Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck:
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I rise to speak to this motion in support of Senator Cowan's amendment, but I am not in support of Senator Carignan's original motion. It is because it has arrived too late in the process, it is fundamentally unfair and the penalty within the motion is far too severe.
Essentially what we are doing is the equivalent to changing our rules extemporaneously, in midstream, for these three cases only. While we have the right to do that, it does not mean it is the right thing to do.
I want to read parts of the motion into the record. I have looked at this motion very carefully, and to me the motion contains a logical fallacy.
If we look at the very first part of Senator Carignan's motion, it reads:
That, notwithstanding any usual practice or provision of the Rules...
So we all know notwithstanding clauses mean we are going to break something that is already there. This means we are going to break our existing rules.
The motion before us is proposing that we break our existing rules in order to penalize senators who have broken other administrative rules. We are breaking a rule; they have broken a rule. How can two wrongs make a right?
In order to penalize them, you are asking us to break our own rules. It makes no sense. How can breaking our own existing rules be seen as protecting the dignity and reputation of the Senate? As I said, two wrongs don't make a right.
It has been made clear throughout the debate that we have the power to break our own existing rules. That does not mean it is the right thing for us to do.
In Senator Brazeau's case, we did follow our rules from the past in the last parliamentary session. In that case, we had a motion to order a leave of absence, which was passed by this chamber.
If we look at the beginning of the motion in our past parliamentary session with regard to Senator Brazeau, it reads that pursuant to rule 15-2(1), in order to protect the dignity and reputation of the Senate, and public trust and confidence in Parliament, the Senate order a leave of absence.
But the motions before us now are ordering a suspension without pay, without benefits, and so on. It is much more severe.
Why are we changing the motion for Senator Brazeau? Nothing has changed in that case. It is inconsistent, illogical and not right.
It is clear that our rules allow us to order a leave of absence when a senator is charged with a criminal offence. In response to my questions yesterday, Senator Carignan confirmed this. I will read into the record what he said:
The leave of absence was really created to be used in cases where criminal charges have been laid.
Furthermore, he says:
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 a totally different category. He said:
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".
As has been stated before, in Senator Brazeau's case, a criminal charge has been laid. In the cases of Senators Duffy and Wallin, no criminal charges have been laid.
Nothing has changed in Senator Brazeau's case. Why now do we have a motion that we should suspend him with pay? We should be putting forth the same motion.
It is clear that by proposing the suspension of the three senators, we are intentionally breaking our own rules — specifically rule 15-5(1) — dealing with suspension of senators.
Rule 15-5(1) reads:
A Senator who has been found guilty of a criminal offence in proceedings by indictment and who is given a sentence other than a discharge is suspended from the Senate as of the time of the sentence.
When a senator has been found guilty of a criminal offence, we can suspend them. It is clear that that is the case: When a senator is found guilty of a criminal offence, he or she can be suspended.
In the one case, we have a senator who has been charged. Our rules say we can put that person on a leave of absence, which we have done.
So far, the three senators have not been found guilty of any criminal offence; therefore, if we put them on suspension, we are breaking our existing rules. The motion before us to suspend these three senators is inconsistent with our own rules. Ordering a leave of absence is in order, but not a suspension without pay.
How can such a motion restore public trust and confidence in Parliament when this chamber of sober second thought deliberately beaks its own existing rules?
If the intention of the motion is to apply a civil penalty, then it is not fair to apply a penalty that results from a criminal conviction.
The situation for the three senators is unfair. The motions before us are not only to suspend them but also to take away their salaries and benefits. Our existing rules only allow the withholding of their salaries if they have been found guilty of a criminal offence. This is in rule 15-3(4), which deals with suspension of allowances. It states:
Where a finding of guilt is made against a Senator who has been charged with a criminal offence that was prosecuted by indictment, the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration may order the withholding of the payable portion of the sessional allowance of the Senator in accordance with paragraph [rule 15-3](1)(a) as if the Senator were suspended.
Honourable senators, people do expect the three senators to face some consequences for their alleged misuse of public funds. People are angry. I was angry. All of us have been painted with the same brush. However, there is an overreaction, which is promoted and is still being promoted by the intense media coverage. Let us not fall into the trap of acting inappropriately ourselves and breaking our own rules. Let's not forget the fundamental principle articulated in rule 15-4(5). I will read that into the record:
For greater certainty, the Senate affirms the right of a Senator charged with a criminal offence to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal. No intent to comment on or pass judgment with respect to a Senator shall be imputed to the Senate because of the operation of this rule.
I would like to make a couple of brief final comments about the process. If we read the motion before us and we move towards its end, we have another notwithstanding clause. It says:
That, notwithstanding the provisions of this suspension motion, the Senate confirm that the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration retains the authority, as it considers appropriate, to take any action pertaining to the management of Senator Brazeau's office and personnel for the duration of the suspension.
This means to me that this motion has taken away the authority of Internal Economy to have applied the sanction but it is giving it back to it to apply administrative actions that it considers appropriate. Is this right? I don't think so.
In my reading, the motion has usurped the role of the Internal Economy Committee. However, if we read subsection 19.6(1) of the Parliament of Canada Act, which is entitled "Exclusive authority," the Committee, meaning the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration —
... has the exclusive authority to determine whether any previous, current or proposed use by a senator of any funds, goods, services or premises made available to that senator for the carrying out of parliamentary functions is or was proper, given the discharge of the parliamentary functions of senators, including whether any such use is or was proper having regard to the intent and purpose of the regulations made under subsection 19.5(1).
To me, that means that the Parliament of Canada Act has given the exclusive authority to the committee and this motion has usurped that role, in a sense, and proposes a different rule and has taken over the process.
With regard to Senators Brazeau and Duffy, it's like we're backtracking. We already had motions to deal with what should happen to them as consequences. Why are we changing it now? With Senator Wallin, it's like we're fast-forwarding. We haven't dealt with that report yet.
I believe this motion proposes a change in the way we normally conduct our business for no apparent reason other than responding to public outcry or public outrage and opinion.
Passing this motion to suspend the three senators without pay or benefits is not a fair way to go and, in fact, passing this motion will not restore public confidence in the Senate. It will not restore the dignity and reputation of the Senate. In fact, I think it will do the exact opposite. People will have seen that we have overreacted to public pressure and thwarted the principles of fairness, democracy and justice. Therefore, I do not support Senator Carignan's motion.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Are there honourable senators who wish to put questions?
The Hon. David P. Smith: Yes, I wish to put a question.
Senator Dyck, you referred to and quoted rule 15-5(1) and the reference to:
A Senator who has been found guilty of a criminal offence in proceedings by indictment...
Isn't it your understanding that the offence that Senator Brazeau is charged with, which really doesn't relate to the expenses, is a summary charge rather than indictable? Is that your understanding? Would that make your point even stronger?
Senator Dyck: I am not a lawyer, so I really cannot answer that question.
Senator D. Smith: I think, in fact, it was a summary matter, which would make your point even stronger.
Senator Dyck: Yes. Thank you for that.
Hon. Jane Cordy: I am not a lawyer, so my question won't be a legal question.
Thank you very much for what was an excellent speech. I am wondering if you feel—and I got that sense during your speech—that if we vote in favour of this motion that in fact what we are doing is coming in with a sentence before we have an actual verdict, since the RCMP investigation is ongoing?
Senator Dyck: Yes, it does feel like this motion does put forward a sentence, and it is not the right thing do. They should have their due process. No matter whether the public is upset or whether I'm upset, people deserve due process.