Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act

An Act to amend the National Defence Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2013.

Sponsor

Peter MacKay  Conservative

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 provisions of the National Defence Act governing the military justice system. The amendments, among other things,

(a) provide for security of tenure for military judges until their retirement;

(b) permit the appointment of part-time military judges;

(c) specify the purposes, objectives and principles of the sentencing process;

(d) provide for additional sentencing options, including absolute discharges, intermittent sentences and restitution;

(e) modify the composition of a court martial panel according to the rank of the accused person; and

(f) modify the limitation period applicable to summary trials and allow an accused person to waive the limitation periods.

The enactment also sets out the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal’s duties and functions and clarifies his or her responsibilities. It also changes the name of the Canadian Forces Grievance Board to the Military Grievances External Review Committee.

Finally, it makes amendments to the delegation of the Chief of the Defence Staff’s powers as the final authority in the grievance process and makes consequential amendments to other Acts.

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.

Votes

  • May 1, 2013 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
  • Dec. 12, 2012 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on National Defence.
  • Dec. 12, 2012 Passed That this question be now put.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
Government Orders

April 30th, 2013 / 11:25 a.m.
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NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the Liberal member's speech and I am a bit confused. The Liberals were supporting Bill C-15 at second reading. It now seems they have changed their minds. In his last response, the Liberal member also mentioned that the constitutionality of the bill had to be tested and all the rest.

I wonder why they did not move any amendments at committee. I am a bit confused. First, what is their current position? Second, why did they not propose any amendments? They seemed to agree with the amendments proposed by the NDP and they supported them, but, for their part, they made no proposals to improve the bill. Now, all of a sudden, they are putting forward a whole host of ideas at third reading.

Could the hon. member shed some light on those questions?

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
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April 30th, 2013 / 11:25 a.m.
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Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is true that we did, at second reading, support moving the bill from this House to committee, because it is a vote in principle. Surely to goodness we all agree that this bill has been hanging around long enough in various forms in various Parliaments, so we thought we should get it into committee and start hearing witnesses.

When we started to hear the witnesses, we saw that maybe there were some problems with this bill. In fact, there are some problems with the bill. I have only gone through three that I think are highlights.

My colleague makes a big deal about our not moving redundant amendments. Her party moved 22 of them, and its record was zero in 22. I do not know why those members would move redundant amendments that would inevitably be defeated. It does not seem to make a lot of sense.

Then, at some point or another, they were so unhappy with the way they had been treated by the government side that they filibustered the committee for four hours.

I welcome them to the tactic. God love them, but it is useless and it is a waste of time.

I do not think this is a case of getting religion late in life. There has actually been a lot of consistency in the Liberal Party to say that we should examine this bill, that we know these are the flaws, that it is going forward and we know it is going forward, but we want to put our marker down such that in the event that we get an opportunity to fix this bill, we will do it.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
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April 30th, 2013 / 11:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Mark Strahl Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the member's speech, and he once again invoked the spectre of Somalia to justify his opposition to this bill. He blamed the chain of command and others for trying to bury that episode, when in fact it was his own government that prematurely shut down the Somalia inquiry and then, as a follow-up, disbanded the Canadian Airborne Regiment. That was a shameful overreaction that irreparably damaged an elite capability of the Canadian Forces. He did not mention that.

He also failed to mention the comments of the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal when questioned by my hon. colleague from Edmonton Centre when this matter was before committee in the last Parliament. The Provost Marshal said:

I think if I were just to take the legislation as written, without the safeguards that are present, I would have a lot more concern, but due to the transparency clauses that exist—the interference complaint process under part IV of the NDA—those types of safeguards certainly make it more robust. It allows me to make sure that there is an avenue of approach, should there be a conflict.

My question for the hon. member is this: why will he not take the word of the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal, who says that this legislation would have the appropriate safeguards to ensure there would be no undue interference in his investigations?

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
Government Orders

April 30th, 2013 / 11:30 a.m.
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Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, to go back to the Somalia issue, I do not think anybody covered themselves with any glory out of that, not the military, and there is an argument to be made that it was not well handled. That was the point.

As for the Airborne Regiment, there was a lot of commentary about whether this was in fact a rogue unit. I do not know whether it was or it was not; all I know is that there was a lot of comment about it.

My point is that the government has now legislatively inserted itself into the process so that it can dictate where the police will go and where they will not go. That is, in and of itself, quite regrettable, and in and of itself makes it worth opposing the bill.

