Debates of the Senate  
2nd Session, 41st Parliament, Volume 149, Issue 4
  Wednesday, October 23, 2013
 
Question on the Motions to Suspend Senators Brazeau, Wallin and Duffy
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Would you accept another question, Senator Carignan?

If I look at the motions involving Senators Duffy, Brazeau and Wallin, the basis of the motion really says in order to protect the dignity of the Senate and public trust and confidence in Parliament, the Senate shall order suspensions for the three senators.

When I look at the Rules of the Senate and I have read them through many, many times they are not crystal clear. I don't know whether you took these into consideration when you came up with this motion, but rule 15-2(2) says:

When a leave of absence is granted, it is solely to protect the dignity and reputation of the Senate and public trust and confidence in Parliament.

If you were going to protect the dignity and reputation of the Senate and public trust and confidence in Parliament, instead of ordering a suspension, you could have ordered a leave of absence.

Did you take that into consideration, because a suspension is a much more severe penalty?

Senator Carignan: I studied the rules as well. As you know, I was part of the subcommittee that reviewed the Rules with Senator Fraser and Senator Stratton. We examined the rules. There is a distinction to be made between a senator on a leave of absence and a suspension.

When we talk about a leave of absence, when we are talking about protecting the dignity the leave of absence is for when criminal charges are laid.

Rule 15-4(2) says:

When notice is given under subsection (1)...

I will read rule 15-4(1), which states:

At the first opportunity after a Senator is charged with a criminal offence for which the Senator may be prosecuted by indictment, either:

(a) the Senator shall notify the Senate by a signed written notice that is delivered to the Clerk of the Senate, who shall table it; or

(b) the Speaker shall table such proof of the charge as the court may provide.

That was the case with Senator Brazeau when charges were laid against him.

Rule 15-4(2) states:

When notice is given under subsection (1), the Senator charged is granted a leave of absence from the time the notice is tabled...

There is an explanation as to how the leave of absence with pay is administered and when it comes to an end. The leave of absence remains in force until the individual is found guilty, at which point that person falls under the suspension category. That is in cases where criminal charges have been laid. In cases where the Senate is exercising its disciplinary authority, for whatever reason, the term used is "suspension".

Section 15-2(1) states the following:

The Senate may order a leave of absence for or the suspension of a Senator where, in its judgment, there is sufficient cause.

The leave of absence was really created to be used in cases where criminal charges have been laid.

Senator Dyck: Thank you for that answer.

I notice that when a senator is charged with a criminal offence and you can read that rule out the next rule is 15-4(2). When notice is given of such a charge, the senator is granted a leave of absence. He or she is not suspended. There's a leave of absence, even when the senator has been charged; it's not a suspension.

It seems to me that we have jumped the gun, because some of the senators named in the motions have not been charged, and they have not been found guilty.

 

Senator Carignan: It cannot work that way, and I will explain why.

Senator Tardif: Those are the rules.

Senator Carignan: Yes, I know, but the rules use the term "suspension." That is the term used in the context of exercising our disciplinary authority.

If we were to accept your argument, Senator Dyck, this is what would happen. There is a serious breach of the rules and we choose to go easy on the person because the matter is under investigation and we do not know what will happen to the individual. How long does an investigation last? Some investigations can last as long as 10 years before charges are laid. Does this mean that, during that period, Parliament cannot discipline a parliamentarian for breaking one of the Rules of the Senate? No. We have the power to do so, regardless of any process outside of the chamber, which is a criminal process for criminal offences. This is an offence against the chamber

Just try going to court to enforce the Rules of the Senate. Try taking a senator to court to reimburse you because he broke one of the Rules of the Senate. The judge will say that he has no authority, that the Senate has the authority to enforce its rules. It is the same thing.