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Speech in Senate Chamber: Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, Civil Marriage Act, Criminal Code, Bill S-7 to Amend—Second Reading— Debate Continued

ORDERS OF THE DAY

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Civil Marriage Act
Criminal Code

Bill to Amend—Second Reading— Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Ataullahjan, seconded by the Honourable Senator Beyak, for the second reading of Bill S-7, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Civil Marriage Act and the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

 Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I rise today less on the substance of Bill S-7 and more on the process. I wish to say to senators that I have always understood that the abrasive and abrupt termination of a debate is bad parliamentary practice and poor, very poor, parliamentary manners. In addition, it is also unkind and unnecessary. It is most unfortunate, I believe, that Senator Tkachuk denied Senator Jaffer's request for an additional five minutes to answer questions from interested senators. I think that was most unfortunate.

Some Hon. Senators: Shame!

Senator Cools: If Senator Tkachuk or any senator wishes to speak, I would be happy to yield the floor and take it back after they have spoken.

Honourable senators, I wish to make the point that the first glance of this bill, which I could not study in an hour, reveals its complexity. The long title of the bill is An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Civil Marriage Act and the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

Clause 1 tells us the short title, that:

This Act may be cited as the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act.

Honourable senators, abruptly terminating a debate in as harsh a manner as it was done, after a very civil request from the speaking senator —

An Hon. Senator: Oh, oh.

Senator Cools: I can go on for a long time now if you really want, Senator Tkachuk. I think you have said enough; you would be wiser to shut up.

(1650)

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Colleagues, please. Order, please. We should calm down a little bit. I understand the line of opinion you have. I think we all —

Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh!

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Please.

Senator Tkachuk: Oh, oh!

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Colleagues on both sides have to calm down a little bit.

Senator Cools: I am not —

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, please.

Senator Cools, you can finish your comments, with a little bit of restraint.

Senator Cools: It is not hard for me, Your Honour. I live in this place and work in this place in a consistent and persistent state of restraint. I am sure you understand that, and I am also sure you admire it. Thank you, Your Honour. I know you do.

In any event, colleagues, I wish to be clear that when one combines those two titles — the short title and the long title — one begins to see very quickly that Bill S-7 sounds like a toxic cocktail of issues and questions that ought not to be joined in one single bill.

Honourable senators, if Senator Jaffer did a good job in putting the complexities and the issues before us, which I believe she did, I commend her for that. I think that is desirable. And if as she was speaking, senators were beginning to grasp the complexities and the difficulties within the bill and wanting more clarification, I see absolutely no reason why those five minutes that she requested was not granted. No reason whatsoever.

Colleagues, my purpose in saying this is that the second reading debate on Bill S-7 has not been long or prolonged. The bill was introduced on November 5, barely three weeks ago. On November 18, Senator Ataullahjan, as the sponsor, spoke for a total of 14 minutes. Her time and Senator Jaffer's time combined is not a lot of time to spend on this difficult bill. What is the haste?

I must inform senators that sometimes it becomes quite overbearing that, as an independent senator, I am constantly in a situation of never knowing what the opposition and government leaders have agreed in respect of time for debate in the chamber and how long an item would stay at second reading. Perhaps the unpleasant situation of today could be avoided if the two leaders would inform the independents of their plans, because independents suffer from the singular infirmity of never having enough information about what is happening on the floor of this chamber. It is a huge and ever-present infirmity. This is an unfair situation which is only compounded when something happens, as happened today to Senator Jaffer.

Colleagues, on the government side, you would have had the bill voted on second reading already but not for that ill-considered and unkind response.

Senator Tkachuk: Oh, oh!

Senator Cools: Yes, Senator Tkachuk, ill-considered.

Your Honour, I hope you appreciate that I am being restrained, very restrained.

The debate on Bill S-7 has not been overlong. As I said, I am speaking largely to record the fact that I object strongly — very strongly — to what happened. I thought it was unnecessary, upsetting to what I would describe as fraternal relations in this place. It was extremely disturbing and upsetting to fraternal relations between the independents and the government. And actually the opposition, too.

Let us understand, I have served in this place for 30 years and I have seen a lot. I just wish to record this here by virtue of making my objection known. And senators, it is not civil to decline an interested senator the opportunity and the right to speak in a debate as happened to me here today.

Honourable senators, as I said, the only reason that I am speaking so little is because I do not want to get in the way of our most noble Speaker's reception scheduled to begin in the next few minutes. Today is not a day to delay proceedings.

In his last speech to the Senate this afternoon, Speaker Kinsella concluded his remarks by speaking of freedom of debate in Canada and the great parliamentary democracy. Well, that parliamentary democracy did not work very well an hour ago. I think, colleagues on the government side, you can do better than that, and you deserve to do better than you did.

Anyway, colleagues, I just wanted to make the point.

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