Safe Streets and Communities Act
An Act to enact the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and to amend the State Immunity Act, the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other Acts
Rob Nicholson Conservative
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
- March 12, 2012 Passed That the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-10, An Act to enact the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and to amend the State Immunity Act, the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other Acts, be now read a second time and concurred in.
- March 12, 2012 Failed That the motion be amended by deleting all of the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “a message be sent to the Senate to acquaint their Honours that the House disagrees with the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-10, An Act to enact the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and to amend the State Immunity Act, the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other Acts, because relying on the government to list states which support or engage in terrorism risks unnecessarily politicizing the process of obtaining justice for victims of terrorism.”.
- March 7, 2012 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-10, An Act to enact the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and to amend the State Immunity Act, the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other Acts, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the stage of consideration of Senate amendments to the Bill; and That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Business on the day allotted to the consideration of the said stage of the said bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.
- Dec. 5, 2011 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
- Nov. 30, 2011 Passed That Bill C-10, An Act to enact the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and to amend the State Immunity Act, the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other Acts, as amended, be concurred in at report stage.
- Nov. 30, 2011 Failed That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 183.
- Nov. 30, 2011 Failed That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 136.
- Nov. 30, 2011 Failed That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 108.
- Nov. 30, 2011 Failed That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 54.
- Nov. 30, 2011 Failed That Bill C-10, in Clause 42, be amended by replacing lines 3 to 8 on page 26 with the following: “( a) the offender, before entering a plea, was notified of the possible imposition of a minimum punishment for the offence in question and of the Attorney General's intention to prove any factors in relation to the offence that would lead to the imposition of a minimum punishment; and ( b) there are no exceptional circumstances related to the offender or the offence in question that justify imposing a shorter term of imprisonment than the mandatory minimum established for that offence.”
- Nov. 30, 2011 Failed That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 39.
- Nov. 30, 2011 Failed That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting Clause 34.
- Nov. 30, 2011 Failed That Bill C-10, in Clause 2, be amended by adding after line 6 on page 5 the following: “(6) In any action under subsection (1), the defendant’s conduct is deemed to have caused or contributed to the loss of or damage to the plaintiff if the court finds that ( a) a listed entity caused or contributed to the loss or damage by engaging in conduct that is contrary to any provision of Part II.1 of the Criminal Code, whether the conduct occurred in or outside Canada; and ( b) the defendant engaged in conduct that is contrary to any of sections 83.02 to 83.04, 83.08, 83.1, 83.11, or 83.18 to 83.231 of the Criminal Code for the benefit of or otherwise in relation to that listed entity.”
- Nov. 30, 2011 Failed That Bill C-10, in Clause 2, be amended by adding after line 10 on page 3 the following: ““terrorism” includes torture. “torture” has the meaning given to that term in article 1, paragraph 1 of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.”
- Nov. 30, 2011 Failed That Bill C-10 be amended by deleting clause 1.
- Nov. 30, 2011 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-10, An Act to enact the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and to amend the State Immunity Act, the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other Acts, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at report stage of the Bill and one sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill; and That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at report stage and on the day allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the stage of the Bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.
- Sept. 28, 2011 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
- Sept. 28, 2011 Failed That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “this House decline to give second reading to Bill C-10, An Act to enact the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and to amend the State Immunity Act, the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other Acts, because its provisions ignore the best evidence with respect to public safety, crime prevention and rehabilitation of offenders; because its cost to the federal treasury and the cost to be downloaded onto the provinces for corrections have not been clearly articulated to this House; and because the bundling of these many pieces of legislation into a single bill will compromise Parliament’s ability to review and scrutinize its contents and implications on behalf of Canadians”.
- Sept. 27, 2011 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-10, An Act to enact the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and to amend the State Immunity Act, the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other Acts, not more than two further sitting days shall be allotted to the consideration of the second reading stage of the Bill; and that, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the second day allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.
Extension of Sitting Hours
May 21st, 2013 / 1 p.m.
Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am not very happy about being here. However, I am here because we need to stand up to this government, which believes that Parliament exists only for its benefit and that it is just a place concerned with the government's problems and accountability.
It is almost as if a new party came into the House today, as we listen to the Conservative House leader speak. It certainly is not the party that moved prorogation and killed legislation time and again. This new Conservative Party is suddenly interested in not defeating legislation. It could not be the same Conservative Party that has shut down debate in the House of Commons more than any party in Canadian history. It could not be a member of the same party who was speaking here today, talking about opening up debate. The Conservatives have invented a new world for themselves that is fascinating.
I am reflecting on my friend from Langley, who sought to speak in this House on what they call an S. O. 31 statement, which happens just before question period. It is a statement that lasts for about a minute. Usually members of Parliament get up and make a statement about their ridings about some issue that is important to them. My friend from Langley, who sits in the Conservative Party, was a parliamentary secretary, I remember, for the Minister of the Environment, a chair, a well-respected member of Parliament, and a friend. He sought to stand up and speak to something he thought was important to his constituents.
It was the old Conservative Party that shut down that member of Parliament and every other one who tried to get up and speak, because this new Conservative Party talks about wanting people to speak in the House and wanting to have debate.
While it is refreshing to hear it, I do not believe it, and I do not think Canadians are going to believe that suddenly accountability and democracy have broken out within the Prime Minister's Office. It is the office of this particular Prime Minister who, rather than face any uncomfortable questions from the media or the official opposition members today, or for the rest of this week, has decided that going to South America to sit with other trading partners from other countries we already have established trade deals with to talk about trade deals that already exist is much more important than asking questions about the Senate.
It must be a new Conservative Party that suddenly has on its agenda a legislative directive that the members need to sit longer hours and work hard on something that might be quite topical today, something such as the reform of Canada's Senate, which has been long overdue and long called for by Canadians and New Democrats who said that the place was fundamentally broken. There is no accountability. Unelected and under investigation is the new Senate.
I remember the old Reform Party. You probably do as well, Mr. Speaker. It came in riding from the west, from my part of the world.
I see a member across the way, who was one of the founding members of the Reform Party, calling it a beautiful thing. While I disagreed fundamentally with many of its positions, certainly its social positions, there was something on which I could see some common ground. That was to make Parliament more accountable and to reform the Senate.
The current government has now been in power almost seven long years. Is that right? The time goes slowly. In those six or seven years, the Prime Minister made a promise as one of his fundamental commitments to Canadians. Commitments should be treated sacredly, I believe.
We all get up at elections. We have party platforms and promises we make to Canadians. If we win, that platform and those promises become our agenda. That is what we would seek to do in office. It is simple. One of his promises, one of his agendas, one of his reforms was on the Senate. When the Conservatives were in opposition, they would see those Liberal senators down there taking their money, not really representing anybody, going on trips and maybe even defrauding taxpayers. Who knows? The Reform movement came in and said it was wrong and anti-democratic.
For a party that decided to put “democratic” right in the middle of our name, we take these questions seriously. We feel that it is accountability to the people we on the orange team represent. In a sense, we are watching this Prime Minister now play victim to what is going on in the Senate with senators he appointed exclusively and explicitly to raise money for the Conservative Party of Canada. Now this same Prime Minister claims victimhood and wonders how this happened. How did his chief of staff, who sits to his immediate left every day and knows his deepest, darkest secrets, whom he put in charge of major trade files and negotiations with other countries, cut a $90,000 cheque to a senator he appointed? However, obviously, the Prime Minister's hands are clean, and he has nothing to say about this. He believes that his hands are so clean that he is not going to answer any questions about it. He is going to go to South America to be in trade talks with countries we already have trade deals with. That is the new Conservative Party, which is the old one, the same one that has forgotten its roots.
Dear Mr. Manning is still with us, so he is not spinning in his grave, but he is definitely spinning. He was asked recently whether the Conservatives have lost their principles. He said, no, they have maintained their priorities. It is an interesting dodge of a question. Mr. Speaker, you have been around politics a bit. You know when a question is put directly and someone answers it indirectly.
