House of Commons Hansard #233 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was victims.

Topics

Points Of Order

10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Before we begin the day's proceedings I would like to rule on the point of order raised by the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough on May 27, 1999 concerning the extension beyond the normal date of expiration of the consideration of the main estimates referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

I wish to thank the hon. member for raising the matter and I also want to acknowledge the contributions made by the hon. member for Vancouver Island North and the hon. government House leader.

For the benefit of all members and for the listening public, the point of order raised deals with a specific aspect of the business of supply. Supply is the process by which the government asks parliament to appropriate the funds required to meet its financial obligations and to implement programs already approved by parliament.

On or before March 1 of the fiscal year that is coming to a close the main estimates to cover the upcoming fiscal year for every department of government are referred to specific standing committees for scrutiny. Once that consideration is complete a committee reports its estimates back to the House. Committees that have not reported by May 31 are deemed to have done so. The only exception to the May 31 deadline first implemented in 1986 is by virtue of Standing Order 81(4), which reads in part:

(a) not later than the third sitting day prior to May 31, the Leader of the Opposition may give notice...of a motion to extend consideration of the main estimates of a named department or agency and the said motion shall be deemed adopted when called on “Motions” on the last sitting day prior to May 31;

It is evident from the text I have just quoted that there are no provisions in the standing orders to allow anyone other than the Leader of the Opposition to propose this extension.

Furthermore, the standing order does not require that such a motion be proposed. The text is merely permissive.

I must acknowledge the ingenuity of the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough in suggesting that an analogous situation exists in citation 924 of Beauchesne's sixth edition which discusses the division of allotted days among opposition parties. However, I must agree with the hon. government House leader when he concludes, on the issue of extension, that the standing orders leave the Speaker no discretionary power at all. Thus, I cannot grant the hon. member's request to allow his motion to proceed in the absence of a motion by the Leader of the Opposition.

That being said, the challenge of making the supply process more effective continues to bedevil many members of all parties. If members have suggestions and concrete proposals that will enhance the quality of the work of the House and its committees, then I would encourage them to bring these ideas forward, notably to the attention of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs which has the ongoing mandate for scrutiny of our procedures and standing orders.

I thank the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough for bringing this matter to the attention of the House.

Points Of Order

10:05 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I appreciate your ruling. If I might, given the fact that the Leader of the Opposition has not availed himself of Standing Order 81(4), and as a result, all opposition members, and I would suggest even members of the government, cannot avail themselves of this extended period of time for examination of the main estimates, I seek unanimous consent, as House leader of the fifth party in the House, to avail ourselves of that motion.

Points Of Order

10:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

As the Speaker's ruling very clearly indicated, the standing orders are permissive in that it is a responsibility which lies with the Leader of the Opposition.

I will consult with the clerk on the request for unanimous consent before I ask the question.

Even though the Speaker has just made the ruling that it is out of order, the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough is perfectly within his rights as a member to request the unanimous consent of the House to proceed as he has suggested. Therefore, the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough has requested the unanimous consent of the House that his motion stand in the place of that of the Leader of the Official Opposition. Is there unanimous consent?

Points Of Order

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Points Of Order

10:05 a.m.

An hon. member

No.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-79, an act to amend the Criminal Code (victims of crime) and another act in consequence, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

We will introduce the amendments as they are on the notice paper and then, when it comes to reading the amendments to the House, we will make the changes that have been requested.

There are five motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-79, an act to amend the Criminal Code (victims of crime) and another act in consequence.

Motions Nos. 1, 2, 4 and 5 will be grouped for debate and voted on as follows: a) Motions Nos. 1 and 4 will be voted on separately; b) the vote on Motion No. 2 will apply to Motion No. 5.

Motion No. 3 will be debated and voted on separately.

