House of Commons Hansard #10 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was air.

Topics

Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, all the measures in this bill are meant to increase efficiencies within the system. They are meant to deal with the preliminary aspects of these long and complex trials. There are changes with respect to the regular and preferred indictment provisions. However, if the member opposite would look at them more carefully, she would see that they do not lead to the conclusion she has drawn.

Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, a number of years back, in Manitoba, there was a need to try to prosecute large numbers of members of gangs. They ended up having to create a separate court facility in order to accommodate the different type of trial that was expected.

Does the parliamentary secretary anticipate that there would be some additional costs incurred in terms of courtroom modifications or anything of that nature? Does this bill have anything to do with that sort of a potential expenditure going forward?

Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the actual workings of the courthouse environment are not within the purview of this ministry. However, I will say that the whole idea of this, what is being called, megatrials bill is to increase efficiencies and avoid duplication of processes. So, to the extent that it will work the way we envision that it will, and I see no reason why it would not, it will actually make it less necessary for larger accommodations.

In other words, these trials will be shortened and the procedures will be shortened. We will not have the same duplication of processes. With respect to where there are multiple accused, there is a provision that severance can be delayed. So, if there is evidence arising that can be brought forward with respect to several accused, they do not each have to be treated separately in the process.

Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Cambridge
Ontario

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Minister of State (Science and Technology) (Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario)

Mr. Speaker, I have a basic question for my colleague. Why is the government introducing this legislation? Obviously we have a strong crime agenda. We are looking forward to helping Canadians to be safe in their communities.

It is really a simple question. Why exactly is the government introducing this type of legislation?

Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, essentially, there has been a lot of attention paid to these megatrials, multiple trials, particularly as they relate to organized crime and terrorism.

With our tough on crime agenda and our desire on this side of the House to ensure that justice is swift in Canada but fair, it is time to bring criminal trials like this to an earlier disposition. We also seek to avoid mistrials, which often arise because of the complexity of cases like these.

We are enthusiastic about the efficiencies that will be created in terms of resources, time, energy and for the general public's confidence in the justice system.

Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-2, which has become known as the megatrials bill.

The House and the Canadian public should be aware that this legislation has been a long time coming. The pressure for this has existed in the system for well over five years now. We began using megatrials in the criminal justice system maybe 12 to 13 years ago, and they have been far from successful. Several have literally collapsed completely, where 10 and 20 accused walked away without the trial ever being completed and with no subsequent charges.

I think, in particular, of the one case in Manitoba where a great deal of money was spent on building a whole new facility. A huge amount of hours of police time, prosecutor time, judicial time and the defence bar was involved. At the end of the day, the entire thing collapsed with no convictions. That probably is the most notorious failure of the megatrials, but they are necessary.

What has become obvious to a lot of people, and only recently to the government, is that there are some practical solutions to the problems we have confronted.

The bill was originally introduced by the government in November 2010. The reason the NDP has pressed the government to bring it back in now is because of a decision out of Quebec just two weeks ago in a megatrial involving organized crime in the form of the biker gangs. Something like 100-plus people were charged. Judge Brunton, who dealt with preliminary matters in the megatrial, concluded that 31 accused would have their charges dismissed because there was no way they would get to trial in less than 10 years. Therefore, we are faced with that reality. That is a clear finding of fact on his part.

Society is somewhat fortunate in that the charges that were dismissed were not the more serious ones. A murder charge, attempted murder, other violent assault type of crimes plus organized crime charges were involved in that megatrial, all against bikers in Quebec. The balance of the charges are still outstanding. Based on Judge Brunton's ruling, there are still some of those that may be at risk six months or a year from now. It is absolutely crucial that we get this legislation through as quickly as possible.

I am sure a number of people have heard that the leader of the Green Party in the House has some objection to the speedy passing of the bill. The Quebec minister of justice came here to discuss this with her, to encourage her to withdraw her objections to the speedy passage of the bill because the administration of justice in Quebec know how serious it would be if we did not get the bill into place as quickly as possible.

My party and I encourage the government to get this through. We were happy when it finally brought the motion forward today to speed it through. If we follow the motion, it will be done by Wednesday of next week. That will give the Senate time to look at it and get it through in the following few days. Even if our House is complete, the other House will still have time to finish it off before it breaks for the summer. Then the government will have the ability to get royal assent and we will see this in Canadian law by the end of this month. That is the plan.

