House of Commons Hansard #14 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was public.

Topics

Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to pay tribute to Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier, who served both Houses of Parliament for 32 years.

Mr. Gauthier is leaving the Senate because of a mandatory retirement provision in our Constitution. The fact that he is 75 prevents him from continuing his public service in the Senate.

Mr. Gauthier sat as the member for Ottawa—Vanier from 1972 to 1994, and as a senator from 1994 to the present. During this time, he was a vocal and consistent advocate for the rights of Franco-Ontarians and French language minority populations across the country.

The first time I met Mr. Gauthier was in June 1993, the same day Kim Campbell was sworn in as Prime Minister. Mr. Gauthier was the guest of honour, roughly one kilometre west of Rideau Hall, at another event that we both felt was just as important.

He had been asked to unveil a mural called “Tribute to Franco-Ontarians”, which my father had commissioned for the wall of the Giant Tiger store at the corner of Dalhousie and George Streets, which had once been the headquarters of Ottawa's French language newspaper Le Droit .

It seemed appropriate for a man who represented the centre of French Ontario for such a long time to unveil a work of art in honour of the Franco-Ontarian community. This mural had been commissioned by my family's business, which has achieved great success in the area of bilingualism.

Later, we sat together on the Standing Joint Committee on Official Languages. We did not always agree, but no one on the committee ever doubted Mr. Gauthier's sincerity when he was defending the rights of Franco-Ontarians and minorities.

Jean-Robert Gauthier has assumed many roles and has been involved in the work of many committees. He will be recognized especially for his work at sessions of the official languages committees of the House and the Senate. He devoted his career to the citizens of Ottawa-Vanier, of Ontario and the entire country.

In conclusion, I would like to offer him my best wishes for success.

Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier
Oral Question Period

12:10 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we are paying tribute to all that Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier has accomplished in his 32 years in Parliament.

A man totally dedicated to representing his constituents to the best of his ability, he was elected here six times representing Ottawa East or Ottawa-Vanier, before moving on to that other place.

He will go down in history as a staunch promoter of respect for both official languages and a veteran of numerous battles to defend the French language within the context of linguistic duality.

He was, therefore, the author of many measures to remedy, promote and guarantee the use of French everywhere in Canada.

Francophone seniors in Ontario benefit every day from what yMr. Gauthier has done, as do all those who still speak French. Yet, he met heavy resistance in his tireless efforts to obtain official bilingual status for Canada's capital. We know that, despite his departure from the Hill, he will be continuing to battle for the respect of official languages, and for the bilingual status of the City of Ottawa, in particular.

Since his departure was announced, there has been an outpouring of public tribute and gratitude from his fellow citizens for all his efforts to ensure the continuance of our beautiful French language.

I will paraphrase what was written by one of them. Through his love of the French language, he is extending the life of this legacy which transcends our identity. Through suffering at times and in solitude, he carries the scars of difficult political struggles in his passionate patriotic heart and his embattled body.”

It is our hope that his example will inspire others to take up his torch and continue in the defence of our two official languages.

Have a wonderful retirement, Senator Gauthier.

Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier
Oral Question Period

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Ed Broadbent Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, members of the House will not be entirely surprised, since I am a New Democrat, to learn that this is the first time I have ever publicly stood up to praise a senator, but I do so with a great deal of pleasure for my friend and former colleague for many years in the House and for his continuing work, I will add, as a senator in the other place.

It has been pointed out that Senator Gauthier has made a distinguished contribution to the battle for human rights in general, which he has, and I want to emphasize that. He is well known in particular for the struggle for minority francophone rights right across the country, as well as in the city of Ottawa, and in struggling for official bilingualism in the province of Ontario. He was an excellent worker for all of these causes.

Senator Gauthier is well known in our community. He served as honorary chair of the S.O.S. Montfort Legal Defence Fund in 1998. He is the recipient of such distinctions as the “Prix Boréal” from the Association canadienne-française de l’Ontario. Senator Gauthier also received the title of Grand-Croix de l’Ordre de la Pléiade in 1998.

He was, and will remain, I am sure, a terrific advocate for human rights. He has been dedicated to his community and his country. I join with all others here in the House in wishing him and his family a joyful and, indeed, an exuberant retirement.

Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier
Oral Question Period

12:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I want to add a few words about my friend Senator Gauthier. I was elected to this House for the first time in 1988 and for a few years I served as the leader of our party in the House.

Senator Gauthier, for a while, was the House leader for the official opposition and I had the pleasure of working with him quite closely for a number of years, in the days when I took part in these things.

He taught me a lot about the tactics inherent in the House.

I now can sit and observe these tactics at work in the House, but he was an excellent instructor.

Of course, we all remember that Senator Gauthier ran to be Speaker of this House in 1993. It was a very interesting and very very close election. I was a candidate in that election but I was knocked out quite early, understandably, given the quality of the other candidates who were running.

It was a pleasure for me to have known him and worked with him while he was in the chamber and to continue our association while he worked in the Senate.

With his departure, the Parliament of Canada is losing one of its most knowledgeable members, but it is a matter of age in the Senate—not here—and this major change coincides with a significant birthday. Happy birthday, Mr. Senator, and on behalf of all the members of this House, I thank you very much for your service to our country.

I express our very best wishes for a long and enjoyable retirement for you.

Thank you very much.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding matters relating to the electoral boundaries readjustment process.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to the report.

I also have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the changes to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons that are necessary pursuant to the special order adopted on October 5.

Mr. Speaker, with the leave of the House, I move:

That the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented to the House earlier this day, be concurred in.

For clarification, this is the report dealing with the changes to the Standing Orders that are necessary pursuant to the motion adopted unanimously by the House on October 5.

(Motion agreed to)

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present the latest petition which is yet another appeal from concerned citizens in support of our on base military families.

As members well know from all of the petitions I have presented already in Parliament on this issue, and intend to continue to present for the foreseeable future, the petitioners want to draw the House of Commons' attention to the fact that on base housing serves a valuable purpose by allowing families to live in a military community and have access to services to address their specific needs.

They are concerned that the Canadian Forces Housing Agency in many instances provides substandard living conditions for our military families. They also wish to note that families of Canadian Forces soldiers living in accommodations provided by the Canadian Forces Housing Agency have seen dramatic increases in their rental charges. Indeed they are about to go up again next month.

Therefore the petitioners, who are from Oshawa and Brooklin, Ontario, call upon Parliament to immediately suspend any future rent increases for accommodation provided by the Canadian Forces Housing Agency until such time as the Government of Canada makes substantive improvements to the living conditions of housing which is provided for our military families.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Liberal

Raymond Simard Parliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure for me to rise in the debate on this important bill, Bill C-10, and encourage all members of the House to support these reforms.

In its detailed 2002 study of the mental disorder provisions of the Criminal Code, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights emphasized the need for reform.

The public may still be talking about the older legislation which contained the concept of “not guilty by reason of insanity”.

Canada's modern criminal law looks closely at those who are found not criminally responsible for reasons of mental disorder and persons declared unfit to stand trial. The law in this field is not well known and often misunderstood. People continue to think that someone who commits an offence and is declared to be not criminally responsible is benefiting from some sort of “escape clause”.Some people may believe there is no consequence. In other words, for this kind of reason, someone could commit a serious crime and not pay any penalty at all. Of course, that is not the case. There is no escape clause like that. Our law in this matter goes back to the 17th century. The law respecting persons declared unfit to stand trial or those found not criminally responsible because of mental disorder provides for consequences—perhaps less severe consequences, but consequences all the same—usually involving treatment and supervision that can potentially go on indefinitely and for some cases detention in a secure psychiatric facility. Thus a sentence can even be longer, rather than shorter, depending on the case.

As for the Criminal Code, it includes a whole part—namely part XX.1—that provides the rules of law and the rules of procedure that apply to persons found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder, and persons unfit to stand trial. That part of the Criminal Code sets out a comprehensive code to ensure, in a fair and effective fashion, the monitoring and treatment of mentally disordered accused, and also public safety.

I indicated that this area of the law is not well understood—even by some lawyers—and it is even harder to grasp for victims of criminal acts—let alone the general public. In the case of victims, criminal law and the criminal justice system are often shattering, complex and daunting. Victims rarely need to know the law until they find themselves at the core of the justice system, often when they arrive in court. When an accused is found to be unfit to stand trial or not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder, victims of criminal acts are confronted with more obstacles in their pursuit of justice.

