Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials Act
An Act to amend the Criminal Code (mega-trials)
Rob Nicholson Conservative
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
March 18th, 2013 / 4:35 p.m.
Dan Albas Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I want to thank my colleague, Mr. Gill, for coming in today.
I've been hearing quite a number of concerns from the opposition benches today.
One of the things is mandatory minimum sentencing. Mandatory minimum sentences have a long tradition in Canada. Since the turn of the 20th century we've had them. Usually it's in cases where there are particular crimes that the public at large finds both offensive and heinous. So for members to bring forward legitimate concerns and say that the other argument given on another bill...it doesn't apply in this case. We are finding that this particular aspect of the gang problem, where someone is recruiting youth and entering them into a life of crime, is particularly offensive to my constituents. For us to say that this is a heinous crime that needs to be stopped, we do need to put some mandatory minimum sentences to communicate that.
The previous bill did not even add clarity to the existing Criminal Code. This bill would. It would send a very broad message that gangs are a problem in our Canadian cities and we need to have a full range of tools available to law enforcement, particularly a mandatory minimum sentence.
Our government's support for this bill is consistent with a long-standing commitment to improving existing responses to crime, including organized crime, as reflected in many of our election platform commitments and speeches from the throne. For example, you have, from 2008, Bill C-2, which created mandatory minimum penalties for serious gun crimes involving organized crime; Bill C-14 in 2009, which deems murder committed on behalf of criminal organizations to be automatically first degree murder, and creates a new offence targeting drive-by shootings; the enactment of a serious offence regulation in 2010 for the purposes of organized crime provisions in the Criminal Code; and most recently, Bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities Act, which proposes mandatory minimum penalties for drug crimes committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with, a criminal organization.
Mr. Gill, your bill proposes to create a new indictable Criminal Code offence that would prohibit the recruitment, the solicitation, the encouragement, or the invitation of another person to join a criminal organization for the purpose of enhancing the ability of that criminal organization to facilitate or commit indictable offences.
I'll stop there, Mr. Chair, because that clarifies that this particular aspect of organized crime is unacceptable in our society. That's why this adds clarity, in my view, to the Criminal Code, specifically because it highlights this heinous activity. There are many activities that may go on in organized crime. I appreciate Mr. Mai's wording of his concerns, but by the same token, this is one of the parts where we have to say that no more is acceptable.
Anyway, though many in the opposition say that mandatory minimum penalties are ineffective, this offence would be punishable by a maximum of five years' imprisonment, with a mandatory minimum penalty of imprisonment of six months if the individual who's recruited is under the age of 18.
Mr. Gill, getting back to your testimony, how do you think this mandatory minimum penalty would help get these gangs that prey on the most vulnerable in our society? What kind of message would that send to the broader criminal element? Again, as you said, Toronto City Council has said this is a recurring problem. They support your bill.
How will a mandatory minimum sentence send a signal to those who would perpetrate these crimes?
March 4th, 2013 / 8:45 p.m.
Jack Harris St. John's East, NL
I just want to respond to some of Mr. Alexander's comments.
Clayton Ruby is not the only one to raise concerns about this. The Criminal Lawyers' Association expressed grave concerns about it. They were opposed to the giving of a criminal record to people who were charged and convicted under a summary trial, objected to the procedures and to the constitutionality of it.
Mr. Justice LeSage, himself, in his report, said:
...I have very real concerns about obtaining a criminal record from a summary trial conviction. The issue of criminal records flowing from convictions at summary trial must be reviewed. The very damage that flows from a criminal record and the potential effect on a person’s life is far too severe a consequence for most offences tried by summary trial. I am fully supportive of the summary trial as an efficient and effective method of maintaining discipline. However, because the summary trial, although constitutional for its purposes—
—and I think he's again talking in the general way—
—does not provide the panoply of safeguards of a civilian criminal trial, the unintended consequence of acquiring a “criminal record” at a summary trial should occur only in exceptional circumstances.
Now we're not talking about exceptional circumstances here. I suppose one might argue that if we're getting 94% out of 100%, the other 6% must therefore, by definition, be exceptional. I don't think that's the case. There's no particular special circumstances. For example, the mere shoving of a person is an assault. If one decided to charge someone with assault, you could get a conviction, possibly even in a criminal court. But I doubt very much that every shoving match that occurs in the military is dealt with by a charge of assault, just as every time something like that happens in a school yard or a school, the police are called. But I think it could be recognized that this kind of behaviour could be a discipline issue; fighting, shoving, even striking someone could be a discipline issue, but not necessarily one that ought to attract a criminal offence.
