An Act to amend the Criminal Code (mental disorder) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.

Sponsor

Irwin Cotler  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends Part XX.1 of the Criminal Code governing persons found unfit to stand trial or not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. The amendments, among other things, include

(a) repealing unproclaimed provisions related to capping, dangerous mentally disordered accused and hospital orders;

(b) expanding the authority of Review Boards by enabling them to order an assessment of the accused, adjourn hearings and protect the identity of victims and witnesses;

(c) permitting the oral presentation of victim impact statements at disposition hearings and adjournments allowing the victim to prepare the statement;

(d) permitting Review Boards to extend the time for holding a review hearing to a maximum of 24 months in certain circumstances;

(e) permitting the court to hold an inquiry and order a judicial stay of proceedings for an accused found unfit to stand trial, if the accused is not likely to ever be fit to stand trial and does not pose a significant risk to the safety of the public and a stay is in the interests of the proper administration of justice;

(f) specifying that the transfer provisions require the consent of the appropriate Attorneys General in all cases and enabling transfers of an accused who is not in custody; and

(g) allowing peace officers arresting an accused who is in contravention of an assessment order or a disposition to release, detain, compel the appearance of or deliver the accused to a place specified in the order.

This enactment also makes consequential amendments to other Acts, including the National Defence Act.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

November 14th, 2005 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Madam Speaker, I would have a comment. This is a good bill to the extent that the minister has put his foot down and will finally be legislating against animal cruelty. There is a problem, however. The hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke illustrated it perfectly. We are mixing apples and oranges, mixing the gun issue with the hunters, pets, poultry farmers and auctions. Everything is all mixed together.

The committee will have to go back to the drawing board and develop categories within the bill. That is what matters. When Bill C-10 was discussed, this was already a problem. The same happened when we discussed Bill C-22, and it is happening again with Bill C-50. Everybody mixes everything up. How can we ever arrive at safeguards for everyone—aboriginal people, farmers, hunters, fishermen—as well as the industry? This can never be achieved because it is such broad legislation.

I hope the minister will listen to what animal welfare groups are asking for to fight animal cruelty.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

November 14th, 2005 / 5:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, I refer again to the main point I was making in my speech. Bill S-24 would be much preferable to the present bill. I would like to read a bit more of this legal brief rather than give my opinion and the question the member has asked will be answered.

These concerns are met by the provisions of Bill S-24 in s. 445.1(1)(a), namely, “Everyone commits an offence who wilfully causes or, being the owner, wilfully permits to be caused unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal or a bird”. This offence extends to activities which do not result in the death of an animal, and to those which do.

The second point made in the Lang Michener letter is:

The phrase “regardless of whether the animal dies immediately” in s. 182.2(1)(b) prevents any participant in recreational hunting or fishing charged under this section from making the argument that because the death of an animal is immediate the death should not be considered to be brutal or vicious. Depending on the circumstances of the case before the court, such an argument may or may not succeed but it is not reasonable to prevent an accused from making this argument. Immediate death is a widely accepted definition of humane killing and this section attempts to change this standard. It is a commonly held view that it is more humane to kill an animal promptly and exactly than to allow an animal to suffer for a long period of time. In R. v. Jones, the judge found that it was more humane to kill an animal quickly and cleanly than to allow it to suffer a prolonged death.

I want to get to point three, which goes beyond what the member has asked. This is a very important part of this legal brief. It reads:

If Bill C-50 becomes law, animal rights groups will harass and prosecute anglers and hunters. Liz White, a director of the Animal Alliance of Canada, one of Canada's major animal rights organizations, stated:

“The onus is on humane societies and other groups on the front lines to push this legislation to the limit, to test the parameters of this law and have the courage and conviction to lay charges. That's what this is all about. Make no mistake about it”.

In the second reading of Bill S-24, Senator Bryden quotes Dr. Bessie Borwein, Special Advisor to the Vice-President of Research at the University of Western Ontario:

“There are animal rights groups in Canada that have specifically and publicly stated their intention to use Bill C-10 [previous versions of Bill C-22 and Bill C-50] to further their agenda. They say they will use the law to press charges and to test it to the utmost. They will use peace officers or authorized organizations like the SPCA or humane societies sympathetic to their cause in order to press this...”.

That is where I rest my case and that is why we oppose the legislation. Unless amendments are made to protect these traditional hunting and fishing activities I cannot accept what the members opposite are telling me.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

November 14th, 2005 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, my NDP colleague seems very concerned by this bill and by cruelty to animals. I know he is very concerned in this regard. I think he worked on Bill C-10, which I worked on as well.

He mentioned cruelty to animals and what we saw on TV on the weekend. It is not an isolated case. Canada is the only country without legislation to protect its animals. Puppy mills, for example, come from the south. The U.S. has laws in this regard. The fact that people in the states face such a law brings home the fact in Canada that we do not have such a law in a given field. We can set up puppy mills and the result is what we saw on television on the weekend.

Care must be taken with this bill, because it is comprehensive. This is the most important consideration. It covers not only cruelty to animals, but cruelty by industries and businesses in the animal trade.

I have a chinchilla rancher in my riding, and he is not comfortable with this bill. It makes him a bit nervous. When it comes time to slaughter his chinchillas, what is to stop him being accused of animal cruelty?

Then there are the hunters, and the poultry producers. Everyone knows that poultry are killed at an abattoir. This is done very quickly and the animal does not suffer. There is no problem there. The problem comes in shipping them. They put 20 in a cage that normally takes 10. When we buy turkeys with broken wings at the supermarket, that is exactly what has happened. Many turkeys end up with broken wings because 20 of them were shipped in a cage that should have held 10.

Sometimes we buy pork that is as tough as old boots and not good to eat. This is not always because it is boar meat. We are also sold meat from pigs who have been exposed to the cold. A person needs to have been a farmer to really understand what cruelty to animals is.

So this is my question for my colleague from the NDP. Can he assure me that this bill, which will be reworked in committee, will be scrutinized in order to differentiate between cruelty toward animals belonging to an individual—for example cruel treatment of an individual pet—and cruelty towards animals by farmers and companies. This is one part of the bill.

Then there is the other part. What about bow hunters, for instance, who do not finish their prey off with the first shot? Will they be accused of animal cruelty? What about fishers? Can the NDP member give us assurance that the bill will address both aspects of cruelty to animals?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

November 14th, 2005 / 3:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-50, an act to amend the Criminal Code in respect of cruelty to animals.

It has been a great source of frustration for many Canadians that the government has been attempting to legislate changes to animal cruelty offences since 1999 without success. Several versions of this bill have wound their way through the House and Senate only to die on the order paper. The parliamentary secretary did go through those previous versions. There were concerns that the proposed amendments could have criminalized some common and lawful activities such as catch and release fishing, trapping, hunting, and even some farming practices.

We are not just talking about our friends the animals, which is how urban people might view animals, and we have lots of animal friends. I have a dog who is a friend. Animals are also used in the context of agriculture, and those animals are not necessarily our friends. We have to recognize that animals play a dual role in our society. I recall the 2% strychnine solution being argued here regarding our friends the gophers. Gophers destroy thousands of acres of land every year and kill or hurt other animals that fall into gopher holes. We have to remember that all animals are not our friends.

