An Act related to the repeal of section 159 of the Criminal Code

Sponsor

Status

Second reading (House), as of Nov. 15, 2016

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Summary

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

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to repeal section 159 and to provide that no person shall be convicted of any historical offence of a sexual nature unless the act that constitutes the offence would constitute an offence under the Criminal Code if it were committed on the day on which the charge was laid. It also makes consequential amendments to that Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

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.

October 24th, 2018 / 5:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I fully support this clause. I certainly support the repeal of section 159, but I have to say I don't understand why it has taken this government so long to repeal this zombie section of the Criminal Code.

I can remember back in the fall of 2016 the government announced Bill C-32, with great fanfare about how it was going to repeal section 159. It was such a priority of this government, but that bill remains stuck at first reading, two years later. Then it tried again and introduced Bill C-39 on March 8 of 2017, to again repeal section 159. That was such a priority of this government that the bill remains stuck at first reading—by the way, to the chagrin of the McCann family in my riding, who have suffered as a result of the misapplication of the zombie law.

Now finally they've thrown it into this very flawed piece of legislation. Perhaps it's one of the few good things to come out of Bill C-75. Again, I'm happy to support it. It's just disappointing that it's been two years.

September 25th, 2018 / 4:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Professor Coughlan, I appreciate your submission with respect to zombie laws. You mentioned the case of Travis Vader, who murdered Lyle and Marie McCann, an elderly couple from my home community of St. Albert. Following Justice Thomas's decision and under the leadership of our chair, this committee wrote a letter to the Minister of Justice calling on the government to introduce legislation to repeal “zombie” sections of the Criminal Code. Bret McCann, the son of Lyle and Marie McCann, approached me shortly thereafter, and he and I had a press conference, along with his wife Mary-Ann in St. Albert in December 2016.

You're quite right. In March 2017, the Minister of Justice did introduce Bill C-39, and then it sat at first reading. Nothing went forward. I asked the minister repeatedly about the reason for the delay on a matter that is not controversial. As you pointed out, there is no conceivable reason for unconstitutional sections of the Criminal Code to remain in the Criminal Code, in black and white, purporting to be the law. As a result, we're now faced with this situation. A very straightforward bill, which could have been passed with unanimity, is now tied to a massive omnibus bill.

I am in touch with the McCann family, and they are quite distressed. They have spoken out in deep frustration over this government's inability to get it done.

I should note—you mentioned section 159 of the Criminal Code respecting anal intercourse. Similar to the way the government handled section 230, they introduced a stand-alone bill, Bill C-32, back in the fall of 2016. They made a big fuss about it, but it was such a priority for the government that it remained stuck at first reading. No action was taken on it. They then reintroduced the repeal of section 159 with the introduction of C-39 on March 8, 2017. Again, it was such a priority that it's stuck at first reading. Now we have Bill C-75.

You are quite right when you note that it's not just this government. Previous governments didn't repeal unconstitutional sections. Going forward, if we can get these sections repealed, what do you suggest should occur to prevent this from happening again? Presumably this bill will pass and these sections will be removed, but inevitably there will be new sections dubbed unconstitutional. What steps should Parliament take to be proactive going forward?

May 31st, 2018 / 9:40 a.m.
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NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Thank you.

Mr. Fortin, I know that you were getting ready to reply, but I would like to say something first.

I asked you to send us solutions, with very concrete examples, and Mr. Van Loan asked the same thing. Among other things, I am referring to the brochure for Bill C-32. I know that the Coalition pour la culture et les medias has done something. I also know that anyone who consults the long, 34-page document always finds the first page a little disconcerting. That is what I am alluding to.

Say that we are five-year-olds who understand nothing. We would tell ourselves, we would understand, that it's great that music is so accessible, that it is super cool that music is so easy to access, that everyone can listen to it. And if the artists make no money, that’s life, that’s progress. So let’s feel free.

Go ahead, Mr. Fortin.

