Mr. Speaker, I rise in response to the interventions made by the hon. members for Toronto Centre and Saint-Lambert concerning the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
This report contains the request that the committee be granted the power to expand the scope of Bill C-425, an act to amend the Citizenship Act (honouring the Canadian Armed Forces), such that the provisions of the bill not be limited to the Canadian Armed Forces.
One member suggested that the report itself is out of order, while the other suggested that the recommended instruction is deficient and, therefore, out of order.
I disagree with both of these assessments.
Let me address the first of these objections, the one put forward by the hon. member for Toronto Centre.
At the core of his presentation, he argued that Standing Order 97.1 excludes the possibility of a committee seeking an instruction in relation to a private member's bill, because that Standing Order enumerates three reports—not two as the honourable and learned member said—that a committee may present within 60 days of an order of reference.
The hon. member made reference to one approach to legal interpretation in support of his view. On the other hand, I would offer a different school of thought on interpretation, the mischief rule; in other words, what problem or mischief was being remedied when a law was enacted.
To this end, I would refer members to the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs presented during the first session of the 36th Parliament, back in 1997.
In the section on the disposition of bills by committees, the report observes:
A number of private Members' bills that have received second reading and been referred to committee have unfortunately disappeared and never been heard from again.... We are not in a position to comment on specific cases, but we do wish to prevent this situation from arising in the future.
There you go, Mr. Speaker. The intent was not to interfere with or restrict the manner in which a committee can consider legislation, but just that a committee cannot sit on a private member's bill indefinitely.
This was echoed in the Private Members' Business Practical Guide, 9th edition, which was published in October 2008 under the authority of the Clerk of the House of Commons. At page 16, under the heading of “Committee Consideration of Bills”, one reads that:
A votable Private Members' bill follows the normal procedure for a bill: if second reading is agreed to by the House, the bill is referred to a committee for the hearing of witnesses, clause-by-clause study and possible amendment.
The guide then discusses the rules that are particular to private members' bills: deadlines to report and proceedings on recommendations not to proceed further.
Nothing is suggested in this publication of the House to suggest that these types of bills are exempt from procedure on instructions.
I would further argue that Standing Order 97.1 has also not been circumvented by the eighth report. The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration remains seized by Bill C-425, and it remains subject to the 60-day sitting deadline established by that standing committee to dispose of the bill. Indeed citation 684.1 of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms of the House of Commons of Canada, 6th edition, advises that:
The Instruction should not be given while a bill is still in the possession of the House but rather after it has come into the possession of the committee.
Therefore, it follows that the committee remains seized with Bill C-425 and, consequently, has not made, yet, any of the reports required by Standing Order 97.1.
Having demonstrated that Standing Order 97.1 does not exclude the ability of the House to give an instruction to a committee on a private member's bill, as argued by the hon. member for Toronto Centre, I will now turn to the argument advanced by the hon. member for Saint-Lambert about the requested instruction itself.
Instructions are not common in our contemporary practice, which page 752 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice explains:
Motions of instruction derive from British practice during the second half of the nineteenth century. They were carried over into the practice of the Canadian House of Commons, although they have rarely been used.
Therefore, I will be referring to some of our older texts and United Kingdom authorities in addition to our contemporary procedural books.
Page 752 of O'Brien and Bosc states:
Once a bill has been referred to a committee, the House may instruct the committee by way of a motion authorizing what would otherwise be beyond its powers, such as...expanding or narrowing the scope or application of a bill. A committee that so wishes may also seek an instruction from the House.
Then at page 992, the manner for committees to obtain additional powers is described. It states:
If a standing, legislative or special committee requires additional powers, they may be conferred on the committee by an order of the House...or by concurrence in a committee report requesting the conferring of those powers.
Indeed, the chair of the citizenship committee cited this at the committee's meeting on April 23, and then added, “That's what...[the hon. member for St. Catharines] is doing with his motion”.
Citation 681(2) of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms, sixth edition, observes that:
The purpose of the Instruction must be supplementary and ancillary to the purpose of the bill, and must fall within the general scope and framework of the bill. It is irregular to introduce into a bill, by an Instruction to the committee, a subject which should properly form the substance of a distinct measure, having regard to usage and the general practice of enacting distinct statutes for distinct branches of law.