I find it incredible that we have before us a motion that continues to abuse Parliament. This motion is designed simply to restrict debate and demonstrate to members of the House of Commons that the only reason Parliament exists is so that the government can do what it wants.
I remember a comment made by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. When we were debating a time allocation motion, he said that their intention was not to put an end to debate or to censure it, but just to control Parliament.
It is incredible that a minister is admitting that the Conservatives just want to control the Parliament of Canada. It also reflects the Conservatives' esprit de corps. They want to control everything, not just the opposition and Parliament, but their members, as well as the media and the public.
The current vision of the Prime Minister and the government leaves the public with no choice and no voice. It is all about the kind of country that the Prime Minister wants to build.
We see a government moving this extraordinary thing, which will see, big deal, members of Parliament sitting until midnight.
New Democrats have been known, sometimes to our detriment, to be willing to force the calendar to the very last minute and sit all night, such as when the government moved anti-worker legislation against a very profitable Canada Post, which, I might add, in a parenthetical way, then lost money.
After the lockout by Canada Post, the government imposed wage contracts on those workers that were less than what the company was willing to offer. Then it said that it needed to shut down Canada Post offices around the country, as Canada Post was losing money because of the lockout it allowed them to do. The logic is inherently twisted on that side.
Remember the omnibus debates and the voting we had. I remember my friend from the Green Party moving a certain number of amendments to the bill, which forced the House to sit all night and vote, hour after hour. I remember some of my friends from Surrey who stayed in their seats for 22 hours.
No one has ever accused New Democrats of not being willing to come to work and work on behalf of our constituents. We may do some things wrong. We may sometimes fall short in some areas, but hard work has not ever been one of those things.
There is such irony in hearing a Conservative House leader who, with his Prime Minister, has prorogued Parliament, shut it down, and killed their government's own legislation time and time again, say to the Speaker that the problem is that they cannot get their legislation through.
It had been there for 12 months. After eight months, they killed it themselves and prorogued the House.
One prorogation was quite notable. The government looked to be in a bit of trouble. It was in a minority position. The world was entering into a very deep recession. The Minister of Finance, who claims to be the best in the world, ignored the recession and introduced what the Conservatives called an austerity budget at the very moment when the rest of the world, realizing that the economy was coming to a virtual standstill, was introducing budgets that did the opposite.
The finance genius we have sitting in the chair said, “Never mind what the rest of the world thinks about what is going on in the global economy; we know that Canada is not going into recession”, even as we were in the midst of a recession. He introduced an austerity budget to cut back billions in job creation, in grants and in all the things the Conservatives take credit for, such as unemployment insurance for a bunch of Canadians who were just being thrown out of work.
The opposition said that it was not a very good budget and suggested that we vote against that budget. The government panicked and prorogued. Canadians got a civil lesson in how Parliament works. They had never heard the word “prorogation” before. Then we got to learn.
The Prime Minister had to go to the Governor General. He sat there for a number of hours, perhaps being lectured about how undemocratic it was, when facing a non-confidence vote, to head down the road to the Queen's representative to ask for permission to shut it all down before he was thrown out of office. He was more worried about his job that day than about Canadians. That is for sure.
That is a government that killed its legislation in order to save itself, and did it time and time again.
Here is the trend that we worry about with today's motion. For a government that has broken the record by shutting down debate more times than any government in Canadian history, it has refused 99.3% of all the amendments that the opposition has brought to its legislation.
Let us look at that for a moment. The way a bill is supposed to work is it comes into the House and gets debated. There is a pro and con and the real coming together or clash of ideas to improve the legislation because no one is perfect. The drafters of legislation do not get it right. They are sometimes hundreds of pages long and very complicated. The House is meant to debate that. Then we send it to committee and hear from experts, not just members of Parliament who are not often experts in these areas, but people who work in the field. They are the social workers, the financial experts, the crime experts and the police. We hear those suggestions and write amendments based on those ideas. That is the way this place is supposed to work.
However, the government is saying that in 99.3% of those cases those experts are wrong and the government is right. It will not change a period, a comma, not a word in any of the legislation. Then lo and behold, time and time again, the legislation is challenged in the courts successfully. The legislation does not fix the problems identified and costs Canada and Canadians billions.
We all remember well Bill C-30, the Internet snooping bill that would allow the state to look in on the Internet searches and emails of Canadians without any warrant. The government decided in its vigour for its tough on crime agenda that it would pass a law that said that at any point, at any time, Canadians anywhere could have their BlackBerrys and iPhones tapped by the government, that web searches on home computers could be looked at by the government and the police. There is no country in the world, outside of Iran and North Korea, that would even consider doing this. The Conservative government thought it was a fantastic idea. In trying to argue the case, it said that if we were not into exposing our Internet searches and our emails then we must be in support of child pornography.
Has any more offensive or stupid an argument ever been made on the floor of the House of Commons? It is offensive to basic civil liberties and decency, to the role of members of Parliament trying to do our jobs and to the Canadians who said that they were not sure they wanted the government looking at their email?
I look at the member for Yukon right now. I do not know what he is searching and I do not want to know. It is his privacy to look on his computer and do as he sees fit. That is a civil liberty I am sure he defends as well, but not his government.
Bill C-10, the omnibus crime bill, was the flagship. The government rammed it all into one bill and said that it was such important legislation it would shut down debate on it too. Then whole sections of the bill were taken out. Why? It was because they were unconstitutional.
Now we know where that all comes from. Canadians actually pay for a service. Many members of Parliament may not know this, but when a government introduces a bill it goes to constitutional legal experts to determine if the new legislation goes against our constitution, our foundation as a country? If it does, it is a good idea to modify the law to ensure it does not get challenged in the courts, which costs upwards of $3 million to $5 million to taxpayers every time there is one of those challenges. The government did not check on Bill C-10. We know that because the people who work for the Government of Canada, who do this work, are no longer receiving references from the government.
The government is not even asking anymore. It is choosing ignorance. This is incredible. It is saying that it does not want to know whether the laws it writes are constitutional, whether the laws it writes as a government are for or against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is incredible. This is not a mistake. It is by intention. Therefore, we have these lawyers sitting in their offices, being paid every day, waiting for the government to refer the bills it introduces here to ensure they can survive a constitutional challenge. The government does not ask anymore.
Bill C-38, the first omnibus bill and Bill C-45, the second omnibus bill, were both challenged in the courts as unconstitutional. First nations are challenging it. I need to address this because the government House leader mentioned two bills that are being moved, so-called, on behalf of first nations. They are Bill S-2 and Bill S-8. One is matrimonial property rights. It sounds pretty innocuous. Most Canadians would say that matrimonial property rights for first nations women on reserve maybe protects their rights. Who is opposed to it? It is not just us in the opposition, but aboriginal women, every first nation women's group in the country. My friend across the way shakes his head, but I can show him the testimony that says the bill is no good for aboriginal women.
However, the Conservatives know better. With their shameful record on aboriginal rights and title in the country, suddenly they know better than aboriginal women, than first nations women. Bill S-8 is a bill to help first nations have clean drinking water because the record has been shameful.
Government after government has failed first nations communities. Thirty-five per cent of the people I represent in northern British Columbia are in first nations communities. The water conditions there are incredibly bad. We have to do something about it. There are fixes and there are ideas coming from those communities.
Instead the government moves the bill, handing all responsibility down to first nations in terms of cleaning up their own water mess, but none of the resources to do it. Are first nations supportive of it? No. Nor would any municipality or any province in Canada be supportive of legislation that rams down responsibility without any of the support, money or help to get that done.
Most of these first nations communities are living in abject poverty. Where does the government think they are going to get the money from? The government will not settle treaty with them in the west. First nations are having mining, oil and gas exploration and pipelines put everywhere and are receiving none of the royalties, none of the compensation and the government will not move treaty forward.
