would affect the operation of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act.
Moreover, this speaks to a question Mr. Dechert asked you. Even though you are not necessarily aware of any cases, is it because you checked how it was interpreted in the jurisprudence? Have any problems been identified in that regard? If not, is it because checking the jurisprudence is not part of your mandate and we do not have an assurance that there has not been debate in that regard? In closing, the very intelligent question that one may well ask is as follows: Is this the most logical and least disruptive way to address these errors?
The only change is in French.
Thank you very much.
We're off to the Canada Labour Code. Is there anything on clause 15?
The Canada Marine Act, clause 16?
The Canada Marine Act, clause 17?
We're off to the Canada National Parks Act, clause 18. Is there anything?
Clause 19? Clause 20? Clause 21? Clause 22?
The next act is the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act. Clause 23.
The Canada Shipping Act, 2001. It's clause 24.
Okay, our grammar lesson is over with.
Okay, let's keep going here. We're on to the Canada Transportation Act, clause 30.
Clauses 31, 32, 33, 34, anything? No?
Okay, the next one that I have, unless you want me to slow down a little bit here, is the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, and it's clause 35. Is there anything on 35?
The next one is the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act, clause 36.
We will check the source. My first instinct would be to say that it came from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development. However, we will check that. We are about to provide the Senate committee with a fairly complete answer to this question.
In the meantime, I can tell you that the text as it is written here does not reflect the provision of the convention that it is supposed to enact. In English, the term is “process” rather than “possess”. Representatives of the sponsoring department will be coming with us tomorrow to explain this to the Senate committee.
We were unable to determine how the error was introduced, why “possess” was substituted for “process” and why the French version seems to be closer to the English version than the text of the convention. We might assume that, when co-drafting the bill, the legislative drafters were more concerned with mirroring their texts than verifying the provision of the convention that they were supposed to enact with the help of their project officer. No matter, we really are speculating here.
When the request was made, we were assured that the concept to be expressed here was not possession, which is rendered by the term “possess”, but rather the idea of processing, which is rendered by the term “process”.
Okay, the Cooperative Credit Associations Act, clause 44.
The Criminal Code—I can't believe there are mistakes in the Criminal Code—45. Nothing.
Is there anything on clauses 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56?
On clauses 57, 58, 59, 60?
Madame Boivin, do you have a question on clause 60?
One of the changes proposed in clause 77 is to amend sections 5(g.5
) and 5(g.6
) of the Department of Veterans Affairs Act, which establish the regulations that the governor in council may make.
In the English-language version of these sections, the governor in council may make regulations to authorize the Minister of Veterans Affairs to establish standards or enter into agreements regarding grave markers, funeral services or related forms of assistance.
In the French-language version, the minister is not mentioned in these subsections, thereby implying that it is the governor in council who must make these regulations. The amendments make the French-language version consistent with the English-language version, thereby authorizing the governor in council to authorize the minister to make these regulations.
How can we be sure that that was the case? The same question has come up here. Was it the legislative intent for the governor in council to have this power instead of the minister? What different implications would there be for the administration of the act if the governor in council or the Minister of Veterans Affairs were to make the regulations referenced in clause 77? This amendment seems to have more to do with the substance of the act, if I may say so.
We're on clauses 116, 117, 118, and 119. We're getting a detailed response to the issues within that act based on what the Senate has already asked for, and I'm assuming they got the questions from the Library of Parliament also.
Ms. Françoise Boivin: When did they get it?
The Chair: They've had it for a while.
Indian Act. Is there anything on clause 120? No? Okay.
Insurance Companies Act, clauses 121, 122, and 123.
The next one is the International Bridges and Tunnels Act, clauses 124 and 125.
The Interpretation Act is clause 126.
If no one has any comments on that one, the next one is the Judges Act, with clauses 127, 128, 129, and 130. Nothing?
Legislative Instruments Re-enactment Act. We're not over-legislated at all. Is there anything on clause 131?
The Library and Archives of Canada Act, clause 132.
The Meat Inspection Act, clause 133.
The Merchant Seamen Compensation Act, clauses 134 and 135.
The National Defence Act, clause 136. Questions?
I would like to go back to something, please.
I would like to get back to clause 141.
