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Victims Bill of Rights Act

An Act to enact the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights and to amend certain Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

Sponsor

Peter MacKay  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment enacts the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, which specifies that victims of crime have the following rights:

(a) the right to information about the criminal justice system, the programs and services that are available to victims of crime and the complaint procedures that are available to them when their rights have been infringed or denied;

(b) the right to information about the status of the investigation and the criminal proceedings, as well as information about reviews while the offender is subject to the corrections process, or about hearings after the accused is found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder or unfit to stand trial, and information about the decisions made at those reviews and hearings;

(c) the right to have their security and privacy considered by the appropriate authorities in the criminal justice system;

(d) the right to protection from intimidation and retaliation;

(e) the right to request testimonial aids;

(f) the right to convey their views about decisions to be made by authorities in the criminal justice system that affect the victim’s rights under this Act and to have those views considered;

(g) the right to present a victim impact statement and to have it considered;

(h) the right to have the courts consider making, in all cases, a restitution order against the offender; and

(i) the right to have a restitution order entered as a civil court judgment that is enforceable against the offender if the amount owing under the restitution order is not paid.

The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights also specifies

(a) the periods during which the rights apply;

(b) the individuals who may exercise the rights;

(c) the complaint mechanism for victims and the requirements for federal departments to create complaint mechanisms; and

(d) how the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights is to be interpreted.

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to

(a) align the definition of “victim” with the definition of “victim” in the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights;

(b) protect the privacy and security interests of complainants and witnesses in proceedings involving certain sexual offences and ensure that they are informed of their right to be represented by legal counsel;

(c) broaden the conduct to which the offence of intimidation of justice system participants applies;

(d) expand the list of factors that a court may take into consideration when determining whether an exclusion order is in the interest of the proper administration of justice;

(e) make testimonial aids more accessible to vulnerable witnesses;

(f) enable witnesses to testify using a pseudonym in appropriate cases;

(g) make publication bans for victims under the age of 18 mandatory on application;

(h) provide that an order for judicial interim release must indicate that the safety and security of every victim was taken into consideration;

(i) require the court to inquire of the prosecutor if reasonable steps have been taken to inform the victims of any plea agreement entered into by the accused and the prosecutor in certain circumstances;

(j) add victim impact statement forms to assist victims to convey their views at sentencing proceedings and at hearings held by Review Boards;

(k) provide that the acknowledgment of the harm done to the victims and to the community is a sentencing objective;

(l) clarify the provisions relating to victim impact statements;

(m) allow for community impact statements to be considered for all offences;

(n) provide that victims may request a copy of a judicial interim release order, probation order or a conditional sentence order;

(o) specify that the victim surcharge must be paid within the reasonable time established by the lieutenant governor of the province in which it is imposed;

(p) provide a form for requesting a restitution order; and

(q) provide that courts must consider the making of a restitution order in all cases, and that, in multiple victim cases, a restitution order may specify the amounts owed to each victim and designate the priority of payment among the victims.

The enactment amends the Canada Evidence Act to provide that no person is incompetent, or uncompellable, to testify for the prosecution by reason only that they are married to the accused. It also amends that Act to add a new subsection to govern the questioning of witnesses over the age of 14 years in certain circumstances.

This enactment amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to

(a) align the definition of “victim” with the definition of “victim” in the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights;

(b) permit victims to have access to information about the offender’s progress in relation to the offender’s correctional plan;

(c) permit victims to be shown a current photograph of the offender at the time of the offender’s conditional release or the expiration of the offender’s sentence;

(d) permit the disclosure of information to victims concerning an offender’s deportation before the expiration of the offender’s sentence;

(e) permit the disclosure to victims of an offender’s release date, destination and conditions of release, unless the disclosure would have a negative impact on public safety;

(f) allow victims to designate a representative to receive information under the Act and to waive their right to information under the Act;

(g) require that the Correctional Service of Canada inform victims about its victim-offender mediation services;

(h) permit victims who do not attend a parole hearing to listen to an audio recording of the hearing;

(i) provide for the provision to victims of decisions of the Parole Board of Canada regarding the offender; and

(j) require, when victims have provided a statement describing the harm, property damage or loss suffered by them as the result of the commission of an offence, that the Parole Board of Canada impose victim non-contact or geographic restrictions as conditions of release, where reasonable and necessary, to protect the victims in relation to an offender who is the subject of a long-term supervision order.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Feb. 23, 2015 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
Feb. 4, 2015 Passed That Bill C-32, An Act to enact the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights and to amend certain Acts, {as amended}, be concurred in at report stage [with a further amendment/with further amendments] .
Feb. 4, 2015 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-32, An Act to enact the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights and to amend certain Acts, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at report stage of the Bill and one sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill; and That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at report stage and on the day allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the stage of the Bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.
June 18, 2014 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-32, An Act to enact the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights and to amend certain Acts, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the Bill; and that, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

Victims Bill of Rights ActGovernment Orders

February 20th, 2015 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-32, An Act to enact the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights and to amend certain Acts, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be here with my colleagues this cold February day to speak about Bill C-32, the victims bill of rights act, and to enact this bill, which I believe will truly be transformative in improving rights for victims within our criminal justice system. This will be a quantum leap forward for victims and their families and the justice system at large.

Many individuals in this place have worked tirelessly in our justice system. This is probably, in my estimation, one of the most non-partisan bills we will see in the life of this Parliament. I am particularly proud to see the amount of effort that has been put forward in the drafting and preparation of the bill. I had the good pleasure to work with many people in my own justice department and across the country and to, most personally, hear from victims, to hear their stories, which have very much informed the bill.

It has been a top priority of our government to put victims at the very epicentre of our justice system. I left the crown prosecution service of Nova Scotia almost 18 years ago. It is a particularly proud moment to see the bill come to fruition after a great deal of effort and input from many within our justice system. The contributions of those individuals is reflected in this system that will benefit greatly from their insights.

Since 2006 our government has designated more than $120 million to give victims a more effective voice and role in our justice and correctional systems. We understand the importance of this investment and the difference it can make in the lives of many, as will this legislation.

However, we also understand that the time has come to take a different approach to meeting the needs of victims of crime in Canada—an approach that recognizes victims’ needs through clearly defined and enforceable rights. Last year, we promised to do just that by entrenching victims’ rights into a single law at the federal level. Now we are delivering on that promise with Bill C-32.