I was just in Gitxsan territory, speaking with the Gitxsan and the Wet'suwet'en, talking about basic child services, kids who are being abused in their homes and setting up a program that the federal government said that we should enact 20 years ago to allow first nations more rights and responsibilities to rescue those kids and help them kids integrate back into their communities.
Who is not coming to the table? The Conservative government. This is the government that on Bill S-2 and Bill S-8 suddenly said that it had first nations rights and title and priorities at heart, when it did not.
The place can work. Members can sense a certain amount of frustration in my voice, because Parliament can work. It is actually designed to work. I love our system. It is so superior to many other systems I have studied around the world, that have consistent congressional gridlock on legislation and on budgets. We can make things happen here.
However, with the power that is afforded a majority government, which is a lot, comes a certain amount of responsibility to use the power wisely and not abuse it. Yet time and again we have seen the government House leader and other ministers get up and say that they are not looking to limit the debate; they just want to control it. They reject virtually 100% of all the amendments and all the changes and suggestions they hear at committee because they know better and they have the votes to push it forward.
It is at such a point that the control has extended deeply into the government's caucus. Some of the more socially conservative members of the Conservative caucus are no longer free to speak, or are only free to speak on certain things, in certain ways, if the Prime Minister's Office allows for it.
In a small program that we run in northern B.C., initiated a number of years ago, I hold a conference call with all the detachment commanders from all the RCMP outposts that exist in my riding. It is a very large riding facing a lot of tough, difficult situations with policing. Once every two or three months I get on the phone with 12 detachment commanders and we talk about what is going on. We talk about what is happening in crime, what the drug use is like, what legislation is moving through the House that will help or hinder these hard-working, hard-serving officers.
I am not allowed to have that conversation with these RCMP officers anymore. I am not supposed to talk to them. As a sitting member of Parliament, I am not supposed to go to them. A number of them have come to me because they are friends and we have known each other for years. They offer good, on-the-ground advice about what is happening.
They say that they are sorry, that they cannot talk to me. They tell me that I have to phone the Prime Minister's Office in order for them to talk to me about what is going on in Prince Rupert, or what is going on in Dease Lake or Bella Coola.
It is insane. This is wrong. Government officials at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, who I have known for years and who I phone just for an update to see what is going on with our fish on the west coast, tell me that I am a member of Parliament from the opposition and that I need to phone the people in the Prime Minister's Office and that they will give me permission as to whether they can tell me what is going on in Canada's fishery.
This is not their government. This is not a Conservative government. This is Canada's government. We pay for these civil servants. We pay their salaries to do work on behalf of Canadians. Whether it is silencing scientists, shutting down access for members of Parliament to basic conversations, or shutting down debate in Parliament, the consistent voice from the government is that it will not be held to account.
This is bad. This is not just about the privilege all members of the House need to do their job. The government says there is some urgency, but there is not. There is no urgency when it comes to the government's mandate or agenda.
It is very strange for the government to say it is very open, when we see what is going on in the Senate.
We have senators like Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau. All current senators have potentially stolen money from Canadians. These are the same senators that the Prime Minister says are very good people. These are the same senators using money from the Canadian people to travel during an election and raise money for the Conservative Party. That is the new Conservative Party. I do not understand.
I remember the Reform Party of Canada and some reforms that Mr. Manning wanted to make. With the current party, it is the same story as with the Liberal Party and the Gomery commission and all the rest. I am both angry and sad.
The majority of Canadians did not vote for this government, which has a majority, but does not have the majority support of Canadians. Close to 60% of Canadians voted against this agenda, against this sort of arrogance. They voted not to have the kind of government that now uses brutal tactics, not against the New Democratic Party, but against Parliament.
Lastly, I think we need to have a referendum, which may not happen until the next election.
It bears some comment, not only with respect to the Senate scandal but even the motion today.
I watched the government House leader and the Prime Minister on television earlier. He actually allowed the media into his caucus room for a second, which was bizarre. The bully turns into the victim, that somehow this is put upon them, that they are somehow being victimized here.
What frustrates me is not just the work that we have to do as parliamentarians that is constantly thwarted by the government at committee stage, and my friend laughs, but how can it be possible that 99.3% of all amendments were rejected? The evidence is clear.
My friend can shake his head and laugh and treat this with disdain treat this with disdain or heckle out what seems to be a favourite tactic of some of my friends who cannot win the debate, but can simply sit in their seats and heckle, yell and try to put down a comment that hurts a little too much, that being that 99.3% of all amendments were rejected, that the witnesses were all wrong, that the government was always right and that the courts must be wrong too. Soon the Conservatives will call them activist courts like the Republicans do in the states. Members should watch for it because it is coming.
We believe this motion is fundamentally flawed in its abuse of this place and of all members. I do not speak just for the New Democrats or the folks down the way. I speak for the backbenchers who have been rubbing up against some of the limitations. What is sad about most of it and is most concerning is those who are not agitating against the Conservative government's control over its backbench and accepting it. I lament the most for those who are so comfortable reading the script from the Prime Minister's Office and repeating it like robots, feeling that is their work and whose expectations of what it is to be a member of Parliament are so diminished that they simply accept it, not those the media have called rebels who have stood up and stated that they want to have their own statement but the Prime Minister's Office has shut them down. They run under the blue banner, which is their choice.
I lament for those who seem so happy to get up and repeat the mindless dribble that is put to them by the Prime Minister's Office day after day. When they first ran for office, I wonder if they said that they wanted to be a member of Parliament to represent people and get to Parliament to speak with a strong voice of conviction on behalf of the people they represent and that in order to do they would read whatever was put in front of them by the Prime Minister's Office, written by a 24-year old intern who types out some sort of nonsense and makes up policies that the NDP does not have, making personal attacks on a regular basis as a substitute for honest and sincere debate? Was that really their expectation?
I wish I had some video evidence from some of those early debates because I know that is not what those members ran on. I know their nomination meetings did not look like that, nor did any of the debates they attended during the campaign. That is not what they said. They said that they would speak on behalf of their constituents, fight for them and still raise their voice, even if that meant it was contrary to what their government suggested.
I am sure that is what my friends across the way said. They are very nice people. I know a lot of these folks, as we have spent some time together. I know some of their inner thoughts about the way Parliament ought to be, and some of them lament it. However, it is the ones who do not who worry me. They are the ones who so comfortably slip into that straitjacket day after day. Maybe they just get used to it, but they are able to rationalize that there is some larger agenda that is more important than their having an independent and free voice.
They can keep yelling and you can allow them to if you wish, Mr. Speaker, but the truth often hurts, and the truth of the matter is that with a majority government, this member and his colleagues have chosen to vote for closure more than any government in Canadian history. With a majority, the Conservative government has refused the evidence, has refused the science time and time again, and that government is bad government.
The Conservative government appointed senators, and I am sure some fundraising went on for some of my friends. Maybe Ms. Wallin, Mr. Duffy or Mr. Brazeau came by and raised a few dollars, shook a few hands and got a few votes for my friends. Maybe there is a little bit of a tarnish on my colleagues, which is why they are calling out and why they are worried. It is because their base hates this. They hate the idea of entitlement and of an insider's game that goes on in Ottawa all the time, and that friends of the Prime Minister's Office get some sort of special treatment.
Talking about special treatment, how about a $90,000 personal cheque just cut off the back and handed over to somebody who may have defrauded taxpayers? Where is the Reform Party now? Where are the original Conservative intentions now? They are gone, bit by bit, eroded piece by piece. That is where it has gone, and it has all been subjugated to some idea that there is a better and bigger cause, that this grand scheme they are involved in somehow makes all of it justifiable.
Can you imagine, Mr. Speaker, what these guys would sound like if the roles were reversed? If it were a Liberal government with senators getting cheques from the Prime Minister's chief of staff or a New Democratic government acting the way the Conservatives act, could you imagine the hue and cry and the calls for resignations every second minute? They would be losing their minds.
