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.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2019 / 4:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Ziad Aboultaif Conservative Edmonton Manning, AB

Madam Speaker, in the spirit of agreement today about Bill C-77, this is a very important piece of legislation. I did touch a bit on this in my speech, but on such very important areas more discussion takes more time. Definitely, we are supportive of strengthening the bill as much as possible to make sure it emphasizes the importance of the bill, what it can do and its purpose.

As I said in my speech, it was a very good start. It is built on a previous bill by our former government, Bill C-71 in the past. I hope the government can enhance it further to make it strong and to make it meaningful.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2019 / 4:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Ziad Aboultaif Conservative Edmonton Manning, AB

Madam Speaker, before I begin, I would like to inform the House I will be sharing my time today with the hon. member for Red Deer—Mountain View.

It is a pleasure to rise in the House today to discuss an issue of great importance to members of the Canadian Armed Forces, their loved ones and all those who support both victims of crime and our Canadian Armed Forces. As a member of Parliament from northeast Edmonton, I have the great pleasure of representing many members of the Canadian Armed Forces who live off base while deployed at Edmonton Garrison.

When I meet with these men and women, their conviction, dedication and love for our country never ceases to amaze me. I am very pleased to be able to lend my voice to them this afternoon as we continue to discuss Bill C-77, an act to amend the National Defence Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts.

In the last Parliament, the former Conservative government worked hard to develop and entrench the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights in law. It was a very proud day when the legislation was enacted, as it rebalanced our justice system to put more of an emphasis on protecting and empowering victims and standing up for their rights during criminal proceedings.

Over the years, there was an emphasis on ensuring accused people were treated properly, and everyone here understands how important that is as well. However, Canada's Conservatives believe victims rights need to be at the heart of our justice system. We understand victims deserve the right to information, protection, participation and, where possible, restitution.

Bill C-77 is an important piece of legislation. It continues the good work of our former Conservative government of enshrining the rights of victims of a crime in law, this time for our military justice system. The bill is largely based on legislation our former government put forward, which was Bill C-71 from the last Parliament.

Bill C-71 was introduced to ensure victims going through the military justice system had many of the same protections provided to civilians by the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights. I am very pleased the Liberal government did the right thing and used our previous legislation as the basis for Bill C-77 .

Canada has a long history of having a parallel justice system for our military. There are those who rail against this idea and believe military justice issues should be handled in civilian courts. Perhaps they do not understand why we have two systems, or maybe they do and simply disagree. Having these parallel systems has been upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada a number of times, and is even protected in the charter under section 11.

The sad reality is that we often must ask much of the members of the Canadian Armed Forces. We ask them to risk life, limb and mental health for the protection of our great country and the promotion of freedom, democracy and the rule of law, often in far off and hostile environments. This operational reality of the military means Canadian Armed Forces members must be held to a higher standard than what would be expected of a civilian.

This reality is recognized in the Supreme Court's 1992 ruling of R. v. Généreux, which acknowledges the armed forces must be able to deal with discipline issues quickly, effectively and efficiently for the sake of the operational readiness of our armed forces so that they may defend against threats to Canada's security. For this important reason, the armed forces has its own code of service discipline, as well as military justice tribunals to enforce it and ensure the military can accommodate its particular disciplinary needs.

That decision is from 1992. However, it has been upheld a number of times since then, most recently in 2015.

While out of necessity there is an imperative for the armed forces to be able to administer justice in its unique way, there is no reason why victims rights should not be also featured prominently in the military justice system. I believe that Bill C-77 is a good step forward in accomplishing this goal while building on the established code of service and Operation Honour to effectively combat sexual misconduct, harassment and deal with issues of intolerance in the Canadian Armed Forces.

While this is good legislation, which I am looking forward to supporting once again, I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to highlight some concerns I have with the bill as well.

Under the military justice system currently, charges can be dealt with through a summary trial or a court martial. Bill C-77 introduces a new category of service infractions consisting of minor infractions that can be dealt with through a new method of summary hearings, replacing summary trials. In proposed subsections 163.1(1), (2) and (3), Bill C-77 shifts the burden of proof. In a summary hearing it goes from “beyond a reasonable doubt” to “on a balance of probabilities”.

Currently, proof must be beyond a reasonable doubt, the same as in the civilian legal systems. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is one of the pillars of the Canadian justice system, and I believe that it should remain the case for our military justice system, particularly when we consider that through a summary hearing, a service member's commanding officer is able to confine them to barracks or ship for up to 21 days. In light of that realization, I believe the burden of proof should remain higher than “on a balance of probabilities”.

Unfortunately, our colleague for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman's amendment to make this sensible change was voted down at committee, though I hope it will receive further consideration at the other place. Failing that, I hope this will be able to be reconciled through regulation to both avoid a charter challenge and ensure that the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces can be treated justly if they find themselves being called to a summary hearing.

The last issue I want to briefly touch on is the issue initially raised by our NDP colleague for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke that Bill C-77 does not repeal parts of paragraph 98(c) of the National Defence Act, which lists self-harm as an offence that can result in a fine and/or imprisonment.

I take heart in the fact that the committee heard that this is rarely used and it is my understanding that the intention is to provide recourse against individuals who may maim or injure themselves in order to be excused from duty or to be discharged. I do appreciate that rationale, but we also cannot overlook that we ask members of the Canadian Armed Forces to do and bear witness to extraordinary things and that, as a result, not only their bodies can be damaged and scarred but their minds as well.

I do not believe anyone with the privilege to sit in this chamber supports prosecuting people who make a desperate act like self-harm because they are suffering from a mental health issue. Even if it is rarely used, I do not think it should even be an option. It is my understanding that when this issue came up in relation to Bill C-77, it was ruled out of scope of the legislation.

With that in mind I would like to echo our colleague for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman in calling for the Minister of National Defence to take this issue and come back to the House with a separate piece of legislation to address this oversight at the earliest opportunity.

The Canadian Armed Forces is a source of great pride to our country. Its members conduct themselves with honour as they serve, both in our communities and abroad. Due to their sacrifices and the sacrifices of those who came before them, we can afford the privilege to live in relative peace and security—

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2019 / 3:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Madam Speaker, if my partisan colleague across the way had just given me another 10 seconds, that is where my next paragraph was going. The issue of carrying the course of justice is, in fact, not out of place within the context of the debate here today on Bill C-77, so there is relevancy.

Bill C-77 is all about carrying out the course of justice within our military in a way that protects victims. The legislation would bring forward changes to our military justice system that would give some protection to victims. That is something the Conservative government was working on, and as we heard earlier today from my colleague for Cariboo—Prince George, the bill is almost a duplicate of what we had proposed in the last Parliament.

As I said, the legislation would bring forward changes to our military justice system that would give some protection to victims, which is vitally important. Our previous government recognized this. It is why we brought in the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights and worked to enshrine those rights within our military justice system.