I cannot overstate the significance of this piece of legislation. The Canadian victims bill of rights would explicitly enshrine victims rights in federal legislation for the first time in our country's history. Victims would enjoy rights to information, protection, participation, and in many cases, restitution. All of those rights would be enforceable through a remedy scheme. This is the first thing Bill C-32 would accomplish.

The bill would also amend other legislation, such as the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, and bring victims' rights to life. This is indeed a watershed moment for Canadian victims of crime.

I am not only proud of what we have included in the victims bill of rights but of the way the bill was developed. When we promised to entrench rights for victims of crime, we knew that we would hear directly from victims to ensure that the bill would truly respond to their concerns.

After being given the honour to serve as the federal Minister of Justice, within weeks I set out, in that first year, to travel to every province and territory to hear directly from Canadians and participants in our justice system.

During the in-person consultations and the online consultations, we heard from more than 500 individuals and organizations. It was instructive, informative, and also emotional at times to hear the personal pain that had been endured by many in our country.

The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights also heard meaningful evidence from victims of crime, advocates, provincial and territorial officials, and those who work on the front lines of our justice system. In particular, the honest and open accounts from victims of crime about their difficulties and the heartbreak they have endured in our system was particularly poignant.

Lianna McDonald, the executive director of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, who I saw just last week in Winnipeg, summed up these accounts from victims when she said:

What we heard loud and clear is that every victim needs a voice and every victim needs to count. We see this bill as an important step towards ensuring that victims not only obtain the information and support they need but also are able to participate in the justice system in a meaningful way that respects their dignity throughout the process.

Our government believes that every victim deserves to be supported.

For that reason, the Canadian victims bill of rights would include a broad definition of victim that includes an individual who has suffered physical or emotional harm, property damage or economic loss as a result of the commission or alleged commission of an offence.

This definition recognizes that a person may be a victim even when an offence has not been committed against them personally.

The bill would also enable individuals to act on behalf of victims who are deceased or incapable of exercising their rights.

The bill would extend rights to victims of crime at every stage of our criminal justice process: during the investigation and prosecution of an offence, during the corrections process, during the conditional release process or parole, and in proceedings in the courts or before review boards for an accused found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder or who is unfit to stand trial. However, the bill would also provide that those rights could not be applied so as to interfere with police or prosecutorial discretion and would have to be reasonable in the circumstances.

There is very much an emphasis here to strike a balance to ensure that we are giving victims a voice and a role but are not creating delays or adding to the cost of the criminal justice process. This would be counterintuitive, and many victims, I recall, emphasized in their submissions that this was the last thing they wanted to see happen. Further delay, I would suggest, would further victimize individuals in many cases.

The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights heard evidence about the importance of keeping victims well informed and about the need to ensure that basic information is provided to victims and their loved ones. This was identified as being of utmost importance. One can understand that these processes and the information needed that impacts directly on people's lives sometimes, unwittingly, does not make it into their hands at the proper time. Victims of crime are often looking for this general information about the process, and therefore their role in the process. Nothing is more fundamental, I would suggest. Nothing impacts them more directly than being able to have that information to make decisions for themselves and their loved ones. However, what they really want is specific information about their case and the decisions made by justice professionals as the case moves forward. Unfortunately, all too often, victims are left disappointed with the information made available to them. This is something Bill C-32 seeks to correct.

The information that is needed and the right to information about the justice system, the programs and services available to them, and the complaint procedures available to them if these rights are denied or infringed is deeply ensconced in the bill. It would give victims access to more specific information about the criminal investigation process, and often the accused.

I note that several witnesses appeared before the standing committee on the issue of information about plea arrangements. Under Bill C-32, judges would be required to specifically ask a prosecutor if reasonable steps had been taken to inform the victim of a plea arrangement in prosecutions involving murder or serious bodily harm or where the victim so requested it in prosecutions of indictable offences where the penalty was five years or more.

I believe that we have found the right balance with this provision that would allow victims to be informed of the agreement at a critical moment without unduly burdening crown prosecutors and without compromising the accused's right to freely enter into a plea arrangement.

Victim safety was also mentioned extensively throughout the process of consultation. We heard testimony before the standing committee that victims of sexual assault, in particular, and victims of human trafficking expressed particular concern about their physical safety during the criminal justice process.

I know that my friend and colleague from Winnipeg, who has made this her life's work, also expressed serious concerns about the physical safety of witnesses throughout the process. My friend, the former minister of veterans affairs and now the Associate Minister of National Defence, spent his entire working life as a police officer prior coming here. I had the good fortune of having his counsel in the preparation of this bill as well.

It is important to keep that information flowing from the time of investigation to trial or preliminary to sentencing and often to parole hearings. This contact, often afforded by the police and the prosecution services, has also been greatly improved by victims services in our country. I must say that this has been one of the single greatest insertions of individuals and professionals dedicated solely to supporting victims in the process.

I want to say firmly, on the record, that this bill does not in any way suggest that these many professionals in our country working in the justice system are not doing their job. This is simply an effort to codify and bring about common practices across the country, in provinces and territories, to buttress our commitment to supporting victims and to see that we are transferring, in some cases, best practices through this bill by ensconcing these rights for victims.

This bill recognizes the importance of protecting victims from further harm, while they participate in the justice system. It would provide victims with the right to have their privacy and security considered by the appropriate authorities in the criminal justice system and the right to protection from intimidation and retaliation, including the right to apply for testimonial aids and to have their identity protected from public disclosure.

Currently there are a number of provisions in criminal law to prevent or to respond directly to the harms suffered by victims. The creation of these new rights would build on a strong foundation and on Canada's positive international reputation for the treatment of vulnerable persons, including their treatment in courtrooms.

Specifically, I am aware of some of the expressed concerns with respect to proposed section 486.31 of the Criminal Code. This section would add another tool to the inventory of testimonial aids and other protections for victims and witnesses that currently exist in the Criminal Code. This new tool in proposed section 486.31 would create discretionary schemes to allow or require a judge to determine that an order made under this section was in the interest of the proper administration of justice. The judge would then consider a number of factors when considering whether to make such an order, such as a fair trial, the interests of the witness in question, and societal interests related to the proper functioning of our justice system. What this would mean, in essence, would be greater access to those testimonial aids.

Just to edify this issue, it could be a screen that is sometimes used for a child witness or an individual who feels particularly vulnerable to cross-examination. Sometimes there are situations where a person is unrepresented and he or she is in a position to come face to face with a victim who feels absolutely overwhelmed. We now also use video testimony from time to time.

