House of Commons Hansard #111 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was standards.

Topics

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to draw the member's attention to the sentencing options. I am not sure whether he responded to it in his speech but he may have. The sentencing options are being expanded under the bill to provide for additional options such as absolute discharges, intermittent sentences and restitution orders. It seems to me that this a major step in the right direction.

Would the member like to make some comments about the ramifications of this important move?

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, as usual, being in the opposition we get caught up in the problems with legislation and do not often get a chance to expound on the good side.

In fact, flexibility in sentencing is one of the most positive things in this legislation. It is our view that military justice should be brought closer to civilian justice and, if there is not the kind of flexibility that they have in the civilian courts for someone who is going to serve detention that it be intermittent or if someone may have committed a crime but it was not deserving of a conviction that would result in a criminal record, which is the case in civilian courts, people can be found guilty but not convicted and that results in either an absolute discharge or a conditional discharge and that allows them to carry on without a criminal record. That should be available in the military as well.

That is one of the positive aspects of the bill and there are a number of positive aspects to the bill and we support it being brought to committee to deal with some of the problems.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Edmonton Centre
Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague talked about the summary trial process being unfair. Having been involved with some, I would disagree.

Could my colleague comment on the fact that the accused actually gets the right to trial by court martial where summary trial has jurisdiction? The accused can in fact make the choice. I am not sure how that translates into basic unfairness with the system.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I hope the parliamentary secretary's involvement with the summary trial process was not as an accused but rather as a presiding officer or perhaps he was assisting the accused or was a witness. He can tell us that a little later.

I am aware that there are many cases where court martial is the choice. However, when the choice is given, court martial is rarely used because the sentencing provisions are different. Dealing with it and getting it over is important. I think that happens in civil court as well. Court martial is an option, which was a recent change in the act, but very few people take advantage of it. I actually have the numbers here and less than 20% use that option. Court martial is a more elaborate trial. My main point stands.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for providing me with a copy of the report of the Judge Advocate General to the Minister of National Defence on the administration of military justice in the Canadian Forces. This review was done from April 1, 2008 to March 31, 2009.

I want to refer the member to page 14 of this report which shows the number of trials has increased 2.5 times since 1999-2000. The other day I asked why there would be an increase of 2.5 times and the answer was Somalia and Afghanistan. I was asking about the types of offences that would be involved. The report does talk about drug offences and so on.

As the member has been to Afghanistan and he is heavily involved in the issue, could he explain to us the reasons for the increase in these trials? Is it because of our involvement in Somalia and Afghanistan versus staying at home?

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, that is what might be called a loaded question. I do not know if Somalia has anything to do with the kind of increases that we have seen in the last several years. That is ancient history.

However, I do think there may be some consequences of our engagement in Afghanistan. The pressures of that kind of engagement do lead to stress and strains. Many of the offences are minor. Many might involve alcohol or misbehaviour of one sort or another. Some of that comes with operational stress injuries. Some of it is quite common in people with post-traumatic stress disorder where behavioural issues have emerged as part of its symptoms.

I would not want to give any definitive answer to the question, but It is a marked change over a short number of years and it would take a serious study to figure that out. I would not want to jump to any conclusions. I would suggest that there is probably a great deal more stress and strain on our soldiers now than there was 10 years ago.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of quick comments for clarification.

My hon. colleague was searching for the number of people who chose summary trial. Actually 93% chose summary trial. This suggests that the majority of people in the military are comfortable with that process and understand that it is not an unfair process.

The other connection to Somalia, which obviously was in 1999, but the attention paid to issues of discipline and so on before they became major issues, as was the case in Somalia, there was a stronger awareness and a much greater appreciation of the fact that small things can become big things. That is the Somalia effect on the number of charges and so on in recent years.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, that is probably a slight exaggeration. We were talking about an increase in the period of the last few years, not going back to 1992 and 1993. We see a 2.5% increase over a 10-year period. That is in recent years and is more related to the Afghanistan situation.