Former Bill C-71, which did not pass before the last election, looked very much like the legislation before us today. Our proposed legislation would have given victims the following: first, enhanced access to information through the appointment of a victim liaison officer; second, enhanced protection through new safety, security and privacy provisions; third, enhanced participation through impact statements at sentencing; and four, enhanced restitution, meaning a court martial would be required to consider making a restitution order for losses.

Imitation is the greatest form of flattery and that is on full display here. The Liberal government knows that what the Conservative government tried to do in the previous Parliament was the right thing to do, and that is why it is copying it with this legislation. However, there are a few differences that 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 paragraph 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code of Canada, into the National Defence Act. This addition would mean aboriginal members of the Canadian Armed Forces who face charges under the National Defence Act may face lighter punishment if convicted.

There is absolutely no place in the Canadian Armed Forces and 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 consideration of offences committed by aboriginal forces members than for those committed by non-aboriginal forces members. This could lead to sentences that are less harsh, could undermine operational discipline and morale in the forces and could even undermine anti-racism policies.

I truly believe, and I think all of us in this place do, that judicial systems, military or otherwise, operate most effectively when the defining principle is equality before the law. By definition, equality applies to all. If we want true equality before the law, we cannot have separate levels of standards or sentences for some segments of the population. It must be applied uniformly.

Furthermore, while I am pleased the government is moving forward with legislation to help the men and women who are currently serving our country, it must be reminded that our veterans need our support as well.

A recent report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer confirmed our veterans are paying for the mistakes of the government. The PBO's report, titled “The cost differential between three regimes of Veterans Benefits”, is clear proof that the pensions for life scheme by the government is falling well short of the mark when it comes to supporting the men and women who have served our country. The report confirms veterans with severe and permanent injuries will be worse off by an average of $300,000 under this scheme. This is unacceptable and needs to be addressed.

That said, it is my hope that Bill C-77 moves on to consideration in the Senate and that those in the other place will conduct a fulsome review of the bill to ensure that military justice reform works for all those who serve our country.

We cannot ever do enough for our veterans. A lot of veterans from the Second World War and many from the Korean War have left us and there will be more as time moves on. It is times like this, in their later years, when they need veterans services more than ever. I remind the government to change its attitude, change its ways and change Veterans Affairs so that the main goal is to serve these veterans instead of keeping the strings on the bank book unreasonably.

When Conservatives were in government, the same type of thing happened and it is happening now.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2019 / 3:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, I took a very non-partisan approach to my intervention. My hon. colleagues across the way, as the Liberals do, always has to place blame. I was merely offering that when the committee was studying Bill C-77, our hon. colleague from Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, with the best intentions, put forward a motion for us to consider the removal of subsection 98(c). That would have been an opportune time to get Bill C-77 right.

I also have offered that Bill C-77 is being supported by all opposition members on this side of the House. It is almost a carbon copy of Bill C-71, which was put forward by our strong Conservative team in the previous Parliament.

It is unfortunate that our hon. colleague has taken the opportunity to turn things partisan when we are having a reasoned debate and discussion on the merits of Bill C-77 and the opportunities to amend it.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2019 / 1:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to preface my intervention by letting you know that I will be splitting my time with my hon. colleague from Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound. As they say, “I get by with a little help from my friends”.

It is an honour to rise today to speak to Bill C-77.

We have such a short time to try to get in all these points. However, the bill really is a carbon copy of the bill from our previous parliament that the strong team of Conservatives put forth, which was Bill C-71.

Having listened to the debate today, I want to congratulate our hon. colleague from Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke on his very measured approach. As we have learned, every day we sit in the House there is so much we can learn from all sides. His was an interesting intervention and I want to thank him for it.

I want to focus my intervention on a couple of different areas. However, I imagine I will have to continue after question period, because I would not want to pre-empt that, as we must give question period its full allotted time.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2019 / 1:45 p.m.
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Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Madam Speaker, I believe the member for St. Catharines has a legal background. Bill C-77 is a bill we are supportive of, and it is based on the Conservatives' original bill, Bill C-71, from the last Parliament.

The one change that was made that I struggle a bit with, which is something we discussed at committee for quite some time, is the question of the burden of proof when it comes to summary hearings, rather than summary convictions, which are carried out in the military and are penal in nature, often resulting in confinement to barracks, yet it does not have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the person was guilty. Now it is a balance of probabilities.

Does the member think that would violate the charter rights of the Canadian Armed Forces members?

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2019 / 12:15 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to support Bill C-77. It has a title that would not let anyone know what it is about. It is called “an act to amend the National Defence Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts”. What it really ought to be called is “a bill to complete the process of military justice reform”. That is the basic reason we in the New Democratic Party are in favour of the bill. We are in favour of it despite its tardiness, and we are in favour of it despite it missing a major opportunity to take an action I will talk about later.

Certain key provisions here are important, and I think we have all-party support for adding these to the military justice system. The first of those would provide greater rights and protections for victims in the military justice system. What the bill would do is align the military justice system with the civilian justice system and align it with the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights. That means that there would be rights for those involved as victims in the military justice system to be kept informed of the progress of their cases and to get key information about the process in terms of timing: when things will be heard and when they will be resolved. This is something that is not in the military justice system presently.

The second of those rights for victims is that victim impact statements would be allowed in the military justice system in the same way they are allowed in the civilian justice system. That is an important reason to support the bill.

The second reason, which was mentioned just briefly before I stood to speak, is that the bill would bring the military justice system into conformity with the Gladue decision of the Supreme Court in 1999. which allows justices to take into account the circumstances of aboriginal offenders in determining sentencing. The same principle we have been using for 20 years in the civilian justice system would be applied to the military justice system. It is a bit tardy, but it is a good thing to do.

The bill completes most of the military justice reforms that have been worked on for more than 15 years. They were mostly introduced by the previous Conservative government. In its bill, for some reason, the victims rights pieces were left behind. That was a bit surprising in that it was the Conservative government that was bringing forward the reforms, and it was the Conservative government that was the big proponent of the victims rights act. It was a bit peculiar that it was left out, but here it is again. It is a bit tardy, but it is in this bill.

The government passed most of the major military justice reforms in 2013. Here we are, six years later, still dealing with a bill to complete those reforms.

There are some oddities in the military justice system that would be cleared up here. One of those is the fact that there is no requirement to keep transcripts of all military justice proceedings. A summary hearing can be held without any record of that hearing being held. Therefore, it can become very difficult for anyone to appeal a decision from one of those tribunals when there is no written record of it. That is one of the things the Conservatives brought in in their original bill, which was quite positive, as well as better protections against self-incrimination, which did not exist in the military justice system, even though they are required by the Canadian Constitution and the bill of rights. Those were some of the things that were in the 2013 bill that were necessary. This bill would fully implement some of those changes.

What I do not understand is the great delay in getting this done. Both the Liberals and the Conservatives were slow to act on what were clearly needed reforms in military justice. I am not sure why the Conservatives did not complete the job on their watch. They only got as far as Bill C-15, and they introduced Bill C-71 in the dying days of the last Parliament, which is essentially the same as Bill C-77.