I would come back to the point of improvements we have seen well in advance of what we hope to accomplish through this bill, such as child and youth advocacy centres, such as the one in Toronto known as Boost, the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre in Calgary, and 24 others now functioning, with plans for more to come. There are outstanding improvements in the wraparound service, protection, and support of young victims and witnesses who wind up in our criminal justice system.

Something as basic as allowing children to take a pet into the courtroom or the interview process to calm that experience and allow them to feel that they are in a safe place are leaps and bounds in the area of the compassionate type of support we are now offering young victims and witnesses in our system. This is in keeping with some of these improvements.

Never losing sight of the right to a fair trial that the accused must have, and the fundamental components that exist in our process in that regard, the courts have said, and I agree, that these rights are not absolute. A criminal trial must acknowledge and accommodate, to the greatest extent possible, other important societal interests, such as protecting those who agree to testify as witnesses.

I would pause here to mention that in the new anti-terrorism bill, there are provisions as well recognizing the need to protect witnesses, in some cases, because of special circumstances. We see this in organized crime trials and trials where spouses find themselves particularly vulnerable to violence or threats of violence. These protective elements are extremely important, without upsetting that right to a fair and free trial.

Coming back to some of the consultations, we heard from many people about the importance of finding ways for victims to be more meaningfully involved in the process. Some stakeholders expressed concerns that increasing the involvement of victims had the potential to reduce effectiveness and efficiencies of the process, that it would create delays or increased cost. These are important considerations, to be sure. However, the standing committee heard from several witnesses who explained very eloquently how important it is to be meaningfully considered in the decisions made by police, prosecutors, and other criminal law professionals. This breeds confidence in our system; it breeds participation, and a willingness to participate.

We are having trouble sometimes even assembling a panel of jurors because of a disconnect that some are feeling from our justice system. We have to be very conscious of that. The bill, I believe, answers some of those questions when it comes to increased public confidence.

Victims clearly indicated that they are not seeking a veto. I remember some years ago, while in opposition, there was a joint report created by the justice committee, called “Victims' Rights: A Voice, Not a Veto”. We drew heavily from that report, going back into the annals of this place and looking at some of the previous recommendations.

Victims simply want to know that a decision was made with clear understanding of their perspective as a victim, and that they had the opportunity to explain their position to important decision-makers. As Minister of Justice, I have no doubt that the many professionals in our justice system already meet, and continue to meet every day, those requirements and requests for accountability and transparency from victims.

The reforms proposed in Bill C-32 recognize the impact of crime on the lives of victims and are a clear effort to give them a voice in what is often a complicated, difficult, and stressful process. Victims of crime have told us that they are overwhelmingly supportive of the improvements to the victim and community impact statement provisions found in the Criminal Code. One such improvement is the creation of mandatory victim and community impact statement forms, again, to bring about a uniform approach across the country.

Through this process, we have also had the opportunity to ensure that victims are able to speak directly to the judiciary, to the court, and ensure that they have a true understanding of the impact that crime has had on them and their families. The bill also aims to give victims more choice and control over their involvement in the process, which can be stressful and certainly emotional. Participation and choice, I would suggest, are rights that have to be respected and rights that do exist, whether the victim chooses to exercise them or not. Choice equals respect in the bill.

The proposed right to participation also seeks to strengthen approaches that provide opportunities for victims to actively participate, to be more effective in their ability to relay their wishes, their concerns, to police, crown prosecutors, and judges, and to give victims this effective voice to let them know that their voice matters, that it is heard, that it is meaningful.

During consultations, and in the evidence before the standing committee, victims spoke of the financial impact of crime. This can include economic costs, loss of employment, costs of treatment, and mental and physical health costs. Victims are very concerned about the financial burden that results from victimization and that places them in real hardship.

Following a traumatic event, victims are often unable to work, unable to deal with the daily grind that is all around them, and yet they face significant expenses to continue attending court proceedings or receive counselling.

It may surprise some, and I certainly was taken aback by this figure, that the Justice Department estimates that the tangible and intangible social and economic costs of Criminal Code offences in Canada are approaching approximately $100 billion annually, of which 85% of the costs are borne by victims alone.

The bill aims specifically at helping to alleviate the financial burden of crime when it comes to the load that is carried by our victims in the system. The proposal would enshrine a victim's right to have the court consider making a restitution order, in every case, rather than creating an absolute right to a restitution order.

Once again, I believe that we have found a measured and balanced response to the needs for victims with respect to the fundamental principles that underpin our justice system.

The courts are not often the appropriate forum for awarding damage for pain and suffering or for determining complicated issues regarding the outcome of an award, but restitution can be made and ordered when the value of the loss or damage is easily calculable. This is not in dispute. On the other hand, we are clarifying that the offender's ability to pay is only one factor to be considered when a judge is determining whether a restitution order should be made.

In conclusion, I want to thank the many individuals who have put in tremendous time and effort in the preparation and drafting of this bill. They are people like Carole Morency, of the Department of Justice; Dale Sutherland, and many other victims whom we heard from throughout our consultations, and there were many. There were individuals like Priscilla de Villiers, who has made this her life's work, and people from MADD Canada. I mentioned Sheldon Kennedy earlier, and those who work in the child advocacy centres.

I believe that this is a leap forward, and something that all members can and should support. I am grateful to the members of the justice committee, who have also embraced this important task of improving the lives of victims and easing their burden. I would urge all members to support this important legislation.

Victims Bill of Rights ActGovernment Orders

February 20th, 2015 / 10:20 a.m.
See context

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the Minister of Justice for his speech on Bill C-32. It was one of too few speeches we will hear in the House about this bill because of the time allocation motion.

I am very glad that he mentioned the costs to victims. I have seen the harm, both physical and psychological, that these people have endured. It is mind-boggling. This is one of the issues that the bill only partly addresses. I am therefore very glad to see that the minister is aware of it, and I hope he will realize that we need to come up with some funding, not just lip service.

One of the concerns that I still have about this bill is that the provinces and territories will be on the hook for implementing the Canadian victims bill of rights. When we studied this in committee, it seemed as though they were not very interested in that. The provinces were not particularly enthusiastic about coming to tell us what they thought of the bill of rights. Two provinces, Saskatchewan and Alberta, sent representatives. The provinces' justice ministers told us that the federal government would have to give them time to take a closer look and implement it. They asked the government to extend the implementation period, but the government refused.

