As members of Parliament, senators have a bird's eye view of public policy in Canada. They're also in a position to make positive change to that policy, and Canadians turn to them for help with problems that need a legislated solution. Senators may introduce a private senator's bill at any time during a session of Parliament, allowing them to propose such solutions directly.
Three sessions meant that an unusually high number of bills were introduced and reintroduced this fiscal year. Among the 86 private senator's bills1 live in the Senate this fiscal year, senators created and debated bills on:
Active in fiscal year2
PROFILES: SENATORS' PUBLIC POLICY BILLS
Promoting Sustainable Development
In my experience, giving an official some independence
and a decent budget affords them scope for creativity.
The office of an independent commissioner of the
environment and sustainable development could be a
living laboratory, where new ideas can bubble up and be
tested alongside existing practice. With its bird's-eye
perspective, such an office could more easily see ways
to balance all three elements of sustainable
development - environmental, economic and social. Not
only that, but its innovations could stand as good
examples for the private and non-governmental sectors
Senator Elaine McCoy, her website
A former Cabinet minister in Alberta and a champion of
sustainable development in Canada, Senator Elaine McCoy
brought forth Bill S-206 in January 2009.3
The bill sought to remove the position of the federal
Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable
Development from the Office of the Auditor General and
make the office of the Commissioner a free-standing one
directly responsible to both houses of
In June 2008, the Senate passed a bill which became the Federal Sustainable Development Act. Studying it reinforced Senator McCoy's impression that practicing systemic sustainable development throughout the government is such a complex job that it needs a single champion. Making the Environment and Sustainable Development Commissioner an independent parliamentary officer, she feels, would free the commissioner from behaving reactively - i.e., simply auditing and critiquing current practices. It would allow the position to grow into a proactive role; the commissioner would be ideally situated to evaluate best practices, innovate better ones, and help the government evenly apply these across its many departments and agencies.
Preserving the Oath
The Crown is a symbol of our history, our roots and our
future. . . . It is the embodiment of the clear sense
that the society we share when reflected by the Crown
is greater than any elected politician or first
ministers du jour. First ministers and governments, as
we all know, come and go, as should be the case in a
democracy, but the enduring values of civility, due
process, equality before the law, institutional memory,
fairness and the public interest continue through the
Crown. That is what the oath [of citizenship] affirms.
That is what citizenship embraces.
Senator Hugh Segal, Debates of the Senate, April 10, 2008
As a self-proclaimed "unreconstructed monarchist,"
Senator Hugh Segal is interested in protecting the
institution of the monarchy in Canada. His Bill
S-225,4 introduced in February 2009, is in
support of that interest. Specifically, the bill aimed
to defend the current oath of citizenship sworn by new
citizens, which includes a pledge of loyalty to the
Queen of Canada.
The bill was a response to recent Charter challenges from prospective citizens who feel they cannot swear allegiance to the Crown because, as republicans, they would like to see it abolished in Canada. Senator Segal argues that the Crown is an integral part of our Constitution and allegiance to it is thus an integral part of the oath of citizenship. He does not object to changing the oath or the Constitution, but feels it should be done through due political process. "We should respect their right to petition, campaign and advocate for the removal of that allegiance," he said in the Senate chamber. "However, neither they nor anyone else should have the right to use one part of the Constitution to eradicate another through the use of the Charter in the courts."
Senator Segal's bill proposed a rare parliamentary use of the "notwithstanding clause" of the Constitution Act, 1982, to exempt the Oath of Allegiance from challenges under sections 2 and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The bill would thus protect the oath from Charter-based court challenges.
of the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada Act
It is time to think about a system that gets
Aboriginals involved in the management of this
country's affairs, especially in affairs that concern
them. It is urgent that we move forward, and do what
has been recommended in all the sensitive and
intelligent reports, including the one from the Royal
Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, which is to make
Aboriginals more responsible [for their own
Senator Aurélien Gill, Debates of the Senate, May 7, 2008
On May 7, 2008, Senator Aurélien Gill rose in the
Senate chamber, saying, "Aboriginals must take their
place in Canada's political landscape. The 1982
Constitution recognizes us as peoples. It recognizes
that we have rights. Therefore, it is time to take
action and do what is needed to enable the Aboriginal
peoples to take charge of their futures."