On the member's final point with respect to the comments of the Provost Marshal, I am sure that the Provost Marshal would appreciate knowing the terms and conditions on which any VCDS, CDS, deputy minister or minister would intervene in his or her investigation. I dare say that the Provost Marshal would much prefer the status quo, which is the protocol that there is no interference, which is the same protection that every police chief enjoys in this country.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
Government Orders

April 30th, 2013 / 11:30 a.m.
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NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to say that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord.

I am honoured to rise in the House on behalf of my constituents in LaSalle—Émard to talk about Bill C-15, An Act to amend the National Defence Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, at third reading.

I would first like to talk about my riding of LaSalle—Émard. This past weekend, I had the opportunity to participate in an activity organized by the ladies auxiliary of the LaSalle Royal Canadian Legion. These volunteers hosted this activity at the legion for the veterans they visit at Ste. Anne's Hospital.

These women are volunteers. Some of them have been volunteering for over 40 years, while others have been volunteering for 25 or 15 years. They provide a very valuable service to the veterans who served Canada during the world wars and other conflicts in which Canada participated.

I always find it very worthwhile to attend events such as this. It gives me the opportunity to meet with these men and women and better understand what they did for us and what their lives were like when they were members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

In Canada, we are lucky to live in a country that is peaceful, safe and prosperous compared to other places in the world.

I will speak about veterans, but also about current members of the armed forces who do more than we know to serve our country, both here and abroad.

I would also like to say that, in my family, one of my great uncles served in the Second World War. One of my uncles was in the army, and I have a cousin who is currently a member of the armed forces. I do not often have the chance to talk to them about their experiences.

However, I know that members of the Canadian Forces are very disciplined, rigorous and dedicated. When they make a commitment, they follow through on it.

This bill, which amends the National Defence Act, meets a long-standing need. We have had discussions about this and we have talked about the report issued in 2003 by the former chief justice of the Supreme Court, the Right Hon. Antonio Lamer. Other reports have been released since then, including the recent LeSage report, which was published in 2011.

Various bills have been introduced in response to the recommendations made in these reports, but they died on the order paper either because an election was called or for other reasons.

Bill C-15 went to committee. As was mentioned, the NDP worked very hard to correct certain shortcomings in this bill.

As my colleague mentioned, it is a small step in the right direction. We must take into account this bill's long history and the recommendations that have been made over the years. This bill addresses a need. The government has taken a step forward by acknowledging the NDP's proposed amendments. Nearly 95% of breaches of the Code of Service Discipline will no longer result in a criminal record. That is one of the reasons why we support Bill C-15.

Earlier in my speech I mentioned that the NDP recognizes the importance of the hard work and dedication of the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces. We want the justice system to treat them fairly, and at the same time we acknowledge that the Canadian Armed Forces are very disciplined and rigorous. We want military justice to be fairer, and that is very important to us. That is why the committee members and the NDP worked very hard to make their case on this bill. As a result of their work, breaches of the Code of Service Discipline will no longer result in a criminal record. We worked very hard on this, and the government was open to working with us.

We think it is very important to have an exhaustive independent study of the military justice system and to introduce legislation in response to the LeSage report within a year. Bill C-15 does not really take the LeSage report recommendations into account. I think a study on this should be conducted.

As for the reform of the summary trial system, I think we can expand the list of military offences that do not result in a criminal record. We saw some openness from the government to that. We must also reform the grievance system.

I will conclude with a very important point, which is that we must strengthen the Military Police Complaints Commission. Around the world, countries like Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and the United Kingdom are reforming their military justice system and increasingly making room for a civilian component.

We must look at these possibilities. Many of our allies thought it was good to change their summary trial system, which makes us wonder why Canada has waited to so long to modernize our own military justice system.

I think that involving civil society would be beneficial, not only for members of our military, but also for society in general. It would ensure that our system is in line with Canadian values.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
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April 30th, 2013 / 11:40 a.m.
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Conservative

Laurie Hawn Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague, as a person who was involved in the military justice system for over 30 years, on the receiving end for very minor things and on the dispensing end for some things that were minor and some that were somewhat more major.

We are talking about the equitableness of the system. In my experience within the system, it was equitable within the context of the military, which is different, and we acknowledge it is different. I do not think it will ever be precisely like the civilian system, for some very good reasons.

My colleague talked about reform and bringing more civilianization to the system. That is being done. One of the things that is being done with Bill C-15 is another advancement on that. The bill has been through three Parliaments in various forms and three bills in various forms.

