Victims Rights in the Military Justice System Act

An Act to amend the National Defence Act and the Criminal Code

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

Sponsor

Jason Kenney  Conservative

Status

Second reading (House), as of June 15, 2015
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

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

This enactment amends provisions of the National Defence Act governing the military justice system.

It adds a new Division entitled “Declaration of Victims Rights”, to the Code of Service Discipline, that specifies that victims of service offences have rights to information, protection, participation and restitution in respect of service offences. It adds or amends several definitions, including “victim” and “military justice system participant”, and specifies who may act on a victim’s behalf for the purposes of that Division.

It amends Part III of that Act to, among other things,

(a) specify the purpose of the Code of Service Discipline and the fundamental purpose of imposing sanctions at summary trials;

(b) protect the privacy and security of victims and witnesses in proceedings involving certain sexual offences;

(c) specify factors that a military judge is to take into consideration when determining whether to make an exclusion order;

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

(e) allow witnesses to testify using a pseudonym in appropriate cases;

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

(g) require courts martial 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;

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

(i) provide for different ways of presenting victim impact statements;

(j) allow for military impact statements and community impact statements to be considered for all service offences;

(k) provide for the creation, in regulations, of disciplinary infractions that can be tried by summary trial;

(l) provide for a scale of sanctions and principles applicable to sanctions in respect of disciplinary infractions;

(m) provide for a six-month limitation period in respect of summary trials; and

(n) provide superior commanders, commanding officers and delegated officers with jurisdiction to try a person charged with having committed a disciplinary infraction by summary trial if the person is at least one rank below the officer presiding at the summary trial.

The enactment also amends the Criminal Code to include military justice system participants in the class of persons against whom offences relating to intimidation of a justice system participant can be committed.

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.

November 1st, 2018 / 12:10 p.m.
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LCol (Ret'd) Jean-Guy Perron

No, because, on the issue of summary hearings, these changes to military justice, Bill C-71 and Bill C-77 are practically identical.

The major fundamental change, which is critical, changes the summary trial to a summary hearing, thus keeping basically what I consider, as I discuss in my submission, what is still a penal proceeding with penal consequences, but replaces the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard with a “balance of probabilities”, which is, for me, very problematic.

November 1st, 2018 / 12:10 p.m.
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Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Are you picking up any of the language that was used in Bill C-71 as a better way of interpreting military justice than Bill C-77?

November 1st, 2018 / 11:45 a.m.
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Lieutenant-Colonel Retired) Jean-Guy Perron (As an Individual

Good afternoon. My name is Jean-Guy Perron, and I am a retired lieutenant-colonel.

I enlisted in 1978 and graduated from the Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean. From 1983 to 1990, at the start of my career, I was an infantry officer with the Royal 22nd Regiment and the 1st Battalion of the Canadian Airborne Regiment.

I studied law at the University of Ottawa. From 1995 to 2006, I was a military lawyer with the Office of the Judge Advocate General. I commanded the Canadian Forces National Counter-Intelligence Unit from 2004 to 2006, I was appointed as a military judge by the Governor in Council in 2006, and I was released from the Canadian Forces in 2014.

I was deployed to Bosnia, Rwanda and Uganda and travelled to Afghanistan on several occasions, in particular, to preside at the court martial of Captain Semrau.

I wish to focus my comments on summary hearings and the related provisions of Bill C-77. I will start with a comparison of Bill C-71 with Bill C-77.

Bill C-71 uses the term ”disciplinary infraction” instead of “service infraction”. Both are created by regulations and are not an offence under the NDA or the Criminal Records Act. Under Bill C-71, a disciplinary infraction can only be tried by a summary trial. Under Bill C-77, a service infraction may only be dealt with by a summary hearing. The sanctions found in Bill C-71 are identical to those found in Bill C-77.

As for the principles and objectives of sentencing found in Bill C-71, they too are practically identical to those in Bill C-77. A summary trial under Bill C-71 is a service tribunal that deals with disciplinary infractions and not service offences. It offers the accused practically all of the protections of criminal law. A summary hearing under Bill C-77 is, in effect, identical to the summary trial in Bill C-71, except for one critical element. Everything will be defined in regulations. A hearing under Bill C-77 is not described. If one follows what we now have in chapter 108 of the QR and O, which describes the procedure for a summary trial, one should expect that the future chapter 108 of the QR and O would be quite similar for a summary hearing. If that is the case, a finding in a summary hearing is made on a balance of probabilities, instead of beyond a reasonable doubt, as what is in Bill C-71 and presently for a summary trial.

The objectives and principles of sentencing in Bill C-77 are practically identical for the purposes and principles of sentencing presently used by service tribunals and the purposes and principles of sentencing found in the Criminal Code. However, Bill C-77 mentions minor sanctions that may be imposed at summary hearings but does not define them. Would minor sanctions be identical or quite similar to the minor punishments that exist today? It would be most probably so.

The punishments of confinement to barracks and extra work in drill would raise concerns. Commanding officers can confine a person to barracks for up to 21 days. The rules relating to confinement to barracks could constrain the liberty of movement and action of a defaulter. A defaulter cannot go beyond the geographic limits prescribed by the commanding officer in standing orders. This deprivation of liberty can be very strict and would be similar to a conditional sentence of imprisonment: house arrest.

A person subject to confinement to barracks could be ordered to stay within unit lines during the complete period of the punishment. This means a person with a spouse or a family could be forced to live apart from them for the punishment period. A person undergoing a sentence of house arrest still lives with his or her spouse and family. This is a significant difference. Strict confinement to ship or barracks conditions could be very restrictive on the person's liberty and could equate to detention.

Under Bill C-77, the accused is liable to be sentenced to have more severe punishment based on a lower threshold of conviction. A summary hearing under Bill C-77 offers less protections to the accused than what was present in Bill C-71 and what is actually present in the summary trial process.

I'll now turn to the role of the commanding officer. “The commanding officer is at the heart of the entire system of discipline”, so stated Justice Dickson in his 1997 report. Currently, the National Defence Act and the QR and O reflect this key role. A review of the JAG annual reports from fiscal years 2008-09 to 2017-18, 10 years, provides very useful information to help one understand the current military justice system. Data indicates that COs presided over 16% of summary trials, delegated officers over 80% and superior commanders over 4%. This distribution is probably similar today, but the JAG ceased providing these statistics after 2010. This is unfortunate, because it does offer a clear picture of how discipline is enforced within units. It does appear that the great majority of summary trials are presided over by the officer closest to the accused and who possesses the least severe powers of punishment.

Bill C-77, just as Bill C-71 did, radically transforms this concept. Bill C-77 gives more powers of punishment to the superior commander than it does to the CO. This brings into question whether the CO is still the most important actor in disciplinary matters within his or her unit.

Next, on the need to change the military justice system, why does the chain of command need new service infractions and a new disciplinary system to ensure the proper administration of discipline within a unit? Over the 10-year period, approximately 70% of the summary trials occurred without the accused being offered the election of a court martial. Over that same 10-year period, the five minor offences in disobedience of a lawful command represented 94% of the charges tried by summary trial.

