An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Department of Justice Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act

Sponsor

Status

In committee (Senate), as of May 10, 2018

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-51.

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to amend, remove or repeal passages and provisions that have been ruled unconstitutional or that raise risks with regard to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as passages and provisions that are obsolete, redundant or that no longer have a place in criminal law. It also modifies certain provisions of the Code relating to sexual assault in order to clarify their application and to provide a procedure applicable to the admissibility and use of a complainant’s record when in the possession of the accused.

This enactment also amends the Department of Justice Act to require that the Minister of Justice cause to be tabled, for every government Bill introduced in either House of Parliament, a statement of the Bill’s potential effects on the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Finally, it makes consequential amendments to the Criminal Records Act.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2017 / noon
See context

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Liberal

Marco Mendicino LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, our government was proud to introduce Bill C-51 on June 6, 2017. That day marked an important milestone in our ongoing efforts to make the criminal law fairer, clearer, more relevant, accessible, and compassionate.

Since that time, Bill C-51 has been the subject of extensive and compelling debate both at the second reading stage and during its study by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

I want to offer my thanks to the many members who have participated in these debates and to members of the standing committee in particular, whose deliberations strengthened Bill C-51 through amendments that seek to further the objectives we identified when we introduced this important legislation.

I would also like to extend my great appreciation to the many witnesses who took the time to examine the bill and appear before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Although I may not agree with all the points that were made by the witnesses who spoke to this bill, I fully recognize the importance of their contributions because they have allowed Parliament to have a rich and thorough discussion on the bill.

I now want to walk through the changes included in Bill C-51. These have received broad support in this House, at committee, and among key stakeholders.

Bill C-51 seeks to address sexual assault, an issue that could scarcely be more relevant, given the present Canadian and international discourse on this important subject. Survivors of sexual assault and other forms of sexual misconduct are standing up and speaking out as never before. I am proud to say that our government stands behind survivors and that we are adding our voice to theirs by bringing change on numerous fronts, including the reforms set out in Bill C-51.

The bill proposes amendments that build upon an already robust legal framework that has been consistently regarded as one of the best sexual assault regimes in the world. However, despite its explicit acknowledgement that outdated myths about a victim's sexual history should have no bearing on whether she should be believed, and despite the clear rules about when consent is or is not valid in law, challenges remain.

What are those challenges? We know that sexual assaults continue to occur far too often in Canada. According to Statistics Canada, there were approximately 21,000 police-reported sexual assaults in Canada in 2016. That is an average of 57 sexual assaults every day in Canada. That number is staggering, but when, according to the general survey on victimization, only five per cent of sexual assaults experienced by Canadians over 15 are reported to the police, the likely number of actual sexual assaults that occur every day in Canada becomes unfathomable and could well be over 1,000 incidents every day. When thinking about those numbers and the fact that so many cases of sexual assault go unreported, we must think about what we can do to not only reduce the incidence of sexual assault in Canada but ensure that more victims, and let us be clear that this is a gender-based crime that disproportionately targets women and girls, feel encouraged to come forward to report their experiences to the police and to law enforcement.

One way we can, at the federal level, help encourage women to come forward is through law reform that increases the likelihood that our laws will be applied as they were intended, and in so doing, reduce the potential for unnecessary distress experienced by victims who participate in the criminal justice process. That is what Bill C-51 proposes to do. As introduced, it would make important changes to clarify the law, including by making clear that consent must be affirmatively expressed by words or actively expressed through conduct. This principle would codify the Supreme Court of Canada's 1999 Ewanchuk decision and make clear that there is no consent unless the complainant said yes through words or through conduct. Passivity is not consent.

We have also codified the principle set down by the court in its 2011 decision in R. v. J.A., where the court held that a person cannot consent in advance to sexual activity that occurs while they are unconscious.

The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights heard a number of witnesses on this particular amendment. Some witnesses expressed their support for this codification, but others argued that it did not entirely or accurately codify the court's findings in R. v. J.A. Those witnesses argued that J.A. stands for a broader proposition. They noted that the court held that our consent law requires ongoing conscious consent and that partners have to be capable of asking their partners to stop at any point. Our government was listening carefully to witnesses and members, and we are pleased to support the committee's amendment to Bill C-51 that would codify this broader principle from J.A. Doing so is in keeping with the objectives of the bill, including to ensure that the Criminal Code is clear and reflects the law as applied by the courts.

Bill C-51's proposed sexual assault reforms do more, however, than simply codify key Supreme Court decisions. They will also create a new regime governing the admissibility of evidence in the hands of an accused person, where that evidence is a complainant’s private record. At its core, this regime is anchored in the following key principles.

First, it respects the fair trial rights of the accused in that it does not prevent relevant evidence from being used in court. The Supreme Court has already recognized that an accused's right to full answer and defence does not include a right to defence by ambush.

Second, it acknowledges the privacy interests of a complainant. While privacy interests do not trump all else, the regime seeks to acknowledge that victims of sexual assault and other related crime, even when participating in a trial, have a right to have their privacy considered and respected to the greatest extent possibly.

Finally, the regime seeks to facilitate the truth-seeking function of the courts by ensuring that evidence that is clearly irrelevant to an issue at trial is not put before the courts, with its potential to obfuscate and distract the trier of fact.

These are important changes and ones that have been called for by Parliament. In their 2012 report on the third-party-records regime in sexual assault proceedings, the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs recommended the enactment of a regime governing the admissibility of a complainant's private records in the hands of an accused. I am pleased that we are doing so as part of Bill C-51.

The second major aspect of Bill C-51 is its proposal to clean up the Criminal Code by removing offences that are no longer relevant because they address conduct that is not inherently blameworthy, because the criminal law should not be used to target such conduct, or because the conduct is addressed by other offences of general application.

To be clear, a foundational principle upon which our criminal law is based is that of restraint. This means that we, as parliamentarians, should ensure that criminal offences, with all the attendant stigma and consequences associated with being called a criminal, are only used to address conduct that cannot or should not be addressed through other mechanisms. Bill C-51 would reflect this principle by removing offences such as the prohibition on advertising the return of stolen property “no questions asked”, a provision under section 143; making crime comics; challenging someone to a duel; and impersonating someone during a university exam.

I am confident that removing these offences will have no adverse consequences and will help make our criminal law more reflective of the values Canadians hold dear in 2017.

Bill C-51 would make other important changes to remove offences that are no longer pertinent in today's society. One such example is the removal of the offence of blasphemous libel under, currently, section 296. This old offence, with its English origins in the 1600s, has as its purpose the suppression of criticism directed at God, the king, and government. Such an offence is a historical holdover and has no place in a liberal democracy, where freedom of expression is enshrined as a constitutionally protected right. In so removing this offence, we would follow the example of the United Kingdom, which repealed its analogous offence almost a decade ago, in 2008.

During the committee proceedings on Bill C-51, we heard testimony from the Centre for Free Expression that we should go further and that in addition to repealing blasphemous libel, our government should be repealing the offences targeting seditious and defamatory libel as well. Although such amendments would have been outside the scope of the bill, these are interesting suggestions, and they do indeed warrant further discussion.

I know, for example, that England abolished its seditious libel offences in 2009. I also know that there are divergent opinions on whether defamatory libel should be criminal. We have all benefited from the discussion on these proposals, and our government will take them under advisement as we continue to examine ways to make our criminal law and criminal justice system more reflective and responsive to the realities of Canada today

Before moving on, let me talk briefly about the amendment made by the standing committee to Bill C-51, which is supported by our government, that seeks to retain section 176, the offence of interfering with religious services. As the minister said when she appeared before the committee to discuss the bill, the repeal of section 176 would, in fact, not leave a gap in the criminal law's ability to meaningfully respond to the conduct captured by this offence. She also said that its removal would not in any way undermine the ability of Canadians to practice their faith freely and free from violence. Both statements remain true today.

At the same time, we appreciate and acknowledge that for many stakeholders, the removal of the offence would send the wrong message and that in an era when xenophobia and religious intolerance are all too frequent, Parliament has a responsibility to ensure that its actions do not, directly or indirectly, provide opportunities for the promotion of such intolerance.

