Bill C-486, the Conflict Minerals Act, is a Private Member’s bill, introduced by NDP MP Paul Dewar. Although STAND Canada’s campaign is centred around its second reading vote, it is just one step of several when it comes to making this bill a reality.
The bill has been tabled and has gone through its first reading in the House of Commons. The purpose of the first reading is to ensure that the bill can be printed and distributed to all MPs. It is a formality; all bills pass the first reading. Bill C-486 has also been through two debates in the second reading stage and will be voted on in the fall legislative session, tentatively September 24. If a majority of the House votes in favor, Bill C-486 will continue. If not, it will be defeated. Debate on the second reading is restricted to a bill’s general principle, rather than the details of specific provisions.
If Bill C-486 advances beyond the second reading, it will proceed to be reviewed by a committee. Usually, a bill is referred to the committee whose mandate is most relevant to the bill, so the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development is most likely to review it. The committee will likely hold public hearings, commencing with a speech from the bill’s sponsor, MP Paul Dewar. Other relevant individuals will be invited to speak as well. This can include experts, representatives of relevant organizations, or other individuals who would be affected. If the bill proceeds to committee, we would want to have a STAND representative speak at the hearing, which would mean having a strong sense of the amendments that we would like to see inserted in the bill.
After the public hearings, the committee will consider the bill clause-by-clause. At this point, all committee members – and only committee members – can propose amendments to the bill. STAND would aim to coordinate with MP Dewar and other Foreign Affairs committee members to ensure that our priorities were reflected in the new text of the bill. We will then want to campaign for public support of the bill as it proceeds to the third reading.
The committee will then report its recommendations to the House. It can recommend a bill as it is or with amendments, but it cannot comment otherwise. After the report has been presented, MPs are allowed to propose additional amendments. However, the Speaker will normally rule amendments out of order if they have already been considered and rejected in committee. This is part of the “consistency” principle that the House takes toward amendments. The Speaker of the House can choose to rule amendments out of order or group them together for debate and voting. When all amendments are voted on, the bill immediately moves on to the third reading, where it is debated and voted on for a final time within the House of Commons. If a majority of the House votes in favor, Bill C-486 will proceed to the Senate and, if it passes there, it receives royal assent.