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.

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2019 / 7:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, moving a motion to extend the sitting hours of the House is not a great way to close out the last session of the 42nd Parliament of Canada. We are not opposed to working late every evening. We want to work and make progress on files.

Once again, we take issue with the means the government is using to get all members to work a little harder because the session is ending and these are the last days of this Parliament. The other items in the motion do not concern the extension of sitting hours. We take issue with the government's approach, which prevents the opposition from doing its job properly. It is handcuffing the opposition and moving the government's agenda along as quickly as possible, not based on what parliamentarians may have to say, but on what the government wants.

This is not new to us, given how the government has handled the legislative process throughout its mandate. The government has been unable to advance a decent legislative agenda. I am the opposition agriculture and agri-food critic. I spoke to my predecessors, and we have been waiting for the Minister of Agriculture to introduce a bill to improve the lives of Canadian farmers since my appointment two years ago.

When I look at all the agriculture documents and bills this government has introduced since it was elected in 2015, it is clear to me that the government has achieved nothing. Absolutely no legislation was proposed to improve the lives of Canadian farmers.

However, numerous bills were introduced. Now, the government is saying that the situation is urgent and that we must move quickly and pass this legislation. A number of bills were not passed by the government, and now time is of the essence.

Of all of the bills that were not passed, some never even moved forward. We have, for example, Bill C-5, introduced on February 5, 2016; Bill C-12, introduced on March 24, 2016; Bill C-27, introduced on October 19, 2016; Bill C-28, introduced on October 21, 2016; Bill C-32, introduced on November 15, 2016; and Bill C-33, introduced on November 24, 2016. The Liberals have had four years to move these bills forward.

All of a sudden, the government claims that these bills need to be passed urgently. After the vote this evening we will debate Bill C-81, which was introduced on June 20, 2018. It has been nearly a year. We are being told that this bill is urgent and must absolutely be passed, but the government was unable to bring it forward earlier.

If this is so urgent, why did the government not bring up this bill more regularly in the House? Why did we not talk about it on a regular basis? All of a sudden, we need to pass it quickly because the Liberals have realized that they are going to run out of time. The government was unable to manage the House. It was unable to give parliamentarians an opportunity to do their work and to speak about important bills. The Liberals have realized at the last minute that they have forgotten this and that. There is an election coming up in the fall and now parliamentarians have to do the work to pass this or that bill.

The government chose to impose late sittings on the House for 18 days while also moving a time allocation motion, which means that we will not even have the chance to talk about it for long. If we refer to the Standing Orders, the government could have extended sitting hours for the last 10 days of the session, as provided for in our normal parliamentary calendar. That is what it could have done, and it would have been entirely doable.

I would like to talk about one of the Standing Orders. Even though the standing order that governs the extension of sitting hours in June has been in effect since 1982, it is not used every year. In some cases, special orders were proposed and adopted instead, usually by unanimous consent.

Parliamentarians are here to represent the people in their ridings. According to the Standing Orders, anyone who wants to change the rules to move things along has to seek the unanimous consent of the House.

Unfortunately, this government does not really seem to care about unanimous consent. It does not really seem to care what the opposition thinks or has to say even though, just like MPs on government benches, we represent all the people of our ridings. The least the government could do, out of respect for Canadian voters, is respect people in opposition. We have a role to play.

Unfortunately, our role is not to agree all the time and say the government is doing a good job. On the contrary, our role is to try to point out its failings so it can improve. Basically, the opposition's role is to make the government better by pointing out its mistakes and bad decisions so the government can reflect on that and find better solutions for all Canadians. However, the government does not seem willing to take that into account.

On top of that, there are two opposition days left. I mentioned the negative effects of the motion. The government is proposing to extend the hours in the House, but what it failed to mention is that it is going to deny the opposition the opportunity to have two full opposition days to address situations that are very troubling to Canadians.

For instance, during a normal opposition day during which we might hear from a number of stakeholders, we could have talked about the canola crisis, which is affecting thousands of canola producers across Canada. This crisis, which involves China, is costing Canadian canola producers billions of dollars. For all members who have canola farmers among their constituents, it would have been an opportunity to express the concerns of their fellow citizens and farmers in their regions. Perhaps we could have convinced the government to take action, such as filing a complaint through the World Trade Organization to condemn China's actions or appointing an ambassador, for example. As peculiar as it may seem, Canada currently has no representative in China to speak with Chinese authorities.