Our government was listening carefully to members of the religious community, and I am pleased to say that we will support not only the retention of section 176 but an expansion of that section to ensure maximum inclusivity.

By way of conclusion on this point, I would note that intolerance of any kind is simply unacceptable, and I know that the vast majority of Canadians, even when they may not share the same religious convictions as their neighbours, will conduct themselves in a manner that is respectful and welcoming. Intolerance that leads to threats or violence must be swiftly addressed by the police, and I know that the criminal law provides them with a broad range of tools to effectively respond to such conduct.

Bill C-51 also reflects our government's unwavering commitment to respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It does so in a number of ways. First, Bill C-51 proposes to amend provisions that have been found unconstitutional by our courts.

In this vein, Bill C-51 builds on the work we started with Bill C-39, which we introduced on March 8, 2017. Bill C-39 repeals provisions found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada, as well as the prohibition against anal intercourse that has been found unconstitutional by numerous courts of appeal.

Bill C-51 seeks to repeal provisions found unconstitutional by appeal courts, and in some cases trial courts, in circumstances where there can be little doubt as to their unconstitutionality. For example, Bill C-51 seeks to repeal the rule that prevents judges from giving enhanced credit for pre-sentence custody for offenders who were detained due to a bail breach. This rule has been found unconstitutional by the Manitoba Court of Appeal and creates a situation where similarly situated offenders can receive substantially different credit for pre-sentence custody, which can undermine public confidence in the administration of justice.

Bill C-51 also proposes to amend a number of provisions that could result in an accused's being convicted for an offence, even though they raised a reasonable doubt as to their guilt. Such an outcome is at odds with the most basic rules and fundamental principles upon which our criminal law is based, not to mention our charter rights.

These changes are important, and we are not waiting for costly unnecessary charter litigation to tell us that these rules are unconstitutional. Making these changes would ensure that our criminal justice system is more efficient and continues to hold offenders to account while reinforcing the fundamental principle that it is the state that bears the responsibility of proving offences beyond a reasonable doubt.

Our respect for the charter is also evident in the changes we are proposing to the Department of Justice Act. Although these changes have not been the subject of significant debate or commentary, a number of witnesses who testified before the justice committee welcomed this innovation in our law.

The amendments proposed in Bill C-51 will require our government, and all future governments, to table in Parliament a statement outlining the potential charter effects of all government legislation. The Minister of Justice has been doing this already as a matter of practice, but with Bill C-51, it will become an obligation.

These charter statements provide information to Parliament, stakeholders, and the public writ large about the charter rights and freedoms that are potentially engaged by a bill and set out how they may be engaged.

In the charter statement for Bill C-51, for example, the sexual assault reforms are discussed and an explanation is provided on how they interact with an accused's section 7 right to life, liberty, and security of the person. The charter statement further notes how a failure to remove unconstitutional laws can undermine the rule of law, create confusion, and make our Criminal Code less accessible.

I am proud of these reforms and believe that charter statements will quickly become a critical resource for justice system participants, parliamentarians, and members of the public who are interested in learning more about how our laws may engage the charter.

Let me conclude by again thanking all members for their excellent deliberations on Bill C-51. The widespread support it has received is testament to its importance and the need to move forward with these changes. I look forward to continuing to follow Bill C-51's passage through Parliament, and will continue to work diligently to bring forward the kinds of changes needed to address the most pressing challenges facing our criminal justice system today.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2017 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech, which demonstrates the breadth and scope of the issues being addressed in Bill C-51. One of the issues he addressed had to do with the modification of language around consent to clarify exactly that means in an effort to codify some of the jurisprudence on the issue in the law.

I got to sit in briefly at some of the committee meetings dealing with Bill C-51, and stakeholders expressed a lot of concern, not about the language of unconsciousness itself and the inability to provide consent while unconscious, but the fact that it might be interpreted or argued by some that the emphasis on unconsciousness might rule out some of the other very real barriers to providing consent that are seen to be protected under the law. Our party and the Green Party both suggested amendments that might help allay some of those concerns. They were defeated.

The hon. member mentioned that some amendments were accepted. Did the governing party accept amendments on that particular issue, and if so, how did they address those concerns specifically?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2017 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his very thoughtful and articulate question.

I agree with him that Bill C-51, in the section that deals with reforming sexual laws, is precisely about clarifying the law. It is about ensuring that we are sensitive to the long-held and inappropriately held myths when it comes to those victims and survivors who have the courage to step forward. By passing this law, we will be reducing the systemic barriers, which for far too long have afflicted the criminal justice system and prevented women and girls from stepping forward.

With respect to the rape shield laws, I want to assure my hon. colleague that all of the amendments were carefully debated at committee. We are grateful to the committee for all of its work and for bringing forward those amendments, which have been adopted by the government. The rape shield provisions are tested in the law. They are about clarifying when consent has been lawfully provided and when it has not. I am encouraged that this bill will ensure more certainty and more clarity on this important subject.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2017 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Madam Speaker, I have the privilege of working with my colleague very closely on this important file. In fact she joined me very recently in my riding of Eglinton—Lawrence where we talked about criminal justice reform.

To answer the member's question, this bill will enable and empower women and survivors to step forward in a number of important ways. Number one, it will clarify our sexual assaults laws. It is very important that women know that they have the support they need from law enforcement, from our laws, from all stakeholders in the criminal justice system. It will do that.

It will clarify the laws around consent. It will ensure that an accused who is charged with this crime will not be able to rely on evidence of propensity, which is far too prejudicial and which we know far too often depends on old, outdated myths and stigmas. Bill C-51 is all about reducing those systemic barriers.

I want to applaud my hon. colleague for all the work she does in supporting women and survivors on this important file.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2017 / 12:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Madam Speaker, I indeed agree with those sentiments. I thank my hon. colleague for the way he carefully articulated them.

In addition to the reforms that Bill C-51 will be implementing to clarify the law around sexual assault and consent, I want to point out a number of important initiatives that the government has supported to support victims and survivors of sexual assault.

Number one, we have provided additional funding and resources to legal aid. In addition to that, we have implemented a pilot project in Ontario, in Newfoundland and, most recently, in Nova Scotia to provide free legal aid services for a certain number of hours for the victims who step forward, who have serious or any allegations of sexual assault. That is the kind of enhanced access to justice that I know my hon. colleague supports.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2017 / 12:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to come back to my previous question because I did not hear in the answer from the parliamentary secretary a reference to any particular amendment that has been adopted to address some of the concerns raised about what Bill C-51 might mean for the consent regime. I take his point that the goal of government is to provide greater clarity. Nonetheless, concerns have been raised by people who work with victims of sexual violence that notwithstanding the government's best intentions, it might inadvertently be changing the threshold for consent by tying it too closely to consciousness. The law currently recognizes a lot of other barriers to consent that one does not have to be unconscious for, because one can be conscious and have other reasons for why consent would not be valid.

Our party suggested alternative language through its amendments that would provide greater clarity and ensure that those existing protections under the law are not inadvertently voided by Bill C-51. The government did not take the opportunity to use that language. I did not hear a reference to amendments in his previous answer. Why did the government pass on that opportunity to provide greater clarity, which, according to the parliamentary secretary himself, is the purpose of Bill C-51?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2017 / 12:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Madam Speaker, what Bill C-51 does is to clarify that there are two separate sets of circumstances wherein consent to sexual activity cannot be obtained: first, when the complainant is unconscious; and, second, when the complainant is incapable of consenting for any other reason. This is entirely consistent with the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in the J.A. case, and it is backed by the experts who testified before the committee. The committee heard that evidence. It carefully debated it. It has referred all of its deliberations back to this House, with the adoption of the amendments that had been put forward.

I appreciate my colleague's question. However, I want to assure him and all members of the House that Bill C-51 codifies carefully enunciated principles by the Supreme Court of Canada in the decision of J.A., which clarify when consent is provided and, most importantly, when it is not.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2017 / 12:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-51. The stated purpose of the bill is to streamline the Criminal Code of Canada by removing certain provisions that no longer have any relevance in contemporary society.