The punishments, in order of those awarded the most often, are a fine, 59%; confinement to barracks, 24%; extra work and drills, 6%; a reprimand, 4%; and detention, approximately 2%. Based on these statistics, why is there a need to create new disciplinary infractions and a new disciplinary process to assist the CO in enforcing discipline within his or her unit?

With regard to decriminalizing disciplinary infractions, a person found guilty of any of the service offences listed at section 249.27 of the National Defence Act and sentenced to a punishment of imprisonment, dismissal from Her Majesty's service, detention, reduction in rank, forfeiture of seniority, or a fine exceeding one month of basic pay will have a criminal record. The service offences found at section 249.27 include the five minor offences—insubordinate behaviour, quarrels and disturbances, absence without leave, drunkenness, and conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline.

Section 83 of the National Defence Act, disobedience of a lawful command, is not included in section 249.27. A person found guilty of a purely military offence—for example, disobedience of a lawful command, insubordinate behaviour, absence without leave, drunkenness, or conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline—may have a criminal record.

The consequences of having a criminal record are significant. Applying for employment or attempting to cross the Canadian border are but two of the everyday consequences that can have an important impact on a veteran's life. Do we truly wish to burden a veteran with a criminal record, when he or she has committed a service offence, which may have no equivalent in our criminal justice system or in Canadian society? The answer to this question is not found in section 249.27 or the creation of service infractions.

One should examine the nature of the service offence to determine whether the offender should suffer the consequences of a criminal record. One should examine not only the punishment but the service tribunal that tried the offence.

A thorough and comprehensive review of the Canadian military justice system is definitely required. Any discussion on the subject of discipline and military justice must start with a basic understanding of the uniqueness of the Canadian Armed Forces and its specific role in Canadian society. Canada maintains a military force whose primary purpose is to ultimately use deadly force to execute the government's directives.

This armed force must be well led, well trained and disciplined. Military justice is but one facet of discipline. It is actually the means of last resort, when all other aspects of discipline have failed. The military justice system is not synonymous with military discipline.

Any major reform to the military justice system must be discussed in a public forum. A parliamentary committee could listen to Canadians, academics, lawyers and members of the Canadian Armed Forces. It would have the independence and necessary resources for the thorough review and creation of a modern system of military justice that will effectively balance the needs of discipline with the rights protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Thank you.

October 23rd, 2018 / 12:25 p.m.
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Col Stephen Strickey

Certainly, as you are well aware, Bill C-71 was introduced into Parliament as a previous iteration.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

October 15th, 2018 / 5:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-77, an act to amend the National Defence Act. It is a bill that would make a number of changes to Canada's military justice system, which applies to members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Before I address the substance of the bill, let me put on the record my thanks to the brave men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces for their service, sacrifice and duty to country. The men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces collectively represent the highest standards of excellence.

CFB Edmonton is located minutes from my riding of St. Albert—Edmonton, and many Canadian Armed Forces personnel who are posted at CFB Edmonton live in my riding and are an integral part of the communities I am so fortunate to represent in the city of St. Albert and in northwest Edmonton. I am very proud to be their voice in the House of Commons.

Broadly speaking, Bill C-77 would seek to align the military justice system with modern day Criminal Code amendments. Without more, Bill C-77 is a good bill, and I am going to address why I think it is a step in the right direction. Before I do that, just for context, it would be somewhat helpful to discuss the fact that we have two parallel justice systems in Canada, a civilian justice system and a military justice system, and the rationale for that long-standing reality.

It was very succinctly put by Chief Justice Lamer in the R v. Généreux decision, wherein Chief Justice Lamer stated the purpose of a military justice system. He stated:

To maintain the Armed Forces in a state of readiness, the military must be in a position to enforce internal discipline effectively and efficiently. Breaches of military discipline must be dealt with speedily and, frequently, punished more severely than would be the case if a civilian engaged in such conduct. As a result, the military has its own Code of Service Discipline to allow it to meet its particular disciplinary needs.

I would further add that another aspect of the military justice system is the recognition that Canadian Armed Forces personnel can be situated anywhere around the world, and it extends that jurisdiction to Canadian Armed Forces personnel whether they are operating in Canada, Afghanistan, Mali or wherever they may be.

The military justice system has done a lot of things really well. Chief Justice Lamer spoke about the need for a speedy process for justice and about a higher level of discipline, having regard for the fact that members of the Canadian Armed Forces are not civilians and are held to a higher standard.

However, one area where our military justice system has not done as good a job is in protecting the rights of victims, and that is what Bill C-77 would seek to change. What Bill C-77 would do is establish a bill of rights. It would incorporate a victims bill of rights into the Code of Service Discipline. It would be similar to the Victims Bill of Rights that applies in the civilian context, which, of course, is an important achievement of the previous Conservative government.

What types of rights would Bill C-77 enshrine? It would enshrine four pillars of rights for victims. One would be the right to information. Quite often, those who are victims find themselves in a very difficult position in understanding all the court processes.

The right to information under Bill C-77 would mean that victims would have information at all stages, from the time the charges were laid, through the trial, through sentencing and through the post-sentencing phase, at all stages. That is really important. In order to help ensure that victims received information at all stages, Bill C-77 would establish a victims liaison officer.

A second pillar is that it would ensure that victims had the right to privacy and that the privacy of victims would be treated as paramount. That is important, particularly in cases, for example, involving sexual assault.

A third pillar of rights for victims is the right to be heard at all stages of the justice process. That includes being able to provide a victim impact statement at the time of sentencing. This is something that is routinely done in the civilian court context, and it seems to be quite logical that it should extend to the military justice system as well.

Finally, Bill C-77 would provide the right to restitution whereby it would require a court martial to consider the imposition of a restitution order where there was a loss involved.

All of those things are good. They are a step in the right direction. We support them. We strongly support protecting the rights of victims.

When we say that there is no problem with Bill C-77 and that, on the whole, it is a pretty good bill, it is perhaps because it is a carbon copy of Bill C-71, introduced by the previous Conservative government.

While the bill will pass, hopefully sooner rather than later, and it has taken three years for the government to finally get around to literally copying and pasting a bill from the previous Conservative government, after Bill C-77 is passed, there are going to be challenges from the standpoint of implementation. It is going to be up to the government to deliver. It is not necessarily going to be easy.

We have, for example, the need for a victims liaison officer to be appointed. As I noted when I asked a question to my colleague from Calgary Shepard in the context of the victims ombudsman, which is basically the same type of position in the civilian context, the government left that position vacant for a year. In other words, there was no one there to represent and be an advocate for victims in the civilian justice system for a year. Let us hope that the government does a better job when it comes to appointing a victims liaison officer.

As my colleague, the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, has noted, we have the very recent Court Martial Appeal Court decision on Beaudry, which could upend the real objective of this bill, inasmuch as the Beaudry decision provides that in the case of serious offences, those offences should be tried in the civilian court system rather than in the military justice system, notwithstanding the fact that we have three Supreme Court decisions that have provided that such cases should be tried before the military justice system.