Now the Conservatives play the victim, saying that these senators were put upon them, that they didn't know what they were doing, that it is terrible. They only have a majority, both here and there. The Prime Minister has appointed more senators than any Prime Minister in Canadian history. How many did he say he would appoint? None, but he had to appoint some, and then it had to be justified. These are small and slow slippages, and this motion is a continuation of that.
This motion says that Parliament matters less and that those Canadians who have grown cynical about the role of MPs are justified in their cynicism. We say that is wrong. How do we turn to the young voters coming up? How do we turn to people who come to us and say that they might want to run for office one day? How can we say that their voices will matter when the government moves motions like this time and time again, shutting down debate?
As my friend the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development said, the Conservatives do not want to shut down debate; they just want to control it. Is this is how one entices people into a life of politics? Is this how one encourages young people to vote? Do we say, “Welcome to Parliament, where we are going to control debate and shut it down time and time again”? This is the Conservatives' call to action.
It is not a call to action, but a call to inaction. It is a call to cynicism. It is calling to people, “Do not look over here; nothing is happening here in government. Go on with your lives and other things that are more important and distracting.” The government is counting on people to have an attention deficit rather than realize that the decisions we make here in Parliament every day affect Canadians in every way.
If members of Parliament cannot do their work, as this motion suggests, and hold the government to account, it is bad government. It is bad government when it cannot find $3 billion that may be under a mattress or in a banana stand or wherever it happens to be, and when senators rip off taxpayers with no consequence whatsoever. We think the RCMP might have a role to play here.
What would happen if any of the Canadians in our gallery today or watching on TV defrauded the Canadian government of $500? They would get charged. However, if it is a Conservative senator, what happens? Oh, they just recuse themselves from caucus. Wow. They still get paid, they still have all of their privileges, but they cannot go to caucus meetings on Wednesday mornings.
Mr. Speaker, do you think that maybe that punishment is a little severe? I mean, having to recuse oneself from a two-hour meeting on Wednesday morning for defrauding taxpayers—boy, that seems pretty harsh.
Why the double standard? We used to call that the culture of entitlement. I remember a colleague of mine in this place, Ed Broadbent, asking a former Liberal minister who became head of the mint and was claiming packets of gum and coffee on his receipts, “Are you entitled to your entitlements, sir?” This person took a moment of authenticity and said, “Yes, I am entitled to my entitlements.”
The Conservatives railed at the Liberal entitlement, the culture of entitlement, the Gomery inquiry and all those terrible things that went down.
History repeats itself if one is not a student of history, and it seems that the Conservative Party has not looked at the history of this place or of other parliaments.
The fact of the matter is that debate in and of itself is not a bad thing. The exchange of ideas is not in and of itself a bad thing. Being wrong from time to time is not of itself a bad thing; learning happens in those moments, and the government needs to learn, because I can read off the list of the bills it had so fundamentally wrong that it had to withdraw them. The Conservatives had to say that they got it so badly wrong because they listened to none of the amendments that they have to fix it now, at the very last minute, or wait until it gets to the Senate and let the unaccountable, unelected and under investigation senators deal with it. That is no form of democracy worth defending, and the Conservatives know it. They know it better than most.
I will move that the motion be amended by deleting all the words after “Fridays” and replacing them with the following: “(b) when oral questions are to be taken up pursuant”—
Extension of Sitting Hours
May 21st, 2013 / 12:05 p.m.
Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC
Mr. Speaker, I apologize for interrupting my colleague just at the beginning of his speech on the justification for the motion that he has just presented to the House, but we have a point of order that we need to raise because I think it establishes a couple of important things for you, as Speaker, to determine before we get into the context and the particulars of this motion.
Specifically, I will be citing Standing Order 13, which says:
Whenever the Speaker is of the opinion that a motion offered to the House is contrary to the rules and privileges of Parliament, the Speaker shall apprise the House thereof immediately, before putting the question thereon, and quote the Standing Order or authority applicable to the case.
This is the standing order that we cite, because we have looked at the motion the government has presented here today with some notice given last week.
This motion goes against the Standing Orders and certainly the spirit of Parliament. The government is not allowed to break the rules of Parliament that protect the rights of the minority, the opposition and all members of the House of Commons who have to do their jobs for the people they represent. This motion is very clearly contrary to the existing Standing Orders.
I have some good examples to illustrate this. In my opinion, there is no urgency that would justify the government's heavy-handed tactics to prevent members from holding a reasonable debate on its agenda. I say “agenda”, but for a long time now it has been difficult to pin down what this government's agenda is exactly. This is nothing new.
The motion comes to us today at a difficult time, but just because the government held a brief caucus meeting and is facing numerous problems and a few scandals, it is not justified in violating the Standing Orders of the House of Commons. No one would accept those excuses. There is no historical basis for the government to use the Standing Orders in this way. That does not work.
There are a few important things we need to point out. One is that it behooves us to have some explanation of what this motion actually does. For those of us who do not intimately follow the rules and history of Parliament, it can be quite confusing not in terms of the intention of what the government has read but certainly in the implications. It needs some translation, not French to English or English to French, but translation as to what it actually means for the House of Commons. That is why we believe a point of order exists for this motion.
The motion essentially would immediately begin something that would ordinarily begin in a couple of weeks, which is for the House to sit until midnight to review legislation. This is somewhat ironic from a government that has a bad history with respect to moving legislation correctly through the process and allowing us to do our work, which is what we are here to do on behalf of Canadians.
I am not alone in seeing that the government has shown the intention of having some urgency with respect to 23 bills, 14 of which have not even been introduced since the last election. Suddenly there is great urgency, when in fact it is the government that has set the agenda. The urgency is so great that it has to fundamentally change the rules of how we conduct ourselves in this place in response to an urgency that did not exist until this moment.
One has to question the need. Why the panic? Why now, and why over these pieces of legislation? Are they crucial to Canada's economic well-being? Is it to restore the social safety net that the government has brutalized over the last number of years? What is the panic and what is the urgency?
Context sets everything in politics, and the context that the government exists under right now is quite telling. Every time I have had to stand in this place raising points of order and countering the closure and time allocation motions that the government uses, I am often stating and citing that this is a new low standard for Parliament. I have thought at times that there was not much more it could do to this place to further erode the confidence of Canadians or further erode the opportunity for members of Parliament to speak, yet it has again invented something new, and here we are today debating that motion.
That is why we believe that Standing Order 13 needs to be called. It is because it is very clear that when a motion is moved that is contrary to the rules and privileges of Parliament—which is what I would underline, as it is the important part—the Speaker must involve himself or herself in the debate and ask that the debate no longer proceed.
The privileges of members of Parliament are not the privileges that are being talked about by our friends down the hall to falsely claim money that did not exist or privileges of limo rides and trips around the world. The privileges of Parliament that speak constitutionally to the need for Parliament are that members of Parliament have the opportunity to scrutinized and debate government bills.
Just before the riding week, we saw the government introduce another time allocation on a bill that had received exactly 60 minutes of debate. Somehow the Conservatives felt that had exhausted the conversation on a bill they had sat on for years, and suddenly the panic was on. We are seeing this pattern again and again with a government that is facing more scandal.
I was looking through the news today. Every morning I start my day with the news and we consider what we should ask the government in question period. There are some days when the focus can be difficult and one may not be sure what the most important issue of the day is. However, the challenge for us today as the official opposition is that, as there are so many scandals on so many fronts, how do we address them all within the short time we have during question period or in debate on bills.
I listened to my friend for Langley, who has been somewhat in the news of late on his attempt to speak on issues he felt were important to his constituents. We saw him move a new private member's bill today. He withdrew the former bill, and now he is moving one again. The New Democrats will support the bill going to committee for study because we think there are some options and availability for us to look at the legislation and do our job.
