An Act to amend the Criminal Code (presentence report)

This bill was last introduced in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2019.


Majid Jowhari  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


Second reading (Senate), as of April 30, 2019
(This bill did not become law.)


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

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to require that a presentence report contain information on any aspect of the offender’s mental condition that is relevant for sentencing purposes.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


Nov. 7, 2018 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-375, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (presentence report)
Sept. 19, 2018 Passed Concurrence at report stage of Bill C-375, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (presentence report)
March 21, 2018 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-375, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (presentence report)

JusticeOral Questions

May 1st, 2024 / 2:40 p.m.
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Carleton Ontario


Pierre Poilievre ConservativeLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, he still will not clearly answer the question, which is doubly concerning because Toronto has been overtaken by crime and chaos since he brought in the catch-and-release policies under Bill C-375, Bill C-5 and Bill C-83. Violent crime is up 40%. We just heard the tragic story on Monday of a liquor store robber crashing into a family, tragically killing grandparents and a precious child. The assailant was out on bail.

Will the Prime Minister repeal catch-and-release?

Reduction of Recidivism Framework ActPrivate Members' Business

November 5th, 2020 / 6:50 p.m.
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Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend the hon. member for bringing this private member's bill forward and congratulate him on a great intervention. Typically when an intervention comes from the heart and is based on lived or shared experience, it really impacts this House. It is really meaningful when we have this as part of our interventions in the House.

It is a pleasure to have this opportunity to add my voice to today’s debate on Bill C-228, which proposes to establish a federal framework to reduce recidivism. Again, I thank the hon. member for Tobique—Mactaquac for putting forward this bill.

Specifically, the bill calls for the development and implementation of a federal framework that, in the interests of reducing recidivism, would ensure the needs of people who have been incarcerated are met and would support their rehabilitation.

Back in the 42nd Parliament, I had the opportunity to table Bill C-375, which was also focused on the reduction of recidivism, with a focus on mental health. Unfortunately, it died on the floor of the other House and I hope this bill does not see the same fate. I will be supporting this bill.

This bill is important because almost all offenders in Canadian federal correctional institutions will sooner or later be released safely back into the community. We need to ensure when people who have been incarcerated make that transition they are well prepared and well equipped to succeed and lead productive and law-abiding lives. That is why we have a continuity of care in our federal correctional system.

It starts with rehabilitation programming and treatment inside our institutions. These help prepare an offender for eventual release by promoting law-abiding lifestyles and good behaviour. However, if positive change is to last, it must continue in the community as well. That is why most people who have been incarcerated are also provided with support for a gradual, structured reintegration into the community under supervision and with conditions.

This approach helps improve public safety by providing appropriate rehabilitative and reintegration support to reduce the risk of reoffending. Indeed, it has been proven to lead to fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims and ultimately safer communities and a safer society.

A wide variety of programs, services and support are offered by Correctional Service Canada, Public Safety Canada and by partners in the community. While these initiatives are all different, they share the same goal to improve reintegration outcomes so people do not reoffend and return to our institutions after they are released.

It is important to note the transition from incarceration to freedom can often be difficult. The chance of success of people making this transition depends partly on their own efforts and partly on the supervision, opportunities, training and support they receive within the community. Community-based residential facilities are an important part of this process for gradual, supervised release.

The hon. member talked about the theme of three minutes, three hours, three days, three weeks, three months and three years, and this aligns with what our government is doing. These facilities provide a bridge between the institution and the community. Many offer programming for residents focused on important topics like life skills, substance abuse and employment. Some community-based residential facilities are owned and operated by non-governmental agencies.

Earlier this year, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our government announced that we would provide up to $500,000 to five national voluntary organizations to develop pilot projects during this unprecedented time to address the reintegration of those under supervision at halfway houses.

The lessons learned from the pilot projects will help continue to deliver effective programs and services to people in correctional institutions who are eligible for supervised release in the community. They will also keep halfway house residents and surrounding communities safe during emergencies such as COVID-19. People and organizations in the community also deliver programs and act as counsellors, role models and support networks. Community-based maintenance programs are one example.

The main goal of these programs is to reduce the risk of people committing new crimes and reoffending. The programs help people who have been incarcerated to enhance their self-management during their transition to the community. Through these programs, people review core self-management skills and apply them to real-life situations, obstacles and high-risk situations. This allows them to gain, rehearse and maintain recidivism-reducing skills. In addition to these efforts, our government is strengthening culturally responsive services and rehabilitation strategies.

We are also putting in place reintegration initiatives and building partnerships with indigenous communities and organizations to provide addiction treatment, trauma counselling and life-skill support. All these help to promote timely, safe and successful reintegration and to address the problem of overrepresentation of indigenous people in correctional facilities.

One example is the relatively new indigenous community correction initiative, which is a major development on this front. It was created to support the healing and rehabilitation of indigenous offenders and was backed by $10 million of funding over five years in budget 2017. The initiative provides funding for community-driven projects and offers alternatives to incarceration and reintegration support for indigenous offenders. The project works with indigenous offenders before they are released from a correctional facility and provides continuing support once the offender is back in the community.

The projects are also meant to be culturally relevant. They incorporate local customs and traditions and are responsive to the unique circumstances of indigenous people in Canada.

