April 1, 1992

LIB

Réginald Bélair

Liberal

Mr. Belair:

Madam Speaker, I agree with my colleague from British Columbia that this is an extremely bad time to do away with this program. We are right in the middle of a constitutional crisis. This afternoon the Prime Minister pleaded with all members of this House to make an effort to recognize each other's values and traditions and also to recognize that there are minority languages in all of the provinces, be it English in Quebec or French in the other provinces.

It was an appeal to not only promote but also to protect those linguistic rights. The Constitution and the charter exist to protect those rights, but in some cases there is abuse. That is why we are concerned that employers-the federal government, its ministries, the provincial governments, corporations-would abuse the rights of individuals if this program is cancelled. It is almost synonymous to encouraging those groups that I have just mentioned to discriminate against groups or individuals in our society. The government chose a very bad time to cancel the program but hopefully it will rethink its decision and reinstate it.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY (S. 0.81)-C0URT CHALLENGES PROGRAM
Permalink
NDP

Svend Johannes Robinson

New Democratic Party

Mr. Svend J. Robinson (Burnaby-Kingsway):

Madam Speaker, I would like to stress that the Federation des Franco-Colombiens, and especially its chairperson, Mrs. Marie Bourgeois, with whom I had an excellent meeting a week ago, and its director, Mr. Pierre Rivard, are absolutely astonished by the government's decision to cancel the Court Challenges Program. According to them, this will greatly hamper their efforts to promote the rights of the Francophone minority in British Columbia.

I would also like to take this opportunity to make a brief comment and ask the member if he would comment with respect to another issue and that is the question of access by the lesbian and gay community to the courts pursuant to section 15 of the charter.

The minister of multiculturalism is in the House and will know that the argument has been made with respect to this particular decision, this ruthless decision to chop the Court Challenges Program is that those who are seeking justice, particularly from minority groups, can go to the Canadian Human Rights Commission and can seek justice there. The human rights commission can act on their behalf.

The minister will know that is not the case with respect to the lesbian and gay community because in their case the Canadian Human Rights Act does not include sexual orientation. They have been waiting six years for the government to keep its promise.

I want to point this out and point out the fact that a number of very important cases, whether it be the case of James M. Egan and Jack Nesbit with respect to spouses' allowance, of Graham Haig and Joshua Birch with respect to the Canadian Human Rights Act itself, Brian Mossop on spousal benefits or a CUPE pension case, could not have been funded without the Court Challenges Program.

I want to ask the member if he would comment with respect to this essential element of justice as well for a community that needs this program desperately in order to seek equality through the courts when it is denied by governments.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY (S. 0.81)-C0URT CHALLENGES PROGRAM
Permalink
PC

Andrée Champagne (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

Madam Deputy Speaker:

Unfortunately it will have to be a very brief comment.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY (S. 0.81)-C0URT CHALLENGES PROGRAM
Permalink
LIB

Réginald Bélair

Liberal

Mr. Belair:

I would simply like to mention, Madam Speaker, that our official languages critic also went to British Columbia last weekend to meet with members of the Federation des Franco-Colombiens, including Mrs. Bourgeois who was a member of that same delegation, in order to find out how we could assist them. The first question that was raised is this: Why has the party in power cancelled the one and only means by which we

April 1, 1992

Supply

could challenge the British Columbia government concerning school management? What do they have left?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY (S. 0.81)-C0URT CHALLENGES PROGRAM
Permalink
PC

Robert Alfred Corbett

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Bob Corbett (Fundy-Royal):

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be taking part in this debate on the hon. member's motion. It is an important motion and certainly deserves a lot of serious consideration.

Hon. members will be well aware of the tremendous gains made in equality in language rights since the Court Challenges Program began in 1978. This government has been and was an enthusiastic supporter of the program and there are numerous examples of court cases that attest to the program's successes.