Whether it is muzzling of their own MPs and the Conservatives' attempt to muzzle all MPs in the House of Commons, or using private members' bills to avoid the scrutiny that is applied to government legislation, and one important piece of that scrutiny is the charter defence of the legislation and so, in a sense, the Conservatives are using the back door to get government legislation through and move their agenda in another way, or the omnibus legislation, which has received so much controversy in Canada as the government has increasingly abused the use of omnibus legislation, or the F-35 fiasco, or the recent Auditor General's report, or the former parliamentary budget officer who was under much abuse and the new Parliamentary Budget Officer who has asked for the same things he did, or infamously, prorogation, time and time again the pattern is the same. The government has complete disdain for the House.
Whether it be the scandals in the Senate, or the China FIPA accord, or the recent problems with the Prime Minister's former chief of staff, or the employment insurance scandals, or the $3 billion missing, or the 300,000 jobs that have not been replaced, the government keeps trying to avoid proper scrutiny out of embarrassment. However, the House of Commons exists for one thing and one thing alone, which is to hold the government to account.
The government will make some claims that the urgency right now is because there has not been enough progress on legislation. Therefore, the Conservatives have to hit the panic button and would have the House sit until midnight, which has consequences beyond just being a late night, and I will get into those consequences in a moment because they support our notion that it infringes upon the entitlements of members of Parliament to debate legislation properly.
The Conservatives' record shows, and this is not speculation or conspiracy, that when they ram legislation through, they more often than not get it wrong. That is not just expensive for the process of law making, but it is expensive for Canadians. These things often end up in court costing millions and millions of dollars and with victims of their own making. The scandal that exists in the Senate is absolutely one of their own making. The Prime Minister can point the finger where he likes, but he appointed those senators.
Specific to the point of order I am raising, this motion would lower the amount of scrutiny paid to legislation. It would allow the government extended sittings, which are coming in the second week of June anyway, as the Standing Orders currently exist, to allow the government to do that, but the Conservatives want to move the clock up and have more legislation rammed through the House.
Also, as you would know, Mr. Speaker, the order of our day includes concurrence reports from committee, which allow the House to debate something that happened in committee which can sometimes be very critical, and many are moved from all sides. However, they would not get started until midnight under the Conservatives' new rules. Therefore, we would study and give scrutiny on what happened at committee from midnight until two or three o'clock in the morning.
As well, emergency debates would not start until midnight. Just recently we had a debate, Mr. Speaker, that your office agreed to allow happen, which was quite important to those implicated. We were talking about peace and war and Canada's role in the world. It was a critical emergency debate that certainly went into the night. However, the idea is that we would take emergency debates that the Speaker's office and members of Parliament felt were important and start them at midnight and somehow they would be of the same quality as those started at seven o'clock in the evening.
The scrutiny of legislation has become much less important than the government moving its agenda through, which is an infringement on our privilege as members of Parliament. The Conservative's so-called urgency, their panic, is not a justification for overriding the privileges that members of Parliament hold dear.
As for progress, just recently we moved the nuclear terrorism bill through, Bill S-9.
We also had much debate but an improvement on Bill C-15, the military justice bill, to better serve our men and women in the Forces. The original drafting was bad. The Conservatives wanted to force it forward and we resisted. My friend from St. John's worked hard and got an amendment through that would help those in the military who found themselves in front of a tribunal.
We have the divorce in civil marriages act, which has been sitting and sitting. It would allow people in same-sex marriages to file for and seek divorce. All we have offered to the government is one vote and one speaker each. The government refuses to bring the bill forward and I suspect it is because it would require a vote. It is a shame when a government resists the idea that a vote would be a good thing for members of Parliament to declare their intentions on, certainly something as important as civil liberties and rights for gay men and women.
I mentioned earlier why, in the infringement of this privilege, it causes great harm and distress not just to Parliament but to the country.
I asked my team to pull up the list of bills that were so badly written that they had to be either withdrawn or completely rewritten at committee and even in the Senate which, God knows, is a terrible strategy for any legislation.
There was the infamous or famous Bill C-30, the Internet snooping bill, which the Minister of Public Safety said something to the effect that either people were with the government or they were with child pornographers, which may be an example of the worst framing in Canadian political history. There has probably been worse, but that was pretty bad. The Conservatives had to kill the bill.
We have also seen Bill C-10, Bill C-31, Bill C-38 and Bill C-42, all of these bills were so badly written that oftentimes the government had to amend them after having voted for them. After saying they were perfect and ramming them through, invoking closure and shutting down debate, the Conservatives got to committee and heard from people who actually understood the issue and realized the law they had written would be illegal and would not work or fix the problem that was identified, and so they had to rewrite it. That is the point of Parliament. That is the point of the work we do.
We have also seen bills that have been challenged at great expense before the courts. Former Bill C-2, the tackling violent crime act, with huge sections of the government's main anti-crime agenda, was challenged and defeated in court.
Bill C-38, arbitrarily eliminating backlog for skilled workers, was challenged and defeated.
Bill C-7, Senate term limits, was after years just now deferred to the Supreme Court. It is called “kicking it down the road”.
The essential thrust of our intention is in identifying the rules that govern us, and specifically Standing Order 13. The government has time and again talked about accountability before the Canadian people and talked about doing things better than its predecessors in the Liberal Party, the government that became so arrogant and so unaccountable to Canadians that the Conservatives threw it out of office. History repeats itself if one does not learn true lessons from history.
As I mentioned, Standing Order 27(1) already exists, and it allows the government to do exactly what we are talking about, but not starting until the last 10 sitting days. The Conservatives have said that there is so much on their so-called agenda that they have to do this early, allowing for less scrutiny, allowing for emergency debates to start at midnight, allowing for concurrence debates that come from committees to start at midnight and go until two, three or four o'clock in the morning.
This is contrary to the work of parliamentarians. If the Conservatives are in such a rush, why do they not negotiate? Why do they not actually come to the table and do what parliamentarians have done throughout time, which is offer the to and fro of any proper negotiation between reasonable people?
We have moved legislation forward. My friend across the way was moving an important motion commemorating war heroes. We worked with that member and other members to ensure the bill, which came from the Senate, made it through speedy passage.
Parliament can work if the Conservatives let it work, but it cannot work if they keep abusing it. Canadians continue to lose faith and trust in the vigour of our work and the ability to hold government to account. We see it time and again, and I am sure, Mr. Speaker, you have as well, in talking to constituents who say that they are not sure what goes on here anymore, that it just seems like government will not answer questions, that everyday they ask sincere and thoughtful questions and the Conservatives do not answer. Bills get shut down with motions of closure.
Let us look at the current government's record.
Thirty-three times, the Conservatives have moved allocation on legislation, an all-time high for any government in Canadian history. Through war and peace, through good and bad, no government has shut down debate in Parliaments more than the current one.
Ninety-nine point three per cent of all amendments moved by the opposition have been rejected by the government. Let us take a look at that stat for a moment. That suggests that virtually 100% of the time, the government has been perfectly right on the legislation it moves. All the testimony from witnesses and experts, comments from average Canadians, when moving amendments to the legislation before us, 99.3% of the time the government rejects it out of hand. It ends up in court. It ends up not doing what it was meant to do.
Ten Conservative MPs have never spoken to legislation at all. I will note one in particular. The Minister of Finance, who has not bothered to speak to his own bills, including the omnibus legislation, Bill C-38 and Bill C-45, which caused so much controversy. He did not bother to stand and justify his actions. I find it deplorable and it is not just me, Canadians as well, increasingly so.
This is my final argument. We cannot allow this abuse to continue. This pattern has consequences, not just for what happens here today or tomorrow, but in the days, weeks, months and years to come and the Parliaments to come. If we keep allowing for and not standing up in opposition to bad ideas and draconian measures, we in a sense condone them.