Having criticized the Conservatives for being slow, I will criticize the Liberals for being even slower, because they had the Conservative bill, Bill C-71. This bill, Bill C-77, is essentially the same bill, but it took them two years to bring it back to Parliament.

The other part of this is that neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals acted expeditiously to get the sections of the original Bill C-15 proclaimed. That bill passed in 2013, and it was not fully proclaimed. It was not fully enforced until September of 2018. We had five years before the legislation was actually put into practice. Some of that was through funding not being made available for the necessary changes, especially in terms of staffing the military justice system. Some of that is simply inexplicable to me. I do not know why it took them so long to get this done.

Again, as I mentioned, it took the Liberals two years to introduce a bill virtually identical to the one the Conservatives introduced in 2015. That makes no sense at all.

What we are doing in Bill C-77 is important, not just in the narrow sense of the military justice act but because of lots of other provisions for military justice and the operations of the military. One of those is Operation HONOUR, which is the military's attempt to deal with sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military. One of the key things here in Bill C-77 is that better supports would now be mandated by law for victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military justice system. This is a supporting measure to Operation HONOUR, which has its big challenges. It has not been entirely successful.

We had former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps before the committee on February 7. It was her report on sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military that sparked some of these changes that are now taking place. What she cited was a reluctance that remains in the military to report sexual harassment and sexual assault, and what she said very clearly to us in the committee was that the solution to that is better support for victims at all stages.

Bill C-77 provides that support when we get to the formal stages for sexual harassment and sexual assault, but Madam Deschamps was very clear that there needs to be better support for victims before the formal processes begin. That is something that is not in Bill C-77. That is something that is not mandated by law. However, I do not think that is a necessity. The Canadian Forces could obviously begin to put in place those better supports for those who have been subjected to sexual harassment and sexual assault when they first make it known to their supervisors or to others in the military system. If they make those supports known and make those supports available, we will get better reporting and we will get better handling of all those cases.

There is still more work to do before the formal legal stages that are being dealt with in Bill C-77. I certainly encourage the leadership of the Canadian Forces to act quickly to get those supports for victims in place.

The other reservation I have in supporting this bill is that it has missed a huge opportunity. That is an opportunity to help deal with another serious concern in the Canadian Forces, and that is the problem of death by suicide in the military.

Over the past 15 years, we have lost 195 serving members of the Canadian Forces to death by suicide. That does not include reservists. The government has admitted that we do not do a good job of keeping track of death by suicide among reservists. The 195 is only those in the Canadian regular forces. We know the number is far larger.

We know that those who are young men between the ages of 25 and 30 are 250 times more likely to take their own lives if they are in the Canadian Forces or are veterans. Something is going on, with the difficult and dangerous work we ask people to do, that results in mental health challenges that we are not responding to in an effective manner.

In November 2017, we had the announcement of a joint DND and Veterans Affairs suicide prevention strategy. I applaud the military for having such a strategy. Again, it is a little tardy, but okay, let us get moving on this. Its focus was on providing more support for those who are facing mental health challenges and more training for all staff within the military, including chaplains and others who are assigned to support those serving members, in how to spot signs of suicide and how to deal with those suffering this mental health injury that has led to self-harm.

That strategy, as I said, was put in place in November 2017. Unfortunately, in 2018, we had 15 more serving members and two members of the reserves die by suicide. That is in one year, 2018. One of my colleagues is signalling that the government's count was two, but there were probably actually five—

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2019 / 11:45 a.m.
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Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have to take exception with the comments by the member for Kingston and the Islands that we did not introduce our bill until the dying days.

It is a fact that we brought forward two bills on military justice before Bill C-71 that passed.

It is a fact that one thing that Bill C-71 in the old Parliament did and that Bill C-77 does is enshrine the victims bill of rights into the military justice system. That did not pass until the third year we were government.

It is a fact that we moved that bill through as fast as we could at the end of the session.

It is a fact that the Liberals sat on it for three years before they brought in Bill C-77, which is a complete replica of our Bill C-71.

We did all the heavy lifting and we did all the hard work, but the Liberals sat on their hands.

I want to ask the member, who has served so well on the national defence committee for the past 20 years, if she would comment on why the previous minister of veterans affairs and associate minister of national defence would have resigned when she has such a passion for indigenous issues which are now enshrined in Bill C-77 through the incorporation of the Gladu decision. Why would she have stepped back when she was the former justice minister who believed in having a strong law in our Canadian society, especially in the Canadian Armed Forces?

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2019 / 11:40 a.m.
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Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, as members know, the Conservatives introduced the original form of this bill. It is still lacking in a number of places. In fact, the Liberals made some amendments to the original Bill C-71 and shifted the burden of proof from beyond reasonable doubt to a balance of probabilities.

What kind of precedent is this going to set? How is this changing the burden of proof from reasonable doubt to a balance of possibilities going to be applied in other areas, especially given the situation of constitutional crisis we find ourselves in this morning?

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2019 / 11:20 a.m.
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Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the member of Parliament for Garrison Petawawa, the training ground of the warriors, located in the beautiful riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, I welcome this opportunity to speak to Bill C-77.

The legislation would amend provisions of the National Defence Act governing the military justice system. As a veteran member of the Standing Committee on National Defence, I thank the women and men in uniform for placing their trust in me as a member of that committee.

Before I get to my remarks, I join my leader and observe it is time for someone to take a walk in the snow. Unlike the current federal government that has gone rogue with the criminal justice system, the Conservatives are committed to standing up for victims of crime and ensuring that victims have a more effective voice in the criminal justice system.

I am proud to confirm that it was as a member of the previous Conservative government that I supported the enactment of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights. Just as I supported victims rights on behalf of the women and men serving in uniform, I support enshrining a parallel victims rights regime in the military justice system. Bill C-77, to a significant degree, replicates what the Conservatives brought forward in Bill C-71 in the 41st Parliament. So far as the current government follows our example, those elements of the legislation can be supported.

Unlike the current ethically challenged government, the Conservatives believe victims of crime should not be forgotten in the criminal justice system. Our previous Conservative government focused on restoring victims to their rightful place at the heart of our justice system. That is why we introduced legislation that would mirror the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights and put it into military law. This was the result of several years of work and takes into account hundreds of submissions and consultations held with victims and groups concerned about victims and their rights for the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights.

The proposed legislation would give victims enhanced access to information through the appointment of a victim liaison officer, and enhanced protection through new safety, security and privacy provisions, and the like. In addition to being the home of 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group and the 4th Canadian Division Support Group, which is made up of 2 RCHA, 1 RCR, 3 RCR, RCDs and 2 Combat Engineer Regiment, as well as 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron, and 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, Garrison Petawawa is also home to the Canadian Special Operations Regiment, CSOR.

The Canadian Special Operations Regiment, CSOR, which was stood up during the Conservative watch of the defence of our nation, is the first new regiment to have been set up in over 50 years. I am proud of the role I played in supporting that decision and the subsequent decision to locate 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron to Garrison Petawawa to train with the troops. The Chinook helicopters serve as strategic lifts, and helicopters save lives.

