House of Commons Hansard #44 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was first.

Topics

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

The Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

On division.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Motion No. 6 carried. I therefore declare Motion No. 7 carried.

(Motions Nos. 6 and 7 agreed to)

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

The Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded divisions at the report stage of the bill.

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Accordingly, the divisions stand deferred until Monday, May 3.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, if you were to seek it, I think you would find unanimous consent to defer the votes already deferred to Monday at the expiry of the time provided for government orders to Tuesday following Question Period.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Is there unanimous consent regarding the government deputy whip's proposal?

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Bill C-29. On the Order: Government Orders)

March 29, 2004--the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada--Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, public Safety and Emergency Preparedness of Bill C-29, an act to amend the Criminal Code (mental disorder) and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

April 29th, 2004 / 5:05 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie
Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard for the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved:

That Bill C-29, an act to amend the Criminal Code (mental disorder) and to make consequential amendments to other acts,be referred forthwith to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

London West
Ontario

Liberal

Sue Barnes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak on Bill C-29, an act to amend the Criminal Code (mental disorder) and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

Bill C-29 proposes a range of reforms to the provisions of the criminal law to govern persons found unfit to stand trial and not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.

Before highlighting the key features of the bill, I would like to provide members of the House some background, or history, of these provisions.

It is a longstanding principle of our criminal law that persons who suffer from mental disorder and do not understand the nature and quality of their acts or know that they are wrong should not be held criminally responsible. In 1991 Parliament made significant reforms to modernize the law that governed persons found not guilty by reason of insanity. The 1991 reforms reflected the need to balance the rights of the mentally ill and also to balance this with the protection of public safety.

The reforms included in Bill C-29 share the same goals as the 1991 reforms, to further modernize the law and to effectively balance the rights of the mentally ill who come into conflict with the law with the public's right to safety.

It is also worth noting that the 1991 amendments called for a parliamentary review of the legislation five years after proclamation. The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights conducted a comprehensive review of the legislation in the spring 2002. The committee received submissions and heard testimony from over 30 stakeholders, including members of the Bar, crown attorneys, psychiatric hospital administrators, review board chairpersons, service providers and mental health advocates.

It is fair to say that, in general, witnesses appearing before the committee agreed that the legislation was working very well. However, they noted that further refinements would ensure that the law continued to work very well to govern persons found unfit to stand trial and not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.

In June 2002, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights tabled its report and made recommendations calling for both legislative reform and other initiatives. Its report explains why reforms are needed and in some cases proposes a specific amendment.

The standing committee report included 19 recommendations. The key recommendations for Criminal Code reform called for, and this is in no particular order: the repeal of parts of the 1991 regime that were never proclaimed into forced, including the capping provisions that would have set the maximum time limit on the supervision or detention of the accused; streamlining the transfer of accused persons between provinces and territories; new provisions to deal with persons who are permanently unfit to stand trial; and enhanced protections for the victims of crime who attend review board hearings, for example, publication bans on their identity in appropriate circumstances and the opportunity to prepare a victim impact statement.

The committee also made recommendations calling for more indepth research and consultation on emerging issues, such as the appropriate standard to determine fitness to stand trial and whether professionals, other than psychiatrists, should conduct assessments.

The need to consult with provincial and territorial ministers of health was also recommended to review the resources available to meet the needs of the mentally disordered accused, and the availability of facilities for youth. This is very serious.

The standing committee should be commended for its thorough review of the mental disorder provisions. Bill C-29 reflects the advice and guidance provided by the committee and all of those who appeared before the committee.

Bill C-29 includes reforms that respond to the issues raised by the committee. In some cases the amendment is not exactly as the committee proposed. I am sure the committee will agree, following its consideration of Bill C-29, that its key recommendations have been addressed.

Bill C-29 also includes reforms that the committee did not specifically recommend, but that complement the committee's recommendations and also reflect issues raised in the case law, and also through very important consultations conducted by the Department of Justice with key stakeholders over the past 10 years.

The key features of Bill C-29 provide new powers for review boards that have been established in each province and territory to make key decisions governing mentally disordered and unfit accused. For example, review boards would be able to order an assessment of the mental condition of the accused to assist them in making the appropriate disposition. Victim impact statements could be read aloud by victims at review board hearings. The bill would be streamline transfer provisions to permit the safe and efficient transfer of a person found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder or unfit from one province or territory to another. Courts would have new authority to determine whether a judicial stay of proceedings should be ordered for a permanently unfit accused who did not pose a significant threat to the safety of the public.

More options are in the bill for police to enforce disposition and assessment orders that take into account the need for the accused person's treatment to continue. The provisions of the 1991 law that were never proclaimed will be repealed; capping and the related dangerous mentally disordered accused provisions and the hospital orders provision. Also, there are a range of clarifying and procedural amendments to ensure the effective application of the goals of the law.

This bill is not a whole scale reform of the law. Rather, the bill is the next step in ensuring that our laws are effective, efficient and fair in governing mentally disordered accused.

This is a very complex area of the law. However, make no mistake, these reforms are necessary. The provisions of the code have remained the same since 1991, but the case law has evolved, as has the application of the code. The Supreme Court of Canada has stated in several recent cases, including Winko and Tulikorpi, that the code regime has two goals: protection of the rights of the mentally disordered accused and protection of public safety. Punishment is not one of the goals. As I indicated earlier, our law does not hold the mentally disordered accused criminally responsible.