I shall now propose Motions Nos. 1, 2 and 5 to the House. I will not be proposing Motion No. 4.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Reform

John Duncan Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, would you please clarify the status of Motion No. 3?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Motion No. 3 is part of another grouping. When we get to that grouping we will deal with Motion No. 3.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-79, in Clause 18, be amended by replacing line 33 on page 14 with the following:

“offence, where a victim exists, whether the victim or victims have”

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Reform

Chuck Cadman Surrey North, BC

moved:

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-79, in Clause 20, be amended by replacing lines 11 and 12 on page 15 with the following:

“section 730 of an offence under this Act, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act or the Young Offenders Act shall”

Motion No. 5

That Bill C-79 be amended by adding before line 17 on page 19 the following new clause:

“28.1 On the later of the day this Act comes into force and the day Bill C-68 introduced in the first session of the thirty-sixth Parliament and entitled An Act in respect of criminal justice for young persons and to amend and repeal other Acts is assented to, subsection 737(1) of the Criminal Code as enacted by section 20 of this Act is replaced by the following:

  1. (1) Subject to subsection (5), an offender who is convicted or discharged under section 730 of an offence under this Act, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act or the Youth Criminal Justice Act shall pay a victim surcharge, in addition to any other punishment imposed on the offender.”

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to an issue of concern certainly to the residents of Waterloo—Wellington, but also to the people of Canada and all members of the House. It is the issue of addressing the needs of victims of crime within the criminal justice system.

Bill C-79 is an act to amend the Criminal Code (victims of crime) and another act in consequence. It was tabled by the Minister of Justice on April 15, 1999. The bill has been widely supported by the public, by victim advocates, by service providers and by members of all parties in the House.

The history of Bill C-79 predates its introduction in April. The amendments to the Criminal Code were shaped by the work of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights which thoroughly reviewed the role of the victim in the criminal justice system.

It is important to note that the recommendations for Criminal Code amendments were unanimous. These recommendations were based on the submissions of victims of crime, victim advocates, victim service providers and many others who were actively involved in and knowledgeable about our criminal justice system.

These amendments demonstrate the commitment of the Government of Canada to engage the people of Canada in discussions on important issues. It also demonstrates how parliamentarians can work together collaboratively to achieve shared goals and to work together in the interests of all Canadians.

Over the past decade we have witnessed many improvements to the criminal justice system to ease the burden of victims and witnesses. Clearly there remains room for further improvement. While laws, policies, programs and services are available, Canadians are largely unaware of the current initiatives.

The standing committee, in its wisdom, in its review of the victim's role in the criminal justice system, carefully examined the current legislation of both the federal and provincial governments before identifying gaps and recommending change. The Criminal Code amendments in Bill C-79 build upon the existing provisions regarding the victim impact statement, the victim surcharge and the various provisions to make it easier for victims and witnesses to provide their testimony.

The amendments also enact new provisions to address the concerns of victims regarding their safety, to enhance and expand the opportunities for their views to be considered and to encourage the provision of information to victims.

Before highlighting the key provisions of Bill C-79, which I am certain all members are familiar with, I would emphasize that the Government of Canada regards a response to the needs and concerns of victims of crime as an ongoing process. Bill C-79 amendments are part of that process, not the beginning nor the end.

As I indicated, many initiatives have been taken to reform our laws to improve the situation for victims of crime, including the sentencing amendments in 1996 which required judges to consider victim impact statements, and the amendments in 1997 to govern the production of personal records of sex offence complaints and complainants.

The government will continue to be responsive to the needs of victims of crime. We will be looking to all members of the House for their continued support for current and future initiatives.

Bill C-79 amendments will implement the unanimous recommendations of the standing committee. They will improve the existing provisions and enact new reforms. While these amendments will enhance the voice of victims of crime in our criminal justice system, they will not, I repeat, will not in any way infringe on the rights of persons accused of crime.

The provisions have been carefully drafted to ensure that all rights are respected. Moreover, the preamble emphasizes that the rights of both victims, witnesses and accused persons are to be accommodated and to be reconciled where possible.

