Evidence of meeting #26 for Justice and Human Rights in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was program.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, Minister and deputy ministers, for attending today.

Minister, you must be exhausted. I came here almost eight years ago and one of our major pillars, of course, in getting elected at that time for most of the members in the party was crime legislation. Now, after hundreds of written briefs, hundreds of hours of testimony from experts, and more than five years of attempts to try to pass this in the House, we finally have Bill C-10, an omnibus bill that speaks up for victims.

I had some Twitter feeds this morning from constituents who were very pleased with the vote last night, but they wanted to know what was next for our government in terms of standing up for victims and whether or not we're going to continue to do exactly that.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Niagara Falls, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Jean, for your comments.

I don't consider it exhausting; I consider it inspirational, exhilarating, to assist and stand up for victims in this country. When I've met them over the years.... Just in the last week I had conversations with Sheldon Kennedy, the Wamback family. When I discuss this with victims who are very interested and concerned and supportive of the initiatives we have, believe me, it is exhilarating. I'm so pleased to be able to play a small part in this, and I thank you and others who have worked on these issues.

But as you quite correctly point out, we have to continue to move forward. I touched on the issue, for instance, of elder abuse. I've heard more about this, and I don't think it's just a function of the aging of Canadian society. A number of these issues are coming to public attention; perhaps people are talking about them more, perhaps there's more awareness. I know the Government of Canada puts out a number of ads, which you may have seen on television, that focus people's attention on the potential abuse of seniors in this country, so this has to be a part of it.

And this committee has dealt with the bill with respect to citizen's arrest, clarifying after almost 172 years the rules with respect to self-defence.

Some of these were long overdue, in my opinion, and I'm pleased that we're moving forward on them.

We don't rest in the Department of Justice. We continue to move forward with initiatives that better reflect the interests of victims and law-abiding Canadians, and certainly that's what we're going to continue to do.

But thank you for the question.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

In fact, the bill passed yesterday by the House has been described as one of the most important measures for victims in 100 years.

Mr. Minister, what impresses me the most out of all of this is that out of the $694 million, we are actually looking at a projected reduction of $43 million in the budgetary expenditures in this calendar year from last calendar year. So not only are we passing a tremendous amount of legislation to keep victims safe, we're also being much more efficient with our dollars and our spending of those dollars for Canadians.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Niagara Falls, ON

That's fair enough, and to be fair to you, don't go spending the money yet. As I indicated to your colleagues across the aisle, there are a number of important programs that, because of the funding process and cycle, are sunsetting at the end of this month. So like all Canadians, I will be looking forward to the budget presented by our colleague, the Minister of Finance.

I recognize and understand the point you're making, that we have to be very careful with the public funds. In the overall scheme of government, the Department of Justice represents a fairly small percentage of the overall expenditures in this country, but it's a very important one. It's a department that gives assistance to other areas; they find themselves in court thousands of times. On the Attorney General's side, the public prosecutor has a vital role in prosecuting drug crimes in this country. But we all have a stake in making sure the spending of the hard-earned money of Canadian taxpayers is done wisely and appropriately and conservatively.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Thank you very much, Minister, and thank you for all your hard work and that of your officials and for protecting victims across the country.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dave MacKenzie

Thank you, Mr. Jean.

Mr. Jacob.

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Jacob Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Good morning, Mr. Minister.

The main estimates show a reduction of $9.74 million in funding related to the management of immigration cases involving classified information under division 9 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The role of special advocates in confidential hearings related to the issuance of security certificates is to protect the interests of permanent residents or foreign nationals in their absence.

Will that reduction of $9.74 million result in a decrease in the number of special advocates and thereby make new victims of the permanent residents and foreign nationals? Will this cut affect the rights of permanent residents and foreign nationals who are subject to a security certificate application?

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Niagara Falls, ON

I appreciate that. Again, you've highlighted the role the Government of Canada has with respect to immigration and refugee issues in this country. You've identified $9.74 million. Again, that is one of those programs, and this is the business we're in. Certain programs sunset and have to be reconsidered. So this will be up for consideration for renewal in the fiscal year. Again, I would urge you and all our colleagues to stay tuned to the national budget that will be presented in the next couple of weeks.

