An Act to amend the Criminal Code (unconstitutional provisions) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

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



Second reading (House), as of March 8, 2017
(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, among other things, remove passages and repeal provisions that have been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada. It also repeals section 159 of that Act and provides 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 the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Youth Criminal Justice Act.


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.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2018 / 11 a.m.
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Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Madam Speaker, I am not going to speculate as to whether or not a previous bill, Bill C-39, could have been passed by unanimous consent.

What I am confident in and very pleased with is that Bill C-75 includes the former Bill C-39 to remove these zombie laws that my friend has spoken about. It is contained within Bill C-75, which has passed third reading in this House and is on its way to the other place. I look forward to the debate and discussion in the other place on this important piece of criminal justice reform and to the speedy passage of Bill C-75 so that we can, in fact, remove the zombie provisions that are contained within the Criminal Code.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2018 / 11 a.m.
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Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, it is positive that Bill C-51 seeks to remove redundant and obsolete sections of the Criminal Code. What is unfortunate is that the government still has not been able to move forward with the removal of the so-called zombie laws, the sections of the Criminal Code that have been deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

The minister mentioned Bill C-75, which includes the removal of those provisions. However, the minister neglected to note that Bill C-39 was introduced all the way back in March 2017, which would have removed those sections. Why did the government not pass Bill C-39, which could have been passed unanimously in this House almost two years ago?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2018 / 10:35 a.m.
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Vancouver Granville B.C.


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


That a Message be sent to the Senate to acquaint Their Honours that the House respectfully disagrees with amendments 1 and 2 made by the Senate to Bill C-51, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Department of Justice Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act, as they are inconsistent with the Bill’s objective of codifying Supreme Court of Canada jurisprudence on a narrow aspect of the law on sexual assault and instead seek to legislate a different, much more complex legal issue, without the benefit of consistent guidance from appellate courts or a broad range of stakeholder perspectives.

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to stand to speak to Bill C-51, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Department of Justice Act and to make consequential amendments to another act, and to respond to the amendments from the other place in this regard. It is a particular honour for me to stand to speak to the bill on white ribbon day, which, as we heard, commemorates the massacre that occurred in Montreal 29 years ago today.

As part of my mandate commitments I have been reviewing the criminal justice system with a view to ensuring that it is meeting its objectives and maintaining public safety. My review is also intended to ensure our criminal justice system is fair, relevant, efficient and accessible, that it meets the needs of its victims, respects an accused's right to a fair trial and is better able to respond to the causes and consequences of offending.

These are broad and important objectives, so our government has approached these tasks in phases. In Bill C-39, we removed passages and repealed provisions in the Criminal Code that had been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada, so that the law as written reflected the law as applied.

In Bill C-46, we significantly modernized Canada's impaired driving laws in order to protect the health and safety of Canadians and to provide law enforcement with the resources they need to effectively detect and prosecute impaired driving.

In Bill C-75, we seek to tackle the delays that are encumbering our courts.

Today, with Bill C-51, we continue to build on our government's commitment to reviewing the criminal justice system and to making all aspects of the criminal law fairer, clearer and more accessible to Canadians. In particular, the bill seeks to modernize the Criminal Code by repealing or amending provisions that courts have found unconstitutional or that raise unavoidable charter risk.

The bill also aims to ensure that offences in the Criminal Code continue to reflect today's society and its values. To that end the bill removes a number of obsolete or redundant criminal offences that no longer have a place in our criminal law.

Further, the bill creates amendments to the Department of Justice Act. Pursuant to these amendments, the Minister of Justice would have a statutory duty for every government bill to table in Parliament a statement that sets out the bill's potential effects on the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the charter. For every one of the bills I have tabled, I have tabled charter statements. These amendments would provide greater openness and transparency about the effects of government legislation on charter rights.

Finally, the bill seeks to clarify and strengthen the law on sexual assault in order to prevent misapplication of the law and to help make the criminal justice system fairer and more compassionate toward complainants in sexual assault matters.

The importance of these reforms cannot be overstated, and I would like to recognize and acknowledge all those who have been subject to sexual assault and gender-based violence. Sexual assault is a serious problem in Canada. It affects communities across the country and across all social and economic barriers, and it remains a significant barrier to women's equality.

Addressing violence against women is an issue of the utmost importance to me and to our government as a whole. We remain deeply committed to ensuring that our criminal justice system is responsive to the needs of sexual assault victims. To that end, we have provided significant funding for judicial education relating to sexual assault law, so that judges are better educated on this crucial area of law.

We have also made millions of dollars available through the victims fund to enhance the criminal justice system's response to sexual violence. These resources support important work such as pilot projects in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador to provide four free hours of independent legal advice to victims of sexual assault.