I agree with many of the revisions, such as the removal of clause 41 of section 365 of the Criminal Code, which states, “Every one who fraudulently (a) pretends to exercise or to use any kind of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration”; and clause 4, the removal of section 71 pertaining to duelling in the streets, “Every one who (a) challenges or attempts by any means to provoke another person to fight a duel, (b) attempts to provoke a person to challenge another person to fight a duel, or (c) accepts a challenge to fight a duel”. These are a number of the provisions to be removed.

I suppose the government may argue that the provisions against duelling have worked, because it has disappeared from our streets. Therefore, people certainly got the message a long time ago. Witchcraft and neighbourhood duelling no longer have any bearing on our society today. That is one point on which we can agree.

The Conservative Party is also aligned with the strengthening of the provisions of the sexual assault legislation and, indeed, has led the way for supporting victims of sexual assaults by, among other things, the private member's bill introduced by former Conservative leader, Rona Ambrose, Bill C-337. The bill would make it mandatory for judges to participate in sexual assault training and ensure awareness in the judiciary in addition to education about the challenges sexual assault victims face. Her bill was designed to hold the Canadian judiciary responsible for the ongoing training of judges and the application of law in sexual assault trials.

Essentially, Bill C-337 would ensure the following. It would require that lawyers receive training in sexual assault as a criterion of eligibility for a federally appointed judicial position; that the Canadian Judicial Council provide an annual report to Parliament on the details of the type of sexual assault training offered and judicial attendance at the training, as well as the number of sexual assault cases heard by a judge before having received adequate sexual assault training; and that judges provide written reasons on decisions with regard to sexual assault.

As we will remember, this bill was passed in the House of Commons, and we were all very grateful to see it passed. It is now in the Senate and I hope the Senate will get the message and move forward on the bill, which has the support of this chamber and, I believe, Canadians across the country.

We are pleased the Liberals have followed our lead with regard to strengthening sexual assault provisions in the Criminal Code surrounding consent, legal representation, and expanding the rape shield provisions. The Conservative Party always stands up for the rights of victims of crime and have done so consistently, among other things, including the Canadian Victims Bills of Rights passed in 2015.

Bill C-51 would amend, among other things, section 273.1 to clarify that an unconscious person is incapable of consenting. Again, as my colleague pointed out, this is a reflection of the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in Regina v. J.A. It proposes to amend section 273.2 to clarify the defence of mistaken belief if consent is not available and if the mistake is based on a mistake of law, for example, if the accused believed that the complainant's failure to resist or protest meant the complainant consented. This, as was pointed out in the earlier speech of the parliamentary secretary, codifies a number of aspects of the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in R v. Ewanchuk from 1999.

As well, the bill would expand the rape shield provisions to include communications of a sexual nature or communications for a sexual purpose. These provisions provide that evidence of a complainant's prior sexual history cannot be used to support the inference that the complainant was more likely to have consented to the sexual activity in issue or that the complainant is less worthy of belief.

In addition, the bill would provide that a complainant would have a right to legal representation in rape shield cases, which I believe is very important. It would create a regime to determine whether an accused could introduce a complainant's private records at trial, which would be in his or her possession. This would complement the existing regime governing an accused's ability to obtain a complainant's private records when those records would be in the hands of a third party.

As I mentioned at the outset, some proposed changes we were adamantly against. As it turns out, thousands of Canadians were also adamantly against the removal of section 176 of the Criminal Code, the section of the Criminal Code that provides protection for religious services.

I would be hard-pressed in my career to know when I have received more emails, or more petitions or correspondence than on this section. When Bill C-51 was first introduced, the government interestingly enough made no mention whatsoever of the fact that it would remove the section that directly protected religious services and those who performed those services.

I was a little taken aback when I read legislation and I saw the removal of section 176. Even though I have practised some criminal law in my career, I had to check exactly what section we were talking about and, indeed, this was the section that said among other things:

(1) Every one who (a) by threats or force, unlawfully obstructs or prevents or endeavours to obstruct or prevent a clergyman or minister from celebrating divine service or performing any other function in connection with his calling, or (b) knowing that a clergyman or minister is about to perform, is on his way to perform or is returning from the performance of any of the duties or functions mentioned in paragraph (a) (i) assaults or offers any violence to him, or (ii) arrests him on a civil process, or under the pretence of executing a civil process, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years. (2) Every one who wilfully disturbs or interrupts an assemblage of persons met for religious worship or for a moral, social or benevolent purpose is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction. (3) Every one who, at or near a meeting referred to in subsection (2), wilfully does anything that disturbs the order or solemnity of the meeting is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

When the government did not mention this was what it would remove, I remember very clearly saying to my colleagues, when this first came up for second reading debate in June, that they should talk to their constituents and ask them if they thought this was a good idea to remove the section of the Criminal Code that directly protected religious services and if they were aware of the fact that the government now wanted to remove the special protection that members of the clergy had. I asked them see what the response was.

I think my colleagues in the Liberal Party must have heard the message. They would have heard the same things I heard when we brought this to everyone's attention. Interrupting a religious service is not the same as a scuffle, or yelling at a hockey game, or disruption of a meeting. Even people who do not attend religious services would agree that this is more serious. This is the message I certainly hoped the Liberals would get, that this section was and remained critical and removing it would have eliminated the provision that completely protected the rights of individuals to freely practise their religion, whatever that religion may be.

Ironically enough during the very week the justice committee was reviewing the government's plans to remove this, the worst mass shooting in Texas history struck an otherwise quaint small town in that state. Gunman Devin Kelley stormed the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs and killed more than two dozen people. The following Sunday, a funeral service was held at the church. The original plan was to hold a small service, but so many people were outraged and moved by this horrible incident that hundreds and hundreds of people came out to show their support for the people of the community. It reiterates the fact that religious freedom is part of the constitution of the United States and it is contained in the First Amendment.

In Canada, our religious freedoms are protected and section 176 of the Criminal Code is part of that protection. Religious freedoms are fundamental to Canadians as well, and the Conservatives are proud to be among the first to stand and support religious freedoms for all faiths.

Faisal Mirza, the chair of the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association, made a point when he appeared before the committee. He said, “We cannot be blind that the current climate of increased incidents of hate, specifically at places of worship, supports that religious leaders may be in need of more, not less, focused protection.” He was referring to the deadly shooting at a Quebec mosque in January, when the lives of six people came to a violent end. Among the victims were parents, civil servants, academics, and people who had left their countries of war to seek a better life in Canada.

Religious crime knows no borders and has no respect of persons. This is why I am pleased to say that, after hearing testimony from faith communities across the country, justice committee members voted to keep section 176 of the Criminal Code in place.

I would like to thank those thousands of Canadians who wrote or emailed their respective members of Parliament. I indicated in my opening comments that I did not remember receiving as much feedback as did on this. I think all members have experienced the same kind of push-back on this, that the protections provided in section 176 are there for a particular purpose.

Again, I disagree with the comments made by my colleague, the parliamentary secretary, when he pointed out that the Minister of Justice said that these things were still offences under the Criminal Code. It is not the same thing. Disrupting a religious service is not the same as creating mischief somewhere and it is not the same as causing a disruption at a hockey game. Most Canadians would agree with us on this side of the House that this is more serious, and that it should continue to have protection within the Criminal Code.

Again, I find it ironic that when this bill was presented to the public, there was mention of duelling and witchcraft, but not one mention of the fact the government would remove the specific protection for religious services and religious officials.

There was one other section of the Criminal Code I did not agree with the Liberals removing. This is the section that has specific protection if someone attempts to attack the Queen. Some of my colleagues said that these sections were not used very often, or one of my colleagues said that the Queen would not be visiting here very much in the future. Again, I believed this was a bad idea.

When I was at the University of Windsor, I will always remember that one of my law professors pointed out the sections in the Criminal Code with respect to treason. He said that it was great this section was very seldom ever used in Canada, but it did not mean it should be removed. I do not go along with the thinking that if nobody commits treason, then we better get rid of that section in the Criminal Code. That is not how it works. This is still a very serious crime. Again, if anyone attempts to attack the Queen, as Canada's head of state, in my opinion it is not the same as getting into a fist fight at a bar some night. It is important; it has significant aspects.