I think my hon. friend will be quite interested in hearing about some of the programs and some of the very successful court cases the program has funded to advance the rights and freedoms we enjoy as citizens under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Let us examine equality rights. In 1989 the first case to reach the Supreme Court of Canada was brought by a British bom lawyer who was refused the right to practise law in British Columbia because he was not a Canadian citizen.

The Supreme Court struck down the requirement, citing section 15 of the charter. But the decision did more than permit non-citizens to practise law, it laid the foundation for the future interpretation of equality rights. The Supreme Court went on to make a series of decisions that have expanded the scope of human rights statutes.

All six judges who heard the case agreed that the citizenship requirement violated equality rights in section 15 of the charter. A four to two majority decision held that the law was not saved by section 1 of the charter, which allows reasonable limits on equality rights. As a result of the decision, we now have a clear understanding from the Supreme Court what equality rights mean.

Another example of an equality rights case funded by the program dealt with the denial of the right to vote. It challenged the section of the Canada Elections Act which denied the vote to persons unable to manage their property because of mental disability.

Just before the case was heard in Federal Court, this government agreed that the section violated the charter and should be struck down. One hour later the Federal Court agreed with the government and invalidated that section.

The result of this challenge by the Canadian Disability Rights Council is that many of our citizens with mental disabilities were able to vote in the 1988 federal election. As well, my hon. friend will be pleased to know that the case helped to challenge widespread assumptions that stigmatized persons with mental disabilities.

In another interesting case funded by the program, a man argued that as a natural father he should not be denied parental benefits under the Unemployment Insurance Act when those benefits are available to an adoptive father. The Federal Court agreed with him and ruled that the UI act violated section 15 of the charter.

The Court Challenges Program funded an Ontario children's rights organization representing a young offender who argued that the provincial government's failure to establish alternative measures programs for young offenders violated his equality rights under the charter.

In ruling in the young offender's favour, the trial judge said the Attorney General for Ontario had a duty to authorize alternative measures programs. The ruling was upheld by the Ontario Court of Appeal, but the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that his rights had not been violated and the court referred to the value of diversity in our federal system and the importance of federal-provincial co-operation.

The Court Challenges Program gave funding support to the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund so it could argue a case concerning the interpretation of the provisions of the Canada Pension Plan for credit splitting when a couple separates. The trial judge ruled that the husband was entitled to the full CPP benefits so his estranged wife appealed the decision to the Ontario Divisional Court. It ruled that the Canada Pension Plan cannot be interpreted in such a way that it waives credit splitting rights.

These are just a few of the many successful cases that received funding support through the Court Challenges Program.

April 1, 1992

I remind hon. members that during the life of the program this government contributed more financial support that any previous government. The program funded up to $35,000 for each court level challenge and up to $5,000 to develop a case.

Canadians have every reason to be proud of this program. We have invested more in the Court Challenges Program than any other country in the world. I say to my hon. friend, not only have numerous cases been resolved under the program, but many more cases have helped to raise awareness among Canadians of several issues that must be dealt with if we are to ensure that this great nation continues to place a high value on equality for all its citizens.

The Court Challenges Program has enabled access for many more groups that for one reason or another are at a disadvantage to the justice system. For example, the Canadian Council of Churches received program funding to challenge many sections of the Immigration Act. The council believes the act violates equality rights.

To assure hon. members that the government had a strict hands-off policy regarding the Court Challenges Program, I must point out that the government argued that the Council of Churches did not have the standing to bring its case to court, but the Federal Court refused to strike down the council's case. The government appealed that decision but the Federal Court of Appeal ruled in the council's favour and the program is now funding the council's appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The government has found it necessary to bring the program to a conclusion. However, as we have already made clear, the government intends to honour all its commitments made prior to February 27 of this year. These commitments include the one made by the program to the Canadian Disabilities Rights Council, which is challenging a section of the Immigration Act frequently used to bar families from immigrating to Canada if the member of that family has a disability.

The program has already funded a number of similar cases but the government settled each of them out of court. The program is now funding the council rather than more individuals so that the case can be argued on

Supply

behalf of the entire group affected under the Immigration Act.