It is through efforts like these, as well as those contained in Bill C-51, that we are working to effect a culture shift in our criminal justice system and to foster an environment where sexual assault complainants feel empowered to come forward for justice and support.

We should be proud that Canadian laws around sexual assault are robust and comprehensive, even more so with the proposed steps set out in Bill C-51. However, we must also recognize that more work lies ahead, and we must continue to strive for further improvements. In short, we must continue to work to reduce the incidence of sexual assault in Canada and to ensure more victims feel encouraged to come forward and report their experiences to police.

To that end, Bill C-51 would make important changes to strengthen the law of sexual assault. These changes include creating a new regime governing the admissibility of evidence in the hands of an accused, where the evidence is a complainant's private record.

In addition to the strengthening the law of sexual assault, Bill C-51 would also clarify the law. It would do so by making clear that consent must be affirmatively expressed by words or actively expressed through conduct. This principle codifies the Supreme Court of Canada's 1999 Ewanchuk decision, and makes it explicit that there is no consent unless the complainant said “yes” through her words or her conduct. Passivity is not consent, and “no” does not mean “yes”.

Finally, as introduced, Bill C-51 proposes to clarify one aspect of the law pertaining to consent or capacity to consent to sexual activity by codifying the Supreme Court of Canada's 2011 decision in J.A. In J.A., the Supreme Court held that an unconscious person is not capable of providing consent to sexual activity. Therefore, the bill seeks to amend the Criminal Code to state explicitly that an unconscious person is incapable of consenting, but also to clarify that a person may be incapable of consenting for reasons other than unconsciousness.

To pause for a moment, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the members of the other place for their very careful study of Bill C-51. While the other place supported most of the bill, it adopted amendments related to the determination of a complainant's incapacity to consent to sexual activity in the context of sexual assault.

By way of background, many stakeholders welcomed Bill C-51's proposed sexual assault reforms after its introduction. Some offered suggestions concerning the elaboration of the Criminal Code consent provisions to reflect J.A. In part, those witnesses argued that the J.A. decision stands for a broader proposition. They noted that the court held that our consent law requires ongoing conscious consent and that partners need to be capable of asking their partner to stop at any point.

In other words, they suggested that the bill should be amended to reflect an additional principle articulated by the Supreme Court in J.A. to the effect that consent must be contemporaneous with the sexual activity in question.

After hearing from a number of witnesses on the question, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights agreed, and amended to clarify that consent must be present at the time the sexual activity in question takes place. Our government agreed with that point, and we were happy to see that the justice committee amended Bill C-51 at that time so it would codify this broader principle in J.A. Doing so was in keeping with the objectives of the bill, including to ensure that the criminal law is clear and reflects the law as applied.

However, some stakeholders offered additional suggestions concerning our proposed codification of the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in J.A. They suggested that the provision that would codify that no consent is obtained if a complainant is unconscious be entirely removed. While the House committee did not amend the legislation to this effect, the other place nonetheless proceeded to adopt amendments that would eliminate this provision.

In its stead, the other place proposed a list of factors to guide the court in determining when a complainant is incapable of consenting.

According to the proposed amendments, complainants are incapable of consenting if they are unable to: one, understand the nature, circumstances, risks and consequences of the sexual activity; two, understand they have the choice to engage in the sexual activity; or three, affirmatively express agreement to the sexual activity in words or active conduct.

I would like to be clear. I agree that courts could benefit from guidance in making determinations on a complainant's incapacity to consent when she or he is conscious. The proposed amendments underscore some very significant issues in the area of consent. I also agree that intoxication, short of unconsciousness, represents challenges in the adjudication of sexual assault cases.

For one, as Bill C-51 specifically recognizes, incapacity applies to a broad range of cases well beyond those in which intoxication is an issue. This is an important conversation that we must continue to have. It is for this reason that I plan to consult with a variety of stakeholders on this issue moving forward to determine whether further action is helpful with respect to our common goals and if so, how this might be effectively accomplished.

In taking the time we need to get this right, we recognize just how complex the law of consent is. There is no clear guidance from the Supreme Court or other appellate courts to which we can turn for an exhaustive definition of what incapacity means. In addition, because Bill C-51 proposes to legislate on a very narrow aspect of the law of consent, more detailed guidance and specific instructions on this further issue are needed from stakeholders, as well as those who would be impacted by the further changes in this area. Without this guidance, the risk of unintended consequences is very real.

Moreover, the amendments made in the other place on this issue, though very laudable in their aim, unfortunately do not assist courts in adjudicating incapacity cases. For one, the amendments focus on concerns that arise in cases where the complainant is conscious but intoxicated. As a result, our government has concerns about the potential impact of the amendments on the law governing incapacity to consent in other types of incapacity cases, including those where incapacity is due to a more stable state, such as individuals living with cognitive impairment.