I have to point out that the timing of this is terrible. This is the 65th anniversary of when the Queen took the throne. Nobody has a better record anywhere of public service in the world today than she has.

It has been consistently going on since before she assumed her reign in 1952 and in her service during World War II. That is what she has done, and again this is the year the Liberals decided they would remove this specific protection against someone who is attempting to attack her.

That being said, I am pleased that the government caved on section 176. I am very pleased with respect to the clarifications with respect to sexual consent. I am very pleased as well that a number of the sections that are taking up space in the Criminal Code that no longer have any particular relevance are being removed. However, one of the things that something like this has taught us on this side is we have to be very careful. This is the lawyer in me. We have to read the fine print, and the fine print removing the protection for religious services and religious officials is something that we have to be very aware of. I can assure my colleagues on the other side that we will look at all legislation to see if what are supposed to be unintended consequences are in fact consequences of a very serious nature. Again, my heartfelt thanks go out to all those religious institutions, all those Canadians, and all those individuals who spoke up in support of section 176.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2017 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Madam Speaker, I am not so sure that I have a question, but rather a comment. I want to thank the hon. member for Niagara Falls for the work he did specifically with respect to section 176. I myself had notified over 30 churches within my riding of Barrie—Innisfil on the urging of the hon. member for Niagara Falls. Many of them were grateful for the fact that I notified them because they were not aware of the changes that were indicated in Bill C-51, specifically as it relates to religious services and religious officials. Therefore, I want to thank the hon. member for that.

I am not sure that I have a question. I know he is a humble man, and he would not want to accept any level of thanks for the work he has done in bringing this to light and making sure that all members of Parliament were able to bring it to the attention of the religious officials within their ridings as well.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2017 / 12:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise to speak to Bill C-51 today. I want to begin by, I suppose apologizing to my colleague from Mount Royal, who is the excellent chair of the justice and human rights committee, and who runs it in a fashion that is non-partisan, to his credit. However, from the perspective of an opposition member, it is passing strange that amendments from our side are so rarely taken up by any committee in this place.

On Bill C-58, the bill that the government calls the “access to information bill”, which I call the “denying access to information bill”, I brought forth 20 amendments, and each and every one was rejected. In this case, the chronology is as my friend suggested, and is correctly stated, but each of the amendments from the opposition was defeated. I think each of the amendments from the Liberals was accepted on this particular bill. That is the way it works in committees. I think that Canadians should know that. I find it disappointing.

On the merits of it, and in the collegiality of how the committee proceeds, I am grateful to the member for Mount Royal for the way he runs this committee. It is exemplary, and I salute him for it.

This is a non-partisan issue, and if I got off on the wrong footing by suggesting anything to the contrary, I owe this place an apology. Reform of the criminal law for all Canadians cannot be partisan. We have to get it right. We have to get the balance between the rights of the accused and the rights of victims correct, because the law is constantly evolving, as technology, for example, is constantly evolving. I will have more to say about that in a moment, in respect to sexual assault provisions.

It is to the government's credit that it is taking a number of sections of this very long Criminal Code and trying to update it, in light of what the courts have done and in light of where society is going. That is as it should be.

The NDP wants to say at the outset of this debate that New Democrats are entirely in support of the bill and will be voting for it without hesitation.

Therefore, I want to say a few things for those who might be listening about the nature of the bill. Some have called it an omnibus bill. I think one of the Conservative speakers, in June, when it was in second reading, termed it that. It is not that way. It is a comprehensive reform initiative to do four types of things.

The first is to clarify the laws on sexual assault, because there has been a lot of Supreme Court jurisprudence that requires us to restate the law to make sure we are keeping up with the times. Second, the bill would remove or amend provisions that have been found unconstitutional by the courts. That obviously has to be done. Third, a number of obsolete or duplicative offences would be removed. Fourth, there is another bill that would be amended, the Department of Justice Act, which would create a new statutory duty for the Minister of Justice to table a charter statement for every government bill.

The fourth issue is laudatory, but quite ineffective. The fact that the government tables a few sentences about why a finance initiative is consistent with the charter seems to me to be much ado about nothing. I am not sure it is of any relevance in a court of law. I think the House can assume, without having a statement, that government bills will in fact be consistent with the charter. We hardly need a statement to do that. Indeed, the charter statements that the Minister of Justice has been releasing to date add very little, in my judgment, to the issues before the House. However, I suppose one can never fault too much information, even information that is of dubious utility.

I want to start with the most significant number of amendments to the bill, which is on sexual assault. However, before doing that, I want to put it in the context of an excellent summary of the bill that was provided in the Canadian Bar Association's journal, National, that was done by Omar Ha-Redeye in the fall, just a few weeks ago. It is quite amusing how the author describes the bill. He says:

The federal government is finally doing some housekeeping of the Criminal Code with Bill C-51. It may find some hidden cobwebs--and according to some, there may even be monsters under the bed.

The Criminal Code is a place where old, obsolete, or even unconstitutional laws languish in purgatory. Most governments have been content to simply ignore these outdated provisions, knowing that most would never actually be used. The result is a long, rambling and sometimes unnecessarily confusing statute.

Amen to that.

Sometimes the code is sufficiently complicated to confuse even the judges. This is where I pause to talk about poor Mr. Justice Denny Thomas of the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench, who a few years ago convicted a gentleman named Travis Vader of second degree murder. He relied on section 230 of the Criminal Code, which had a provision called “culpable homicide” that was introduced way back in 1892.

Unfortunately, the judge was not made aware of the fact that the Supreme Court of Canada had previously repealed a part of that provision in a 1987 decision. Then it had ruled, in another decision, that the section was contrary to the charter and could not be saved under section 1. The judge had convicted this individual when the provision “allowed for a conviction of murder without the requirement for proof of subjective foresight of the mental elements for moral blameworthiness”. There it was, sitting and gathering dust, in section 230 in the Criminal Code. They had to do the whole trial again, at unknowing cost, both psychological and financial, to the system of justice in the province of Alberta, and brought the Criminal Code, frankly into disrepute as a consequence.

One has to salute the government for its efforts to bring it up to date and sweep away these cobwebs, as the author so correctly said.

There are provisions in here that are simply obsolete for other reasons, such as those relating to the prohibition on duels, which the House will be pleased to know is no longer a problem under the Criminal Code, pretending to practice witchcraft, offences dealing with trading stamps, archaic sections that no longer serve the needs of contemporary Canada. Again, the government is correctly trying to remove these cobwebs from our criminal law.

That takes me to the main event, if I can call it that—and there are a number of others that I will come to—which are the sections dealing with reform of the sexual assault provisions of the code. The minister talked about making it, “more compassionate towards complainants in sexual assault matters.”

Many of the sections in the code address changes that the courts have made, using the charter, to address problems they saw with these provisions. These sections expand the code's rape shield provisions to expressly include communications for a sexual purpose or of a sexual nature. The rape shield provisions that were introduced after the Seaboyer case in 1991 limit the types of questions that defence counsel can pose, and evidence it can introduce concerning a complainant's sexual history.

This information had sadly been used in our legal system to promote a stereotype, that a complainant is more likely to have consented, or is less credible, because of past sexual history. In 2000, the court upheld the rape shield provisions as being constitutional.

The new changes in this bill appear to stem from criticism rising in the famous Jian Ghomeshi case, which attracted a lot of media attention and dealt with societal discussions about sexual assault prosecutions in Canada. As members may recall, that case involved text messages and social media content by the complainants.

Some defence counsel are concerned that this bill will limit the evidence they can use to offer a full and complete defence. Others believe that those concerns are overrated.

Lise Gotell, national chair of the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund, LEAF, stated that the amendments simply recognized more contemporary forms of sexual communication. I agree with her. If the evidence is used for the purpose of demonstrating inconsistencies, it can still be included if it is only used to perpetuate sexual stereotypes.

I want to quote Ms. Gotell, directly, “There is no implied consent in Canadian law...and so previous sexual activity should be irrelevant to a belief that someone is consenting to the sexual activity in question.”

That is the key. There is no implied consent in Canadian law with respect to sexual assault. Past sexual history or communications on the Internet or Facebook or the like do not imply any kind of consent to the specific activity at that specific time. The courts have made that clear, and I am pleased that Bill C-51 now makes that clear as well.