For Black Canadians, who are also overrepresented in our penitentiaries when comparing their percentage with the general population, CSC is studying the in-custody experience of racialized inmates, including Black Canadians. It will focus on participation in correctional programs, education and employment, while studying how ethnocultural offenders are reintegrating into the community in terms of employment opportunities and successful completion of sentences.

CSC continues to also invest in partnerships with universities and we are committed to doing more to ensure that Black offenders are offered a comprehensive level of service aimed at supporting their reintegration. This includes addressing employment and mentorship needs, culturally relevant presentations, community outreach with service providers, community engagement and ethnocultural services and the purchase of culturally relevant materials.

We know that there is more work to be done and we are committed to doing it. Both the Office of the Correctional Investigator and the Office of the Auditor General of Canada have highlighted the importance of supporting offenders in their reintegration into the community and have called for improved measures. The government has made significant investments and launched important new initiatives to that end in recent years. We continue to take steps to support the safe reintegration of federal offenders into the community, as productive and law-abiding citizens.

That does not mean that we cannot or should not do more. The overrepresentation of Black and indigenous inmates is unacceptable and we must continue to make progress to address the issue. That was reaffirmed in the most recent Speech from the Throne. Among other things, it notes that our government will introduce legislation and make investments that take action to address the systemic inequalities in all phases of the criminal justice system, from diversion to sentencing, from rehabilitation to records.

The proposed federal framework in Bill C-228 is a reasonable and welcome suggestion that would complement existing efforts to reduce recidivism. I look forward to further debates on the bill. I, personally, will be supporting the bill.

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 21st, 2019 / 4:45 p.m.
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Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to rise at the report stage of Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act. This bill has been extensively debated and scrutinized since its introduction. I have been watching with great interest as it proceeded through the House and the committee.

At the outset, I would like to thank all hon. colleagues, witnesses and members who shared their thoughts and offered constructive suggestions throughout the process, both in the chamber and at committee. As a legislator, the debate gave me and the House as a whole much to think about, and resulted in a stronger and more comprehensive bill.

Bill C-83 proposes the elimination of segregation and the creation of innovative new structured intervention units, or SIUs, for offenders who must be separated from their fellow inmates for safety and security reasons. SIUs would allow offenders who pose particularly difficult challenges to be separated from the mainstream inmate population when and if required. However, they would continue to receive the programming, intervention and health care that are essential to their rehabilitation.

Segregation is an immoral and ineffective practice. It does not deliver the results we are looking for in our correctional system, for our prisoners or for our correctional officers. As a member, I considered incorporating similar principles in my private member's legislation, Bill C-375, which would similarly legislate the nexus between mental health and our judicial system. However, as we saw with measures previously proposed in Bill C-56, the transformation of our penitentiaries is a profound undertaking that would require measures far beyond those made possible through private members' legislation.

Bill C-83 had a series of amendments adopted during its time in committee. In fact, every party that put forward amendments had at least one amendment ultimately adopted. Specifically, I will use my time to home in on amendments that strengthen the capacity of Bill C-83 to improve the mental well-being of prisoners. I will specifically address five areas that piqued my interest.

First, when Bill C-83 passed at second reading, it had, in principle, legislation that would guarantee inmates held within SIUs four hours outside of their cells. One of the proposed amendments to the bill specified that those hours be between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Those are normal waking hours for most people. This responds to the concerns raised in committee that time out of cells could be offered, say, in the middle of the night, when inmates would be unlikely to avail themselves of them.

The CMHA has connected lack of daylight to dips in mood and depression. There is also research that shows maintaining a regular sleep cycle, connected to the natural ebb and flow of the day, is important for maintaining mental health. This amendment would ensure that the four hours of time outside SIUs are not outside of the bounds of the natural day. It would prevent officials from providing these hours as an obligatory or dismissive exercise and ensure that they serve their intended purpose.

Second, human beings are built to seek out interaction with others, particularly in times of stress. Isolation can reduce cognition and even compromise the immune system. Extensive time in an unchanging environment can alter the way we process external stimuli. It can literally warp the way we experience the world around us. This is why Bill C-83 includes provisions that would guarantee inmates the opportunity for two hours of meaningful human contact each and every day.

Thanks to amendments put forward in the committee, this principle has been strengthened practically. By looking to ensure that this interaction is not hindered by physical barriers such as bars or security glass, the proposed amendment would ensure that those two hours are not just perfunctory but meaningful human contact.

Third, socializing with peers and participating in rehabilitative programming outside their cells would also go a long way toward improving the mental health and well-being of inmates in an SIU. It would put them on the right track to reintegrating into the mainstream inmate population. Beyond that, it would help their chances of successfully reintegrating into society as law-abiding members of society at the end of their sentences.

Fourth, the proposed reforms in Bill C-83 would also strengthen health care, including mental health services, in corrections in several ways. It would mandate the Correctional Service to support the autonomy and clinical independence of health care professionals working within a correctional facility. As well, it would allow for the use of patient advocates, as was recommended by the inquiry into the death of Ashley Smith.

Within SIUs, inmates would receive daily visits from health care professionals, who could recommend at any time that an inmate's conditions of confinement be altered or that they be transferred out of the SIU. These recommendations could stem from a professional mental health assessment. In turn, these recommendations could pre-empt mental health crises or imminent self-harm.