Victims want to get information on the legal system and on the case that involves them, and they deserve to get such information.

Law reforms, new thrusts and a broadening of the services have given victims a greater role in criminal proceedings. This is increasingly the case. For example, the Criminal Code was amended in 1988 to include the victim impact statement as a means to allow victims of criminal acts to describe the damage or the losses suffered because of the offence that was committed. Incidentally, I remember the debate that took place here at the time.

Some provisions passed in 1988 also provide for publication bans to protect the identity of victims of sexual assault. At the time, a review of this issue was long overdue. Other changes made to the Criminal Code over the past 15 years have helped give a more important role to victims of criminal acts, while respecting the rights of the accused.

In response to the report published in 1998 by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, entitled “Victims' Rights: A Voice, Not a Veto”, the government adopted in 1999 a series of amendments to the Criminal Code to ensure, among other things, that victims are informed of the possibility of submitting a victim impact statement; to include the safety of the victims in the factors that have to be taken into account in making a decision on interim release; to specify the automatic imposition of a mandatory victim fine surcharge, and the amount of this surcharge; and to give judges the discretionary power to impose a publication ban to protect the identity of any victim or witness, as required in the interest of the proper administration of justice, something we all support.

The 1999 amendments also provided for a victim impact statement to be written and filed with the court or review board at a hearing to determine the sentence for an accused found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. The court or review board must take into account any statement filed “in determining the appropriate dispositionor conditions under section 672.54”.

The victim impact statement is provided for in paragraph 672.5(14), which states, “A victim of the offence may prepare and file with the court or review board a written statement describingthe harm done to, or loss suffered by, the victim arising from the commission of the offence”.

Where a verdict of not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder has been rendered in respect ofthe accused, the review board has to determine how the accused will be supervised. The victims of crime are often neglected, and receive little information on the follow-up, on how their safety concerns will be met or whether or not they will have a role to play or have access to any information.

The amendments in Bill C-10 will strengthen the role played by victims of crime in cases where the accused was found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.

I commend the government for introducing this bill, which was before the House before the election was called. Now, it is back before us, and I hope that all my hon. colleagues will give their support so that we can move forward quickly with this bill.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-10, an Act to amend the Criminal Code (mental disorder) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

When I was a journalist, I worked as a crime reporter for two years and had the opportunity to follow some highly unusual trials. I saw both sides, crown and defence attorneys alike, struggle with this delicate question.

When a crime occurs, there are always factors to consider in such an unfortunate incident. Sometimes, those factors are linked to someone who has trouble speaking for himself at trial. It then becomes more difficult and complex for the courts to deal with these issues.

A first step was taken by this House on March 29 of this year. At the time, the Minister of Justice introduced Bill C-29. As is the tradition, the bill was read a second time and referred to a committee so that parties, and especially the Bloc Québécois, could propose amendments to enhance the bill. As I said at the beginning of my speech, the purpose of the bill is to more clearly define this delicate question, which is addressed in the Criminal Code.

Even though we were, at the time, more concerned with pre-electoral stuff than with political issues, committee members were able to come up with unanimous proposals. As I pointed out last Friday, since the start of this Parliament, the Liberal government has kept to one scenario. It reintroduces bills but without taking into consideration the work that was done in the previous session.

When the government acts in this way, it penalizes those affected by this bill. They are already suffering from mental disorder, and then are penalized by the fact that, once again, the Liberal government has neglected to take everything that was said and done in the previous Parliament into consideration. Hon. members are no doubt aware that we are making use of a procedure which allows us to refer the bill to committee earlier in order to get it passed more quickly. Once consideration of it is undertaken in committee, I hope that the committee chair will take time to look at what has already been done, and that the committee will automatically allow all the motions passed that time.

If this government keeps on in this way, the Order Paper will become increasingly weighty. We are operating in the context of a minority government with all sides are trying to make some progress. But, ever since we came back in early October, this government seems to be trying to constantly shunt aside proposals and motions, and most particularly the huge amount of work already done in the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

I hope that, when the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness comes to examine this matter, it will immediately take into consideration everything that has already been done.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill C-10 in principle, but steps must be taken to ensure that the proposed amendments protect the rights of people with mental disorders effectively and properly safeguard public safety.