That is another wrinkle, but overall, this is a good bill. We will try to work co-operatively with members of the government to put forward amendments where necessary and to hear from as many witnesses as possible to pass the best possible legislation to protect the rights of victims.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

October 15th, 2018 / 4:20 p.m.
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Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Madam Speaker, I think all of us at the defence committee are looking forward to having this bill get before us in relatively short order so that we can go through the bill clause by clause. This bill is a copy of Bill C-71 under the former Conservative government that was tabled just before the last election. It has taken three years to get it this far. I am glad we finally got it here but we have to move on it when we get it to committee.

I was wondering if my colleague would talk a little bit about this. She mentioned the victims bill of rights, which is in the Criminal Code now, and how we are incorporating that within the National Defence Act to ensure that victims of crime in the military system have the same rights and abilities. It also refers to the importance of rights to information for victims.

Unfortunately, correction services Canada broke the bill of rights when it transferred Terri-Lynne McClintic, the murderer of Tori Stafford, into a healing lodge. That information should have been shared with the family of Tori Stafford and in particular, Rodney Stafford, her father.

I wonder if my colleague would talk about how we remedy that within Corrections Canada since we are now bringing the rights for the victim into the National Defence Act in Bill C-77.

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October 1st, 2018 / 6:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-77 today. I am especially honoured to do so following my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord's first speech in the House. We are all very proud of him. He was just elected with 53% of the popular vote. Compare that to our party's fourth-place finish three years ago. These things are worth remembering.

Bill C-77 is about reforming the military justice system. During my brief remarks, I will remind the House that this bill is essentially the same as Bill C-71, which we introduced when we were in government. It speaks to an issue that arouses tremendous compassion in everyone on both sides of the House.

Thousands of Canadians serve their country as members of the Canadian Armed Forces' army, navy and air force. We are all very grateful to these men. Although CFB Valcartier is not in my riding—that is an honour belonging to my colleague from Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, who represents the folks at Valcartier very well—several hundred of the base's 6,000 soldiers do live in my riding.

Fall is here and in six weeks, on November 11, we will be commemorating Remembrance Day. This year will be special as we mark the 100th anniversary of the armistice of 1918. As hon. members know, on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour, the First World War was to end. Unfortunately, other conflicts followed. Let us commemorate the thousands of Canadians who gave their lives so that we may live in freedom. Let us always remember the extraordinary sacrifices that these young men and women made during the different conflicts, especially during the First World War and the Second World War.

I have the extraordinary privilege of coming from a family that served its country. My father served during the campaign in Italy, among others, for the French Army under the command of Marshal Juin during the Second World War. My maternal grandfather, Paul Ponzelli, served in the First World War. He was in the French army and fought in the battle of Verdun, among others. I would also like to salute the people at the Consulate General of France in Quebec City, who are currently preparing a special commemoration for November 11. My mother will take part in this tribute being held six weeks from now.

Bill C-77 proposes reforms to the military justice system, which, naturally, is a delicate subject. Our men and women in uniform serve their country, but men being men and women being women, reprehensible behaviour can sometimes happen. This is why we have a military justice system. Canadians who put on the uniform accept that this uniform comes with responsibilities. Cases of reprehensible behaviour must be considered in the context of military action, because when these soldiers put on the uniform and carry a weapon, they can be sent to a combat theatre. The enemy will always be an enemy, which means that a solder may commit an act that would be considered criminal in the civilian world, but heroic in the military world. This is why the military justice system is different from the civilian system. Of course, this does not mean that soldiers should not have a dignified and honourable conduct in civilian life.

When we were in government, we introduced Bill C-71, which would have amended the military justice system. Some aspects of Bill C-71 are similar to our bill, such as enshrining victims' rights in the National Defence Act, imposing a six-month limitation period for summary trials and stipulating which cases should be handled in summary trial. These are the parts of the bill we agree with. I would like to point out that this bill was drafted with the assistance of our government's former justice ministers, namely the hon. Peter MacKay, the hon. Jason Kenney, and the hon. member for Niagara Falls, who is still serving his constituents in the House of Commons.

We also have some concerns about the fact that justice will likely be different for some people than for others. It is important to remember that there is a reason why justice is blind. Portrayals of Themis show what we want from a justice system. She is often portrayed with her eyes blindfolded, a sword in one hand and the scales of justice in the other. The sword is for punishing those who commit reprehensible acts and the scales are to ensure that everyone's rights are respected.

It is important to note that, in this allegorical personification of justice, Themis with her eyes covered, justice is blind. People must be judged based on their actions, not on who they are as a person. Some aspects of the legislation must be reviewed. For us, it is important to ensure that people are being judged based on their actions, and not on who they are, what they represent or embody, or their very nature even. We have to be careful about that. That is why the bill will be examined in committee by my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord and others. It is important to remember that, as parliamentarians, we do indeed have the right to debate bills here.

I participated in all of today's debates and I was surprised to hear some of my government colleagues criticize us for rising to speak to this bill. Need I remind the government that this bill, which is almost a carbon copy of what we produced three years ago, was only introduced after three years by the Liberals? It is not because there are seven, eight, ten or twelve members who want to speak and debate lasts for one, two or three days that members will take offence and start getting annoyed. We must remember that our first duty here, in the House of Commons, is to express ourselves, as we are doing, to the extent possible and, above all, within the allotted time frame.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

October 1st, 2018 / 6:05 p.m.
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Richard Martel Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, CPC

Madam Speaker, after asking my first question in the House and giving my first member's statement, I will now be giving my first 10-minute or so speech in the House of Commons. It is important to me to quickly break the ice.

First, it is an honour to be able to represent my constituents in Chicoutimi—Le Fjord as we study Bill C-77, an act to amend the National Defence Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts. As we know, the Bagotville military base is in Chicoutimi—Le Fjord. As part of Air Command, it is one of two bases housing the CF-18s in Canada. For those like me who are interested in history, I will mention that the Bagotville military base was established in 1942 to protect Alcan's infrastructure in the Saguenay, the aluminum plants that were part of the war effort during World War II. I would also like to mention that, at present, we are still paying a 10% tax on aluminum. This base continues to be one of the largest employers in Saguenay and houses 3 Wing Bagotville. It is one of the major pillars of the Saguenay economy, along with aluminum, lumber and agriculture. It is even more important to remember this today because aluminum, lumber and supply management were sacrificed in part last night.

I always enjoy meeting our troops. They are people of honour and integrity. They are leaders. They stand by one another. They protect one another. They all want equal treatment. I also enjoy meeting our valiant veterans. They always have good stories to tell. Unfortunately, they often have trouble getting the government to respect their rights. I talk to a lot of veterans who tell me about their deployments and the problems they run into when they return. Every time they tell the government what they need, the government does not seem that interested.

One of my greatest hopes is for the base to keep getting better. I would like to see proper military aircraft there, not the old, broken-down Australian planes the Liberals want to replace our CF-18s with. Our people in uniform deserve better. I have talked to some of them. The Australian planes are even older than the CF-18s at the Bagotville base. People are wondering what plans the government has to get them up to snuff.

Let me get back to the matter at hand, Bill C-77. Make no mistake, this bill is very similar to Bill C-71 that the previous Conservative government wanted to bring in during the 41st Parliament. That bill was introduced in June 2015, but it did not get as far as second reading.