The previous speaker talked about taking the advice of Ruby over the advice of the parliamentary secretary. I would certainly take the advice of Justices LeSage and Dickson over that of Mr. Ruby. He has agendas that I am sure are pure at heart, but some others may attribute something else to it.

We have had more than 100 speeches this time on this subject. As I said, it has been through three Parliaments and three bills. It is not perfect. It will never be perfect in the eyes of the opposition members, and that is fair ball. The member talks about wanting to do an end-to-end review and come back in another year. If they want to pursue that, it is fine, but is it not time to quit this continuous 100-speech marathon and just get on with it because it is improvement and we can work on it as we go forward?

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
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April 30th, 2013 / 11:45 a.m.
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NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague knows that the NDP intends to support the bill at third reading.

However, given how important this bill is, the government may not wait another 10 or 20 years before it reviews it. That is why I made that recommendation. As we know, the LeSage report came out in 2011. I think we could consider some of the relevant recommendations and have a legislative review in due course. That is my recommendation.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
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April 30th, 2013 / 11:45 a.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.

I would like her to clarify something. Of course, we are preparing to support the bill because the government has sort of opened the door to an improvement. As things stand now, any improvements that can make a difference on the ground for our men and women in uniform deserve to be supported, even though we know that this is not very much and a great deal more needs to be done.

However, I have a question about the approach. I just heard a Conservative member say that it was time to put an end to all these debates and move forward. How is it that the government is opening a door, while systematically rejecting all amendments at committee, even the amendments that support the government's openness? That has actually been the case in pretty much every committee, with each and every bill.

Could the hon. member explain this partisan approach, which is light years away from the service that Canadians and our military should be receiving?

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
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April 30th, 2013 / 11:45 a.m.
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NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for raising this key point.

Committees do indeed play a role in Parliament and they are a place for us to hear from civilian, military and other experts. Those experts provide us with a whole new perspective on issues. The official opposition and the opposition are there to bring their perspective on bills.

It is really unfortunate that the government systematically refuses to consider those perspectives, and to thereby make progress. We must move forward, and our common goal here is to bring good bills to Canadians, bills that reflect their values. It is the government's responsibility to listen to Canadians and Canadians' representatives, which is what we all are regardless of our political stripe or party.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
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April 30th, 2013 / 11:45 a.m.
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NDP

Dany Morin Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate my hon. colleague from LaSalle—Émard on her excellent speech and her handling of the members' questions. She explained quite nicely how important it is to the NDP to bring forward strong legislation, especially since the Conservative government tends to propose such flawed legislation, as they did with Bill C-15.

Canadians can rest assured that the NDP will be here every step along the way to improve these bills and to ensure that we can live in a country with laws that properly reflect the values of Canadians. I would therefore like to reiterate what my hon. colleague already mentioned—that the NDP will be supporting this bill at third reading.

On March 21, 2013, I spoke on this issue and expressed my concerns in that regard. As the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, I represent many members of the Royal Canadian Air Force, since the Bagotville military base, which I love, is located in my riding. I care deeply about the well-being of these military personnel, so I was outraged that such simple and minor breaches of the Code of Service Discipline could lead to a criminal record, which would in turn have truly negative repercussions on their lives, both through their years of active service and afterwards.

In committee, the NDP fought to defend those military personnel, 95% of whom would have paid the price for that imperfection in Bill C-15. After the NDP proposed amendments, the government finally came to its senses and changes were made to Bill C-15. That is why will be voting in favour of the bill.

On October 7, 2011, the Minister of National Defence introduced Bill C-15, An Act to amend the National Defence Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. Bill C-15 would amend the National Defence Act to strengthen military justice following the 2003 report of the former chief justice of the Supreme Court, the Right Hon. Antonio Lamer, and the May 2009 report of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.

The bill would provide for greater flexibility during the sentencing process and it would provide for additional sentencing options, including absolute discharges, intermittent sentences and restitution. It would modify the composition of a court martial panel according to the rank of the accused person. It would also modify the limitation period applicable to summary trials and allows an accused person to waive the limitation periods. It sets out the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal’s duties and functions and would make amendments to the delegation of the Chief of the Defence Staff’s powers as the final authority in the grievance process.

Generally speaking, Bill C-15 is a step in the right direction. However, the government should have done more. Bill C-15 also gives new powers to the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff regarding military police investigations, which we consider to be a step backward.