Fifth, an amendment adopted at committee would strengthen this aspect of the bill by requiring an additional review at a more senior level external to the institution if the warden does not accept medical recommendations.

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of these measures. Mental health is an extremely serious problem in our prisons. Some 70% of male offenders have a mental health issue. At 80%, the percentage is even higher for women offenders. The ministers of public safety and justice have been mandated to address gaps in services to people with mental illnesses in the criminal justice system. The proposed reforms in Bill C-83 support that commitment.

They also build on recent investments in this area. The last two budgets included nearly $80 million for mental health care in corrections, and more recently, in the fall economic statement the Minister of Finance announced substantial funding of $448 million for corrections. This funding will help support the transformational changes to the correctional system proposed in this bill, and it will allow for comprehensive improvements to mental health care in corrections within SIUs and across the board.

It also directly addresses calls for increased resources made at committee by Jason Godin, the national president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, and by Stanley Stapleton, the national president of the Union of Safety and Justice Employees.

In other words, should this bill pass into law, the appropriate resources will be in place to ensure it successfully fulfills its objectives. I know this was a concern raised at committee, and it was also raised during this debate. I am reassured there is already an effort on behalf of the government to allocate appropriate resources.

In conclusion, the number one objective of this bill is safety. Correctional staff and other inmates need to be protected from certain offenders who cannot be safely managed in the mainstream population. By ensuring inmates separated from the mainstream population get the interventions they need to increase their chances of successful rehabilitation, the bill would lead to greater safety inside correctional institutions, and greater safety in our communities when those inmates are eventually released.

We started this process with a very good bill. What we have before us today is an even stronger version of the legislation, bolstered by the productive contributions of witnesses at committee and the serious work of committee members.

In closing, I fully support Bill C-83 and I urge all hon. members to do the same thing.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 5:40 p.m.
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Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak at third reading to Bill C-75. I had the opportunity recently to speak on another bill that also sought to amend the Criminal Code, Bill C-375. In that speech, I drew attention to the Liberals' alarming track record on criminal justice. I would like to continue with these thoughts today in the context of the bill before us.

Bill C-75 continues a disturbing pattern from the Liberal government. Where previous governments of all stripes sought to protect victims of crime, the Liberal government seems to favour the protection of criminals instead. From their first days in government, the Liberals have used the levers of power to shield and protect criminals while leaving victims and their families in the cold.

We have seen this time and time again, with the Liberals' $10.5-million payout to Omar Khadr and their subsequent snubbing of Tabitha Speer, their shocking response to Terri-Lynne McClintic's transfer from a secure prison to a healing lodge, their abysmal response to gang crimes through Bill C-71, along with countless other examples.

When Canadians dared to raise their concerns, the Prime Minister labelled them ambulance chasers. Perhaps the most tangible examples of the government's disordered protection of criminals have come in this bill. When Bill C-75 was introduced, it reduced the penalties for advocating genocide and participation in terrorist activities to possibly as little as a fine. It was only at the insistence of my Conservative colleagues at committee that these clauses were removed.

I am glad the Liberal members on that committee saw the folly of the original text, but it begs the question: how could the government have thought those clauses were in any way appropriate in the first place? Unfortunately, I believe that this is not a one-time occurrence, but as I said, a disturbing pattern regarding terrorists from the government.

As I already mentioned, take the case of Omar Khadr which resulted in a convicted terrorist becoming a millionaire at the expense of Canadian taxpayers, and this is just one example. Recall that long before the Liberals tried to use Bill C-75 to lower the penalties for engaging in terrorist activities, one of the first items on the Prime Minister's agenda was to pull our air force out of the fight against ISIS. This was a backward decision at the time and in retrospect, almost indefensible.

Just days ago, a mass grave holding the remains of more Yazidi victims of ISIS was discovered in Kar Azir town. This is the 71st mass grave found in the area. The men, women and children in these graves were slaughtered by members of ISIS, some of whom are from this country. These ISIS terrorists stoned women to death for the crime of being raped. They killed families for believing in their own God or being the wrong ethnicity. They burned men alive for refusing to join their evil cause or threw them off buildings for being gay.

As I previously pointed out in this place, the Minister of Foreign Affairs could not even bring herself to call these monsters terrorists--

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 7th, 2018 / 6:55 p.m.
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The Acting Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill C-375 under private members' business. The question is on the motion.

May I dispense?

The House resumed from October 31 consideration of the motion that Bill C-375, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (presentence report), be read the third time and passed.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

October 31st, 2018 / 6:25 p.m.
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Sherry Romanado Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Seniors, Lib.

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate of private member's Bill C-375, an act to amend the Criminal Code (pre-sentence report). I would like to acknowledge the contributions of the members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for their hard work in studying the bill.

The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights recently completed its study of Bill C-375 and reported it back with one amendment that makes three changes to the proposed language of the bill. The bill, as amended by committee, has now been concurred in at report stage.

In my view, the committee's amendment clarifies the language in the bill and will ensure it better achieves its stated objectives.

Before I speak about the specific amendment, I would like to take a moment to speak about the bill itself. The bill seeks to amend the Criminal Code provisions relating to pre-sentence reports. Pre-sentence reports are ordered by the court and prepared by probation officers to help the court learn about the person to be sentenced and, in turn, to help the court discharge its responsibility to impose fit and appropriate sentences.