We say that Parliament should become less irrelevant. We think that is wrong. We think what the government is doing is fundamentally wrong. It is not right and left; it is right and wrong. When the government is wrong in its treatment and abuse of Canada's Parliament, that affects all Canadians, whatever their political persuasion. We built this place out of bricks and mortar to do one thing: to allow the voice of Canadians to be represented, to speak on behalf of those who did not have a voice and to hold the government of the day to account. Lord knows the government needs that more than anything. It needs a little adult supervision from time to time to take some of those suggestions and put a little, as we say, water in its wine.
It has the majority. This is the irony of what the government is doing. In moving more time allocation than any government in history and shutting down debate more than any government in history and using what it is today, it speaks to weakness not strength. The Conservatives have the numbers to move legislation through if they saw fit, but they do not. They move legislation, they say it is an agenda and they hold up a raft of bills.
May 6th, 2013 / 4:40 p.m.
Robert Goguen Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My question will be short, and I'll share my time with Mrs. Smith.
Thank you for appearing before us today.
In November 2012, Bill C-10, Safe Streets and Communities Act came into force. One of the things that legislation did was make it impossible for a judge to sentence someone convicted of human trafficking to house arrest.
Do you feel it's important to prohibit individuals convicted of human trafficking from receiving house arrest sentences?
Private Members' Business
April 30th, 2013 / 5:50 p.m.
Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the debate on Bill C-394 and the issue of gang recruitment. I had the privilege of sitting in on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights while it considered this legislation, and I will expand on some of the issues discussed in those meetings.
I speak, I believe, for all members of the Liberal Party when I say that I want to deter youths from joining gangs. Indeed, if this legislation served any preventive end, we would gladly endorse it. However, not only does Bill C-394 fail to address the fundamental reasons that youths join gangs—the root causes, if I dare say that—but it also would employ a mandatory minimum penalty, which the Liberal Party opposes in principle.
I raise the root causes of youth gang involvement as an issue, because the government acknowledges the problems but it fails to provide solutions either in Bill C-394 or elsewhere. For example, the website of the Department of Public Safety lists risk factors relative to youth gang involvement and includes the following as major risks: limited attachment to the community, over-reliance on anti-social peers, poor parental supervision, alcohol and drug abuse, poor educational or employment potential and a need for recognition and belonging. Yet Bill C-394 does not address any of these. In fact, the government is missing in action on things like youth unemployment and access to education, things it could take proactive measures to correct.
With regard to violence among aboriginals, public safety's website explains:
The increase in gang violence and crime in some Aboriginal communities has been attributed in part to an increasing youth population, inadequate housing, drug and alcohol abuse, a high unemployment rate, lack of education, poverty, poor parenting skills, the loss of culture, language and identity and a sense of exclusion.
As Idle No More and similar movements demonstrate, the government is out of touch with the needs of aboriginal communities. If it took those needs seriously, we could begin the process of reconciliation. We could address the social problems plaguing first nations. We could give aboriginal youth access to education and opportunity. Instead, by ignoring these problems, we further the cycle of despair that makes gang life attractive to youth.
It is interesting to have this discussion in light of the Conservatives' attack ad on the member for Papineau. They criticize him for being a camp counsellor, a rafting instructor and a drama teacher. If we want kids to feel included in their communities, to have a sense of belonging and purpose, we ought to have more camp counsellors, more rafting instructors, more teachers seeking to make a difference in the life of a child, not attacking these sorts of things as useless pursuits unbecoming of a leader. However, the government buries its head in the sand and refuses to acknowledge that preventing crime involves addressing tough issues beyond the Criminal Code.
I can assure the House that youths are not joining gangs because they believe their activities are lawful, nor do gangs recruit because they believe it is legal to do so. This is the problem with the Conservative approach to crime. Everything is a matter for the criminal law, and every incident provides a pretext to legislate.
As was said by the member for Toronto Centre, “when the only tool we have in our toolbox is a sledgehammer, everything starts to look like a rock”. For Conservatives, criminal law is all about punishment. By adding new offences and penalties and, in some cases, duplicating existing offences and penalties, the Conservatives attempt to regulate on the back end, after the crimes have been committed. This ignores the fact that there are other elements to criminal justice such as prevention, rehabilitation of the offender and reintegration into society, let alone addressing the underlying causes of crime.
As I mentioned, I may be accused of perhaps committing sociology on this. Let there be no mistake. Bill C-394 deals with gang recruitment only on the back end once it has occurred. I submit that by then, it is way too late.
As I have indicated, this issue is already addressed by the Criminal Code. Former justice minister Anne McLellan said in this place, upon the introduction of what is currently in the Criminal Code that we are seeking to amend today, the following:
We know that successful recruitment enhances the threat posed to society by criminal organizations. It allows them to grow and to more effectively achieve their harmful criminal objectives. Those who act as recruiters for criminal organizations contribute to these ends both when they recruit for specific crimes and when they recruit simply to expand the organization's human capital.
In other words, we knew when introducing what was already in the code that recruitment was an issue, is an issue, and we put in place offence language that captured it. Thus, while the regime in the code at present may not use the word “recruitment”, the intention is clear in the record and there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that prosecutions for recruitment are not happening because of some legislative loophole.
Indeed, as it is proposed, the bill will actually add to the problem by putting in a mandatory minimum penalty. International studies corroborate what even Justice Canada has found, that mandatory minimums do not deter crime. Among other things, mandatory minimums remove prosecutorial and judicial discretion. They lead to prison overcrowding. They lead to more crimes in prison and more crimes outside of prison. They contribute to a clogging of the courts, resulting in accused persons being set free. They are, as I indicated in my question to the member earlier, constitutionally suspect. Mandatory minimums have prejudicial consequences, particularly on aboriginal peoples and minority communities.
I know colleagues in the NDP have argued that the mandatory minimum in this bill is light and, therefore, acceptable, in their view. We take a different approach, which is that there is no need for adding something that could lead, in the right fact situation, to this legislation being overturned. This just is not smart legislating.
However, if I were to address the Conservatives' inability to legislate intelligently, I would certainly run out of time. In fact, we might be here all night. Instead, I will focus on one shortcoming relevant here, which is the failure to vet bills for constitutionality. Much has been made of that in the House and, in particular, by my colleague, the member for Mount Royal, of the obligation of the Minister of Justice, under the Department of Justice Act, to review government legislation for compliance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Bill of Rights.
The minister, time and time again, has said that his bills are constitutional, yet time and time again the provisions are struck down and the government is called to account for its failure to comply with the supreme law of the land. Not only does legislating in such a reckless way risk the statute being struck, it also clogs up the courts with challenges that could have been avoided. It also costs the taxpayers, who bear the burden of defending the government. For a government that claims accountability, why is it not accountable to the charter and its statutory obligations? For a government that prides itself on fiscal restraint, why is it wasting taxpayer money?
One may wonder why I am raising this issue when the obligation for a charter check is only on government bills, not on private members' bills like Bill C-394. The answer is that the government has been increasingly using private members' bills to legislate through the back door. If this bill was so important, why was it not included in the omnibus crime bill, Bill C-10? Why has the minister not introduced it on his own accord? Surely, if it were so necessary, the minister could have made this change to a government bill and it would have passed through the House much faster. Indeed, by using the private member bill route, the government minimizes House debate and circumvents the required charter review.
We must address the cycle of poverty and homelessness that affects too many children in the country. Where is the government on that? We must say to ourselves that if children are to be the priority, maybe we need more camp councillors, rafting instructors and drama teachers. What they do not need is a government that says it cares, throws a band-aid on the problem that will not hold and then pats itself on the back for having done anything at all. Bill C-394 would be just that, and that is why the Liberal Party will vote no on this bill.
Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
April 29th, 2013 / 12:50 p.m.
Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to join my colleagues who have spoken so eloquently for equality for those individuals in the military who serve Canadians. This particular legislation purports to update our military criminal justice system, but in fact has some significant gaps.