I want to acknowledge that Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada was very quick to respond when I first spoke to him about this. I am critical of him because there were a whole bunch of other laws in the last Parliament that took precedence over this one.

I also want to acknowledge the co-operation from the Liberal Party critic. He was very quick to respond favourably to the quick passage of the bill.

The reason I am significantly critical of the government on this one is that if we go back and look at the history of the types of proposals in this bill, which will become the law of the country by the end of the month, almost all of them have been outstanding for several years.

We saw some of them come out of the Air India report by Justice Major. More extensively, we have had a number of these recommendations coming from the meetings of the attorneys general and solicitors general at the provincial and territorial level when they meet with the federal government, usually about every six months.

A number of them have been filtering through that. The government sat on them for this lengthy period of time. Those proposals go back for a number of years.

However, most important, I do not have any understanding or appreciation of why the government did not move immediately after the LeSage-Code report. Justice LeSage is the retired judge from Ontario. At the time Mr. Code was a professor and is now a justice in Ontario, as well.

In the period of 2007, and finally reporting in 2008, they were commissioned by the provincial Government of Ontario to conduct an analysis of how we could better handle, within the criminal justice system, megatrials, ensuring that they were fair, that due process was respected, those rights that we all have as Canadians under the Charter, but also that we had an efficient, speedy trial process, where due process was respected, but so were the rights of the accused and society as a whole.

Their report came out in 2008. It was very clear on almost everything that is in this bill. There were more recommendations than what is in the bill because other issues were dealt with in that report. We did not see a response, in the form of a bill, from the government until more than two years later. I do not have any understanding as to why that is, other than it had other bills it thought were more attractive politically for them to push than this one.

It is not the only time we have faced this. My proposal to speed a bill up occurred once before in 2010. It was known as the Shoker bill, which is the name of the case that went to the Supreme Court of Canada. It was a practical solution that we needed and it was strongly recommended by our police forces because it gave them an additional tool to deal with people who had breached their probation and parole.

It sat lingering on the order paper for almost two years, while we went through one of the prorogations and an election. Just before we broke for the end of the year, I made a similar proposal. It took me about two weeks to convince the government to do it. There was no explanation. It was a very simple bill. The proposal for the resolution of it had been outstanding for several years, but it needed to be pushed. It did not attract attention. It was not one of those photo op opportunities for the government.

Having that experience, and finally convincing the government to do it in that case, we felt we should do the same thing for this. Of course it was triggered in particular by that decision in Quebec of a couple of weeks ago.

I also want to be clear about the importance of getting this through. The Quebec case is not the only megatrial case going on in the country right now. There are at least several others and there are some others coming. We just had a major raid in Ontario, either yesterday or the day before, that is likely to end up in a megatrial.

Based on the ruling from Judge Brunton in the Quebec case, with absolute certainty, I am sure defence lawyers on behalf of the accused are looking at that decision and wondering whether they can apply it in some of these other megatrials, having additional accused persons discharged before we have the opportunity to actually prosecute them, presuming sufficient evidence to convict them.

There is a risk here, beyond the consequences of the Quebec case, as there are others outstanding where we may be faced with the same thing.

I have one more point and I want to be careful about this because the case is still before the court. However, I urge both the Government of Canada and the province of Quebec to consider an appeal in that case. The reason I feel comfortable in saying this is that Judge Brunton, in his decision, made reference to the fact that Bill C-53, which was the bill that preceded this in the last Parliament, was outstanding. Had we had that, his decision might have been different.

Based on the general rule against substantive laws being retroactive, the immediate reaction is that it would not make any difference if we appeal it. However, that is not correct. In law, if the issue of retroactivity is applicable, it is applicable when it is not substantive law. This bill is all procedural. It is process law rather than substantive law.

Therefore, I urge the government to take into account that principle of law and appeal the decision. I urge the province of Quebec to do the same thing and introduce before the court of appeal the fact that this bill is now law and could be applied to the megatrial that is going on in Quebec retroactively.

It is urgent that we get the bill through so we may be able to salvage those 31 charges in Quebec and forestall those types of dismissals in any number of other megatrials, either ones that are already started or ones that may be coming in the near future.

If we leave it to the normal process, the bill will not become law. It would go through committee and all the hearings that would take at least several more months, and we are going to have the summer break soon. If we do not get this through next week and have it in law by the end of the summer, it will probably be the end of the year, or more likely into 2012 before the bill becomes law. For the sake of the protection of our society right across the country, we cannot afford the luxury of waiting that long.