We could have had such a debate here in the House.

The one thing that the members across the aisle seem to have forgotten is that members of the House are not the government. The government is the ministers, the cabinet members. In this chamber, people have the right to speak their minds in the hope of swaying the government.

It is true that the government is formed by the party with the most members elected to the House, but it is also up to backbench members of the ruling party to try to persuade their government and speak for the people they represent, such as the farmers in their ridings. Sadly, the members on that side of the House seem to be divorced from reality. They seem to be blind to the government's desire to crush Parliament, to crush the MPs who are trying to do a good job of representing the constituents of every riding. I think that is a real shame.

We have absolutely nothing against extending the sitting hours of the House, but if it is intended to cover up the government's mistakes and its inability to properly organize the work of the House, then I think that is disgraceful.

The government is using this kind of motion to not only make us work more, which, as I mentioned, we agree with, but also deprive us of our last remaining tools, like the voting marathons everyone remembers. We held those voting marathons to make the government realize it cannot do whatever it wants in the House of Commons. The House of Commons is not the tool of the government. This motion to extend the sitting hours also prevents us from using that tool, which was a powerful means for us to send the government a message.

After making such grand promises of transparency and openness, this government has failed spectacularly to deliver. Sadly, its latest motion on the rules of the House just proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that it has no respect for the work of the House. It saddens me to see a government ending its term on such a sour note.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2018 / 4 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, excuse me while I shed a few tears for the troubles of being in a majority government. The parliamentary secretary should have an inkling of understanding, because he once sat in this corner, of the vast amount of power a majority government wields in this place. Frankly, I find it inexcusable at this stage in the 42nd Parliament that the only substantive justice bills that have been passed by the current government are Bill C-14, which was the result of a court-ordered deadline, and Bill C-46, which, of course, was the companion bill to Bill C-45.

Our contention on this side of the House has been that it would have been unnecessary to even use time allocation if the government had taken the non-contentious parts of Bill C-32, which was rolled into Bill C-39, which was rolled into another bill, and made those a standalone bill. For example, we have provisions in the Criminal Code such as challenging someone to a duel, possessing crime comics and fraudulently practising witchcraft. For decades, legal scholars have complained that these faithful reproductions in the Criminal Code lead to confusion. It should have been no secret to officials in the justice department that as soon as the justice minister assumed her mandate, we could have moved ahead with a bill to get rid of those inoperable, redundant sections of the Criminal Code, probably with unanimous consent.

Looking back at the last three years of the government's legislative agenda, particularly with justice bills, would the parliamentary secretary not agree with me that it would have been smarter to package the non-contentious reforms of the Criminal Code in a standalone bill, rather than having us, at this stage, at three years, with not a single reform of the Criminal Code yet passed by this Parliament?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2018 / 3:30 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will agree with my colleague from St. Albert—Edmonton. It is a real head-scratcher.

He recalled a few hours ago that when Bill C-32 was introduced, the government made much fanfare. There was a huge press conference in the foyer of the House of Commons. A number of stakeholders were behind the minister. It made headlines across the country. That bill still remains in purgatory.

It was then rolled into Bill C-39, and we had hope that this was moment we would be moving forward with the much-needed amendments to the Criminal. However, again, that bill remains in purgatory at first reading.

Finally, Bill C-39 was rolled into Bill C-75. The House of Commons has only just passed that bill and sent it to the Senate.

Here we are more than three years into the government's mandate and we have only just sent that package of Criminal Code reforms to the Senate. Who knows how long it will take in the other place, given how massive that bill is, how many debates will be needed in the Senate and how many stakeholders will appear before the legal and constitutional affairs committee.

For a government that came to power with such a huge and ambitious mandate to reform our criminal justice system, the evidence of its legislative progress has been very lacking. I would agree with my colleague that the government's management of time in the House could certainly use a few lessons.