Is the minister concerned that this could end up being forgotten or simply stalling along the way? Is he concerned that not much is likely to happen if the provinces are not committed to the process?

Victims Bill of Rights ActGovernment Orders

February 20th, 2015 / 10:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank my esteemed colleague for participating in this debate and this process. She has put forward constructive ideas and some very positive comments.

I take her comments very much to heart, and I know that she has been an active participant in the process of getting it right for the sake of victims.

She makes a very important point about resources. There is no question that the administration of justice, including the impact of this bill, falls to the provinces. It will fall specifically to agencies, police forces, prosecutorial services, and our entire justice system.

This is why we put in place a victims fund prior to the drafting and implementation of this bill. There are also funds that would attach and flow with the implementation of this legislation and a coming into force period.

The member makes the valid point that we would have to transition to this process where victims are in a better place. It will undoubtedly take a tremendous amount of effort. It will call for further collaboration between the participants and the justice system. It will call for efforts on the part of some provinces to raise their game. Having been through this process, I am convinced. that there is a tremendous desire for that to happen.

This bill will include new funding, and there will be grants and contributions available to provinces and territories, particularly with regard to the restitution programs and helping victims to collect it. As the member knows, we also have a victims ombudsman, as a result of that office being opened by this government in the last number of years.

Victims Bill of Rights ActGovernment Orders

February 20th, 2015 / 10:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think history would reflect that there has been fairly good support from all sides of the House in dealing with this type of legislation. We have seen that over the years.

I want to pick up on the point that the NDP critic has raised. This is an issue that we have also raised, both in committee and in previous discussions. It is with regard to the expectation that judges, in their considerations, will give additional thought to where the victim is at, for example, in terms of whether the crown has consulted with the victims and whether they are being kept informed on process and so forth

One of the most concerning issues is the scarcity of resources. As we move forward, we should ensure that there are financial resources that follow. Our crowns, for example, have a fairly full plate, and now there will be an additional responsibility or expectation, meaning that there is a need for additional financial resources.

To what degree has the minister taken action to ensure that those financial resources will follow so that we do not have increased backlogs, which is a concern?

Victims Bill of Rights ActGovernment Orders

February 20th, 2015 / 10:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend for the question, and I agree with him. I think there has been quite an extraordinary and exemplary effort on the part all parties to bring this legislation forward. In fact, we have seen amendments that I think will further enhance the bill and speak to the dignity of victims.

With regard to resources, I mentioned the victims fund and accompanying resources for programming. With regard to the provinces and the administration of justice, I would remind my friend, as he is probably aware, that we have seen a significant increase in transfer payments that go directly to provinces for the administration of their health and social transfers. These enhanced programs allow provinces to make decisions and adjustments in regard to their justice systems in their areas of jurisdiction.

I want to come back as well to the issue of how victims fit into this process. This Canadian victims bill of rights would be a quasi-constitutional statute. It would protect extremely important values and incorporate certain goals that are basically associated with the justice system.

Clauses 21 and 22 of the bill would provide that the Canadian Bill of Rights would prevail over other federal statutes, with the exception of other quasi-constitutional statutes within the system, including the Official Languages Act, the Privacy Act, and, of course, the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Victims Bill of Rights ActGovernment Orders

February 20th, 2015 / 10:30 a.m.
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Vaughan Ontario

Conservative

Julian Fantino ConservativeAssociate Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to thank the hon. minister for his work, and the team's work, with respect to the background and consultations. I was present with the minister at one of these consultation processes in my own area, where we had educators, parents, and police officers. The overwhelming support that came forward, I believe, has certainly been reflected in the construct of this bill.

Drawing on my own experience over some 40 years in law enforcement, I can say with all honesty that this bill has been a long time in the making. The whole issue of victims' rights has been neglected over many years. The overwhelming majority of effort over the years has been in the area of the victimizers, the accused, the kinds of rights and entitlements to which the accused are given from the beginning to end of their involvement in the system.

I would also like to indicate that the bill is nothing new; it is something that the system has been trying to do. However, what is new is the mandated codification, if you will, of processes, regards, and concerns about the plight of victims and their role in the judicial system.

I would like to ask the hon. minister if he could briefly highlight the degree of consultation and involvement of partners in the criminal justice system that has enabled him and his people to deliver what I believe is a timely, long-awaited, and badly needed address of our victims' plight in the system.

Victims Bill of Rights ActGovernment Orders

February 20th, 2015 / 10:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Vaughan, the Associate Minister of National Defence, for his 40 years of wearing the badge and the uniform and the leadership he has demonstrated in our justice system.

He and many others bring to bear the very essence of this bill, an effort to bring about a process that delivers more for victims in a way that is consistent with their perspective, that builds and breeds confidence, and respects and truly includes them in a meaningful way. That is not to suggest for a moment that we have not come a very long way from where we were just a few short years ago. I mentioned victims' services and child advocacy centres, but also, most importantly, the incredible sensitivity that has evolved throughout with the police, the prosecution, judges, and court workers. There is an acute understanding of the need to do more for victims.

This bill would help to bring about uniformity and the codification that he mentioned. We heard repeatedly about this desire to learn, because of the breadth and width of this country and how it is being done in different parts of the country. We know there are specific needs in the north, in particular, that have to be addressed. We know that in remote parts of the country this poses challenges, and we are using technology more to respond to those needs.

I look forward to this bill proceeding to the Senate, with the latter's watchful eye and insight and its opportunity to give its stamp of approval. I know that Senators Boisvenu and Batters and others bring a great deal of understanding through their experience, which is how our process works best: when people participate fully. Again, I thank the members of the justice committee for their intelligent insights and constructive suggestions in this process.

Victims Bill of Rights ActGovernment Orders

February 20th, 2015 / 10:35 a.m.
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NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is important for me to rise in the House today to participate in this shortened debate on Bill C-32, the Victims Bill of Rights Act. I agree with the minister that this is an extremely important concept and bill. The devil is often in the details, but this bill also represents a first step.

I would like to begin by thanking the minister for his openness during the examination of this bill, if nothing else. I am less satisfied with the way that this is happening here in the House, because we are being given only two or two and a half hours to debate at third reading a bill that includes many extremely important provisions. What is said in the House at the various stages of a bill is often very important for the courts and for Canadians, because the debate often provides indications as to how the legislation should be interpreted. The speeches are therefore important. What we say in the House becomes important because it often explains the intent of the legislation.