More than 20 years ago, in the case R. v. O'Connor, the court ruled that medical and counselling records of a sexual assault case could be disclosed by judicial order. The government limited these productions through amendments, and that was upheld. In 1999, the court stated in R. v. Mills that the judiciary had adequate discretion to preserve a complainant's right to privacy and also still allow for a full and complete defence for the accused.

Although the nature of electronic communications today might be different, the concepts remain the same. Sexual assault complainants, who are almost exclusively women, are still subject to widespread stereotypes and prejudice based on their sexual history. Salacious texts and steamy graphics may be communicated differently today, but they are just as dangerous to the balance of justice.

These provisions that deal with the sexual assault measures of a court make a number of specific changes in addition to the ones I outlined a moment ago. The bill would amend the section to clarify that an unconscious person is incapable of consenting. Most of us would have thought that would be self-evident, but there was court case that clarified that. To the government's credit, it has brought in a clarification to the same effect.

What about incapacity to consent short of full unconsciousness, such as when a complainant is very drunk or maybe only semi-conscious? There are those who have said that somehow by putting this in, we would be creating uncertainty over those sorts of situations: severe intoxication and semi-consciousness. I am not concerned about that, because I believe there are other provisions that would address those in the code. That is one point that was made in debate at committee and elsewhere about this legislation.

Then there is the other clarification brought into the bill, which would clarify that the defence of mistaken belief in consent is not available if the mistake is based on a mistake of law, for example, if the accused believed that the complainant's failure to resist or protest meant that the complainant consented. The court clarified that in a case that was decided in 1999. Let us say that the consent was extorted, for example, someone threatens to show the world nude pictures unless the individual consents to having sex. That is not consent, and that needs to be clear . It is now increasingly clear in this case.

One thing that is fascinating in this legislation, and very positive as well, is the ability of the complainant to have legal representation in rape shield proceedings. She, as it is normally a she, can then retain counsel to be present and debate before the court the admissibility of diaries, text messages, or the like. That sounds great, and it is a positive step, but the practical reality for most Canadians is that they will not be able to take advantage of that, because sadly we do not have the money to do so. There is a dearth of legal aid in most provinces. We have a crisis in legal aid. Therefore, it is nice to have that, but I have to ask a practical question on whether people will be able to avail themselves of that. Will women be able to participate as has been suggested?

Again, to give credit to justice committee, on October 30 of this year, an excellent report on legal aid was produced. I would commend members in this place to read that report, because it talks about legal aid in very stirring terms. It talks about a service that “breathes life into the democratic principle of the rule of law by ensuring that low-income Canadians have access to the courts.”

Once again, all three parties worked collaboratively to produce this excellent report. Of course, it is an acknowledgement that most of this is provincial jurisdiction, but, nevertheless, the leadership and best practices were suggested, and I commend the committee for that.

However, unless the Government of Canada assists provinces with more legal aid funding, this laudable section that allows women for the first time to actually participate in and have a right of natural justice in criminal proceedings involving the disclosure of intimate information in situations where sexual assault is at issue, most of the time it will be irrelevant unless those women have legal aid. Canadians need to understand that reality.

I am here to make sure that this place and the government look favourably at the excellent legal aid report that was produced, so it will not just be another report gathering dust on the shelves of Parliament. I believe that the provisions at issue were dealt with very thoughtfully and are not simply symbolic. I think the report includes meaningful changes and hope that the government will move on them and put its money where its mouth has been.

A number of people are in agreement with the provisions in the report. I speak, for example, of Professor Elizabeth Sheehy of the University of Ottawa, and Emma Cunliffe of the University of British Columbia. They talked about the right of legal representation in rape shield hearings as an important step, but said it would be largely ineffectual unless provincial legal aid programs provide financial support to complainants seeking to retain a lawyer. I agree.

On the streets where these amazing workers in rape relief and women's shelters work day in and day out, tirelessly with victims of sexual assault, they also have concerns. Hilla Kerner spoke for the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter when saying, “Women who work with us were very discouraged after what we saw in the Ghomeshi case." The provisions in the bill will send a message, Kerner continued, that "your past, the things you did before the attack and after the attack, will not deter the criminal justice system from actually dealing with the attack and holding men accountable.”

That is a very good indication that the message will be received by those who were so involved in counselling women after sexual assault. However, the law has changed. It's better now. People can come forward and do not have to be afraid. That has to be the number one objective of these amendments, namely, that women will not be afraid will not not think it is a waste of time to come forward.

The Globe and Mail is doing excellent work in showing how few sexual assaults are actually processed seriously by police departments across the land. They did an update this past weekend of an earlier award-winning series.

We are at the very heart of that issue with this bill, making it easier for women to come forward because they know there will be fairness. They will be taken seriously and the laws will not work against them. I think that is excellent.

Not everyone has applauded Bill C-51 in its entirety, in these glowing terms. Michael Spratt, the vice-president of the Defence Counsel Association of Ottawa, refers to this bill as “another half-hearted attempt to reform the justice system by grabbing the lowest of the low-hanging fruit.”

It is true that the government's mandate letter for the Minister of Justice speaks to a comprehensive reform of the Criminal Code. It is so overdue. Nevertheless, I do not fault the government for going after low-hanging fruit, in addressing duelling and trade stamps, for example, or these sorts of provisions, because it is also doing real work in the sexual assault provisions. We have to support it and give credit where credit is due.

One hopes that there will be the comprehensive reform of the Criminal Code that Professor Coughlan of the Dalhousie University, Schulich School of Law, has been seeking. I think and am confident we will get there.

On the issue of sexual assault, I commend the government for what it is doing. On the issue of charter statements, I say ho-hum, nice, but so what? However, on this stuff, this key change to our Criminal Code to give women in this country the confidence that it is worth coming forward, the government needs to be commended. We will support this bill without reservation.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2017 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Ali Ehsassi Liberal Willowdale, ON

Madam Speaker, before I begin, I would like to inform the House that I will be splitting my time with the member for Oakville North—Burlington.

It is a great honour and privilege for me to fellow in the footsteps of my learned friend from Victoria and the chair of our committee, the member for Mount Royal.

I am grateful for the opportunity to rise today to speak about Bill C-51, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Department of Justice Act and to make consequential amendments to another act. I was honoured to study and vote for Bill C-51 at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The bill would strengthen the Criminal Code and other related legislation to ensure that laws are clear, up to date, show fairness to victims, and are in line with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Our government is committed to making progress on addressing sexual assault and gender-based violence. I am very proud that Bill C-51 is an important part of our effort to attain that goal.

Sexual assault and gender-based violence are a tragic reality for Canadian women and men, and we need our laws and criminal justice system to be responsive and to treat victims with respect and compassion. There have been major reforms to sexual offences in the Criminal Code ever since the 1970s, and the changes in Bill C-51 are logical next steps on that critical path.

At committee we heard from women's groups and members of the legal community that the current legal framework under the Criminal Code could be strengthened, especially on the question of consent. Bill C-51 would add clarification to existing law that no consent can be obtained if a complainant is unconscious, as outlined in the Supreme Court decision in J.A. This does not mean that someone just short of unconsciousness is able to consent, even though the person is otherwise incapacitated. Bill C-51 makes it clear that an inability to consent can be for reasons other than being unconscious. The committee also adopted an amendment proposed by one of my Liberal colleagues to further codify the J.A. decision in Bill C-51 by clarifying that consent cannot be given in advance and that it can be withdrawn at any time. As our understanding of consent changes, our laws obviously have to keep pace.

Bill C-51 also proposes to strengthen consent in the Criminal Code by codifying aspects of the Supreme Court's decision in Ewanchuk, notably that an accused is not able to rely on the defence of an honest but mistaken belief in consent if said belief was based on the passivity of the complainant. It is vital that the Criminal Code is clear, to avoid any misapplications of the law.

The witnesses at committee also spoke at length about how a sexual assault trial can be very difficult for the complainant and how unfortunate stereotypes and myths about sexual assault victims continue to pervade our society. Bill C-51 would make important changes in the safeguarding of the privacy of victims. To ensure that the justice system does not perpetuate such stereotypes, the bill would strengthen the rape shield provisions that protect complainants.