Throughout the debates on these bills, Conservative MPs and senators strongly expressed their desire to prevent abuse of animals, but sought legal protection for those who use animals for legitimate, lawful and justified practices. The Senate was ultimately successful in amending Bill C-10B to narrow the definition of animal and to ensure that current legal defences for legitimate practices would be maintained.

Bill C-10B was reprinted in the House of Commons as Bill C-22, and was supported by the Conservative Party in light of the Senate amendments. However, the bill died at committee in the Senate in May 2004 before the last general election.

As the parliamentary secretary has explained, this enactment would amend the Criminal Code by consolidating animal cruelty offences and increasing the maximum penalties.

One of the things we have to realize is that these changes to the Criminal Code will not make it easier to prosecute animal offences. It is very difficult to prosecute animal offences. We hear about all kinds of horrendous examples such as skinning a cat, or putting cats into microwaves, those kinds of things. The point is that these changes will not make it any easier to prosecute those types of offences. The injustice that is often done is a result of inadequate evidence to prosecute the offence.

I am not necessarily opposing these amendments. We have voted on them many times already. I am suggesting that when there is a conviction, meaningful sentences should be put in place. There have been philosophical debates about whether an animal is property or whether it is not quite a human being, as some animal rights activists would have us believe, but the point is that appropriate penalties need to be in place so that when these difficult cases are successfully prosecuted, meaningful sentences are imposed.

One of the concerns that many animal groups involved in agriculture, fishing and hunting have mentioned to me about the current bill is that it would make it illegal to brutally and viciously kill an animal regardless of whether or not the animal dies immediately. I have a lot of concerns about that particular provision because it really takes an urban person's point of view about the killing of an animal. Many urban people look at the practice of killing a particular animal as being brutal and vicious and therefore that practice should be stopped. The real point we need to consider is not simply whether it looks brutal or vicious, but whether the animal in fact dies immediately. We want to minimize the animal's pain. I think all of us are agreed on that.

I am concerned that what we are doing here is taking a key relevant factor in determining whether or not something is brutal or vicious and making it irrelevant. We need to take a look at that particular issue. That more than any other issue has raised concerns for the groups who depend on animals for their livelihood.

I have no concern about raising the penalties. If there is genuine cruelty to animals and a prosecution is successful, we need to prosecute those cases vigorously and impose appropriate penalties.

There is one thing I find remarkable about Liberals. I wish Liberals would speak as passionately about human victims as they sometimes do about animal victims. I am very concerned about human victims. This is perhaps an appropriate segue into that entire issue.

I raised in question period the issue that under Bill C-70 a judge will be able to impose house arrest on someone who rapes a woman. The minister said that there would be exceptional circumstances where that would happen. I asked him in question period today under what exceptional circumstances should people who rape women serve their time at home. I am concerned about that kind of thing.

I am concerned about brutality toward animals, but I am also very concerned about the brutality that we demonstrate to other human beings. When we catch those animals who commit crimes against their fellow human beings, we say we should leave the door open for exceptional circumstances so that the poor rapist can serve his time at home. I am concerned about that kind of thing and I dare say most Canadians are.

I am concerned about drug dealers who are peddling poisons that kill our children. I am concerned about that. Yet under the Liberals' Bill C-70, drug dealers who are repeat offenders can get house arrest. I wish Liberals would talk as passionately about keeping those kinds of animals behind bars, those who would do that kind of thing to our children and fellow citizens.

I have pointed out a very practical problem with this bill. I hope the parliamentary secretary looks at that particular issue. At the same time I would encourage the parliamentary secretary to ask the Minister of Justice what he is doing in Bill C-70 to allow vicious, brutal rapists and drug dealers who are destroying our youth and communities to get house arrest in exceptional circumstances. We were assured by past justice ministers, Allan Rock and others, that it would never happen that conditional sentences or house arrest would be used for violent offences.

I want to see some amendments to this bill. I think it is moving in the right direction. We have had this debate over and over. I remind the parliamentary secretary that he should show the same concern for human victims as he does for animal victims.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

November 14th, 2005 / 3:25 p.m.
See context

Northumberland—Quinte West
Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the provisions of Bill C-50, an act to amend the Criminal Code relating to the cruelty to animals.

The legislation has a long and notorious history in Parliament. Members will no doubt remember that the legislation has been before the House on a number of occasions over the past five years. These animal cruelty amendments were first introduced in Parliament in 1999 as part of an omnibus criminal reform bill called Bill C-17 but died on the order paper. They were later reintroduced as another omnibus bill, Bill C-15, in a subsequent Parliament. That bill was split into two portions and the portion which contained the animal cruelty amendments again died on the order paper. The amendments were next re-tabled as Bill C-10 which were again split and again the portion with animal cruelty died on the order paper. In the last Parliament, these amendments were known as Bill C-22. Today we are discussing the same amendments in Bill C-50.

The history of the bill is a long and winding road, which includes two highly unusual incidents of bill-splitting and several messages being sent between this and the other chamber. Given the occurrences of rare parliamentary procedures and ping-ponging of the legislation, a person unfamiliar with this history might come away with the impression that the legislation is still controversial and lacks broad base support.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind the members that in actual fact this House has passed this legislation several times in the last two years with support from members on both sides of the House. In addition, hon. members should recall that the legislation has a history of accommodation and compromise that has brought together groups that advocate for animal welfare, as well as groups that advocate for people whose livelihoods depend upon the use of animals. Let me explain.

Over the past five years there has been spirited and comprehensive debate about the impact of the legislation in both this House and the other place, in committees in both places, in the public domain and in the media, not to mention the innumerable meetings between stakeholders and various government officials. As a result, specific amendments have been made on a number of occasions to this bill. These were not legally necessary changes, I would submit, but were adopted by the government with a view to providing greater clarity about the issues of concern.

These accommodations did not compromise protections against animal cruelty. The end result was that a large number of industry stakeholders came to support the legislation. The ministers received the written support of a broad based coalition of industry groups, including a letter from earlier this year urging the government to re-table these very amendments just months before this bill was tabled.

This coalition of stakeholders includes representatives from the agricultural sector, animal research and the trapping industry. The legislation is not meant to and will not negatively impact on the lawful and humane animal related industries and these industries have now acknowledged that. Of course, animal welfare organizations, as well as veterinary associations, police associations and provincial attorneys general, continue to support the legislation wholeheartedly.

The only difference between this legislation and that which was last passed by this House as Bill C-22 is the inclusion now of a non-derogation clause that reaffirms the applicability of existing constitutional protection for traditional aboriginal practices. This was included after discussions between the minister and concerned senators over the potential impact of the legislation on aboriginal persons.

In every other respect, the legislation we have before us today mirrors exactly that legislation which was passed by this House many times already and which stakeholder groups on all sides of the issue urged the government to re-table.

With that brief history, let me make a few basic points about the legislation.