Many of the cases I have mentioned dealt with and deal with equality rights because that is a key section of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However there are other concerns as well, such as those expressed by Victims of Violence. This community organization is disturbed about barriers to justice that can hinder a person with a disability who needs to give evidence in court.

The program is helping Victims of Violence develop a case on the potentially discriminatory impact of the Canada Evidence Act on people with disabilities. It wants the court to consider options such as allowing videotaped or written testimony for individuals unable to testify in person.

The Court Challenges Program will also honour its commitment to the Canadian Ethnocultural Council to help it research the question of access to the courts for persons with complaints of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Hon. members may know that currently only the Canadian Human Rights Commission can deal with complaints. The council is concerned that complaints of discrimination may not be dealt with effectively or promptly by the commission. It believes that individuals should have access to the courts in these matters.

Prejudice is widespread in our society. Unfortunately, judges are not immune to it. Members of disadvantaged groups frequently raise concerns about alleged discriminatory attitudes and rulings of judges. In that regard, the program has funded the Inuit Women's Association of Canada to help it examine the sentencing practices of judges in the Northwest Territories in cases of sexual assault against Inuit women.

The Court Challenges Program was originally intended to help citizens who wanted clarification of language rights through the courts. Financial assistance was provided to groups and individuals for test cases based on the language rights provisions of the Constitution. My hon. friend will appreciate that the program was intended to serve as a tool to promote our two official languages. It has done that, and the government is proud of what the program has accomplished in promoting the recognition and implementation of minority language rights across Canada. Through the program we have

April 1, 1992

Supply

enhanced the vitality of the English and French linguistic minority communities.

It has been a decade since our charter became law. During the past 10 years the Court Challenges Program has been extremely useful in helping to advance the rights and freedoms enjoyed by Canadians. It has certainly strengthened the laws of Canada and influenced attitudes as we strive to ensure equality for all citizens.

However, nothing remains constant. This nation is going through many changes, as are countries throughout the world. We are not abandoning support of our basic rights and freedoms. We have many programs that address those issues and the government will live up to its commitment to provide funding already granted by the Court Challenges Program.

Yes, this government can be very proud of its accomplishments under the program. We have not shied away from giving the program the freedom to operate independently. However the hon. member knows, as do all hon. members, that we must make tough decisions to get our financial house in order. It is time to ask our provincial partners and private sector groups to share the burden and take on additional responsibilities in the area of implementing equality rights for Canadians.

I say to my hon. friend: "Let us work together to ensure the equality of all Canadians. Let us build on the foundation of the Court Challenges Program. Let us move forward and make this magnificent land a place in which all Canadians, whether citizens by birth or citizens by choice, will be equal under the law and full participants in their communities".

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY (S. 0.81)-C0URT CHALLENGES PROGRAM
Permalink
LIB

Jean-Robert Gauthier

Liberal

Mr. Jean-Robert Gauthier (Ottawa-Vanier):

Madam Speaker, I have a question relating to some of the comments made by the member, particularly dealing with the appeal process.

We all know that court cases start at trial level and proceed up to other levels of the justice system until they get to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Minister for Multiculturalism and Citizenship said today when he made his statement in the House that the government will honour its funding commitment: "For the level of court at which funding was approved". Most

of the cases funded by the Court Challenges Program are at the trial court level.

Therefore, I want to ask the member if he has inquired of the government or of the Minister of Justice, and since she is here maybe she would like to inform him, what the government proposes to do to ensure that the cases funded by the Court Challenges Program, which will be honoured, will continue to be funded if they proceed to appeal without imposing on those minority groups-the underprivileged, linguistic, women, multicultural groups-the onerous financial costs incurred by an appeal to the decision at a court level which has been approved for funding.

My question is simple. Is there an answer for these groups that find themselves in a very difficult situation? They have been approved to go to a certain level, that has been guaranteed. What happens if there is an appeal?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY (S. 0.81)-C0URT CHALLENGES PROGRAM
Permalink
PC

Robert Alfred Corbett

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Corbett:

Madam Speaker, I can well understand the hon. member's concerns about commitments that have already been made to previous groups because when his party was in power there was a blatant disregard for commitments made by his administration for future undertakings when it came time to pay the piper.