Currently, the Criminal Code specifies that a pre-sentence report should contain certain information about the offender, for example, age, maturity and character, unless the court orders otherwise. However, the Criminal Code is silent as to whether or not relevant mental health information should be included.

Bill C-375 proposes to amend section 721 of the Criminal Code to clarify that, wherever possible, a pre-sentence report should also include available mental health information about the offender.

During its review, the justice committee heard from several witnesses, each with an expertise in mental health and the criminal justice system and each bringing a different perspective to the table.

The Probation Officers Association of Ontario shared some very useful information with the committee about the collection and transmission of that information. The association noted that, if an offender has a mental health diagnosis, probation officers have to investigate and confirm the diagnosis through contact with mental health professionals where possible.

However, sometimes an offender's diagnosis is not confirmed or the offender does not disclose it to the probation officer. In such cases, information about mental health may come from collateral sources, such as family members, employers or professional counsellors. If necessary, probation officers include comments about observed or reported behaviours in the pre-sentence report.

Essentially, Bill C-375 would codify this standard practice to require the inclusion of mental health information in pre-sentence reports. All judges and criminal justice professionals would have access to that information and would take it into consideration at sentencing following criminal proceedings.

As I noted earlier, the justice committee amended the bill to reflect some of the expert testimony presented to it. The amendment resulted in three notable changes to the original language of the bill.

The first change to the language replaced the term “mental disorder” with “mental condition”. This responded to a concern that, as introduced, the wording in Bill C-375 was too narrow, as it would have required a specific diagnosis. The impact of this part of the amendment would be to broaden the wording of the bill, as introduced, to ensure that a pre-sentence report contained more general information about the mental condition of the offender that might be relevant for sentencing purposes, as well as any related behavioural challenges, and not solely a medical diagnosis.

The second change to the language will ensure that only the information about mental health with a direct relationship to the proceedings will be provided to protect the offender's privacy. This would address the concerns the committee heard about the presence in public records of information unrelated to the offence or sentence.

The third change to the language specified that information about “mental health services or support available to the offender” be included in a pre-sentence report. This broadens the language of the bill as introduced, which provided that the pre-sentence report should also include information about “mental health care programs”.

Broadening this language would ensure that the legislation would not unduly limit the treatment an offender could access. This amendment responded to three of the issues discussed by witnesses, and in my view, it is consistent with the purpose of the bill.

When the bill's sponsor, the member for Richmond Hill, appeared before the standing committee, he indicated that the purpose of Bill C-375 was to ensure that mental health information be considered during sentencing and that individuals with a history of mental illness be provided appropriate care and treatment in support of their rehabilitation.

I believe that the bill, with the amendment adopted at committee, strikes the appropriate balance between protecting the privacy interests of the accused and ensuring that the court has the appropriate information to make a fit sentence.

This bill would only signal that where mental health information was available to the probation officer, either from the accused directly or through collateral sources, that information would be relevant to sentencing and should be included in the pre-sentence report.

I believe the committee's amendment strengthens this bill and responds to the concerns raised before the committee. As such, I will be voting to adopt the bill, as amended, at third reading.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

October 31st, 2018 / 6:15 p.m.
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Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today in support of Bill C-375. The bill would amend the Criminal Code to require all pre-sentence reports to include information on the mental health of the offender.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Richmond Hill for bringing the bill forward for debate and for his hard work on the mental health caucus.

In the 19th century, Russian novelist Dostoevsky once said, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” His meaning is clear. The administration of justice reflects the values of society.

The first MP to take a stand on this self-evident truth was also the first woman to sit in the House, Agnes Macphail. In 1935, after making a personal visit to Kingston Penitentiary, Agnes Macphail realized that the administrative system was not designed to reform prisoners, but simply to punish and separate inmates from society. Her most challenging proposal for reform was to end military and political appointments to penitentiary administration and to appoint instead superintendents with penology training and medical doctors with psychological training.

While her series of reforms brought meaningful change to our penitentiary system, there is still much work we need to do.

If mental health policies have been slow to develop in Canada, it is fair to say that this issue is especially present in our prison system. According to the Office of the Correctional Investigator, 16.9% of male inmates have mood disorders, half suffer from alcohol and drug abuse and 16% have borderline personality disorder. Our government is seized with addressing this inequity.

Bill C-375 identifies an important gap in our justice system. It is already common place in many jurisdictions for offenders to provide information about their mental health through a probation officer. The practical result of this bill would be to signal to a sentencing judge that this information would be a relevant consideration at the time of sentencing.

Mental illness affects nearly all Canadians at some point in their lives, either personally or through a family member, friend or colleague. An estimated 20% of Canadians will personally experience a mental health illness in their lifetime. The number of individuals with mental health issues who have become involved in the criminal justice system has increased over the past several decades.

What we have in place is simply not working.

The stated goals of the bill are consistent with the mandate given by the Prime Minister to the Minister of Justice, which asks her to address gaps in services to those with mental illness throughout the criminal justice system. I think that most Guelphites, as well as most Canadians, would agree that the issue of mental illness could be better managed in the criminal justice system.

A number of factors have been cited as contributing to the increasing numbers of individuals with mental illness in the criminal justice system. Some of these include a lack of sufficient community resources, including housing, income and mental health services. They all connect.

