3 min

Justice (committee motion) delayed is a justice (committee motion) denied

It began like many a day on the Hill. Harper and Flaherty were absent from the proceedings, and it was left for the likes of Flaherty’s Parliamentary Secretary, Ted Menzies, to mind the shop.

During Members’ Statements, gay Liberal MP Rob Oliphant got up to speak to a museum exhibit in his riding that highlighted the contributions that Muslim scholars made to science during the so-called “Dark Ages.” He said that it was helping to break down the walls of Islamophobia.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to draw attention today to an incredible exhibit that opened at the Ontario Science Centre in Don Valley West this past week.
Sultans of Science celebrates 1,000 years of scientific creativity, imagination and scholarship coming from the Islamic world. It specifically explores the tremendous contributions made by Muslim scholars in the field of mathematics, science, health, aviation, translation and architecture during the so-called Dark Ages.
While the rest of the world was sleeping, the Islamic world was inventing. This international touring exhibit traces the roots of modern science and technology from Baghdad to Cordova, from Morocco to Constantinople. Its interactive displays invite us to learn more about Islamic contributions to our world.
Even more importantly, however, this exhibit invites us to a deeper, more appreciative relationship with the Muslim world and its contribution to humanity, helping to break down the walls of Islamophobia. I commend it to all members of this House.

Question Period was pretty routine, and dare I say a bit lacklustre today, with Menzies in the hot seat. It wasn’t until it was nearly over that NDP MP Bill Siksay, who is his party’s critic for Ethics, Access to Information and Privacy, got up to ask about the settlement on the Cadman affair. He asked about the “secret deal” between the Liberals and the Conservatives, and about the Cadman Affair. Pierre Poilievre, the Prime Minister’s Parliamentary Secretary, stood up and said that the “parties have settled the issue, no further comment.” The end. Siksay went on to expand his comments during the scrums after Question Period.

I headed up to the Hill a short while later to attend the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, as there was supposed to be some movement on Conservative MP Brian Storseth’s motion to examine Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. But that wasn’t until later.

The bulk of the committee’s time was to be spent questioning the Minister, Rob Nicholson, about the Justice Department’s supplementary estimates – in order, money they need to keep the department’s programmes going. And after an opening statement about the dire economic situation, which made all of my fellow journalists turn to look at one another to wonder if we hadn’t perhaps accidentally found ourselves in the Finance Committee, he went on to talk about the need for accountability, and then gave a laundry list of programmes like legal aid, the Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, the Aboriginal Justice Strategy, elder abuse, and treatment for drug addicts, to name but a few.

The meeting was held in the Reading Room, one of the large committee rooms in the Centre Block, decorated with murals of trees labelled with the names of most of the provinces, and above the main fireplace was a scene labelled “The Spirit of the Printed Word.” But the art looked a little too reminiscent of something from the Rider-Waite tarot deck, and I was wondering where the other Major Arcana pictorials were. But maybe that’s just me.

There were a few interesting questions from committee members, like whether there would be a report from the Minister’s “tour” to talk about the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Bloc MP (and fellow homosexualist) Réal Ménard talked about looking to add “social condition” as a means of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act. There was talk about the National Anti-Drug Strategy, now that Justice was the lead department, along with Public Safety, whereas it was once Health Canada. The NDP’s Joe Comartin wanted to know whether they would finally begin addressing legislation on identity theft.

Ujjal Dosanjh, a former Attorney General for BC, asked about the unspent millions for crime prevention, which Nicholson seemed confused about. David McGuinty wanted to know about legal advice given regarding Omar Khadr, and conditions for his repatriation – which Nicholson did not indulge. And Conservative Brian Storseth wanted to know if the issue of bullying ever came up on the Youth Criminal Justice Act “tour,” which it didn’t really, apparently.

Finally, at five o’clock, when the Minister had to go, the committee was set to get to work on the other motions at hand. But as they started disposing of them, it appeared that the Bloc’s Ménard wanted to see if they couldn’t just combine his motion on adding social condition to the CHRA, with Storseth’s motion to examine Section 13, since they both deal with the same piece of legislation. Well, Storseth needed to discuss that more with him, so they were doing to leave that for a future date. And so with that, the meeting went in camera, and the journalists all filed out of the room for another day. But it was an interesting look at what is to come with this Section 13 business, and just who the personalities around the table are going to be.