It is always good to review our laws to make sure that they reflect present realities and that they are equitable, appropriate and consistent with our Constitution. The military criminal justice system is no exception. This legislation has been worked on for a long time but the Liberal Party of Canada believes it is not where it needs to be in order to get our support. The members for Winnipeg North, Halifax West and York West made that case in quite a specific and compelling way. We are being asked to support something that still has so many flaws; that is politics.
Clearly, many aspects of the military justice system remain inexplicably unchanged or give unnecessary powers in this bill. For instance, the bill enshrines in law a list of military offences that will carry a criminal record in the future, which is not necessary in many cases.
Given that the pardon system was recently revoked and that summary trials are what they are—with no record and no means of meaningful appeal—the members of the armed forces will find themselves with criminal records and unable to find employment upon release.
Clearly there are some flaws in the bill. The one I want to focus on in particular is the issue of human rights and equality. It really boils down to what kind of society we want to have in Canada, and I think Canadians are clear. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada is widely supported right across the country and is a very proud part of our framework for protecting rights but also for enshrining responsibilities in our country, to make sure those who are vulnerable have the law on their side to protect their right to equality.
It has been shameful and disappointing that the Conservative Party of Canada has chosen to minimize the importance of this very important part of our Constitution, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, essentially dismissing and not celebrating its great anniversaries. Last year was the 30th anniversary, and there was not much of a murmur from the government, but hundreds of millions of dollars went into celebrating the anniversary of a war.
That goes down to what kind of society we want to have. Do we want to have one that protects rights and freedoms, or do we want to have one that is all about punishment? We see changes to immigration. We see in Bill C-10, that grab bag of bad public policy, that the Conservative government is much more focused on punishment than on equality. That is reflected in this bill as well.
In his testimony before committee, retired Colonel Michel Drapeau noted:
...someone accused before a summary trial has no right to appeal either the verdict or the sentence. This is despite the fact that the verdict and sentence are imposed without any regard to the minimum standards of procedural rights in criminal proceedings, such as the right to counsel, the presence of rules of evidence, and the right to appeal.
In Canada, these rights do not exist in summary trials, not even for a decorated veteran, yet a Canadian charged with a summary conviction offence in civilian court... enjoys all of these rights. So does someone appearing in a small claims court or in a traffic court.
He goes on to say:
I find it very odd that those who put their lives at risk to protect the rights of Canadians are themselves deprived of some of these charter rights when facing a quasi-criminal process with the possibility of loss of liberty through detention in a military barracks.
Clear questions of inequality have arisen here. There are problems with the bill that are fundamental to the kind of society we want to have, not just a few tweaks that we could have put into the bill and that the government has not done. This does go down to fundamentally what kind of society we want to have. This kind of inequality is being unfortunately cemented into other bills and other laws brought forward by the Conservative government.
I want to refer to some comments made by my colleague from Mount Royal recently on the occasion of the 31st anniversary of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
According to Justice Létourneau, soldiers are citizens and they should enjoy the same constitutional rights guaranteed by the charter as any other citizen.
This is what he said:
“We as a society have forgotten, with harsh consequences for the members of the armed forces, that a soldier is before all a Canadian citizen, a Canadian citizen in uniform.”
In other words, they should be able to count on all of the rights and protections that citizens enjoy in our country.
Referring to our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the member for Mount Royal raised a question of privilege in the House this past March and expressed concern that the government is failing to live up to its own statutory obligation, which is expressed in section 4.1 of the Department of Justice Act.
In law, this is requiring that the government, that the Minister of Justice, examine each and every government bill introduced in the House to ensure it is consistent with the charter. That would seem like a simple step to respect our fundamental constitutional obligations as parliamentarians and as government in law-making and public policy-making.
How often has the government actually done that? How often has the government checked and done a review to ensure that its bills introduced in the House are consistent with the charter and receive the constitutional seal of approval? How often has the government reported any inconsistencies, or otherwise, to the House?
Does anybody have an answer to that question?
March 25th, 2013 / 5:10 p.m.
Matthew Taylor Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice
Well, I guess I can provide you some context to help you in your decision-making process.
As you know, the courts will be able to take into consideration whatever factor they think is appropriate in terms of their jurisdiction to decide that something is aggravating in a particular circumstance, so there is that broad discretion on the part of the courts to begin with.
There are some questions that were raised in terms of scope, but you could ask those other questions in terms of whether it would apply in another context. This provision brings to my mind similar provisions in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which previously dealt with making it an aggravating factor to sell drugs in or near a school—not only near a school, but in a school. Then it used a bit of a basket clause of any place where young persons are known to frequent—I don't have the precise language—and that was subsequently amended in Bill C-10 to turn that aggravating factor into a mandatory jail sentence. So that is an example in criminal law that is comparable to what's being proposed here, although it would be broader.
The other related point I'd say is that there is a provision, section 810.01 of the Criminal Code, which we call the peace bond, that deals with organized crime behaviour. Where it is believed that somebody is going to commit an organized crime offence, a peace bond can be ordered, including conditions to not frequent places where children may congregate. For example, if a police officer knows that a gang member or someone working on behalf of a gang is targeting young people, that type of tool can be used by the justice system to target the practice and prevent the individual from recruiting new individuals to join a criminal organization.
Those would be my general context comments.
March 25th, 2013 / 4:25 p.m.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Government of Manitoba
Again, public safety has a cost. We know in Manitoba that we are shouldering more of that responsibility as the years go by. I'll have a chance to meet with Minister Nicholson later on today, and I'll be repeating some of the things we've raised, both publicly and privately, on Manitoba's behalf.
There's no question that funding for legal aid is a major concern for Manitoba and other provinces. The provinces have been bearing all the increased costs with respect to legal aid. Manitoba was in support of many of the provisions of Bill C-10, primarily because we're the ones who had asked for them to begin with. We think many of the provisions in Bill C-10 were the right thing to do. We know they are going to have an additional cost, and we're hoping to refresh the partnership we have with the federal government.
Drug treatment court is another area. We think the federal government made some very wise investments in allowing drug treatment courts to get going. We would love to be able to expand those to try to get people off the criminal track if the reason for their law-breaking is their addiction. We certainly hope to continue enhancing that partnership.
I think I did gently mention the police officer recruitment fund. The funding for that is running out. Unless the province backfills that, there's going to be a reduction in police forces for a number of municipalities.
We've worked well with the federal government. We believe in providing support when we think the federal government of any stripe is moving in the right direction. We will also criticize the federal government when we think they're not going in the right direction.
This bill today is a positive step. As I say, we'll have some other things to say in different places about how we can best work together to keep improving the partnership for the safety of our communities.
March 21st, 2013 / 9:30 a.m.
Vic Toews Provencher, MB
I don't know where to begin. There are so many false statements there.
First of all, my understanding is that the remand populations in the provinces have not increased. In fact, we've seen a decrease as a result of getting rid of the two-for-one credits. People have been moving through the remand centres more quickly. I'd like to see this on a Canada-wide basis that remand numbers are going up. They're high and they have always been high. Certain steps need to be taken.
That has got nothing to do with Bill C-10. In fact, Bill C-10, we believe, will assist in bringing that remand population down. In fact, we've seen that trend.
For example, we were asked by the Ontario government to build 1,500 more cells for them because they said that would be the impact of Bill C-10. At the same time that they were asking us to build new 1,500 cells for them, they were shutting down 1,500 cells. Essentially, what they're doing is getting us to build new infrastructure for them. That's not the way we do business.
I'd like to see some of those numbers. I haven't seen the numbers that indicate that remands are increasing in the manner that you've indicated.
March 21st, 2013 / 9:30 a.m.
Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC
Exactly. As a result, we had the opportunity to hear at length about the impact of Bill C-10. There are a lot of complaints across the province. Currently, the people who are awaiting trial are in provincial prisons, which are over capacity.