The fact of the matter is that this government, of which I am proud to be a supporter with all good reason as the record will show, honours its commitments. It has made the commitment that it will honour those cases that have already been funded under the process. It will see them through to fruition.

I see the hon. minister shaking his head in the affirmative, agreeing that this is the case. Although I am not privy to decisions that are taken in cabinet the fact of the matter is that when cabinet ministers of this government advise me that certain things will take place then I have no difficulty in accepting their word at face value. I am sure that as these groups express their concerns- and he mentioned underprivileged groups, women's groups, minorities and a host of others.

On this side of the House we are extremely proud of the work. I understand that when this program began there was very little funding required because there was very little activity in that direction. This year and in previous years this government has been providing funding to the tune of up to $2.5 million a year to assist

April 1, 1992

these groups. Provided they qualify, these groups are entitled to $35,000 per litigation. They qualify for up to $5,000 for case developments.

In extreme cases, if there is a further requirement for funding up to $25,000 per level of court case can be funded, and probably has been funded on many different occasions by this government which I am proud to be associated with.

I want to assure all of those groups that the hon. member mentioned that should they have concerns about their future, provided they are already under the umbrella of the program they will be dealt with fairly and equitably by our government.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY (S. 0.81)-C0URT CHALLENGES PROGRAM
Permalink
NDP

Svend Johannes Robinson

New Democratic Party

Mr. Svend J. Robinson (Burnaby-Kingsway):

Madam Speaker, I want to put to this vigorous supporter of the government a question concerning a couple of women, Christine Morrissey and her partner, who are challenging the policies of the Canadian immigration department which deny them the right to remain together as a family unit. They are challenging this policy which discriminates against the lesbian and gay community, and that challenge is being funded by the Court Challenges Program.

These women have not yet had this case come to trial. When the case comes to trial presumably the commitment initially made to them with respect to the trial will be honoured-that is the understanding I have. However, what happens beyond that, when the government appeals, as the government has appealed in each and every instance? This is a government which claims to be concerned about the rights of minorities, yet in each and every instance in which those rights have been trampled on this government has appealed, has taken it to a higher court.

I want to ask the member a very specific question. The program is being dissolved. There will no longer be any administrators of the program, there will no longer be any funds for appeals. What will happen to Christine Morrissey and other women and men like them who rely on this program to assert their rights under the charter? What will happen to these people and how will they be able to pursue this case in higher courts?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY (S. 0.81)-C0URT CHALLENGES PROGRAM
Permalink
PC

Robert Alfred Corbett

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Corbett:

Madam Speaker, unless I have missed something in the question, it seems that the question put

Supply

by the hon. member is the same as the question put by the previous questioner. The answer is obviously the same. Any commitments undertaken by this government, whether to these two women that the hon. member brings to the attention of the House or any other groups, will be carried on to fruition and conclusion.

The hon. member may make all kinds of comments about how we are appealing decisions and taking decisions to court but the fact of the matter is that I have just read into the record a litany of people who have successfully accessed the program, despite the fact that the federal government from time to time makes a decision because that indeed is its responsibility. After all, it is the responsibility of the government to implement and introduce into the House legislation and deal with the Constitution and the charter in a way that it sees fit, as the electorate has put it in place to do.

It is to the credit of the government that despite all of that it has supplied a large amount of money on a consistent basis, in excess of $2.5 million in the past year and a substantial amount of money in the years leading up to that. We are extremely proud of the record that we have of supporting groups such as the hon. member and others in the House have mentioned.

It is important that in the future they take up the challenge that we have laid down. The minister and I have told our provincial counterparts and other civic-minded groups that there must be ways other than constantly relying on the federal government as a cash cow because the taxpayers of this nation have said: "Enough is enough. We must come to grips with the rising debt. Taxes can no longer afford to be increased at the expense of the taxpayer".