As Garrison Petawawa was the last home of the Canadian Airborne Regiment before it was disbanded for partisan reasons by the Chrétien government, military justice is a volatile topic at Garrison Petawawa. The words “military” and “justice” do not need to be mutually exclusive. What we need to keep in mind, as parliamentarians debate legislation such as Bill C-77, is the effect that it has on the lives of individuals and service morale.

Earlier, the parliamentary secretary to the House leader raised the issue of veterans and how they are now treated. I am going to expand on his comments.

I am now going to give voice to an individual who cannot speak in this chamber, by sharing the letter I received from that soldier. It states, “Good day, I am about to be released from the Forces after 28 years of service. I have sacrificed my mind and my body in the service of Canada. Having suffered physical injuries and PTSD, I have no complaints about anything that I did for the military and would do it all over again. I have received excellent medical care for all my injuries, as well as my treatment by VAC for almost everything. They have covered me for my physical injuries and my PTSD. I expect to be on long-term disability upon my medical release.

“My issue is this. VAC went through the process to add detainee to the POW policy for compensation. I was at first happy with this change. I was detained by Serbian forces for 18 days while serving with the UN in Yugoslavia back in 1994, with 54 others, only to find out the federal government won't consider a claim until you've been a detainee for greater than 30 days.

“I feel insulted by this policy. Apparently, fearing for your life for that time period is just not enough, and we did fear for our lives. We saw the atrocities the Serbs were capable first-hand. Then, to find out that the Prime Minister paid $10.5 million to an ISIS fighter because according to him we as Canadians did not protect his rights....

“We were ordered to submit to being detained by our chain of command. Ordered not to escape, only to find out later that the order was an unlawful order. After all that, I have sacrifices, both professional and personal, and this is the only thing that still haunts me. I believe a change in policy is in order, even just to recognize what we did for our country.”

First, let me thank this solider for his service to our country. He is a credit to his uniform, and I understand how hard it was for him to step forward and write that letter.

I also understand that the Minister of Veterans Affairs for this government, whoever it was, as there have been so many it is hard to keep track, was made aware of the situation by the New Brunswick member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, or so the solider was told. Judging by the lack of government response, the Minister of Health could not be bothered to be concerned about the health of our soldiers. She is too busy staging photo ops with the Prime Minister, using soldiers as props, to be concerned about something as mundane as military justice. Justice in this case is for the sacrifice of 55 Canadian soldiers who were held prisoner as UN peacekeepers during the conflict in the Balkans.

I was also shocked, but not surprised, to learn that the Chrétien government refused to recognize the heroism of all but one member of the Royal Canadian Dragoons battle group who were held hostage, who participated in Operation Cavalier, CANBAT 2.

Where is the justice in the Liberal government coming up with the arbitrary number of 30 as the cut-off for the detention benefit that was announced in the new veterans charter? It would appear this is another example, like the critical injury benefit, where the Liberal government announces a benefit that excludes soldiers and veterans who should qualify. This is another fake promise to soldiers and veterans.

I am honoured and privileged to put on the official record of the proceedings of the House of Commons during debate on military justice, the names of those soldiers who were held hostage, who their country refuses to recognize today. Many are still serving their country in uniform today. The rank mentioned reflects the rank at the time the incident occurred in 1994. While the listing includes the declared hometowns, 44 of the 55 were based out of Garrison Petawawa, which is located in my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke. The names of those soldiers are:

Major Dean Milner, 33, armor officer, Kingston, Ontario; Corporal Troy Cleveland, 24, crewman, Windson, Nova Scotia; Corporal Robert Carter, 26, crewman, Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia; Master Corporal Chris Maher, 31, crewman, Burlington, Ontario; Corporal Steve Tasnadi, 27, crewman, Toronto, Ontario; Corporal Richard Sheppard, 23, crewman, Fortune Bay, Newfoundland; Sergeant Daniel Berrigan, 31, crewman, Ajax, Ontario; Master Corporal Martin Nickerson, 34, crewman, Pembroke, Ontario; Corporal Sean Dunstan, 25, crewman, Petawawa, Ontario; Corporal Chris Neilson, 21, crewman, St. Catharines, Ontario; Corporal Brian Lecuyer, 28, crewman, Elliot Lake, Ontario; Corporal David Calissi, 33, crewman, Kelowna, British Columbia; 2nd Lieutenant Chris Renahan, 23, armor officer, Toronto, Ontario; Master Corporal Marc Tremblay, 31, crewman, Bagotville, Quebec; Master Warrant Officer Thomas Skelding, 39, crewman, Windsor, Ontario; Corporal Gordon Vanwesten, 25, vehicle technician, Ennismore, Ontario; Corporal Alex Vizino, 27, crewman, Port Colborne, Ontario; Lieutenant Chris Henderson, 30, public affairs officer, Ottawa, Ontario; Corporal Marc Bergeron, 33, photo technician, Alma, Quebec; Lieutenant Mark Poland, 23, reserve armor officer, Sarnia, Ontario; 2nd Lieutenant Greg Nette, 23, armor officer, Edmonton, Alberta; Master Corporal Stanley Potocnik, 27, crewman, Rawdon, Quebec; Corporal Paul Turmel, 28, crewman, Windsor, Ontario; Master Corporal Richard Biddiscombe, 27, crewman, St. John's, Newfoundland; Warrant Officer Richard Ritchie, 34, crewman, Cold Lake, Alberta; Corporal James Morgan, 23, crewman, Cormack, Newfoundland; Corporal Mark Jones, 24, crewman, Belleville, Ontario; Corporal Michael Meade, 24, crewman, Huntsville, Ontario; Corporal Mario Desrochers, 26, crewman, Petawawa, Ontario; Corporal Sean Donaldson, 23, reserve crewman, Windsor, Ontario; Corporal William Byrne, 29, crewman, Conch, Newfoundland; Corporal Sean Murphy, 25, reserve crewman, Brampton, Ontario; Master Seaman Kevin Kendall, 27, medical assistant, Esterhazy, Saskatchewan; Leading Seaman Daniel Williams, 23, medical assistant, St. John's, Newfoundland; Private Kristopher Boyd, 20, medical assistant, Forest/Sarnia, Ontario; Sergeant William Richards, 32, crewman, St. Stephen, New Brunswick; Master Corporal Michael Smith, 30, crewman, Kitchener, Ontario; Corporal Dana Crue, 30, crewman, Summerside, Prince Edward Island; Corporal David Walker, 30, crewman, Halifax, Nova Scotia; Corporal Marc Kemp, 23, crewman, Winnipeg, Manitoba; Master Corporal Dean Smith, 24, reserve crewman, Gooderham, Ontario; Master Corporal William Thomas, 32, infantryman, Canning, Nova Scotia; Corporal James Predo, 27, infantryman, Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia; Sergeant Tom Moran, 30, crewman; Master Corporal Richard Allinson, 31, crewman, Port Hope, Ontario; Corporal Michael Bolger, 27, crewman, St. John's, Newfoundland; Corporal Sheldon Clarke, 24, crewman, Grand Falls, Newfoundland; Corporal Scott Cairns, 27, crewman, Lachine, Quebec; Corporal Davis Balser, 22, crewman, Weymouth, Digby County, Nova Scotia; Sergeant Gordon Campbell, 31, crewman, Kensington, Prince Edward Island; Corporal David Clark, 30, crewman, Toronto, Ontario; Corporal Darren Burgess, 26, crewman, Windsor, Ontario; Corporal Russell Robertson, 23, Squamish, British Columbia; Corporal Bruce Rose, 27, crewman, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia; Trooper Paul Smith, 23, crewman, Oil Springs/Petrolia, Ontario.