Individuals with mental illness are more likely to be arrested, detained, incarcerated and more likely to be disciplined rather than treated while incarcerated. Once they have been released from the criminal justice system, they are also more likely to be arrested and detained again. Further, there is a high rate of substance abuse among individuals with mental illness, resulting in more complex needs.

It is an area where we must continue to work together with our provincial and territorial counterparts, as well as community stakeholders, to ensure that meaningful progress is made.

I want to be clear that improving the mental health responses of the criminal justice system is not about letting offenders off easy. On the contrary, it is consistent with our government's stated commitment to a criminal justice system that keeps communities safe, respects victims and holds offenders to account.

In particular, addressing mental health is one of the critical ways that we can divert offenders from the so-called revolving door of incarceration to both improve chances of successful reintegration and also to make more efficient use of scarce resources. These outcomes, and not simply punitive measures, should drive our decision-making tonight. As a result, every step we take to improve outcomes for those with mental illness is a step worthy of careful consideration by parliamentarians.

The bill complements our government's progress in addressing mental illness issues. In budget 2017, as has previously been mentioned, the government committed $5 billion over the next five years to the provinces and territories to improve access to mental health services. In addition, to ensure that federally sentenced offenders with mental health needs receive proper care, budget 2017 also proposed to invest $57.8 million over five years starting in 2017-18, and $13.6 million every year thereafter to expand mental health care for all inmates in federal correctional facilities.

Last year, the hon member for Richmond Hill and I visited the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ontario, not too far from my home. There we saw the complex needs of the inmates. We saw trauma, addictions and the effects of adverse childhood effects. We saw bright young women incarcerated who really wanted more access to educational resources so that they could have a better life once their term was finished.

We saw a lot of opportunities for improvement, but at the root we saw a lot of care that is needed in mental health and addictions. Our government has acknowledged the need for funding in this area and has set aside $20 million in budget 2018 for mental health care of women offenders.

If we are to address and reverse the stigma surrounding mental health, we cannot ignore parts of Canadian society such as prisons. Often enough, society tends to make an “other” of the people on its fringes: people in the criminal justice system, indigenous peoples and people struggling with mental health issues.

Particularly for those who come before the criminal justice system, assumptions about the person's past and motivations come quickly. The bill helps to prevent the kind of assumptions from taking the place of fact in Canadian courts.

Eighty years ago Agnes Macphail took up the struggle to reform Canada's prisons. Then as now, fairness and respect are the ultimate goals of our reforms.

Bill C-375 acknowledges and seeks to address the gap in Canada's legal system that is easily addressed in the legislation before us today.

Before I end, I would like to thank again the hon. member for Richmond Hill for bringing this to the floor for debate. We both come from business backgrounds and both sit on the industry committee together and why are we talking about mental health? It is simply the biggest issue that we are facing within our constituencies. I thank the member for bringing this forward. I encourage all our colleagues in the House to support this very important legislation.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

October 31st, 2018 / 6:05 p.m.
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Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, I had my opening remarks prepared, but after listening to the previous speech, it is important to clarify a few things.

What the member for Richmond Hill is attempting to do is amend a very specific section of the Criminal Code. That is well within the rights of the federal level of government. It is very separate from victims services. As we all know, victims services fall under the provincial jurisdiction. The administration of justice in Canada falls to the provincial governments. We have a very limited jurisdiction in amending criminal law, so it is important to state that clear fact.

Furthermore, when people get to the pre-sentence stage, they are no longer suspects, they are now offenders; they have been found guilty. Given the huge amount of evidence that exists regarding mental health issues in Canada's prisons and given the previous member's own stated support for mental health supports, I do not see why we should not tackle this issue. This is not putting the rights of offenders over the rights of victims. Those are completely separate issues. A judge is the expert of the case and has heard all of the facts. This is about giving that person, who is in a decision-making stage, even more facts to make the correct and appropriate decision.

I was at the justice committee. I heard the testimony from numerous witnesses who work in the criminal justice system. They support this piece of legislation going through. It is important to hold up facts, to back up our deliberations with those facts, and not to go down some rabbit hole talking about support for offenders over the rights of victims.

On a personal note, I have a friend who recently was subjected to a crime and she accessed victims services in the province of British Columbia. I can say, with pride, that she found those services to work very well. She found the judge in her case and all of the support staff were there every single step of the way. Therefore, for the Conservatives to suggest that victims do not have rights in this country is factually incorrect, given the experiences of my personal friend. She found herself supported every step of the way by the justice system in British Columbia. I just wanted to read that into the record.

I want to thank the member for Richmond Hill because the other key difference here is that this is not a government bill. This is from a Liberal backbencher who has taken the right that we all have in this place to take an issue that is important to a member's local community, which his or her constituents or Canadians within the wider region have identified as an issue, and to bring it forward. The member has identified this as an important piece, so we need to respect that. This is not a government bill masquerading as a private member's piece of legislation.

The very specific section of the Criminal Code that Bill C-375 addresses is section 721. There are some differences in the wording of this legislation, from second reading to the stage it is in now. That is because the justice committee did its due diligence and it listened to the testimony. I agree with the member for Richmond Hill that the language was tightened up to take account of some of that testimony. We had three meetings at the justice committee on this particular bill. I was present for two of them, where I got to listen to most of the witness testimony.

