House of Commons Hansard #41 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was environmental.

Topics

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

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

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Admissibility of Amendments to Bill C-3
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to respond to the point of order raised on Thursday, April 29, 2010 by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons concerning two amendments to Bill C-3 adopted by the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

The parliamentary secretary shared in his opinion that these two amendments should be ruled out of order because he felt they went beyond the scope of the bill.

Given the significance and profound issues; that is, sex discrimination and gender equality, that have prompted the introduction of Bill C-3, I feel it is vitally important to present counter arguments before you give your ruling, Mr. Speaker.

First, I would like to quote from the sixth edition of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules & Forms. At page 205 it states in subarticle 689(2):

The committee may so change the provisions of the bill that when it is reported to the House it is in substance a bill other than that which was referred. A committee may negative every clause and substitute new clauses, if relevant to the bill as read a second time.

Article 694 on page 206 states:

Amendments may be made in every part of a bill, whether in the title, preamble, clauses or schedules; clauses may be omitted; new clauses and schedules may be added.

Beauchesne's sixth edition also states on page 205 in subarticle 689(3):

The objects (also referred to as the principle or scope) of a bill are stated in its long title, which should cover everything contained in the bill as it was introduced.

The long title of Bill C-3 as listed on the bill's cover page under the number assigned to the bill is “An Act to promote gender equity in Indian registration by responding to the Court of Appeal for British Columbia decision in McIvor v. Canada (Registrar of Indian and Northern Affairs). Therefore, the principle and/or scope defined in this title is to respond to the decision of the B.C. Court of Appeal. To understand what “to respond” means in the context of this legislation, it is necessary to return to the decision of the B.C. Court of Appeal that is referenced in this legislation.

The court ruled that two 1985 amendments to the Indian Act failed to eliminate gender discrimination in the second and subsequent generations. Paragraph 161 of the ruling states:

Sections 6(1)(a) and 6(1)(c) of the Indian Act violate the Charter to the extent that they grant individuals to whom the Double Mother Rule applied greater rights than they would have had under s. 12(1)(a)(iv) of the former legislation. Accordingly, I would declare ss. 6(1)(a) and 6(1)(c) to be of no force and effect, pursuant to s. 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982. I would suspend the declaration for a period of 1 year, to allow Parliament time to amend the legislation to make it constitutional.

Nowhere in its ruling did the court prescribe a remedy to the Government of Canada. In fact, in paragraph 160 it states:

In the end, the decision as to how the inequality should be remedied is one for Parliament.

Although the court arrived at a narrow constitutional finding based on the specific facts of the McIvor case, it accepted the broad harms suffered by aboriginal women and their descendants because of non-entitlement to Indian status. In fact, the Court of Appeal left open the possibility of future equality challenges to the status provisions.

More important, previous precedent exists to support the notion that the court's ruling in McIvor v. Canada does not create a rigid constitutional template. The Supreme Court of Canada has affirmed the role of Parliament to build on a court's ruling, particularly where the judicial scheme can be improved by the legislature.

In its decision in R. v. O'Connor in 1995, the Supreme Court of Canada laid down a procedure for the disclosure of confidential records of sexual assault complainants which purported to balance the equality rights of complainants and the rights of accused to full answer and defence.

In 1997 Parliament enacted amendments to the Criminal Code which differed from the procedure delineated by the court and which ostensibly went further to protect women's equality rights and protect their confidential records from disclosure to those accused of sexually assaulting them.

In upholding the new legislation in R. v. Mills in 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada emphasized the importance of Parliament building on the court's earlier decision in O'Connor. In this case the government chose a more expansive legislative remedy than that suggested in the O'Connor ruling after hearing from women's organizations and others.

Another example is the case of M. v. H. in 1999, which involved a section 15 charter challenge to the definition of spouse under the Ontario Family Law Act. The remedy ordered by the Supreme Court impacted only the definition of spouse in the Ontario Family Law Act, but the government of Ontario introduced omnibus legislation to change the definition of spouse in all provincial statues. Further, the federal government, which was not even a party in M. v. H., brought in the Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act in 2000 to respond to the court's ruling.

There are other examples. These precedents confirm that the governmental response to a court ruling can clearly include the implications of the decision but is not restricted by it. Therefore, we argue that the amendments to Bill C-3 are admissible.

I would like to reiterate that the B.C. Court of Appeal did not order a specific remedy in its ruling, and instead ordered a declaration of invalidity. The purpose of a declaration of invalidity is to give the legislature the scope and flexibility to respond to a declaration of constitutional invalidity in the most appropriate way, after the democratic process of hearing the submissions of those most impacted.