I also wish to note a couple of points concerning the way the courts currently treat these issues.

First, appellate decisions show that a complainant's ability to understand that he or she has a choice to engage in sexual activity or not is determinative of incapacity. However, it is not clear from the existing case law whether the other elements proposed in the amendments are determinative of incapacity or merely factors to be taken into consideration, supported by circumstantial evidence in assessing capacity.

For example, in overturning the Al-Rawi trial decision earlier this year, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal rejected incapacity to communicate as a determinative test for incapacity to consent. As a result, courts may well have difficulty interpreting the proposed provision.

Furthermore, the amendments' proposed factors focus solely on elements that are internal to the complainant and may lead some courts to overlook relevant circumstantial evidence in the determination of incapacity. Though the complainant's subjective state is important, there is a risk that the amendments will lead courts to overlook other evidence that bears on the complainant's capacity. This was also an error of the trial court in this case, as noted by the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal.

The amendments adopted in the other place would also prohibit drawing inferences about the complainant's capacity to consent to the sexual activity at issue from evidence of capacity to consent at the time of another sexual activity. These amendments simply restate a well-settled principle of law, which is already proposed for codification in Bill C-51. That principle is that consent must be contemporaneous with the sexual activity in question. This principle applies equally to capacity to consent. Each allegation of sexual assault must be considered on its own merits. The law is clear in this regard and the bill already proposes to codify it.

In short, the proposed changes are well-intentioned, but will not achieve their aim and, in fact, carry great risk of unintended consequences in what is a difficult yet critical area of law. Sexual assault law is too important to leave any room for error. If the definition of incapacity is to be provided, it is imperative we get it right.

If we are to alter this complex area of law in such a significant way, we must be informed by adequate analysis and debate in both chambers as well as by a broad range of stakeholder perspectives, including prosecutors from whom neither of the committees in this place or the other had the opportunity to hear. In addition, we need to consult with the defence bar, police associations and victims groups.

It is our obligation to ensure that the hundreds of sexual assault cases that are prosecuted every day in the country are not negatively affected by an amendment that has yet to be subject to full discussion and deliberation.

As I mentioned before, in order for these issues to receive the treatment they deserve and require, I will and have committed to study the issue of incapacity, with a view to striking the right balance on this important matter. I am grateful to the witnesses who appeared before the Senate committee for suggesting that this issue be the subject of further study. I look forward to consulting with them further as part of my future review.

Our government continues to work toward fostering an environment where survivors of sexual assault feel empowered to come forward and trust the system they turn to for justice and support. Consulting on and studying the issue of capacity to consent while conscious will form an integral part of that effort.

I am incredibly proud of our government's efforts to date within the area of sexual assault law. I am confident that our continued efforts will help to ensure that all victims are treated with compassion, dignity and the respect they deserve.

Bill C-51 is an important part of our work on this issue. It is also consistent with our broader efforts to ensure that our criminal law is responsible to the needs of all Canadians and that it reflects our values. Our government will continue to find ways to improve upon our criminal justice system so it keeps Canadians safe, respects victims, responds to the needs of vulnerable populations and addresses the underlying social causes of crime. I am proud of the role Bill C-51 will play in helping us to achieve these goals. I look forward to the bill's expeditious passage to ensure these important reforms are enacted without further delay.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2018 / 4:50 p.m.
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Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, I would agree that the Criminal Code should accurately reflect the law in Canada. Therefore, inoperative sections of the Criminal Code should be removed. The consequences of not doing so can be very, very serious.

We saw that happen in the case of the conviction of Travis Vader in respect of two second-degree murder convictions that were overturned because the trial judge applied an inoperative section, section 230, of the Criminal Code, which had been struck down in the Martineau decision all the way back in September 1990 when I was just starting grade 1, and yet almost three decades later, that inoperative section is still there in the Criminal Code.

The McCann family pleaded with the government to move forward. I stood with them. They are from my community of St. Albert. They cannot believe that almost two years later, Bill C-39, which would remove sections 230 and 159, is stuck at first reading.

Here we are, all because the government simply cannot get it done

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2018 / 4:45 p.m.
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Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, section 159 is an unconstitutional and inoperative section of the Criminal Code. In other words, it is one of these zombie laws. I fully support the removal of zombie laws, including section 159.

I am surprised that the hon. member would pat the government on the back for taking this step, given the government's record of dragging its feet. It was all the way back in the fall of 2016 that the government introduced Bill C-28 to remove section 159 of the Criminal Code. What happened to Bill C-28? Two years later, it is stuck at first reading. The Liberals could have passed that bill with unanimous consent, but because of the inaction of the government, section 159 remains in the Criminal Code.