Unfortunately, many people are prejudiced against the mentally ill. They deserve more compassion and greater understanding, because they are often accused of doing things that they are not even aware of having done. That is why there are provisions in the Criminal Code to protect them.

The recommendations of the justice and human rights standing committee that were not taken into consideration by the federal government deserve to be again considered in committee in order to understand the reasoning of those who drafted this bill.

When a minister introduces a bill, he certainly undertakes consultation. There is something we are having trouble understanding. Those who drafted Bill C-10 have left out some important parts of Bill C-29, which the previous government had introduced.

I remember April 29, 2004, in this House, when, once again, there was very little discussion of policy. There was more talk about the pre-election process. But there was my colleague from Repentigny, who is very well known and who sits near me. These days, he can be seen in the major debates on the issue of public accounts. I am convinced that he will straighten out the Liberals, once again, on everything this government has done that seems a bit wrong.

I do not need to repeat all that has been said at the Gomery commission. I could table piles of documents I have read in the public accounts committee and tell you what has been happening. I am sure the hon. member for Repentigny will take over.

I return to April 29, 2004. My colleague was saying that the Bloc Québécois welcomed and supported Bill C-29. But at that moment, like all Bloc MPs, my colleague addressed the democratic deficit.

The democratic deficit was a slogan heralding a profound transformation in the way Parliament works. Expectations were created around this deficit, and unfortunately we see that nothing happened, except perhaps that the Liberal government now understands that it is in a minority position and must listen more closely to the opposition majority.

In conclusion, I hope that this positive spirit will carry over to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness when it makes its decision on Bill C-10, so that the people affected by this important legislation will not be penalized.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine
Québec

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Canada—U.S)

Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your appointment.

Since this is my first speech in this House since the election in June, I would like to take a few moments to thank everyone from my riding of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine and all the voters for trusting in me. I want to assure them that I intend to continue to represent them well and to be available in the riding, as I was after I was first elected in 1997 and the second time I was elected in 2000.

I want to welcome all the residents of the former city, which became a district and then finally the new City of Dorval.

It is a pleasure for me to rise today and to speak in support of Bill C-10, an act to amend the Criminal Code (mental disorder).

I am sure that all the hon. members will be able to support the motion to refer this bill to committee.

As the hon. members probably know, other members having mentioned this in the House, Bill C-10 is the result in large part of a study conducted in 2002 by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights—its name at the time—which recommended improvements to the Criminal Code with respect to people with mental disorders, in other words, people who are not criminally responsible or are unfit to stand to trial on account of mental disorder.

The committee review should likely focus on how Bill C-10 responds to the issues raised before the standing committee in 2002 by the many witnesses it heard. Bill C-10 responds to these issues and includes additional amendments to ensure an effective, efficient and fair regime.

There are a few aspects of Bill C-10 that I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members and to Canadians who are listening to this debate.

First, with respect to persons accused of offences who are not fit to stand trial under the current law, a person found unfit to stand trial cannot be absolutely discharged. The law governing mental disorder requires an individual assessment of an accused to ensure that both the needs of the accused for treatment and rehabilitation, and the needs of the public for public safety, are taken into account. An unfit accused person cannot be absolutely discharged because there had been no opportunity for the crown to prove that the person had indeed committed an offence under our Criminal Code provisions.

However an unfit accused who does not pose a risk can be placed on a conditional disposition with minimal restrictions where appropriate. Many persons found unfit will eventually be made well and will become fit through treatment. Once fit, they will proceed to trial, but some will never become fit or will become fit only after many years and cannot, therefore, be tried.

The legislation already contains many guarantees for an accused found unfit to stand trial. Bill C-10 adds one more, whereby the court may be asked to review the situation of an accused found unfit to stand trial, if the accused is notlikely to ever be fit to stand trial and does not pose a significant risk to thesafety of the public. The court, and only the court, shall then have the power to order a stay of proceedings.

I want to assure all hon. members who have expressed concern about the safety of the public that the government shares their concern. Bill C-10 has been carefully examined to ensure the public safety of all Canadians. A stay of proceedings will only be possible if the accused poses no significant risk to the safety of the public.

In June 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada delivered judgment in Demers, a case that dealt with a permanently unfit accused. The court held that the current law, as it applies to a permanently unfit accused who is not dangerous, violates the charter because it provides absolutely no mechanism for the proceedings against the accused to end.