Constitutional scholar Peter Hogg explains in chapter 36 of his text, Constitutional Law of Canada, that in many cases where the court has found a law to be unconstitutional, the court would prefer the legislature to design the appropriate remedy.

This is exactly what has happened in McIvor v. Canada. The B.C. Court of Appeal left it to Parliament to determine an appropriate remedy. The government introduced Bill C-3. The committee then heard unanimous testimony that residual gender discrimination would remain under the status provisions of the Indian Act if Bill C-3 were not amended. All witnesses encouraged the committee to amend the bill in order to eliminate all residual discrimination.

The amendment I introduced in committee to clause 2, which was fully supported by all opposition parties, is a response to this testimony. It will once and for all eliminate this residual discrimination and ensure that the Government of Canada lives up to its responsibilities concerning gender equality.

Based on this precedent and the broad implications of the B.C. Court of Appeal ruling in McIvor v. Canada, which is referenced in the long title of Bill C-3, I would argue that the amendment I introduced to clause 2 should be considered one of many possible responses to the court's ruling, and as such should be considered admissible. If this amendment is admissible, the parliamentary secretary's challenge to the admissibility of the amendment to the title should also be dismissed.

In Bill C-3, the Conservative government has introduced a piece of legislation that purposefully leaves gender discrimination in the Indian Act's provisions on status entitlement. If we know, which we do, that gender inequality or sex discrimination exists, as parliamentarians we have an obligation to remedy it. Common sense as well as unanimous testimony of witnesses at committee dictate that this is wholly unacceptable. My amendment responds to this fact and, as I have argued, is fully within the scope of Bill C-3.

I respectfully ask, given that generation after generation has fought for this equality, these arguments be given great consideration, as I am confident they will. Let us once and for all end sex discrimination that exists under the Indian Act.

Admissibility of Amendments to Bill C-3
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on the same point of order. If possible, I would like to add to what my colleague just said.

The member from Labrador presented this very important amendment. We are asking the Chair to accept this amendment, which is very important to the development and the future of aboriginal communities.

If I may, I would like to talk about something important. Two days ago, a group of about 100 aboriginal women left Wendake, a Huron community near Quebec City, headed for Parliament. They will stop in Trois-Rivières, Montreal and Gatineau, before arriving here on June 1. They are marching to speak out against Bill C-3. Why? Because this bill does not do enough—that is what they told us in committee—and because Bill C-3 will continue to allow the systematic discrimination that aboriginal women have been subjected to since 1876.

When I spoke in this House after Bill C-3 was introduced, I told the government that it could expect amendments to this bill, because it was very important to listen to what the aboriginal peoples had to tell us. We did our job.

There are things in life that I do not understand, and this is one of them. We, the politicians, are criticized for not doing our job. But when we do our job, we are told that we did it too well. Something is wrong here. It is true that Bill C-3 is a response to the McIvor decision of the British Columbia Court of Appeal, but it is important to read this decision in its entirety, which the legislator, the Conservative Party, does not seem to have done.

I wonder why the Conservative Party did not read the full decision. Because if it had, it would have realized that the judges of the British Columbia Court of Appeal say that this is the issue before them and that they are going to rule on it. They rule that Ms. McIvor has been the victim of discrimination under section 15 of the charter since 1985. Therefore, the problem has to be addressed. The judges add, however, that the discrimination against aboriginal communities and specifically against aboriginal women under sections 6.1 and 6.2 of the act will continue unless the government puts an end to this discrimination. I am not the one who said this; it was the judges of the British Columbia Court of Appeal. That is what we did, and my colleague from Labrador proposed amendment No. 1, which is extremely important and would put an end to this discrimination.

I believe that you have the power to accept this amendment. I will not repeat my colleague's arguments, which are very solid and which I agree with completely. As my anglophone colleagues would say, I concur with my colleague. I concur with his legal arguments. It seems clear to me as well that you can go as far as we were asked to go thanks to amendment No. 1.

But it gets worse, Mr. Speaker. If you rejected this amendment, what would happen? Women would no longer have any recourse and would have to keep on going to court. But the Conservative Party, in its wisdom, closed the door to potential court action by cutting funding for the court challenges program, which Ms. McIvor had used to stand up for her rights.

So what will happen? If this amendment is not accepted, not only will aboriginal women continue to be discriminated against, but the government will be taken to court again, and it will be another 20 years before we end this debate.

