Debates of Feb. 6th, 2008
House of Commons Hansard #45 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was language.
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Request for Emergency Debate
Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC
Mr. Speaker, an emergency debate is required because of a decision by the federal government to cut the funding for the First Nations Technical Institute by two-thirds, which could potentially result in the closure of the FNTI by the end of this semester, roughly sometime in April.
Without an immediate commitment from the federal government to fund the school next year, layoff notices will have to be sent to staff and faculty at the school. Everyone agrees that the work of the institute is very credible. The only question is over jurisdiction. While governments argue about who is responsible, however, the institute and the lives of hundreds of students will be irremediably damaged.
FNTI is in the Tydendinaga first nations reserve near Kingston, Ontario. The Ontario government insists that on reserve education is the responsibility of the federal government. The federal government says that post-secondary institutions are a provincial responsibility. There is no legislation that protects the standing of the school or defines what level of government is responsible for its support.
As Carol Goar reported this morning in the Toronto Star, there are many students who have invested money and time in their education at FNTI. They will be left with student loan debts next year, but will have only half the courses they need to graduate.
All recent policy discussions around aboriginal affairs have emphasized the need to support and enhance education opportunities for aboriginal students. We cannot let an indigenous controlled institution that has a 90% employment rate for graduates disappear. This House needs to debate why the Conservatives are letting this chance to improve educational attainment for aboriginal students slip away.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for considering my request.
Request for Emergency Debate
The Speaker Peter Milliken
The Chair has considered the request the hon. member sent by letter earlier this day and I have heard her arguments this afternoon. I do not believe that this request for an emergency debate meets the exigencies of the standing order at this time. Accordingly, I will decline this request at this time.
February 6th, 2008 / 3:45 p.m.
Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
That a message be sent to the Senate to acquaint their Honours that this House:
agrees with amendments numbered 2, 4, 5 and 6 made by the Senate to Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal procedure, language of the accused, sentencing and other amendments); but
disagrees with amendment numbered 1 because it would place an undue burden on judges and does not take into consideration provincial and territorial practices that are currently in place to ensure that accused persons are informed of their language rights; and
disagrees with amendment numbered 3 because the Minister of Justice would be unable to comply with the statutory duty imposed by the amendment as provinces and territories do not keep statistics to report on the operation of the language of trial provisions;
Rob Moore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the debate on the amendments made in the Senate to Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal procedure, language of the accused, sentencing and other amendments).
Bill C-13 was passed by the Senate on January 29 with six amendments. I will speak to each of them.
Four amendments to the language of trial provisions were made, including the creation of two new provisions. An additional amendment makes changes to the coming into force provision of Bill C-13, while the sixth amendment coordinates changes proposed to the same Criminal Code provision in both Bill C-13 and Bill C-2, the tackling violent crime act.
Before turning to each amendment, I wish to underline the fact that, with respect to the language of trial amendments, both the Commissioner of Official Languages and the Fédération des associations de juristes d'expression française de common law, a national federation representing the provincial associations of francophone jurists, are satisfied with the proposals found in Bill C-13 as passed by the House of Commons. The proposals in this regard were carefully studied by both the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and by the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.
I will now turn to each amendment.
The first amendment proposed by the Senate is with respect to clause 18, a clause meant to ensure that all accused persons in this country are aware of their fundamental language rights. As members know, the current Criminal Code provision grants only unrepresented accused the right to be advised of their language rights by the judge.
As passed by the House of Commons, clause 18 proposed to extend this right to all accused, whether represented by counsel or not. In other words, clause 18 would broaden the right to be advised so that it would benefit all accused persons. This would heed the judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Beaulac case of 1999 as well as respond to a recommendation made by the Commissioner of Official Languages.
This being said, clause 18 as introduced did not impose a duty on the judge to personally inform each accused of his or her language rights. Rather, the clause stated that the judge “shall ensure that they are advised”.
The amendment proposed to clause 18 by the Senate would now require the presiding judge, at the accused's first appearance, to personally inform each and every accused of their language rights. We do not agree with this amendment.
During the consultation on the proposals that led to Bill C-13, provinces and court administrators clearly told the government that a requirement for the judge to personally inform all accused, including accused persons with legal representation, would create a significant burden on judges and courts as well as considerably increase delays in criminal proceedings.
Obviously, further delays in criminal proceedings is something that all of us in this House should work against.
As many provinces developed efficient ways of ensuring that accused persons are made aware of their language rights, the government drafted Bill C-13 with a specific view to recognizing different provincial and territorial practices in this area.
