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Speech in Senate Chamber: Russian Sanctions- Message from Commons—Motion to Share Concerns and Conclusions Expressed by House of Commons—Debate Continued


Russian Sanctions

Message from Commons—Motion to Share Concerns and Conclusions Expressed by House of Commons—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Martin, seconded by the Honourable Senator Marshall:

That the Senate share the concerns and conclusions expressed by the House of Commons in the message dated March 26, 2014;

That the Senate convey this resolution of the Senate to the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Canada; and

That a message be sent to the House of Commons to acquaint that House accordingly.

Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I rise to speak to Deputy Leader of the Government Senator Yonah Martin's April 1 motion on Canada's foreign policy on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, headed "Russian Sanctions." This motion originates in the House of Commons message and motion, also headed "Russian Sanctions," moved by Minister Van Loan as a question of privilege and adopted on March 26. We received this Commons message on March 27. Senator Martin's motion is not viable. It is a form of proceeding not known to us.

Honourable senators, foreign and international relations are the relations between sovereigns of sovereign nations. Agreement and disagreement between them are expressed by prerogative instruments, like treaties and sanctions. Sanctions by or against foreign sovereigns are the business of our Sovereign Queen Elizabeth by her sovereign prerogative instruments. The domain of Her Majesty's ministers, sanctions against a foreign sovereign and their enforcement are the ken of the responsible Crown minister, the foreign minister, vested by Her Majesty with such credentials. The two houses have no role in foreign sanctions, save their public finance role. Not of foreign affairs, Parliament's control of the public purse is a domestic and home matter. Use of the Queen's sovereign Royal Prerogative powers in foreign affairs against a foreign sovereign is grave business. Russia has done Canada no wrong. Russia fought with Canada as Allies in World War II and lost 26 million people. She shares our Arctic border and, unlike the United States, supports our claim for sovereignty over the Northwest Passage.

Honourable senators, Senator Martin's motion on the Russian- Ukraine conflict is a foreign affairs question on war, peace and international conflict. By the Queen's vast Royal Prerogative powers in these, our government has all the powers it needs. Why they need these Senate and Commons resolutions is unclear. In his 1820 Treatise on the Law of the Prerogatives of the Crown, Joseph Chitty, the great master of this law, wrote, at page 6:

With respect to foreign states and affairs, the whole majesty and power of his dominions are placed in the hands of the King, who as representative of his subjects possesses discretionary and unlimited powers.

This quotation is a few hundred years old. It continues:

In this capacity his Majesty has the sole right to send ambassadors and other foreign ministers and officers abroad, to dictate their instructions, and prescribe rules of conduct and negotiation. (a) His Majesty alone can legally make treaties, leagues and alliances with foreign states; grant letters of marque and reprisals, and safe conduct; declare war or make peace. As depository of the strength of his subjects, and as manager of their wars, the King is generalissimo of all land and naval forces: his Majesty alone can levy troops, equip fleets, and build fortresses.

Honourable senators, we do not know why the foreign minister did not move this Commons House motion, since its content is his ken, supported by the Prime Minister, the first minister, primo inter pares, the first among equals, but is not a sovereign. We should ask why the Commons cast this foreign Russia-Ukraine affair as their question of privilege, and why Senator Martin wants us to debate and vote on it here. We should ask why the government supporters here wish Senate agreement, when the Commons and their March 26 message did not ask for Senate agreement. In both houses, motions on foreign sovereigns may be moved only by responsible Crown ministers, of which the Senate has none. We must conclude that this wholly ministerial Russian Sanctions motion cum question of privilege is irregular and should not be before the Senate.

Honourable senators, Senator Martin's April 1 motion differs from her March 27, not allowed then, because senators denied her leave to move it without notice. I spoke then. I said that urgent need is vital to seek Senate leave to suspend such notice. This Russian Sanctions motion is Minister Van Loan's March 26 Commons motion and message, received and read here on March 27, by our dear and Honourable Senate Speaker pro tempore, Pierre Claude Nolin, who is well endeared to all of us. Under the headings "Russian Sanctions" and "Message from Commons," at page 1187 of Senate Debates, he said:

Honourable senators, a message has been received from the House of Commons, as follows:

Wednesday March 26, 2014


That, in view of the sanctions against parliamentarians and other Canadians announced by the Russian government, the House (a) re-affirm its resolution of Monday, March 3, 2014, (b) strongly condemn Russia's continued illegal military occupation of Crimea, (c) call for Russia to de-escalate the situation immediately, and (d) denounce Russia's sanctions against the Speaker and members of the House of Commons, a member of the Senate, public servants and the President of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress;

That the Speaker do convey this resolution to the Ambassador of the Russian Federation; and

That a message be sent to the Senate to acquaint Their Honours accordingly.