There has been criticism of pushing a bill like this through, as it is a fairly extensive bill, and whether we are going through the democratic process. I certainly have been critical of the government at times when it tried to force bills of a substantive nature through. Again, that is not what this bill is.

We have had a lot of time to analyze the bill. When I say “we”, I am speaking of the justice critics of the various parties in the House. Over the last five or six years, we have looked at the issue. The response we needed to make as a legislature was very clear, and we have understood that. There is nothing in this bill that I can see that calls for an extensive review of it.

I want to particularly emphasize the process of the LeSage-Code report. The end result of that report was one that was supported because prosecutors, other judicial members and the defence bar were all involved in the work that was done in preparing the report. When it came out, I did not hear anybody from the bar, prosecutors, the defence or the judiciary who were critical of the recommendations of LeSage-Code report. I did not hear any objections to it at all. Everybody has looked at this and thinks this is the way to keep the megatrial, but do it efficiently and in fairness to the accused.

I know we have allowed for very short hearings before the justice committee next week, but if we were to have extensive hearings, we would hear from the defence bar, the prosecution and judges that this would be the way to go.

I want to make one more point in this regard. When I first began looking at this, I had a sense of déjà vu. I went through this in my practice back in the mid-1980s to mid-1990s in Ontario in the civil court cases. We implemented the case management process, and not just for large trials, although that was where it was most effective, but for all civil cases.

It had a positive impact in Ontario and has been adopted, though I am not sure about Quebec, in all the other common law jurisdictions.

The idea behind it is simply to let the judiciary in this country take control of files, so that if one side or the other in the case wants to delay the matter unreasonably, the case management judge is there to control the process. It has been reasonably effective. It is not perfect on the civil side and it will not be perfect on the criminal law side, but it is a methodology that makes our system more efficient and, quite frankly, more fair.

One can imagine, in the Quebec case, a witness waiting 10 years to testify, an innocent bystander and witness from the general community having to come back after 10 years and testify against an accused. How well do members think a person's memory is going to last?

Witnesses also know they have this hanging over their heads, that they are witnesses and there is a need for them to be prepared on a repeated basis. There are any number of reasons why we should move on this with regard to protecting, not just the accused and the rights of the accused but the other parties involved, such as police, prosecutors, and society as a whole in terms of the witnesses who get called in these kinds of cases.

The parliamentary secretary has done an excellent job of summarizing the legislation. I am not going to go through it in any particular detail. I wanted to mention case management because that is sort of the key to this working.

The idea, for instance, is for two extra jurors to be empanelled. There have been several trials where they went all the way and in the last week or two ran below 10 jurors. In our system, 12 are empanelled but there have to be 10 to make the final decision.

We never want the accused, witnesses or the system as a whole being put through the process of a long criminal trial and then in the last week or two having to start over again because three jurors became ill in the process and could not continue. Having 14 jurors empanelled will probably eliminate that from ever happening again. I use that as one example.

The other big example is avoiding duplication in the process by having one judge responsible for all of the preliminary matters. That has been a major problem for megatrials in terms of stringing them out. It has also opened up the door many times for appeals because preliminary matters are dealt with by more than one judge and sometimes there will be conflicting decisions. Once there is a conflicting decision, it is almost an automatic appeal and the Court of Appeal must decide, of the conflicting decisions, which one is the right one.

It is a good bill. I do not want to take that away at all from the government. As I said, it flows out of both the major report in the Air India case and more particularly from the Lesage-Code report. Those recommendations were followed and it is time for Parliament to do its job.

As I said, when I asked my question of the minister, the police have done their job, the prosecutors have done theirs, and it is time for Parliament to do its job by getting this bill through.

Air Canada
Points of Order
Government Orders

June 16th, 2011 / 1:05 p.m.

Halton
Ontario

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Our government remains focused on Canada's economic recovery and the financial security of all Canadians. As the House knows our government received a strong mandate for Canadians to complete our recovery.

Today, I am very pleased to report to all Canadians and the House that minutes ago Air Canada and the Canadian Auto Workers signed an agreement in principle to bring an end to the work stoppage and return full service for passengers within 24 hours.

I want to applaud the efforts of the parties in focusing their attention to the matter and, of course, on our federal mediation services. The government's position on Air Canada has been clear. The best agreement is always the one the parties reach themselves.

The objective of the legislation that we put forward today has been achieved and we are so very pleased that there will be a resumption of service for Air Canada passengers. We remain committed to protecting Canadians and keeping our economy growing, strong and on track.