Let us be clear. The duty continues to rest upon the judge. He or she must ensure that the accused is advised. The use of the words “shall ensure” does not, as some have suggested, dilute in any way the right that is granted.
In fact, it is an expression that is often used in federal legislation, for instance, in the Official Languages Act. For example, section 22 of that act states that:
Every federal institution has the duty to ensure that any member of the public can communicate with and obtain available services from its head or central office in either official language....
Section 16 states that federal courts have the duty to ensure that judges can understand the proceedings in either English or French, without the use of an interpreter.
To use the wording of the Supreme Court of Canada, the right granted will continue to be “a substantive right and not a procedural one that can be interfered with”.
By ensuring that all accused, whether represented or not, are advised of their language rights, clause 18, as introduced and as passed by this House, not only avoided the possibility of accused persons exercising their language rights outside of the prescribed timeframe, but, more importantly, ensured that positive measures are taken to improve the means by which all Canadians can avail themselves of their language rights.
For all of these reasons, we disagree with this amendment, this being the first amendment.
The second amendment proposed in the Senate was made to clause 19, dealing with the translation of charging documents. Clause 19 of Bill C-13 grants all the accused the right to ask for a translation of the information or indictment. An amendment to the English version of clause 19 was made by the Senate, as it was felt that the wording needed to be changed to clarify that the entire charging document is to be translated.
I must say that this was the intent of the initial provision and as such, we do not think that the amendment is absolutely necessary. This being said, we do not object to the amendment, as it has simply clarified what was the original intent.
The third amendment adopted by the Senate is the creation of new clause 21.1. This clause calls on the Minister of Justice to prepare and table an annual report in Parliament on the number of bilingual trials, the number of trials held in French outside of the province of Quebec and the province of New Brunswick, and the number of trials held in English in Quebec.
I appreciate that statistics of this kind may be useful in assessing the implementation of the language rights provisions of the Criminal Code. Detailed statistics often provide indicators that are essential for an overall appreciation of the impact made by legislation. Indeed the department has explored with its provincial and territorial counterparts ways in which this could be accomplished and will continue to do so in the future.
I am sure that hon. members will agree that it is not good public policy to enact a provision that imposes responsibilities on those that do not have the means to fulfill them. Practically speaking, the amendment also fails to take into account the fact that in some jurisdictions, minority language trials will take place without any formal orders issued, pursuant to section 530 of the Criminal Code. These cases are thus difficult to track and call into question the accuracy of the data that would be collected.
However, the problem with this amendment is that it imposes a statutory duty on the federal Minister of Justice, whereas in fact it is only provincial and/or territorial attorneys general who have the ability to actually collect this information. In addition, provinces and territories have told us that they do not keep statistics related to the language of trial provisions in the Criminal Code.
As I already stated, we would be asking for, and enforcing in criminal law, provisions that the provinces are not at this time equipped to fulfill.
For all these reasons, we do not support this amendment, not because we disagree with the principle or the idea that statistics of this kind would be useful, but mainly because it imposes upon the federal Minister of Justice an obligation to provide information the minister does not possess or control.
Other informal avenues to collect such data will continue to be explored. However, we cannot support the inclusion of a legislative requirement in the Criminal Code to report on information that is not under the responsibility of the federal Minister of Justice.
The fourth amendment creates new clause 21.2. This clause requires a comprehensive review of the Criminal Code's language of trial provisions be undertaken by a parliamentary committee. I understand that the Senate committee considered it necessary to create this provision in order to ensure that monitoring the implementation of the new provisions, as well as of part XVII of the Criminal Code as a whole, will occur within three years of the coming into force of this provision.
Although we do not disagree with this amendment, we do not believe that this new section is actually needed in order for Parliament to review the provisions and operation of the language of trial provisions of the Criminal Code.
Section 88 of the Official Languages Act specifically provides for the creation of a committee of the House, of the Senate, or both, to review the administration of the act. Two such committees currently exist and have the authority to study the language of trial provisions of the Criminal Code.
The fifth amendment adopted by the Senate makes corresponding changes to the coming into force provision at clause 46. It provides that new clauses 21.1 and 21.2 will come into force in the same manner as other language of trial provisions. While I disagree with the creation of new clause 21.1, we support the amendment to the coming into force provision as it does not directly refer to clause 21.1.