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Jacob Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Let me ask my question again—

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Niagara Falls, ON

Pardon me. I guess I didn't address one of the things, which was special advocates. This is a very interesting program we have with respect to special advocates. Interestingly enough, in my conversations with attorneys general outside of Canada, particularly in Australia, the United States, and Britain, they were particularly interested in the special advocates program. I appreciate that everybody has a slightly different take on these and a slightly different program.

I thought I'd highlight for you that it was of interest to me that this program, and how we deal with some of these very sensitive issues of national security, was raised with me when I sat down with other attorneys general as a possible model for other countries to have a look at.

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Jacob Brome—Missisquoi, QC

My second question is for the Minister of Justice as well.

I notice that the main estimates show a $333,000 reduction in contributions to the Access to Justice in Both Official Languages Support Fund.

What is the purpose of that fund? Why did you decide to make cuts to the program and what will be the consequences?

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Niagara Falls, ON

Again, this is one of those programs I have been very supportive of. I'll tell you what it does. It works for both the provincial and federal governments, particularly outside the provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick. They have facilities in both official languages for whatever contact a person has with the justice system for any federal violation, not necessarily just in the criminal area. They accommodate both languages. It's less certain in other parts of the country.

What we have is this program to assist, for instance, in the prosecution of federal offences to make sure that the individual who appears within a provincial context or in a provincial court or at a provincial facility has it in both languages. There's no decrease in this.

What happened was that here was $1 million three years ago that was going to lapse, because the program was just getting going. What we did was spread that money out over three years, at $333,000 per year, in a sense to get the program up and running and get it accommodated.

The original allocation for that will continue. I'm supportive of that. Because of the timing of getting it going, we were in danger several years ago of losing that $1 million, and we wanted to get the program up and running.

Again, it comes down to the Contraventions Act. Again, this is part of what we do just to make sure that somebody, no matter where he or she is in this country, is accommodated in both official languages if provincial resources are being used for any sort of federal contravention.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dave MacKenzie

Thank you, Minister.

Mr. Wilks.

March 13th, 2012 / 11:45 a.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Thanks, Chair.

Thanks, Mr. Minister, for being here today with regard to the main estimates and the supplementary estimates.

With regard to Bill C-10, the comprehensive bill that had many issues in it, I was particularly happy to see that the drug provisions in Bill C-10 have finally been adopted. I believe they are balanced and focused. Can you please provide me with further information on the government's balanced approach to drugs in this country?

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Niagara Falls, ON

I've touched on a couple of the different issues. Certainly one of them is my and the government's support of drug treatment courts. That was recognized and accommodated within Bill C-10. The drug treatment courts help those individuals who unfortunately have become addicted. They get involved with the criminal justice system, and this gives them an opportunity to get the rehabilitation they need and avoid the consequences of a criminal conviction.

As you know, this is part of an ongoing program we have, the national anti-drug strategy. A part of that program is to try to educate people to get the message out that drugs are dangerous and this is not an area individuals should involve themselves in, and if they get involved with it, they should get treatment. But certainly the drug treatment courts are a part of that.

The bill you raised, Bill C-10, which was passed last night and is on its way for royal assent very quickly, is also focused on the gangs, the organized crime, the people who are in the business of trafficking. For instance, it makes specific references to people who bring drugs into Canada. Many times these people are importing death into this country. For instance, we know of the deaths caused by the individuals who bring ecstasy into this country, particularly out in western Canada—British Columbia and Alberta. We all know examples of individuals who have brought these drugs into Canada, and this has resulted in the unfortunate deaths of a number of individuals.

That being said, what I have been told over the years by law enforcement agencies is that the people who bring drugs into Canada are not the individuals I identify who could benefit from drug treatment court or the individuals who were experimenting. They tell me this is organized crime; these are gangs that bring these drugs into Canada. These are not one-offs. These are sophisticated operatives. So the provisions of Bill C-10 target those types of individuals who are involved with this kind of activity, and it sends a message to them that if they are bringing drugs into Canada they will be facing jail time. That is what they're going to get if they get caught. I want that message to get out. I hope the message that they shouldn't do this gets to them, that they should get out of this kind of activity.

That being said, if you do bring drugs into Canada, there are serious consequences. As you say, that is captured in Bill C-10, but Bill C-10 goes beyond that. As I said in my opening remarks to you, it does accommodate the drug courts, which I support. Again, we want to help that individual who has unfortunately become addicted, but at the same time we want to send a clear message to drug traffickers that this is not to be tolerated in Canada.