Mr. Alexander referred to the eight offences that we're talking about that are Criminal Code offences. If there are only eight offences that we're talking about, then you make a choice.
You invoke the police in a civilian trial system to ensure that what is regarded truly as a criminal offence ought to be treated as such, handled by the civilian authorities. A person gets all of the rights that they're entitled to under our Constitution and under the law, and if they're convicted, they end up with the consequences of that.
If it's going to be regarded as a disciplinary matter, we've all agreed that it's important to have a military discipline system, one that is, as Justice LeSage said, “an efficient and effective method of maintaining discipline” through the summary trial process. It's fast; it can be dealt with in a matter of days, not in the kind of time that a civil trial might take. It can restore unit cohesion, restore morale, restore discipline in a swift way and an appropriate way, and the punishment might be greater than one would get for the same offence in society.
We understand that may be required to maintain that discipline and efficiency. It's not being done because it should be. No one says soldiers should be punished more than civilians. That's not the purpose of it, not to provide a greater punishment.
Mr. Alexander's argument about treating them more leniently by not getting criminal records doesn't hold water in this context. Because the purpose of making it tougher on the individual is to ensure that the unit cohesiveness, the discipline, and the morale is maintained, not to punish them for the rest of their lives with a criminal record.
That's not the point here at all. The issue is the punishment that you're given, the process by which you get there, doesn't have the same constitutional protections, and therefore as Justice LeSage says, ought not to attract the unintended consequence in many respects of having a criminal record. Clause 75, with the G-2 amendment, goes some way to recognizing it, and it has taken a couple of years. It's taken the last iteration of this bill, Bill C-41, Bill C-15, and two years of arguments to get to the point where it was accepted. It was accepted in the last Parliament mainly because it was a minority Parliament. I would venture to say, given the makeup of the last Parliament and the makeup of this committee, there's no possibility that the changes to clause 75, which are now there, would have got through. If they didn't get through then, they'd be unlikely to be passed by this committee.
It's all very well to talk about ten years to get here, or six years or seven years or three iterations or whatever, but we would never have got here if it wasn't for the arguments that were made in the past two years. We're now here, but we're here obviously because the recognition of the consequence of a criminal record is a serious matter and the government and Parliament has now decided to do something about that, not everything, but something about that, and that something is contained in Bill C-15, clause 75.
We are putting forth the proposition or the argument that we must go further, that we must prevent people from getting a criminal record when they don't have due process of law, which every other citizen outside of the military has access to if they are going to obtain a criminal record. That's the distinction we're making here. We're saying to the men and women who sign up to the military that they could come out of here with a criminal record without due process of law. Every other person in our society who is going to end up with a criminal record has the constitutional guarantees, has the ability and the right to a fair and independent tribunal with the right procedural protections that are enshrined in our Constitution, and the procedures, laws, cases, and all the things that have been put into our law as the law progressed.
As retired Justice Létourneau said, the law has changed. The law changes as time goes on. There's been a development in the law and in the application of the Charter of Rights to our criminal law and our system. He suggested that the military justice system has not kept up with that. I have to agree with him; we are trying here to help it catch up in this particular aspect. Yes, we have a military justice system that may need a fundamental review but we have an opportunity here to say we want to make sure in the meantime that we don't give people criminal records who don't have legal protection.
If the concern is, and I know it is, that some people who perhaps should have a criminal record are not going to have one, well then there is a solution. That solution is to have them charged in the civil system. If someone commits a sexual assault against a minor on a base or a rape, then they can be tried civilly and prosecuted to the full extent of the law, and they will have the consequences associated with that. But we don't want to have a system wherein the only people in our system of justice who don't have access, as of law, to the procedural protections of our Constitution are the people who are serving our country in the military. That's a situation we'd find ourselves in if we don't pass this amendment here today.
Justice and Human Rights
Committees of the House
December 6th, 2012 / 10:15 a.m.