Finally, a sixth amendment was made to create new clause 45.2 for the purpose of coordinating two sets of amendments in Bill C-2, the tackling violent crime act, and Bill C-13, both of which propose changes to the same Criminal Code provision dealing with impaired driving. This amendment is required and should be supported.
I would like to urge all hon. members to support amendments numbered 2, 4, 5 and 6, but not to support amendments numbered 1 and 3.
I hope that both Houses can come to an expeditious agreement on this very important piece of legislation that aims to improve many other aspects of the criminal justice system.
Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB
Mr. Speaker, the hon. parliamentary secretary and I would both know that former Bill C-23 was part of the Conservative justice agenda, along with all of the other bills, the five bills that are now part of Bill C-2.
This bill deals with, for instance, taking away equipment and material from people who lure children through the Internet, the crime of Internet luring. It increases summary conviction fines from $2,000 to $10,000. It was agreed upon by all parties. Why are we sitting here in February, probably just before an election, why did we have to wait? Why was this bill, which also deals with language rights in his own province of New Brunswick, a bilingual province, why was it given such short shrift? Why was it put to the bottom of the order paper with respect to justice bills?
Finally, he said that his minister had consulted with provincial and territorial governments and it would be too onerous for them to require judges to instruct both represented and non-represented accused of their right to trial in the language of their choice. What evidence does he have of that? Could he be more specific? We would certainly like to know.
Those are the two short questions I have for the parliamentary secretary.
Rob Moore Fundy Royal, NB
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe for his question and also for his work on the justice committee.
Quite simply, the tackling violent crime act that the member raised does just what it says. It tackles violent crime. I will touch on the five previous bills that now make up the tackling violent crime act, which is stalled in the Liberal dominated Senate.
We know that the Minister of Justice is appearing now in the Senate. He is calling on the senators. We have been calling on the senators. We have been calling on the Liberal Leader of the Opposition to talk to his Liberal senators and urge them to pass, or at least begin to deal with, what the House has passed.
The tackling violent crime act deals with impaired driving. This is certainly supported by MADD Canada and police organizations. It deals with raising the age of protection. For too long the age of protection in Canada has been embarrassingly low, allowing individuals to come from other countries to exploit 14 and 15 year old Canadians. The tackling violent crime act raises the age of protection.
It also cracks down on dangerous offenders. It makes it possible to ensure that individuals who are truly dangerous offenders are locked up rather than out on the street. It also provides for tougher sentencing and tougher bail provisions for those who would use a firearm in the commission of an offence.
I have to add that it is not good enough to only talk about crime issues and getting tougher on crime during an election. I will remind members that during the last election the Liberal Party, the NDP and the Conservative Party all called for raising the mandatory sentence for those who commit an offence with a firearm. Yet when the Conservative government introduces legislation that does just that, it is delayed and opposed by those other two parties.
I have answered the member's question. The tackling violent crime act deals with those very important provisions that would protect people from violent crime.
The member mentioned consultations. Extensive consultations went into Bill C-23 that deals with language rights and criminal procedures. There were extensive consultations with stakeholders and the provinces, which are tasked with implementing and enforcing criminal law in their respective provinces. Those attorneys general gave us feedback on the bill. In fact, as I mentioned, they are opposed to one of the amendments that came back from the Senate that would require the judge to personally inform the accused of his or her official language rights.
Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am having some difficulty with the government's position. It has repeatedly, I think as recently as this afternoon in question period, stood in the House and attacked the other place for delaying bills. Certainly, a strong argument could be made that that is exactly what is happening here with the old Bill C-23, now Bill C-13, where the Senate has amended this bill in its chamber and sent it back.
I am wondering if the parliamentary secretary does not see some contradiction in the government's position of accepting some of these amendments now and, at the same time, literally at times screaming at the other house for delay, which is the effect this has.
There are some provisions in this bill that the NDP would have liked to have seen, quite frankly, 20 years ago in terms of some of the amendments. This is a bill that is based on a number of different sections in the code. A number of them would make the enforcement of our laws, the conduct of police as well as our judiciary in our criminal justice system much more efficient. We now are seeing months and months of delay of this law coming into effect because of the amendments that have been sent back to us by the other house.
I am wondering if the parliamentary secretary could comment on the apparent contradiction and also whether he is not exposing this House to seeing the Senate make amendments to Bill C-2, send it back and cause delay on that bill.
Rob Moore Fundy Royal, NB
Mr. Speaker, certainly some of these provisions have been a long time in coming, decades in fact. We need to update and streamline our Criminal Code procedures.
