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Bill S-2, An Act to Amend the Customs Act, Third Reading

 

Honourable senators, with permission, I understand that Senator Day holds the adjournment of this bill. I would like to address the issue that he so kindly reminded me of yesterday, which was raised by Senator Segal. It had to do with reference on this bill and whether the law officers of the Crown have reviewed the contents and determined that the contents of this bill, inadvertently or otherwise, violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He also asked if there are any papers that might be shared with this chamber or the appropriate committee when the time comes for members of the committee to be reassured on that front.

I had said at the time of the debate that I would ask the matter of the minister's office. I always thought that the Charter-proofing was done before the bill was introduced, but not when it originates in the Senate. I learned something new.

 

 

I will go through this to explain it to honourable senators. Section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Examination Regulations require that the Attorney General certify that a bill is Charter compliant once it has been received by the House of Commons. However, because this is a government bill that was introduced in the Senate, it will not be dealt with until it arrives in the House of Commons. The process to which honourable senators referred need not be completed with respect to Bill S-2 until the bill is sent to the House of Commons. Therefore, first, it has not been attested to and, second, there are no papers.

I will review the regulations so there is no misunderstanding in what I was advised of by the minister's office. These regulations state that:

3. In the case of every bill introduced in or presented to the House of Commons by a Minister of the Crown, the Minister shall, forthwith on receipt of two copies of the Bill from the Clerk of the House of Commons,

(a) examine the Bill in order to determine whether any of the provisions thereof are inconsistent with the purposes and provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and

(b) cause to be affixed to each of the copies thereof so received from the Clerk of the House of Commons a certificate, in a form approved by the Minister and signed by the Deputy Minister of Justice, stating that the bill has been examined as required by section 4.1 of the Department of Justice Act,

and one each of the copies thereof so certified shall thereupon be transmitted to the Clerk of the House of Commons and the Clerk of the Privy Council.

These regulations stem from the Department of Justice Act, which also explicitly states that this is a process and matter for the house only.

Further to having said all that, the Attorney General is the legal adviser of the Government of Canada. As such, any information leading to a decision that he may take even in the house is privileged and is not released by the government.