Clarity is paramount for any criminal code to be fair, accessible, and comprehensible. From time to time, we must clean up the code to remove provisions deemed redundant, obsolete, or indeed unconstitutional. In the committee's study of the bill, we had numerous legal scholars and experts voice their support for the government's repeal of sections of the Criminal Code that are no longer necessary. In a modern Criminal Code, there is no need for an obsolete provision such as the offence of fraudulently pretending to practice witchcraft. Likewise, we heard from witnesses such as Greg Oliver, of the Canadian Secular Alliance, that Canada's blasphemy law is obsolete and potentially in violation of the charter guarantee of freedom of expression. I was honoured to have sponsored the petition started by Mr. Oliver on this issue and am gratified to see that Bill C-51 would repeal section 296 of the Criminal Code, the prohibition on publishing blasphemous libel.

Although Bill C-51 proposed the repeal of section 176, given that it is rarely used and that other areas of the Criminal Code cover the relevant offences, the committee listened to the concerns of religious groups and constituents. They told us that they believed that this provision was important to send a clear message about Canada's commitment to the protection of religious freedom. For this reason, the committee adopted an amendment put forward by a Liberal member to reinstate section 176. This amendment would also change the language to make it inclusive of all religious and spiritual faiths and to make it gender neutral. Our laws must make sure that all Canadians, regardless of their religious affiliation or gender identity, are free to practise their faith.

During the committee's study of Bill C-51, I was also pleased to support the bill's proposed changes to the Department of Justice Act that would create a new requirement for charter statements. This new section would mandate that the Minister of Justice table a statement outlining the potential effects of all government bills on charter-protected rights and freedoms. The charter is the most fundamental way in which the basic rights and freedoms of all Canadians are enshrined in law. It is imperative that proposed laws are clear in their relationship to these basic rights and freedoms. I applaud the government for taking this pivotal step to ensure transparency and respect for our charter.

I am proud to have participated in the study of Bill C-51 by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. It is clear to me that this bill would strengthen sexual assault law. It would also modernize the Criminal Code and make it clear and accessible, while also placing the Charter of Rights and Freedoms at the centre of our focus when crafting new laws.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2017 / 1:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to participate in today's debate on Bill C-51. It is fair to say that the bill has enjoyed broad and bipartisan support from all members in the House. I wish to acknowledge this support and to thank members from all parties for the collaborative, constructive, and focused discussions that have taken place so far, including before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I expect that this approach will continue and hope that we can quickly move this important legislation forward.

As is well known, Bill C-51 reflects the mandate of the Minister of Justice to review the criminal justice system. It proposes changes that would make the criminal law fairer, clearer, more relevant, and more accessible. These changes are critically important.

The Criminal Code provides the anchor for the criminal justice system and the actions taken within it. As such, these changes would help to advance the minister's ongoing work to transform the criminal justice system and ensure that it continues to promote public safety, hold offenders to account, and meet the needs of victims.

Bill C-51 proposes changes to the Criminal Code and to the Department of Justice Act. I am particularly proud to be part of a government that has shown a consistent and unwavering commitment to promoting the greatest possible respect for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This commitment is reflected in Bill C-51 in many ways. Notably, it proposes changes that would require the Minister of Justice to table a charter statement in Parliament for every government bill. These statements are already being tabled by the minister in respect of her bills. Under Bill C-51, this would be mandatory for the current and future governments.

Some have suggested that this type of change is unnecessary, given the minister's current statutory responsibility to examine every bill introduced in Parliament to determine if any of its proposed changes are inconsistent with the charter. However, we can go further, and that is what Bill C-51 would do. By providing Parliament, the public, and all stakeholders with information on the effects of all government legislation on our constitutionally protected rights, these changes would contribute to a more informed debate on government legislation and a more informed justice system. It is in all of our interests to ensure that those responsible for administering the justice system understand how federal laws implicate our charter rights. This is particularly true for the criminal justice system.

Bill C-51's proposed changes to the Criminal Code can be said to fall into three broad categories. First, Bill C-51 would repeal a number of offences in the Criminal Code that are obsolete or are otherwise redundant. Next, Bill C-51 would build on the work started by the Minister of Justice in Bill C-39, which proposes to repeal provisions that have been found unconstitutional by the courts. It also seeks to amend provisions that have been identified as raising charter risks but that have not been constitutionally considered.

I see the proposed changes in Bill C-51 as reflecting a recognition by the Minister of Justice that, for far too long, we have not been engaging in the kind of modernizing, clarifying, and rationalizing necessary to ensure that our Criminal Code remains coherent and contemporary. Criminal law academics from across Canada, as well as justice system stakeholders, have been calling for this kind of law reform for years. The public also deserves nothing less than a Criminal Code that reflects modern society and that is an accurate reflection of the law in force today. Bill C-51 seeks to make these kinds of changes, and I congratulate the Minister of Justice for making this kind of criminal law reform a priority.

Bill C-51 has generated a lively and important debate. Much of the focus of the debates and the concerns expressed to date have been centred on the bill's proposed changes to sexual assault law, an area that many recognize as complex and for which we would all agree clarity is particularly important. It is an area of particular interest to me as vice-chair of the Status of Women Committee.

I will focus the remainder of my remarks on this section of the bill. I think this area is important for a number of reasons, especially in light of what we have seen in Canada and elsewhere as an ever-expanding dialogue and discussion about gender-based violence and inappropriate and unacceptable sexualized conduct. This violence is almost universally perpetrated by men toward women or toward LGBTQ2 individuals. We know that many survivors of sexual violence in Canada believe that the criminal justice system is not well equipped to address their needs and that if they do come forward to report a crime, they will not see justice.

We do have to do better in addressing these realities, and within our own responsibility can make positive contributions in this regard. Bill C-51 would clarify and strengthen the law on sexual assault, and would help address concerns about how the law is applied in practice. I was particularly pleased to see the changes to consent that are included in this bill.

I had the opportunity to sit in on the justice committee's hearings during testimony on consent. I am pleased to see that at report stage these definitions have been further clarified. We know that no means no and that someone who is incapacitated by alcohol or otherwise or is unconscious is not able to provide informed consent. Now the Criminal Code would reflect these realities.

These changes are, however, only one part of the solution. I am proud of the work of our status of women committee, reflected in our government's commitment to tackling gender-based violence and promoting gender equality as a priority. Efforts like the establishment of a national strategy to address gender-based violence and the allocation of $12 million through the victims fund for projects are designed to improve the criminal justice system's response to sexual assault against adults. This funding is going toward initiatives pursued by the provinces and territories to support victims of sexual assault to receive independent legal advice or the development of awareness raising for the judiciary on gender-based violence. These initiative are important and will contribute to making the justice system more responsive to the needs of survivors of sexual assault.

Furthermore, our government has made judicial education a priority. In April 2017, we announced nearly $100,000 in new funding to the National Judicial Institute to develop training for federally and provincially appointed judges that will focus on gender-based violence, including sexual assault and domestic violence. Additionally, budget 2017 provided funding to the Canadian Judicial Council to support judicial education and training. This funding will ensure that more judges have access to professional development with a greater focus on gender and diversity training.

I urge all members of the chamber to support Bill C-51. I believe this bill is critically important in ensuring that survivors of sexual assault are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2017 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak on Bill C-51, the latest omnibus bill from the government. I have to say it is a bit ironic that we are debating an omnibus bill, given the fact that when the Liberals were in opposition, they made so much noise and such a fuss about omnibus bills introduced by the previous Conservative government.

The Prime Minister and the Liberal platform called omnibus bills undemocratic and the Prime Minister pledged that a Liberal government would undo the practice of introducing omnibus bills. I guess, like so many promises made by the Prime Minister during the last election campaign, this is just another broken promise in a string of broken promises made by him. It really illustrates that the Prime Minister's platform for real change was not worth the paper it was written on.

This omnibus bill contains a number of different sections and parts that are unrelated and given the fact that it contains a number of sections that are unrelated, it then comes as no surprise that parts of Bill C-51 I strongly support and other parts I have real concerns with. I will start with some of the positives.