Consideration of Senate AmendmentsCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2018 / 1:35 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, I am very happy to be participating in today's debate on Bill C-51. I find it unfortunate, however, that the government has again had to resort to time allocation on a justice bill. The bill passed the House of Commons. I was certainly one of the members who voted in favour of it. However, I find myself in the awkward position of actually agreeing with what the Senate has done to the bill, because it very much mirrors the attempt I made at the justice committee last year to codify the nature of consent and provide a bit more definition in the Criminal Code.

Before I get to the Senate amendments more specifically, I want to talk more generally about the government's record on justice bills. While I do have a great deal of respect for the Minister of Justice and I very much agreed at the start of the government's mandate with what she was attempting to do, the pace of legislative change from the Minister of Justice has been anything but satisfactory. We started off with Bill C-14. It received a lot of attention and debate in Canada, as it should have, but we have to remember that the only reason the government moved ahead with Bill C-14 and we passed it in 2016 was that the government was operating under a Supreme Court imposed deadline. There was really no choice in the matter. Furthermore, when Bill C-14 was passed, we very nearly had a standoff with the Senate because of the provision in the bill about reasonable death occurring in a predetermined amount of time. We knew that that particular section would be challenged in the court system.

The other substantive piece of legislation the government has passed is Bill C-46, which was designed to move in conjunction with Bill C-45. Of course, Bill C-46 was problematic because the government has now removed the need for reasonable suspicion for police officers to administer a Breathalyzer test. They can basically do it whenever a person is legally stopped, whether it be for a broken tail light or for not stopping completely at a stop sign. If an officer has a Breathalyzer test on their person, they can demand a breath sample right then and there, without the need for reasonable suspicion. I have seen mandatory alcohol screening operate in other countries, notably Australia.

In my attempt to amend that bill, I stated that if we were going to apply such a draconian measure, it should be applied equally, because if we start giving police officers the ability to decide when or where to test someone, we know from the statistics, notably from the City of Toronto, that people of a certain skin colour are more apt to be stopped by the police than others. If such a provision were to be implemented, it should be applied equally at all times.

Moving on, there is Bill C-28, which deals with the victim surcharge, but is still languishing in purgatory at first reading.

The government then moved forward with a number of cleanups of the Criminal Code, the so-called zombie or inoperative provisions and the many redundant sections of the Criminal Code. That is the thing about the Criminal Code: It is littered with out-of-date provisions that are inoperable because of Supreme Court or appellate court rulings, but they are still faithfully reprinted every single year because Parliament has not done its work to clean up the Criminal Code. As my college the member for St. Albert—Edmonton has noted, it has led to some very bad consequences, notably in the Travis Vader case, where the judge used an inoperative section of the Criminal Code to convict someone. That conviction was then overturned. So these section do have very real consequences.

My contention has always been with section 159, which was brought forward in Bill C-32. Bill C-32 was then swallowed up by Bill C-39. Then Bill C-39 was swallowed up by Bill C-75, which has only just passed the House and now has to clear the Senate. We have no idea how much longer that is going to take. The House is about to rise for the Christmas break. We will be back functioning at the end of January, but Bill C-75 is a gigantic omnibus bill and full of provisions that make it a very contentious bill.

My argument has always been that for such an ambitious legislative agenda, especially if we are going to clean up the Criminal Code as Bill C-51 proposes to do, I contend that the Minister of Justice, had she had a good strategy in dealing with the parliamentary timetable and calendar and how this place actually works, would have bundled up the non-contentious issues in Bill C-39 and Bill C-32, which was morphed into Bill C-75, together with the non-contentious issues of Bill C-51 and made it a stand-alone bill, and we could have done that work.

These are issues that we cannot really argue against because it is a moot point; the Supreme Court has already ruled, so keeping them in the Criminal Code just leads to further confusion. Here we are, three years into the government's mandate, and the Criminal Code has still not been cleaned up to this day. For an ambitious legislative agenda, that leaves a lot to be desired. I heard Michael Spratt, who regularly appears as a witness before the justice committee, describe Bill C-51 as dealing with the lowest of the low-hanging fruit. Therefore, if we had been serious, we could have made some very reasonable progress on that. Be that as it may, we have Bill C-51 before us and we have to go over it.