Citation 222 of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms, fourth edition, traces that proposition to an 1893 ruling of Mr. Speaker Peel of the United Kingdom House of Commons.
In the present instance, we are considering a proposal for the extension of the objects of Bill C-425. These types of instructions are explained in citation no. 686(1) of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms, sixth edition. It states:
An Instruction is necessary to authorize the introduction into a bill of amendments, which extend its provisions to objects not strictly covered by the subject-matter of the bill as agreed to on the second reading, provided that these objects are cognate to its general purposes.
This statement, as distilled from citation 226(2) of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms, fourth edition, quotes at length pages 398 and 399 of the 13th edition of Erskine May. There is one portion of that passage that I would like to add to the record. It states:
The object of an instruction is, therefore, to endow a committee with power whereby the committee can perfect and complete the legislation defined by the contents of the Bill, or extend the provisions of a Bill to cognate objects....
Page 559 of Erskine May's Parliamentary Practice, 24th edition, offers the same abbreviated advice we saw in Beauchesne's sixth edition. The British text then goes on to recite several examples of instructions to this effect. The first bill on that list offers a compelling parallel. It states:
The Public Bodies (Admission of the Press to Meetings) Bill 1959-60 was limited to the single purpose of admitting the press to meetings. An instruction was necessary to extend the bill to the general public.
The Chair may be interested in knowing that the bill was also a private member's bill. In fact, many of the bills on that list, as I understand, were private member's bills.
As a historical aside, members may be interested in knowing that the sponsor of that 1959 bill was a then young, up-and-coming member of Parliament by the name of Margaret Thatcher. To be clear, though, the text of the instruction in relation to Mrs. Thatcher's bill bears similarities to the case now before us. The British motion is found at column 1,064 of volume 619 of the United Kingdom House of Commons Debates for March 14, 1960. It states:
...That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill that they have power to make provision in the Bill for requiring members of the public other than representatives of the Press to be admitted to meetings of bodies exercising public functions, and for matters arising out of their admission.
In the case of Bill C-425, we have legislation that proposes to make two changes to the Citizenship Act with reference to the Canadian Armed Forces. The eighth report simply proposes that the citizenship committee be empowered to consider amendments that extend the application of those two objects to circumstances not involving the Canadian Armed Forces specifically.
As I understand the context, it became apparent at committee that the “act of war” is not defined clearly in either our domestic law or international laws, so that those references in Bill C-425 needed to be clarified. Amendments were to be proposed to address and clarify this.
Moreover, the committee heard suggestions about convicted terrorists in the context of the provisions for deemed applications for renunciation of citizenship. Amendments were also to be proposed in this vein.
I am further informed that there was an interpretation by the committee clerk that these amendments could be outside the scope of the bill. I am also told that the 8th report, which is now before the House, was drafted with the assistance of one or more committee clerks.
This report specifically addresses what committee members have been grappling with through their study of the bill, while at the same time being careful not to hamstring their own deliberations or to risk bringing forward a report with inadmissible amendments, as contemplated at pages 775 and 776 of O'Brien and Bosc.
Additionally, there was a view that this action was consistent with the intentions of the sponsor of Bill C-425, the hon. member for Calgary Northeast.
Ultimately, it is up to the House to decide what to do with Bill C-425. The discretion of the House and the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration remains unfettered. Should a motion to concur in the 8th report be moved, the House would have a concurrence debate and vote in which all members would have an opportunity to have a say on the proposed instruction. Should the report be concurred in, the instruction to the committee would be permissive; that is to say that the committee is not mandated to amend the bill in such a manner.
Should the committee report the bill with amendments consistent with the instruction, it remains up to the House to accept the amendments, reverse them or propose further amendments when Bill C-425 is considered at report stage. Alternatively, the House retains the option of defeating the bill.
In summary, the intention of the instructions sought by the citizenship committee is not overly broad and results in an intelligible outcome. It is consistent with instructions authorizing the extension of the objects of a bill. It is for a purpose cognate to Bill C-425. It does not import a different subject matter into the bill or seek to amend other parent acts.
Finally, it does not propose an alternative scheme contradictory to the principle of the bill adopted at second reading.
Therefore, I respectfully submit that the 8th report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration is admissible.