I would also like to thank the NDP members who sit with me on the committee that examined this bill. They are the hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île, the deputy justice critic, and my colleague from the House leader's office, the deputy House leader and member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine. They did a remarkable job of supporting me on this file. Our priority throughout the process was to try to understand the bill of course, but also to ensure that the bill did what the minister said it was supposed to during the countless press conferences he held, accompanied by victims. As I have often said, whether at second reading, during speeches, at committee stage or at report stage here in the House, we try to properly assess the legislation. If there is one thing that horrifies me, it is when people say they are doing one thing when they are actually doing another.

It is very interesting. We heard from many witnesses. I counted about 40 witnesses who appeared before the committee. In fact, there were 42, to be precise. I cannot say that the witnesses were on one side or the other. What mattered most to all of the witnesses was putting victims at the centre of the debate. I think that is the most positive thing that stood out about the victims bill of rights. That was the most common remark I heard. Although people were not entirely reassured that the victims bill of rights will in fact give them what they have been asking for for such a long time—for it has its limitations—they were extremely happy to see that we were talking about them. They were also happy that we were listening to them. It was much more about listening to them, rather than talking about them. The minister said earlier that he was taken aback by the scope of the harms suffered by victims and the costs they bear. Whether physical, psychological or material, the costs to victims are huge. The very notion of “victim” is being broadened as well. We do not always know who the victim of a crime is. Indeed, the victim's family and friends all suffer with that individual.

When we add all of that up and realize that according to the numbers we were given, victims bear 83% of the costs incurred, that is troubling. The government is saying that the law will ensure that there is some sort of restitution, but we have to take that with a grain of salt. That is really the problem I have with this bill of rights, but I will try to remain positive today. There are no guarantees. Since this comes from a government that is so bent on mandatory minimums, huge maximums and suppressing certain rights, I understand why the minister made a point of talking about a “measured and balanced system” in his pro-victim speech.

He understands the potential limitations of this bill of rights within a criminal justice system that is based on the presumption of innocence and a charter of rights that also imposes limitations on how things are done. The trial still has to be fair and balanced for the accused. It is not easy to strike a balance between focusing on victims and applying the fundamental principles of our criminal justice system with regard to the rights of the accused.

That is why I often say that we have to be mindful of what we say in public. We should not give the impression that we are going to solve all the problems, when that is not necessarily what is going to happen.

We had good meetings at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. We were able to raise certain problems for both victims and legal experts. Legal experts tend to see the downside of legal provisions, which can sometimes be misinterpreted. They could hamper the criminal justice system and undermine values such as the presumption of innocence, which is part of a fair and balanced trial. In that context, one might assume that the two parties would have diverging opinions, yet they were both somewhat dissatisfied with the bill of rights.

Representatives from victims' associations entered the committee room with their eyes wide open. They knew that even though the government claims that this bill will solve the world's problems, it would do nothing to change the fact that roughly 80% of the costs are borne by victims and their family and friends. Nonetheless, they were happy to find out that we had recognized certain rights, including the right to information. However, we are still not going far enough.

I proposed some very reasonable amendments to the victims bill of rights. If someone has the right to information, they should not have to ask for it. However, under the victims bill of rights, the victim will have to request information. The victim will still have to beg for rights that should have been fully recognized a long time ago.

Let us take a look at clause 6 in the bill:

Every victim has the right, on request, to information about

(a) the criminal justice system and the role of victims in it;

(b) the services and programs available to them as a victim, including restorative justice programs; and

(c) their right to file a complaint for an infringement or denial of any of their rights under this Act.

If the idea is to give victims a right that they have been calling for for a long time, we should simply say that they have that right. However, in committee, the government members rejected my amendment, which would have benefited victims. It would have made this bill of rights stronger for victims. This would have made the bill of rights extremely respectful of victims and would not have created an additional burden. Even if this did create an additional burden, which would not penalize the offender, who is presumed innocent until proven guilty, what would be the problem?

It is because this would have required resources. We would have to provide the services required by an automatic system. In this case, I suppose we will just cross our fingers and hope that victims will not make too many requests.

I will quote clause 7:

Every victim has the right, on request, to information about

(a) the status and outcome of the investigation into the offence; and

(b) the location of proceedings in relation to the offence, when they will take place and their progress and outcome.

When I proposed an amendment to ensure that victims did not have to ask for this right, once again, members on the government benches refused, even though it would have benefited victims.

It seems to me that it was what victims had asked for, at the very least, and we could have given them that.

Later, clause 8 states:

8. Every victim has the right, on request, to information about

(a) reviews under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act relating to the offender’s conditional release and the timing and conditions of that release; and

(b) hearings held for the purpose of making dispositions, as defined in subsection 672.1(1) of the Criminal Code, in relation to the accused, if the accused is found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder or unfit to stand trial, and the dispositions made at those hearings.

That seems evident to me.

I have said this before, but I am going to say it again. When I worked as a lawyer in my riding and I went to the courthouse, we knew who the victim in a certain case was when we walked down the hall: it was the person who seemed to be asking themselves what they were doing there, what was happening and who had absolutely no idea what was going on.

I regularly follow what the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime has to say. Sue O'Sullivan does an extraordinary job. She is passionate about her work and cares deeply about the well-being of victims. She tries to help them in any way she can. The biggest problem is the right to information. Victims are not involved in the proceedings. I think that there were limitations because of our criminal justice system. I am not calling that system into question. In fact, I fundamentally believe in the principle of the presumption of innocence. That should not be changed. Doing so would certainly change Canadian society. Of course, we want to be sensible about this and do not want to bog down the court proceedings.

Then again, I do not understand the problem with giving out this information. The devil is often in the details, so much so that the entire system is then called into question.

There is the concept of mandatory minimum sentences. When I speak to a victim or a member of a victims' support group, it is obvious that the problem is not the concept of sentence minimums. They do not have a problem with minimum sentences. More often than not, they want maximum sentences. However, as I often tell them, they will not truly be satisfied with any sentence, and with good reason.

I worked mainly in the area of labour law, and when a person was unlawfully dismissed, even though I sought the absolutely best possible outcome, it was still not satisfying. Why? Because no amount of money was going to make that person forget that moment. I would always tell my clients this. There is no such thing as a satisfying ruling. It is the same thing in criminal law.

