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The apparent strategy by Conservative senators to prevent the NDP from propose bills led to the Conservatives neglecting bills from their own
OTTAWA, Ont. — The death knell for Rona Ambrose’s sexual assault bill came on Wednesday, when senators from her own Conservative Party blocked a last-ditch effort by a former superior court judge to see it passed after two years in the upper chamber.
According to Sen. Pierre Dalphond, who joined the Senate in 2018 from the Quebec Court of Appeal bench, there’s nothing more to do about the former interim Conservative leader’s Bill C-337, which would have required judges to complete courses on sexual assault law, with annual reports to Parliament from the Canadian Judicial Council. The House of Commons had passed it unanimously in 2017.
It and dozens of other private bills — including Bill C-262, which sought to put Canadian laws in line with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples — will die on the order paper as the Senate wraps up its business this week before summer.
The apparent strategy by Conservative senators to prevent the passage of NDP MP Romeo Saganash’s UNDRIP bill, which Tories had also voted against in the House, has left the Senate unable to deal with a long list of bills proposed by individual MPs and senators, including one from the Senate one that would modernize the governance of the Girl Guides of Canada, and one from the House that would establish a “National Local Food Day.”
“Regrettably, I simply do not see a path forward,” the government’s representative in the Senate, Peter Harder, said during question period on Wednesday. “While it is disappointing that private members’ business has not been able to get to the finish line, those who have been here over the course of many parliaments would acknowledge that the situation we face is not unique at the end of any parliament.”
The Liberal Party will commit in its election campaign to introduce a government bill similar to C-262, Harder said. The party had also made a promise to implement UNDRIP in the 2015 campaign. Dalphond, too, said he intends to re-introduce the sexual assault bill in the next parliament.
As the sitting waned, Tory senators employed a variety of tactics to prevent a vote on C-262, including staging an unusual committee fracas over freedom of speech. To prevent motions from senators seeking to bump up consideration of C-262 and C-337 on the order paper — bills that the House of Commons urged the Senate to pass with a pointed unanimous message this spring, one to which even Conservative MPs consented — the senators also forced repeated delays on a long list of votes Tuesday.
On Wednesday, when Dalphond asked for leave to sit on Thursday morning to specifically deal with C-337, Conservative senators denied their consent, too. He had argued that the bill deserved special treatment, because the Commons had unanimously endorsed it twice. But, “when there’s no will there’s no way,” he told the Post.
“It’s sending all the wrong messages to parliamentarians and, which is most concerning to me, to the victims of sexual assault.”
Time is now up. An agreement intended to prioritize government business has kept consideration of private bills to Tuesdays and Thursdays. A Royal Assent ceremony is scheduled for Friday and senators will rise before the weekend.
Ambrose told the Post last week that if the bill died in the Senate she would focus her attention on provinces, for the time being. A bill on judicial sexual assault education passed in P.E.I. last December, and Ambrose said she is working with Ontario, Saskatchewan, Quebec and Alberta on similar bills.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019