The first point to note is that Bill C-50 is not about new law. It is about better law. The criminal law already contains a range of offences that prohibit cruelty to animals and has since 1893, but the law is a messy jumble of archaic terminology and piecemeal amendments made on a few occasions since 1893.

The first goal of the bill therefore is to modernize, simplify and rationalize the law as well as to fill in certain gaps in legal protection. This objective is accomplished by a variety of measures, including: removing the distinctions in the law that originate from another century; removing overlapping offences; improving the coherence and functionality of the law by removing problematic language, such as “dogs, birds and other animals”; eliminating the illogical notion of “wilful neglect” that is not found anywhere else in our criminal law; and filling in gaps by creating new offences of killing an animal with a brutal or vicious intent and training an animal for the purpose of fighting another animal.

One other change that bears mentioning is the creation of a new chapter of the Criminal Code devoted specifically to animal cruelty. The new chapter would not change the legal substance of offences but would allow us to stop categorizing animal cruelty as property crime and to symbolically reflect that animal cruelty is most appropriately characterized as a gross violation of public standards of acceptable behaviour, as oftentimes it is a serious offence of violence. In fact, there is increasingly scientific evidence of a link between animal cruelty and subsequent violent offending against humans, particularly in the context of domestic violence. The women and children who are forced to witness animal cruelty know that it is not about property damage and it is time our Criminal Code recognized this reality.

The second goal of the amendments is to increase and enhance the penalty regime for animal cruelty offences. The way that society traditionally recognizes the seriousness of a particular conduct is through the penalty that it prescribes for that conduct.

Bill C-50 would make the law more coherent by clearly distinguishing criminally negligent conduct from wilful cruelty for the purposes of providing different sentencing ranges. The person who keeps too many cats and is unable to care for them all commits a different kind of criminal offence than one who skins a cat alive, and Bill C-50 would ensure that penalty ranges reflect this.

The current maximum penalty for animal cruelty, six months in prison or a $2,000 fine or both, would be increased accordingly for both kinds of crime. For intentional cruelty, which would be made a hybrid offence, the maximum penalty on indictment would be increased to five years and on summary conviction to eighteen months. For criminally negligent offences, the maximum sentence would be increased to two years.

Another change is the removal of the current two year cap on orders prohibiting a convicted offender from owning or living with animals. The length of a prohibition order would be in the discretion of the judge and he or she would make the final determination. The courts would also be given a clear power to order a convicted offender to repay to a person or to an organization, which most likely would be the animal welfare society, the costs associated with the caring for the animal the offender was convicted of abusing.

These penalty enhancements, coupled with the other set of reforms that bring greater simplicity, coherence and rationality to the laws, will work together to signal to judges, prosecutors, police and the general public that the abuse of animals is about violence and that cruelty is a matter of serious criminal law.

To be effective, good criminal law must not only provide adequate penalty ranges, it must also be clear, coherent, complete and must reflect the true nature of the misconduct and the societal values at stake. The full range of legal reforms is necessary to bring our 19th century criminal laws in this area into the 21st century.

Over the course of many years that animal cruelty amendments have been before Parliament, Canadians have consistently voiced their strong support for legislative change in this area and their expectation that the legislation will be passed without delay. I urge all members in the House to ensure that occurs as soon as possible.

Firearms Act
Routine Proceedings

October 26th, 2005 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-433, An Act to amend the Firearms Act (registration of handguns).

Mr. Speaker, I have been forced to introduce this bill because the government refuses to take steps to bring into full force and effect the Firearms Act, section 12(6.1), an amendment passed by Parliament in Bill C-10A and given royal assent on May 13, 2003.

The federal government issued the owners of these firearms a firearms acquisition certificate before they purchased these handguns. Then the government approved the registration of their handguns in accordance with the law that existed up until December 1, 1998.

All these law-abiding gun owners want to do is re-register their handguns in accordance with the Firearms Act as it exists today. The problem is the government failed to implement the will of Parliament because it did not bring the Bill C-10A amendments into force in time to allow these law-abiding firearms' owners to take advantage of the grandfathering privileges we provided for them in section 12(6.1).

My simple amendment to the Firearms Act would remedy this dilemma and save the government the embarrassment and cost of hundreds of lawsuits.

As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness was quoted in newspapers yesterday saying, “Handguns in the right hands are not the problem”. He is right and Parliament has already decided these section 12(6) handguns are in the right hands.

Let us pass my bill and finish the job Parliament started in Bill C-10A.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Property Rights
Private Members' Business

October 4th, 2005 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank everyone who has been participating in this debate, especially those who have agreed with the intent and principle behind my property rights motion.

I thought my opening remarks and the speeches made by the hon. members for Edmonton—Leduc, Nepean—Carleton, Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, and Durham clearly pointed out the need of persons to have the right to full and fair compensation when the federal government deprives them of their property.

While I appreciate the remarks made by my Liberal colleagues, especially the member for Scarborough—Rouge River, I wish to remind them that this is a motion, not a bill. It was meant to give direction to the House, not set words in stone.

If the Liberals want to see what words I do want to set in stone, I refer them to my private member's bill, Bill C-235, an act to amend an act for the recognition of protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms and to amend the Constitution Act, 1867. I introduced that on October 20 last year.

The hon. member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale said my property rights motion was “substantially over-broad” and “poorly conceived”. Well, it was not conceived by me. It was conceived through a most democratic process at the Conservative Party's policy convention held in Montreal this past March.

If the grassroots of our party proposes a policy, then far be it from me to substantially change their wording unilaterally. I did not introduce this motion for me. I did it for the members of our party and for all those Canadians who have had their property taken by this Liberal government without being fairly compensated. I emphasize that because that is what this is all about.

Surely the members opposite must be concerned about the trampling of fundamental property rights by their own government. I appeal to them to take a look at this motion. Let us send it to committee and get the legislation right.

I know for a fact that the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River is concerned for the future of one of the successful businesses in his riding. The only manufacturer of handguns in Canada is about to have its business threatened because of the government's new firearms marking regulations, which will add significant costs to the manufacturing process.

I would like to quote the Ottawa Citizen and tell members what its editorial board explained:

The legislation in question would require imported firearms to be marked with the date and country of importation—an exceedingly expensive proposition, since the marks would have to be laser-engraved on the gun frames, post-manufacture.

Meanwhile, there appears to be a significant disconnect between the intent of the legislation, preventing small arms from being illegally re-exported to war-torn regions, and the effect, pricing legitimate sport hunting out of reach of many Canadians....

By all means, then, apply the new marking system to military weaponry, which Canadian civilians are already prohibited from owning.

Why, though, should duck and rabbit hunters be forced to foot the bill for a marking system that is entirely superfluous: their weapons of choice are used neither for combat nor crime, their movements readily traceable via existing serial numbers, their ownership logged under one of the world's most stringent—if dysfunctional—gun registry systems?

This is just one of the most recent examples of the warped United Nations policy finding its way into Canadian law, pushed by bureaucrats using high questionable regulations under the authority delegated to the minister and therefore completely avoiding a real debate in this House or any other place.