Military justice is about more than adding pages of rules and regulations filled with confusing words. Military justice should also be about recognizing the sacrifices soldiers and their families have made in representing their country.

Does Bill C-77 contribute to or diminish camaraderie among soldiers? Does Bill C-77 hurt operational efficiency? We need to keep on asking these questions with real life experiences in mind, such as those of the people who were detained.

That was my purpose when I put on the record the names of the 55 soldiers who were held hostage during the United Nations mission in Bosnia, Operation Cavalier, during the conflict in the Balkans. The government has forgotten these soldiers. The Prime Minister may state that veterans are asking for too much, as he did before. Veterans are only asking for what they are promised.

Psychological experiments and troop cohesion will end up getting soldiers killed, the same way that political expediency led to the loss of soldiers' lives in Afghanistan with the cancellation of the EH-101 helicopter contract by the Chrétien Liberal government. When Chrétien cancelled that contract, he also got rid of the Chinook helicopters in the military fleet.

Just like the sponsorship scandal and the Lavalin scandal of today, the Liberals have not learned a thing with the decision to buy secondhand, cast-off jets from the Australians rather than equip our troops with what they really need. When Chrétien cancelled the sale of the new badly needed helicopters, he should have halted the sale of the Chinook helicopters to the Dutch government. A lot of good women and men died in Afghanistan as a consequence.

Justice in the military should also provide the right equipment to do the job we ask our soldiers to do on our behalf. It should be about recognizing our soldiers, like the 55 forgotten soldiers.

We need enhanced participation through impact statements at sentencing and enhanced restitution with the court martial required to consider making restitution for losses.

The Auditor General's fall 2018 report on inappropriate sexual behaviour in the Canadian Armed Forces shows that there is a great need for victims' rights, which Bill C-77 is introducing.

Again, I would like to offer my condolences to the family of our late auditor general, Michael Ferguson.

Operation Honour is a plan to reduce inappropriate sexual behaviour toward women serving in the Canadian Armed Forces. The Auditor General's report found that Operation Honour was severely lacking in providing proper support for the victims of inappropriate sexual behaviour, which includes crimes like sexual assault, rape and harassment. In fact, the report found that Operation Honour was not even designed with victim support in mind and that the services it did offer were poorly coordinated. Even worse, the victims were often not even told that there were support services available to them, despite the legal requirement to do so.

Disregard for legal requirements appears to be a theme with the government. Victims did not even have a say if their case was investigated, as the vast majority of reports were done via third party from a duty to report, which Operation Honour created. Investigations were undertaken inside the chain of command, whether the victim was ready or even willing to pursue justice for the crime against them. All reports were acted upon. Victims had no recourse to stop the investigation if they did not want to proceed with a complaint.

The Auditor General's report also found issues with the training and briefings given to Canadian Armed Forces members regarding the inappropriate sexual behaviour. He found that the briefings were fragmented and led to confusion, frustration, fear and less comradery among soldiers. Briefings raised awareness of inappropriate sexual behaviour, but did little to nothing to address or bring awareness to changing habits or understanding the root causes of inappropriate sexual behaviour.

The report also highlighted a lack of awareness of support services for victims, insufficient training to support the victims and a lack of availability to support those services. People providing services had a lack of subject matter expertise and there was little coordination between the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre, which handles the support services, and the Strategic Response Team, which has the actual investigative responsibilities.

Operation Honour was inspired by an investigation and report by former Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps. We had Justice Deschamps appear before the Standing Committee on National Defence earlier this month and she gave us her insights as to whether Operation Honour aligned with her original 10 recommendations.

It is important to remind the government that for the members of the Canadian Armed Forces, when they put on a uniform, they are soldiers first, and that is an important distinction. In an operational setting, they need to be able to rely on their fellow soldiers.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2019 / 10:45 a.m.
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Conservative

Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague for Winnipeg North's question is allowing me to comment on the bill again. As he heard in my speech, I will be voting for Bill C-77. I believe it is a bill that is following the former Conservative Bill C-71. We will be moving it forward and I certainly will be supporting it.

However, there are still situations that need to be looked at, as I outlined. We need to make sure that we are looking at exactly which areas of military law are carried forward into civilian law, as I pointed out earlier. I will be looking forward to seeing some of those changes, if possible, as well.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2019 / 10:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to continue where I left off last Friday.

Just to recap, Bill C-77, which is before us today, aims to protect victims of military offences by providing needed updates to the current military justice system. Updating the judicial system of the Canadian Armed Forces can be a daunting task, but those in the service commit their lives to defending Canadian values and beliefs, and it is very worthwhile.

Whether on foreign soil or right here at home, they must regularly deal with the high-tension situations they are faced with. Therefore, their decisions and reactions can often be the difference between life and death, or war and peace. The importance of their work cannot be overstated. As such, they hold themselves to a higher standard. The armed forces judicial system is in place to maintain discipline and structure.

I am very proud to say that I represent Canadian Forces Base Shilo, our military base in Brandon—Souris, which is a very important part of our community. Many of us have family, friends and neighbours who serve on the base. They house the First Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery and the Second Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. It is worth repeating that the base is the home station of the Royal Canadian Artillery, as well as to a component of the Western Area Training Centre, 742 Signals Squadron Detachment Shilo and 11 Canadian Forces Health Services Centre. Other supported units include 26 Field Regiment and RCA Brandon's reserve unit.

Westman is awfully proud to be the home of our brave men and women in uniform. They are an essential and prominent part of our community, and have been for many years. Many develop strong ties and settle here when they complete their service and return to civilian life and retirement.

Bill C-77 seeks to align the military's justice system with the Criminal Code of Canada. I am pleased to see that it has built upon Bill C-71, which was presented by our former Conservative government, and seeks to enshrine the rights of victims in the National Defence Act.

The main premise here is common sense, which is that victims of any alleged crime should have the right to feel safe when navigating the judicial system. Therefore, I believe it is our obligation to treat them with compassion and respect, and to provide a secure environment so that they may tell their story. Their testimony is essential in better understanding what has occurred, and it is paramount they be able to provide it without fear of consequences and reprisals.

Victims are often overlooked in criminal proceedings, with most of the emphasis being on the offender. It is important they be given their opportunity to be heard. The system is there to provide justice, not only for the accused but also for the victim.