Much like Bill C-77, we wanted to make changes to the military justice system. Specifically, we wanted to bring Canada's military justice system in line with the Criminal Code. Some of the most important changes we were planning to make were as follows: adding victims' rights the National Defence Act, limiting summary trials to six months and clarifying which cases would be eligible for a summary trial. From what I understand, Bill C-77 seeks to achieve the same objectives.

One has to wonder why the Liberal government waited so long to introduce this bill. The Liberals keep saying that they care about our veterans, that they are sympathetic to our solders and so on. It is obvious that the Conservatives will always put the rights of victims of crime ahead of the the rights of criminals, and we will make sure that victims have a voice in our justice system.

Need I remind members of the House that it was us, the Conservatives, who brought in the victims bill of rights? In fact, it was the senator from Quebec who represents LaSalle who made the victims bill of rights possible. Of course we are in favour of incorporating the victims bill of rights into the military justice system. That is precisely why we introduced Bill C-71 three years earlier. It was such a long time ago—I was still a coach at the time—but that is fine, we cannot fault our colleagues across the way for copying our work because we know full well that adding the victims bill of rights to the military justice system is the right thing to do for our country.

The leader of the official opposition and member for Regina—Qu'Appelle and the Conservatives will always stand behind victims of crime. It is important to us that Bill C-77 pass this first important stage and get to committee so that we can go over it in greater detail. It will be a pleasure to discuss this bill clause by clause with my colleagues opposite to make it the best it can be for our armed forces and the military justice system.

We are definitely going to discuss equality. Discipline demands consistency and continuity. They are the very foundation of people's trust in others and in the system. Members of the Canadian Armed Forces should not be subjected to discrimination based on race, gender, creed or culture. It is crucial that no soldier lose trust in their superior officer. Trust is hard to win and easy to lose. Whether positive or negative, discrimination undermines the bond of trust.

This will also be my first time analyzing a bill in detail in committee, so I will be adding another string to my bow as a new MP. I may get a chance to submit amendments and seek my colleagues' co-operation in getting them approved.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

October 1st, 2018 / 5:50 p.m.
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Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to debate Bill C-77, an act to amend the National Defence Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts.

I find the comments coming from the Liberals somewhat interesting and rich about needing to ram this bill through all of a sudden. Here we are on October 1, and now it is time to ram this bill through when it took them three years to get to this point. When it was first introduced on May 10, we went through two months of sitting in May and June, had midnight sittings through most of the month of June, but yet the government did not see fit to bring it forward for debate then. Instead, the first day of debate for this bill was September 21, a Friday sitting, where just about two hours of debate can occur. Here we are on just our second day on the bill, and all of a sudden the Liberals are crying that we should be immediately ramming this through, before members have a chance to debate it.

In our former Conservative government, we placed victims at the centre of our criminal justice system. We thought it was important the victim of a crime be granted the right and privilege to participate in the criminal justice system. We did this in a number of different ways, but most importantly, through Bill C-32, which created the Victims Bill of Rights. We did that because we felt it was important the victim have a voice and the opportunity to fully participate in our criminal justice system.

It has been disappointing to hear from these Liberals the last couple of weeks, who would rather place criminals ahead of victims on so many different issues. In the past two weeks alone, we saw these Liberals defend granting veterans benefits to convicted murderer Chris Garnier, a convicted murderer who did not spend a single day in the military. He never once donned our nation's uniform, never once participated in Canada's Armed Forces, yet these Liberals stood in this very place and defended the right of that convicted murderer to receive veterans benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder, that he, by his own admission, had because of the brutal murder he committed. These Liberals are defending his right to receive treatment paid for by veterans rather than that which is available through our Correctional Service of Canada.

Tomorrow we will be debating a motion in this very place brought forward by our leader, the leader of Her Majesty's loyal opposition, about the tragic case of Tori Stafford's murderer being transferred from a prison with bars and razor wire to a healing lodge, where the commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada admitted there are often children present. We heard the Liberals defending this once again today in question period, defending the murderer of an eight-year-old girl who was brutally murdered. The Liberals are defending the transfer of her killer from a prison to a healing lodge. It is wrong. Tomorrow, we will see where the Liberals truly stand on victims when they are called to account to stand in this place and defend that decision.

This follows a series of moves by these Liberals to place a greater emphasis on the criminal rather than the victim. Bill C-75 would actually reduce a sentence for a number of what we on this side consider serious crimes.

This would include participating in the activity of a terrorist group, infanticide, a couple of impaired driving offences causing bodily harm, abducting a person under the age of 14, forced marriage, advocating genocide, extortion by libel, arson for fraudulent purposes, and possession of property obtained by crime. They also want sentences reduced for participation in the activities of a criminal organization. With all of the challenges we are facing, these Liberals want to reduce sentence for those participating in gang activities. I know this is wrong and Canadians know it is wrong.

When the former Conservative government introduced the Victims Bill of Rights in 2014, our then justice minister saw fit to make this bill of rights a quasi-constitutional document, a document so important that it would take precedence over many other federal statutes. At the time, our minister of justice, the hon. Peter Mackay, stated on April 9, 2014:

In order to give meaningful effect to victims' rights by all players in our criminal justice system, our government is proposing that this bill have quasi-constitutional status. This would mean that the Canadian victims bill of rights would prevail over other federal statutes, with the exception of the Constitution Act, which includes the Charter of Rights and other quasi-constitutional statutes within our legal system, such as the Official Languages Act, the Privacy Act, and, of course, the Canadian Human Rights Act.

What does this bill do? It effectively reintroduces Bill C-71 from the previous Parliament, which our Conservative government introduced, and applies the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights to the military justice system. In particular, it provides for four key rights for victims: the right to information, the right to protection, the right to participation, and the right to restitution.

Many Canadians, whether they serve in the Canadian forces or not, often find the criminal justice system intimidating and confusing, and find it challenging to get information about the case being made about the crime perpetrated against them. The right to information is about their right to have information in the general sense of how the system works, and also specifically regarding their case so they know about its progress. It is also to know information about the investigation, and the prosecution and sentencing of the person who perpetrated the act against them.

Whether it comes to the criminal justice system or the military justice system, the second right is the right to protection. This is to ensure that victim safety and security is protected. Whether that is by having their identity protected from public disclosure or using other measures that would allow for their protection, we believe this is exceptionally important.

I do see that my time is running short, so I will not have a full opportunity to talk about the right to participation and right to restitution. However, I will say that those of us on the Conservative benches will always stand for the victims of crime. We will defend the victims of crime and ensure that they have a place in both our criminal justice and military justice systems so that their voices are heard. We will stand with victims.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

October 1st, 2018 / 5:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Rosemarie Falk Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise today to speak to Bill C-77, an act to amend the National Defence Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts.

While we know that Canada's military justice system operates separately from Canada's civilian justice system, it is nevertheless important that its system is also just and fair. Canadian Armed Forces members are held to a high standard of conduct. It is understood that Canada's separate military justice system exists to maintain discipline, efficiency and morale in the Canadian Armed Forces. The safety and well-being of all Canadians is dependent on the military's ability to deal with internal discipline effectively and efficiently. That is because our esteemed men and women serving in the military are often required to risk injury or death when they perform their duties. Nonetheless, when it comes to provisions to support victims, there is a gap in the National Defence Act. Victims' rights should be at the heart of every criminal justice system. The proposed legislation takes a step toward that goal. It extends victims' rights into the military justice system, which is certainly positive.