Just last Thursday, the minister of public safety sent a letter to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, refusing to implement a Firearms Act amendment, passed by this Parliament in Bill C-10A, that would grandfather the law-abiding owners of their legally registered handguns. Now their only option is to dispose of their lawfully acquired and registered property.

This Liberal government mucked up and takes no responsibility for what it has done. I could go on and on, but I will not. During these two hours of debate the speakers have provided a long list of examples of where this government has violated the fundamental property rights of Canadians.

It is time to put a stop to this injustice. Voting in favour of this motion will send a message to this Liberal government that people are fed up and we are not going to take it anymore. If a Liberal government will not change and respect property rights, then it is time to elect a government that will.

I have heard all the arguments. The Bloc feels it is not inclusive enough. The Liberals say it is too broad and includes too much. I think we have struck a balance with this motion. We should send it to committee and decide how to implement it.

The Liberals argue that it would affect their governance. To that I say, yes, it would affect their governance and it should. They should have respect for property rights. Property rights are essential in a free and democratic society and a strong economy. Please support the motion, take a look at what it says and let us move forward with property rights.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act
Government Orders

October 3rd, 2005 / 3:45 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am somewhat astonished at my colleague's speech, though not surprised. Obviously, we all agreed that Bill C-10 needed amending, and amended it was. We must, however, always keep in mind that this is a bill from another session. In fact, it is the offspring of a bill, C-25, —with no independent commissioner—tabled by the Liberal Party when in a majority position and reintroduced in the form of Bill C-11 in this session. This was a campaign promise. While the Liberals were campaigning, they were telling everyone that there would be a bill to protect whistleblowers. This was in the aftermath of the sponsorship scandal.

Now my colleague has just been telling us that they have been accommodating and the bill has evolved. What has evolved is the political situation in Canada. There is no longer the majority government there was before.

I will therefore ask my colleague whether she will agree with me that there never ought to be a majority government in Canada—particularly not a Liberal majority government—precisely to ensure that good bills like today's get passed.

Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
Royal Assent

May 19th, 2005 / 4:30 p.m.
See context

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Mr. Speaker:

I have the honour to inform you that the Honourable Morris Fish, Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, in his capacity as Deputy Governor General, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the schedule to this letter on the 19th day of May, 2005, at 4:05 p.m.

Yours sincerely,

Barbara Uteck

Secretary to the Governor General

The schedule indicates that royal assent was given to: Bill C-10, an act to amend the Criminal Code (mental disorder) and to make consequential amendments to other acts--Chapter No. 22; Bill C-15, an act to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999--Chapter No. 23; Bill C-40, an act to amend the Canada Grain Act and the Canada Transportation Act, Chapter No. 24; Bill C-13, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the DNA Identification Act and the National Defence Act, Chapter No. 25; and Bill S-25, an act to amend the act of incorporation of The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada.

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, Fisheries.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

February 7th, 2005 / 1:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to express my support to Bill C-10 and to urge all the members of this House to support its reforms.

I will take a few moments to discuss this bill, because we do not want to delay its adoption. In fact, there is some support for referring this legislation to the parliamentary committee as early as today and moving on to the next bill, and I support this approach.

As we mentioned earlier, in 2002, the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness reviewed the provisions of the Criminal Code relating to mental disorder. The work of the committee is reflected in Bill C-10, which is before us today.

The public may remember the former provisions, which referred to “not guilty by reason of insanity”. This term has almost always been a part of our past. Those who studied the history of Louis Riel in our country will remember, for example, that an entire group of people wanted him to plead not guilty by reason of insanity, which Riel refused to do. We know what his fate was. Nonetheless, these measures are very old and this is a term we have always had.

However, modern criminal law refers to people who are found not criminally responsible for reasons of mental disorder and persons declared unfit to stand trial. This better describes the reality. Yet, the law in this field is not well known and often misunderstood.

Unfortunately, people continue to think that someone who commits an offence and is declared to be not criminally responsible is benefiting from some sort of “escape clause”. That is not the case. There are consequences. Sometimes, those consequences are even harsher than for an accused who is found guilty. Once again, this concept is not well known. The law respecting persons declared unfit to stand trial or those found not criminally responsible because of mental disorder provides for consequences. Usually treatment and supervision can potentially go on indefinitely and, in some cases, involves detention in a secure psychiatric facility. Ultimately, it could even mean life imprisonment in a special facility for individuals so afflicted. It is not a matter of not punishing them for the crime for which, at the same time, they are not guilty for the reasons I just described. Naturally, their punishment is different, but they are in no way exonerated.

The Criminal Code includes a whole part, namely part XX.1, which sets out a comprehensive code to ensure, in a fair and effective fashion, the monitoring and treatment of a mentally disordered accused, and also public safety.

I have indicated that this area of the law is not well understood, even by some lawyers. In the case of victims, criminal law and the criminal justice system are often overwhelming, complex and daunting. Victims rarely need to know the law until they find themselves at the core of the justice system, often when they arrive in court. When an accused is found to be unfit to stand trial or not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder, victims of criminal acts are confronted with more obstacles in their pursuit of justice.

Victims want to get information on the legal system and on the case that involves them, and they deserve to get such information.

Law reforms, new thrusts and a broadening of the services have given victims a greater role in criminal proceedings. For example, the Criminal Code was amended in 1988 to include the victim impact statement as a means to allow victims of criminal acts to describe the damage or the losses suffered because of the offence that was committed. Incidentally, I remember the debate because I was here at the time.

Before then, the impact on victims was not taken into consideration, or at least the victim did not have a chance to make a statement on it. As a result, rightly or wrongly, in my opinion a bit of both, victims felt that their personal grievances were not reflected in the sentence brought down.

Some provisions passed in 1988 also provide for publication bans to protect the identity of victims of sexual assault. Once again, important changes were made. Other changes made to the Criminal Code over the past 15 years have helped give a more important role to victims of criminal acts, while respecting the rights of the accused. Naturally, that element of respecting the rights of the accused has to be included, because an accused person is not necessarily guilty. On the contrary, a person is innocent until proven guilty. Then he is no longer considered as accused, but as guilty, if that is the finding.

In response to the report published in 1998 by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, entitled “Victims' Rights: A Voice, Not a Veto”, the government adopted a series of amendments to the Criminal Code in 1999 to ensure, among other things, that victims are informed of the possibility of submitting a victim impact statement—which I described earlier; to include the safety of the victims in the factors that have to be taken into account in making a decision on interim release; to specify the automatic imposition of a mandatory victim fine surcharge, and the amount of this surcharge; and to give judges the discretionary power to impose a publication ban to protect the identity of any victim or witness, as required in the interest of the proper administration of justice.