Bill C-75—Time Allocation MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2018 / 9:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand up to speak to the measures we propose putting into place via Bill C-75. This is a very comprehensive piece of legislation that deserves the necessary discussion and debate, including from defence counsel, when it arrives in committee. I look forward to that dialogue and discussion.

I certainly recognize that this is a very large bill, but it deals with measures to amend the Criminal Code. Amending the Criminal Code is its theme. I would reference my hon. colleague across the way when he was talking about section 159 in what was then Bill C-32. This has been amalgamated into Bill C-75, and it is a necessary provision that needs to be repealed.

We are entirely supportive of all the provisions in Bill C-75 and we look forward—

Bill C-75—Time Allocation MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2018 / 9 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Mr. Speaker, in just a moment I will be seeking unanimous consent for a motion dealing with Bill C-32. Bill C-32 would repeal an archaic section of section 159 of the Criminal Code. Adopting Bill C-32 would remove a longstanding point of discrimination against gay men by eliminating the unequal age of consent for anal sex.

Bill C-32 was tabled on November 25, 2016, and it has been sitting on the Order Paper since then. With the imminent passage of Bill C-66 in the other place, I am asking that Bill C-32 be adopted at all stages by the House today so that criminal records based on section 159 of the Criminal Code would immediately and clearly qualify for expungement as provided in Bill C-66.

That is why I am seeking unanimous consent for the following motion, that notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, Bill C-32, an act related to the repeal of Section 159 of the Criminal Code, shall be deemed to have been read a second time and referred to committee of the whole, deemed considered in committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage, and deemed read a third time and passed.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 24th, 2018 / 4:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-75, another omnibus bill introduced by a government that said it would never introduce an omnibus bill, but here we are again with another 300-page bill.

Quite frankly, there are some provisions in Bill C-75 that I support, but on the whole I believe this legislation to be deeply problematic.

Before I address the substance of Bill C-75, I want to talk a bit about the process surrounding Bill C-75.

This omnibus legislation reintroduces four government bills currently before the House of Commons: Bill C-28, Bill C-32, Bill C-38 and Bill C-39. This is the third piece of legislation the government has introduced to repeal section 159 of the Criminal Code, the unconstitutional section related to anal sex.

With much fanfare, the Liberals introduced Bill C-32. They wanted to take tremendous credit for introducing that bill that proposes to repeal section 159. It was such a priority for the government that a year and a half later, Bill C-32 remains stuck at first reading.

Not to be outdone, they proceeded to introduce Bill C-39, which would remove unconstitutional sections of the Criminal Code, also known as zombie laws. That included section 159 of the Criminal Code. It was introduced on March 8, 2017, and it was such a priority of the government that more than a year later, Bill C-39 remains stuck at first reading.

Now, for the third time, the government has introduced, with Bill C-75, another attempt to remove section 159 of the Criminal Code.

How many bills is it going to take the Liberal government to repeal one simple section of the Criminal Code? It speaks to the utter incompetence of the government and its complete inability to move justice legislation forward. In light of that record of incompetence and failure, Canadians should be left to ask the question: how it is that the government can be trusted to address delay in our courts when it cannot even manage its own legislative agenda?

The purported objective of Bill C-75 is to deal with the backlog in our courts. It arises from the Jordan decision that was issued by the Supreme Court almost two years ago. The Supreme Court of Canada determined that there would be strict limits before delay would become presumptively unreasonable. The remedy that the Supreme Court provided in the case of delay was that the charges against the accused person would be stayed, in other words, thrown out of court. The strict timeline that the Supreme Court provided was 30 months between the laying of charges and the anticipated or actual conclusion of a trial for matters before superior courts, and 18 months for matters before provincial courts.

It has been almost two years since the Jordan decision and in those nearly two years, the Minister of Justice has sat on her hands and done absolutely nothing to deal with delay and backlog. The minister is so incompetent that she could not get around to doing the simplest and easiest thing, which is to fill judicial vacancies in a timely manner.