Admissibility of Amendments to Bill C-3
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I want to remind hon. members that this is a procedural discussion. It is not the merits of the amendment; it is whether it is procedurally acceptable. That is the argument we are dealing with here.

I hope that if the hon. member for Yukon has something to say about this, it will be regarding procedure.

Admissibility of Amendments to Bill C-3
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, very briefly, a former prime minister was elected on the grounds that we should have a just society in Canada. I do not think anyone disagrees with that.

We have a bill whose objective is to remove gender discrimination and whose title indicates that. With one amendment the bill could do that. An amendment should fall within that scope of the bill. It does that. I think it is incumbent on all of us in the House, including you, Mr. Speaker, to ensure that we have a just society. That could be provided by allowing this amendment.

Admissibility of Amendments to Bill C-3
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I will be back to the House in due course on the matter that has been raised in the point of order, as I indicated when it was first raised. We will hear more, if necessary.

The House resumed from May 5 consideration of the motion that Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-16. A number of members spoke eloquently to the bill yesterday and we want to proceed further and hear more debate on this issue before it goes to committee for whatever amendments are deemed necessary.

This bill is another Conservative crime bill that has been recycled several times. It is basically a blinding array of paper that we see in front of us year after year. The bill started as Bill C-41, Bill C-42, then Bill C-9 and now it is Bill C-16. The reason it has had such a torturous journey is because of the government.

The government mandates fixed elections and then does not follow its own laws. It called an election a year ahead of time and killed all of its bills. Then, within a month, it prorogued the House and killed them all again. A year later, it prorogued again and kills them another time.

It is little wonder that the public is having second thoughts about the government's commitment to this so-called tough on crime policy which is not being tough on crime. As a matter of fact, any government should have a smart on crime policy, but that certainly does not describe the government's actions on this file so far.

Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, ending conditional sentences for property and other serious crimes, would amend section 742.1 of the Criminal Code which deals with conditional sentencing to eliminate the reference to serious personal injury offences. It would also restrict the ability of conditional sentences for all offences for which the maximum term of imprisonment is 14 years or life and for specified offences prosecuted by way of indictment for which the maximum term of imprisonment is 10 years.

The first bill of this type was introduced back in September 1996. We now have a 13 year history of dealing with this type of legislation. In fact, it has worked fairly well over the years. It allows for sentences of imprisonment to be served in the community rather than a correctional facility, which some people have called a school for crime. It is a midway point between incarceration and sanctions such as probation or fines.

The conditional sentence was not introduced in isolation but is part of a renewal of the sentencing provisions in the Criminal Code. These provisions include the fundamental purpose and principles of sentencing. The fundamental principle of sentencing is that a sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender.

The renewed sentencing provisions set out further sentencing principles, including a list of aggravating and mitigating circumstances that should guide sentences imposed. The primary goal of conditional sentencing is to reduce the reliance upon incarceration.

We dealt at length with the costs associated with keeping an inmate in prison in Canada. In the provincial system it is $52,000 a year and in the federal system it is $90,000 a year. Yesterday a Bloc member pointed out that it would be anticipated that we would be looking at an extra 13,000 to 15,000 people in the system because of this and the projected cost would be somewhere around $780 million. That is just a guess because no one knows exactly what the figure would be. I would have to think that the government would know, having come up with this initiative. It also is not the one that would fulfill the cost. The cost would be borne by the provinces. We are talking about conditional sentences of less than two years and those people will be sitting in provincial jails, some of which have to be built.

In Manitoba's case, it is running at capacity at the moment. Therefore, if this legislation were to pass, provinces such as Manitoba could not actually fulfill the laws. They would have to embark upon a prison expansion program funded by the Province of Manitoba or any other province. It would take a number of years to build a new facility at a cost of many millions of dollars. When we say that the cost is around $700 hundred million for this initiative right now, that is not taking into account the cost of building new jails, which, in some cases, could take many years.

The public is being misled because the Conservatives go for these one-off thirty second advertising clips saying that they will get tough on crime, but they do not give any explanation of what the final result will be. They do not explain to people that it will cost billions more. For example, last week, on the two-for-one credits sentencing, the Conservatives went so far as to indicate that it would cost about $90 million. Within days, however, they were contradicted by more reliable sources and had to admit that it would be $2 billion. If we multiply these sort of figures among the 13 or 16, or whatever number of crime bills their crime bill factory keeps producing in this House, we are talking about huge costs. That is fine, but what is the benefit?

Let us look at best practices. Since governments talk about best practices when it comes to IT issues, computer issues and all sorts of other issues in society, why not apply the same best practices approach to the judicial system? We can make changes and improvements to bills but we should not be embarking on programs that have been totally discredited elsewhere. The United States is a very poor example but that is the type of example the Conservatives tend to want to follow.