My hon. friend is a strong supporter of the NDP government in British Columbia and I dare say that there are many out there that he would like to assist that fall into the category he has already referred to. I would ask that he go to his counterparts in the provincial Government of British Columbia and ensure that they understand the importance and the willingness of our federal government in Ottawa to share with them the opportunity to put together programs. Together we may be able to effectively deal with the program that has been proven very successful in the past.

April 1, 1992

Supply

Now the time is upon us when we must, move and make the changes that are necessary as we evolve in a changing world.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY (S. 0.81)-C0URT CHALLENGES PROGRAM
Permalink
LIB

Jean-Robert Gauthier

Liberal

Mr. Gauthier:

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I listened very attentively to what the member for Fundy-Royal just said. I take him to be a serious individual and I have a serious point of order.

He is speaking with some authority in assuring the people of Canada in this House and those who are listening that the government will indeed fund appeals to the court cases at the level they have been approved. That means that the government policy announced by the minister today is either misunderstood or has changed while this debate was going on.

Can we get unanimous consent to have the minister to clarify that question for us now, for all Canadians to understand? Where does the government stand on appeals of these cases that have been approved?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY (S. 0.81)-C0URT CHALLENGES PROGRAM
Permalink
PC

Andrée Champagne (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

Madam Deputy Speaker:

I think the hon. member knows very well that is not a point of order. It is a question of debate. With unanimous consent we can debate it, but I do not see anyone rising to answer this point.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY (S. 0.81)-C0URT CHALLENGES PROGRAM
Permalink
NDP

Neil Young

New Democratic Party

Mr. Neil Young (Beaches-Woodbine):

Madam Speaker, usually I rise on these debates in the House and start my remarks by saying I am pleased to be able to contribute something to this debate. I cannot say it on this particular motion because of the serious impact that it will have on thousands of Canadians in the future.

This country has just gone through a period of constitutional renewal. In fact we are still in the process. It has been a process of inclusion through which we have attempted and are still attempting to include an entire province in the Constitution of Canada.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is an integral part of our Constitution. It is important we understand that with this removal of $2.7 million that supported the Court Challenges Program we have effectively made the Charter of Rights and Freedoms meaningless to thousands of Canadians. They will not be able to go through the courts to redress wrongs that may be perpetrated on them in the main by arbitrary acts of the federal government.

In the main the government has presented two arguments to the House. One was that there had now been a basis of jurisprudence established that made the Court Challenges Program no longer necessary. The other argument, which was just presented by the hon. member for Fundy-Royal, was that there was a need to reduce government expenditures, that that was the reason why the program was terminated.

I am a member of the Standing Committee on Human Rights and the Status of Disabled Persons. After the government action came to our attention through the estimates, we decided to examine both of those arguments to determine whether they stood up under close examination.

In the course of the last two or three weeks, we have had what I consider to be expert witnesses with a special understanding of the Court Challenges Program appearing before our committee. We asked nearly every witness those two questions: First, is there a basis of jurisprudence established that no longer makes the program necessary? In every case the response was: "No, there has not been".

To put that in perspective, one witness that appeared before the committee, the Canadian Bar Association, pointed out that after 200 years of having the constitution in the United States enacted, there continues to be litigation to determine the exact meaning of the American Bill of Rights. That is no less true with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

We asked the minister's own deputy minister what reasons she could provide for the cancellation of this program. The deputy minister's response was that it was purely a method of reducing costs. There was no other reason. Jurisprudence did not come into it. All those other arguments we have heard did not come into it. It was a straight cost cutting measure.

If that is the real reason, and I rather suspect it is, it is a crying shame. What it means in effect is that if one has personal wealth or access to a lot of wealth, one will be able to go through the courts to determine one's rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The recent case we have heard was the one on pornography. If a federal law says that individuals making all kinds of bucks peddling pornography cannot do that, they can work their way through the charter and up

April 1, 1992

through the courts to ask the courts to give them that right.