To highlight the incompetence of the government, after introducing Bill C-28, in March of 2017, it also introduced Bill C-39. It also would have removed section 159 and other zombie sections of the Criminal Code. What happened to Bill C-39? It is stuck at first reading. Quite frankly, the only thing keeping section 159 from being removed from the Criminal Code is the government.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 4:05 p.m.
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Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, sections of the Criminal Code have been deemed unconstitutional and are therefore of no force or effect. I was astounded that the parliamentary secretary would pat the government on the back for moving forward in this bill with the rightful removal of those sections when it was all the way back in the fall of 2016 when the second-degree murder charges against Travis Vader were thrown out of court because the trial judge applied section 230 of the Criminal Code.

The member made reference to the Martineau decision. Following that, the McCann family, who come from my community of St. Albert, Bret McCann, his son and his wife Mary-Ann, and I pleaded for the minister to introduce legislation. The member for Mount Royal, the chair of the justice committee, wrote to the minister to urge her to introduce legislation. She introduced legislation, to her credit, on March 8, 2017 in Bill C-39.

Bill C-39 has been stuck at first reading, when we could have gotten it done by way of unanimous consent. Why did the government delay almost two years before finally moving forward in Bill C-75? It is too little, too late for the McCann family.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 12:50 p.m.
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Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, as I stated earlier, this was brought to us early in the year, a day before we were to go on a two-day break.

Two previous bills, Bill C-38 and Bill C-39, have been thrown into this bill. Why were they not dealt with? If it is so important that this get done, why did the government wait so long to do it?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 12:35 p.m.
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Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-75, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts. This omnibus bill is over 200 pages. It includes major reforms to our criminal justice system.

With a concerning level of rural crime in my riding, the safety of my constituents is a high priority for me. The safety of Canadians should be the number one priority of any government.

While there are some aspects of the bill that I agree will help to reduce delays in the court system, there are several problems associated with it with which I have concerns.

First, I want to talk about the bill itself. As I mentioned, this is a 204-page omnibus bill. I want to remind the Liberals that during the election, they promised they would never table omnibus bills, but here it is. However, 80 other promises have either been broken or have not even started.

This is still on the Liberal web page, which I looked it up the other day. It states that omnibus bills “prevent Parliament from properly reviewing and debating [the government's] proposals. We will change the House of Commons Standing Orders to bring an end to this undemocratic practice.” Yet here we are today discussing an omnibus bill.

It is a mixed bag that amends a total of 13 different acts in various ways. The bill needs to be split into more manageable portions so we can properly study it. What is more is that the government also has thrown in three bills that have already been tabled, Bill C-28, victim surcharge; Bill C-38, consecutive sentencing for human traffickers; and Bill C-39, repealing unconstitutional provisions. Perhaps if the government could manage its legislative agenda more effectively, it would not need to re-table its bills, push through omnibus bills or repeatedly force time allocation and limit debates.

The Liberals are failing to take criminal justice issues seriously. In March they tabled this bill the day before a two-week break period in our sitting schedule. Then they waited a half a year. Now they have returned it when there are only a few weeks left before our six-week break period. This does not give the image that justice is a high priority for the Liberal government.

The government's lack of judicial appointments has resulted in violent criminals walking away without a trial. As of November 2, 54 federal judicial vacancies remained. Appointing judges is an effective solution that is much faster than forcing an omnibus bill through Parliament. I remember in April when the minister talked about 54 more federal judges, yet here we are, almost the end of the year, and still no action.

I also want to talk about what is actually in the bill. Again, some parts of the bill I can support. For example, I agree with efforts to modernize and clarify interim release provisions and provide more onerous interim release requirements for offences involving violence against an intimate partner.

Modernizing and simplifying interim release provisions is an important step that will assist many rural communities across the country that do not have the resources to navigate lengthy procedures and paperwork. For that reason, I support this.

However, I wish the stricter release requirements were not limited to offences involving domestic abuse. With an alarming rate of rural crime in my riding and across Canada, which is often carried out by repeat offenders, we need to make it more difficult for all violent criminals to be released. Otherwise, we have a revolving door where they commit a crime, get arrested, get released and start all over again.

I was at a rural crime seminar in the city of Red Deer last Friday. A former police officer from Calgary city police told us about one of the cases he had worked on recently. An Alberta offender was charged with 130 offences, ranging from break and enter to car theft, equipment theft and possession of stolen property.

At the last sitting in Alberta the judge released him. Out the door he went. Where did he go? He took off to B.C. Now we understand they are looking for him in British Columbia, which has 100 similar outstanding charges against him in a very short period of time. This person should not have been released.

