Can Brazeau be automatically suspended from the senate? Probably not.

- February 8th, 2013

Senator Patrick Brazeau was charged this morning with assault and sexual assault. The Crown prosecutor indicated in court that he would not proceed by indictment but would instead try to obtain a summary conviction. (What’s the difference? Read this explainer.)

This afternoon, many senators were muttering that they can suspend Brazeau. I’m not sure how for there does not appear to be an provision in the rules of the senate to automatically suspend any senator unless they’ve been charged with an indictable offence, which Brazeau has not. Here’s the rules. Read for yourself: 

  • Notice of charge 15-4. (1) At the first opportunity after a Senator is charged with a criminal offence for which the Senator may be prosecuted by indictment, either:

    (a) the Senator shall notify the Senate by a signed written notice that is delivered to the Clerk of the Senate, who shall table it; or
    (b) the Speaker shall table such proof of the charge as the court may provide.

    Leave of absence for accused Senator 15-4. (2) When notice is given under subsection (1), the Senator charged is granted a leave of absence from the time the notice is tabled and is considered to be on public business during this leave of absence.
    Duration of leave of absence 15-4. (3) The leave of absence remains in force until the earlier of the following:

    (a) the charge of the criminal offence is withdrawn;
    (b) the proceedings related to it are stayed;
    (c) the charge is proceeded with in summary conviction proceedings; or
    (d) the Senator is acquitted, convicted or discharged.

    Leave of absence reinstated 15-4. (4) The leave of absence is reinstated if stayed proceedings are reinstituted.
    Presumption of innocence 15-4. (5) For greater certainty, the Senate affirms the right of a Senator charged with a criminal offence to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal. No intent to comment on or pass judgment with respect to a Senator shall be imputed to the Senate because of the operation of this rule.
    Senate resources in case of leave of absence 15-4. (6) If a Senator is granted a leave of absence under subsection (2), the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration may, as it considers appropriate in the circumstances, suspend that Senator’s right to the use of some or all of the Senate resources otherwise made available for the carrying out of the Senator’s parliamentary functions, including funds, goods, services, premises, moving, transportation, travel and telecommunications expenses.
    Suspension of Senator 15-5. (1) A Senator who has been found guilty of a criminal offence in proceedings by indictment and who is given a sentence other than a discharge is suspended from the Senate as of the time of the sentence.
    Duration of suspension 15-5. (2) The suspension continues in force until the earlier of the following:

    (a) the finding of guilt is overturned on appeal;
    (b) the sentence is replaced by a discharge on appeal; or
    (c) the Senate determines whether or not the place of the Senator shall become vacant by reason of that conviction.

    REFERENCE 
    Constitution Act 1867, sections 31 and 33

    Report of conviction

    15-5. (3) Upon being informed that a Senator has been convicted while in office of a criminal offence in proceedings by indictment, the Clerk of the Senate shall obtain and lay upon the table a certificate or such other proof of the conviction as the court makes available.
But even if Brazeau may not be automatically suspended, the rules also contain provision for Senators to exercise some judgement, to wit:

Leaves of Absence and Suspensions

Authorized leaves and suspensions 15-2. (1) The Senate may order a leave of absence for or the suspension of a Senator where, in its judgment, there is sufficient cause.
Leaves of absence – preventive measure 15-2. (2) When a leave of absence is granted, it is solely to protect the dignity and reputation of the Senate and public trust and confidence in Parliament.
But if senators proceed to suspend Brazeau under 15-2 (2), can Brazeau not invoke 15-4 (5)?

Categories: Politics

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4 comments

  1. George Pringle says:

    In the Spring of 2006 Liberal Senator Raymond Lavigne was removed from the Liberal caucus due to criminal charges. 5 years later just before the sentencing, he resigned, escaping Senate action.

    Brazeau could serve out his promised term, being appointed in Jan of 2009, he would be finished in Jan of 2018.

    I would say 15(2) trumps 15(5) as charges are not required to suspend a senator only the judgement of the Senate that there is sufficient cause.

  2. Veronica Taylor says:

    Why are we covered with a lot of gobbly-de-gook? Brazeau is 38 and his actions provide more shame for Stephen Harper, who ‘promised’ (ain’t that another one of his ‘promises’ for which my friends and I from Calgary felt he was HONEST and voted for him) he would eliminate the Senate. What a friggin’ joke that turned out to be! AND, he’s off WITH PAY.

    As a Canadian senior who has to account for every single dollar in order to survive, I am exhausted watching my tax $$ going to pay idiots like this, and more in the Senate for whom I did not vote for their opinion, add to that Idle No More with no paper trail for millions more and then there’s the CBC who literally tells government to kiss the left cheek along with Quebec and its rampant construction corruption, taxes over-the-top on airline flights and a simple bottle of booze, dairy board holding Canadians hostage – and yet Revenue Canada will chase down the rest of us for one dollar ……c’mon, Stephen, enjoy your fame now because I will not vote for you next term. There’s gotta be someone better because nobody could be worse.

  3. Todd Stewart says:

    As I read it,and i hope i am wrong,Even if he is found guilty he can maintain his position in the senate because “while in office of a criminal offence in proceedings by indictment,” the wording is by indictment.The prosecutor went after him with a summary conviction.

  4. Gabby in QC says:

    Veronica Taylor, if you’re going to deliver an anti-Harper — or an anti-anything — rant, it would make your “argument” more convincing if you got your facts straight.

    • “… he [PM Harper] would eliminate the Senate”
    PM Harper promised to reform the Senate, not eliminate it. His party introduced the following bills to do so:
    - Bill S-4 Senate tenure (2006)
    - Bill C-43 Senate Appointment Consultations Act (2006)
    - Bill C-19 Senate tenure (2007)
    - Bill C-20 Senate Appointment Consultations Act (2008)
    - Bill S-7 Senate term limits (2009)
    - Bill C-7 Selection of senators and amending the Constitution Act, 1867 in respect of Senate term limits (2011)

    That list may not be exhaustive, but it’s enough to point out that the Harper government intended to reform the Senate, not eliminate it, as you stated.

    Given the opposition to the various bills listed above primarily by two major provinces (Ontario & Quebec), the Harper Government referred the question to the Supreme Court to determine the constitutionality of various Senate reform measures, including its abolition.

    • “… add to that Idle No More with no paper trail for millions more …”
    Maybe you’re thinking about the audit of the Attawapiskat reserve. There was no audit of the Idle No More movement to my knowledge, thus no missing paper trail nor missing millions of dollars.

    As for the rest of your rant regarding taxes, you may want to read this to see some of the tax measures the Harper Government has implemented.

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