Standing Committee on the Status of Women Thursday, March 21, 2013 Chair FEWO

Standing Committee on the Status of Women Thursday, March 21, 2013 Chair FEWO
Standing Committee on the Status of Women
FEWO
●
NUMBER 065
●
1st SESSION
●
EVIDENCE
Thursday, March 21, 2013
Chair
Ms. Marie-Claude Morin
41st PARLIAMENT
1
Standing Committee on the Status of Women
Thursday, March 21, 2013
● (1110)
[Translation]
The Chair (Ms. Marie-Claude Morin (Saint-Hyacinthe—
Bagot, NDP)): Welcome everyone. Welcome to the 65th meeting
of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.
Ms. Sgro, you have the floor.
[English]
Hon. Judy Sgro (York West, Lib.): Thank you, Madam Chair.
I'd like to raise a point of order relating to the committee's motion
of March 5, 2013, and the direct negative impact that it's having on
the process we're undertaking today.
First, I apologize to the witnesses, but this is an issue of
fundamental importance that I'm sure you will understand and that I
believe is jeopardizing the impartiality and thoroughness of this
study, and, by extension, my responsibilities and constitutional
duties as an MP and as a member of this committee and my party's
lead critic for the Status of Women.
While I expect that my colleagues on the government side will
want this matter dealt with in camera, I believe this issue is in all of
our interests. It's not simply an issue of committee business, nor is it
a matter to be hidden behind closed doors, so I am raising it as a
point of order.
The committee had scheduled to hear from Krista Carle at our last
meeting of March 7. Despite having already made the plans for the
appearance on March 5, the government members of the committee
pressed through a motion, which read, “That, in accordance with the
sub judice convention, invitations to appear on the study of sexual
harassment in the federal workplace be limited to individuals not
currently...[under]...a judicial process or grievance.”
Following that motion, the clerk issued an e-mail to Ms. Carle,
which stated, “As a consequence,” of the motion, “and given your
current involvement in a class-action suit against the RCMP, your
appearance before the committee, scheduled for Thursday March 7...
has been cancelled.”
While it spoke to the history and to the legal developments of this
matter, two elements in particular are germane to the point I'm
making today.
Richard Denis, the Deputy Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel,
stated:
After a review of the relevant transcript of the Committee, we conclude that the
testimony and questions posed were of a general nature. They addressed a matter
of public policy rather than specific allegations. Therefore, there appears to have
been no violations of the sub judice convention;
At this time, the proceedings of this legal action are still in their preliminary stage,
and the hearing for the certification of the class-action will only occur at the end
of the year. It is yet unknown if the courts will allow the claim to proceed on the
merits, which will take another few years. Therefore, there['s] little chance that the
Committee’s evidence...[could]...prejudice the potential legal action, and as such
there would be no violation of the sub judice convention.
Setting aside the fact that the sub judice convention is not a rule
and is not found anywhere as an enforceable measure in the Standing
Orders of the House of Commons, this legal opinion means that
hearing from people like Ms. Carle would not jeopardize any formal
proceedings and, even if it did, the pending class action litigation
does not constitute a matter that is currently before the courts.
Knowing this, and having this confirmed by the Deputy Law
Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, I would therefore suggest that the
committee's motion of March 5 was premature, misinformed, and
out of order. I submit that the motion should not have been presented
until a legal opinion was received and digested so as to ensure the
accuracy and appropriateness for all of the committee members.
Clearly, the motion was faulty. I would therefore suggest that it be
rescinded and that this committee make immediate plans to hear
from people like Krista Carle, Catherine Galliford, and the many
other brave women who have experienced harassment at the hands
of their employer and who would bring valuable experience and
lessons to this table.
In essence, the potential witness was told by the committee that
her experience with assault, harassment, and bullying in the
workplace would not be heard by this committee because she had
opted to take action against those who allegedly perpetrated the
crimes. As a result of that rejection, I requested a legal opinion on
this matter.
Madam Chair, I think this is an extremely important study that
we're doing, and I don't want it to lose its way. We've done six
months of work and only heard from one witness who specifically
suffered at the hands of many of the members of the RCMP, so I've
asked that the committee consider rescinding that motion, allowing
us to go forward in giving the many women out there involved in
this a chance to come and speak to the Status of Women committee
and have their voices heard.
Yesterday, that legal opinion was delivered by the Deputy Law
Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel to all the members of committee.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair. I would appreciate very
much the support of the committee.
2
FEWO-65
I understand that we don't all know what the procedures are, but
the motion clearly was out of order, and I think that had the
committee had the full understanding of who we can call before us
and who we can't, they probably would not have had to introduce
that motion.
Thank you very much for allowing me to make that point of order,
and I would appreciate some feedback from the committee on
rescinding that motion.
[Translation]
The Chair: I will now recognize Ms. Ashton.
[English]
Ms. Niki Ashton (Churchill, NDP): Thank you. We would like
to support this point of order and the motion to rescind the previous
motion based on the new information that is before us and
particularly the point that was raised by the law clerk noting that:
At this time, the proceedings of this legal action are still in their preliminary stage,
and the hearing for the certification of the class-action will only occur at the end of
the year. It is yet unknown if the courts will allow the claim to proceed on the merits,
which will take another few years. Therefore, there['s] little chance that the
Committee's evidence will prejudice the potential legal action, and as such there
would be no violation of the sub judice convention.
I'd also like to note that one of the women who was to come
forward came out to the media in British Columbia last week and
spoke about how her voice was being silenced and how her right to
be heard was being taken away from her. We now know based on the
legal opinion that there is no reason to reject the testimonies of these
women, certainly not at this stage.