These criminals prey on farmers and elderly people. They know that RCMP resources are lacking in these areas and take full advantage of that. What the government needs to do is to provide our law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to stop the revolving door of criminals in and out of the courts. That is happening constantly.

Victims should be the central focus of the Canadian criminal justice system rather than special treatment for criminals, which is why our party introduced the Victims Bill of Rights. The government, unfortunately, does not agree since Bill C-75 would repeal our changes to the victim surcharge and reduce its overall use and effectiveness.

I believe in protecting victims of crime, which is why I introduced my own private member's bill, Bill C-206, that would ensure that criminals who take advantage of vulnerable people, specifically adults who depend on others for their care, are subject to harder, sure punishment.

Last month, a gentleman from my riding of Yellowhead was a witness before our public safety and national security committee. He shared with us his first-hand experience. It was a terrible story. This gentleman, whom I consider a friend, is aged 83. He heard his truck start up one day when he was having lunch with his wife. He walked outside to see his truck being driven out of his yard. He lives about 70 kilometres from the town of Edson where the local police office is located. He picked up his phone and was about to call when his vehicle returned to his yard. Two youths, one aged 18 and one aged 17, got out, knocked him to the ground, repeatedly kicked him in the face, the chest, the ribs, attempted to slash his throat, and then drove off again. This gentleman is 83. This is still being dealt with in the courts despite the fact it happened a year ago. This gentleman has had to attend court 10 times so far and the matter is still not over.

We on this side of the House will always work to strengthen the Criminal Code of Canada and make it harder for criminals to get out.

I am concerned that portions of Bill C-75 would weaken our justice system. Through the bill, the Liberals would reduce penalties for the following crimes: participating in criminal organizations, various acts of corruption, prison breach, impaired driving, abduction, human trafficking, forced marriage, and arson, just to name a few of many in the bill. Participation in terrorist activities and advocating genocide were deleted from this list only because a Conservative amendment was accepted at committee. Those are just a few examples of more than a hundred serious crimes that could be prosecuted by summary conviction and result in lighter sentencing, or even fines.

The government is failing to take criminal justice issues seriously. Reducing penalties for serious crimes sends the wrong message to victims, law-abiding Canadians and to criminals.

I am also concerned about the wording used in the section that would increase maximum sentences for repeat offences involving intimate partner violence. I support increasing these sentences but I do not support replacing the language of “spouse” with “intimate partner”. I believe both should be included. I understand that not all domestic abuse is within a spousal relationship, so there is a need to have "intimate partner" included. However, it should not replace "spouse". Rather, both terms should be included.

Another problem I have with Bill C-75 is the reversal of protections for religious officials.

When Bill C-51 was referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in January, two amendments were moved by my Conservative colleagues. The first amendment proposed keeping section 176 in the Criminal Code of Canada, while the second aimed to modernize the language of that section. The Liberals agreed to them and that was good, but they need to listen more.

Imagine my disappointment when I read in Bill C-75 that section 176 in the Criminal Code was once again under attack. Assault of officiants during a religious service is very serious and should remain an indictable offence.

Thank you for the opportunity to present my views.

Motions in amendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2018 / 12:15 p.m.
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Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, as you know, I am always pleased to rise to speak to bills that mean a lot to me or bills that I am not entirely comfortable with.

Today I will be speaking to second reading of Bill C-75, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

On reading this large, 302-page omnibus bill, many of my colleagues agree or might agree that this bill is quite dense and complex and that it tries to slip important changes under the radar.

I cannot help point out that it was introduced in the middle of day on the eve of Good Friday as the House was about to adjourn for a week. Nice try, whoever was trying to sneak this through, especially when three new government bills were already on the Order Paper: Bill C-28, an act to amend the Criminal Code in regard to the victim surcharge, Bill C-38, an act to amend An Act to amend the Criminal Code in regard to exploitation and trafficking in persons, and Bill C-39, an act to amend the Criminal Code in regard to unconstitutional provisions and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

Given that this bill makes a number of changes to the Criminal Code, most of my speech will focus on the amendments that, I would argue and so would many victims of crime and their loved ones, totally contradict what the Liberals say when they claim that victims are being considered, that they care about victims' rights and that they are committed to upholding those rights. The reality is a far cry from that.

The Liberals are always quick to put criminals first. It seems to be their first instinct.

We do not have to look too far to see some very recent examples of that. Consider the case of the criminal Terri-Lynne McClintic, who brutally and savagely murdered a little girl, eight-year-old Tori Stafford, yet she was transferred to a healing lodge after spending just nine years behind bars and even though she is not eligible for parole until 2031, and Tori's family was never given prior notice of the transfer.