Everyone, including the members of that justice committee back in 2002, recognized at the time and recognizes now that it simply had to change.

Bill C-10 would provide a charter compliant approach to permit the court to enter a judicial stay of proceedings after first determining that the accused is permanently unfit, and second, that the accused does not pose a significant threat to the safety of the public.

Bill C-10 will permit the court to hear the case of an accused found unfit to stand trial who is not likely to ever be fit—for instance a person with an organic brain lesion—and does not pose a significant risk to the safety of the public. A review board will be able to make recommendations to the court to hold an inquiry on the condition of the accused if, in its opinion and pursuant to an assessment, the accused is not likely to ever be fit to stand trial and does not pose a significant risk to the safety of the public. The court will also have power to hold an inquiry on its own motion, not acting on the recommendation of the review board. During this inquiry, it will hear the parties, the Crown in particular, and determine whether it should order a stay of proceedings in the interests of the proper administration of justice. In determining whether a stay would be in the interests of the proper administration of justice, the court will consider several factors, including the nature of the offence, the time elapsed since the commission of the offence and whether the Crown has the opportunity to demonstrate the correctness of the charges. This is already a legal requirement: the Crown must demonstrate there is sufficient evidence to justify a trial.

The proposed amendments address the situation of the permanently unfit accused who does not pose a significant risk and permit the court to order a stay of proceedings. However, an unfit accused who does indeed pose a risk to the safety and security of Canadians cannot be granted such a stay. Our law must ensure that the rights of the accused and the right of the public to safety are balanced. In my view, the proposed amendments do this.

Bill C-10 provides a very detailed scheme to permit a judicial stay for an unfit accused. I would like to reiterate just some of the features that I noted earlier and that have been noted by others in the House.

First, the review board, after holding one or more annual review hearings for an unfit accused, must come to the opinion that the unfit accused is not likely to become fit and that the unfit accused does not pose a significant threat to the safety of the public.

Second, the review board can order that the accused's mental condition be assessed by a psychiatrist to assist it in making this recommendation.

Third, the review board may then make a recommendation to the court to hold a hearing to determine whether a judicial stay of proceedings is in the interests of the proper administration of justice.

Fourth, where the court agrees to hold such a hearing, the hearing will provide opportunities for all parties to make submissions.

Fifth, the Crown, which represents the public interest, could make submissions on the nature of the case against the accused, public safety, and the mental condition of the accused.

I have only one minute left, so I am going to wrap up. I will go directly to my conclusion, because most of the points have indeed been covered by my colleagues.

To conclude, I hope that my remarks have allayed the hon. members' concerns and shown why this new provision is necessary.

I encourage all hon. members to support the speedy referral of Bill C-10 to committee, so that it can be passed quickly.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is also my pleasure today to rise and speak in support of Bill C-10, an act to amend the Criminal Code, mental disorder. The bill, as has been pointed out, will make many improvements to the law that governs those persons who are found unfit to stand trial and persons found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.

I will focus my remarks on the provisions of Bill C-10 that seek to repeal provisions of the Criminal Code that in fact were never proclaimed in force.

Hon. members may be curious about why it is even worth noting, since the repeal of unproclaimed provisions merely clarifies the status quo. It is true that the repeal of the unproclaimed provisions will not change the applicable law. However, it is important to highlight the fact that the current reforms, which once and for all will repeal old reforms, reflect the government's belief that these provisions are not needed and will not be needed in the future.

The repeal will bring certainty and clarity to those who may hold out hope for these old provisions, which indeed we now agree do not reflect the goals of protecting public safety and providing treatment for the mentally disordered accused.

Bill C-10 repeals three provisions of the 1991 amending act that were never proclaimed. These are: first, provisions related to capping; second, the dangerous mentally disordered accused provisions; and third, the hospital order provisions. I will be dealing with each of these individually.

Capping provisions were originally designed to ensure that the supervision of those found not criminally responsible would not be longer than the maximum sentence available through a criminal conviction. The maximum periods, or caps, would depend on the offence committed and would range from life to two years or less.