The French-language version preceding the amendments reads as follows:
Le ministre peut ordonner le versement, au survivant d’un membre décédé des forces, de la pension à laquelle il aurait droit au titre des paragraphes (2), (2.1), (3) ou (3.01) mais qui fait l’objet d’une suspension au moment du décès.
The intention is to replace this subsection with the following:
Le ministre peut ordonner le versement, au survivant d'un membre décédé des forces dont la pension faisait l'objet d'une suspension au moment du décès, [here the end of the sentence has been moved to the beginning] de la pension à laquelle le survivant aurait droit au titre des paragraphes...si la pension n'avait pas fait l'objet de la suspension.
I am wondering whether we are adding a new condition here. If the pension had been suspended, even if it was suspended at the time of the member's death, how would the person not get it? Or, alternatively, how would the person get it?
I honestly do not understand this subsection. If I were taking a law class, this is the sort of thing that would make me look at my professor as if he was not making any sense. If the pension had not been suspended, then what exactly was suspended, if not the pension?
What's going to happen, Mr. Dechert—
A voice: And we take out clause 141.
The Chair: —we're on clause 144, and I'm hoping that we get to 176 or whatever the number is.
We will to have another meeting on this. At that meeting, we'll do the objections or non-objections. I've already picked a date. We'll get it done. We have to get the report back from the Senate. We're not going to get it done today. There is no way, in 20 minutes, we're going to get through all these plus then going back and forth. They have information that we are requesting. Let's not kid ourselves; we're going to be back here.
I've picked the first day back after not this break but the next break, so we'll see what happens.
Okay, we're at the Plant Protection Act, clause 144. Is there anything?
With regard to clause 153, I am tempted to let my friend Philip Toone put the question, but I see that he insists I take the floor.
Clause 153 amends section 17(q) of the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park Act, which establishes in the English-language version that the Governor in Council may make regulations with respect to the following:
“any other matters that are necessary for carrying out the purposes of this act”.
In the French-language version, the words “qu’il juge” have been included, which could be interpreted as meaning that the Governor in Council may make the regulations that he or she considers necessary, rather than being required to apply a more objective test. The amendment will remove the words “qu'il juge” in the French-language version.
In your view, does the French-language version imply a subjective element as to what regulations may be necessary? If so, what implications would a subjective element have on how the act is administered?
Why is the English-language version not being corrected to be consistent with the French-language version?
Lastly, how can we be sure that this proposal does indeed reflect the legislative intent?
Is clause 157 okay, then? Good.
We're off to the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992. Clause 158?
The Trust and Loan Companies Act. Clause 159?
The Veterans Review and Appeal Board Act. Clause 160? Clause 161?
The Visiting Forces Act. Clause 162?
Clauses 163, 164, 165, 166, 167, 168?
Then we're at the War Veterans Allowance Act. Clause 169?
Since Bill received royal assent, it can no longer be amended through a motion or any other such process.
Bill C-31 amended the same provision, making ??a change, and we are making another change. When royal assent is granted and enters into force, this provision of Bill C-31, which is now, I believe, chapter 20 of the Statutes of Canada, 2014, will amend the earlier provision. But when the time comes for us to intervene, we will not have the amendment made to Bill C-31.
In other words, when we do intervene, we will undo what Bill C-31 has done. What we are trying to do with clause 177 is to tell those people that they have already made an change and that we have made another one. To ensure that there is no conflict, they are being asked to do what is indicated here, that is, to combine these two changes, once both of these provisions come into force. That is all this means.
All right. That is the end of the clauses in all three parts. We have about a minute left, so here's my suggestion.
We are getting feedback from the Senate, the same report. We've had some questions here today that you've generously offered to respond to.
We will be hearing from the on Thursday. We will be starting the discussion and the review of the Victims Bill of Rights. I'll have a suggestion when we come on Thursday and after we hear from the minister about witnesses and number of meetings.
Here is a suggestion based on what we've received thus far. The next section after the break week will give us six meetings, and based on the number of witnesses provided thus far, that should be plenty of time to deal with that particular item.
We will spend maybe all six meetings on that particular item, and then when we get back, after that next break, the November 11 break, my suggestion is that it may be time for us to take that very first meeting to bring this back to the table. We will have answers by then. We will be able to deal with what stays and what goes so we can move this on and they can do their work.
That is my suggestion at this point. Are there any questions?
Yes, Madame Boivin.