Under this Minister of Justice's watch, we have seen a record number of judicial vacancies. Indeed, the average number of vacancies has consistently been between 50 to 60. In the province of Alberta, where the issues of backlog and delay are most acute, the provincial government tried to respond in 2016, by way of order in council, establishing 10 new judicial positions, nine Court of Queen's Bench positions and one Alberta Court of Appeal position. The government, to its credit, in budget 2017, provided funding for additional judicial positions. All the minister had to do was fill them.

Do members know how long it took the minister to appoint a new judge in Alberta?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 8:20 p.m.
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NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to be splitting my time with the member for Kootenay—Columbia.

Today I rise in the House to talk about a justice housecleaning bill. Our courts and justice system are facing an unprecedented crisis. Before moving to the specifics of the bill, I feel obliged to address this issue, because it is through justice that fairness is administered. I say this because I have no difficulty believing that recent events have had victims cast serious doubt on the fairness of the Canadian justice system.

Last July the Jordan ruling unleashed a flurry of uncertainty, confusion, sheer indignation, and outrage. The ramifications are still being being felt today. In this ruling, the court said that Jordan's charter rights had been violated due to an unreasonable 49-month wait for a trial. The drug charges against him were stayed. Since then, this confusion has led to hundreds, if not thousands, of criminal cases being stopped simply because they took too long to come to trial. We have seen at least two murderers go free. The decisions have widespread implications for victims and their families. These people have had experiences for which they will never get the chance to see justice done.

This breach of public safety was caused by a number of factors. Recently, a Senate report urged the federal justice minister to take the lead in changing the Criminal Code to reduce procedural and other barriers to a speedy trial and to fill judicial vacancies as soon as judges retire. This is perhaps the most important step the government could take.

It is not normal for criminal cases to take between five to 10 times longer to be tried in Canada than in the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand. Worse still, the delays are getting longer and the legal costs are going up even as the overall crime rates are dropping. It is time for the minister to get serious about filling judicial vacancies. There is an almost record-breaking number of vacancies on the superior courts, 53 at time of this speech. We also need the Liberals to provide proper resources for support staff and courtrooms. This is so important. The national judicial vacancy rate has more than tripled since this government took office. The lack of judges has increased access problems and court delays that were already posing a threat to a fair process and public safety.

There is no reason intelligent appointments cannot be made in an open way while Ottawa works on a more formalized process. Good government, public safety, and the rights of those caught up in the justice system depend on it. This brings me to the current bill we are debating. The problems addressed are important, but they are comparatively piecemeal changes to the Criminal Code, knowing that the justice system is in a full-blown crisis.

Let me be very clear. We should be doing this exercise. Updating the Criminal Code will lead to less mistakes and a clearer comprehension of the text. Many of these provisions are like time capsules, chronicling other times, but they certainly do not belong in our Criminal Code any longer. These are often referred to as zombie provisions. Legal scholars have been calling for a very long time for them to be removed from the Criminal Code, and it is past time for Parliament to act.

However, this housecleaning bill is not the government's first. In fact, it is the third. Bills C-32 and C-39 precede it. The trouble is that they are still in second reading with very little movement, leaving many Canadians wondering whether they are a priority. Is this bill even going to be a priority?

I am encouraged by elements in the bill. The important sections that clarify the sexual assault laws would have significant benefits for survivors and work toward preventing sexual assault. That is so important in this country. However, there needs to be legal aid funding that allows for victims to exercise their rights. The bill would clarify that an unconscious person is incapable of consent. It expands the rape shield provisions to expressly include communications of a sexual nature or communications for a sexual purpose.

The code's rape shield provisions already provide that evidence of a complainant's past sexual history cannot be used to support an inference that the complainant was more likely to have consented to the sexual activity at issue or that the complainant is less worthy of belief. It would create a regime to determine whether an accused could introduce a complainant's private records at trial that the accused had in his or her possession. This adds to the existing regime governing an accused's ability to obtain a complainant's private records, such as diaries, medical records, psychological counselling records, and school records, when those records are in the hands of a third party.