I look forward to the prompt consideration of this bill by a committee of the House. It is my hope that the committee will support these amendments and see their hard work reflected in the bill. Very good work has been done by the committee before. The ultimate goal is the speedy passage of any of these bills by the House. I hope all members will support the amendments.

I thank the House for the opportunity to start the discussion. I know we will have important discussion on the bill. While this gets ready to go to committee, we can have more indepth discussion at committee. I thank all the members of the House for their consideration.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to add my comments to this very important bill. The stated purpose of the bill is to modernize the mental disorder provisions of the Criminal Code to make it both fairer and efficient while preserving the overall framework of these provisions.

In June 2002 the standing committee tabled its report, calling for legislative reforms and looking at Department of Justice consultations on the mental disorder provisions of the Criminal Code. The extensive committee review that was conducted was as a result of the statutory requirement under Bill C-30, which had been introduced in 1991, after many years of consultation.

The report that was put forward in 2002 was approved by all parties. In fact the results of this review is an important example of how committees, when they are focused on the issue rather than politics, can work in a cooperative fashion. This report is a demonstration of that.

Bill C-30 had a significant reform provision relating to persons not considered criminally responsible. That bill replaced references to terms such as “natural imbecility” or “disease of the mind” with the term “mental disorder”. It extended its application to cover summary convictions for less serious offences as well. Instead of being found not guilty by reason of insanity, an accused could now be held not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.

Such a finding no longer resulted in an automatic period in custody. That automatic period of custody was found to be unconstitutional in the Swain decision in 1991. Instead the court could choose an appropriate disposition or indeed defer the decision to a review board.

Furthermore, under that provision, the courts and the review boards were obliged to impose the least restrictive disposition necessary having regard to the goal of public safety, the mental condition of the accused and the goal of his or her reintegration into society.

Bill C-30 came into force in February 1992. The proclamation was delayed for three major initiatives. First was the capping provision that was referred to earlier. Second was the dangerously mental disordered accused provisions that would allow the courts to extend the cap to a life term. The third was the hospital orders provisions for convicted offenders who at the time of sentencing were in need of treatment for a mental disorder.

This bill takes into account the recommendations of the justice committee of June 2002. Bill C-29 addresses six key areas. These are all issues that were thoroughly considered by the committee. I understand that these are not necessarily exactly the way the committee has recommended them and that is why the committee will no doubt examine very carefully what has been put into the bill.

However, indeed the amendments address six key areas: first, the expansion of the review board powers; second, permitting the court to order a stay of proceedings for permanently unfit accused; third, allowing victim impact statements to be read; fourth, the repeal of unproclaimed provisions; fifth, streamlining of transfer provisions between provinces; and sixth, the expansion of police powers to enforce dispositions and assessment orders.

A couple of concerns have been raised with respect to some of these key areas, for example, the allowing of victim impact statements to be read.

In the case of a criminal trial where a person has been found guilty the concerns of the victim of course are very relevant. They are necessary in the sentencing provision to determine whether the impact on the victim should also be reflected in the sentencing.

Here we are dealing with a substantively different situation because we are not looking at the guilty mind of an accused. We are dealing with a mentally disordered person. We therefore have to be careful how we use these victim impact statements in this context. I think it is important for victims to have a voice but we have to remember that this does not form exactly the same role that it does in a criminal trial where a criminal may not express any regret after having been convicted and it is important for the victim to have his or her say in that context.

The streamlining of the transfer provisions between provinces is another issue. It is important that there be the appropriate consent of the jurisdiction to which the individual is being transferred. I understand the bill attempts to ensure that there is the appropriate consent in that context.

The repeal of the unproclaimed capping provisions and the like are important. Why were concerns raised over these sentencing provisions? They were raised because it seemed that where a person was found mentally disordered, the period of incarceration could be a lot longer than a comparable sentence in the criminal courts. Somehow there was a suggestion that maybe it would be unfair to have a mentally disordered person subject to a longer period of custody than someone who had been in fact convicted of a criminal offence.

Here again is the difference in the intent. With the criminal conviction, obviously punishment is a key goal of the criminal justice system, as well as rehabilitation. When we talk in the mentally disordered context, we are not talking punishment. We are not talking about rehabilitation in the same way where there is a cognitive element in terms of rehabilitating an accused. In the mentally disordered context we are trying to deal with the health of the individual. Therefore if it takes longer to help the person, so be it. The capping provision is simply not appropriate.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in the Winko decision that a potentially indefinite period of supervision of a mentally disordered person was not unconstitutional since it was not for the purposes of punishment. However there is the review process that provides a mentally disordered person with some safeguards.

On the issue of the stay of proceedings for the permanently unfit accused, there is some concern related to how the safety of the public can be guaranteed. I look forward to that particular discussion at the committee, because even if the person is not personally responsible for his or her actions because of the mental disorder, there is still an onus on society to ensure that the individual does not cause further damage to his or her fellow citizens.

As I indicated, the objectives of the bill are generally consistent with the recommendations of the June 2002 committee report, a report which members of both the former Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Parties approved. I look forward to having the discussion in committee.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to rise on behalf of my party to speak to Bill C-29. I will say right away that the Bloc Quebecois supports Bill C-29.

Often people who listen to us, even the Conservatives, believe that the Bloc Quebecois, being in the opposition, is always opposed to everything coming from the Liberal Party or the government. Today we are proving it is not so.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

On a point of order, the honourable chief government whip.