In this regard, a key feature of the bill is that it strives to provide better protection for both victims and witnesses in military trials. Military communities are often smaller and more tightly knit. This serves to foster a strong sense of solidarity among those in the service. While they can be an exceptional advantage in the field, those strong ties sometimes make it very difficult for victims to speak out against their wrongdoer. Ensuring that due consideration is given to the safety and security of victims would help give them the courage to stand up and speak out against the injustice they have faced. They should be given every opportunity to be involved in the proceedings. At the conclusion of the proceedings, they should emerge fully satisfied that justice has been properly served.

An important part outlined in this bill is that victims have the right to rely on the assistance of others when dealing with the justice system. If victims are incapable of acting on their own behalf, they may depend on their relatives to exercise their rights. Victims can now look to their spouses, parents or dependents to be their representatives during these proceedings, to help them through the difficult times.

The justice system can be intimidating. It encompasses many procedures, rules and regulations. Victims may not always be fully aware of their rights and can easily feel overwhelmed. Giving individuals the opportunity to request a liaison officer to help them navigate the workings of the case should encourage more people to come forward.

We should ensure that these liaison officers are properly trained in order to guarantee that they can provide the most assistance possible. A lack of awareness of their rights or of standard procedure should not prevent people from seeking justice. It is important not only to provide safety to those who have suffered at the hands of others, but we must be able to reinforce their belief in the justice system in order to offer them better peace of mind.

This would be best accomplished by making the process as transparent as possible. I firmly believe that all victims have the right to request information about the military justice system. They have been directly affected by a crime. They deserve to be assured of the fair proceedings of the case. These are people who have been wronged, hurt and betrayed. They need reassurance and evidence that their belief in the justice system is not misplaced. They need to see justice served.

I understand that under certain circumstances there is a need for discretion. The military conducts many sensitive operations, and often information will be classified to ensure the safety of our troops and our civilians. Those cases notwithstanding, I believe, whenever possible, victims should be provided with information concerning their cases. They should feel completely included in those proceedings and not have to plead for the most basic facts. Victims should not have to rely on outside media or gossip to scrounge incomplete information on a case that may have deeply affected them.

The bill would achieve a good balance between aligning with the current military justice system and still supporting victims within that system. The bill is very conscious of the importance of the chain of command within the military, and it makes sure not to impact the system in a manner that would hinder it.

The declaration of victims rights contained in this piece of legislation is careful to describe the specific rights afforded to victims in this situation without creating any barriers that might impede the system. I am aware that circumstances in the military may differ widely from those encountered in civilian life, as I have said before. The bill would ensure that the victim's rights are properly represented within the important confines of the current system. It does not interfere with the more unique aspects of the justice system, such as the court martial process or the code of discipline.

With the bill, we are taking a step in the right direction when it comes to defending the rights of victims of military offences. However, there is one area of concern with the current legislation that I would like to speak to. It involves the long-term consequences that minor military offences may have on individuals when they retire from service.

Presently, there are uniquely military offences that do not have a counterpart in the civilian code. Among them are the five minor offences of insubordinate behaviour, quarrels and disturbances, absence without leave, drunkenness and conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline. These are infractions that can only be committed by members of the military, yet they can result in a criminal record in the civilian world.

People found guilty of insubordinate behaviour could retire from the military only to have this offence follow them into civilian life. As Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-Guy Perron said in his testimony to the Standing Committee on National Defence on this topic:

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?

Imagine trying to look for work after leaving the military, only to be flagged with a criminal record due to being absent without leave. A large portion of veterans seek employment in the security sector, which requires security checks. When it is seen there is a criminal record, getting a job is all but impossible.

It is important to remember that we have a separate justice system in the military for a reason. There are unique circumstances that apply to our forces that require a separate process to properly address it. It would not be fair to our Canadian Forces members that minor offences that occurred in a very unique setting, a setting known to be high stress at times, remain with them and affect their lives long into the future.

Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-Guy Perron went on to provide a recommendation to the committee that stated, “The Criminal Records Act and the [National Defence Act] should be amended to only include service offences that truly warrant the creation of a criminal record.”

Based on his testimony, there was an amendment to Bill C-77 proposed by my fellow Conservative members who sit on the defence committee to address this issue. The amendment put forth would have ensured that those five minor offences I listed would not be given a civil criminal record, no matter the severity of the sentence received. The amendment was flagged to be potentially outside of the scope of the current bill. As such, the committee on national defence did get the opportunity to briefly study the matter, but I would like a more in-depth analysis on the topic.

I mention this because I firmly believe that it is an important issue that should be addressed, and that it would greatly benefit the present members of the House to examine. I wholly encourage members to study this subject, because it is a topic that should be reviewed in the near future so that we can do right by those who dedicate themselves to protecting us.

There is still much that can be done when it comes to providing proper justice to our brave men and women in uniform. The bill before us today would do much to help protect victims of military offences, but we must always strive to do more to help those in our armed forces.

Justice may be blind, but it should not be deaf. By better defining victims rights, we give a voice to those who seek justice. We give them a better platform to stand on and tell their story.

I will be voting in favour of the legislation, as I believe this is a non-partisan issue, and we should all unite to support victims of crimes. It is important we review Bill C-77 and we move it forward, as there are many good things in it, but there are still some things that need to be reviewed.

I hope that there has not been any undue pressure put forward on any of the persons involved in the formation of Bill C-77, considering that the former attorney general was there. We have already seen that undue pressure was put on her in many other areas. This is one situation where I believe that it is not appropriate either.

We need to make sure that we look at the Gladue decision. We are reminded that when sentencing is coming forward in those areas, the Supreme Court requires continuing to look at the situations facing our indigenous persons. We also must remember that there was a resignation that took place by the former attorney general when she was the veterans affairs minister, and also we are reminded that she was the associate minister of national defence at that time.

With that I look forward to questions.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

February 22nd, 2019 / 1:15 p.m.
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Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, CPC

Richard Martel

Madam Speaker, of course we support that.

I want to come back to something. The Liberal government does not want to admit that it is simply copying Bill C-77. They know full well that is what they are doing. I cannot blame them because that was the thing to do.

However, it would be nice if my colleagues in the government showed some good faith and acknowledged the excellent work we did on victims' rights under the previous government. Honestly, it is the least they could do and would be a good show of non-partisanship on their side of the House. The bill is almost a carbon copy of Bill C-77 introduced by the Conservative government.

I might ask why it took so long to introduce it in the House.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

February 22nd, 2019 / 1:05 p.m.
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Richard Martel Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, CPC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House as the official opposition's national defence critic to once again speak to Bill C-77. I sit on the Standing Committee on National Defence with the members for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman and Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, who have a great deal of experience. Members will no doubt recall that I addressed them on the same subject on October 1, 2018.

Bill C-77 seeks to make changes to Canada's military justice system, which was created in 1950 and has undergone a number of legislative amendments over the years, more specifically in 1998, 2001, 2008 and 2013.

While the court martial system is similar to Canada's criminal justice system in terms of its independence and the burden of proof, courts martial are distinctly military. However, as my colleagues know, decisions at a court martial may be appealed before Canada's civilian courts, if necessary.