The Clerk of the House of Commons

Colleagues, this message acquainted the Senate but did not seek its agreement. I reread:

That a message be sent to the Senate to acquaint Their Honours accordingly.

No one can reinvent, reinterpret or correct this message to mean that which it did not say. To alter a house message is out of order and breaches the privileges of both.

Honourable senators, Minister Van Loan's multi-proposition motion "Russian Sanctions," under his rubric "Privilege," needs a close look. Moved without notice and with leave to suspend the rules in the Commons, he said:

... further to the question of privilege raised yesterday... on the matter of Russian sanctions...., there were discussions... among the House leaders on... an appropriate resolution for this House to consider. Therefore,... I move:...

And he moved the motion I just read. His motion, by the message that was read by Senator Nolin, was cast to solve the dilemma of their March 25 question of privilege and claim that the Russian Federation's actions against 13 Canadians had breached the privileges of the House of Commons. This question of privilege was raised by Ralph Goodale and spoken to by Minister Van Loan. Mr. Goodale said:

Typically, those who have reacted, so far, to their being included on this Russian blacklist have worn their sanction status as badge of honour...

Minister Van Loan's motion before us by the Commons message attempts to solve the large procedural problems caused by using privilege as their debate rubric. House of Commons privileges have no force abroad. By the British North America Act of 1867, section 18, both houses have powers, immunities and privileges, but these have no foreign application or jurisdiction. There is no foreign breach of privileges. There is no foreign contempt of Parliament. Further, the Senate cannot, and should never, express opinions or vote on House of Commons questions of privilege. Each house is the sole judge of breach and contempt of its privileges. Foreign insult and injury to Canadians are, in law, wholly against our Queen, who responds through the foreign affairs minister. Minister Van Loan's combined foreign policy and question of privilege motion, with its Senate message, were adopted there without debate and without a word from the foreign affairs minister or the opposition's foreign affairs critic. This silence is loud. Senator Martin's motion — dear Senator Martin, for whom I have great affection — is not viable and is improper and out of order ab initio. This matter is far more complex than it appears on the surface.

Honourable senators, replicating the minister's motion and messages here, Senator Martin's motion says:

That the Senate share the concerns and conclusions expressed by the House of Commons in the message dated March 26, 2014;

That the Senate convey this resolution of the Senate to the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Canada; and

That a message be sent to the House of Commons to acquaint that House accordingly.

Her motion seeks our agreement, which the House of Commons, by their message, did not. Had the Commons sought or wanted our agreement, they would have done so by a motion for joint resolution of the two houses, with its message for Senate concurrence. Our motion is a response to a non-existent request. Colleagues, we may adopt only what is stated in our motion, and not what is not. Further, our beloved colleague does not say which conclusions we should adopt. This is a problem, since her motion includes:

That... the House (a) re-affirm its resolution of Monday, March 3, 2014...

That means the House of Commons. The Senate knows no March 3 House of Commons motion and cannot reaffirm what it did not affirm. This foreign affairs matter was moved not by a minister but by a backbencher, Ted Opitz, and was strong in partisan words like:

...strongly condemn Russia's provocative military intervention in Ukraine...

And more. This treats the Senate, this high court, as knowing and willing partisans to a conflict about which the Senate knows nothing. Nothing has been put before us about the conflict. The Senate knows nothing of it.

Honourable senators, Minister Van Loan displays pride in his dislike for Russia in his March 25 speech on their question of privilege. He said:

Like you Mr. Speaker, I am one of the 13 named individuals in the Russian sanctions....

The Russians are well familiar with my concerns about their aggressive posture, their violations of human rights, and the threats they have posed to neighbours and to the sovereignty of neighbouring countries. They pay close attention to it.

I am not the first in my family to find myself on lists that have been prepared by the Russians. In fact, sadly, I follow a long line who have been on such lists, some of whom ultimately had their travel arrangements imposed by the Russians and ended up in gulags in Siberia where they met their end....

The freedom and democracy that I care... about is a large function of that family history... It is one of the reasons I got involved in politics,... It is the reason our government has been responding so forcefully. We feel it is necessary across the board....

I am very proud of our Prime Minister's work in leading our G7 partners to the conclusions they have arrived at in ensuring Russia's suspension from the G8 and that other sanctions have been put in place.