Only after dozens and dozens of interventions in the House by the opposition parties, an open letter to the Prime Minister from little Tori's father, the arrival of many protesters on Parliament Hill, and pressure from all Canadians who found the transfer to be unacceptable, inconceivable and disrespectful did the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness finally decide to take action.

It was only yesterday, after far too many weeks of waiting and unnecessary suffering for Tori's family and because of all the public pressure in this regard, that the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness finally asked Correctional Service Canada to make the transfer policies more stringent.

However, we do not yet know whether this serious mistake has been corrected. We do not know whether Ms. McClintic is back behind bars where she should be. That is of little consolation to Tori's family and to Canadians.

The minister has apparently also asked Correctional Service Canada to improve its policies for the transfer of medium-security offenders to institutions without controlled perimeters precisely because these changes could help convince the public that our correctional system holds guilty parties responsible.

Canadians were outraged by Ms. McClintic's transfer, but above all they were extremely disappointed to see—

October 24th, 2018 / 5:20 p.m.
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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 26th, 2018 / 3:55 p.m.
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Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Prevention of Genocide and other Crimes against Humanity

Ali Ehsassi

I am here this afternoon in my capacity as chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Prevention of Genocide and other Crimes against Humanity, hereafter referred to as GPG. I am here to discuss Bill C-75, in particular, the hybridization aspects of the bill impacting subsection 318(1) of the Criminal Code, incitement to genocide.

Before I continue I should stress that while I am here in my capacity as chair of the GPG, my views do not necessarily reflect the views of the GPG as a whole, nor the views of its individual members.

I also believe that a brief summary of the GPG's history, operations and mandate will provide some context to our approach to Bill C-75 and subsection 318(1) of the Criminal Code.

The GPG was founded in 2006 by Senator Roméo Dallaire to provide members of Parliament and senators with a non-partisan forum for co-operation on issues of pressing humanitarian concern. Currently comprised of 36 members from across party lines, the GPG works to inform parliamentarians about ongoing conflicts, and through close collaboration with partners, experts and stakeholders, crafts strategies to help prevent genocide and crimes against humanity.

Since its inception the GPG has conducted studies and meetings on humanitarian crises in Burundi, Darfur, the DRC, Myanmar and Yemen, and it has established close working relationships with Amnesty International, the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, the Stanley Foundation, the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative and the Digital Mass Atrocity Prevention Lab, to name a few.

The GPG, in other words, has largely been a forward-looking and globally oriented institution. The fields of human security, human rights and atrocity prevention have always, rightly or wrongly, been largely oriented toward studies of foreign policy and related fields such as security studies, international law, international trade and international development. It is somewhat unusual, therefore, that our group has been asked to comment on what is essentially domestic legislation and jurisprudence.

However, the changes in proposed section 318 of Bill C-75 clearly relate to domestic genocide prevention and incitement to hatred laws. Although such relatively minor modifications constitute only a small part of the sweeping changes included in Bill C-75, we have a duty to examine the potential impact and side effects. Moreover, given the leadership role Canada has always observed in matters of human rights and genocide prevention, it is imperative that our laws relating to genocide and atrocity prevention remain second to none.

As you are aware, Bill C-75 seeks to modify the wording of subsection 318(1). The existing wording of the section reads:

Every one who advocates or promotes genocide is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.

The proposed revised wording would read:

Every person who advocates or promotes genocide is guilty of

(a) an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years; or

(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction.

These changes are part of the hybridization efforts included in Bill C-75, which I broadly support, and which seeks to improve access to justice by giving the Crown the necessary discretion to elect the most efficient mode of prosecution evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Hybridization will reduce court time consumed by less serious offences while freeing up limited resources for more serious offences. Of course there are few offences more serious than advocating genocide, which is why these amendments must be taken very seriously.

The first of these changes, which substitutes “every one” with “every person” appears multiple times in Bill C-75 and merely appears to be part of a broader effort to modernize the language in the Criminal Code. It is difficult to see how this change would have any impact on Canada's genocide prevention regime.

The second and more substantive change seeks to hybridize incitement to genocide as punishable via summary conviction. This change, which represents one of approximately 170 clauses in the Criminal Code being hybridized or reclassified, will allow prosecutors to pursue summary convictions for offences that would have a shorter sentence.

The proposal hybridizes all straight indictable offences punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years or less, which is why clause 318 was captured. It also increases the default maximum penalty to two years less a day of imprisonment for all summary offences and extends the limitation period for all summary conviction offences to 12 months from the current six months.

It is important to note that subsection 318(1) has rarely been invoked in Canadian courts. The practical impact of this modification may ultimately prove negligible. However, given the extremely serious nature of the issue at hand, as well as Canada's moral obligation to serve as a leader in the field of genocide prevention, this committee should support an amendment to Bill C-75 ensuring that incitement to genocide provisions are not included within the otherwise prudent attempts at hybridization and reclassification.