As a society, how can we think that a sentence, even a life sentence, will make the victim less of a victim? How can we ensure that victims will not relive that moment for the rest of their lives and that they will not be psychologically scarred by it? Come on. Let us stop messing around when it comes to such important concepts and stop minimizing the issue by giving the impression that a law is going to change everything.

I often have a problem when the Conservatives use the expression “put your money where your mouth is”. This government passes strong laws but cuts resources. It passes tougher legislation but reduces the number of police officers. They are saying one thing and doing another. The Canadian victims bill of rights gives victims a so-called right, but that is it. They still have to ask for the information.

With respect to restitution, victims told the committee that it was wonderful to know there would be restitution in criminal cases, in court-ordered criminal proceedings. That is interesting because not only do these victims have to go through the criminal trial, appear as victims and witnesses, and go through the whole process that makes them relive what they already went through, but if they want restitution, they have to file a civil suit against a person who, in many cases, does not have the money to pay them. What kind of a system is that? They spend more money and pay more lawyers and end up with nothing or not a lot.

Including provisions for restitution in a bill of rights is interesting, but once again, it is just potential.

It is not automatic even if the person can prove that there was physical harm. We know that psychological harm is often harder to prove. Those who have practised civil law are well aware that the notion of moral and psychological harm is probably the hardest thing to determine. In some cases, people cannot do it right away. It is an ongoing process.

In this context, the victims believe that once Bill C-32 is passed, everything will work out because they can just ask the court. The clause says that the court will consider it; it is not automatic.

There is something I especially agree with, although not everyone agrees. Some legal experts are worried about certain provisions dealing with how victims will give evidence and whether or not witnesses will be identified. Clearly, as a lawyer myself, I also have some concerns. We always have to ask how this will be applied by the courts. That being said, when we have confidence in the legal system, which I do, barring proof to the contrary, our judges, crown prosecutors and defence attorneys are doing their job. What I always find interesting is examining the provisions. An application does not have to be granted automatically when a victim asks to give evidence without being identified, seen or heard, or even giving his or her name. A procedure exists; there must be a hearing that meets stated criteria.

That eases my concerns somewhat, but it is important that the courts dealing with these kinds of applications treat them with caution, bearing in mind that a trial is public by definition, and it is important to put that on the record. This is really quite particular, and there are specific cases where the victim or their family could be in danger, for example.

Obviously, when it comes to minors, it is a different situation altogether. However, that is not exactly what is set out in the victims bill of rights, which applies to all kinds of victims, not just children. That is one of the problems.

I mentioned the other problem in my question to the minister. I did not get the sense that the provinces and territories were very enthusiastic about this. In response to a question, Quebec's justice minister said that her province already has a victims bill of rights. I spoke to many crown prosectors who were a little insulted. They felt as though they were being told they were not doing this already. Many speak to victims and keep them informed. People must not think that this is not already being done. Unfortunately, it is not done everywhere.

Again, let us talk about resources. All these fine bills are nice, but there are no resources. Crown prosecutors are doing their best. They arrive in court—I have seen this because I practised law—with a big pile of files; they have to talk to each victim, inform them, ask them if this suits them, if they are happy and whether they know that such-and-such a thing is going to happen at this time on that day. Even crown prosecutors told us in committee that this could be pretty tough without more resources, more crown prosecutors and more judges to hear certain cases.

The biggest problem for victims—and I say this often—is that the legal system is too slow. I quite like the Canadian legal system, but speed is not its strong suit. A trial that takes too long leaves the impression that justice is not being served. These are other things to consider.

There is a terrible deficit and imbalance in the justice system. This is becoming a big problem. It is often overlooked at budget time. Let us think about that on this World Day of Social Justice. I do not want to preach about this, but the need is great. We have a law-and-order government and there is nothing wrong with that, but it has to go about things the right way. It has to give resources to the people who need it. Given the cool reception of the provinces and territories, a number of discussions will have to be organized between Justice Canada and its provincial and territorial partners, in order to ensure that this bill of rights does not go by the wayside and become one more Conservative file that the NDP will have to fix after the fact.

Victims Bill of Rights ActGovernment Orders

February 20th, 2015 / 10:55 a.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to reinforce a question I posed for the minister responsible for the legislation. The member for Gatineau made reference to it.

We recognize the value of this legislation. I think all political parties recognize the need to do what we can to allow victims to achieve some form of additional justice. We all recognize the need to support them, as we should. In good part, the legislation is a step in the right direction.

One of the largest concerns we hear is about the financial resources. We can pass whatever legislation we want in the House, but if we do not have a direct connection to financial resources to ensure our system is improved, then in essence it has fallen somewhat short.

Maybe the member could comment the importance of additional financial resources to ensure the legislation accomplishes what it is meant to do.

Victims Bill of Rights ActGovernment Orders

February 20th, 2015 / 10:55 a.m.
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NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Quite simply, Mr. Speaker, without the resources, the charter of victims rights is just paper. If it comes down to that, it would be sad. I am not talking about a few million dollars. The Conservatives like to depict us as big spenders, but that is not the case. They have to put their money where their mouth is if they want to help victims. The minister talked about close to $100 billion of which 80% of that would be borne by the government.

The Conservatives can laugh all they want, but victims associations have told us they have no funding so they cannot help people. They count on the generosity of the public, with little dollars here and there, to help people who live in hell because of crimes.

I will take no lessons from the laughing Conservatives. They are great at writing papers but do nothing afterward, and that is sad. This legislation will not succeed without the resources.

Victims Bill of Rights ActGovernment Orders

February 20th, 2015 / 12:10 p.m.
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NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Gatineau for her speech.

It is quite rare—there is no denying it—that we see a bill like BIll C-32 that allows the official opposition to finally support the government so we can work together to the same end.

Unfortunately, we must again condemn the time allocation imposed on this bill and the fact that despite our efforts and the very reasonable amendments proposed at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, they were all refused.

Because she was able to hear from so many witnesses, I wonder if my colleague, the justice critic, could tell me if she heard anything or got any impressions from witnesses or other stakeholders in the area of justice and victims rights regarding the fact that the government was completely closed to any suggestions for improving this worthwhile and commendable bill.

Victims Bill of Rights ActGovernment Orders

February 20th, 2015 / 12:10 p.m.
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NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question.

I realize that they are often the same groups. We are really getting to know one another. Justice committee meetings are practically convivial now. There is a common thread running through the Conservatives' bills, and as a result, they often invite the same witnesses to come and explain things to us. That is why we are really getting to know them.