The 1999 amendments also looked at victims of offences committed by an accused suffering from a mental disorder and provided for a victim impact statement to be written and filed with the court or review board at a hearing to determine the sentence for an accused found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. This would concern a person accused under section 671.541 of the Criminal Code, which reads:

—the court or review board shall ... take into consideration any statement filed ... in determining the appropriate disposition or conditions under section 672.54—

And yet, it is the victim, in each case who decides whether to write and file this kind of declaration. The victim impact statement is provided for in paragraph 672.5(14), which states:

A victim of the offence may prepare and file with the court or review board a written statement describing the harm done to, or loss suffered by, the victim arising from the commission of the offence.

Where a verdict of not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder has been rendered in respect of the accused, the review board has to determine how the accused will be supervised. The victims of crime are often neglected, and receive little information on the follow-up, on how their safety concerns will be met or whether or not they will have a role to play or have access to any information.

We have all heard of instances of constituents who have been the victims of crime wondering whether the inmate will be on provisional or other release and within a few kilometres or metres of their home. That is what they fear anyway. These are concerns often expressed by our constituents. Tools are provided in here to address this problem.

In considering Bill C-10, the standing committee examined other proposals to expand the role of victims of crime. The committee heard several witnesses; some advocated greater victim involvement while others did not support the interests of victims. The committee—it is very important to point out—dismissed the comments of those who sought to restrict the role of victims.

We went further at committee—and eventually at the government level—where the role of victims is concerned, because that was the approach we wanted to take to ensure and enhance the protection of victims of crime.

The committee also examined the existing provisions of the Criminal Code, as well as measures that should be policy rather than statute in order to better meet the victims' concerns.

The amendments in Bill C-10 will strengthen the role played by victims of crime in cases where the accused was found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. The new provisions relating to the victims fully take into account the differences between the provisions governing persons who are criminally responsible—who have been found guilty and sentenced—and those governing persons found not criminally responsible.

The accused who is found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder is not held responsible for his actions, of course. In its decision, the court must take into account several factors, including the need to protect the public, the accused's mental condition and the need to return the accused to the community eventually.

The impact of the crime on the victim may be relevant to only some of the criteria. Where the court or review board is considering a conditional release, the victim's statement may be relevant in imposing certain conditions: for example, that the accused not contact the victim or that the accused not go certain places.

However, the victim can also benefit from submitting a statement even if the situation of the accused does not change.

It is important to note, once again, that the administration of justice and the delivery of services to the victims are areas of provincial jurisdiction. The provision of victims services as part of the administration of justice is also a matter of provincial responsibility. I know that there was a question about this a few minutes ago.

The provision of victim impact statement forms, assistance in preparing the statements, and the collection and submission of the statements to the Crown or the court are generally handled by the provincial victims services programs.

In 2002, the standing committee recommended that courts or review boards conducting a review notify the victim where the victim has indicated interest in receiving such notification.

Bill C-10 includes provisions that require the court holding an initial hearing, or the review board holding such a hearing, when the court does not, to ask the Crown or the victim whether the latter has been informed that he or she can submit a victim impact statement.

Following an amendment adopted by the committee, as mentioned earlier, the government adopted many, the victim will receive notice of hearing dates and the applicable provisions in the Criminal Code, including relevant provisions on victim impact statements.

The manner and timeframe for issuing such a notice will be established by the rules of the court or the review board. Other non legislative measures will also be needed to inform victims of crime of provisions of the code specific to their case, hearing dates, conditions of a decision and other essential information.

We must bear in mind that, until the accused has been declared not criminally responsible, the victim should benefit from the application of all the provisions of the code that are there to facilitate the victim's involvement and to protect their safety and privacy. Only when the accused has been declared not criminally responsible is the application of the new special provisions in the code necessary in order to ensure that the victim participates in the review board hearings.

Bill C-10 also includes provisions that will strengthen the role played by victims of criminal acts.

These victims would be permitted to make an oral presentation of their statement during the review board hearing. Therefore, it would not be necessary to have a great deal of expertise to draft the statement. The victim would be allowed to present his or her statement orally. The statement would already be drafted, and the victim would be permitted to read it or, in some cases, to provide his or her statement in another form including, for example, by giving a copy of it if this is relevant. It is always up to the victim to decide to draft a statement and even to read it. In these cases, it is the victim who has these alternatives. It is perfectly normal for it to be so, and I am pleased that Bill C-10 allows for such options.

Where a verdict of not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder has been rendered in respect of the accused, the court or the chair of the review board must ask the prosecutors, the victim or his or her representative whether the victim has been informed that he or she can make a statement.

The first hearing may be adjourned to allow the victim to prepare a statement, if he or she so wishes.

The review boards will have new powers to impose a publication ban to protect the identity of the victim and of the witnesses, as required in the interest of the proper administration of justice.

Following an amendment made in committee, a notice of hearing will be given to the victim and the other relevant provisions of the Criminal Code will be applied, provided the victim makes a request to this effect in the timeframe and the manner provided by the rules of the court or review board.

As we can see, the government went rather far in its efforts to better represent the victims of such criminal acts and, of course, to protect the victim and the public at large, while also looking after the rights of the accused.

I urge all hon. members to support Bill C-10. The amendments that are included in it provide better protection to an accused suffering from mental disorder, while giving a greater role to victims of criminal acts.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

February 7th, 2005 / 1:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Madam Speaker, both of the hon. member's questions are very valid.

In early January there was a territorial and provincial meeting of the ministers of justice who struck a working committee to address the nature of the financing. In terms of legal aid, the government has renewed and reviewed its commitment for the next three years with a view to expanding that program nationally.

I also would like to speak as the chair of the subcommittee on disabilities because this affects everyone, not just those with a physical disability but those with mental disorders. Bill C-10 would go a long way to addressing that component of the legislation that is being proposed. That is why it is very reassuring for all of us on that committee to see this kind of work coming through.

I am also very cognizant of the member's concern about the lack of psychiatric professional care nationally. I can only concur that it is something that through the ministers of health, and again with their collaboration with the ministers of justice through the recent working group, that I am sure that if any nation is going to address this question and do it right, Canada will be the one to do that.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

February 7th, 2005 / 12:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-10, an act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

I would like to thank the previous speakers for their recognition of the way the bill demonstrates how committees can cooperate for the general good. This spirit is most reassuring to all Canadians, to see all parties rise in support of the bill.

Bill C-10 will reform the provisions of the criminal law that govern persons found unfit to stand trial and not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.

These provisions are found in part XX.1 of the Criminal Code.

I would also point out that the National Defence Act includes similar provisions that are also amended by Bill C-10 to ensure consistency.

By way of background, in 1991 Parliament made significant reforms to modernize the law that governed persons found not guilty by reason of insanity. The 1991 reforms reflected the need to balance the rights of the mentally ill and the protection of public safety.

The reforms in Bill C-10 reflect and build upon the same goals as the 1991 reforms. Bill C-10 will further modernize the law and will effectively balance the rights of the mentally ill who come into conflict with the law with the public's right to safety.

The reforms complement and enhance the existing provisions of part XX.1 and more generally of the whole Criminal Code as it applies to persons ultimately found unfit to stand trial, or not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.