Jack Harris St. John's East, NL
That the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights presented on Wednesday, March 28, 2012, be concurred in.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to present the motion that the report be concurred in. Organized crime in Canada is something that has been studied for a number of years by the justice committee. I was not involved at the commencement of it, but I was there in the session last spring for the preparation of the report and the hearing of the final number of witnesses.
My predecessor as justice critic, the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh, now the The Deputy Speaker of the House, was very much involved in the organized crime study. We took great interest in trying to find mechanisms that were going to work to take on organized crime and fix some of the issues within the justice system that made it ineffective and difficult to prosecute.
In fact, we had witnesses before the committee who talked about the issues and the difficulties. A prosecutor from Quebec talked about the difficulties with the prosecution of the Hell's Angels in Quebec and the breakup of the Banditos biker gang. They had to take very significant extraordinary measures in order to be able to carry out the prosecution of this very difficult element of organized crime in the province of Quebec.
It included the creation of specialized police task forces and the participation of a variety of different police agencies working together; lengthy police investigations, which targeted the whole criminal organization at all levels; the use of civil infiltration agents, which can be controversial but nevertheless were necessary; the creation of specialized teams of prosecutors such as the proceeds of crime bureau in 1996 and the organized crime bureau in 2000; and the construction of a particular courthouse, a special judicial services centre, in order to be able to have the kind of security that was needed to carry out these special prosecutions. As well, the renovation of several courtrooms around Quebec allowed for the holding of several megatrials in different places at the same time.
On the issue of megatrials, it is important to know that these create enormous difficulties for the judicial system. We have a system that assumes one is innocent until proven guilty and has myriad provisions for the protection of people who are accused of crime because of the consequences of the loss of liberty. These are important safeguards in our criminal justice system. We have our Charter of Rights and a system of justice that depends on the rule of law and not on the fact that someone decides that someone else is a criminal, so we have to prove these things.
In a significant trial such as the biker gang trials, for want of a better name, we have a large number of defendants, complicated procedures, multiple defence counsels acting at the same time, complicated provisions and the difficulty of the judge handling the case having to manage all of that.
As a result, our party co-operated with your suggestion, Mr. Speaker, that there be special legislation brought forward to deal with megatrials during the course of this study so that, at least, changes would be put in place to allow for a more proper and reasonable way to deal with them that would allow the administration of these trials to take place without compromising the rule of law, the presumption of innocence or the other protections that all citizens are entitled to.
We just cannot jump to conclusions in criminal matters, even if we are prosecuting someone we believe, and have evidence to support that belief, is engaged in a criminal activity or a criminal organization. We still have to provide that proof according to law at a fair trial. The shorthand in criminal law is that we have to have proof beyond a reasonable doubt in a trial that takes place in accordance with law.
Before I get too much into the report, I want to say that we need to have some special rules to deal with criminal organizations in Canada, but we have to be careful about what we are doing here. We must make sure that we are not using the notion of the existence of criminal gangs to frighten Canadians into believing that crime is everywhere and that we require extraordinary measures that ignore the rule of law and basic fundamental rights in our society, which could affect everybody. We have to ensure that all citizens have the right to fair treatment by our legal and judicial systems.
It is important to note that Canadians do feel safe. In 2009, a study done under the Statistics Canada rubric determined that 93% of Canadians felt either very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their personal safety. It indicated they felt as safe as they had when the 2004 study was undertaken five years previously. Of the respondents, 90% said they felt safe when walking alone in their neighbourhood at night. When asked about the perception of crime in their communities, 62% of respondents said they believed the crime rate in their community had not changed over the past five years. There is a general feeling of community safety across the country. There is no fear in the land.
In some respects it is ironic that when we look at the news on the television, particularly local television, a great deal of time is taken up with the reporting of court cases and what happens in the courts. Those types of stories always make the headlines in the local newspapers and television shows. They are easy to report and there are visuals of people being brought before the courts. Also, we have the overlay of American television with its extremely high crime rates and large numbers of homicides. Canadians seem to be able to filter through that and understand the difference between what is on TV and what their reality actually is.
I say that because it does belie the mantra we hear from the government on an ongoing basis, day after day, week after week, about how all these crimes are being committed and we need to take extraordinary measures and go into a whole series of extraordinary sentencing provisions, mandatory minimums, that fill up prisons. While the government does not like evidence-based decision making and seems to base most of its decisions on ideological approaches, the evidence is that these approaches will not work in terms of prevention.