I thank the hon. member for Victoria, who serves as our party's justice critic and has done an admirable job at that committee for us. We attempted to move an amendment at the committee stage. It was not agreed to, but through all of the deliberations that went on, the bill that is now before the House has taken into account a lot of the improvements that were mentioned.

Pre-sentence reports already do exist. In section 721 of the Criminal Code, in paragraph 721(3)(a), pre-sentence reports already require that, “[an] offender’s age, maturity, character, behaviour, attitude and willingness to make amends” be included in a pre-sentence report.

Therefore, it is key that we now include a new section 8.1, which reads, “any aspect of the offender’s mental condition that is relevant for sentencing purposes, as well as any mental health services or support available to the offender”. We do not want to house with the general population someone who has an obvious mental health issue. That would not serve the general population well, and it certainly would not serve that particular person well.

A lot of attention has been paid to mental health lately. At the justice committee last year we were engaged in a groundbreaking study on mental health support for jurors, because jurors are often dragooned into service from of their normal family lives. I was there when we were listening to jurors who partook in the Paul Bernardo trial. They had to watch all of the videos and hear all of the audio tapes. After the trial was done and they had delivered their verdict, they were simply given a handshake, a pat on the back, released back to their family lives and expected to go on normally. Therefore, I really hope that the Department of Justice listens to the recommendations in that report.

We are also making landmark strides in mental health with respect to first responders, our veterans, Canadians Forces personnel, and now in the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food we are tackling the issue with respect to farmers. I think the conversation is headed in the right direction, and I am glad to see that this particular private member's bill is continuing along in that vein.

We had testimony at committee from the Probation Officers Association of Ontario. These are people who are working every single day in the correctional system. We had the director from the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies there, as well as the executive director of the John Howard Society. We also had some testimony from the defence counsel of the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers. These are people who are intimately involved with the justice system, understand it very well and understand where the shortcomings are.

However, Dean Embry from the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers did have reservations about the bill. In his testimony, he was quite concerned about some of its privacy implications. His concerns were taken into account and that is why we see the language tightened up.

Providing information about an individual's mental health in a pre-sentence report allows the judge to make a more informed decision about an appropriate sentence. However, this measure is not intended to result in the disclosure of one's mental condition. Also, I think it is very important to note that it is not about perpetuating stigma or the false perception that those with mental health disorders are dangerous. It is simply designed to assist the individual to obtain care and receive an appropriate sentence.

It is also important, because privacy concerns were raised, that the the pre-sentence reports are distributed only to members with a vested interest in the case. They include the judge, counsel for the defence and the prosecution, the parole officer, the individual and, in some cases, the institution where the sentence will be served.

We know that people with mental illness are overrepresented in the criminal justice system, and there are statistics on that. There was a report in 2012 showing that 36% of federal offenders were identified at admission as requiring psychiatric or psychological follow-up. Additionally, 45% of male inmates and 69% of female inmates received institutional mental health care services.

To conclude, we should be giving a judge as much information as possible to make an appropriate sentence for someone who has already been found guilty. Giving a pre-sentencing report, I think, is in everyone's interest. We should be giving a judge the widest amount of discretion possible to take in all of the facts of the case to make an appropriate sentence.

I thank the member for Richmond Hill for bringing this proposed legislation forward. I congratulate him for the bill's making it to this stage, and I look forward to offering my support when the House votes on the matter.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

October 31st, 2018 / 6:05 p.m.
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Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Madam Speaker, it is important that we understand the pattern of the current government's introduction of government bills or private members' bills, particularly justice bills. The fact is that the bills the government introduces tend to undermine the rights of victims and overly represent the rights of criminals.

I believe that the private member's bill before us today, Bill C-375 falls into that category. I am simply trying to demonstrate how Bill C-375 fits into the pattern that I was outlining earlier. It is not a well thought-out bill due to the changing nature of psychological research. The bill includes all mental health disorders. This is a mistake. It would provide prisoners with an incentive to claim they have a mental health condition, some of which are difficult to verify.

While I do have deep respect for the mental health workers in our justice system, their ability to meet their current responsibilities is already stretched. I believe that the requirements of Bill C-375 would further slow an already glacial process. I believe that would also result in an unequal application of the law, and weaker sentences for many offenders.

As I was saying earlier, my greatest concern about this bill is that it continues the Liberal pattern of prioritizing criminals over victims. For example, in my province of Saskatchewan, we were shocked to hear that Terri-Lynne McClintic, the woman who murdered eight-year-old Tori Stafford, was being housed in a healing lodge in the province instead of being held behind bars where she deserves to be.

Healing lodges are meant to help reintegrate offenders into the community, not to be housing for child killers. Tori Stafford's father begged the Prime Minister to send Ms. McClintic back to prison. The lead investigator denounced her transfer. The Nekaneet First Nation that runs the lodge is very concerned about that transfer. However, the Liberals refuse to act and send her back where she belongs.

The Liberal government ignores the rights of victims and coddles criminals. Canadians deserve better than a government that treats victims like criminals, and criminals like family. Therefore, I will be voting against this motion.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

October 31st, 2018 / 6 p.m.
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Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Madam Speaker, I would point out that the comments I am making do build on a pattern we are seeing, which is certainly relevant to the bill before us here today, Bill C-375.

