Mussell, Mary, Canadian Parliamentary Review
As the second house of Canada's Parliament, the Senate is dependent on the House of Commons for the bulk of its legislative business and has a constitutional role to give "sober second thought" to the legislation it receives. The autumn months, normally a busy time when the Senate works diligently to complete its legislative agenda, were unusually quiet this year. This was partly because the Senate had worked until the end of July to complete its consideration of two important bills but also a result of other political factors that consumed the minority Government's time and slowed the flow of legislation to the Senate from the House of Commons.
In addition to a legislative role, the Senate has a responsibility to investigate important social, political and economic issues of the day. The greater part of this work is done by Senate committees. This fall, the Senate gave its approval for several committees to begin work on special studies while other committees reported on studies in progress.
On September 28, the National Security and Defence Committee tabled its Fourteenth Report entitled WOUNDED, Canada's Military and the Legacy of Neglect, Our Disappearing Options for Defending the Nation Abroad and at Home. The report examines the role of Canada's military to protect Canadians and to represent the country's national interests at home and abroad measured against the present capacity of the armed forces. An interim report, it is the first of three that will be published by the Committee during the fall of 2005.
The Human Rights Committee tabled its Nineteenth Report on November 3. Entitled Who's in Charge Here? Effective implementation of Canada's international obligations with respect to the rights of children, the interim report recommends that Parliament establish a Children's Commissioner to monitor implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and protection of children's rights in Canada. The report completes the first stage of the committee's study which will continue in 2006.
From time to time, the Rules of the Senate are revised to include new rules or changes to the current ones. The Sixth Report of the Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament Committee, an updated version of the October 2004 edition of the Rules of the Senate, was tabled on October 18. The revision includes amendments to the rules that incorporate procedural consequences as required by the Conflict of Interest Code for Senators, approved by the Senate on May 18.
Senator Marjory LeBreton raised a question of privilege on October 18. She claimed that her privileges as a senator had been breached when the National Security and Defence Committee met on two occasions outside the assigned time-slot without public notice and without simultaneous interpretation. As a result, Senator LeBreton believed she was denied the right to attend and participate in these meetings. In his ruling delivered on October 20, Speaker Dan Hays distanced himself from the regulation of committee affairs. …