We heard testimony on the old Bill C-23 and now Bill C-13 as to the impact that these changes would have and that they would be a positive impact on our criminal justice system to ensure timely access to the system for all. I believe that is a goal all of us share to ensure an efficient and effective criminal justice system.
The hon. member mentioned the Senate amendments. Yes, the Senate has dealt with this bill and has put forward six amendments. We are opposing two of those amendments as a government and supporting four of them. The hon. member is quite correct. My take certainly and the take of our party is that the Senate has been delaying Bill C-2, the tackling violent crime act.
In my response to the member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, I spoke a bit about what the act would do. I do not know how any member in this House could be opposed to what the tackling violent crime act does. In fact, it has passed this House.
It is necessary legislation to ensure the safety of our communities, the safety of our children, to get impaired drivers off the streets, to ensure that those who commit serious crimes with firearms are behind bars, to ensure that dangerous offenders are in jail rather than out roaming the streets preying on innocent Canadians.
We have handed this legislation off to the Senate. The Senate has not even begun to deal with it until today when the Minister of Justice will be appearing. There is no doubt in my mind there has been tremendous delay. We are urging the Senate to get on with it. We call on the leader of the official opposition to insist that Liberal senators pass the tackling violent crime act.
Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB
I may be a rookie here but I remember Bill C-23 very well. We were in favour of the bill but the government decided to dissolve Parliament. So here we are, debating the same bill all over again, except that the number has changed.
The context is fairly important as we start, Bill C-13 is really Bill C-23. It contains so many important new aspects to make our criminal justice system work more equitably and to modernize it. It is why I was proud as a member of the Liberal justice team and as a member of the Liberal justice committee team to approve it and to send it on for eventual approval and royal assent.
Alas, the Prime Minister and his team decided that they were afraid of the environment. Their new Minister of the Environment had failed so miserably to act on the environment that they had to scuttle the whole Parliament because they were afraid of a couple of bills that might change things. In that mess, in that melee unfortunately, this good justice bill was killed and had to be reintroduced again.
One might ask, what difference does it make? It makes a difference to people who care about the criminal justice system. It may not mean a lot to people, but one of the biggest things we could have done in the last two years that I have been here would have been to modernize and make more effectual our criminal justice system, to move the maximum fine to be imposed for any summary conviction offence from $2,000 to $10,000.
A $2,000 fine is within the means of many people, but a $10,000 fine for a serious summary conviction offence, that does not warrant jail time, is a serious fine and might very well have a deterrent effect on those type of crimes for which a fine is appropriate.
There were many other amendments, which could be in effect and the law in the country now, that were just simply thrown away.
Language rights are very important in my province of New Brunswick which is officially a bilingual province. I represent the city of Moncton, which is an officially bilingual city. This is bread and butter for New Brunswick politicians. It is disturbing to me that the parliamentary secretary, when asked why Bill C-23, which contained many provisions to improve the delivery of justice services in both official languages was not given the priority of other bills, turned his answer to Bill C-2 and the tackling violent crime bill.
This love child of the Conservative justice agenda, why was it killed by the Prime Minister? Was he so afraid of other bills which showed the incompetency of his own ministers?
It seems shocking to me. It included: Bill C-10, involving mandatory minimums which was a bill improved upon at committee and which had passed the House; Bill C-22, which modernized issues surrounding the age of consent and the age of protection, and provided for the first time a close in age exemption which made the bill very palatable in protecting young people; Bill C-32, for which Mothers Against Drunk Driving had been clamouring for some time; and, Bill C-35, a reverse onus on bail provisions which in effect codified the existing treatment of the law by jurists in the country, jurists who are exceptional jurists.
I have said this for two years. It seems like I just got here but I am here again defending judges and saying that they were enacting the provisions of Bill C-35 long before we had to make it law. Finally, there was Bill C-27, with respect to dangerous offenders.
Those were all bills that were moved along and would be law now had the government not pulled the plug on its own agenda. It euthanized its own criminal justice program.
In light of the Conservative vote on the capital punishment issue today, it is not surprising that Conservative members believe in terminating things. They have terminated their own hopes and dreams for criminal justice.
However, as I move to what is probably bread and butter for me as a New Brunswick politician, the language of the accused, I want to highlight what the bill will do and what it has done in the past. It is important to note the existing context.
At the request of the accused, a judge will order that the accused be granted a preliminary inquiry, a pre-trial procedure, and trial before a judge without jury, or judge with jury, who speak the official language, one or the other, which may be the language of the accused.