Currently in Quebec, we are seeing that our provincial prison system is overcrowded, as a result of the changes made to the Criminal Code. That worries me. After their trial, all those people are going to end up in our federal institutions. When that time comes, in a few years, we might not have the financial support or the correctional officers we need, or the necessary resources for rehabilitation.
Could you comment on that? I am honestly very concerned about that. We are already seeing an increase in the prison population in federal institutions. The people who are currently in provincial institutions, awaiting trial, will end up in the federal system after their trial, and we will not have the necessary support. What will happen then?
March 21st, 2013 / 8:45 a.m.
Vic Toews Minister of Public Safety
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Indeed, it is my pleasure to be here to again share an hour or so with all of the members of the committee. I want to thank my officials, both from the department and from the various agencies that I'm responsible for, for being here as well.
I'm pleased today to speak to both the 2013-14 main estimates and the 2012-13 supplementary estimates (C).
Mr. Chair, responsible governments must ensure that they use taxpayers' dollars in a prudent and fiscally responsible manner, and that's exactly what we have done over the past seven years. Since 2006, our government has acted consistently to help create jobs and spur economic growth. We have made responsible decisions that have strengthened our economy, while ensuring that we are keeping Canadians and Canadian interests safe. We believe that committee members will find this evidenced within the pages of the supplementary estimates (C) and the main estimates.
As the committee's motion specifically mentions supplementary estimates (C), I will turn first to these, which sought minor adjustments to spending authorities within three of the portfolio agencies: the Canada Border Services Agency, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
The total net increase in authorities for 2012-13 for these three portfolio organizations equals $4.2 million, or 0.04%.
Mr. Chair, this represents a small increase in the total funding approvals for the Public Safety portfolio for 2012-13. For example, the Canada Border Services Agency has sought an increase in its voted authorities of $10.3 million to support initiatives within the beyond the border action plan. There is, however, no net change in the CBSA's appropriations, as those funds have been offset by a transfer of authorities that had been previously allocated by the Treasury Board.
The supplementary estimates (C) also indicate a net total increase for the RCMP of $3.7 million, which is the result of transfers of funds to the RCMP from Public Works and Government Services Canada and the Department of National Defence.
Finally, we saw a net increase in authorities for CSIS in the amount of $550,000, or 0.1%, of its authorities to date.This amount stems from a transfer from DND to CSIS for the acquisition of technology related to the Canadian safety and security program.
Mr. Chair, let me now turn to the 2013-14 main estimates, which represent a fiscally responsible way forward in our efforts to keep our streets and communities safe while strengthening our economy and supporting families.
For the overall Public Safety portfolio, the 2013-14 main estimates represent an initial funding approval of $8.049 billion, which is an overall decrease of $322.1 million, or 4%, over the previous fiscal year. This funding will be invested into priority areas that are helping us fulfill our commitment to keep Canadians and their communities safe.
Among the overall portfolio funding increases are the following.
The amount of $329 million to the RCMP related to the renewal of the 20-year police services agreements with the provinces, territories, and municipalities.
I want to specifically thank the RCMP for its work on that file and for departmental officials who did an excellent job in working together with the provinces and the territories. These are very, very complex negotiations, but we're very pleased with the work that was done, and the cooperation we received from the provinces and the territories. I think they recognize that the RCMP is the best value for taxpayers' money, and agreed, indeed, without any concerns about that principle, that the RCMP are the best service for their money. That's a real tribute to the RCMP.
Also, $38.2 million goes to Public Safety Canada to provide funding for permanent flood mitigation measures for provinces and territories hit hard by the 2011 floods, and $24.1 million goes to the CBSA to improve the integrity of front-line operations at the border.
Mr. Chair, these increases are offset by a number of decreases, including among others a $65-million decrease to CBSA funding for the arming and eManifest initiatives, which are sunsetting in 2013-14 as part of a loan repayment schedule, and a $31-million decrease to the RCMP related to a transfer of funds to Public Works for the new RCMP headquarters building in Surrey, B.C.
Committee members will also see adjustments to the Correctional Service of Canada's spending authorities, with a net decrease of $428.4 million from the previous year due mainly to the return of funds related to projected inmate population growth, which did not materialize despite the wild predictions of the opposition parties.
You'll remember, Mr. Chair, that it was the NDP that said that, as a result of Bill C-10 and other bills, there would be an increase of $19 billion in infrastructure alone. That was clearly false. It was fearmongering of the worst kind. In fact, as you know, we returned to the fiscal framework almost $1.5 billion because of the prisons that we didn't have to build. This decrease is due to that and as well to the savings measures outlined in budget 2012.
The main estimates also include a $370.7-million decrease in the total Public Safety portfolio spending authorities, related to deficit reduction action plan savings measures announced in budget 2012.
Mr. Chair, before we turn to questions from the committee, I will touch on some of those numbers as they relate to our work to keep Canadians and their communities safe.
Looking at just Public Safety departmental funding, we are requesting increases that include $2.9 million to continue our work to make our cyber-network secure and resilient, as outlined in Canada's cybersecurity strategy, and $2.5 million to implement national security and emergency management initiatives under the beyond the border action plan.
These two initiatives remain top priorities for our government, and we continue to seek evidence of good progress in both areas. In fact, just last week I signed a memorandum of understanding with my U.S. counterpart, Janet Napolitano, that paves the way for a United States Customs and Border Protection truck cargo pre-inspection pilot project on Canadian soil.
As you know, there has been some concern about what sequestration will mean for the movement of Canadian goods into the United States. We are very concerned about that but recognize that it's primarily an American budgetary issue, which they are going to have to resolve. But this kind of pre-inspection initiative, which will help clear trucks before they get to the border and then get them through, will help us in our just-in-time deliveries.
I was told—and maybe you don't know this, Mr. Chair—that in some cases, one automobile goes back and forth across the border 40 times during its production. You can see that if you increase the delay in crossing borders from 20 minutes to 40 minutes or an hour, production is significantly impacted, with of course significant impacts upon the jobs of those in the auto sector, for one example.
The pilot project that we're working on aims to enhance our security while accelerating the legitimate flow of goods, people, and services at the Canada-U.S. border.
As I mentioned earlier, Public Safety Canada seeks an increase in its departmental spending authorities of $38.2 million to provide financial support to provinces and territories for 2011 flood mitigation. These funds are part of our government's commitment to provide a one-time, 50-50, cost-shared investment in permanent flood mitigation measures taken by provinces and territories, specifically related to 2011 flooding. Strong, resilient, and prepared communities are critical to our nation's security and economic strength, and these investments in mitigation will help to ensure that communities are able to recover rapidly after a disaster.
In addition to being prepared for and recovering from natural disasters, resilient communities are also able to identify and resist violent, extremist ideologies and have the capacity to react to events in ways that prevent further harm. As such, committee members will see a request for an increase to Public Safety Canada departmental spending authorities for $1.8 million related to funds for the Kanishka project. Launched in 2011, this five-year, $10-million initiative aims to create a network of scholars who can undertake critical research into how Canadians can prevent terrorism and counter violent extremism. Again, this is an issue and concern that I've discussed with the Homeland Security secretary and something that we share a common interest in.
Finally, the main estimates include a decrease in Public Safety departmental spending authorities of $7.9 million, which reflects the sunsetting of the funds for the ex gratia payments to the families and the victims of Air India flight 182. I am pleased that our government has been able to fulfill this commitment to these families.
Mr. Chair, in summary, our government remains committed to using Canadian taxpayer dollars in the most efficient and most effective manner, and we will do so while moving forward with our plan for safe streets and communities while focusing on strengthening legislation, tackling crime, supporting victims' rights, and ensuring fair and efficient justice.
To this point, on March 4 I was pleased to announce that our government will maintain stable funding for policing agreements with first nation and Inuit communities under the First Nations Policing Program. For the next five years I will be seeking these incremental authorities through the supplementary estimates.
Thank you. I'll be happy to answer any questions that you may have.