According to Senator Gill, a Montagnais and former chief from Mashteuiatsh in Quebec, that action could begin with his Bill S-234.5 The Assembly of the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada Act proposed to create an assembly in Ottawa uniting representatives of the Inuit, Indian and Métis peoples. They would form a proto-parliamentary chamber that would review all Canadian policy, bills, programs and spending that affect Aboriginal Canadians. Replacing the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (in which Senator Gill was once a director general), the assembly could, he feels, eventually form a third chamber of Parliament. This would allow full First Nations participation in political affairs and, he hopes, lead to an era of responsibility and reconciliation.
Seeking a National Securities Regulator
Canada still stands alone amongst all industrial
nations in that we do not have a single national
securities regulator for our securities markets. Having
one regulator would improve the efficiency and - it
should be emphasized - the productivity of Canada's
capital markets at a time when the cost of capital is a
crucial issue, not only within but also outside
Senator Jerahmiel Grafstein, Debates of the Senate, November 26, 2008
According to Senator Jerahmiel Grafstein, Canada's
global competitiveness is significantly damaged by the
fact that it has 13 securities jurisdictions jostling
inside its borders. The 218-page Bill
S-208,6 introduced on November 20, 2008, is
his solution. It proposes creating a single national
commission to regulate securities.
After having come across the issue many times in his research, Senator Grafstein first proposed his Canada Securities Act in May 2007. A single regulator, he feels, will increase the productivity of our capital markets, protect investors from fraud and stimulate the economy. Letters of support and op-ed articles from economists, investors and members of the business community show that others concur. The Senate Banking, Trade and Commerce Committee has noted the need for such a measure in its reports for many years, and many experts in Canada and abroad have agreed. This includes the federal government, whose 2009 Budget cemented its intention to move ahead with a national commission.
Empowering Victims of Terrorism
Terrorism is a modern-day scourge that not only targets
the innocent but also seeks to destroy the democratic
principles we hold dear. It strikes at the heart of
modern societies and, indeed, civilization. Terrorism
is a weapon wielded by evil people who seek to destroy
the way we live. It is a phenomenon that we need to
fight with every resource available to us in our
democratic society . . . .
Senator David Tkachuk, Debates of the Senate, February 6, 2008
Senator David Tkachuk first introduced a version of
Bill S-2257 in 2005. He has introduced three
versions of it, with improvements, in successive
sessions of Parliament. He has worked on getting
support for this bill with the Canadian Coalition
Against Terror, a group made up of families who lost
loved ones in the Air India bombing in 1984, the 9/11
attacks on the United States, and other acts of
The bill aimed to give such families one way to address the powerlessness they feel in the aftermath of their tragedy. It proposed amending the Criminal Code to allow victims and their families who had suffered loss or harm as a result of terrorism to sue those responsible for the terrorist actions. It also proposed to remove immunity for any state that knowingly sponsors the activities of listed terrorist organizations, allowing victims to sue such states as well. Making clear that Canada will hold them to account for their actions, Senator Tkachuk feels, would give terrorists and terrorism-sponsoring states pause before launching an attack. The measure would thus not only empower victims and their families, but give Canadians an extra layer of protection against acts of terror.
1 For complete lists of private senator's bills in this fiscal year, please see Appendix C.
2 Introduced before the start of fiscal year 2008-09 but still on the Order Paper in the Senate, i.e. still under scrutiny and debate.
3 This bill was first introduced in June 2008 as Bill S-243.
4 The same bill was introduced in the 39th Parliament, second session, as Bill S-231. Quotes in this section are from Senator Segal's speech to this original bill on April 10, 2008.
5 Introduced in the 39th Parliament, second session
6 Introduced in the 40th Parliament, first session, this bill also existed in both the first and second sessions of the 39th Parliament, and was reintroduced in the 40th Parliament, second session, as Bill S-214.
7 Introduced in the 39th Parliament, second session