On the other hand, with so many people in prison, we are now at the point where double-bunking is becoming the norm and will be, according to certain information recently released or leaked. Taking the general disapproval of double-bunking out of Correctional Services Canada's mandate and manual is an indication that the government considers double-bunking in prisons as something that is standard, natural and to be expected.
There have been a number of articles written on the results of that, and one recently, decrying that the provision is not only expensive but it would increase bad behaviour, illnesses and the brutalization of one inmate to another. As a result of overcrowding, it would cause an increase in crime and costs, a lack of rehabilitation programs, an increase in recidivism, et cetera. Those are some of the negatives of that.
It is worthwhile saying that, on the whole, Canadians are not buying the notion that we have a major crime wave happening and that we need to be protected by extraordinary provisions and by being tough on criminals, while not necessarily doing what needs to be done to actually prevent the crime.
According to the Criminal Intelligence Service of Canada, we have approximately between 700 and 900 criminal organizations in Canada. We have to be careful when we say that, because a criminal organization is not the same as a gang. It does not have to be a major organization. For the purpose of the law, any three people who work together with the purpose of committing ongoing criminal activity can be considered a criminal organization.
There was a concern among defence counsel over the years about calling three people who committed a crime together a criminal organization was an extraordinary measure, but that concern has been looked after.
In 2002 the number of people required to constitute a criminal organization was reduced from five down to three. The requirement that at least one of the members be involved in committing crimes for the organization within the past five years was also removed. There was also a broadening of the scope of offences that defined a criminal organization, which was previously limited to indictable offences punishable by five years. The term criminal organization does not mean a group of people who form randomly for the immediate commission of a single offence. Again, that is still on the edge of what ordinary people would consider a criminal organization.
There are three specific offences in relation to criminal organizations. The first has to do with the participation in the activities of a criminal organization, which is punishable by a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years. The second one is the commission of an offence for a criminal organization. The third is instructing the commission of an offence for the criminal organization. These offences are aimed at people working together in a criminal organization. Participating in that organization is deemed to be a crime, and it would have to be shown that the organization is engaged in committing crime. These are the basics of having a criminal organization, and the activities and offences that are designed to cut down on the number of criminal offences.
In Canada in terms of the criminal market that takes place with groups, the Criminal Intelligence Service of Canada in 2001 reported that financial crime accounted for approximately 11% of that activity. We are talking about things such as payment card fraud, which is the largest part of that market and continues to expand, card thefts, fraudulent card applications, fake deposits and so on. Securities and mortgage fraud is another area of the financial crime market in which organized crime has an interest.
Thirty-two per cent of criminal market activity is taken up with other illicit goods and services including theft, contraband such as alcohol and tobacco, the sex trade and human trafficking. Legislation often mentions foreigners engaged in human trafficking or bringing people into the country. The committee was told that by far the largest amount of human trafficking that takes place in Canada is actually domestic, that is Canadian girls being trafficked within Canada, and it is done through organized crime networks. Street gangs facilitate the recruitment, control, movement and exploitation of Canadian-born females in the domestic sex trade primarily in strip bars in several cities across the country.
We do have an important and crucial role to play in trying to prevent the exploitation and trafficking of young women in particular through criminal activity. We need to take special measures to ensure that the people engaged in that criminal activity can be prosecuted and punished and deterred.
The official opposition provided a supplementary report to the report tabled on March 12 in which we indicated that, while we supported the majority of the recommendations in the report and worked collaboratively with the other parties on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights with the objective of recommending new strategies for the government in the fight against criminal activity and criminal organizations, we promoted an effective and balanced approach to combatting organized crime. Some of the measures that are in the report we do not support.
Our approach has involved the emphasis on three pillars: prevention, policing and prosecution. It is founded on the conviction that the fight against organized crime must be taken to its root in the recruitment of youth into street gangs and into this kind of criminal activity.
Obviously, there is a need for some of the measures that have been implemented here. In terms of prosecution and having a proper foundation for megatrials, we worked with the government to pass Bill C-2 in June 2011 in order to do that. We wanted to ensure that the judiciary had the necessary tools to make an effective prosecution when dealing with megatrials. Through this balanced and effective approach, we supported the majority of the recommendations.
Unfortunately, the government fell back to its knee-jerk reaction, to the things that it wants, to paint in one corner, by using mandatory minimum sentences. We have opposed that consistently.