They chose that, not necessarily because they think it is fair, but because they can get the matter dealt with easily and quickly and get it out of the way, and probably dealt with in a less harsh manner than going through major courts martial that could keep them out of service for some time. The sense of fairness comes afterward, when they find out later that they have criminal records. That is the thing we would like to see removed and changed.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-41 in recognition of the fact that this bill is a significant step forward in the military justice system.

Before I go any further, I would like to signal that I am going to be sharing my time with my colleague from Elmwood—Transcona.

The bill would do a number of things, which I know, after listening to my colleague from St. John's, raises some concerns as well, but let me deal with some of the positive aspects of it, which I believe are major steps forward.

The bill introduces sentencing principles. I will not say they are as broad or liberal as the principles under the Criminal Code, but they are certainly a major move in that direction, setting out principles that would guide military judges when they are imposing sentences.

Again as we heard from my colleague from St. John's, the number of trials where this would be applicable under the court martial provisions is particularly important, less so in summary trials. The principles are set out, as well as the additional powers that are given to military judges.

For instance, under the new provisions, absolute discharges would be granted. A military judge may say someone is guilty of an offence but because of the scenario, the facts or circumstances of the individual's long service in the military, perhaps, say it is an aberration, a one-time event and, although serious, not one where the person should be carrying a criminal conviction into civilian life, and grant an absolute discharge. That is just one example. There are also provisions for restitution to be ordered way beyond what is within the scope of military courts at this point.

With regard to judges, here are two additional points. One is in terms of the system's not only being fair but appearing to be fair. There is now full tenure for military judges. They will have security of tenure, and it will not be possible to remove them arbitrarily until their normal age of retirement within the system. That is important for individuals who appear before judges. It is important for them to know that the judge does not have to be concerned with some superior officer somewhere being upset by the judge's conduct and removing him or her from office. That is a major advancement.

The other thing the bill provides for with regard to military judges is that part-time military judges would now be appointed. As we have already heard from some of the comments and questions, the number of trials is increasing fairly dramatically. The availability of part-time judges is important to allow trials to be conducted in a fair and efficient manner without long delays.

With regard to the development that is occurring, it makes me think of what we have done historically in our criminal justice system in Canada. For a long period of time, the lower courts were basically assigned jurisdiction of a fairly limited nature. It was mostly magistrates not trained as lawyers who sat in judgment of those cases.

Over the years, more responsibility was assigned. More serious cases were assigned to them. As we find in the military system, because they were more expeditious in most cases, the vast majority of people who had the option of going to a higher court stayed at the lower court, even though at times the justice was less than fair, if I could put it that way.

Over the years, especially as we moved to more concerns over civil rights, civil liberties and human rights, it became such that the magistrates are being phased out or have been phased out in most cases and everybody now has legal training, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies and rules of evidence apply much more stringently than in the past. We have gone through that system in the civil criminal justice system.

In effect, we are starting down that road now, this being just one of a number of bills in this regard. We are now moving fairly dramatically to try to do the same.

However we are dealing, obviously, with a different fact situation. Everybody recognizes the need for military discipline. And so what we are really attempting to do with this legislation, and other legislation and other changes occurring within the military justice system, is to strike that balance where the senior command, as well as the command in the field, has still sufficient control to impose military discipline, at the same time balancing off against the right of the individual person, who is charged with some offence under the military code, to a fair process.

We have to say we have some concerns with the process that is being instituted here, while it is a major step forward. There may be additional things. So, when this goes to committee, and it obviously will, we will be looking at ways of perhaps enhancing that balance so that individuals who appear before the summary courts will be treated fully fairly.

Let me just say in that regard that, because that fairness is quite important in terms of the individual member of the military feeling confident that he or she will be always treated fairly, still recognizing that they have to strike that balance, military discipline is still important.

Will we ever have a unionized workforce in the military? I suppose I have a bias in favour of thinking that may happen at some point. We are certainly not there at this stage. Although other countries have moved in that direction, we are not there at this stage. This would be a major step forward; however, there may be some refinements that could be made.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh will have three minutes remaining when the House returns to this matter.