It is important to remind ourselves that when we are dealing with a bill to amend an existing act such as the Criminal Code, we must consider how the proposed amendments fit into the act. Bill C-10 is not a stand-alone regime to govern mentally disordered accused. The code already includes a comprehensive regime which will continue to apply, but will be improved in several important respects by the amendments in Bill C-10.

The criticism of this bill, like others before, is that it is too complicated and impossible to understand for a non-lawyer. We cannot deny that it is difficult to get a comprehensive view of the impact of this legislation if we merely read the amendments included in it. The fact is that this complexity is largely unavoidable. Indeed, the bill must use the same terminology as the Criminal Code and the appropriate legal language.

Some witnesses who appeared before the standing committee commented that a layman's guide would be helpful. I agree that some information material geared to the general public and also to victims of mentally disordered offenders should be developed. The committee would certainly encourage the Department of Justice to work with other stakeholders to develop this.

Members may recall that amendments enacted in 1991 called for a parliamentary review of the legislation five years following proclamation. The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights conducted the required review of the legislation in the spring of 2002. The committee's review was thorough and comprehensive. Oral or written submissions were made by 30 stakeholders, including members of the bar, crown attorneys, psychiatric hospital administrators, review board chairpersons, service providers and mental health advocates.

In June 2002 the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights tabled its report and made recommendations calling for legislative reform and other initiatives. The committee found that in general the law was working very well. However, the report noted that particular reforms were needed and proposed some specific amendments.

The main recommendations of the committee were intended to increase the powers of the boards responsible for reviewing the situation of an accused.

The repeal of the parts of the 1991 regime that were never proclaimed into force, including the capping provisions that would have set a maximum time limit on the supervision or detention of the accused and streamlining the transfer of accused persons between territories and provinces, new provisions to deal with persons who are permanently unfit to stand trial, enhanced protections for victims of crime who attend review board hearings, for example, publication bans on their identity in appropriate circumstances, and the opportunity to prepare and read a victim impact statement.

The committee also made recommendations calling for more in-depth research and consultation on emerging issues. The need to review the resources available to meet the needs of mentally disordered accused, including youth, and the need for better data collection and research. Bill C-10 reflects the advice and guidance provided by the committee and all those who appeared before the committee. It also includes additional necessary forums to address issues raised in the case law and in consultations conducted by the Department of Justice with key stakeholders over the past 10 years.

Bill C-10 was referred to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness following first reading. As noted in the debate on the motion to refer the bill to committee, hon. members were eager to carefully examine Bill C-10 to ensure that these reforms reflected their 2002 recommendations.

The standing committee has once again conducted a thorough examination of the bill and, based on its review and the testimony of the witnesses who appeared before it, has agreed to amend the bill as drafted to clarify specific provisions both in the code and in the National Defence Act, which has a parallel scheme to cover members found not criminally responsible for an offence under the National Defence Act.

Bill C-10, as introduced by the Minister of Justice and as amended by the standing committee, is an excellent example of collaboration by all members. Bill C-10 reflects our shared goal of providing a fair and balanced criminal law to cover the mentally disordered accused and to protect public safety.

After the committee's review and amendments, the main features of Bill C-10 are now as follows.

New powers for the review boards that exist in each province and territory to make important decisions governing mentally disordered and unfit accused. Review boards would be able to order an assessment of the mental condition of the accused to assist them in making the appropriate disposition for the accused, whether the accused should be discharged, held in custody in a hospital or discharged with conditions.

A new provision would permit the courts to determine whether a judicial stay of proceedings should be ordered for an unfit accused who is not likely to ever become fit to stand trial and who does not pose a significant threat to the safety of the public, where a stay is in the interest of the proper administration of justice.

An amendment to be made by the committee will make it clear that the first precondition is that the accused remains unfit and is not likely to ever become fit to stand trial. The court must base its determination of unfitness on clear information. An assessment must be ordered in all cases.

Recently the Supreme Court of Canada held, in Demers, that our law must provide for an accused who may never be fit to stand trial and who does not pose a significant threat to public safety to have criminal proceedings terminated. Bill C-10 includes a carefully crafted approach to ensure that a court may grant a judicial stay of proceedings for an unfit accused who is not likely ever to become fit and who is not dangerous, but public safety and other relevant factors must always be considered.

The need for these amendments was canvassed by the committee in 2002 and has been confirmed and made necessary by the Supreme Court's decision in Demers. The committee has reviewed the specific amendments and has proposed refinements to ensure the objectives are clearly reflected.

Victims impact statements may be read aloud or presented in another agreed upon manner by victims at review board hearings. In addition, notice will be provided to the victims of the hearing and relevant code provisions in accordance with rules to be developed by the court or review board. Review boards will also be required to provide specific notice to victims on request of upcoming hearings that may result in the conditional release of an accused from hospital or an absolute discharge.

Streamlined transfer provisions will be enacted to permit the safe and efficient transfer of a person not found criminally responsible on account of mental disorder or unfit from one province or territory to another.

More options will be available for the police to enforce disposition orders and assessment orders that take into account the need for the accused's treatment to continue. In appropriate cases the police will be able to release the accused after arrest and issue a promise to appear before a justice who will determine how the accused should be dealt with pending the next review board hearing.

The repeal of the provisions of the 1991 law that were never proclaimed, capping and related dangerous mentality disordered accused provisions and the hospital orders provision, have been widely supported.

A series of clarifications and technical amendments seeks to ensure that the bill's objectives are indeed achieved.

The standing committee drafted a number of amendments to clarify Bill C-10.

For example, the committee supported motions to enhance the role of victims, to clarify the test for a judicial stay and to improve and clarify the enforcement provisions.

As noted previously, Bill C-10 is the next step in ensuring that our laws are effective, efficient and fair in governing mentally disordered accused. These reforms are necessary but they do not significantly overhaul the regime that governs the mentally disordered. The law works well and will continue to work well, and now better as a result of Bill C-10.

The provisions of the code have remained unchanged since 1991 but the case law has evolved and new issues have emerged, for example, the expanded role for victims of crime.

The Supreme Court of Canada has confirmed that our law must respect two goals: protection of the rights of the mentally disordered accused and protection of public safety.

Bill C-10 has been widely supported and carefully reviewed by the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. I am confident that the members of the committee share my goal of speedy passage of the bill by the House. I hope all members will support the amendments.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

February 7th, 2005 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, my colleague from the Bloc Québécois is a tough act to follow. He speaks so eloquently in both official languages.

The federal New Democratic Party will be supporting Bill C-10 and the efforts of the committee and others in order that the bill passes quickly. On behalf of our colleague from Windsor--Tecumseh, the justice critic for the federal NDP, I wish to state briefly the reasons we are supporting the bill.

At first glance it is a response to the June 2002 report of the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness which reviewed the mental disorder provisions of the Criminal Code. The bill addresses the issue of how to deal with an accused who is unfit to stand trial. In other words the accused is so incapacitated that he or she cannot be tried and convicted or acquitted.

Provincially appointed review boards are charged with the task of determining how an unfit accused should be supervised. Bill C-10 increases the authority of the review boards, including allowing them to order psychiatric assessments of the accused, requiring the accused's presence at a hearing, and lengthening the time between review hearings when appropriate. The bill also allows victims to read a victim impact statement at board hearings and allows for publication bans to protect victims or witnesses.

Changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act and the National Defence Act are also included in the proposed legislation to ensure consistency with the Criminal Code reforms on mental disorder provisions. The proposed changes to the National Defence Act would address issues arising from court martial proceedings.

If I may go slightly off topic, we talked about the review boards and the provincial side and we also talked about the rights of the accused. There are two very glaring problems in this country which need to be addressed. I was hoping that they would be addressed in order to facilitate the passage of this bill because once the bill is passed, it will leave our House and we more or less will have washed our hands of it.

There is a very serious shortage of psychiatrists and psychologists throughout Canada. Many people who are suffering from mental challenges are not getting the help they need because there simply are not enough of those trained professionals across the country. It is also very expensive to hire and to train psychologists and psychiatrists in order to assist our mentally challenged.

Without proper and adequate funding to ensure that the provinces have the resources in order to hire these individuals, then something like Bill C-10 may fall through the cracks. If victims who are mentally challenged or who fall under the parameters of mental disorders cannot get the help they need, or if the courts do not have access to the professionals for an analysis of the situation, there could be problems down the road.

There is also the issue of people in poverty and their access to legal aid. Throughout the country there is not one jurisdiction where legal aid is not suffering under the weight of a lack of resources. There is a lack of legal professionals and a lack of attention being paid to legal aid.

This country was founded upon the principle that everyone is equal before the law and everyone should have their day in court. We know all too well that there are two justice systems in this country, one for the poor and one for the wealthy. That should not happen. People who are accused of anything in this country, especially those with mental disorders, should have access to psychiatric help and analysis, and should have access to legal aid if they cannot afford a lawyer. This is so critical.

In my riding we deal with a lot of cases where people have been charged with an offence or they are before the courts. Very few Canadians really understand the court system until they themselves appear before a judge or a jury. One thing that is very helpful is the access to legal assistance and legal aid. This country is severely lacking adequate resources for trained psychologists and psychiatric personnel as well as for legal aid professionals. If we assist in those areas across the country, upgrading those two professions, then people who eventually run across something like Bill C-10 or run across the legal system in any way will have timely and adequate assistance in dealing with their cases before the law and in other jurisdictions.

My colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh and I want to say that the committee has worked very well on this particular subject. As my colleague from the Conservatives indicated, this is how Parliament should work. When there are slight disagreements, we work them out together and come up with something that everyone can accept.

Bill C-10 is something the House should be able to adopt and move on fairly quickly. At the same time we cannot drop the ball on the issue of funding resources and training for psychiatric personnel and professionals and those people within the legal aid system throughout the country.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

February 7th, 2005 / 12:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Richard Marceau Charlesbourg, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely pleased today to speak on Bill C-10, currently before the House. Like many bills considered by the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, this is an extremely important bill because it concerns, on the one hand, the rights and freedoms of numerous individuals, in this case those with psychiatric disorders and, on the other, public safety.

It is, therefore, our duty as parliamentarians, particularly the ones who sit on the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, to find the necessary balance between these two fundamental positions in our society: respect for individual rights and freedoms and for public safety, which obviously includes security of the person.

The Bloc Québécois is always cognizant of the need to maintain this extremely fragile balance, in our societies, often more fragile than we know. This balance was, in our opinion, destroyed by Bill C-36 and the anti-terrorism legislation introduced by this government in the last Parliament. So, we are carefully watching these areas because they are of great concern to us, even more so since, in the past, the government has destroyed this balance with other bills and legislation it has passed in this House. This makes us twice as careful about similar issues.

I will echo my Conservative predecessor. I took part in this process based on a desire to cooperate. I have personally tested how this minority government works since it was elected on June 28. At that time, as we know, 54 Bloc members were elected. This is a shining victory for our party, due, among other things, to the quite exceptional performance of our leader, the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, during the election campaign. As a result, it is the duty and obligation of the government to work in cooperation with all the parties. It has no choice.

I have to admit this was not the case in the past. The Liberal Party of Canada, with its too frequent tendency to feel proprietorial about the seat of government, has tended to be far too arrogant and disagreeable, not just toward Canadians in general, but toward MPs of all parties in this House. It has had an all too frequent tendency to make decisions with little consultation and very little cooperation with the parties in opposition, saying that it would simply ensure that this or that bill got passed because of its majority position. Too often, in my opinion, this House as well as the entire legislative process suffered in the process. As a result, Quebec, and all of Canada, were deprived of the positive input that could have come from their representatives, the opposition MPs in particular.

It is important to point out that question period, which will start in another hour and a half or so, is very much a confrontational situation, despite its very important parliamentary role. The opposition calls for an accounting from the government, and it has to provide answers in the House. This is very much a confrontational exercise. In a parliament based on the British tradition, moreover, the members are placed in such a way as to encourage confrontation across the floor.

What the general public is less aware of is that the committee context offers an opportunity to work together, if the will is there of course, without partisan politics, in order to achieve objectives that are, when it comes down to it, quite similar for all parties, with the obvious exception of the Bloc Québécois objective of making Quebec a sovereign country.

I have tested the government's declared willingness to cooperate. I have found both the Minister of Justice and his parliamentary secretary willing to sit down with us, willing to consult us and willing to explain their point of view. In addition, for the first time in a very long time—I have been a member of Parliament since 1997—I found them demonstrating a willingness to listen to what opposition members had to say regarding the various bills, including Bill C-10.

I can tell the parliamentary secretary and the Minister of Justice that I am prepared to continue working with them in this spirit of collaboration which they exhibited concerning Bill C-10. I hope that this willingness to cooperate will continue for the good of the entire population. This willingness to cooperate has been demonstrated with respect to the amendments to Bill C-10 proposed by the Bloc Québécois, which were of course based on research and detailed legal analysis of that bill, as well as on the considerable amount of testimony heard by the committee.

The quality of the witnesses appearing before the justice committee is exceptional. We benefit from listening to them and retaining their suggestions, because the men and women who come to give us their viewpoint do so admirably and they are thoroughly familiar with the issue. Often, just among ourselves, they know the issue much better than the members of Parliament do, at least as the legislative process begins. Thus they can shed light on certain questions which in our first analysis, we might have ignored, or to which we might not have given the attention they deserved.

Two questions have been studied by the committee, particularly by the Bloc members. I would like to say something about each of them. First, there is the question of who will conduct the psychiatric assessment of these people. We know that many of us here in this House come from regions where psychiatrists are scarce. It was important to ensure that people who must be assessed could be assessed not only by psychiatrists, but also by other, perhaps differently qualified individuals, selected by the government of each province.

This would allow people with mental disorders to be assessed in their own regions without having to go to big cities and would prevent the provincial governments from having to spend a fortune on sending a psychiatrist to a region without one.

This amendment, which was suggested by many witnesses, was presented in the committee by the Bloc. Although the wording has been changed, the government and I did manage to agree on it. This amendment was presented and adopted in the committee.