I am also coming to the realization, and this was true particularly during our study of the victims bill of rights, that the victims' associations the Conservatives like to trot out for photo ops in support of their bills have their eyes and ears wide open.

I am saying that, but members of those associations are no fools. They know that the government likes to use them, but the cause is greater than their personal feelings. They have big hearts. They have been through absolutely horrible situations, so they will always step up when they see an opportunity to advance their cause even a little, but they are no fools.

I would like to take a moment to correct the member. Indeed, the Conservatives had no interest in what I would call quantitative amendments that would have made a huge difference to victims. I think that is unfortunate because they claim to stand up for victims.

They accepted just one opposition amendment, and it was one of mine. It does not make me terribly proud because they changed the amendment quite a bit. Nevertheless, I asked for this:

Two years after section 2 comes into force, a committee of the House of Commons, of the Senate or of both Houses of Parliament is to be designated or established for the purpose of reviewing the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights enacted by that section.

I thought two years was reasonable. It was my way of ensuring that a House committee would truly look at how much this bill of rights accomplished. Out of respect for the victims rights associations, this would allow them to come and tell us whether there had been any major changes.

True to form, the Conservatives proposed an amendment to the amendment to push back the study to five years. Moreover, it blew my mind, but they rejected this proposal: “The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada must prepare and cause to be laid before each House of Parliament an annual report for the previous year on the operation of this Act that contains the following information”.

It would have been interesting to see some statistics. This government is not a big fan of information. We could have had statistics. I asked for “(a) the number of restitution orders made under section 16;” since this was an important part of the bill of rights to them. I get the impression that it will not get used as much as we think.

I also asked for the following because that is what the victims are calling for: “(b) the number of requests for information made under sections 7 and 8; and (c) the number of complaints filed under sections 25 and 26”.

Unfortunately, the government rejected all this.

Victims Bill of Rights ActGovernment Orders

February 20th, 2015 / 12:15 p.m.
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NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the NDP's justice critic, for her professionalism and diligence in debating the bills introduced by the Conservatives.

I also thank her for pointing out the Conservatives' misleading statements. They claim to stand up for victims, but in reality this bill is nothing but an empty shell. They will not compensate victims. They have no plan for compensating victims. They are off-loading that burden onto the provinces.

Could my colleague speak more to the fact that the Conservatives are washing their hands of this and off-loading the burden onto the provinces?

Victims Bill of Rights ActGovernment Orders

February 20th, 2015 / 12:15 p.m.
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NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. I could talk about that for 25 minutes.

The provinces will have to deal with the administration of justice, which is their responsibility. The content—meaning crime and justice—is our responsibility. The provinces are responsible for the administration of justice. I would say that is a big responsibility. We draft the laws, and they have to take action based on what we draft and decide. This is often done without much consultation, with all due respect to my colleagues opposite, who say that they consult when they hold one or two meetings a year with federal, provincial and territorial justice ministers. Often, this process is very superficial.

The Conservatives say that they are working on something. Their idea of consultation is limited to informing people of what will be passed. They say that they have a majority so they will not accept any amendments, that they already know where they are going and that this is how things will be. Then they explain what that means.

We are running out of time. It would have been great to have more time to debate this issue and to talk about different aspects of the bill. I did not get a chance to talk about the part that deals with the complaints of victims who are not happy with how certain things work. Once again, it is a voluntary system that is not clear at the provincial level. It could create some problems and could get bogged down.

Victims Bill of Rights ActGovernment Orders

February 20th, 2015 / 12:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-32. It is a bill that I suspect will receive unanimous support of the House of Commons, and there should be no one surprised in regard to that. Legislators as a whole, whether at the national level or at the provincial level, truly want to do whatever is possible from a legislative perspective and outside of legislative perspectives to ensure that we can bring more justice and express more sympathy and so forth to victims of crime.

The right to information, the right to protection, the right to participation, and the right to restitution are rights that we hear a great deal about whenever we talk about victims. I would like to add some thoughts dealing with the legislation and, if time permits, to cite some concerns I have specifically with respect to Winnipeg North in regard to gang activities, which are not unique to Winnipeg North. Gang activities occur in many other municipalities and areas across the country, and there is an important role that the government needs to play in dealing with that issue.

It is worthy of note that the Liberal Party will be supporting Bill C-32, and that should come as no surprise. We have worked with other political parties in the past in recognizing the importance of victims and in wanting to make sure we do whatever possible in having a legislative agenda to deal with the issue.

Even though the government talks a great deal about being the great defender of victims and victims' rights, if we get down to the details, we find that the government has really not done all that well and that there is more it could have done. Because of its general attitude in bringing forward legislation, we could have been able to accomplish a whole lot more.

I say that because in 1988, had the federal, provincial, and territorial ministers of justice actually endorsed the Canadian statement of basic principles of justice for victims of crime. That was back in an era of Progressive Conservatives, under Brian Mulroney and Kim Campbell. They demonstrated the need to be able to work in co-operation with different stakeholders, and in particular with the different levels of government.

In 2003, after a considerable amount of discussion had taken place among federal officials, provincial officials, and other stakeholders, the original statement of basic principles of justice for victims of crime was changed and modified, and again I emphasize that it was through working with other jurisdictions that a great deal was accomplished. Ultimately it was to promote fair treatment of victims and to have that reflected in federal, provincial, and territorial laws, policies, and procedures. That was done because the different entities were working together.

I suspect that a greater sense of agreement and co-operation among the different levels helped put the necessary funding and resources in place to ensure that it was possible not only to talk about changes but to act on those changes. I will refer later in my comments to the resources.

A reference in the preamble to the 2014 victims bill of rights notes that some very basic principles were identified back in 2003. They were intended to be promoted so that there would be fair treatment for victims. As I said, those would then be reflected through laws, policies, and procedures.

I would like to list all eight of them: first, victims of crime should be treated with courtesy, compassion, and respect; second, the privacy of victims should be considered and respected to the greatest extent possible; third, all reasonable measures should be taken to minimize inconvenience to victims; fourth, the safety and security of victims should be considered at all stages of the criminal justice process and appropriate measures should be taken when necessary to protect victims from intimidation and retaliation; fifth, information should be provided to victims about the criminal justice system and the victim's role and opportunities to participate in criminal justice processes; sixth, victims should be given information, in accordance with the prevailing laws, policies, and procedures, about the status of the investigation; the scheduling, progress, and final outcome of the proceedings; and the status of the offender in the correctional system; seventh, information should be provided to the victims about available victim assistance services, other programs and assistance available to them, and means of obtaining financial reparation; and eighth, the views, concerns and representations of victims are an important consideration in criminal justice processes and should be considered in accordance with the prevailing law, policies and procedures.