The legislation we are considering is in fact largely modelled after Bill C-71, which was introduced in the previous parliament by the former Conservative government. It builds on existing efforts to put victims of crime at the heart of Canada's criminal justice system. The Conservatives have a proud record of standing up for victims of crime and law-abiding citizens, and we remain committed to them. We have and will always work toward ensuring that victims of crime have an effective voice in the criminal justice system, and we will never accept having the rights of criminals ahead of those of victims of crime and law-abiding citizens. In fact, for far too many years in Canada the scales of justice tipped in favour of criminals. Our criminal justice system neglected those who had been affected by their crimes. It neglected the rights of victims of crime. I am proud of the hard work and the achievements of our former Conservative government. Our country is better off for it. It took significant steps to find a better balance in our criminal justice system, steps that gave victims of crime clear, enforceable rights and protections.

The principle that victims of crimes should be a priority in Canada's criminal justice system was reflected throughout the former Conservative government's policies, reforms, and even investments. Whether it was the creation of the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, the passing of the Safe Streets and Communities Act, or investments in child advocacy centres across the country, victims and law-abiding criminals were always the priority.

The landmark Canadian Victims Bill of Rights was the most notable forward step for victims taken by the former Conservative government. This historic legislation entrenched the rights of victims of crime into a single document at the federal level. The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights guarantees victims of crime the right to information, protection, participation and restitution. lt means that the rights of victims are considered at every stage of the criminal justice process, as they should be.

After entrenching the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights in Canada's criminal justice system, our former Conservative government tabled legislation to also give victims of service offences the same rights, that is, the right to information, protection, participation and restitution. Unfortunately, there was not enough time to study and pass this legislation before the dissolution of Parliament. However, I am pleased that the current Liberal government, through Bill C-77, has copied that legislation. lt is the right thing to do. As we work to protect and promote victims' rights, we are helping to ensure that both of Canada's criminal justice systems help those who truly deserve support.

Given that the legislation for the most part is a carbon copy of the legislation introduced by the former Conservative government, it is disappointing that it is being introduced so late in the Liberal government's mandate. I suppose this is perhaps a reflection of the Liberal government's record on victims' rights.

Unfortunately, it is way too easy to offer examples of the Liberal government's appalling record of putting the rights of dangerous criminals ahead of the rights of victims and their families. Just last week, the Liberals voted against our Conservative motion calling on their Minister of Veterans Affairs to revoke the Veterans Affairs-funded benefits of Chris Garnier, a convicted cop killer. Moreover, the Liberal government is still defending the transfer of Terri-Lynne McClintic to a healing lodge. McClintic was convicted of first-degree murder in the 2009 kidnapping and rape of eight-year-old Tori Stafford. Less than 10 years after the disgusting crimes she committed, she has no business being transferred to a healing lodge facility. That facility has no fences around it and often has children present. However, the Liberal public safety minister has defended this decision and downgraded her despicable crimes to “bad practices”. As a mother of two young children, I am livid by the Liberal government's refusal to exercise its moral, legal and political authority to reverse this decision, and my heart breaks for the family of Tori Stafford.

These are just two recent examples in the public eye of the Liberals' backward priorities. They have also tabled Bill C-75, which makes sweeping changes to Canada's Criminal Code. lt undoes a lot of the progress our former government made to put the rights of victims ahead of criminals.

While we are considering the legislation before us, I would point out that the Liberals are also pushing through legislation to reduce sentencing for serious crimes. These are serious crimes like human trafficking, participation in a terrorist group or the abduction of a child under the age of 14. The Liberal record of putting the rights of criminals ahead of victims is shameful. lt is not a record of restoring victim rights.

That said, I am pleased to see that a version of our Conservative legislation has been brought forward by this government. Victims' rights should never fall by the wayside in either of Canada's systems of justice. That is why passing this legislation is so important. Like the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, this legislation entrenches four key rights for victims of service offences. First, it provides the right to information. This includes the right to information on the military justice system, as well as services and programs available to victims. lt also gives victims the right to information about the progress of the case. The legislation gives victims the right to protection by giving consideration to their privacy and security through the military justice process. lt gives them the right to participate in the proceedings and creates an opportunity for a victim impact statement to be made. lt also gives the right to restitution when financial losses can reasonably be determined.

The addition of these rights to the military justice system through the Code of Service Discipline's declaration of victims' rights places these rights at the heart of the military justice system. That is exactly where they belong. The legislation has my support. I will be voting in favour of sending it to committee so it can be studied in detail.

Conservatives will always stand in support of victims. We will always be in favour of giving victims a stronger voice in Canada's criminal justice systems. I hope the legislation is referred to committee and that all victims of crime and law-abiding Canadians are given a greater priority by the Liberal government.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

October 1st, 2018 / 5 p.m.
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Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, before I get into the issue at hand, it is no wonder that taxpayers and voters across this country get skeptical about politics when somebody, whether it is the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister or the Minister of Veterans Affairs, stands up every day and tries to pretend that something is exactly like something else when it is not. I am referring to what he just talked about on the minimum-security prison where this murderer, child killer, was moved to. She was behind bars in minimum security. She is not today and that is a huge difference. People get it, no matter how they try and spin it.

Before my blood boils much more, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-77, which will amend the National Defence Act to bring about some changes to the Canadian military justice system. For the most part, these changes are both needed and welcomed. The bill before us today is in fact very similar to a previous Conservative bill, Bill C-71. I do not want to confuse anyone. The Bill C-71 that I am referring to is a bill from a previous government. It is not the same Bill C-71 that the Liberals have passed through this House which is a direct attack on law-abiding firearms owners. That is most certainly a Bill C-71 that I will never be supporting. The Bill C-71 that I am referring to was put forward by our previous Conservative government in an attempt to accomplish many of the same goals that the bill before us here today seeks to accomplish.

The fundamental objectives of this legislation, that I believe are supported across party lines, are aligning the military justice system in Canada with the Criminal Code of Canada, enshrining the Victims Bill of Rights into the National Defence Act, putting a statute of limitations of six months on summary trial cases and clarifying what cases should be handled by a summary trial. These are all very positive steps forward that are contained within Bill C-77 and I am supportive of them moving forward.

I would like to take some time to focus on one of these central points, with respect to enacting the Victims Bill of Rights. It should be pointed out that it was the former Conservative government that brought forward the Victims Bill of Rights when we were in government. It was an incredible step forward to ensure that Canadians who are victims of crime are supported. That is our party's record when it comes to supporting survivors.

Unfortunately, time and time again we see the Liberals talking the talk but not walking the walk when it comes to support for victims in this country. In fact, they've adopted a “hug a thug” mentality when it comes to modernizing the Criminal Code. Through Bill C-75, the Liberals are actually making it possible for perpetrators of heinous criminal acts, some carrying sentences of 10 years in prison, to get off with only a ticket, fine or minor jail time. Bill C-75 introduces a number of measures that are intended to deal with delays in Canada's court system. However, as I have said, the massive 302-page bill will also end up reducing sentences for a number of dangerous crimes. This will be done by provisions in the bill that could reclassify indictable offences so that they may be punishable as summary offences, which would carry a maximum penalty of only two years.