The existence of Canada's military justice system has been recognized over the years, particularly in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which makes reference to it. In a recent decision of the Supreme Court, in 2015, the judiciary upheld the requirement for the separate system by indicating that the existence of a parallel system of military law is deeply entrenched in our history and supported by compelling principles. The court martial system should help make the armed forces better at conducting operations and contributing to the maintenance of discipline, efficiency and morale. I examined Bill C-77 with that in mind.

As I pointed out last October, this bill is very similar to Bill C-71 that had been introduced by our Conservative government. The purpose of our bill was to bring our military justice system in line with the Criminal Code of Canada. Some of our proposed changes included writing the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights into the National Defence Act, limiting summary trials to six months and clarifying which cases would be eligible for a summary trial. Bill C-77, which is before us today, proposes the same changes.

Before I venture into a certain part of the bill that we see as problematic, I would like to strongly reiterate that the Conservatives will always protect victims of crime and make sure that they are treated fairly in the Canadian criminal justice system. In fact, it was our Conservative government that created the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights. Of course we will support integrating it into Canada's military justice system. That was precisely our main reason for introducing Bill C-71.

The Liberal government does not want to admit now that it copied us with Bill C-77, but the Liberals know perfectly well what they are doing. I do not blame them, for this is the right thing to do. However, it would be nice if my colleagues on the government side would act in good faith and recognize the excellent work we did on victims' rights under the previous Conservative government.

Honestly, that is the least they could do. The government should be non-partisan about this.

Overall, Bill C-77 is not a bad bill. However, there is something that bothers me about this bill and that is clause 25, dealing with division 5, which amends sections 162.1 to 164.2 of the National Defence Act.

This part is very different from what we had proposed in our Bill C-71. In Bill C-77, the burden of proof shifts from “beyond a reasonable doubt” to “on a balance of probabilities”.

This obviously does not afford the same level of protection to our men and women in uniform who are going into a summary hearing. Imposing criminal penalties by making decisions on a balance of probabilities rather than according to the principle of reasonable doubt opens the door to challenges under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

As I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, the parallel system of military justice is supported by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Unfortunately, the Liberal government did not support the amendment moved by my colleague from Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman. This amendment could have easily resolved the problem by changing “on a balance of probabilities” to “beyond a reasonable doubt”.

Now that Bill C-77 is expected to move to the next stage, I hope that the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence will propose amendments to that effect.

In committee, retired Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-Guy Perron and the Quebec bar expressed doubts that the balance of probabilities could violate the rights enshrined in the charter.

The Conservatives support our Canadian justice system as set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Constitution. However, we do not support a parallel justice system that violates our rights and freedoms.

This is one of the reasons why the report of the Standing Committee on National Defence approved on division some amendments to the bill.

In conclusion, I think members should remember that Bill C-77 is largely a copy of the Conservatives' Bill C-71. I would be happy to see the Liberals simply acknowledge the excellent work we did for victims rights and for them to acknowledge that they are just picking up where we left off by seeking to add a victims bill of rights to the military justice system.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

February 22nd, 2019 / 10:25 a.m.
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Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand to speak at third reading of Bill C-77, the amendments to the National Defence Act to add some new guidelines and strengths within the military justice system. The Conservatives have been calling for this for some time.

The Conservatives are committed to standing up for the rights of victims and ensuring that victims have a more effective voice in the criminal justice system. It was our previous Conservative government that enacted the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights. We support enshrining those rights for victims in our military justice system. That is why, in the last Parliament, we introduced Bill C-71. That really is the foundation that Bill C-77, which we are debating today, is based upon.

The Conservative Party will always stand up for the rights of victims, and that is why are supportive of seeing Bill C-77 passed and enacted.

We have to ensure we restore the rights of victims and ensure they are at the heart of our justice system. That is why the Victims Bill of Rights would now be mirrored in military law, once it is passed through Senate.

I hope that some of the questions I still have about the bill, as well some of the questions we just heard about self-harm, may be addressed when the bill goes for further study and debate over in the other place.

I am the vice-chair of the Standing Committee on National Defence. At committee we heard from numerous witnesses. Those who support victims were very loud in their support of the legislation. It would give the victims: enhanced access to information through the appointment of a victim liaison officer, which is welcomed by victims in the Canadian Armed Forces; enhanced protection for those victims through new safety, security and privacy provisions, so victims do not have to be concerned about their information being used inappropriately through a violation of their privacy; enhanced participation by allowing victims to read impact statements at the time of sentencing of those who committed a crime against them; and, when possible, enhanced restitution through the court martial process consideration to provide restitution for the order of the losses to those who were victimized.

Our previous Conservative government took significant steps to protect Canadians and to stand up for victims of crime. We understand that the highest priority for any government must be to ensure the safety of its citizens, including those who are serving in the Canadian Armed Forces. It is a responsibility of government. As a Conservative government, we took that seriously. I am glad to see the minister has taken it seriously with the amendments in Bill C-77.

Putting the rights of victims back at the heart of the justice system is important and it is crucial to ensure fairness, to ensure that our justice system is compassionate and that it provides a balance, both to the rights of the victims and the rights of those convicted. It is about courtesy, compassion and respect, and that has to be included at every stage of the justice process, whether it is in civilian courts or military courts.

Our previous Conservative government was committed to reversing that trend and keeping our streets and communities safe for Canadians and their families. We had taken concrete steps to see that offenders accounted for their actions.

All of us on this side of the House were proud of our previous government's record, a record that includes the Safe Streets and Communities Act, the reform of not criminally responsible legislation, laws against sexual exploitation and, of course, cyber intimidation and bullying.

We, as Conservatives, believe that for far too long the criminal justice system was about the rights of criminals. We believe the victims have to be placed at the very heart of the justice system. They deserve, and should have, the right to information, the right to protection, the right to participation and, where possible, the right to restitution. That is encompassed in the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, which is landmark legislation that will be reflected now in the National Defence Act as it applies to our military.

Many people wonder why we have a dual system, one for civilians and one for our military members. I would like to use a quote that came from Maurice de Saxe, who used to be the marshal general of France in 1732. In writing about the science of warfare, he said:

...military discipline...is the soul of armies. If it is not established with wisdom and maintained with unshakeable resolution you will have no soldiers. Regiments and armies will only be contemptible, armed mobs, more dangerous to their own country than to the enemy...

We have witnessed that in modern times in other countries around the world. That is why in 1950 the National Defence Act was enacted to established a military justice system.

We already have what I consider the best of the best who serve in the Canadian Armed Forces. Because they are the best of the best and because they are given the order to use lethal force when necessary in defending Canada and Canadians and those who cannot defend themselves around the world, they have to be held to a higher standard. We need to have a military justice system in place that reflects the law of the land in Canada, but still hold to that same standard, values and principles when they are deployed abroad.

As the minister already pointed out, some of the changes in Bill C-77 build upon the code of service conduct and Operation Honour in particular. We want to ensure we have effective ways to stomp out sexual misconduct, to eliminate harassment within the Canadian Armed Forces and to deal with intolerance.