I was here when the minister introduced the legislation. He indicated at that point what a wonderful hallmark it would be to pass Bill C-32. There is no doubt that Bill C-32 is a step forward, as we acknowledge, and that is why we support the legislation. However, it does not deserve the type of applause the Minister of Justice has envisioned for it. There are many shortcomings in the legislation.

Since the Conservatives formed government in 2006, not much legislation has materialized putting victims first, despite what we hear on a weekly basis in the House of Commons. In other words, there is vast room for improvement. One might say that as a member of the Liberal Party, it is easy for me to make that statement, but let me refer to some recommendations in the recent report by the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime on the victims bill of rights legislation based on discussions with stakeholders at that office's April 13 forum.

To quote federal ombudsman Sue O'Sullivan from May 2014, she stated in reference to the bill:

...the Bill fails to fully address the breadth and depth of victims’ needs and concerns. As the Bill moves through the Parliamentary process, I will be pushing for further change to strengthen the Bill and I encourage all Canadians to do the same.

Of the nearly 30 recommendations the ombudsman made to the Government of Canada for inclusion in its bill, only 4 have been fully addressed, and another 10 have only been partly addressed, which really suggests that there is a great deal of room for improvement.

I looked at the report by that office and it is fairly extensive. If members look at the nine recommendations made for the victims bill of rights, each of them has specifics. Let me provide a couple of examples.

The first recommendation talks about the victims bill of rights being enforceable and usable. It states:

Critical to have the rights of victims enshrined in law and enforceable, accessible for victims.

The concept of justice expanded from an exclusive focus on convicting individuals of crimes to include a full response to the needs of victims; justice is seen to be done when the offender is held accountable and the victim restored to the maximum extent possible.

Should include accessible knowledge through data collection and dissemination (with privacy considerations) to enable the community to monitor and evaluate equality, progress and effectiveness.

In this report, there are nine recommendations. I just made reference to one of them, which consists of a series of suggestions. Each recommendation, in fact, has a series of suggestions. There is a lot in here, including about voice and standing; the right to information, financial protection and support, psychological support and resources; limiting opportunities for offenders to profit from crimes or to re-offend; equitable, respectful, and individualized treatment; the inclusive definition of victim to include anyone in Canada harmed by crime; and integrated, accessible and simple services and resources with minimum standards across the country. These are all points in which there are actionable points that follow each one of the eight recommendations that I just listed. The point is that there is so much more that we could have done to improve the legislation.

The Liberal Party critic, the member for Charlottetown, has done a phenomenal job in making sure that our party's perspective is espoused and talked about. He has represented us exceptionally well at the committee stage and, in fact, made numerous attempts to make changes or bring forward amendments to the legislation.

I would like to quote some of the thoughts expressed by the member for Charlottetown with regard to one specific presentation that he heard in committee. This particular individual was Maureen Basnicki, a Canadian whose husband was killed in the 9/11 attacks. At committee, she explained that she had experienced difficulty in accessing victims services because her husband was murdered by a terrorist outside of the country. She urged us to extend any lawfully available domestic rights to Canadian victims of crime that occur outside of Canada.

I would like to share some her testimony with the chamber. She stated:

...perpetrators of crimes are still demanding their rights as Canadian citizens when they've been successfully prosecuted for crimes outside the country, and I want to bring balance to this. This is not a new step. It's new for Canadians, perhaps, but other countries do this, many other countries. Most other countries do.

After listening to Ms. Basnicki, the member for Charlottetown, on behalf of the Liberal Party, introduced an amendment to capture her unfairly overlooked constituency, even though reference was made to it in the report. The Liberal critic suggested granting domestically available victims benefits to Canadians who have experienced serious personal injury crimes outside of the country or whose family members have been murdered outside the country.

What do members think happened at committee? A wonderful, valuable amendment, something that was referenced in other forms by different stakeholders, was voted down by the Conservatives for apparently no good reason, other than that the Liberal Party had brought forward the amendment, perhaps.

The member for Charlottetown introduced other amendments. Some of those amendments were based on the Canadian Bar Association's recommendations on Bill C-32.

One of the interesting ones that received a great deal of discussion was with regard to plea deals and what happens when there is an admission of guilt compared to deals where there are attempts to come up with a plea bargain. There was some clarity introduced in making sure that the system would be more efficient and fairer to victims. Again, the government rejected them.

There were many other amendments brought forward, including allowing victims of crime in Canada to file victim impact statements and to make restitution claims without being present in Canada, so as to avoid the expense of having to return here. Another was returning court discretion on the timing of restitution payments, since restitution orders may interfere with the victims' enforcement of civil orders. There was also one preserving court discretion to disallow a community impact statement if someone unjustifiably purported to speak on behalf of a community. There were more amendments as well.

However, the government is so partisan at committee that even if there is a legitimate amendment that would improve the legislation, it has a standard default position in response. If it is not a Conservative amendment, the government will not vote in favour it. As a result, we are failing to recognize important amendments that would make the legislation that much better.

This is where I believe the government needs to be held to task. Yes, it is passing legislation. As I said, we will support this legislation, but we must indicate to Canadians' that the government consistently fails to recognize worthy amendments that would improve legislation. As a result, it is Canadians who are paying the price because of the Conservatives' attitude when it comes to passing legislation in the House of Commons and their complete disregard of amendments that would improve legislation.

At committee, it was interesting. This is something else that the member for Charlottetown wanted to make reference to. The Grand Chief asked us to alter Bill C-32 to “better reflect the unique circumstances and needs of first nations persons who are victims of crime”. In short, he asked us to extend the principle of the Supreme Court's Gladue decision, which extends special historic consideration to aboriginal offenders' and victims' side of the question. The Grand Chief recommended, and we did introduce, amendments to address that issue, at least in part. Again, the Conservatives turned them down.

There were concerns regarding restorative justice, and if time permits, I will take the opportunity to deal with that toward the end of my comments.

The bottom line is that the government has been afforded the opportunity—are you telling me that my time is up, Mr. Speaker?