The bill provides that a complainant has a right to legal representation in rape shield proceedings.

There has been criticism from legal and feminist groups that have wondered how effective the measures of having a lawyer would be if the complainants cannot afford representation. Legal aid funding needs to be provided, as there is currently simply not enough.

As Michael Spratt, vice president of the Defence Counsel Association of Ottawa, said when speaking on the bill, this “is another half-hearted attempt to reform the justice system by grabbing the lowest of the low hanging fruit.” The crisis that is under way is a manifestation of the need for deeper structural changes within our judicial system.

This is one step, but I hope to see some more positive steps to deal with the issues that are greatly inhibiting our legal system in the country. I most definitely want to see more resources so the victims of any kind of sexual assault get the support they need and have the funding to do so.

Pride MonthStatements By Members

June 6th, 2017 / 2:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Arif Virani Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, June is Pride Month in Toronto. Events will be taking place all month to raise awareness and show solidarity with the LGBTQ2 community, culminating with the pride parade. I am proud that our Prime Minister was the first ever sitting leader to march at pride and is a party leader with the courage and conviction to voice unequivocal support for the LGBTQ2 community in Canada. I am also proud that our government has introduced Bill C-16, to make targeted acts against the trans community a hate crime, and Bill C-32, which makes the age of sexual consent equal for heterosexual and homosexual young couples.

I am most proud of the residents of my riding of Parkdale—High Park, who despite a climate of rising intolerance both internationally and here at home, remain steadfast champions in the fight against homophobia and transphobia, constituents who believe, as I do, in equality for all, regardless of how we identify or whom we love.

This month I urge all members to show their pride and their solidarity.

May 11th, 2017 / 4:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Thank you, Minister, for coming to the committee.

I was recently watching a panel discussion in which you and the Minister of Health were discussing the proposed marijuana legislation. I forget who the host was. Of particular interest to me was a comment you made, that you had not ever been a cannabis user, nor did you expect to be after this legislation was passed.

I have two questions for you.

First, why is it not a good thing for you, but it's okay for others—even for the youth of our society—to have access to cannabis as a recreational drug? I commend you for your personal position.

Second, I'm looking at the legislation your government has presented so far in the last year and a half, which you say you're very proud of. Bill C-14, the medical assistance in dying legislation, now allows Canadians to legally have their lives terminated with the assistance of a physician. Bill C-16 addresses what I think is an imaginary gap in both our Canadian Human Rights Act and our Criminal Code. Bill C-32 repeals section 159 of the Criminal Code, which addresses anal sex. Bill C-37, which repeals the Respect for Communities Act, will now make it easier for safe injection sites to be located in different communities across Canada. The most recent one, Bill C-45, is of course on the legalization of marijuana.

My question on all those issues is, I think, quite simple. These pieces of legislation seem to have a particular theme to them. I'm wondering what it is that motivates your government to, in my opinion, be so bent on and recklessly determined to destroy our social and moral fabric?

JusticeOral Questions

November 23rd, 2016 / 3:05 p.m.
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Vancouver Granville B.C.

Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is the pride of all Canadians, and our government is committed to ensuring our legislation is constitutional and ensures the highest standards that Canadians expect.

As with all legislation that I have introduced as minister, I was very pleased last week to introduce a charter statement on Bill C-32, an act related to the repeal of section 159 of the Criminal Code, and in tabling a charter statement, ensuring that we invite the public and parliamentarians into the thinking and the review I have undertaken to ensure our legislation is constitutional.

JusticeRoutine Proceedings

November 21st, 2016 / 3:10 p.m.
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Vancouver Granville B.C.

Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I would like to table, in both official languages, a charter statement on Bill C-32, an act related to the repeal of section 159 of the Criminal Code.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

November 15th, 2016 / 10:05 a.m.
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Vancouver Granville B.C.

Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould LiberalMinister of Justice

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-32, An Act related to the repeal of section 159 of the Criminal Code.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)