Honourable senators, the Commons conclusions in Senator Martin's motions, are not supported here by any evidence. No evidence has been put before the Senate. Their tenor is unmeasured. Their strident and aggressive tone is unhelpful to just and peaceful resolution. Mindful of their large procedural defects, the Commons, by their message, wisely chose not to seek Senate agreement. Diplomacy and monumental human effort are needed for peaceful resolution. This is our goal. If the Commons motions were not for this, then why are they before us? Our goal must be peaceful and just resolution, not improvident acts like the expulsion of Russia from the G8.

Honourable senators, we cannot labour in darkness. The substantive issues are not before us. The government, with its absolute and vast powers in foreign affairs, has not needed, or sought, Senate agreement in its actions and will not say why they want these two motions — really one — simply repeated here. Ministerial explanation on this non-viable and irregular motion's form and substance is needed. Yet again, colleagues, we face the abiding constitutional obstacle in this place that is the absence of a Crown minister in the Senate.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Are you asking for more time?

Senator Cools: Yes, Your Honour.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Five more minutes? Honourable senators, do we grant five more minutes to Senator Cools?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Cools, you will be counted on your time. You have five more minutes.

Senator Cools: Thank you, dear senators. I was speaking about the abiding constitutional obstacle that is the real and constitutional absence of a Crown minister in the Senate. No senator is a member of the government with Her Majesty's ministerial credentials to answer here on foreign affairs questions of war, peace and relations between our and Russia's sovereigns. This absence is an absolute and insurmountable barrier to Senate debate and vote on this Russian Sanctions motion and on a House of Commons question of privilege. The Commons' message silence on Senate agreement proves that our opinion is unwanted.

Honourable senators, balance and fairness are needed in the Russia-Ukraine crisis. The facts are not before us. The Ukrainian position is assumed in Senator Martin's motion, but, like the Russian and Crimean positions, it has not been put before us either for study. None of the parties' positions have been put before us for study.

Many Canadians are worried, perhaps wrongly, that their government, unduly influenced by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, is fixed on the next election and the votes of our great Western Canadians of Ukrainian descent. All fear the reported re-emergence of Stepan Bandera fascism in Ukraine, and vows to kill "every Communist, Russian and Jew," and also of the neo-Nazi Svoboda Party with 40 seats in the parliament.

Colleagues, my position is that the Senate needs an evidence- based debate on the facts, the full facts, the parties' positions and our government's actions.

Honourable senators, many Canadians have deep and long personal and family roots in Ukraine and Russia, and they also have large commercial interests there. All care about civil instability. In personal and commercial life, money is a coward that flees civil unrest. People and wealth need peace to flourish. Many are so working for peace. Edmonton MP Peter Goldring, a Russian Orthodox Church member, is working for a unity of heart between representatives of the Russian and the Ukrainian Orthodox Churches to forge a joint unifying statement for presentation to the Russian and Ukrainian leaders. I support him with my whole heart.

Colleagues, the Christian concept of the redeeming and healing power of love is strong. Mr. Goldring and I were pleased to meet with the Ukrainian Ambassador, His Excellency Vadym Prystaiko. We met also with Igor Girenko, for His Excellency Georgiy Mamedov, the Russian Ambassador. Their countries are well served by these two men. These devoted and just men want just solutions. I thank them for meeting with us. Colleagues, I want to say that I was deeply touched by their very profound and very real concerns for their peoples and their countries' good relationships with Canada.

I would like to close by saying that the healing power of love does work, and diplomacy does work and it can work. As I said before, it takes monumental effort and stupendous endurance, but I sincerely believe that the Christian concept of the healing power of love is real.

I will say, colleagues, that perhaps our government and the Senate should hold those thoughts close in our hearts when we look at these issues. As I have said before, carnage and war should be avoided at all and at any cost. If some of us or all of us can bring some reconciliation and resolution to this situation, I can truly say that many governments and many peoples of the world would appreciate it.

Those are my thoughts, colleagues. I hope that Senator Martin understands my position. I do not think that it is known to most honourable senators that the motion that has been replicated here was a question of privilege, raised as a question of privilege in the other place. For years we have worked and laboured under the proposition that questions of privilege are the sole purview of the house, which is the sole judge of its contempt of Parliament and breaches of privilege. Some may want to reflect on these questions because they are not apparent in the Commons message as read. I discovered this as I looked at the debates of the other place. This is an important matter — the whole business of us voting and debating a Commons motion that was a question of privilege there.

Honourable senators, I thank you for your attention. I think it is safe to say that most Canadians would like to see resolution to this conflict in a peaceful and just way. Carnage and bloodshed are to be avoided at any cost. I shall not vote for this motion.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Continuing debate.

Some Hon. Senators: Question.

(On motion of Senator Cools, for Senator McCoy, debate adjourned.)

The remainder of this day's Senate Debates are available here.