If the accused speaks neither English nor French, a judge will order that the accused be granted a preliminary inquiry or trial, without a judge and jury, who speak the official language of Canada in which the accused can best give testimony. The court is also required to provide interpretation services. That is the existing set of laws.
What Bill C-13 does to improve upon that, in clause 18 of the original bill, is to suggest that once the accused appears in court, the judge is required to advise him or her of the right to trial in the official language of his or her choice, but this requirement, as it exists now, is only if the accused is not represented by counsel.
What Bill C-13 does, which Bill C-23 did and which we all agree on, is take away the issue of representation and says that the judge must advise the accused, whether represented or not, it was a false barrier, to his or her right to have a trial in the language of his or her own choice. That was a good change and it leads me into some of my further debate points when I say that the judge was required to advise the accused of his or her languages rights.
I know the member for Beauséjour is a member of the bar. He is experienced in certain criminal proceedings and would know, coming from a francophone milieu, that it is critically important that the gatekeeper for language rights in that context, the provincial court judge in most instances, has that positive duty to inform a judge of his or her right to a trial in the language of his or her choice. It is important to know that the judge is already doing that.
With respect to preliminary inquiries and the trial in both official languages, clauses 18 and 21 changed it so that they became more accessible. Trials in the proper language of the accused, either French or English, would be improved by this bill.
I might add, as an aside, that the translation of documents would be ameliorated certainly by these amendments and we are all in favour of that.
I guess where the rubber hits the road is what to do with the amendments presented by the Senate. My friend, the parliamentary secretary, discussed at length some of the amendments, and I want to counter on the two on which we might have a more elaborate discussion.
We know that this bill is aimed at modernizing our criminal justice system and making it more effective. That goes without saying. My party had indicated that it would support the passage of this bill when it was first introduced before prorogation. It was the bill that I mentioned earlier, Bill C-23.
In the context of this modernization, it is important that the rights of all Canadians be respected with regard to the use of official languages in court proceedings.
Canadians, particularly those in minority language situations, know they have certain rights under the Criminal Code, but it is the federal government's responsibility, and I suggest our responsibility as lawmakers, to ensure the application of those rights is clear and that the judicial process is not delayed.
The way the government presented its view of language rights in Bill C-13, a justice of the peace or court judge would only be charged with finding some way to ensure that accused persons are informed of their language rights. That is really not enough.
One of the amendments that we proposed should be supported. We are in argument with the government on this, at least according to the parliamentary secretary's speech. It is important to say from the outset that the judge already has a duty to advise the accused of his or her rights. The language says that the judge must ensure that the accused knows of this option.
I have witnessed many first appearances and I am very confident in the ability of our judges to advise accused persons of their rights. It is commonly done throughout the province of New Brunswick and in any federally appointed court system where official languages are important.
The amendment proposed by the Senate would ensure that the federal government takes on its responsibilities through its agents to inform any accused persons of their right to proceed in the official language they understand. The Senate amendment simply takes out any potential middleman in the administration of justice. The judge would inform the accused of his or her rights.
I do not think that it is an undue burden for a judge. If there is clear communication during court proceedings, we are simply providing for clear access to justice for all those involved. It falls in line with our democratic society's pledge to have an expedient judicial process and it takes out the aspect of appeal.
I think the government wants efficacious legislation but I cannot be sure sometimes because some of the legislation it presents is so poorly written and so hastily delivered, only for the purpose of a television spot on the news, it is not always clear. In this case, however, if the government would only support this Senate amendment, it could have efficacious and fair language policy through the Criminal Code.
Sadly, the other Senate amendment respecting the reporting on official language requests is not one that the opposition can support. We cannot agree with it because it would require the Minister of Justice to report on the language of proceeding or testimony in criminal matters across this country.
There can be no way that all attorneys general in all provinces and in all territories would have the means to uniformly report on this. As the parliamentary secretary rightly commented, it is not the minister's mandate. In saying this, I do not mean that the Minister of Justice is not competent. I mean that he is not competent in the law to do such reporting. For that reason, we support the government in its opposition to that Senate amendment.
I understand the Senate's concern with ensuring that there is accountability in respecting language rights but we can surely do a more effective job in ensuring this by using the other resources that are in the community.
I know well-known jurists and hard-working jurists in my own province.
They are Sacha D. Morisset and Christian Michaud, who are both members of the Association des juristes d'expression française du Nouveau-Brunswick. They often highlight the statistics with regard to French language trials in our province. If it can be done in New Brunswick, I am sure it can be done in Canada.