Air Canada
Points of Order
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

I am not so sure that was a point of order but nonetheless I am sure it will be welcomed by all members.

Air Canada
Points of Order
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on what could be a question of privilege or a point of information, or just a good point.

Having heard that we have a resolution in this matter, I would like to thank the Minister of Labour, the government, and all parties that participated in this. I know that negotiations went late last night. I know negotiations took place today. In an economic recovery, we have to remember the workers too, and respect the workers and the rights they have under the law regarding free bargaining and the right to strike.

Now, I encourage the minister and her government to work just as hard to get an agreement signed at Canada Post to ensure that it is a collective agreement that sends employees back to work instead of legislation. There is work to be done. The government will not have to work on the Air Canada issue over the weekend, but it must now work hard to ensure that Canada Post workers receive the same respect and are able to sign a collective agreement, which will also be good for the economic recovery.

Air Canada
Points of Order
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to congratulate those who worked very hard to come to this very satisfactory resolution. I think everyone is relieved and we are very glad this state of affairs has occurred. At the same time, I would also like to make the point that we must respect the bargaining process. Let us always bear that in mind when there is this kind of situation. I think that is very important for the future.

I would also like to take note, once again, of the main reason this conflict occurred and why there is a conflict at Canada Post, and there will be conflicts at other places. This touches upon the very important issue of pensions and people's retirement security. This is something we as a House of Commons must address in the future because this is a problem that will not go away.

Air Canada
Points of Order
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, on the same point of order, I would like to join the minister and my colleagues in saying that I am glad that the situation at Air Canada has been resolved. I congratulate the negotiators who were able to come to an agreement in principle. This is good news not only for the employees, but also for the passengers and all the people who are no doubt preparing for vacations at this time of year.

The Bloc Québécois is obviously happy about this news, but, like my colleagues, I want to say that announcing or enacting legislation is not the way to bring about a quick resolution at Canada Post. The government must focus on a negotiated agreement, as was done with Air Canada. Unionized workers should not have a sword of Damocles hanging over their heads, forcing them to accept what the employer wants to give them, because this would upset the balance of power.

I repeat my request to the minister to ensure that a negotiated agreement is signed at Canada Post as quickly as possible. That is what everyone wants.

Air Canada
Points of Order
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I acknowledge that this is not a proper point of order at all, but I would like to congratulate the Minister of Labour for her efforts. I would like to congratulate members on all sides of this House for collaborative efforts and particularly to hope that the collective bargaining rights of unions in this country will continue to be respected.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (mega-trials), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe
New Brunswick

Conservative

Robert Goguen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, it is apparent that this bill introduces a practical solution and balances the interests and necessity of the efficient administration of justice in a fair way while respecting the rights of the accused.

From the hon. member's comments, I ponder if he is simply attempting to play politics with this issue. The government introduced this bill in November 2010. Not once during the last Parliament did the hon. member ask that this bill be expedited. Suddenly, there is a sense of urgency in his comments.

Believe me, the government would certainly have welcomed any co-operation from the opposition on our justice agenda. Now that the member's party, largely founded in Quebec, and the issue have come to the forefront and into the headlines, the member has discovered a new-found interest in this justice issue.

I would like to ask the member, will his new sense of co-operation extend to the rest of our justice legislation, or will his party only be supporting legislation that plays well for it politically, specifically in Quebec?

Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the parliamentary secretary for justice, for the question and congratulate him on his appointment.

Of course, he is new to the position, so the question I think ignores the reality of what has happened and the role that I personally have played and, more importantly, that my party has played on getting justice bills through the House in an efficient fashion as opposed to the politics that his party has historically played.

It is really quite offensive the number of times that party has trotted out victims of crime in this country to use them as photo ops, as props. It did not do it just once in a number of these bills. I can think of several bills where it was done three times. The reason it was done three times, or there was the opportunity to do it three times, was because the government would prorogue Parliament or call an election in contravention of legislation that the Prime Minister himself shoved through this House. Therefore, there were three times that victims were trotted out and used as props for the government.

I did not come to this late. I have already told the story about the Shoker. It took me two and a half months of recommendations to the government to get it to agree. We only got it because we were coming near the end of the year last year and we got that through. However, I had suggested that over a two and a half month period before we got that one through. That one took precedence. This one was the next one. If we would have had enough time without the election intervening, I would have pushed this one through earlier as well.