I'd like to pick up on a point mentioned by my colleague Ms. Sgro
about our fundamental duty as members of Parliament. We're here to
do our due diligence. We're here to listen—and certainly as part of
this committee we're here to listen to the voices of women who have
gone through these horrible experiences. We are here to create
recommendations based on what they bring forward, what all
witnesses bring forward, and it is unconscionable to even imagine
that we can claim to be doing the proper work in this committee and
as part of this research project without hearing from the women from
the RCMP. As we know, we have every right to do so based on the
legal decision that has been put forward to us.
● (1115)
[Translation]
The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Ashton.
Ms. Truppe, you have the floor.
[English]
Mrs. Susan Truppe (London North Centre, CPC): Thank you,
Madam Chair.
It's interesting that Madam Ashton said she's here to listen when
both sides keep interrupting the witnesses we have. I would like to
move that we go in camera if we want to continue this or that we
defer it to committee business after the witnesses so that we don't
waste any further time.
March 21, 2013
[Translation]
The Chair: Ms. Truppe moves that the committee continue this
meeting in camera or that this discussion take place during
committee business, at noon.
Yes, Ms. Sgro?
[English]
Hon. Judy Sgro: We have several witnesses here to add to this
discussion. To turn around now and go in camera at this particular
time.... I want to go back to this. The whole issue is what are we so
afraid of, talking about something as important as sexual harassment
in a federal jurisdiction? Having to turn around and go in camera to
have the discussion about a motion...when clearly the committee did
not have the full knowledge or it wouldn't have presented the
motion.
We have a legal decision that says these women are allowed to
come before the committee, so I see no reason now to have to move
in camera to discuss something when what we're trying to do is get
these issues raised in the public sphere and do our job as members of
this committee.
[Translation]
The Chair: I understand your concerns, Ms. Sgro.
Given the situation I would suggest that we hear from our
witnesses and get back to this discussion in the context of committee
business.
We may vote on it, if you prefer.
[English]
Hon. Judy Sgro: Well, Ms. Truppe moved that we move in
camera to have a discussion on my point of order, and I'm suggesting
that we have the discussion openly. Why would we need to go in
camera to discuss something...? This is a legal decision in front of us,
and it's easily, for us—
[Translation]
The Chair: So we shall vote on it.
Ms. Niki Ashton: May I ask for a recorded division?
The Chair: Yes, certainly.
Ms. Ashton calls for a recorded division.
[English]
Hon. Judy Sgro: Could you spell out the motion, please?
[Translation]
The Chair: Ms. Truppe asks that we move in camera.
[English]
Mrs. Susan Truppe: It is to discuss committee business, unless
you want to defer it to 12 o'clock, as part of committee business.
Hon. Judy Sgro: Just so we're clear here, I have spoken on a
point of order, and I have asked that the committee rescind an earlier
motion.
Is the parliamentary secretary now suggesting that in order to
discuss my point of order we go in camera for that discussion?
Mrs. Susan Truppe: Correct. That's committee business.
March 21, 2013
FEWO-65
[Translation]
The Chair: Yes, given that the motion you are referring to has
already been passed in camera.
Ms. Joyce Bateman (Winnipeg South Centre, CPC):
Madam Chair, I agree with Ms. Truppe, but our witnesses are here.
We should show them some respect.
The Chair: It is a member from your party who has asked that we
move in camera, Ms. Bateman.
Ms. Joyce Bateman: Committee business comes after our
witnesses.
The Chair: But the parliamentary secretary has asked that we
move in camera.
Yes, Ms. Truppe?
[English]
Mrs. Susan Truppe: Just so we're clear, I propose that we go in
camera if we're discussing committee business, which Madam Sgro
raised. I also propose that we defer it to our committee business,
when the witnesses are finished. So if we can finish off with the
witnesses, and then discuss this, I'm fine with that.
But then Madam Sgro said she wanted to discuss it right now,
which we can't do in front of the witnesses, as it's committee
business.
If we're all in agreement on discussing this when we're done with
the witnesses, during our committee business, we don't have to move
to go in camera right now.
● (1120)
[Translation]
The Chair: Ms. Sgro, your motion is therefore officially to defer
this discussion and put it on the agenda for committee business,
which will take place at noon. Is that correct?
[English]
Hon. Judy Sgro: I think it's not just a matter of committee
business. It's a point of order on how we operate as a committee,
3
which I don't think needs to be discussed in camera—as if we're so
afraid of the kind of rules we have to function under.
I am opposed to going in camera to discuss this issue.
[Translation]
The Chair: Madam Clerk tells me we must proceed to the vote.
Ms. James et Ms. Ashton have asked to speak. We will then call the
question.
Yes, Ms. James?
[English]
Ms. Roxanne James (Scarborough Centre, CPC): It's quite
apparent that we're not going to get agreement to defer this to actual
committee business at the end, which is supposed to occur—and was
going to occur at noon—so I will move that we go in camera, please.
Thank you.
[Translation]
The Chair: Actually, there are two motions on the table.
Madam Clerk has indicated to me that we must immediately call
the question if we want to continue our session in camera at this
point.
Ms. Niki Ashton: May we have a recorded division?
The Chair: Certainly, Ms. Ashton.
(Motion agreed to: yeas 7, nays 4 [See Minutes of Proceedings]
The Chair: I will be suspending the meeting for a few minutes so
that we may continue in camera.
I would now like to speak to Ms. Bowes-Sperry and
Ms. Collinsworth, who were invited here today.
We are very sorry about the situation. This type of unexpected
event sometimes occurs at committee meetings. We will therefore be
contacting you in the future. I am sorry for the inconvenience. Thank
you.
[Proceedings continue in camera]
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