Again, we do not support that Senate amendment.
In short, we are very happy to get moving with this important legislation. We are happy the Senate took the time to improve the bill by suggesting that judges, who are the gatekeepers in our system, have the duty to inform an accused of his or her rights respecting language in this country.
It is bedrock in this community and this country that we offer services in both languages with respect, at least, to the Criminal Code of Canada and the criminal justice system.
On this one amendment from the Senate, I urge members of the government to agree with the Senate and with the Liberal Party and its justice team that it will make the situation with respect to the delivery of language rights in this instance a much better thing.
I am very proud to suggest that we support the bill and one of the amendments suggested by the Senate, which is one of the two that are excluded from the government's list in the final motion.
I want to move the following amendment. I move:
That the motion be amended by deleting the words “agrees with Amendments No. 2, 4, 5 and 6” and substituting therefore the words “agrees with Amendments No. 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6” and by deleting the paragraph commencing with the words “disagrees with Amendment No. 1”.
The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer
The amendment is in order.
Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour, NB
Mr. Speaker, it is always pleasant to see how much support I have on the government side.
I would like to ask a question of the hon. member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe. He gave a major speech on basic aspects of Bill C-13, which affects, as he said, minority language communities such as the francophone Acadian communities in New Brunswick, including those represented by my colleague and me.
I know that when the hon. member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe was the mayor of Moncton, he fought hard for the francophone cause and for bilingualism in his city. I know, too, that he was very disappointed by the government’s decision to eliminate the court challenges program. Like my colleague, I believe that we should accept the Senate amendment that calls on judges to explain to accused what their language rights are.
Does the hon. member think that francophone communities will really be able to assert their constitutional and linguistic rights without the court challenges program? How does he see this bad decision on the part of the Conservative government?
Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB
Mr. Speaker, I want first to thank the hon. member for Beauséjour for his question and congratulate him on this new position. He is now my boss, actually, as the justice critic.
In regard to his question, it is obvious that we have to fight for our rights. That is the history of greater Moncton, of New Brunswick and of Acadia. When I was young, there was not much sign of the French language in the cities and courts. Now these rights are enshrined in the Canadian constitution, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the statutes of New Brunswick, and the by-laws of the City of Moncton. That is why it is very important to remember how enormous these challenges seemed at the time. These successes are due to the work of a lot of people but also to such programs as the court challenges program.
The enshrining of language rights or any kind of rights is the result of struggle against people who do not want the minority to have rights. That is why I am very proud to be a member of the Association des juristes d’expression française du Nouveau-Brunswick, because those people are totally opposed to this government’s decision to cancel the court challenges program.
For these reasons, I am very proud to support this bill. It is too bad that this government took so long to bring it forward. That is the truth. I am very ashamed to be a member of this House, because the government cancelled the court challenges program. It is horrible.
Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT
Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of comments on the bill and then on the process.
First, I certainly appreciate one item in this bill, which originally came from Liberal consultation. It is the power to delay sentencing proceedings so an offender can participate in a provincially approved treatment program. We say it all the time that treatment is more of a solution than is incarceration, especially crimes involving drugs, a point that will be made a great deal stronger in the next bill once we finish with this one, which will be shortly.
In relation to this bill, at one time I asked the committee to make it mandatory to present the accused with the short court documents containing charges in the person's language of choice. The committee did not agree because there would be too much paper and yet it would only be maybe less than a couple of dozen papers a year.
The parliamentary secretary said that one Senate amendment could not be accepted because the federal Attorney General would not have the information as to whether a trial was conducted in English or French. One just has to read the record. It would be pretty easy to see that something is written in English or French.
The other thing I want to comment on is the whole ridiculous diatribe on the process from a government that has held up Bill C-2 for so long and in so many ways, as the member outlined, through proroguing Parliament. We had many witnesses. I am sure the minister is being chastised in the Senate today for how long he took, much longer than the Senate probably will to review a bill. The Senate has made many changes.
We will remember that the government not very long ago passed a bill that would disenfranchise the majority of people in a number of constituencies in the country.
An hon. member
Only in the rural areas, was it not?
Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT
Yes, in the rural areas. The government does not think it should have a review of its bills. That was pretty ridiculous. That member could talk about the process.
We have a two party House and, whether we like or not, we must respect it.
Yesterday in committee, derogatory personal comments were made by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and the NDP justice critic about a member in the other House and I would hope they would apologize.