We also found objectionable the first recommendation following paragraph 100 recommending the amendment of the Criminal Code to impose mandatory minimum sentences for criminal organization offences. We do not believe that is necessary. Judges across the land share the concern that all of us have, which is that organized criminal activity is a scourge on communities and that significant sentences are being imposed and will continue to be imposed to provide the kind of deterrence that is necessary to help persuade and ensure that we do not have large numbers of people engaged in criminal activity. In fact, some of the offences, for example, members of criminal organizations who instruct individuals to commit an offence, in other words, carrying out in an organized way and actually telling people to do criminal acts, they are already liable to life imprisonment under section 467.13 of the Criminal Code of Canada. They are already taken extremely seriously by the law and by the judges.
We are concerned about the proposed disclosure model, which could potentially require defence counsel to disclose its plan of defence to the crown. It is not adequate to avoid that. We are concerned about the change recommended here that would allow electronic eavesdropping without proper judicial oversight and the need for warrants in all cases. It is an unnecessary expansion of powers. We have fought against this and will continue to fight against it.
One of the serious problems is that not enough attention is being paid to legal aid, so we end up having people defending themselves, which slows down prosecutions and makes it more difficult to do so.
Justice and Human Rights
Committees of the House
March 28th, 2012 / 3:10 p.m.
Jack Harris St. John's East, NL
Mr. Speaker, I would like to comment on the report that was just presented on organized crime.
The New Democrats, since 2009, have been working collaboratively with other parties on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights with the objective of recommending new strategies. There are, in fact, some 699 criminal organizations in Canada, 83% of which are engaged in illegal drugs, such as cocaine, cannabis and synthetic drugs, in that order. We have consistently promoted an effective and balanced approach to combatting organized crime.
In that regard, although we support most of the 35 recommendations in the report, we supported, along with the government, passing Bill C-2, the megatrials bill, in June 2011.
However, we do have some concerns about this report, which is why we have filed a supplementary report suggesting that the government has proven, unfortunately, that, with overreaching bills such as Bill C-10 and Bill C-30, it is putting overreaching ideology ahead of level-headed legislation.
We are opposed to the mandatory minimums proposed in the report and we are concerned about the lawful access provisions that support Bill C-10. We are concerned about the lack of judicial oversight recommended and the unnecessary expansion of powers that are contained in the report.
However, regardless of that, we do support, in general, the report but have filed a dissenting report.
Opposition Motion—Closure and Time Allocation
Business of Supply
November 25th, 2011 / 12:25 p.m.
Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL
Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for allowing me to speak to this motion. I also thank my colleague for Windsor—Tecumseh for bringing this motion forward at this point. I want to look at the motion in detail because it is not just a simple statement that this is a bad sort of thing and that the government should not use time allocation as much as it does. The member provides some detail in the motion that I would like to talk about.
For instance, the motion states:
...a study and make recommendations to amend the Standing Orders with respect to closure and time allocation, such that: (i) a Minister would be required to provide justification for the request for such a curtailment of debate;
That is certainly something we ought to talk about simply because when time allocation is brought into this House we hear little justification for doing so. We are given short explanations that are basically passed over. The reason for that, on many occasions, is that there is no justification and no requirement to justify it. I agree with the member in many respects on that. I think that justification should be brought to the House and presented to all of us. A big reason for doing that is that some of the fundamental questions as to why time allocations are brought sometimes go unanswered, such as, if bills have passed over a certain period time such that members of Parliament could consult their constituents. A lot of the time, items are promised during campaigns, which is what the Conservatives go on about, and on which hey are now delivering.
In 2008, there was a basic promise in dealing with Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia regarding the Atlantic Accord and some of the money that would be withheld within the province because of oil revenues. The promise was that the equalization formula would be made such that non-renewable resources would not play a factor in tabulating each provinces' ability to raise money.
However, when the budget implementation bill came out, much later than the broad principles, it was realized that the devil certainly did lay within the details of what was happening in the budget implementation. It ended up that the promise, by which 100% of non-renewables was to come out of the formula, was not in the budget implementation. Essentially, they had put an agreement that was outside of normal equalization and brought it back in. Former member, Bill Casey, was one of the members who left the party as a result of this. He voted against the budget for that and sat on the opposition side shortly thereafter.