Bill C-15 suffers from the Conservatives' slow-footed response to the LeSage report, which was not incorporated in the bill, along with the lack of wall-to-wall review of the sections of the National Defence Act pertaining to military justice. We are letting our soldiers down with this unnecessarily slow pace of change. I encourage the Conservative government to adjust its attitude about amending laws that affect the military.

We want to reassure Canadians that the NDP will continue to lay the groundwork for a larger review of the need for the modernization and civilianization of the military legal system and the implementation of greater civilian oversight. We will make sure that that happens whether we form the official opposition or the government. I feel it is in the interest of all Canadians and particularly Canadian military personnel.

As I mentioned earlier, as a result of the NDP victory after a long and hard-fought battle for the amendment to clause 75 on criminal records—an issue on which our party has strongly and publicly expressed its view—my party is now ready to support the improvements to the military justice system set out in the bill, despite the fact that the bill has no teeth and the reform is not being implemented quickly enough.

Once in power, we are determined to continue to move forward with the reforms and to reverse the regressive measure providing new powers to the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff with respect to military police investigations.

Clearly, Canadians will understand that we have to wait until 2015 to do so. However, we are still going to hound the Conservative government for the next two years.

As I said, the NDP victory forced the government to make some amendments so that almost 95% of disciplinary offences would no longer result in criminal records. We will support Bill C-15. The NDP is proud to vote for a significant, tangible result for the members of the Canadian Forces, a result that we fought hard for and successfully managed to have included in the legislation.

Our efforts have established one more important reform in building a fairer military justice system.

People may not be aware that, when the bill was studied in committee, the NDP did what a real party must do: it proposed amendments in order to improve the bill and eliminate its flaws. In committee, the NDP proposed 22 amendments and five subamendments, while the Liberals proposed none. That shows that the NDP is the party that cares about improving Conservative bills, especially those that affect our Canadian Forces.

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces must uphold standards of discipline that are among the most rigorous. In return, they deserve a justice system with comparable standards. The NDP will support the improvements proposed by Bill C-15, because it is a step in the right direction. However, the government should have done more, as has already been mentioned.

The NDP also regrets that the Conservative government is determined to adopt a piecemeal approach. Changing the military justice system requires an independent review of the entire National Defence Act, which governs the military justice system. The NDP is also asking the government to provide a legislative response to the LeSage report within one year because it has yet to do so. Members of our Canadian Armed Forces deserve no less.

I will now speak in more detail about Bill C-15. This bill is similar to Bill C-41, which came out of a committee in the previous Parliament. However, important amendments made at committee stage in the last Parliament are missing from Bill C-15.

One of the main omissions is the lack of any provision to expand the list of offences that do not result in a criminal record. The NDP, in the House and in committee, asked for changes and proposed amendments in order to reduce the impact of disciplinary sentences and ensure they do not give rise to a criminal record, and also to raise the issue of the lack of a full charter of rights. In committee, the NDP fought to improve the bill and to reform the military justice system in a more meaningful way.

As I already mentioned, through our efforts, the list of offences that will not result in a criminal record was expanded. We also presented a series of amendments to improve the bill, thereby showing our commitment to truly reforming the system. I will talk about five of those amendments.

We asked that the Chief of the Defence Staff be granted the financial authority to compensate members of the Canadian Armed Forces as part of a grievance resolution process, in direct response to Justice Lamer's recommendation. We also proposed changes to the composition of the grievance resolution committee to include 60% civilian membership and not to include active members of the Canadian Forces, which would make the committee more independent. We also proposed a provision that would guarantee that a person convicted of an offence during a summary trial is not unfairly subjected to a criminal record. We also wanted to guarantee the independence of the police by abolishing subsections 18.5(3) to 18.5(5), in clause 4 of the bill to prevent the Chief of Defence Staff from issuing specific instructions on an investigation to the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal. Finally, I believe that it is important to make the House aware of the final recommendation we made, which involved precisions regarding the letter of the law, as recommended by Justice LeSage, to indicate that a charge must be laid within a year after the offence was committed.

Mr. Speaker, since my time is quickly running out, I am going to stop there. Canadians can take comfort in the fact that the NDP is there to ensure that the Conservatives' bills are improved in committee and in the House of Commons. We will continue to fight for the men and women who protect our country.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
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April 30th, 2013 / 11:55 a.m.
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Conservative

Mark Strahl Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord for his speech and for the NDP's belated but welcome support for the bill here as well as at committee. I am a member of the national defence committee, and we were certainly grateful to get the NDP's support for our amendments on criminal records for summary trial offences. That was a positive.