However, if one happens to be a single woman-I am trying to use the worst case scenario-a disabled individual, or a person at the low end of the socio-economic scale, one will not have the means to use the charter to establish one's rights. It is as simple as that.

When we consider the importance of that $2.7 million program to the rights of Canadians, I think it was a bad economic error to cancel it.

The argument has been made that if we all think this program is so important we should be asking the provincial governments to pick up the cost. We have been told that people's rights can be protected through government departments, even though in the first instance it is the federal departments and legislation that are denying these people their rights.

It has even been suggested that the Canadian Human Rights Commission or the Official Languages Commission could protect those rights. We asked the human rights commissioner whether or not he was empowered to do just that, or whether he would have been able to do that when he was the commissioner of official languages. He answered unequivocally that he could not and neither could the official languages commissioner.

Then it was suggested that perhaps an individual who did not have access to wealth could go through provincial legal aid systems. We were told that once a case had been established to proceed it could cost anywhere around $300,000. Provincial legal aid systems are not structured to do that kind of thing.

In effect it means that if individuals out there do not have a friendly lawyer who is willing to donate up to $300,000 or in excess of that to challenge federal laws through the courts, or if individuals do not have the money, then they are not going to be able to do it. Only rich folk are going to be able to do it. I think people should understand that.

I make a plea to the minister who is listening carefully. I really think this was not well thought out at all. It would appear from our questioning of officials before committee and the responses we received to these questions that indeed it was not well thought out.

As far as I could determine no cost benefit analyses were done on how much the government would actually

Supply

save by retaining the program. There was none of that. It just seemed to be that somebody came up with the bright idea that federal spending could be reduced by chopping this program.

Knowing what impact the termination of this program was going to have, at the very least I think the government should have said: "Look, we don't think we can continue to fund the program. Let's at least first explore various avenues, whether through the Canadian Bar Association, provincial governments or any other available means, before removing the program".

Now that has done been, at the very least I think the government should seriously consider extending the program until that kind of work has been completed, not only in fairness to itself but in fairness to all those Canadians who are going to be adversely and seriously affected by the termination of this program.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY (S. 0.81)-C0URT CHALLENGES PROGRAM
Permalink
LIB

John V. Nunziata

Liberal

Mr. John Nunziata (York South-Weston):

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member about obligation. I do not want my comments to be construed as in any way supporting the government's position and action in this regard. My question for my colleague is with regard to the obligation of the legal profession in Canada.

As a member of the legal profession it seems to me that the profession has a responsibility. What we are talking about here in effect are legal fees that must be paid to lawyers in order to litigate certain cases that are constitutional test cases.

We know that lawyers do quite well vis-a-vis the federal government in terms of the amount of money that is transferred to the legal profession for work they do. They are paid handsomely, I would submit.

I was at a committee the other day and we are paying an outside lawyer $600 a day to sit there and help draft legislation notwithstanding that we have lawyers in the Department of Justice.

My question to my friend and colleague is: What obligation does he believe the legal profession has? Does he not believe that the legal profession has a responsibility in these cases? I am not talking about single practitioners or lawyers who might not be able to afford it. Is he aware of what programs major law firms have right across the country to help fund these types of cases on a pro bono basis? Is he familiar with what efforts the legal

April 1, 1992

Supply

profession is making as a contribution to this type of litigation to ensure that people with legitimate cases that ought to be litigated vis-a-vis matters affecting the Constitution have an opportunity to do so?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY (S. 0.81)-C0URT CHALLENGES PROGRAM
Permalink
NDP

Neil Young

New Democratic Party

Mr. Young (Beaches-Woodbine):

Madam Speaker, that is a legitimate question. Indeed it is one that we asked the Canadian Bar Association and others who appeared before our committee.

It is worth pointing out-and the hon. member for Fundy-Royal mentioned it in his speech-that around $35,000 is provided under the program for each case. It costs anywhere around $300,000 to take the case through the system. The only way it can go through the system is by the Canadian Bar Association and its member lawyers providing what they call pro bono service, which is initially free service or for much reduced fee charges.