The amendments deal with several needs identified by victims: the need to enhance the victim impact statement provisions; the need to expand protection for victims and witnesses to facilitate their participation in the process; the need to ensure that the concerns of victims and witnesses regarding their safety and security are taken into account when determining whether an accused person should be released on bail and the need to revise the victim surcharge provisions.

These are important changes and certainly worthy for the House to note. The victim impact statement amendments further expand the current regime which provides that the judge consider any impact statement prepared at the time of sentencing the offender. As a result of the amendments where the victim wants to read the statement to the judge at the time of sentencing they shall be permitted to do so. This opportunity to present their statement will ensure victims that in addition to the requirement that the statement be considered it will be listened to by the judge and anyone else present in the courtroom at sentencing, including the accused.

The amendments will also address a significant concern of victims that they did not now know about the opportunity to make an impact statement. I think that is also important in terms of its change and what it represents.

The code will now require that the sentencing judge ask whether the victim has been informed of the opportunity to prepare and submit a victim impact statement. The judge may adjourn the sentencing hearing to permit a victim impact statement to be prepared in appropriate circumstances.

I also want to point out that the victim surcharge provisions will be significantly reformed to place the obligation to pay the surcharge squarely on the offender as a consequence of conviction. The amount of the surcharge will be fixed at a mandatory minimum amount. The judge, however, will have the discretion to impose an increased amount in appropriate circumstances or to waive it completely where the offender establishes that a payment of this additional penalty would cause undue hardship.

The new surcharge regime will result in a significant increase in the revenue available to provinces and the territories to help victims. Moreover, the victim surcharge is a way for offenders to account to victims of crime as a group and to acknowledge that victims need assistance and services.

The amendments will also address the need for the victim's safety to be taken into account when an accused person is being released on bail. As a result of these amendments, the responsible judicial officer, whether it is the officer in charge, a justice of the peace or a judge, may then consider the safety and security of the victim in any decision about an accused's bail.

In addition, where an accused is released pending trial, the judge must consider including as a condition of bail that the accused abstain from any direct or indirect communication with the victim. Any other condition necessary to ensure safety and security of the victim can also be specified.

To address the difficulties faced by certain witnesses during their testimony because of their age, disability, the nature of their victimization, amendments have been included to do the following: to extend to the victims of sexual or violent crime up to 18 years of age protections which restrict personal cross-examination by self-represented accused persons, by providing for the appointment of counsel to conduct the cross-examination. It also permits a victim or a witness with mental or physical disability to have a support person present while giving testimony. Finally, it permits a judge to restrict publication of the identity of a wide range of victims or witnesses where the victim establishes a need for the order and where the judge considers it necessary for the proper administration of justice.

This provision will codify the prevailing common law and procedure as established by the Supreme Court of Canada and will fully respect the need to balance the rights of the victim, the accused and the public.

These amendments will significantly improve the experience of victims of crime within the criminal justice system. We know that our work is not over and that much more can be done to encourage the expansion of services for victims, and to encourage the provision of information to victims of crime and to all Canadians about our criminal justice system, and to bring forward necessary reforms where needed.

Bill C-79 amendments are necessary and reasonable reforms. For the 10 years that I sat on the Waterloo regional police service as chairman, we very much valued the importance of victims and the role they play in the criminal justice system.

I view these amendments to Bill C-79 as a great improvement in this area, and I do so on behalf of the residents of Waterloo—Wellington and all Canadians. I thank all hon. members in the House for their support of these amendments and for their concern for the victims of crime. This is a very important issue that we must deal with expeditiously.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am also very pleased to take part in the debate. I noted the comments of the member opposite and I echo much of that sentiment having worked in the court system as well. I know there has been an ongoing need and a need that continues with respect to the recognition of victims and the need to give them the dignity they require after having been victimized.

Sadly, time and time again in the country there have been occasions where victims have felt the wrath of the criminal in the community in the first instance, and then once again felt victimized by a system that was sometimes not sensitive to their needs and their overwhelming feelings of loss after having been victimized or preyed upon.