I would say that the member's speech was so comprehensive and set out the NDP position so well that I would hope that NDP members would now let the speech of the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord stand so that we may move on to a vote on this issue. As the member for Edmonton Centre mentioned, there have been 100 speeches on this issue, and we know that they do have an interest in this. Perhaps I could ask the member how much more he believes needs to be put on the table after his excellent and comprehensive speech.

Perhaps the member could also talk about the Liberal Party's new-found interest in this file and the fact that while the Liberals could not be bothered to stay until the end of the committee proceedings on this bill, they have now decided to ramp up their efforts. Maybe he could talk a bit about that, and bout why they did not address the issue during their 13 years in government. Maybe they just needed a little more time.

If the member could address both of those issues, that would be great.

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April 30th, 2013 / noon
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NDP

Dany Morin Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my Conservative colleague for his kind and truly heartwarming compliments.

As I mentioned, I represent members of the Canadian Armed Forces at the Bagotville military base, so I care about the men and women working there for Canadians across the country.

The member asked several questions. I will begin by answering the one about the Liberals' interest in military justice reform. The Liberal Party of Canada's contribution to the debate was perfectly clear in committee: its members did not propose a single amendment. Their level of involvement in the committee showed that they do not really care about this issue, no matter what they are willing to say when the national media spotlight is on them.

We will finally get to vote on this issue, and I am pleased to speak as the representative of the Bagotville military base because this issue is important to me.

I believe that every member of the House of Commons has the right to express his or her point of view on this issue. I can assure the member that although some NDP members still wish to speak, my party and I will vote in favour of this bill.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
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April 30th, 2013 / noon
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is somewhat comforting to a certain degree, and no surprise, that we see the New Democrats and Conservatives almost giving a group hug. It is almost as if they are trying to get in touch with their past and are finding it great to be able to take shots at the Liberal Party.

However, it is interesting that NDP members are saying they brought in amendment after amendment to this legislation. They feel a little sensitive to the fact that the Liberal Party approached the committee with an open mind, believing that the government would bring in some changes, although it chose not to. Maybe the question to the member should be to ask exactly how many of the NDP's numerous amendments actually passed at the committee stage.

I am being a little presumptuous here, as I was not at that particular committee. However, I have had the opportunity to speak on this bill and express concerns regarding it, and I suspect the answer to that question will be zero. Given the NDP's new-found friendship with the Conservative—

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
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April 30th, 2013 / noon
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NDP

Dany Morin Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will make my answer brief.

The NDP supports this measure. My Liberal colleague seems to think that we are good buddies with the Conservatives. We do respect each other as colleagues. The NDP is a very reasonable party.

When the Conservative government introduces bad bills, we propose amendments or we vote against the bill if amendments are not necessary. We would do the same thing if a Liberal government were in power. A New Democratic government would work with members of the opposition; that sets us apart from the other parties. We would do so in the interest of all Canadians.

My Liberal colleague said that he had hoped the government would propose amendments in good faith. I would like to remind him that, as a committee member, his role is to propose amendments, argue in their favour, and get them passed. The NDP proposed 22 amendments and five subamendments. The Conservatives proposed two and the Liberals did not propose any. This shows just how—

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April 30th, 2013 / 12:05 p.m.
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NDP

Matthew Kellway Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, my friend did not know I was coming. I am sure he would have withheld those comments had he known.

I will be splitting my time with the member for Windsor West.

It is great to talk about Bill C-15 today. My colleagues and I support the bill at third reading.

Members may recall that I spoke in opposition to the bill at second reading. I applaud the great efforts of my colleagues on the defence committee, as have others in the House today, who put forward 22 amendments and five subamendments and made a great effort to change the bill. As has been pointed out today, none of this was successful, but the bill was amended at committee: the Conservatives saw fit to amend their own mistakes, which is always helpful.

That is not to say that we support this legislation wholeheartedly; it is somewhat reluctantly that we do so.

I want to comment on this issue for a moment, because it has been the subject of much debate.

It is a bit tricky, of course, to support a government bill at third reading. We heard the Minister of National Defence waxing philosophical earlier today about not letting perfection get in the way of progress; on the other hand, we heard the Liberal defence critic express his confusion and uncertainty about how and why the NDP could support this legislation. The challenge is more difficult than either of those extremes would suggest.