I only put that into context because there is a certain amount of time from when the broad principles of the budget are announced by the finance minister to the time of budget implementation. Once we look at the legislation and a lot of the details that are involved, sometimes these broad principles get watered down or are not what they had appeared to be. Therefore, I think time allocation works against this principle.
The government will remark that the Liberals did this back when they were in power, but a lot of times, such as the Species At Risk Act, time allocation was brought in at third reading. At that point there had been a substantial opportunity to discuss and debate.
Canadians can review the cut and thrust of debate, enough to see what the principles are about, how the legislation is laid out and then, coming back from committee, how the proposed legislation was fine-tuned or not.
I commend my hon. colleague for bringing this motion. I think he brings up some decent questions as to how we can deal with time allocation, filibustering and the limitation of debate within the House.
We also now use the terminology “constituency weeks”. For instance, when the House is shut down for a week, people say that members have a week off. However, no, they are in their constituencies dealing with constituents and they can find out at that point how their constituents feel about certain pieces of legislation. Time allocation works against that, in my opinion.
One of the comments that was made earlier was that we have had so much time to deal with this, that the budget implementation bill has been in the House for quite some time and that we have dealt with it thoroughly, therefore, no bills, as was stated, have received royal assent. However, that is not true. At the end of June, we had Bill C-2, Bill C-4 and three other bills that received royal assent at that time. Those measures went through.
When the Conservatives say that the budget implementation bill needs to be passed in 2011 because it is budget 2011, that may be a valid point but, if it is valid, why are we spending all these hours talking about copyright legislation, the long gun registry and other measures, such as Bill C-10?
What the Conservatives could do is put that on the agenda each and every time. Every member in the House, at that point, could certainly speak their piece on how they feel about the budget implementation bill or the budget bill for this coming year, 2012.
I do want to point out that in this motion the other thing that it goes on about is that:
(ii) the Speaker would be required to refuse such a request in the interest of protecting the duty of Members to examine legislation thoroughly, unless the government's justification sufficiently outweighs the said duty....
There is a great deal of responsibility in what the Speaker must bring to this legislature, beyond the obvious, which is the running of the House. The Speaker also the responsibility of judging whether the normal legislative process is adhered to. We saw examples of that when our former speaker was here. He made big rulings, certainly rulings that made history, and will always be looked upon as a key moment in the speaker's career, because of the judgments that he brought.
Mr. Speaker, if we look at the way you do your job, one of the key responsibilities is to look at legislation that has been accepted in principle and scope in second reading, then you must decide if, within the committee, its work went beyond the scope and principle of the bill. You have the authority to overturn those amendments, even if everybody in this House, as I have said time and time again, says that they agree with the amendments that were made, you, Mr. Speaker, have the authority to turn them down despite that.
It has been done before. It happened in a private member's bill some time ago on back-to-work legislation, or what people call “anti-scab” legislation. There was an amendment to exclude essential services and there seemed to be a lot of agreement with that, certainly the majority of members agreed with that, but the speaker turned down that particular amendment because it went beyond the scope and principle of the bill.
Therefore, this brings up a good point, which is that this motion would say that you, Mr. Speaker, should have that responsibility to turn this time allocation down, if it is not justified, certainly in dealing with the history, the principles and the spirit of how this House of Commons operates. I think that is a good thing. Why can the Speaker not be involved in this and say that he or she finds that it is not a very justifiable answer as to why we have to slap time allocation on this when we are dealing with something as large and complex as the budget?
Another valid point, I believe, is the fact that following the election there seems to be a lot of new members in the House. I only say “seems to be” because I think all the new members in this House of Commons are doing a fine job. I think they are holding the bar up there when it comes to representation of their constituency.
Time allocation runs in the face of that because a lot of these new members have not had their say. It is their first time in the House and I think compassion should be given, if not by the government then certainly by the Speaker to say, “Well, just a moment”. This legislation in regard to budget 2011 needs to be done soon, therefore, new members in the House should have a chance and the opportunity to speak to that.
I think that, in and of itself, is a good reason why we should have a filter upon which time allocation is used in this House. It has been used throughout history. I cannot justify a lot of the time allocations that have been used because, in many cases, it was wrong. Does the minister not agree? Whether it was red, blue, orange or any other colour, it was wrong in many cases. Depending on the issue, depending on the people involved and depending on the fact that some people have not had their say about this legislation, and that there has not been as much consultation, time allocation is used in a very crass way.