The Canadian Bar Association and its members have actually given the Canadian public a veiy good deal. When we take the $2.7 million that has been chopped from this program and weigh that against the value that Canadians have received under this program by free work by lawyers, by reduced work by lawyers, I think we got a basement bargain deal. Why we are destroying that is beyond me.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY (S. 0.81)-C0URT CHALLENGES PROGRAM
Permalink
NDP

Ian Gardiner Waddell

New Democratic Party

Mr. Ian Waddell (Port Moody-Coquitlam):

Madam Speaker, I just want some clarification. The member for Beaches-Woodbine was at the committee. I have just heard a question by the Liberal member from Toronto who appears to be advocating, unless I am wrong, that this become a matter of charity from the bar. I do not know if the Liberals have two positions on this.

I understood from all their speakers today that the Liberals had been for this Court Challenges Program. Now we have a Liberal who stands up and seems to say it is the charity of the bar that has to do it. You cannot be all things to all people. The Liberal Party cannot do that. It cannot keep doing that and have any credibility in Canada. I have to tell the hon. member from Toronto that.

I want to ask the hon. member for Beaches-Woodbine, what position did the Liberal Party take on the committee? Did the Liberals appear to be in favour or

against the cutback of this program? The member said very brilliantly that one, the program is needed; two, that it is a sad case to cut back and it is wrong; and, three, that it cannot be done through the charity of the bar. It has to be done as a proper program.

As a lawyer who did public interest programs, these cases also have to be co-ordinated. It is not just hit and miss. That is where the member for York South-Weston is wrong if he is advocating that it be the private bar.

I am angry because the Liberals cannot have two positions on everything. I want to ask the hon. member for Beaches-Woodbine: What position did the Liberal Party take in the committee?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY (S. 0.81)-C0URT CHALLENGES PROGRAM
Permalink
LIB

John V. Nunziata

Liberal

Mr. Nunziata:

Madam Speaker, on a point of order, the member from Vancouver is clearly misconstruing and misinterpreting my position. Now if he wants to score some cheap political points he can. But I could ask him what his government at Queen's Park is doing or what his government in B.C. is doing.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY (S. 0.81)-C0URT CHALLENGES PROGRAM
Permalink
NDP

Robert Evans Skelly

New Democratic Party

Mr. Robert E. Skelly (Comox-Alberni):

Madam Speaker, I have no hesitation in rising to support this motion which calls for the restoration of the Court Challenges Program. I would like to congratulate the Liberal member for Ottawa-Vanier for bringing this motion to the House.

It appears that the government is arguing that the Court Challenges Program must be cut in order to reduce the expenditures and consequently to control the public debt of the country.

Canadians should know that this program costs only $2.5 million a year, perhaps a little less. It has been suggested before in this House that we could save the same amount of money if we cut back the tremendous amount of clipping services and media analysis that goes to the Prime Minister's office every single day. The polls that he does at the end of his media interviews. Most Canadians feel that that kind of money is wasted.

Yet the Court Challenges Program is an excellent expenditure of taxpayers money and should be continued.

The problem is that we have a Constitution. The Constitution contains the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

April 1, 1992

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY (S. 0.81)-C0URT CHALLENGES PROGRAM
Permalink
LIB
NDP

Raymond John Skelly

New Democratic Party

Mr. Skelly (Comox-Albemi):

Madam Speaker, the member can stand up in the House and make a speech if he wishes. But he should be called to order at this point for his irrelevances.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY (S. 0.81)-C0URT CHALLENGES PROGRAM
Permalink
PC

Andrée Champagne (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

Madam Deputy Speaker:

Heckling during debate is sometimes part of this House. The Speaker will not intervene unless things being said are really unparliamentary or if the person who has the floor asks the Speaker to intervene because he or she finds it difficult to continue. I will give the floor to the hon. member for Comox-Albemi.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY (S. 0.81)-C0URT CHALLENGES PROGRAM
Permalink

April 1, 1992