A potential 10-year sentence lessened to two years is the Liberal solution to judicial delays. I sent a mailing out to my constituents that informed them of Bill C-75 and what it would do. I invited them to respond to me via a response card. The response card asked them if they agreed with Bill C-75. To be clear, there was literature that went with it to explain exactly what was there so that people understood what they were voting on.

In my entire time serving the riding of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, I have never had such an immense return to a mailing like this. I received nearly 1,600 responses to this question. Of the responses, 97% of respondents said that they disagreed with Bill C-75, while only 31 individuals out of that 1,600 agreed and 17 were unsure or needed more information. This was certainly a message heard loud and clear. Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound does not support Bill C-75.

Canadians are also having a hard time believing that this government supports the men and women who serve this country.

I rose in the House last week to make the Minister of Veterans Affairs aware of a veteran in Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound who cannot receive the important support he needs. He is 87 years old and is a veteran of the Korean War. His name is Barry Jackson. I know the family well. He served our country admirably and is now looking for any kind of help from Veterans Affairs. Unfortunately, it will not return his calls.

First I will provide a bit of history. It took years for Barry Jackson to be approved for a wheelchair ramp. Now he needs a scooter, and all he gets is silence from Veterans Affairs. His son Jonathan contacted my office after learning that the Liberals were paying for PTSD treatment for a convicted murderer who has never served in the military one single day in his life. It truly is shameful that a murderer and cop killer with not one day of military service is receiving benefits.

When Barry Jackson got the call from Canada in 1951, he answered that call and headed off to Korea, just like thousands of other young Canadian men did. However, years later, when Barry Jackson needed help and reached out to Canada, nada, nothing, zero. From Veterans Affairs, nothing; from the Prime Minister, nothing; from the Minister of Veterans Affairs, nothing. They should all be ashamed.

Christopher Garnier, meanwhile, committed unspeakable acts, but because his father served in the armed forces, he is getting support, while actual veterans like Barry Jackson wait and wait. It is unfair and, I would say, un-Canadian. What is really ironic, and we can use whatever word we want, is that with the money in Veterans Affairs and the services available, veterans like Barry Jackson, who laid their lives on the line to earn those services when they needed them, are the ones who cannot get them. However, a cop killer and rapist like Chris Garnier, one of the worst human beings one can imagine, has no problem getting them and did not serve one day. That is why people shake their heads and wonder why they even support or want government. It is things like this that give it all a dirty feeling.

When it comes to supporting victims and the men and women who serve this country, the Liberals do not have a great record.

Earlier in my remarks, I mentioned that Bill C-77 almost directly mirrors Bill C-71 from a previous Parliament. There are, however, a few differences I would like to highlight. Perhaps the most glaring difference between the two bills would be the addition of the Gladue decision in relation to subsection 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code of Canada to the National Defence Act.

This addition would mean that aboriginal members of the Canadian Armed Forces facing charges under the National Defence Act may face lighter punishment if convicted. There is absolutely no place in the Canadian Armed Forces, or in Canadian society, for that matter, for discrimination of any kind. No one should ever be discriminated against based upon race, gender, religion, culture or any other factor. That being said, the insertion of this principle has the potential to result in different considerations for offences committed by aboriginal CAF members than for those committed by non-aboriginal forces members. This could lead to sentences that are less harsh and could undermine operational discipline, morale in the forces and even anti-racism policies.

I want to point out, while I have the opportunity, that there are two reserves in my riding. Cape Croker, which is just north of my home town of Wiarton, has the distinction of having the highest percentage of young men who have served in wars. That is something I know they are proud of. Wilmer Nadjiwon, a former chief, just passed away a year or so ago at 96. I stand to be corrected, but I believe that he and seven of his brothers, the eight of them, were in the war, and some of them did not come home. They gave it all, so this is not a slam against aboriginal veterans across this country.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

October 1st, 2018 / 4:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Alex Nuttall Conservative Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is certainly an honour to stand in the House today to speak about what we on all sides of the House know is an important bill, one that will seek to put victims at the centre of military law going forward.

Before I go directly into the bill, there are a few things that I want to address. Last week was a very telling week for the government and Canadians watching the government, with regard to those who have served in the military and have been victimized in different ways and through different avenues, some through PTSD and other things. We heard the Minister of Veterans Affairs refer to the underfunding of Veterans Affairs, such as for prepaid phone cards or credit cards and getting those back. If that is the attitude toward our veterans after they have served our country, the government's attitude is probably not much different toward those who are currently serving. Therefore, I can understand why it took three years to finally bring this bill, which was already written, to the House.

This bill reminds me a lot of Bill C-71. We have waited three years for anything to come to the House for other victims of society. For those who deal with accessibility or disability issues, we were promised movement in six months, and we have it now finally after three years, and even then, we are not seeing anything with any teeth.

Over the last few weeks, we have also seen government not putting victims of crime at the centre of care. An individual who was convicted of murder has been given post-traumatic stress support by psychologists and funding from Veterans Affairs, while former members of the military go into any or all members' offices requesting the same. I do not think this is a partisan issue. I would guess that MPs whose ridings are near bases, like my riding, which is about 10 kilometres from a base, have dealt with and heard some very difficult stories from those currently serving, about the services they are looking for and not having those services signed off on by Veterans Affairs, or if they are currently serving, by the Department of National Defence.

There are incredibly heart-wrenching stories that MPs and these individuals deal with. They are just not put at the centre of the process. They are not cared for in the way we would hope. I feel it is the same in the case of Mr. Christopher Garnier, seeing the way he was treated versus many veterans who fought for our country and those currently serving fighting for our freedom or others' freedom around the world.

I will go directly into the bill at this point. Despite the fact that it has taken three years, I want to congratulate the minister for bringing the bill to the House. It is said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery, so it is wonderful to see the government copy and paste from the previous Conservative government's work on Bill C-71 and continue this march forward.

This is a bill that politicians from all parties in the House want to support, as there is no greater duty of the Government of Canada, indeed, any government, than to provide for the physical safety of its citizens, especially those serving within our military. Unfortunately, in many instances, the government cannot be everywhere at all times to prevent a crime from occurring. When such a thing does happen, it is the duty of the Canadian government to ensure that justice is administered in a fair and equitable way. Conservatives have always stood up for the victims of crime and we take pride in knowing that we stand on the side of justice and to ensure that victims have an effective voice in the criminal justice system.

It is because of these core values that our previous Conservative government enacted the Victims Bill of Rights, and why we support enshrining victims' rights within the military justice system. It is because of these core values that our Conservative government brought forward Bill C-71 in the last Parliament.

I believe in giving credit where credit is due, so I would again like to applaud the members of the government for reintroducing Bill C-71 under its new name. I would also like to reiterate that a Conservative government will always have the backs of victims of crime. That said, it should come as no surprise to the members opposite that we will be supporting Bill C-77's getting to the committee stage.