Capping provisions were included as part of the 1992 reforms. The initial postponement in proclamation was necessary to permit a review of all persons held under a lieutenant governor's warrant to determine whether the person should be subject to an increased cap. The delay was also intended to allow the provinces to make necessary amendments to their mental health legislation to ensure that those discharged at the so-called cap would be subject to mental health legislation where necessary.

However, provincial mental health law is not designed to supervise potentially dangerous persons, nor is it designed to protect public safety. As a result, amendments were not pursued by the provinces and territories.

The standing committee in its 2002 review called for the repeal of the capping provisions. The current law in part XX.1 of the Criminal Code, without capping, provides the appropriate balance between the accused's rights and the public's right to safety. Several accused persons have appealed their dispositions, arguing that if they had been convicted they would have served a short sentence. However, because these accused were found not criminally responsible they may have dispositions that restrict their liberty for longer periods than any court sentence for the same offence.

The Supreme Court of Canada has clearly established that sentences for convicted offenders should not be compared with dispositions imposed where an accused is found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. The accused found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder is not punished. Rather, they are assessed, treated and supervised until they can be absolutely discharged.

The absolute discharge may be appropriate soon after the verdict or years later depending on the mental condition of the accused and the risk to public safety. The nature of the offence may have no bearing on the disposition for a not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. Capping should therefore be repealed once and for all.

The dangerous mentally disordered accused provisions, secondly, were linked to the capping concept. They too should be repealed. These provisions would have enabled the prosecutor to apply to the court, after the finding of not criminally responsible but before the disposition is made, to make another finding that the accused is a dangerous mentally disordered accused.

The criteria and procedure were modelled on the dangerous offender provisions that apply to sane convicted offenders. If the accused was found to be a dangerous mentally disordered accused, the court could have then increased a 10 year cap to a maximum of life, but only for “serious personal injury offences”, including various sexual and violent offences. These provisions were very narrow in their proposed application and would have only permitted the longer cap for some of the most dangerous and serious offences.

The DMDA provisions and capping provisions are interdependent and are therefore being repealed together. The repeal of capping and the related DMDA provisions, coupled with the amendments to better protect the rights of permanently unfit accused, will continue to reflect the goals of our criminal law system, including protecting the public.

The hospital order provisions would have applied to convicted offenders, not those found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. These provisions are also proposed for repeal.

Hospital orders were intended to provide a mechanism for short term treatment of a convicted offender who, at the time of sentencing, was in an acute phase of a mental disorder and in urgent need of treatment to prevent further mental deterioration. An offender meeting this criterion would be sent to a psychiatric facility for a period of up to 60 days rather than jailed.

The provisions are being repealed because there is a general view among stakeholders that the current system can accomplish the intended purpose of hospital orders without a statutory provision. In addition, the code provisions are too narrow in their application to address the nature and range of mental disorder present in the convicted offender population. Proclamation of the hospital order provisions would not address the larger problem.

The repeal of these three provisions reflects the government's commitment to fair and effective laws that are clear and up to date. I think all members of the House would agree with that objective.

While it may seem odd to dwell on these aspects of Bill C-10 that may seem of little consequence because they seek to repeal provisions that were never really part of our operating law, I hope members will agree that clarity is necessary and that our parliamentary record should reflect how and why our policy and law have evolved.

I encourage all hon. members to support these provisions that have been put forward in Bill C-10.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak on Bill C-10, as my distinguished colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois have done before me. The Bloc Quebecois supports referring the bill to committee before second reading.

Bill C-10 is the Act to amend the Criminal Code (mental disorder) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. It is the former Bill C-29, which had reached second reading in the last Parliament before dying on the Order Paper with the election call in June. On the issue of Bill C-29, I would like to acknowledge the work of our justice critic, the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.

We are of course in favour of the principle of this bill and of referring the bill to a committee before second reading, but we have to ensure that the proposed amendments will effectively protect the rights of people suffering from mental disorder, while protecting society. This is important also. Amending the Criminal Code is always a sensitive issue. We are dealing with subjects that are difficult for the victims or those close to the victims, who were affected by a crime. Those people have to be protected too. The amendments to the Criminal Code must be carefully measured.

The recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness were not all accepted by the government. We will have to pay special attention when the bill goes to committee. I have no doubt that my colleague, the justice critic for the Bloc Québécois, will be able to keep things in perspective and to do a good job as usual.