There is a great deal of positive impact that will be felt from the implementation of Bill C-79. I had the pleasure of participating in the round table that was referred to by the member opposite. We had an incredible representation of stakeholders from across the country from victims' groups. I am very proud to say that from the province of Nova Scotia we had tremendous participation, some might argue disproportionate participation, but it speaks well to our justice system and the sensitivity of my home province of Nova Scotia toward this need and this problem.

The victim impact statement is a matter of law that has been around for some time. It is, for those who might be unfamiliar with the concept, an opportunity for a victim to speak directly not only to the court but to those assembled and, perhaps most importantly, to the offender. It is an opportunity for victims to voice the feeling they might have encompassed as a result of what the offender had done to them personally, to their property or to a loved one. The expansion of the victim impact statement in its use and in its utilization within the courtroom is a very important step forward.

The knowledge that victims have of these processes that are available to them is something that is equally important because those tools, if not made familiar to victims, will not serve the purpose for which they are set out.

Victim impact statements are a very important aspect of the healing that has to take place subsequent to the commission of a crime and subsequent to the often arduous process that victims experience in the court. That includes the delay, the appeal, and often the very rigorous cross-examination and rigorous examination of circumstance that occurs in a courtroom. This is part of our legal system. It is part of the need and necessity to observe principles such as the presumption of innocence. Due process has to run its course, but the victims are often left feeling that this sterile process does not show enough compassion to the pain, not only the external pain but the internal pain that comes about as a result of criminal activity.

Through heightened awareness of the use of victim impact statements and the necessity now of the codification of the requirement that a judge inquire of the crown prosecutor, the victim or their representative as to whether they have availed themselves of a victim impact statement is an important step forward. I do have some reservations as to the broad application of this.

That matter was also raised by provinces, particularly New Brunswick. It brought forward a concern about the current wording of the sections in Bill C-79 which requires that a judge must make these inquiries of the prosecutor. It would be left open to interpretation by the judge in all instances or cases including victimless crime. I am speaking of a situation where damage is done to public property or an impaired driving case, which sadly still remain very prevalent in terms of the caseload in the courts.

When we have the requirement or the necessity for a judge in every instance, including victimless crimes, to make such an inquiry, my submission to the justice department would be that this will cause further delay because of the volume that exists in the courts. Although it may seem momentary in a single case that a judge makes this request or inquiry, when it is done time and time again it will result in a massive amount of wasted court time. Sadly we simply do not have the luxury to waste court time in this day and age.

My amendment is aimed specifically at denoting in a very straightforward way a suggestion to streamline this section that a judge must make these inquiries when a victim exists. I believe the language is such that it is made very clear.

Sadly we have seen time and time again legislation being drafted in a cumbersome and onerous way and being left open to all sorts of judicial and legislative interpretation that what is intended in the legislation is often misdirected and often misinterpreted. This does not serve the purpose the legislative drafters would hope to accomplish. It certainly would not serve the purpose that members of parliament who are involved in this process want to accomplish. We need streamlined, tight legislation, particularly in criminal law where there is a tremendous amount of problems and a tremendous backlog in courts throughout the land.

That is what lawyers do. Lawyers look for an interpretation that would be advantageous to their clients. That is part of the process. It will always be implicit in our legal system. However, common sense is something that should prevail. I believe it should begin at the very first instance, in the drafting process.

I am suggesting that through this amendment we can accomplish more because we can remove some of the delay that will flow from this current section of Bill C-79.

To speak to the larger issue of the impact of the bill, we have seen some very positive legislative initiatives which will touch upon some of the shortcomings that have existed prior to this time and will exist for some time until the actual implementation of Bill C-79 takes place.

One of those initiatives has been mentioned. It involves the use of victim fine surcharges. I have some reservations as to the actual practical application. I hope the revenue that will be generated by the application of victim fine surcharges will find its way into the hands of victims who are feeling aggrieved.