We worked on another amendment, which has to do with the victims. We know that victims are far too often forgotten in the cumbersome legal process. They are the ones who have been hurt by a certain action. They might be hurt physically, psychologically or often both. It is very important for me to make this a basic issue in any discussion I have on this matter as Bloc Québécois justice critic. It is a basic and unwaivering concern of mine to ensure that these men and women who are victims of violence do not feel lost in the justice system, which is very complex, even to lawyers.

One of the amendments we proposed, which was also changed in cooperation with the government, would ensure that victims' rights are taken into consideration.

There are a few other amendments that I proposed in the committee. For those who have followed the work of the committee, I tabled amendment BQ-1, which I withdrew following a commitment made by the government.

As I was saying earlier to the parliamentary secretary, just before my speech, after I withdrew my amendment to redefine unfit to stand trial or not criminally responsible, the government promised that this issue would be raised during a meeting of the federal, provincial and territorial justice ministers. By the end of this session, before the summer adjournment, the government will come back before the committee to give a progress report on its work on this part of the bill. The government repeated this commitment earlier.

Besides amendment BQ-1 and all subsequent amendments, another very important amendment was withdrawn, namely amendment BQ-10. I am sorry to be so technical. The government promised to revisit the matter. This is an amendment to paragraph 672.5(8), which stood in my name. The government had asked me to withdraw my amendment because it believed that it was placing a rather heavy obligation on the provinces and on the legal aid system in particular.

The government made a commitment to come back before the committee after raising this issue once more at a federal-provincial conference. I am very anxious to hear what the government will have to say on the matter. As I said at the beginning of my speech, any legislation dealing with the balance between the rights and freedoms of individuals and those of society deserves our full attention, and there is always room for improvement.

Depending on the government's response following its discussions with the provinces, I may have to come back with a bill or go back to committee to try and amend this bill again.

Finally, amendment BQ-19 was the last one to be withdrawn following discussions with the government. I cannot go through all the amendments. It was withdrawn following a very productive meeting I had at my office with the various Justice officials before attending a committee meeting.

All that to say that, at this stage, we support Bill C-10, which was improved on through the consensual effort of the different parties in the House of Commons. I hope this atmosphere of cooperation and collaboration will continue.

On behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I pledge to continue working along those lines, because the interests of Quebeckers and Canadians are much better served when parliamentarians and the different parties work together to provide the people who send us here with the very best legislation.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

February 7th, 2005 / 12:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, this is the first time I have had a chance to speak in support of Bill C-10, and I am pleased to have been given the opportunity to do so today.

The entire debate of the bill in the House and in committee should serve as an example of how Parliament should work. I want to thank the hon. member for Provencher and the other members of the justice committee for the role they played in making Bill C-10 an even better piece of legislation.

The bill would modernize the mental disorder provisions of the Criminal Code to make it more fair and efficient, while preserving the overall framework of the provisions.

Bill C-10 explains and modernizes the provisions of the Criminal Code dealing with mental disability. The bill also would make consequential amendments to several related statutes to ensure consistency with the Criminal Code provisions on mental disorder.

Bill C-10 attempts to respect individual rights while ensuring public safety. Its amendments cover: review board authority; “permanently unfit accused victims;” repeal of unproclaimed provisions of the 1992 reforms to the Criminal Code; interprovincial transfer of unfit accused persons; and police powers. They run the entire gamut in regard to this issue.

Bill C-10 is the second step that the federal government has taken to elaborate and clarify a defence in the Criminal Code based on the mental disorder. Bill C-30 was the first.

Following the production of several reports between 1979 and 1985, in 1985 the Department of Justice released the final report of the mental disorder project. Based on that report, a draft bill was proposed by the Minister of Justice in 1986 to deal with the criminal insanity defence. Consultations on the bill continued through to the 1988 election.

The final push for change came in 1991 with the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Regina v. Swain, dealing with the defence of insanity. The Supreme Court struck down the legislation and common law practices dealing with this defence as unconstitutional.

Following this decision in 1991, the former Progressive Conservative government introduced Bill C-30 to modernize the insanity defence, to remedy the parts that the Supreme Court had deemed against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and to allow the courts to use certain set criteria in determining whether an accused person was unfit to stand trial.

Bill C-30 modernized the insanity test by replacing “in a state of natural imbecility” and “disease of the mind” in subsection 16(1) of the Criminal Code with the words “mental disorder”. However, “mental disorder” continued to be defined in section 2 of the Criminal Code as a “disease of the mind,” allowing common law rules to continue governing the application of the previously known as “insanity defence”.

Bill C-30 provided a new definition and criteria for “fitness” as defined in section 2 of the Criminal Code, as well as allowing the courts to order involuntary treatment for the mentally disordered.

Bill C-30 also introduced an extension to the 10 year detention cap for a mentally disordered person if they were accused of a serious personal injury offence, carrying a penalty of 10 years or more. These provisions allowed the courts to detain such offenders for life instead of 10 years. Bill C-30 received royal assent in 1992.

In response to the report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in 2002, the government introduced Bill C-10 to address some of the concerns raised regarding mental disorder provisions in the Criminal Code.

The report that was put forward in 2002 was approved by all parties. In fact, the result of the review is an important example of how committees, when they are focused on the issues rather than partisan politics, can work in a cooperative fashion. This report is a demonstration of that cooperation and the value of committee work. I wish more committees would take note of the fact that we can work cooperatively and achieve our common goals.

Bill C-10 takes into account many of the recommendations of the justice committee's report in June 2002 as well as further input from the Department of Justice consultations with stakeholders.

The amendments in Bill C-10 address six key areas: first, the expansion of the review board powers; second, permitting the court to order a stay of proceedings for permanently unfit accused; third, allowing a victim impact statement to be read; fourth, the repeal of unproclaimed provisions; fifth, the streamlining of transfer provisions between provinces; and sixth, the expansion of police powers to enforce dispositions and assessment orders.

Bill C-10 was introduced and read the first time on October 8, 2004. On October 22, 2004, the motion was adopted and the bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness before second reading. The justice committee held six meetings and heard 24 witnesses and reported the bill back to the House with amendments on December 10, 2004. Bill C-10 was concurred in at report stage on February 4, 2005.

The amendments made to Bill C-10 were primarily minor technical ones that included: an amendment that made the description of what kinds of health professionals could do assessments on mentally disordered accused more flexible; amendments that clarify how copies of documents can be provided to review boards; amendments concerned with victims' rights in terms of how and when they are notified of hearings as well as in terms of their victim impact statements; amendments dealing with summons for the accused; amendments dealing with how we determine the fitness of the accused to stand trial; an amendment incorporating the language recommended by the Supreme Court case regarding clear evidence, even though our party did not agree with this language because it was not clear what was meant by “clear evidence”; an amendment clarifying a provision giving flexibility to police; and several amendments clarifying the French expressions and ensuring that they mirror the English expressions in meaning and intent.

In closing, I would like to thank the members of the House and the members of the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness for the cooperative spirit with which they addressed the debate and the amending of this important piece of legislation.