We had another example of democratic deficit—my colleague from Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière mentioned this earlier—when the unanimous report was not followed up in its entirety. It was followed up, but not entirely. I would answer that, even though it was almost entirely agreed upon, too often in the past we have seen the government ignore a unanimous report. I am thinking of what affects many people, about the unanimous report on employment insurance. This is deplorable.

However, now, there is an amendment that is quite important and interesting: committee reports will be voted on. Fortunately, we have a majority in the committee. Let this be a warning to the government.

The recommendations that were not followed up will then have to be examined once again in committee. In C-10, 5 of 19 are not there. We will be very vigilant in this regard.

At this time in my short speech, I would like to summarize the bill for the many people who are watching us and the House.

This enactment amends Part XX.1 of the Criminal Code governing persons found unfit to stand trial or not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. The amendments, among other things, include

(a) repealing unproclaimed provisions related to capping, dangerous mentally disordered accused and hospital orders;

(b) expanding the authority of Review Boards by enabling them to order an assessment of the accused, adjourn hearings and protect the identity of victims and witnesses;

(c) permitting the oral presentation of victim impact statements at disposition hearings and adjournments allowing the victim to prepare the statement;

(d) permitting Review Boards to extend the time for holding a review hearing to a maximum of 24 months in certain circumstances;

(e) permitting the court to hold an inquiry and order a judicial stay of proceedings for an accused found unfit to stand trial, if the accused is not likely to ever be fit to stand trial and does not pose a significant risk to the safety of the public and a stay is in the interests of the proper administration of justice;

(f) specifying that the transfer provisions require the consent of the appropriate Attorneys General in all cases and enabling transfers of an accused who is not in custody; and

(g) allowing peace officers arresting an accused who is in contravention of an assessment order or a disposition to release, detain, compel the appearance of or deliver the accused to a place specified in the order.

This enactment also makes consequential amendments to other Acts, including the National Defence Act.

This bill applies to people with mental disorder, people who are declared not criminally responsible or unfit to stand to trial on account of mental disorder.

I studied law for a year and a half and I remember some of my courses. I switched majors and went into communication and became a journalist. This got me into courthouses nonetheless—as a journalist of course, not as a client. I had the opportunity to hear a number of cases including some that were very difficult because, as I was saying earlier, the victims or the accused did not even know they had been involved in a crime.

In criminal law, for an accused to be declared not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder, it must be shown that the accused was suffering from a mental disorder at the time of the offence that rendered him or her incapable of either appreciating the nature and quality of the act or omission or of knowing that it was wrong.

We in the Bloc Québécois feel it is important that the bill protect the rights of people declared not criminally responsible or unfit to stand to trial on account of mental disorder. We also have to protect public safety. It bears repeating because it is very important. I am convinced, as I was saying earlier, that we will have the opportunity to be very vigilant about this in committee.

We have to avoid a repetition of such tragedies as those mentioned by the Canadian Association of Community Living in the brief it submitted on January 25, 2000, to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. We talked for instance about some people with developmental disability who were held without cause at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital, in British Columbia.

Let me quote one of the examples I found on the association's Web site. A 30 year old aboriginal man with a developmental disability was charged with mischief in 1997 and found not criminally responsible on account of a mental disorder. He has been held at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital since then and has appeared regularly in front of the BC Review Board. At his June, 2000 hearing it was confirmed that the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital was not an appropriate setting as the hospital is not geared to deal with individuals with developmental disabilities.

Recognizing that this individual had been kept in custody for a minor offence for more than three years in an institution that was not appropriate to meet his needs, the Review Board ordered a conditional discharge to the community. To date, appropriate community care and treatment has not been forthcoming and he continues to be held at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital.

This case and many others “stress some of the shortcomings of Canada's criminal justice system to properly address the rights and needs of all citizens. Some people, especially people with intellectual disabilities, fall through the cracks of the system”. That is what the Canadian Association for Community Living said in its brief to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on January 25, 2002.

In conclusion, the report of the standing committee confirmed that the 1992 Criminal Code provisions regarding persons found unfit to stand trial or not criminally responsible because of mental disorders needs improvement. You can count on the Bloc Québécois to do what is needed to ensure that the bill reflects the real wishes and needs of persons with mental disorders and the organizations that support them, and that it also safeguards public security.