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View Alain Rayes Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Before asking my question, I'd like, if I may, to make two brief comments.
I'd like to begin by answering Ms. Dabrusin. It's true that the cultural sector says that it is urgent to approve this bill to amend the Broadcasting Act, but it shouldn't be done at any price. Just because there is some urgency doesn't mean we should adopt a bad bill. We were being criticized for asking questions in the House of Commons about this bill on second reading. However, the many amendments introduced clearly indicate that the initial bill had some serious shortcomings, even before we got to the deletion of proposed clause 4.1, which we have been discussing for a while.
I have a great deal of respect for all my Liberal colleagues, who have been fighting like the devil to reject this legitimate motion, which requires a new legal opinion from their own Minister of Justice. In fact, although he may be a member of the Liberal party, he's the Minister of Justice for Canada, and hence also my Minister of Justice.
For a week now, I've watched all these experts and university professors raise red flags to say that a violation has occurred. I apologize for saying so, but the fact that the Liberal experts are saying the opposite of what these experts are saying shows unequivocally that we need to have a look at the issue we are currently considering. The Liberals have continued to argue that we have to listen to the experts and the senior officials, and everyone who sent us messages. Well, we have seen these messages. All you have to do is go out on social networks to see that credible people have raised red, not orange, flags to say that there has been a violation.
All the motion does is ask the Minister of Justice to come up with a new charter statement. To the best of my knowledge, Ms. McPherson's amendment, which allows an additional 10 days, is altogether legitimate. If the minister were to file his legal opinion and come and see us before the end of this time period, things would move along much more quickly. We're talking about a few days. The Liberals are making a show of rending their garments as if everything was going to fall apart if it takes a few extra days, whereas we've been waiting for this bill for 30 years. They've been in power for six years and it took them that long to introduce it. Not only that, but they prorogued Parliament, which slowed things down even more. The government and the Liberal members of the committee themselves introduced 27 amendments out of a total of approximately 120. The bill was flawed from the beginning, and that's why the process has been taking so long and why we're still talking about it now.
Ms. McPherson, congratulations on your amendment or subamendment—I don't know which term to use—in which you suggested adding some time. It will be all to the good if this additional time reassures members of the committee and puts pressure on the Minister of Justice to give us a new legal opinion on this matter, on the one hand, and to put pressure on him and the Minister of Canadian Heritage to come and explain everything to us. It would better prepare us for our legislative work given the expertise each of us has in our respective fields.
Mr. Housefather, you're aware of the high esteem in which I hold you. You were educated as a lawyer. I have no schooling as a lawyer, but I have been trained as in administrattion. I come from the world of education and, like you I'm sure, I'm a fierce defender of rights, freedoms, and freedom of expression.
When I hear other credible experts raise red flags, I feel legitimately entitled to request further details. I don't think that what the motion is asking for is out of line. Moreover, Ms. McPherson's amendment would give an additional10 days to the Minister of Justice to produce his new charter statement and come and speak to us about it, after which we could continue with our work. I'm pleased that she added this detail, because God knows that the deadline might have been stretched out otherwise. So once the 10 day deadline is up, it will be out of our hands.
If the Minister of Justice wants everything to go smoothly, I believe that he will be able, thanks to support from all the experts and senior officials available to him, to come up very soon with a solid opinion. I don't think that we will draw out the process excessively.
As my colleague Mr. Champoux said, this is the second meeting at which we've been discussing our motion, which is asking for clarification about the status of freedom of expression in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I don't know what else we could say. Let's stop talking, adopt the amendment, and then adopt the motion we introduced. Let's ask the Minister of Justice to give us his opinion and to come and explain it to us, together with the Minister of Canadian Heritage. We could then get on with our work, as we have pointed out clearly, by working collaboratively as we have been from the outset, by trying to find accommodations to ultimately come up with the best possible bill. In the end, we might not all vote for the bill, and there might be dissent, but that's all part of Parliament. We represent Canadians with differing opinions from all walks of life, and from every part of the country. That's what democracy is. That's why I'm proud to be a Canadian and a Quebecker. That's why my parents left Egypt to settle here. Every day that they had the opportunity to do so, my parents repeatedly told us that they had moved to Canada so that we would have the right to express ourselves freely. That was the main reason why my father, my mother and their whole family came to Canada. It's also why I am now an MP who was elected to Canada's Parliament by citizens in my riding.
People can say whatever they want and call Conservative MPs all kinds of names, but I sincerely believe that we've spoken long enough about Ms. Harder's motion. In the name of freedom of expression, it seems clear to me that we should ask for a new legal opinion. Ms. Harder's motion, improved by Ms. McPherson's amendment, is totally legitimate. We've had the opinion of experts of all kinds, and they raised red flags. In view of our own modest areas of expertise, and out of respect for our work and concern for professionalism, we should adopt the motion on behalf of Canadians.
I will conclude, Mr. Chair, because I don't want to draw out the debate unnecessarily.
One sometimes hears it said that Conservative party MPs are demagogues and try to get people to believe certain things. If I were sitting where my Liberal colleagues are, I'd be a little bit embarrassed, because they are attacking legal experts, outstanding university professors and experts in freedom of expression who fiercely defend, with public funds no less, issues that are extremely important to us. They should therefore feel just a little bit uncomfortable.
Let's forge ahead, request this new opinion and do our work afterwards.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
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