If we look at the situation in front of us now, there are several pieces of legislation deemed important, but some more so than others. Therefore, I would humbly suggest to the House that we should support this simply because it brings a new element into the House where no one party has the authority—
Opposition Motion--Closure and Time Allocation
Business of Supply
November 25th, 2011 / 10:50 a.m.
Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL
Mr. Speaker, there was some confusion earlier about the fact that no bill has received royal assent. For the record, since the election, Bill C-2, C-3, C-6, C-8, C-9, several bills have received royal assent. I do not know where that confusion is coming from.
Nonetheless, I would like to read what I think is the quintessential quote about how we should uphold the principles of debate in the House and that every member of Parliament willing to speak on an issue should have his or her say:
The role of each and every individual in the Chamber is to have an opportunity to stand up and debate legislation. If we want Canadians to have faith in this institution and in the relevance of parliament, we must be able to debate intelligently and to make suggestions, not just to take a wrecking ball approach but to put forward thoughtful suggestions and thoughtful input into legislation.
Who said that? The Minister of National Defence said that several years ago. At the time he was complaining that 30% of the bills were time allocated. The Conservatives are now up to 50%. Half of the bills have been subject to time allocation.
November 1st, 2011 / 8:50 a.m.
Jean-Marc Fournier Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Quebec, Government of Quebec
Thank you very much.
Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, I have the honour of appearing before this Committee to present Quebec’s position on Bill C-10. Although there are precedents, only exceptionally does the Quebec government appear before a parliamentary committee studying a piece of Federal legislation. The seriousness of the situation explains my presence here today. I am appearing on the strength of a motion tabled by the member for Joliette and passed unanimously by the Quebec legislature.
As a mark of the wide-spread support for the position I will be sharing with you, I am accompanied today by representatives of the Quebec Bar, the chief prosecutor, Criminal Prosecution Service, Ms. Murphy, the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse, the Association des centres jeunesse du Québec, the Association québécoise Plaidoyer-Victimes, the Canadian Paediatrics Society and the Regroupement des organismes de justice alternative du Québec. I would like to make it clear that we are not challenging the Government but rather the provisions of a Bill, which negatively impact the long-term protection of the public. May I remind you that it was in the much the same mindset that I came last June to urge the leader of the Green Party, Ms. May to expedite the study of Bill C-2 on megatrials. When something is good, we say so and when it is not we also speak out.
I would like to make it clear from the outset that we cannot agree to the removal of the concept of long-term protection of the public. By removing the reference to long term, you are opting for temporary protection of the public. It is difficult to see how this is a tough-on-crime proposal. In actual fact, the removal of this concept and the amendment of other provisions means that Bill C-10 will actually encourages repeat offenses and increases the number of victims. Many studies, including some by the Federal Government, have demonstrated that prison sentences do not reduce crime or recidivism. Quite the opposite in fact. Prison may actually serve as crime school, thus encouraging inmates to reoffend. One things is certain, an effective, long-term anti-crime strategy cannot focus soley on sending offenders to prison. At some point, offenders are released from prison and return to society. Any long-term anti-crime initiative requires special focus on their reintegration into the community. A strategy purely focused on locking up offenders for a time is nothing more than a temporary, superficial solution. It is a springboard to more crime. However, if you teach a young offender acceptable behaviour, you can stop them repeating the same mistakes. Failing to provide offenders with instruction or follow-up on how to behave in society is tantamout to encouraging them to offend again. The solutions proposed in Bill C-10 do not meet the stated goal of making the public safer. They also fail to address effective penalties for offenders or the prevention of crime and recidivism.
I would like to point out that Quebec has, on several occasions, expressed its misgivings and disagreement with regard to the initiatives put forward by the Federal Government. We even took the step of suggesting amendments in writing to Minister Nicholson on the now defunct Bill C-4. Simply put, this Bill does not contain the right provisions to ensure the long-term protection of society and victims. For decades now, Quebec has developed a unique strategy for the long-term protection of its citizens. We have done this with the involvement of the police. We have chosen to focus on reeducation, rehabilitation and social reintegration of young offenders. This involves sensitizing them to the harm they have caused their victims. In actual fact, the rehabilitation approach provides a greater role for victims than does the custodial sentence model. Indeed, young offender initiatives must consider the best interests of victims, the impact of the crime on them and ensure their rights and dignity are respected. Victims have the right to be informed of steps taken to bring young offenders to recognize the harm caused to their victims. Where possible, youth offenders are required to submit to a process of reparation. This way of dealing with young offenders works. Quebec has the lowest crime rate in Canada.