Before I get into the specific amendments brought forward by the Senate, I think it is worth going over some of the things we are talking about. Among the things Bill C-51 would repeal is the offence of challenging someone to a duel. It used to be illegal to provoke someone to fight a duel or to accept the challenge. We will get rid of that section because it obviously reflects an earlier time in Canada's history. It is the reason why in this place we are two sword lengths apart. Members of parliament in the U.K. used to go into that place with swords on their hips. The bill would also get rid of section 143 dealing with advertizing a reward for the return of stolen property. It would get rid of section 163, dealing with the possession of crime comics, a legacy of a 1948 bill by a member who thought that crime comics negatively influenced kids by encouraging them to commit crimes, and that they were not a part of a good upbringing. The section on blasphemous libel would be dropped. Fraudulently pretending to practise witchcraft is probably one of my favourite ones.

While Bill C-51 is making some much needed changes to sections of the Criminal Code, as I said earlier, we would not be arguing these cases in the House three years into the mandate of the current government if the bills had been bundled up into a single bill, which I am sure could have had royal assent by now.

We did have a very interesting discussion at the justice committee on section 176. When I first read Bill C-51 and it mentioned that this section would be repealed, I read right over it. However, when hearing witnesses at committee, it became quite apparent that section 176 had a lot of very deep meaning to select religious groups. After hearing all of that testimony about the importance of having section 176 remain in the code, I am glad to see that the committee members were able to work together to polish the language to ensure that it would now be applicable to all religious faiths, and not just single out the Christian faith. Now, if someone were to interrupt the religious proceedings of any faith, that would be dealt with appropriately under section 176.

The heart of the matter before us is the Senate amendments to Bill C-51. As I mentioned, it is kind of awkward for a New Democrat to be recognizing the work of the Senate. I value the people who sit as senators. I know there are some very determined people who certainly try to do their best there. My problem has always been with a 21st century democracy like Canada having an unelected and unaccountable upper house. I have to face the electorate for the decisions I make and the words I say in this place, and for what the Senate as a whole does.

I am going to be rejecting the government's motion on Bill C-51, because I agree with the substance of what the Senate was attempting to do in Bill C-51. It very much reflects some of the testimony that I heard at committee, and I have also reviewed some of the Senate Hansard transcripts of the debates it had on Bill C-51. While it is true that the amendments were not passed at the legal and constitutional affairs committee of the Senate, they were passed at the third reading stage. When we see the transcripts, we can see that the hon. senators in the other place were trying to codify what they saw as some missing aspects of the bill.

If we look at the heart of the matter, it comes down to the Supreme Court decision in R. v. J.A. The Supreme Court ruling reads:

When the complainant loses consciousness, she loses the ability to either oppose or consent to the sexual activity that occurs. Finding that such a person is consenting would effectively negate the right of the complainant to change her mind at any point in the sexual encounter.

In some situations, the concept of consent Parliament has adopted may seem unrealistic. However, it would be inappropriate for this Court to carve out exceptions to the concept of consent when doing so would undermine Parliament’s choice. This concept of consent produces just results in the vast majority of cases and has proved to be of great value in combating stereotypes that have historically existed. In the absence of a constitutional challenge, the appropriate body to alter the law on consent in relation to sexual assault is Parliament, should it deem this necessary.

The court in a sense is recognizing the very important part that Parliament plays in this. One thing I have learned during my time as our party's justice critic is that, in looking at the Criminal Code, ultimately, we in this place are responsible for drafting and implementing the law and it comes down to the courts to interpret it. There is this kind of back and forth. When the justice aspect of the government and the parliamentary part of it work in tandem like that, we hopefully arrive at a place where the law is reflective of today's society.

However, it is not only the J.A. decision that we should be looking at. On October 30, which coincidentally was the very same day that the Senate sent the bill back to the House, there was a decision in the Alberta Court of Appeal, R. v. W.L.S. In that particular case, an acquittal on sexual assault charges was overturned by the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal acknowledged in its decision that the complainant was incapable of consenting.

Senator Kim Pate provided us with a message. She said:

In regard to our discussions concerning Bill C-51, I write to draw your attention to the recent case of the Alberta Court of Appeal, concerning the law of incapacity to consent to sexual activity. Please find a copy of this case attached.