The primary goal of conditional sentencing is to reduce reliance on incarceration by providing the courts with an alternative sentencing mechanism. In addition, the conditional sentence provides an opportunity to further incorporate restorative justice concepts into the sentencing process by encouraging those who have caused harm to acknowledge the fact and to make reparations. At the time of their introduction, the conditional sentences were generally seen as an appropriate mechanism to divert minor offences and offenders away from the prison system.

As I have indicated, there are two major benefits for doing that. One is to keep first-time offenders away from hardened criminals, the criminal university that these prisons are, and to also look at the cost of $52,000 a year to keep them in these prisons. The overuse of incarceration was recognized by many as being problematic, while restorative justice concepts were seen as beneficial. In practice, however, a conditional sentence was sometimes viewed in a negative light in some cases. That, of course, gave the government the opening it needed to bring in some new rules.

Concern has been expressed that some offenders are receiving conditional sentences that are not appropriate. When the bill gets to committee, which it will at some point, maybe some changes will need to be made, but there are probably some parts of the bill that we will find acceptable. It may be beneficial to allow persons. who have not committed a serious or violent crime and are not dangerous, and who otherwise would be incarcerated, to serve their sentence in the community. Certain commentators have argued that sometimes the very nature of the offence, however, requires incarceration of the offender.

Yesterday, the member for Burnaby—Douglas mentioned that he was not aware of any example. We have asked members to show examples where conditional sentences have not worked out. Where is the big problem? The government is supposed to be here to solve problems, but if it cannot identify what the problem is in the first place, then why is it doing this, other than maybe for publicity purposes.

The provisions that govern the conditional sentences are set out in sections 742 to 742(7) of the Criminal Code. Several criteria must be met before the sentencing judge may impose a conditional sentence. The offence, as I had indicated before, cannot be a serious personal injury offence, which is an indictable offence. Indictable offences include high treason, treason, first degree murder or second degree murder involving the use or attempted use of violence against another person, or conduct endangering or likely to endanger the life or safety of another person or inflicting or likely to inflict severe psychological damage upon another person, for which the offender may be sentenced to imprisonment for 10 years or more. Also, an offence or an attempt to commit an offence of sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon, threats to a third party causing bodily harm, or aggravated sexual assault.

The offence for which the person has been convicted must not be terrorism, so terrorism is excluded, prosecuted by way of indictment for which the maximum term of imprisonment is 10 years or more.

The offence for which the person has been convicted must not be a criminal organization offence prosecuted by way of indictment for which the maximum term of imprisonment is 10 years or more.

There is a picture emerging. We are talking about very limited numbers of cases here, and certainly not the super serious ones that I have just indicated on the list.

Another issue, of course, is the whole area of judicial independence. If we follow the Conservatives' reasoning on these types of bills, we really do not need a judge. We can simply have a law clerk mete out the sentences. The whole area of judicial independence is there because judges are trained and have many years of experience, and in law they are always given latitude to deal with cases on an individual by individual basis.

What the government is trying to do with these types of bills is to take away the judicial independence of the judge. It wants to sideline the trained individual and simply mandate what the sentence will be. There is no need for a judge to do that.

The sentencing judge must be satisfied that serving the sentence in the community would not endanger the safety of the community. That is another issue that the government likes to talk about. However, one of the criteria is that the sentencing judge must be satisfied that there would not be an endangerment to the community.

Insofar as the other criteria are concerned, the objectives of sentencing are the denunciation of unlawful conduct, the deterrence of the offender and others from committing offences, the separation of the offender from the community when necessary, the rehabilitation of the offender, the provision of reparation to victims and the community and a promotion of the sense of responsibility of the offender.

We have a situation with the government appointing Mr. Sullivan as an Ombudsman for Victims of Crime for a three year contract. After the three year period, he does not have a lot of good things to say about the government. He indicates that it is shortchanging victims of crime.

The government has wrapped itself around the flag and, for several years, has claimed that it is looking out for victims and acting in the interest of victims of crime. However, the very first Ombudsman for Victims of Crime that it appoints, after only his first, and last as he is not being reappointed, three year term, reports that the government is not that helpful to the victims of crime and that it is more concerned about punishment than it is with the victims of crime.

It has also been proven that victims of crime tend to like the whole idea of conditional sentences, because they are interested in results. They are interested in the rehabilitation of offenders. How is society better off if people keep reoffending? That is not what we are trying to do here. It is not a positive for the victims of crime to have people reoffend. Let us do things that are going to stop them from reoffending. If conditional sentences help people not reoffend, we should do that.