The bills the government has introduced have tended to weaken penalties, as in Bill C-375. The penalties were weakened to as little as a fine for many other serious crimes, such as forging a passport, impaired driving causing bodily harm, the use of the date rape drug, the abduction of children, and taking part in gang violence.

Even when the Liberals claim they are targeting criminals, they manage to miss the mark wildly. In Bill C-71, the Liberals claimed to be going after gang-related firearms crimes. That is another example, as is Bill C-375. Nowhere in Bill C-71 is the word “gang” mentioned. Instead the bill focuses on law-abiding firearms owners and does nothing to reduce gang violence. Recently, the Liberals have been talking about a hand gun ban. All that will do is hurt law-abiding Canadians. We all know that criminals break the law. Adding another law will not change that. Bill C-71 and the proposed hand gun ban are smokescreens to hide the government's disgracefully weak record on crime, and its disturbing—

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

October 31st, 2018 / 6 p.m.
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Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I am trying to keep up here and I wondered what relevance this speech has had so far to private member's bill, Bill C-375. With all due respect to my friend, I see none.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

October 31st, 2018 / 5:55 p.m.
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Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today and speak to Bill C-375, an act to amend the Criminal Code, to require that a pre-sentence report contain information on any mental disorder that an offender may have.

I understand and am sympathetic to those who suffer from mental health disorders. I proudly supported the private member's bill of my colleague from Niagara Falls, Bill C-233, which sought to address the challenges of Alzheimer's and other dementias on a national level. However, I am deeply concerned about this bill. This bill, when taken together with other legislation introduced and passed by the current Liberal government, continues a long and disturbing pattern of favouring the protection of criminals over the protection of the victims of crime.

Just last week, I stood in this place and compared the record of the last Conservative government on crime with the record of the current Liberal government. They stand in stark contrast. From day one of their mandate, the Liberals have demonstrated both an appalling indifference to victims and a disquieting compassion for criminals. We have seen this time and again. This is the government that willingly gave a $10.5 million payout to unrepentant convicted terrorist Omar Khadr, who killed American medic Sergeant Christopher Speer in a firefight in Afghanistan in 2002. Further, Tabitha Speer, Sergeant Speer's widow, was awarded a judgment of $134 million by a court in Utah against Omar Khadr. The Liberals could have, and I would suggest should have, waited to allow the courts to rule on an injunction for Mrs. Speer. Instead, they rushed payment to Khadr, making enforcement of the judgment unlikely.

What of our Canadian veterans who need help? To them, the Prime Minister had one thing to say, that they were asking for more than he was willing to give. However, for ISIS fighters, it seems the cash never stops flowing. The Prime Minister pledged to use taxpayers' hard-earned money to de-radicalize terrorists through such tried and tested means as reading Canadian poetry.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, for her part, refuses to use the term “ISIS terrorists”, instead choosing to use the vapid term “foreign fighters”. When pressed on her plan for these so-called foreign fighters, she offered this gem of an insight:

With respect to the foreign fighters, I think we need to remember why they are where they are right now.

We all remember why they are where they are. We remember that they left Canada to engage in horrific war crimes against innocent men, women, and children halfway around the world, crimes like beheading innocents, throwing gay people off buildings, and stoning women to death for the crime of being raped. According to the Prime Minister, these hardened terrorists can be “an extraordinarily powerful voice” in Canada. One wonders what those voices are saying.

The Conservatives have fought this disturbing hippyesque Kumbaya session with criminals and terrorists every step of the way. When Bill C-75 was introduced, it weakened the penalties for many crimes, including terrorism-related charges, to possibly as little as a fine. The Liberals spent months defending this decision before finally backing down and supporting Conservative amendments that ensured that terrorists would face the consequences of their actions. It took months of pressure and hard work to make this one obvious change. However, even now the bill remains deeply flawed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-375, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (presentence report), be read the third time and passed.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

October 31st, 2018 / 5:30 p.m.
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Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Madam Speaker, it is indeed an honour and privilege to be able to bring forward legislation that would alter the Criminal Code in accordance with the compassion and common sense priorities of my constituents in Richmond Hill.

In our community, I host regular talks over coffee and make time whenever I can to meet with constituents during office hours. Mental health has and continues to be a top priority in my riding of Richmond Hill. It is why I have worked to support organizations such as Home on the Hill, 360°kids and the Krasman Centre in my riding. It is also why, when I came to Ottawa, I told my constituents that I would focus my energy on advancing the progressive ideals I was elected to uphold and fight for, namely, the advancement of equality for all Canadians and, in particular, those who are marginalized and lack the support they need.

This began with my founding the Liberal mental health caucus, a group of like-minded Liberal members who heard from experts and those with lived experiences, in an effort to identify the gaps in mental health services and what resources could be best spent on in that regard. As part of this effort, my colleague, the member of Parliament for Guelph, and I went on a fact-finding mission to Kitchener, Ontario, where we toured the Grand Valley Institution for Women, operated by Correctional Services Canada. We learned that over 20% of the federal offenders have been identified as struggling with mental health problems, often with more than one disorder. Furthermore, the rate of mental illness among federal offenders has almost doubled in the last 20 years.