Moreover, there is precedent within this bill for not hybridizing specific elements of the Criminal Code. Offences that would be repealed in Bill C-39 and Bill C-51 are excluded from the hybridization process. Furthermore, nine other indictable offences that are currently punishable under mandatory minimum penalties would not be hybridized either.

To be more specific, I'm referring here to subsection 92(3), which relates to possession of firearms, knowing possession is unauthorized; section 99, which relates to weapons trafficking; section 100, which relates to possession for purposes of weapons trafficking; section 103, importing and exporting firearms; section 202, relating to bookmaking; section 203, placing bets on behalf of others; section 279.03, which relates to withholding documents; section 286, which relates to purchasing sexual services; and lastly section 467, which relates to the recruitment of criminal organizations.

Therefore, given both the practical importance and symbolic value of subsection 318(1), we feel that this section should be included amongst the carve-outs referenced above. The fact that section 318 has almost never been invoked in Canadian courts is a testament to our tremendous good fortune and our dedication to diversity, human rights and human security. This good fortune has allowed Canada to serve as a global beacon for genocide prevention efforts. While I have every faith that Canada will continue in this noble tradition regardless of the outcome of Bill C-75, amending the legislation before us to ensure that genocide advocacy remains an indictable offence would once again send a clear message that this heinous act is incompatible with Canadian values.

I thank you for your consideration of this matter. I look forward to any questions you may have.

September 25th, 2018 / 5 p.m.
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Prof. Steve Coughlan

I would note two things in that.

One is that it is worth observing that although the things that Bill C-39 would have done are duplicated in Bill C-75, Bill C-39 still exists. There is actually no reason that Bill C-39 couldn't be proceeded with, even if Bill C-75 is not.

On the go-forward basis, though, it seems to me that there's no good reason that the Department of Justice couldn't, every two years, have the charter cleanup bill. Year 2018 is what Bill C-75 will be, but why not the charter cleanup bill 2020, the charter cleanup bill 2022? It's just tiny little housekeeping tasks and, like any other housekeeping, you keep on top of it a little at a time and it doesn't become overwhelming.

It probably doesn't need to be done annually. It's not as though charter challenges are successful as often as that, but if biennially the Department of Justice simply looked at whether there are any of these basic administrative tasks that need to be done to the Criminal Code—and did that every two years—we'd stay on top of this.

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

September 25th, 2018 / 4:30 p.m.
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Professor Steve Coughlan Professor, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University, As an Individual

Thank you very much.

I'm pleased to have been invited to speak with you today about the portions of Bill C-75 that deal with removing the outdated provisions in the Criminal Code, specifically those that have actually been struck down by courts, as opposed to simply being out of step with the times.

This is an issue that I've been concerned with for decades and about which I've been advocating with the Department of Justice for several years now. We do seem to be on the verge of action being taken, finally, long overdue action. I am, of course, in favour of that. Indeed, it's difficult to imagine any basis upon which anyone could be opposed to doing this.

In September 2016, a trial judge in Alberta, as all of you will know, convicted Travis Vader of murder, relying on the offence set out in section 230 of the Criminal Code. Of course, section 230 of the Criminal Code is part of the constructive murder provisions and it was struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada 25 years ago. Unfortunately, despite its presence in the Criminal Code, it's not part of the criminal law of Canada.

This was exactly one of the flaws in the Criminal Code that a large group of criminal law academics pointed out to the Minister of Justice in a letter in December 2015. It was the same failure to update the code to remove constructive murder that led the British Columbia Court of Appeal to observe, in a 2010 decision:

I cannot leave these reasons without wondering why steps have not been taken to amend the Criminal Code to conform to the now 20-year-old decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Martineau determining that language in s. 229(c) is unconstitutional. The law that is recorded in the statute, on which every citizen is entitled to rely, is not the law of the land. An issue such as arose in this case should not occur. It creates the risk of a miscarriage of justice and the potential need to incur significant costs addressing an error in an appellate court with the possible costs of a new trial, assuming one is practical. In my view, failure to deal appropriately with such matters by updating the Criminal Code to remove provisions that have been found to offend the Constitution is not in the interests of justice.

As I say, that's a 2010 decision called Townsend. They reached that conclusion by citing other judgments in which exactly the same thing had happened, ranging from 1997 on to 2008, in which juries had been told that the law around murder was what was set out in the Criminal Code, when of course, it's not. That seems like a glaringly obvious point but it's worth stressing it.