The Gladue decision of the Supreme Court a number of years ago has been put into the decision-making process through the court martial system as well as through the summary hearings that have been put in place. We want to ensure that the ongoing defence of parallel military justice systems that has been supported by the Supreme Court of Canada continues.

In the Généreux case in 1992, the MacKay case and more recently in the Moriarity case of 2015, they have consistently held up that the National Defence Act and the criminal justice system is for the maintenance of discipline, efficiency and morale of the Canadian Armed Forces. It stands by section 11(f) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is that there is an exemption given to members of the Canadian Armed Forces and to the chain of command to carry out military justice on a parallel track.

I raised concerns at committee and when the bill was at second reading about the recent Court Martial Appeals Court decision in the Beaudry case, in which the judge advocate general requested to have that stand at this point in time so they could take that case to the Supreme Court and have it pass a decision on it. Again, we continue to see some people who do not believe the military should have its own justice system and that cases should be tried in civilian court except when they are deployed.

Overall, we need to continue to have that chain of command, the enforcement of the Queen's rules and orders and that those regulations are reflective of some of the concerns that were brought up at committee.

A number of very powerful witnesses appeared at committee. One person was Jean-Guy Perron, a retired colonel, He was a JAG officer and also sat as a justice on the court martial court. We also had compelling testimony given by the Barreau du Québec. It raised a number of concerns where there could be charter challenges down the road if we did not get this right.

One thing that was very evident was that the change of summary trial to summary hearing may reduce the burden of proof. Right now, the burden of proof is the same as it is in civil court, which is that it has to be beyond a reasonable doubt. That has been modified somewhat and the accused could fact even more difficulty going forward.

I will quote retired Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-Guy Perron. He said:

Although a summary infraction is not an offence under the NDA and a summary hearing is not a court martial or a service tribunal; the failure “without lawful excuse, the proof of which lies on the person, to appear” as ordered, or to remain in attendance before an officer conducting a summary hearing, as a person charged with having committed a service infraction can lead to an accusation under s. 118.1 (Failure to appear or to attend), a trial by court martial and possibly a criminal conviction.

This is all in relationship to the summary hearings process. He went on to say:

Would “minor sanctions” be identical or quite similar to “minor punishments”? Most probably and, if so, the punishments of confinement to ship or barracks and extra work and drill raise concerns....COs can confine to ship or barracks for up to 21 days....This deprivation of liberty can be very strict and would be similar to conditional sentence of imprisonment (“house arrest”).

Since that would now be considered imprisonment through a summary hearing without actually having a court martial process, would the rights of that individual be violated by not having the right to a fair trial because it has been dealt with through the chain of command at a summary hearing?

Essentially, he is saying that house arrest or confinement to barracks is full incarceration as put by the Supreme Court of Canada.

I mentioned burden of proof earlier. Bill C-77 keeps the same sentencing objectives and principles as found in a criminal proceeding, most probably the same procedure for summary hearings as presently exists for summary trials in chapter 108 of the Queen's Regulations and Orders, and increases the punishment power, such as higher finds, of an officer conducting the hearing, while reducing the threshold of conviction from beyond a reasonable doubt to a balance of probabilities.

We had a lot of debate on the difference between “beyond a reasonable doubt” and “a balance of probabilities”. I feel somewhat confident that the JAG officers who were present did a good job of explaining the difference and that through the regulations of Bill C-77, when we get to enacting those, coming through the gazetting process, we should be able to mitigate the charter challenge risk and ensure that the rights of those who have been charged will be considered appropriately.

Perron goes on to say:

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

Therefore, I stress for the minister that now that we heard a very similar concern raised by the Barreau du Québec along with Mr. Perron, we need to incorporate those concerns in the regulation process. We had assurances at committee that this would be done. We brought forward amendments that were not accepted at that stage on how we dealt with it. However, I was glad to see at least one of our amendments that would to clarify the rank structure on who could do a summary hearing and who would review which officers, or NCOs or other enlisted members.

The one thing, which we have already discussed, is that we never did get to fully debate paragraph 98(c), which deals with self-harm. It was ruled out of order by the chair, but I want to thank the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke for bringing it forward. We had Sheila Fynes and her family at committee. They lost their son Corporal Stuart Langridge to suicide in 2008. He served in Bosnia and in Afghanistan. They feel very passionate that paragraph 98(c) of the National Defence Act, which deals with self-harm, adds to the stigmatization, such that those who want to hurt themselves will not come forward for help because they could be charged under the National Defence Act and at the very least be put in front of a summary hearing or could get a full court martial.

We were assured by all the witnesses that this section of the National Defence Act is rarely ever used.

For those who are concerned about those who malign themselves, those who literally go out and shoot themselves in the foot so they do not have to be deployed or who purposely sprain an ankle so they do not have to go on an exercise and carry an 80-pound rucksack and march for 40 miles over the next day, those who try to avoid service, avoid exercises, who do not want to go into theatre, there are plenty of other avenues under the National Defence Act to hold those people to account and bring them to justice for not following orders.

However, when it comes down to the mental health of our servicemen and women who are suffering with PTSD, who are dealing with anxiety and have been in theatre and have witnessed some horrific abuses and atrocities and violations against humanity, those individuals need help, and the last thing we want to do is stigmatize it and send the message that they will be charged under paragraph 98(c) of the National Defence Act for self-harm.

I hope the minister will take this forward and consider it and find a way to bring it quickly back to the House in a different bill, if that is possible. I am sure he would get unanimous consent at all three stages to delete that section of the act. Since it was found to be outside the scope of Bill C-77, I would suggest that we find a different avenue to do it and that we do it as quickly as possible and as compassionately as possible and in a way that will more than help those who struggle with the thought of suicide to step forward.

We have an incredible Canadian Armed Forces. One thing that we recommended through the defence policy review a few years ago, which is reflected in the Liberal defence policy now, is that the number one source of pride within the Canadian Armed Forces is their personnel, and we want to ensure that we give them the tools to do their job. Whether they serve in the Canadian Army, the Royal Canadian Navy or the Royal Canadian Air Force, these brave men and women do incredible work to keep us safe here at home. They stand on guard 24/7. Written on the wall in NORAD, whether down in Colorado Springs or at its Canadian operations in Winnipeg, is a motto that says, “We Have The Watch”, and they are on the watch 24/7.

We often forget that there are all sorts of threats coming at us, whether airborne, seaborne or even potentially on the ground, and because we have troops deployed across this country and around the world, we are safer here at home because they are standing on the wall in places like Latvia, Mali and Ukraine, along with many other locations. They are ensuring that we can continue on with our business, oblivious to what is going on in the world and to potential threats such as cyber-hacking, knocking down our financial systems or our energy sector and blocking off our naval routes to ship our goods back and forth over the sea. Our economy, our safety and our prosperity are built upon us as Canadians, but more importantly, they are defended by those who serve in the Canadian Armed Forces.

On behalf of all Conservative members and all members of the House, I thank them for serving, because they keep us, the true north, strong and free.