One aspect of Bill C-51 that I strongly support is the removal of unconstitutional sections of the Criminal Code. Canadians should be able to expect that the Criminal Code accurately reflects the state of the law, and yet Canadians who make that common-sense assumption would be wrong. They would be wrong because the Criminal Code contains dozens and dozens of sections that have been found to be unconstitutional.

The consequences of leaving sections in the Criminal Code that are unconstitutional can be very serious. That was most recently illustrated last year when Travis Vader's conviction for two counts of the second-degree murder of Lyle and Marie McCann was vacated after the trial judge applied a section of the Criminal Code that had been found to be unconstitutional 26 years earlier, all the way back in 1990, and yet there was the section in black and white in the Criminal Code purporting to represent the law on its face.

Lyle and Marie McCann, who were murdered, resided in St. Albert and members of the McCann family live in my community of St. Albert. I can say that the case really did have a profound impact on the community. It further strengthened the impact of the case after the family waited six years for justice. At the moment it seemed that justice had been finally achieved, we saw the injustice of having those two convictions for second-degree murder vacated.

What happened to the McCann family should never have happened. It was completely preventable. That is why, in December of 2016, I joined Bret McCann, the son of Lyle and Marie McCann, at a press conference to call on the government and the Minister of Justice to introduce legislation to repeal unconstitutional sections of the Criminal Code, often referred to as zombie laws.

To that end, I am pleased that Bill C-51 would remove sections of the Criminal Code that have been found to be unconstitutional by appellate courts. I am also pleased that the government introduced Bill C-39, which would remove sections of the Criminal Code that have been found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada.

However, I am very disappointed with the lack of progress the government has made in the passage of Bill C-39. Bill C-39 was introduced by the Minister of Justice on March 8. Nearly a year later, absolutely no legislative progress has been made. Indeed, it remains stuck at first reading. Bill C-39 is straightforward legislation, it is not controversial, and it could be passed easily, yet the minister continues to drag her feet.

I am baffled and the McCann family is baffled and frustrated about the failure of the Liberal government to move Bill C-39 forward so unconstitutional sections, as determined by the Supreme Court, can be removed from the Criminal Code, including the section wrongfully applied in the Vader case. The inaction from the minister and the government increases the likelihood that something like what happened to the McCann family can happen again. In the event that it does, as the result of the Liberal government's inaction, the government will bear partial responsibility. I urge the government to move forward with Bill C-39 in addition to Bill C-51.

One other positive aspect about Bill C-51 is the fact that the government has finally backed down from the removal of section 176 from the Criminal Code. One of the parts of the bill is to remove unconstitutional sections, as well as sections of the Criminal Code that, in the opinion of the government, are redundant or obsolete.

Section 176 of the criminal code makes it a criminal offence to obstruct or threaten a religious official or to disrupt a religious service or ceremony. Simply put, section 176 is not unconstitutional, has never been challenged in court, and is not obsolete. Indeed, a number of individuals have been successfully prosecuted under section 176. Also, it is not redundant in as much as it is the only section of the Criminal Code that expressly protects the rights and freedoms of Canadians to practise their religion without fear or intimidation, a freedom that, by the way, is not just any freedom. When we are talking about freedom of religion, we are talking about a fundamental freedom guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I am glad the government listened to the official opposition. More important, it listened to thousands and thousands of Canadians who signed a petition, wrote letters and emails, and made phone calls to MPs and the government to keep section 176 in the Criminal Code.

Bill C-51 would remove another section of the Criminal Code that I believe should not be removed, and that is section 49. Section 49 makes it an offence to attack or harm the head of state, Her Majesty the Queen. The government has not been able to provide any meaningful rationale as to why section 49 would be removed. It has not been able to provide a rationale in debate. It has not been able to provide a rationale at committee. It could not come at a worse time. This year marks the 65th anniversary that Queen Elizabeth was ascended to the throne. It makes no sense why the Liberal government seems intent on removing section 49 from the Criminal Code.

Perhaps the most substantive part of Bill C-51 deals with amendments to the Criminal Code related to sexual assault laws in Canada. There are a number of parts of the code that Bill C-51 would amend with respect to sexual assault provisions of the code. A number of the changes in Bill C-51 would clean up the Criminal Code with respect to codifying certain Supreme Court decisions, including the J.A. decision and the Ewanchuk decisions of the Supreme Court. I fully support the parts of the bill that would clean up the Criminal Code with respect to that.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2017 / 3:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, as I alluded to before question period, the most substantive part of Bill C-51 deals with amendments to the Criminal Code related to Canada's sexual assault laws. I support many of the amendments to the Criminal Code brought forward in Bill C-51, including those amendments that clean up the Criminal Code by codifying law determined by the Supreme Court of Canada, including the Regina v. J.A. and Regina v. Ewanchuk decisions.

That being said, there is one area of Bill C-51, in terms of changes to sexual assault laws, that causes me some concern. That area of concern relates to the defence disclosure requirements. Bill C-51 would require that in order for the defence to tender evidence in terms of records that relate to the complainant, it would have to bring an application to the court. In other words, records that relate to the complainant would be deemed inadmissible unless the court determined otherwise. Such an application would have to be brought prior to the trial. Moreover, the complainant would have the right to counsel and would be a party to that application.

I have a number of concerns with that. First, the definition of “records” is very broad. The type and scope of records that would be captured are just about any records related to the complainant. That would potentially include joint records, records that both the accused and the complainant otherwise have a right to access, records that are subject to crown disclosure that are in the control of the crown, and records that were ordered subject to a third-party application. When we talk about the breadth of records that would be captured, we could be talking, in some trials, about thousands and thousands of records that would be subject to such an application.

That would potentially result in delay. In addition to the potential for delay, the timing of the application is of some concern. The application would have to be brought prior to a trial. What is the problem with that? One problem is that there are often issues that arise in trials that are not necessarily foreseeable prior to the trial. Therefore, from a practical standpoint, that would mean there could be records that do not appear to be relevant prior to a trial, but could become very relevant as a result of an issue that arises in the course of a trial. That would mean inevitably that there would be applications brought prior to trial. However, in those instances where records become relevant that were not necessarily obvious or apparent prior to trial, it would result in the need for mid-trial applications. That would mean the adjournment of trials and delay in the administration of justice.

That is particularly concerning in light of the Jordan decision. In Jordan, the Supreme Court determined that delay is presumptively unreasonable where 18 months pass between the laying of charges and a trial in matters before provincial courts, and 30 months in the case of matters before superior courts.

Over the last while, since the Jordan decision was rendered, we have seen dozens and dozens of serious criminal cases thrown out of court, cases involving everything from murder, to sexual assault, to other violent offences. In addition to that, we have seen hundreds, if not thousands, of cases that would otherwise be perfectly prosecutable, but for the Jordan decision, dropped as a result of delay.

The prospect of adding further delay to a system that is stretched to the limit is problematic. What it will potentially mean is more sexual assault cases being thrown out than otherwise would be the case. That is less than comforting to victims of sexual assault. Frankly, it is unacceptable that we could be opening that possibility, and certainly runs counter to the purported objectives of the Jordan decision, which include ensuring that the victims see justice.

I believe that some legitimate questions have been raised about the appropriateness of a complainant being party to such an application with the right of counsel. Very often in sexual assault cases, the outcome of the case rests on the credibility of the complainant. The fact is that most complainants are truthful, but not all complainants are truthful, and in some exceptional circumstances, complainants are not truthful. The effect of this would be that a complainant would gain insight into the defence's case and potential lines of cross-examination. This in turn could undermine trial fairness in a significant way.

In closing, I would like to quote the recent caution of Ontario Superior Court Justice Molloy in the Nyznik case, at paragraph 17, where she stated:

Although the slogan “Believe the victim” has become popularized of late, it has no place in a criminal trial. To approach a trial with the assumption that the complainant is telling the truth is the equivalent of imposing a presumption of guilt on the person accused of sexual assault and then placing a burden on him to prove his innocence.