The Alberta Court of Appeal heard this case on October 30, the same day the Senate passed the amendments to Bill C-51. The court overturned the trial decision on the grounds that the trial judge had wrongly held that nothing short of unconsciousness was sufficient to establish incapacity. While this erroneous understanding of the law was rectified on appeal in this case, as we know, the vast majority of cases are never appealed. The trial judge's decision demonstrates the very error, fed by harmful stereotypes about victims of sexual assault, that many of us are concerned the original words of Bill C-51 risks encouraging.

Senator Kim Pate is basically acknowledging that there is a role for Parliament to play in providing a more explicit definition of consent, what it means and when consent is not given. While I am certainly one of those people who trusts in the power and ability of judges to make decisions, the judicial discretion, I align that thinking more with the decisions that they make and not in the interpretation of the Criminal Code. There is room in some parts of the Criminal Code to be very specific so that there is no judicial discretion, and that we are very clear on what consent means and what it does not mean.

Turning to the actual Senate amendments, they would be adding specificity in both clause 10 and clause 19. Basically, those particular aspects want to ensure:

(b) the complainant is incapable of consenting to the activity in question for any reason, including, but not limited to, the fact that they are

(i) unable to understand the nature, circumstances, risks and consequences of the sexual activity in question,

(ii) unable to understand that they have the choice to engage in the sexual activity in question or not, or

(iii) unable to affirmatively express agreement to the sexual activity in question by words or by active conduct;

Adding this kind of specificity to the Criminal Code is very much a good thing. In paragraph (b), it says “including, but not limited to”. I think adding that kind of specificity will help with certain cases. From the very interesting Senate deliberations on this subject at third reading, we can see that senators were not very happy with how Bill C-51 left a bit of a hole.

We have made much of the witness testimony at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Professor Janine Benedet did look at this particular aspect of the Criminal Code. As I said in my exchange with the member for Mount Royal, one thing she stated was:

Any clarification we can give will be beneficial. It doesn't have to be an exhaustive list, but there has to be the idea that consent has to be informed, that you have to have the ability to understand that you can refuse—because some individuals with intellectual disabilities do not know they can say no to sexual activity—and that it has to be your actual agreement. Those are all things that can be read into the code as it's currently written, but sometimes are not fully realized in the cases we see.

Adding that specific part would be very much in line with what Professor Benedet was saying at the committee. That is why I will be rejecting the government's motion and voting in favour of the Senate amendments.

Turning to the Senate deliberations on this bill, in some of that debate it was said that R. v. J.A. outlines the requirement for active consent. However, the Senate very much found that without the specific amendment by Senator Pate to Bill C-51, we would have failed to capture the scope of consent laid out for us by the Supreme Court, supported by experts in the law of sexual assault in Canada.

Feminist experts in sexual assault law have advised that the inclusion of the word “unconscious” risks creating a false threshold for the capacity to consent. There were also deliberations that the current wording in Bill C-51 poses a serious risk that women who are intoxicated would be blamed if they are sexually assaulted. They would not be protected by this bill.

Further, some have noted that the weakness is in the definition of what constitutes non-consent. According to a legal expert who provides sexual consent training to judges, there is not enough precedent or awareness among judges to believe that the proposed wording in clause 10 and clause 19 of the bill is clear enough.

I see my time is running out, but I will end with some of the really scary statistics we face as a country. Statistics Canada estimates that some 636,000 self-reported sexual assaults took place in Canada in 2014. Shockingly, it also estimates that as few as one in 20 were actually reported to police. Those are statistics which should give us great pause and lead us to ask ourselves what more we could be doing. The Senate amendments are very much in faith with trying to keep that.

I would also note that this is probably one of the last opportunities I will have to rise in this particular chamber to give a speech. I want to acknowledge the history of this place and what an honour it has been for me, in my short three years here, to have served in this House of Commons chamber. I know we will be going forward to West Block, and an admirable job has been done there.

I finish by wishing all my colleagues a merry Christmas. I hope they have a fantastic holiday season with friends and family, and that we come back in 2019 refreshed and ready to do our work on behalf of Canadians.

Bill C-51—Time Allocation MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2018 / 12:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, the hon. minister alluded to the repeal of section 159 of the Criminal Code. Section 159 is another unconstitutional section relating to anal intercourse. More than two years ago, with a whole lot of fanfare, the government introduced Bill C-32 to repeal section 159. Bill C-32 was such a priority of the government that the bill remains stuck at first reading.