Our vision is based on Supreme Court of Canada pronouncements on the importance of dealing with young offenders differently. Our view is also based on opinion from experts, such as the Canadian Paediatrics Society. They too consider that youth must be treated differently if they are to become fully-integrated, useful members of society.
Some will argue that Bill C-10 maintains the difference in the way adults and youth are dealt with. This, in our opinion, is a mirage.
In reality, the Bill introduces even more cookie-cutter principles that should only really apply to adult offenders.
Indeed, the Supreme Court and prosecutors, who deal with youth and adult offenders on a daily basis, firmly believe that this approach to youth justice does not work.
What's more, it is likely to confirm youth offenders in a life of crime because it does not tackle the basic underlying causes of their inappropriate behaviour. It fails to ask two fundamental questions: who are they and why do they behave as they do?
By focusing on the short term and jail time, Bill C-10 provides only an illusion of protection. It overlooks the long term since it fails to consider offender release. It is like applying a bandaid to an infected wound. It is temporarily out of sight and out of mind. However, the problem inevitably reappears.
Rehabilitation is designed to tackle the root cause. The long-term protection of the public requires individualized processes that bring youth offenders face to face with their responsibilities.
In our opinion, the guiding principle of youth justice must continue to be the use of appropriate measures to fit the circumstances.
Please do not remove the concept of long-term public protection.
Please do not encourage the publication of the identities of youth offenders. It compromises the person’s chances of reintegration and society does not really benefit from knowing the offender’s identity. The Supreme Court recently pointed to the importance of this principle.
Please listen to those stakeholders, who over the past 40 years, have developed the studies, science and statistics to enable them to rehabilitate young offenders. Should you choose to reject their expertise and science, the onus is on you to support your proposals with serious studies and analysis.
Quebec is willing to partner with you in a science and statistics-based dialogue. However, we are asking you to postpone the enactment of the young-offender provisions.
The new minimum sentences are our second concern. Quebec doubts that these sentences will be a deterrent and therefore has expressed misgivings about them. Quebec would far prefer to trust prosecutors and the courts to set the most appropriate sentence.
Indeed, it is a basic principle that judges, having heard all the facts of the case presented by the defence or the prosecution, are best placed to determine a sentence in keeping with the context of the offense.
The proliferation of minimum sentences restricts the court’s ability to impose a suspended custodial sentence where circumstances warrant despite Supreme Court pronouncements on the restorative value of such an approach.
As Mr. Jean-Claude Hébert said, Bill C-10 transforms courts into an ATM for custodial sentences.
The closure gained through revenge is illusory. At some point, offenders will have served their sentence. Bill C-10 fails to provide for the release of offenders back into society. Without provision for reeducation or behaviour correction, inmates are released to offend again and to create new victims.
Once again, please do not enact these restrictive provisions that will prevent the courts from playing their proper role until you have developed studies or well-thought-out justification to support your proposals.
Our third concern relates to the financial impact of the proposed initiative.
Message from the Senate
June 26th, 2011 / 8:50 p.m.
The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin
I have the honour to inform the House that when the House did attend Her Honour, the deputy of His Excellency the Governor General in the Senate chamber, Her Honour was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:
Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (mega-trials)--Chapter 16.
Bill S-1001, An Act respecting Queen's University at Kingston.
It being 8:50 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday, September 19, 2011, at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).
(The House adjourned at 8:50 p.m.)
Message from the Senate
June 23rd, 2011 / 4:50 p.m.
The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin
Before we resume debate, I have the honour to inform the House that messages have been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following bills:
I also have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following private bill to which the concurrence of the House is desired:
The bill is deemed to have been read the first time and ordered for second reading at the next sitting of the House.
Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials Act
June 22nd, 2011 / 3:15 p.m.
The Speaker Andrew Scheer
Pursuant to an order made on Thursday, June 16, Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (mega-trials), is deemed concurred in at report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.
(Bill concurred in, read the third time and passed)