Mr. Jean-Charles Cantin (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice):
Mr. Speaker, when he reads today's Hansard the Minister of Justice (Mr. Turner), who is away on other official business, will surely appreciate the hon. members' contribution to this debate.
It takes some time to incorporate into legislation any philosophy and commonly held ideas. This act tends, among other things, to set up the machinery which will make it possible to incorporate more quickly into law what we preach, although not overnight. This bill provides for the creation of a federal commission for the reform of laws. It is the present Minister of Justice who was the first to talk about it in October 1968, while speaking to members of the Law Society of Upper Canada convened in a special meeting at Osgoode Hall. In fact he said:
I hope that we shall soon be able to create a national commission for the reform of laws in order to explore continuously rather than occasionally the possibilities ... of amending laws.
Stating that the advance of technology and urban development was essentially reflected in the transformation of economic, social and family obligations, Mr. Turner pointed out that it would be high time to undertake, in the legal field, an orderly review and updating of the statutes. The more and more frequent intervention of the government into daily life is evidenced in the increasing number of laws passed from one year to another. Besides, the phenomenon had been already foreseen twenty years ago by the late Professor R. McGregor Dawson. This is what he said, and I quote:
Each year, the government asserts even more its authority, expands more and more the field of its activity.
May 12, 1970
To that, the present Minister of Justice answered:
It often happens that owing to special and continuous pressure to which the administrative process is submitted, many statutes or other legal regulations which control the relationship between the subjects themselves or between the subjects and the government escape this orderly review without which they will not remain consistent with either equity or changing customs.
To meet the complexity of the relationships that characterize modern societies, permanent boards of law reform have been established in certain jurisdictions. That is the context in which this legislation must be considered.
The objects of the Commission are to study and keep under review on a continuing and systematic basis the statutes and other laws of Canada with a view to making recommendations for their improvement. I am thinking here of the views expressed by the previous speaker about the updating and the review of such laws.
Without restricting the general scope of the aforementioned objects, the Commission's prime duty will be to remove anachronisms and anomalies in the laws; to reflect in and by the laws the distinctive concepts and institutions of common law, civil law, and to reconcile, in the expression and application of the law, the differences and discrepancies arising out of the differences in those concepts and institutions.
It will also have to ensure the repeal of obsolete legislation and the development of new legal concepts in keeping with the changing needs of modern Canadian society and of individual members of that society.
One hopes that the Commission will make it possible to achieve the following goals:
Firstly, to give the government an objective machinery to review federal laws;
Secondly, to create an institution to which the public may direct the serious grievances it sometimes has with respect to some federal laws;
Thirdly, to give the cabinet the means to assess proposals which are submitted to it in order to amend existing laws or to pass new ones.
Fourthly, to set up a body that will carry out a critical study of the federal laws, in the light of both common Law and civil law.
This bill provides for the establishment of a Commission of six members. The chairman, vice-chairman and two other full-time members will be appointed for a term not exceeding seven years and the two part-time mem-
Law Reform Commission Bill bers for a term not exceeding three years. It should be noted that the legislation will not require that the members of this Commission be lawyers or judges. Its provisions are broad enough to allow for the appointment of members from other professions.
The Commission, with its modest staff, will be empowered not only to carry out an exhaustive survey of the present federal laws but also to engage on a temporary basis for specific projects the services of persons having specialized knowledge in some legal field. Although the Commission will deal only with matters that come under the jurisdiction of Parliament, it will nevertheless be possible for it to co-operate with provincial, and even foreign, boards with which it could pool its knowledge or its resources, for the benefit of law reform.
The Commission will be free to conduct its own research programs. However, so as to ascertain that it will look only into matters of public interest, it will have to submit reports to Parliament and to the public through the Minister of Justice.
Finally, I may say that this legislation was unanimously approved by the members of the Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs who made an in-depth study of this bill.
No doubt that this legislation is evidence that the government is anxious to undertake a reform, that will be both serious and continuous, of the federal laws.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: LAW REFORM COMMISSION BILL