The Liberals then, as the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford pointed out, rolled Bill C-32 into Bill C-39, which would remove, in addition to section 159, other unconstitutional sections. Bill C-39 is such a priority of the government that after being introduced on March 8, 2017, it remains stuck at first reading and two years later, section 159, an unconstitutional section, remains there in black and white in the Criminal Code. Can the minister explain this?

Bill C-51—Time Allocation MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2018 / 12:15 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, I am not satisfied with the minister's previous response to my question. We can look at the legislative track record of the Minister of Justice, starting with Bill C-28, the victim surcharge bill, which was rolled into Bill C-75. We had Bill C-32, which was rolled into Bill C-39, which was then rolled into Bill C-75, and now we have Bill C-51.

I talked about tactics. Time allocation is a tactic. It would have been an unnecessary one if we could have dealt with the substantive provisions in all those bills, but instead, the government's strategy was to basically string us along with the introduction of these justice bills that would clean up the inoperative provisions of the Criminal Code and then leave them in some kind of purgatory stuck at first reading.

When the Minister of Justice took office, everyone knew that there were zombie provisions in the Criminal Code that had to be cleaned up. This has been a topic of discussion for decades, and every year, the Criminal Code is faithfully reproduced with all of these mistakes.

Again, why did the Minister of Justice, in 2016, the first year of her mandate, not take the provisions in Bill C-32 and Bill C-39 and elements of Bill C-51 and package them in one bill? We could have had that passed, done and dusted by now, but instead, they were rolled up with contentious provisions, and they are still being debated. Bill C-75 has only just been sent to the Senate. Who knows how long it is going to take there?

Bill C-51—Time Allocation MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2018 / 12:05 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, I have found myself, as a New Democrat, in the awkward position of agreeing with the work the Senate has done. I was one of those who voted in favour of Bill C-51, because I agree with the focus of the bill and the provisions in it. Ultimately, what the Senate has attempted to do reflects very much what I attempted to do at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

My issue with the government's approach and its parliamentary tactics comes from the fact that for the various justice bills, Bill C-32, Bill C-39, Bill C-51 and Bill C-75, the Minister of Justice could very well have packaged many of the inoperative provisions of the Criminal Code in Bill C-39 and Bill C-51 in one bill that would have passed through Parliament relatively quickly. Instead, she packaged in some other provisions that have been more contentious, and therefore, has forced the government to use extraordinary measures like time allocation.

With all the evidence from legal experts over the years who have talked about the inoperative provisions of the Criminal Code, why could the Minister of Justice not have packaged the provisions in Bill C-39 and Bill C-51, which would not have had any argument, in one bill? Instead, three years into the government's mandate, we find ourselves still deliberating on these provisions, and nothing has changed.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2018 / 4:50 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, the hon. member for St. Albert—Edmonton and I sat on the justice committee last year. I certainly appreciated the subject matter we dealt with. It is a committee that demands a lot of responsibility from its members. It requires a lot of maturity, because the subject matter is always very weighty. When we are deliberating on legislation affecting the Criminal Code, there is a real sense that the actions we take when we amend that statute will have real-life consequences for people.

He is right when he talks about the government's slow legislative agenda. I will just correct him, however. Bill C-28 was actually the victim surcharge bill, but it was residing at first reading. Bill C-32 was also residing at first reading. We also had Bill C-38 and Bill C-39. The Canadian public got the feeling that the Minister of Justice, despite coming to power with a bold agenda to reform our criminal laws, was just kind of stringing the public along and giving us little crumbs, saying “Yes we're going to fix this”. Now, we finally have Bill C-75, which I liken to a giant amoeba that has swallowed all of those previous bills, but also added a whole bunch more. We are finally getting to the stage, three years later, where we get to debate this.

I agree with him that some of these bills could have been passed really quickly, like the zombie provisions of the Criminal Code. Scholars and professors have been calling for decades for the Criminal Code to be cleaned up, and we could have passed that bill very quickly, but we are only dealing with it now.

Would the hon. member agree that when we are looking at sections, like section 287, which deals with abortion, and section 159, that they could have been dealt with very quickly by the House and that it is a real shame that we are only doing that now?

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.