Government bills in the Senate now
A look at government legislation currently in the Upper Chamber — and what these bills mean for you.
Bills are proposed laws. They vary in size, effect and the public interest they receive. Some have benefits that Canadians widely embrace and easily understand, such as Bill C-16, which enshrines concrete protections in Canadian law for transgender and other gender-diverse people. Others are much less publicized but still important, including a recently passed piece of legislation that adds 17.1 square kilometres of green space to the Rouge National Urban Park in Toronto. Regardless of their profile, federal bills have an effect on the lives of Canadians. Typically, government bills are introduced by a Cabinet Minister in the House of Commons, but this type of legislation can also originate in the Senate if it does not initiate spending or impose a tax.
Here’s a list of government bills currently before the Senate.
The Bill: C-45, Cannabis Act
Status: Adopted at second reading and referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology for review. Four other committees are also studying the subject matter of the bill. Find out more.
Senate Sponsor: Senator Tony Dean, independent Senator representing Ontario.
Summary: This bill sets the framework for legalizing, strictly regulating and restricting access to cannabis. It sets out controls for the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis, with the objectives of restricting youth access to cannabis; protecting the health and safety of the public through strict product safety and quality requirements; and deterring criminal activity by imposing serious criminal penalties for those operating outside the legal framework.
The Bill: C-46, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
Status: Adopted at second reading and referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs for consideration.
Senate Sponsor: Senator Gwen Boniface, independent Senator representing Ontario.
Summary: This bill increases maximum penalties and minimum fines for offences dealing with drug- and alcohol-impaired driving, especially for repeat offenders. Among other changes, the bill enacts new criminal offences for driving with a blood-drug concentration equal or higher than the permitted level, and authorizes police to conduct roadside drug-screening tests for suspected impaired drivers. In the case of alcohol, this bill authorizes mandatory roadside screenings, establishes the requirements to prove a person’s blood-alcohol concentration level, and increases related penalties.
The Bill: C-66, Expungement of Historically Unjust Convictions Act
Status: Adopted at second reading and referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights for consideration.
Senate Sponsor: Senator René Cormier, independent Senator representing New Brunswick.
Summary: The proposed legislation constitutes a step in correcting the long-standing discrimination against LGBTQ2 Canadians. In the past, in Canada, those who engaged in consensual sexual activity between same-sex partners were convicted of a crime and given a criminal record. The proposed legislation would allow such individuals to request that the record of their unfair criminal convictions be destroyed. Appropriate representatives would also be able to apply for an expungement on behalf of a deceased victim.
The Bill: C-24, An Act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act
Status: Adopted at second reading and referred to the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance for consideration.
Senate Sponsor: Senator Peter Harder, Government Representative in the Senate.
Summary: Bill C-24 fulfills the Prime Minister’s commitment to introduce legislation that reflects the composition of his one-tier ministry. The proposed legislation would amend the Salaries Act by adding eight new ministerial positions, five of which are currently minister of state appointments and three of which are untitled, providing flexibility for this and future Prime Ministers to adapt their ministries to respond to the priorities of the day. The proposed legislation would also remove the six regional development positions from the Salaries Act.
The Bill: C-51, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Department of Justice Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act
Status: Second reading.
Senate Sponsor: Senator Murray Sinclair, independent Senator representing Manitoba.
Summary: Bill C-51 proposes to amend the Criminal Code provisions relating to sexual assault in order to clarify the law of consent and the defence of mistaken belief in consent. It further fills a gap in the law pertaining to the admissibility of a complainant’s private records. The bill also proposes to remove or repeal passages and provisions of the Code that have been ruled unconstitutional by the courts or that raise concerns under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as passages and provisions that are obsolete, redundant or that no longer have a place in criminal law.
The Bill: C-50, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing)
Status: Second reading.
Senate Sponsor: Senator Terry Mercer, Senate Liberal representing Nova Scotia.
Summary: Bill C-50 proposes to enact an advertising and reporting regime for fundraising events attended by political participants. It also harmonizes the rules applicable to expenses of nomination contestants and leadership contestants with the rules applicable to election expenses of candidates.
The Bill: C-58, An Act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
Status: Second reading.
Senate Sponsor: Senator Pierrette Ringuette, independent Senator representing New Brunswick.
Summary: This legislation proposes to update the Access to Information Act for the first time in more than 30 years. Among other things, C-58 details reasons for which the head of a government institution may decline a request for access to a record, including because it is vexatious or made in bad faith, and give the requester the right to make a complaint to the information commissioner if their request is declined. It also clarifies the powers of the information commissioner and the privacy commissioner to examine documents containing information that is subject to solicitor–client privilege.
Photograph at top: copyright Senate of Canada.