An essential requirement of justice is that justice is blind. There can be no preference in a court of law for a person's race, religion, sex, age or anything else. All Canadian citizens must be given equal and fair treatment in any case before the judiciary. This is a principle that is completely intertwined with the concept of justice. Equality before the law is something that stretches back almost a thousand years to the signing of the Magna Carta in England. Sadly, we have not always lived up to that high principle, but the concept of equality before the law has served as an excellent guiding compass in creating an ever more just society.

The military justice system in Canada comes from a long and distinguished history, going back to the roots of the British military. Any serious military force in the world requires a robust military justice system to improve and maintain the fighting effectiveness, discipline and morale of its fighting forces. It is because of our armed forces' effectiveness, discipline and morale that Canada and our allies have been so successful in protecting our God-given freedoms from aggressive foreign enemies.

With Remembrance Day very quickly approaching, we would all do well to reflect upon the sacrifice of our valiant men and women who made Canada, and how the military justice system contributed to their ultimate success. An effective military justice system is essential for both operational efficiency and to ensure that Canadians see justice being served and completed in a fair way. It is why the previous government brought forth legislation that mirrored the Victims Bill of Rights and made sure it was put into military law as well.

The previous Conservative government understood that the highest priority for every and any government must be the safety of its own citizens, and to ensure that justice is properly administered when prevention impossible. It is why putting the rights of victims front and centre of the criminal justice system is a central tenet of our party.

Prior to the previous government, the criminal justice system leaned far too heavily toward protecting the rights of criminals. The previous Conservative government believed that balance needed to be brought back to the criminal justice system, and so we took concrete steps to hold criminals accountable for their misdeeds.

One such concrete measure was to introduce the Safe Streets and Communities Act, which introduced mandatory minimum sentences for certain sexual offences and for drug dealers. Another such example was the Victims Bill of Rights, which gave victims of crime enhanced access to information, protection, participation and restitution. Taking that and applying it to our military justice system is certainly something we will stand behind. Through this process, I am sure there are going to be ideas brought to the table on how to better this bill and strengthen it where it perhaps has failings. However, on the whole, I want to see, as I know all members of this House do, this move forward in principle.

In terms of the victims of crime, I said that last week was a defining week for what Canadians saw of their government, especially when it comes to victims of crime and to criminals themselves. At question period, question after question was asked about one of the killers of Tori Stafford. The killer was moved from one medium security facility to another, and in this case, she was removed from behind bars to a healing lodge. Canadians were very upset. However, no one was more upset than the father of Tori Stafford. We saw that through the media. We saw that through statements from him. We certainly saw that through Canadians who were around the family.

I found it incredibly telling when members on this side asked the Prime Minister what he was going to do to correct this injustice and support the victims rather than the person who had participated in this brutal murder. After question after question, the answer consistently seemed to be that the Prime Minister was outraged that members of the House would stand up in defence of the victims in this case and talk about the crime that was committed. The Prime Minister asked us to no longer speak about the details of the crime itself.

What really struck me was why the Prime Minister was not upset about the crime itself. Why was the Prime Minister admonishing members of the House for bringing up the factual details of how a person who had murdered an eight year old was moved to a healing lodge, instead of standing up and saying that the person who committed this crime was not serving out what Canadians would consider justice in moving to this place, and condemning the change in the facility, and moving forward hand in hand with Canadians and, more importantly, hand in hand with the victims of this crime, Tori Stafford's family?

I could not get over it. I did not understand it, especially when we consider that Bill C-77 is coming forward and we are talking consistently, as a House, about standing up for Canadians who are unable to stand up for themselves. I do not remember going to a single door where someone said that criminals needed more rights, that people who commit murders need more rights and that we need to be talking about their rights more and more. However, I do remember hearing over and over again from Canadians that we need to ensure that we protect our citizens. We need to ensure that we support victims. It does not matter where in this country they are. It does not matter the colour of their skin. It does not matter their religion or faith. It does not matter their sexual orientation. It does not matter whether they are male or female. We need to ensure that we are protecting Canadians, and one way we protect Canadians is by ensuring that those who are victims are given the supports they need.

However, that was not demonstrated in the House by the government and the Prime Minister last week. Instead, we saw the Prime Minister going in the complete opposite direction of what I believe the bill being presented by the government is trying to do. When laying the facts out and asking questions about cases in which victims have been severely hurt, we were admonished in this case for talking about what happened to this young lady. However, it was not deemed terrible that the person who did it has seen a form of freedom they do not deserve and is completely unjust. I just do not get it. I am trying to rationalize the same government bringing forward the bill before us, which sat on a shelf for three years, with a government that could not come out and say this was unjust.

Day after day, we need to be consistent. The message to Canadians needs to be consistent, that we will take the side of victims, that if people commit crimes, especially heinous crimes, as in the two situations I brought up today, they will pay the full penalty, the full price. Even when they are paying that penalty, that full price, it will never, ever undo the pain that has been caused to their victims.

We, as parliamentarians, need to ensure from this moment forward that when we are talking about these crimes and these victims, when there are individual cases that need to be delved into because of some injustice that has happened, that we are respectful on both sides of the House. However, the first piece of respect needs to be that it is not wrong to speak about the crime that has happened, but it is wrong to let the injustice continue.

I know, as we look forward with respect to changes to the military justice system, with respect to changes that are brought forward by the bill, that they will be done with the best of intentions, that some banter and some debate will occur at the committee level, that there will likely be amendments brought forward and that there will be testimony from those who serve in the military, from different organizations, victims' organizations, etc.

I hope, as we go through that process, we can sincerely put the victim at the centre of that process, not just a bill, not just our talking points. I hope we can move forward putting victims at the centre of the bill to ensure that what comes out committee is even better than the one that goes in and that we can win the support of everybody in the House.

I would like to end with one piece. I have a mother who is an incredible woman. I got my activism from her. For many years she lobbied, and many of the members in the House have received letters and requests, that victims, specifically of sexual crimes, be put first. I take notice of being able to stand to speak to this bill, of being able to look back, whether it was at the white ribbon campaign against child pornography, or human trafficking or many other things, which the Victims Bill of Rights was originally brought in to help with and now is being applied to the military justice system.

I take a lot of pride in knowing that one Canadian, and I am sure there was at least one in every riding, stood up and put pressure on the government of the day to bring something forward. I take a lot of pride in standing up as a Conservative, knowing that it was our government that brought forward the Victims Bill of Rights. I take pride in knowing that we brought forward this bill, before the end of our mandate. I take pride in knowing that I will be able to be part of this hopeful solution at the end.

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October 1st, 2018 / 3:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Frank Baylis Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member brought up a couple of points that I fully agree with. Number one, he said it is important to have a debate on victims rights, and I concur with him on that. He also made the point that this bill really builds on a previous bill by the previous government, Bill C-71, which did not make it through debate, but takes a number of the points on victims rights and puts them into this new bill. I think about the rights to privacy and security for victims of special types of heinous crimes, such as sexual crimes. I think about the ban on publication for minors, people under 18, and I fully agree with all of that.

The member also brought up the point that this bill would add a couple of new positions, things to consider, specifically sentencing when it comes to aboriginals and gender identity. Does he see the opportunity to expand on that and if so, how would he like us to address specifically aboriginals and gender identity?