We all know it will not be possible to put victims back into the situation which existed prior to their victimization. We will not be able to remove the bruises, to unviolate a sexual assault victim. We will not be able to erase from their memories or remove the injurious effects which flow from an assault.

At least with some monetary compensation there is an attempt and a recognition. Oftentimes I would suggest strongly that it is recognition victims are looking for, a respect from not only the system but to some small degree perhaps from the accused, from the offender. Monetary compensation for personal damage to property or personal damage to clothing in some small way is a recognition.

I hope the victim fine surcharge will be administered properly. I hope it will not be used for administrative purposes as opposed to the intent, which is to put money or compensation into the pocket of the victim.

I am very pleased to have been a part of the process that brings us to this stage, the deliberations that took place in the justice committee. I was very pleased to see the positive and non-partisan approach taken by all members of the committee. That is very apparent in the House today and we will see it again when it comes time to vote on this legislative initiative.

I congratulate members of the committee. I have no reservation in acknowledging the Minister of Justice and her commitment to this issue. I must recognize as well the late Shaughnessy Cohen as having played an integral part in getting this piece of legislation to the point where we see it today. It is a very fitting tribute to her memory that these implementations will be coming about, to use the minister's words, in a timely fashion.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Reform

Chuck Cadman Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be quite brief and restrict my comments to the Group No. 1 amendments.

I have no problem with Motion No. 1 of my colleague from Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough. It simplifies the intent of the section. I appreciate his foresight in addressing this issue. To those of us with no legal training it seems rather inconsequential, but I understand that the hon. member, with his experience in the courts, knows how things can fall apart and why one would want to propose this amendment. I certainly have no problem with it.

As for Motion No. 2, we are adding the Young Offenders Act to the list of statutes for which the victim surcharge will apply. The reason for that is that the amendment follows Recommendation No. 13 of the justice committee in its report “Victims' Rights: A Voice, Not A Veto”. The committee actually reported and recommended that victim fine surcharges should apply to young offenders.

The federal-provincial-territorial working group also recommended permitting the surcharge against young offenders. Alberta, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island and Ontario are on record as supporting victim surcharges applying to young offenders.

Young offenders create victims in similar ways as adult criminals do. A victim is a victim is a victim, regardless of who is the perpetrator of the offence. As such, young offenders should be held responsible to provide assistance to the victims of crime in a similar fashion as adults do.

During the 1994-95 fiscal year there was a total of 4,472 cases across Canada whereby a fine was the most significant disposition by the youth court. The vast majority of these fines were between $50 and $500. If these young offenders can pay those fines, a minimum surcharge scheme as laid out in Bill C-79 should not prove to be any great problem for them.

Motion No. 5 merely applies the same line of reasoning to the proposed youth criminal justice act, if it ever in fact sees the light of day.

I will finish my comments there. I will have more to say at third reading on the main body of my thoughts on this bill.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, we will not support the amendments brought forward by the Reform Party, but we will support the one brought forward by the House leader for the Progressive Conservative Party. We are generally in favour of this bill because we think it gives victims of crime the increased protection they need, particularly in the case of sexual offences.

We know that the members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights have worked constantly in a spirit of co-operation on this issue. I think we must give them credit for that.

Crime has been a concern of mine for a long time. It is an issue of great interest to me as the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve.

Members will certainly recall that, in 1995, I tabled a bill that was called, wrongly perhaps, an anti-gang bill, when in fact it was an anti-mafia bill.

There are different levels of crime. There are lower levels of crime, which exist within the communities and for which we, on this side of the House, have always thought the rehabilitation process was possible.

Then there are higher levels of crime, which require more drastic measures.

We think that one of the ways to reduce crime would be to withdraw the $1,000 bill from circulation, a proposal the member for Charlesbourg himself has on several occasions made to the House. Canada is the only country with a $1,000 denomination and we know who benefits.

If we were to conduct a test and ask how many members in the House had $1,000 bills in their possession, I think the answer would be very few, with the notable exception of yourself, Mr. Speaker.