This is not so much a philosophical matter; it is really a very practical one. Justice systems, as informed as they are by theory and philosophy, have very real, profound and practical implications for those who are subjected to them, and this is obviously the case before us. For reasons that we all seem to agree with, this is about balancing the need for quick and expeditious military justice against the need to keep discipline in the forces, while yet providing fairness for forces members.

Today we are considering a unique military justice system and its need for discipline, but we also need to take into consideration the issue of time. That has to weigh heavily on our considerations about whether to support the bill or not.

For all the talk about their support for the military, the Liberals did nothing with their majority government to amend the act, in spite of having before them the report of a justice who made 88 recommendations. The Conservatives have been in government now for seven long years and have similarly opted to do nothing up to this point.

It is because this legislation has such a long history that we need to consider what we can agree to and what we must agree to in order to make progress and move this legislation forward.

I will not recite the full history. I have no time for that today, but I will give a short summary to illustrate the point.

The bill had its genesis in a 2003 report on the Canadian military justice system by a former chief justice of the Supreme Court, the Right Hon. Antonio Lamer. That report contained 88 recommendations for change and was suggestive of some significant deficiencies in Canada's military justice system.

The bill is also a legislative response to a 2009 report by the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs dealing with these very same matters.

In December 2011 yet another military justice report was presented to the government, this time by a former chief justice of the Ontario Superior Court, the Hon. Patrick LeSage. I would note that the Conservative government sat on that report for a year or so before finally tabling it in June 2012.

To date, only 28 of the recommendations from that original Lamer report of 2003 have actually been implemented, some in the form of legislation, some as regulations, and some as changes in practice.

We have even lost some ground, it needs to be noted. In the previous Parliament, Bill C-41 died on the order paper. That bill included important updates to the National Defence Act that are interestingly absent from the bill we are considering today. The change got moved back upfield, and that is disappointing.

However, I think the length of time that the current government and the previous Liberal government have taken to bring some sense of fairness to the members of our armed forces with respect to the justice system means that we need to consider very seriously what we need to do now, because we do not know when we will get our next opportunity to make change. It is important that we make tangible change to this system so that it is a military justice system worthy of this country and worthy of the commitment that members of the Canadian Armed Forces make to this country.

As frustrating as all of that is, we focus on the progress that is being made. We see some progress, although I would shy away from calling it significant. It comes in the form of greater flexibility, for example, for the sentencing process to more closely parallel the civil criminal justice system. It would provide for additional sentencing options, including absolute discharges, et cetera; it would modify the composition of a court martial panel; it would modify the limitation period applicable to summary trials and would allow an accused person to waive limitation periods; and it would clarify the responsibilities of the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal.

It would also make amendments to the delegation of the powers of the Chief of the Defence Staff as the final authority in the grievance process.

Above all, as tangible as these changes are, one stands out as critically important and most certainly worthy of support. It is an issue that we in the NDP have pushed for many years, including in the previous Parliament, and we actually had made some progress with it in Bill C-41. It is this issue more than any other that tips the balance in favour of supporting this bill, and it has to do with the number of offences that could result in a criminal record.

The NDP, through the long history of the bill, has consistently pushed for a reduction in the number of these offences. With this amendment from Bill C-15 emerging out of committee, it would be the case that about 95% of cases would not attract a criminal record. In addition, those who have been previously convicted of these offences would have their records expunged.

This is an important issue because many of the offences that we have been focusing on do not generally have a civilian equivalent. They are, for example, offences described in section 85 of the act that involve threatening or insulting language or contemptuous behaviour toward a superior officer. Section 86 involves failing to stop someone from deserting, and section 97 deals with drunkenness.

We have long considered it unjust, as have many other experts who have weighed in on this matter, that convictions for those kinds of offences through this kind of summary trial process could result in criminal records that could follow members of the Canadian Armed Forces into their civilian lives.

It is important to note that the summary trial is used to try about 95% of disciplinary cases in the forces. It is this process that is used to effect a balance between the competing interests of discipline and returning a soldier to service. As such, fairness and justice are compromised.

For example, a commanding officer or a designated superior officer could act as the judge, and there would be no legal counsel, no appeal, not even a transcript of the file. We consider it unfair for criminal records to flow from that and follow a soldier into civilian life, so we are pleased to see that amendment and we will be supporting the bill.