House of Commons

By Gerin-Lajoie, Catherine | Canadian Parliamentary Review, Autumn 2008 | Go to article overview
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House of Commons


Gerin-Lajoie, Catherine, Canadian Parliamentary Review


The House was the scene of a historic apology on June 11, 2008. The Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, made a statement to offer, on behalf of the Government of Canada, an apology to former students of Indian residential schools. All three opposition party leaders replied to the statement, as victims and their family members watched from the floor and galleries of the House of Commons. For the first time in Canadian history, representatives of Indian and Native groups were given the opportunity to respond directly to Members from the floor of the House. The guests were Phil Fontaine, Mary Simon, Clem Chartier, Beverley Jacobs, Pat Brazeau, Mary Moonias, Marguerite Wabano, Sandra Linklater, Crystal Merasty, Peter Irniq, Don Favel and Mike Cachagee.

This event was in sharp contrast to events in the House this spring, when details about the past of Julie Couillard, the ex-partner of Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier, were revealed in the media. After confirming that he had left classified government documents in a non-secure location, Mr. Bernier offered his resignation from Cabinet on May 26, 2008. This eventually led the Prime Minister to shuffle his Cabinet on June 25. David Emerson, who had been Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, was given the position permanently. Senator Michael Fortier replaced Mr. Emerson as Minister of International Trade.

Christian Paradis became Minister of Public Works and Government Services, while retaining his position as Secretary of State (Agriculture), and James Moore was assigned to the position of Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific Gateway) (2010 Olympics) (Official Languages).

On June 19, 2008, the House received a message from the Senate calling on the Government of Canada to negotiate with the Government of the United States of America the immediate repatriation to Canada of Canadian citizen and former child soldier Omar Khadr from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. It also called on the Government to undertake all necessary measures to promote his rehabilitation, in accordance with this country's international obligations on child rights in armed conflicts.

Committees

In reaction to a report from the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, which found that Liberal MP Robert Thibault contravened the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons by participating in the Mulroney-Schreiber hearings while, at the same time, being a defendant in a lawsuit filed by Mr. Mulroney, the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics presented its Seventh Report, proposing modifications to the said Code. On May 14, 2008, the Chief Government Whip, Jay Hill, rose on a point of order to question the admissibility of the report, arguing that the Code fell under the mandate of the Procedure and House Affairs Committee. The next day, the Speaker ruled that the Seventh Report was improperly before the House and it was deemed withdrawn. On June 5, 2008, an opposition motion was adopted by the House to amend the Code and to refer the Thibault Inquiry Report back to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner in light of these changes. The Commissioner responded on June 17, 2008, that the Thibault matter would fall within the exception set out in the new amendment and therefore would not constitute a conflict of interest.

On June 10, 2008, the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security commenced its study of security issues concerning the former Minister of Foreign Affairs.

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