Section 19 of the Criminal Code says that ignorance of the law is no excuse. We rely on the fiction that every member of the public actually knows the law, but that's really only justifiable if it's possible for a person to find out the law. One of the key principles of fundamental justice, guaranteed by section 7 of the charter, is the principle of legality, the notion that the law must be knowable. It's why we have the strict construction rule of statutory interpretation. It's why section 9 of the Criminal Code abolished common law crime. It's the reason that laws can be struck down for being vague. If it's not clear enough what the law is, we say, then the law is unconstitutional.

We have all sorts of fundamental and important rules insisting on the language of the Criminal Code being as clear as it can possibly be, and yet, in that context, we have provisions that unambiguously state as the law what is unambiguously not the law, and we allow that to continue for decades. That is, frankly, dumbfounding.

The trial judge in the Vader case received a certain amount of criticism. At some level, that's understandable. We expect judges to know the law more than ordinary people do, but the general public doesn't have access to an annotated Criminal Code. The general public will go online. They're going to go to the Department of Justice's website, the official Government of Canada website, and they will look up the Criminal Code and it will lie to them about what the law is.

Of course, it's not just the general public; it's the police. The police should be able to look at a statute that actually reflects the law of Canada. When that's not the case, then of course we get the situation that we have faced in Canada, with dozens of people criminally charged with an offence that does not exist—the prohibition on anal intercourse in section 159.

Of course such charges are eventually thrown out, but that's of very little solace to the person who has been caused the embarrassment and expense of going through that procedure. We can say, “Well, you know, the police should have known better than to believe that the criminal law was what the Criminal Code said it was,” but that hardly seems like an answer.

Let's think again about the blame given to the judge in the Vader case, in not knowing that section 230 had been struck down. Okay, yes, he should have known.

On the other hand, all it means is that he failed to evade a trap that had been set for him. Surely a legitimate question to ask is why we are setting traps for our judges. If someone falls because they don't notice that their shoelaces have been tied together, a lot of the blame has to go to the person who tied the shoelaces together. If a judge doesn't notice a trap, which was set in the law, a good part of the blame has to go to the person who set the trap. In this case, that's Parliament. It's you. There is no good reason that this situation should have been allowed to continue for decades, but Parliament has allowed it to do so.

How much work would it have taken to avoid the pitfall that arose in the Vader case and the ones that can potentially arise from the other unconstitutional provisions? Realistically, a summer student in the Department of Justice, spending two hours some afternoon, could have headed this off. It's hard to see how the drafting or passing of such a bill could have occupied any real legislative time since the Supreme Court of Canada has already done all of the policy work of deciding that the provisions are unconstitutional.

Now it's fair to respond that not every situation is the same. When the constructive murder provisions were struck down, it was clear that nothing needed to be put in their place. When loitering, in paragraph 179(1)(b) was struck down, the Supreme Court provided some guidance as to what a constitutional law would look like, so you would have needed a bit of time to draft a new bill that was constitutional. When the abortion provisions were struck down in 1988, the Supreme Court didn't actually say that no abortion provisions could exist, just that these ones were no good, so yes, some time might have been needed to decide whether we would do something else instead, and if so, what.

The key point to note here, though, is that it only means that the second step might vary. The first step, invariably, is unchanging and utterly non-discretionary. The existing law is no law, and it has to be removed from the Criminal Code. Whatever might happen after that, there is no reason not to do that in the short term.

This leads, I have to say, to my major concern here today. As I've said, there is no conceivable reason, finally, after decades, no to remove these unconstitutional provisions from the Criminal Code. We nonetheless seem to be faced with the real possibility that this Parliament will not do it.

The provisions dealing with the removal of unconstitutional provisions used to be in their own bill. It used to be Bill C-39. For some reason, that bill, which contained nothing else and had no real possibility of attracting any controversy, and those sensible and uncontentious provisions have now been placed in Bill C-75, which contains many sensible and many contentious provisions.

Personally, I think some of those other proposals are very good, and some, I think, have just not been thought through, so it's difficult to actually tell whether they are wise or unwise. This bill needs to be thoroughly debated and passed through both Houses with barely a year left until the next election. It won't be surprising if that doesn't happen.

That means that we're faced here with the choice between rushing through potentially far-reaching reforms without adequate consideration as the price for solving a long-standing and fundamental problem, or allowing that long-standing and fundamental problem to continue as the price for not creating further and bigger ones. That's not an easy choice, and it is not in the least apparent as to why we should have been forced to it, or why Bill C-39 couldn't have been proceeded with on its own.

Ultimately, I do commend to you the portions of Bill C-75 that do the sensible thing of removing these unconstitutional provisions, and I hope there is some fashion in which that can happen, whether the rest of this bill goes forward or not.

Thank you.