The correctional investigator's 2012 annual report found that 36% of offenders at federal penitentiaries were identified as requiring psychiatric or psychological follow-up. Forty per cent of male inmates and 69% of female inmates were treated for mental health issues while in prison. Most importantly, it became clear that the deinstitutionalization of mental health services and the closure of psychiatric hospitals, a victory for the compassionate and progressive treatment of individuals with mental health needs, had been replaced with a new form of institutionalization, where individuals with mental health needs find themselves falling through the cracks and being funnelled into a criminal system designed for incarceration and punishment, not treatment or support.

Since then, I have expanded the mental health caucus into the parliamentary mental health caucus, where we have heard testimony from witnesses on the topic of youth suicide. Most recently, we co-hosted many events around mental health at Parliament. However, it was in the early days during our exploratory visit to the penitentiary that inspired the creation of Bill C-375.

Bill C-375 is one small step forward in addressing the invisible cost society bears fiscally and socially for our historical inability to provide care, treatment and support for those suffering from mental health concerns. As initially put forward, Bill C-375 would amend paragraph 721(3)(a) of the Criminal Code, mandating that unless otherwise specified, when a pre-sentencing report is required by a court, in addition to such information as age, maturity, character, behaviour, attitude and willingness to make amends, information outlining any mental health disorder as well as any mental health care programs available for the accused be provided as part of their pre-sentencing report.

Today, there exists no mandate for courts to consider the mental health history of an individual in presentencing proceedings, yet they are mandated to take into account subjective factors such as attitude or character.

As Bill C-375 ensures that pertinent information would be taken into account during presentencing, an individual with a history of mental health issues would be afforded the appropriate care and treatment during the administration of justice and their rehabilitation. Nevertheless, the Probation Officer Association of Ontario has noted that, at least in this jurisdiction, this was already standard practice and that federal legislation would simply codify and expand that across all jurisdictions.

In the long term, the legislation presents an opportunity for us to take a real step forward, decrease recidivism, improve rehabilitation, and further erode the stigmatization of mental illness.

In the short term, there are immediate benefits to the quality of life in our prisons, as well as to the efficacy of the services in the administration of justice and the rehabilitation of vulnerable populations.

In any individual sentencing, our justice system is well served by being made fully aware of relevant mental health concerns. With mental health information included in a presentence report, the interplay of mental health and the condition of incarceration can be taken fully into account. Readily available mental health information is invaluable when considering a step as drastic as solitary confinement or choosing the facility that can best provide the appropriate mental health services.

By ensuring that mental health concerns are considered in these decisions, we can reduce the strain on penitentiary security officers while creating an environment that mitigates inflammatory factors and encourages conditions that reduce recidivism in the long term. This can be particularly useful in crafting cases of conditional sentencing as well as in creating conditions for effective reintegration following release.

During committee testimony, a representative of the John Howard Society of Canada brought up an interesting example of where this context would matter even outside of incarceration. The representative noted that there are mental health issues that can predispose an individual to committing breaches due to their inability to appropriately understand the causality surrounding their behaviour. For instance, this issue would be relevant context when considering a probation order or other forms of custodial penalties that the individual may or may not be able to discharge without committing further infractions.

It is also my understanding that ensuring relevant mental health information is available at every step of the process would also make cases less vulnerable to attack on appeal, saving time and money for our judicial system and providing a net benefit in terms of the overall cost and burden associated with mental health issues.

Following its stint at committee, Bill C-375 was returned to the House with some amendments. Principally, these changes would do the following: First, alter the terminology by replacing “mental health disorder” with “mental health condition”, therefore replacing the word “disorder” with the “word condition”. Second, they require that the mental health information be relevant for sentencing purposes, so relevancy was introduced in the bill. Finally, they replaced the term “mental health care program” with “mental health services or supports”; hence, replacing the words “care program” with “services or supports”.

I am pleased with these amendments, which I feel would strengthen the core of my legislation. One of the realities of putting forward a private member's bill is that one tries to craft legislation that will find sufficient consensus to be made into law. That can make the legislation cautious in its approach.

The other fear I expect all members have is that their legislation will return from committee weakened or watered down, which is why I am so pleased that these amendments are a positive step forward.

The first and third amendments I mentioned, which alter the language of the bill, actually widen its scope, covering a wider array of mental health conditions as well as services available for the offender.

During committee, there were examples given of situations where a mental health condition could be entirely separate from the judicial consideration at play and by including it, one would be party to an unnecessary and inconsiderable breach of the offender's privacy.

The second amendment ensures that there is a clear connection between the mental health condition disclosed and the judicial consideration at hand. I appreciate that this amendment actually tightens my proposed legislation to the causality between an offender's mental health condition and the judicial situation.

As I said when the bill came before the committee, the relationship between mental health care and our criminal justice system is dynamic and evolving. This complex situation must be addressed by more than a single private member's bill, and I certainly would not frame Bill C-375 as a be-all solution. However, it is a strong step forward that would have a real-world impact on the lives of one or more Canadians, while saving the valuable time of our judicial system and money.

I would like to take a quick moment to acknowledge of the work of Mr. Glenn Bradbury, who was instrumental in working with me in drafting the legislation. I would also like to thank those experts and colleagues who have advised me along the way. Indeed, it has been a long road.