Oshawa's Christmas Spirit
Statements By Members

December 6th, 2010 / 2 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, it has been said many times that the Christmas season, which is upon us, is the season of charity. It is the season of giving, and it is a time where everyone is more mindful of those who are less fortunate or in need.

Fortunately there are many people around Oshawa who treat every day and every season like Christmas. They live and breathe the Christmas spirit of giving and charity daily.

Oshawa boasts some of the most remarkable charitable individuals and organizations. Whether it is by volunteering at a local soup kitchen or organizing and engaging in fundraising activities for families in need, all of Oshawa's wonderful volunteers and charitable organizations have made us proud and have made Oshawa a better place.

On behalf of the Government of Canada, I would like to take this opportunity to recognize all those volunteers and organizations in Oshawa that make a difference every single day. They truly are an inspiration to the entire country.

Merry Christmas.

Gros Morne National Park
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the important role played by Mr. William Callahan in the creation of Gros Morne National Park. Mr. Callahan was the natural resources minister in the Smallwood government and instrumental in the development of the park.

Gros Morne National Park is a geologist's dream, containing a fjord with rugged walled canyons, flattened mountaintops called tablelands, which were once the ancient ocean floor, and an exposed mantle that contains rock formations usually not found on the earth's surface.

The Canada-Newfoundland agreement by which the park was established four decades ago conveyed its approximately 700 square miles in trust forever to Canada's heritage. With its designation, along with the adjacent L'Anse aux Meadows, as a United Nations world heritage site, in a real sense it now belongs to all humanity.

Mr. Callahan's persistence and dedication helped to create the national treasure we now know as Gros Morne National Park. We owe him our gratitude.

Please join me in honouring and thanking William Callahan for all that he and others did to establish Gros Morne National Park, a legacy that will be cherished forever.

Cross-Canada Cycling Tour
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, on May 10, four young Algonquins from Kitcisakik in Abitibi got on their bikes and began a journey across Canada. Lena-Jane Gunn, Bradley Brazeau, Frank Pénosway and Évelyne Papatie, the one who came up with the idea, cycled nearly 9,000 km.

They undertook this journey out of a desire to change their lives. They wanted to leave drugs and alcohol behind them. They used the trip as an opportunity to meet other young people and deliver a message of hope and change. Those they met along the way were very impressed by what these young cyclists had accomplished.

The members of this House are aware of the very high rates of alcoholism and drug addiction in aboriginal communities. I think everyone will agree that these four young people are tremendous examples of dedication and courage.

Évelyne, Lena-Jane, Bradley and Frank, meegwetch and bravo!

National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, December 6 is our National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, a reminder to Canadians that we must end all forms of violence against women.

I would like to thank my colleague, the former NDP MP Dawn Black, for the private member's bill that ensures that December 6 is always a day of remembrance and a day to speak out against the physical violence of a gun or a beating, the psychological violence of abuse, or the economic violence of poverty.

Today is the 21st anniversary of the Montreal massacre at École Polytechnique, where 14 women were shot and killed simply because they were women. We remember these precious young women, our lost sisters, and all women killed, injured or gone missing in our communities.

Let us commit ourselves to turn remembrance into action and provide leadership to end violence against women. This can only happen if we are determined to address the gender inequalities at the heart of the gender-based violence that robs women of their right to security.

Mission in Afghanistan
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Casson Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, a few weeks ago with the help of the troops at the 18th Air Defence Regiment in Lethbridge, we kicked off the second “Send Your Support…In a Cup of Coffee” campaign.

I am asking everyone to purchase a $5 Tim Hortons gift card, write a little note of thanks on the gift envelope and drop it off at my office.

We will collect them and send them to our men and women in Afghanistan for use at the Tim Hortons outlet at Kandahar airfield.

Last year we collected over 3,200 cards, more than enough for every one of our brave men and women in Afghanistan to have a cup of coffee on us.

With two weeks left in this year's campaign, we are halfway to our goal of 2,900 cards. As one of our troops, who had been on tour and received one of the cards, said, “It brings a little piece of home. It is nice to know the public is there to support us”.

Mr. Speaker, you and many of our colleagues have already sent me your cards, and I know you join me in encouraging everyone else to do the same.