Motion for Membership of Standing Committee on Conflict of Interest for SenatorsPublished on 17 February 2016 Hansard and Statements by Senator George Baker (retired)
Hon. George Baker:
I wish to say a few words concerning this motion. Before I do, let me use this opportunity to take note of the fact of the great contribution of senators in this place in their role as senators, in what the courts claim is sober second thought.
About a week ago, since this motion is about committees, I went through the decisions of quasi-judicial bodies and tribunals. I wrote down the names of senators who were quoted in decisions over a period of two years: Senator Demers, Senator Ogilvie, Senator Seidman, Senator Enverga, Senator Ngo, Senator Day, Senator Moore, Senator Dyck, Senator McIntyre, Senator MacDonald, Senator Downe, Senator Beyak, Senator Oh, both Senator Smiths, Senator Campbell, Senator Tannas, Senator Raine, Senator Ringuette and Senator Dagenais. That was just over a short period of time. A short period of time. This is our committee work, in our tribunals and quasi-judicial bodies.
I was prompted to do this because Senator Joyal just won a court decision in the Quebec Superior Court, which may, senators — I don’t know if he’s thought about this — be appealed to the Quebec Court of Appeal.
This was a classic case of our committees. That bill, in March of 2013, March 7, went through Legal Affairs after it had gone through the House of Commons. A government bill, gone through the House of Commons, no examination in committee, nobody knew what the meaning was or the intent of certain sections of the bill. It came to Legal and Constitutional Affairs here in the Senate, and the witnesses were brought in, for and against. It was the witnesses who were brought in against who then appealed to the Quebec Superior Court on the unconstitutionality of the bill, and our great Senator Joyal then became an intervenor. The battle took place with, of course, the Crown, the Department of Justice, as the respondent. The judge, in this decision, quoted the members and witnesses of Legal and Constitutional Affairs to buttress the arguments of Senator Joyal, and Senator Joyal won the day in the decision of the court. But it just shows the value of our Senate committees.
That’s in our courts. Recently, for example, Senator Frum asked a simple question one day in our committee. She just asked a simple question; she said, “Okay, well, I’m not sure that this means that or this.” Well, that question and the answer now become a part of case law in Her Majesty the Queen, the Crown, and Travis Brandon Baumgartner, the accused, 2013, Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench — that’s the superior court — 761. Just a simple question put by a senator, and then that was followed by another senator. If you go to the Federal Court of Appeal just recently, you find this remarkable account of Senator Art Eggleton, where Senator Art Eggleton is quoted in paragraphs 85 and 86, and the testimony and the senators who make up the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, at five different meetings, are quoted by the court. That’s by the Federal Court of Appeal in the case called the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness (appellant) v. Thanh Tam Tran (respondent), and it is 2015, Federal Court of Appeal 237.
I could go to the Federal Court below, since that time, to find that Senator Bellemare is quoted. It’s a simple question. She says: “Were they consulted?” That caused the official then to have to answer it. That was determined by the court to be the reason for the legislation being passed, the intent of the Government of Canada. It was Senator Bellemare.
You don’t see any of these from the House of Commons. The real purpose of the Senate.
Then we see this rare instance where a speech here in this chamber is used in case law. Not very often. It’s always in the committees. It is not here. The most quoted people in the Senate are not, I’m afraid, the leadership in the Senate. They are not. It is the members of the committees who do their work and who ask those questions.
Honourable senators, that is what is meant by sober second thought. It does not mean an amendment to legislation. You go back over all the decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada. It does not mean amendments. It doesn’t mean defeating bills. Sober second thought. It means giving meaning to legislation passed in the House of Commons. So you see this strange — well, I don’t know if it’s strange, but I know the senator is not strange. Senator John D. Wallace is quoted, together with Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, in a speech, in paragraph 49, of Her Majesty the Queen (the appellant) v. Robert Henrico. That is the Quebec Court of Appeal 1431. My point in bringing this up — and I’ll get to the bill in just a second, I think; I’m not sure what bill I’m talking about — is that it’s an illustration, senators. We can search for different things to do here in the Senate, but —
Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): On a point of clarification, sorry, senator. I was just wondering; the senator said he will get to the point of the bill —
The Hon. the Speaker: Are you raising a point of order?
Senator Martin: Yes, a point of clarification, a point of order, Your Honour. I was just wondering because Senator Baker just said he’ll get to the point of the bill, but we are on a motion. So would you clarify, senator?
Senator Baker: Well, a bill is a motion, but you are absolutely correct that I was incorrect, as you were the other day when you shut me off in a motion to the Senate. The Speaker agreed with you, and he cut me down and didn’t permit me to continue. You are absolutely right again, but I meant a motion that is put to the Senate.
We should always remember, I believe, senators, that there it is. I have been here for 42 years, and I can tell you — 42 years, yes — that the Senate is doing its job, and it’s doing a better job today than it did yesterday. For the past 10 years, we’ve had more usage of the Senate’s sober second thought than we had in the previous 32 years that I was here on Parliament Hill.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Baker: We have the most quoted group of senators in our history in case law, and we should not forget that when we seek new ways of doing things here in the chamber. We have our tribunals, quasi-judicial bodies — the nurses’ appeal board of Manitoba, the doctors’ disciplinary committee, the Law Society’s disciplinary committee — quoting in constitutional matters things that were said by senators in committee. You don’t get that in the House of Commons. However, that is not their job. Their job is politics. The difference between a politician and a senator is, I think, that the politician looks to the next election, and the senator looks to the next generation.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Baker: I am out of time, and I have forgotten exactly what the motion was. When I have had a chance to digest the motion further, I will speak to the motion itself. Thank you.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!