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

October 1st, 2018 / 3:30 p.m.
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Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Mr. Speaker, I can hardly wait for the day we get a member representing St. Catharines who asks some intelligent questions, as Krystina Waler will when she becomes the next member of Parliament for St. Catharines.

The member for Barrie—Innisfil has done a fabulous job in articulating the many problems with the government today. As much as Bill C-77 follows up on the legislation we brought forward in the last Parliament under Bill C-71, we have a lot of questions about the way the government actually treats victims in Canada. It always wants to hug a thug rather than stand up for victims' rights.

Even though we are enshrining victims' rights in the National Defence Act, as the previous Conservative government did in the Criminal Code when it made sure that the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights was passed by Parliament, I would love to hear from the member for Barrie—Innisfil about some of the concerns he has about how the Liberals have made crime in this country easier to commit, with less punishment, and how victims' rights have actually been eroded.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

October 1st, 2018 / 3:15 p.m.
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Conservative

John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Mr. Speaker, if my French were a bit better, then we would not need the interpretation, but I am working on it.

I do want to clarify something I was saying just before question period. I mentioned the situation regarding the Truro police officer Catherine Campbell and I referred to her as “Christine” Campbell, not “Catherine” Campbell. A good friend of mine is named Christine Campbell and it is easy for me to think in those terms.

Let me go back to question period today. Members of the official opposition, including me, again asked several government members and the public safety minister about the situation with respect to Tori Stafford and the fact that her killer has been moved to an aboriginal healing centre.

In the context of speaking of a victims bill of rights, I cannot believe for the life of me that the government is tripling down on this situation. Tomorrow we will be presenting an opposition day motion to deal with this situation, because Canadians are so outraged by this. Over the weekend, Tori Stafford's father issued a letter to the Prime Minister begging him to reverse this decision, which we are going to ask the government to do tomorrow.

It is my hope that the government will not quadruple down on this and will instead do the right thing. Canadians are outraged by this entire situation. They are outraged that the killer would be allowed to be placed not behind bars and razor wire, but instead be surrounded by trees at an aboriginal healing centre where there are children as well.

The minister tried to answer the question by saying that there are children at the Grand Valley Institution. The fact is that the Grand Valley Institution is entirely surrounded by fences and razor wire and the inmates are in pods behind bars.

The minister is suggesting that the two institutions are the same. One is a medium maximum security prison and the other is a medium minimum security prison. By the minister suggesting that they are similar, he is not being frank with Canadians, and that needs to be clarified.

When I was on the veterans affairs committee, we often dealt with the issue of PTSD and the impact that it has on our serving members. Quite a few forces members came before that committee and spoke about sexual assault and the impact it has. This again relates to Bill C-77. We had quite lengthy discussions at the veterans affairs committee over this and how it relates specifically to military justice and the Canadian justice system.

Bill C-77 is a cut-and-paste version of what the previous Conservative government introduced in Bill C-71 at the end of its mandate in 2015.

The purpose of Bill C-77 is to align the military justice system of Canada with the Criminal Code of Canada. The bill would do this in a number of ways, such as enshrining a victims bill of rights in the National Defence Act.

The Victims Bill of Rights was quite a comprehensive document. The intent of the previous government was, in contrast to the current government, to look after victims and their families to make sure that within the criminal justice system they were looked after. The emphasis in the Victims Bill of Rights was not on criminals but on the victims.

This piece of legislation would enshrine the Victims' Bill of Rights into the National Defence Act, putting a statute of limitations of six months on summary hearing cases and clarifying what cases should be handled by a summary hearing. Bill C-71 would have instituted these changes as well had it passed the previous Parliament.

The main difference between this legislation and Bill C-71 is the addition of the Gladue decision into the National Defence Act. This addition will mean that aboriginal members of the Canadian Forces facing charges under the National Defence Act would face lighter punishments and special consideration if convicted.

We have heard on this side of the House during the debate all day that it could result in sentences that are less harsh versus other CAF members, so the question of fairness comes into it. Members could undermine operational discipline, morale and anti-racism policies.

The vast majority of Bill C-77 is based on the previous Conservative government's bill. We are going to support this bill, but we are going to seek some amendments at the committee stage. Excuse the cynicism, but it is our hope that this bill and some of those amendments that come at committee will be looked at by the government side. I know that we will have lots of stakeholders who come to committee. There will be recommendations from those stakeholders, including first nations communities and other advocates for military justice and civil justice in this country. It is our hope that the government will listen to all the information that comes forward and will deal with some of those considerations. Again, the government has not shown that commitment in the past to being open to many of the recommendations, not just from the Conservative side but from the NDP side as well. We are hoping that the Liberals will do that.

The previous bill had hundreds of consultations. They had stakeholders. Victims and members of communities came forward and spoke to Bill C-71. We landed at a good place with that piece of legislation. However, the Gladue decision certainly made changes to that.

I am fortunate, as you are, Mr. Speaker, to be close to a military base, base Borden, or camp Borden, as it was known in the past. In the time I have spent at base Borden and with base commander Atherton, as well as Chief Warrant Officer Charette, many people who serve have come and gone. When I was the critic for veterans affairs, I used to travel across the country meeting with military members, veterans and stakeholders and their families. The first question I would ask when I was in front of them was how many had gone through base Borden, and the hands would go up. It is the largest training base in Canada. I used to ask how many were at camp Borden, and some hands would go up, and I would say to those people, boy, they were old, because it has not been camp Borden for a while.

It is an integral part of our community, and those members who are placed at base Borden, as Canada's largest training base, come from all over the country. In fact, they come from all over the world to train in languages and other disciplines. I am quite honoured to be able to represent an area that has a military base like base Borden. In fact, there are thousands of people who live in my riding who are stationed at the base and work there in either a military or civilian capacity. They are truly heroes, in my mind.

I try to spend as much time at the base as I can. I was there last week when the United Nations peacekeepers were in town. They were holding their biannual meeting, and I was there for a speech at the base. I went there for dinner and then there was a ceremony at Peacekeepers' Park in Angus.

It plays an important role in our community, and not just an economic role. The connection to the base is one that is valued and cherished, so supporting our military members at all levels, including with this piece of legislation, is critical in what we do here in Parliament as parliamentarians.

In conclusion, I would say that Bill C-77 is an important piece of legislation. We are supportive of this bill proceeding to committee. We think it needs some work and some scrutiny. Therefore, I hope that when it gets to committee, the majority Liberal side will take some of these concerns we have and that stakeholders have and implement this to make it a better piece of legislation.

I would be remiss if I did not speak about something that was a passion of mine. I am really disappointed that it never received support from Parliament. It received support from this side and the NDP side, but not from the government side. It is Bill C-378, which was a private member's bill I proposed about having a military covenant with our military members. We would have been only the second country in the world to establish such a covenant, behind Great Britain, and unfortunately, the government side did not support it. It related specifically to the sacrifice made by veterans. It is something I was very proud to present, and I was very sorry to see that it did not pass through this Parliament.

However, there is hope, because at our policy convention in Halifax just a few short weeks ago, members of the Conservative Party made it a point to ensure that as a matter of policy, a military covenant would be established between our veterans and the people of this country who owe them so much.