Speaking of victims of crime, there cannot be any bigger victims of crime than the taxpayers of this country if they have to put out another $700 million to fund more prison construction to house people who are going to be, at the end of the day, statistically bigger reoffenders because they are in the prisons as opposed to communities.

Another really good example I would like to mention now is this whole idea of closing down the six prison farms. We have petitions coming to our office on this issue. This is an issue that will rock the Conservative base because people shake their heads when they realize that the government would close down six prison farms that have been operating for years and produce terrific results. Almost everybody I talk to asks why the prison farms are being closed down and says the number of them should be increased.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

That's right, people have been telling me, too.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

The member is not sympathetic to that, but I would ask him to take a petition around and talk to people.

The NDP critic was in Athens, Ontario, the other day. The member may have never been to Athens, Ontario, but I have been there many times and it is not really a hotbed of NDP votes. I can assure everyone of that. That whole area has had a strong Conservative base for many years. As a matter of fact, voting Liberal in that area is really stepping out. The people there are not happy about the situation with the prison farms. It runs contrary to common sense.

The issue is that the Conservatives have obviously been in government a little too long, because they are starting to lose their grip on common sense. That is fine. If they want to ignore the prison farm issue and continue to close them down, then they do that at their peril because that issue is going to be around for some time to come.

Another principle underlying sentencing is proportionality. The sentence imposed by the court must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender. Another sentencing principle is that aggravating and mitigating factors have to be taken into account because there must be similar sentences for similar offences.

One of the reasons conditional sentences came about in the first place 13 years ago is that there was not a consistency across the country in terms of sentencing. For the same offence, a person would get a certain sentence in one province and someone in a neighbouring province would get a different one.

This certainly is a time to take another look at the Criminal Code. As a matter of fact, the NDP critic from Windsor—Tecumseh has talked about that repeatedly, that as a Parliament we should sit down and do a rewrite of the entire Criminal Code. That is fundamentally what should be going on in this case rather than just making piecemeal reforms.

I have many more points to make, but perhaps I can make them in the following debate throughout the day.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, the member might want to get his pen out because I have three questions.

First, he and a number of us have mentioned in the last couple of days the costs for the provinces. I wonder if he has any input from attorneys general of the provinces on that.

Second, he mentioned that the government cannot really be serious about its crime bills because it keeps proroguing Parliament or having elections, both of which put off its own crime bills. However, he did not talk about the seriousness related to this bill and the fact that the government has only had three speakers. There have been all sorts of objections that have come out and people have found technical problems, yet no one in the government has spoken to defend them. The justice minister and the parliamentary secretary have not even spoken.

However, my main question is on proportionality, as he has mentioned. When a judge whose job is to invoke justice has had the tool removed that would naturally work for justice in a given situation, he has to look for another option. That might have the unintended consequence of his choosing a suspended sentence, for instance, with probation. That could actually be more dangerous because the person would then not necessarily go back to jail and certainly would not get the rehabilitation that would make it safer for victims and other Canadians.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my hon. friend actually asked four questions, not three.

I have listened to him make presentations on this and other bills in the House and I certainly agree with him. He has an excellent analysis of the problems.

I did bring up the issue of the government speaking, last week too, when the minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism actually showed up in the House for his bill. He listened to each and every one of the speakers and actually participated in the debate by answering the first question and asking questions in each of the questions and comments periods. Then he was quickly followed by the minister for democratic reform who was here for all the speeches on his bill to limit Senate terms. I think we in this House, speaker after speaker, recognized that. Certainly in the Manitoba House, for a large number of years, that was just common practice.

So, where is the government? It has gone AWOL again. It seemed to change its pattern for a few days, but now it seems to have gone back to its old way of ignoring the problem and hoping it will go away.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague from Elmwood—Transcona for his excellent summary of the current situation and the conditions under which a judge can impose a conditional sentence.

I will only mention three of the conditions: the person who has been convicted of an offence cannot be subject to a minimum sentence; the judge must find that the offence merits a jail term of less than two years; and the judge must be convinced that serving the sentence in the community would not pose a threat to public safety. The member presented these facts, and I would like to thank him for that because it gives us a clear idea of the current situation.

I would like to ask him the following question. How transparent does he think the government really is when it calls the bill the Ending House Arrest for Property and Other Serious Crimes by Serious and Violent Offenders Act? That is the alternative title the government has given this bill. What does the member think about a government that misleads people in this way?