That pronouncement of Justice Molloy is something that we as members of Parliament need to be mindful of as we try to strike the right balance between ensuring that victims of sexual assault are protected and that their dignity and privacy are upheld with the right of the accused to make full answer in defence.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2017 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend and colleague, the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, for that important question. I want to acknowledge the work he did as one of the first members to flag the government's proposed removal of section 176 in its initial draft of Bill C-51.

The member is quite right that it took a lot of pressure for the government to come around to do the common-sense and right thing with respect to a section of the Criminal Code that is not unconstitutional, that is not redundant, and that has been used in several cases, including most recently in the case of an Ottawa woman who vandalized a religious statue. He is quite right when he speaks about a climate of fear and hate, in which persons, churches, synagogues, and mosques have been targeted by hateful people. We have seen that recently with a number of acts of vandalism at Ottawa area synagogues and mosques. We have seen many instances of this.

Not only was the proposed removal of section 176 substantively the wrong thing to do, the timing could not have been worse. It is really inconsistent with the government's purported commitment to ensuring that measures are taken to deal with and address serious issues around hate being perpetrated and individuals being targeted on the basis of their religion or other characteristics.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2017 / 3:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, I believe that certain parts of Bill C-51 help clarify the law around sexual assault.

One example of that is the evidence tendered with respect to the twin myths. In that regard, the bill makes it clear that evidence cannot be tendered under any circumstances. That is good because there has been some confusion in the case law with respect to subsection 276(1) and then another subsection, 276(2), and subsection (3), which has resulted in trial judges basically having a balancing test in some cases. This bill would eliminate that and make it clear that under no circumstances can evidence be tendered on the basis that a complainant, as a result of her sexual history, is less believable or more likely to consent. That is a positive step.

The problem with this bill is that it is an omnibus bill. It relates to matters that are unrelated to each another. Therefore, there are parts of this bill that are very positive, but there are other sections that, frankly, are very problematic, including with respect to defence disclosure.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2017 / 3:50 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-51, which is important legislation. I do not necessarily agree with my colleague across the way when he talks about the omnibus nature of legislation. In fact, a very thorough review has taken place. This legislation is a reflection, as I made reference to in my question, of court decisions that have been made. along with a review from bureaucrats and others who have been involved in trying to update or modernize our Criminal Code.

I have had the opportunity to look at the Criminal Code, and it is a fairly wordy document. We need to modernize it or make a genuine attempt to make changes like these. Sometimes legislation or law needs to change. I cannot recall the details right off hand, other than the fact that one of the changes would get rid of duelling. I am sure people would have to look long and hard to find the last time there was an actual duelling of swords in Canada. There is legislation that, because it is never repealed or taken out of the Criminal Code, just becomes somewhat dated. Therefore, it is necessary for us to take a look at it and make changes.

My colleague across the way made a couple of references on which I want to pick up, for example, the charter statement. For years I sat in the opposition benches. We would look at government legislation and quite often question if it was charter proof, or if there was a legal opinion with regard to legislation, that it would go through the court system and meet the charter. On many occasions, I have stood in the House and talked about the importance of the charter and different perspectives. Canadians have responded, over three decades-plus of having the charter, that the charter is part of our Canadian values. Often, when I sat in opposition, the government would talk a fairly tough line on criminal matters.

At times, the government would bring in ideas and we questioned whether it had a legal opinion on whether it would be successful if it went to a Supreme Court. We would challenge the government to ensure legislation would be vetted to ensure it would be in compliance, as much as possible, if not all of the time, with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. A very positive aspect of the legislation before us is the charter statement. It would require government to have that charter statement for legislation it introduced to the House. That is a very strong positive, and I am very supportive of it being in the legislation.

I want to pick up on an issue about which the Conservatives have spoken. The Conservatives are leaving the impression that a change to the legislation with respect to the repeal of section 176, as originally suggested in the legislation and is no longer happening, is because of the fine work of the Conservative Party. That is a false impression. I too had had constituents of mine in Winnipeg North and others express genuine concern about why section 176 of the Criminal Code would be repealed.

For those following the debate, like me, who were not part of the committee discussions but may be interested in exactly what members have already said today, section 176 was originally going to be repealed. When the bill was introduced to the House at second reading, it was proposed that section 176 of the Criminal Code be repealed. It currently states:

Every one who (a) by threats or force, unlawfully obstructs or prevents or endeavours to obstruct or prevent a clergyman or minister from celebrating divine service or performing any other function in connection with his calling...

The response to the proposal to the repeal of that section, which many individuals came to know somewhere between first reading and second reading, was brought to my attention. I was really quite glad to see the system works. I do not believe I was alone. I suspect other members of Parliament on both sides of the House were approached on this issue. From my perspective, that demonstrates the system works.

After second reading, the bill went to committee. Members on all sides of the House recognized, whether it was through the committee chair or the committee membership, that high sense of co-operation and understanding of the things that needed to be done. Presenters came forward and recommended, in essence, what many of us were hearing in our constituencies.

I was not surprised that an amendment brought forward to keep section 176. In fact, I believe it was improved upon in the Criminal Code. The standing committee addressed the concerns to repeal section 176 and amended it. It also added more strength to it by expanding it so it went beyond only ministers to include spiritual leaders and so forth, which was a positive change. Had it not even been in the original legislation, that aspect would not have been changed. Therefore, we have a stronger section 176 of the Criminal Code.

I want to emphasize that clause, because it gives me room to let my constituents know that when we talk about trying to improve legislation, we have a process that allows for that. Bill C-51 is a very good example of this.

From what I understand, at least one opposition amendment was approved. As well, a number of government members brought forward amendments to improve the legislation. That clearly demonstrates that second reading is a great opportunity to get a good understanding in principle of what the legislation is about. It then goes to committee where experts are afforded the opportunity to provide their thoughts. Members of Parliament are able to reflect on the clauses, and caucuses, either directly or indirectly, are able to feed their thoughts into the need for change, and we saw amendments. This amendment was a very strong positive, because constituents of mine wanted to see that happen.

I applaud the efforts of the standing committee and the fine work it did in returning the legislation to where we are today. Today we have fairly good support for it coming from all political parties. I understand that many inside and outside the chamber see this as strong legislation, which will further advance the important issue of sexual assault.

We often underestimate just how serious sexual assault is in Canada. In 2016, some 20,000-plus incidents were reported. Those number are far too high. I do not know how it compares to previous years, all I know is that it is an unacceptable number.

When we look at the 20,000-plus incidents reported in 2016, we can anticipate that for every one reported, many others were not. We need to talked about this more. The government and the House need to look at ways in which we can ensure individuals who are victims feel comfortable in knowing society as a whole encourages them to come forward. We all understand and can appreciate the consequences of this type of violent crime. The numbers are significant and very upsetting. It affects all communities.

We can talk about bringing in the legislation and trying to improve it, but it is going to take more than just legislation. There needs to be a national-led approach on how we can deal with the issue sexual assault. I am very happy to hear that different departments, in particular Public Safety and Status of Women, are engaged and are on top of this. We need to promote this dialogue.

I have always thought we vastly underestimate the roles our school divisions throughout the country can play on the issue of violence, in particular sexual assault. I would like to see different stakeholders provide more ideas and have more dialogue. What takes place in our schools is of critical importance.

I used to be the education critic in Manitoba. We often talked about setting the curriculum for our schools and the important role the provincial government had with respect to that curriculum. Likely some areas in the country have better practices. This is where a national government can play a leadership role by looking for better practices and trying as much as possible to encourage and promote those practices in other jurisdictions. That is one of the reasons why I believe in the importance of having interprovincial discussion groups, having a government and its ministers taking these important issues to the many different tables they sit around.

The legislation is important, we recognize that, which brings me right to the bill itself. It proposes to remove and repeal the passage of provisions of the code that have been ruled unconstitutional in many ways by our courts or raise concerns under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as the passage of provisions that are obsolete, redundant and/or quite frankly no longer in place in criminal law itself.

I want to clarify that strengthening the criminal law of sexual assault is expected to assist in enhancing a better understanding of the law and addressing concerns about the law's application. I believe that the better the understanding of the law, the simpler it is made known to victims, the greater the likelihood that we would have victims approving and coming forward to report what has taken place in their particular situation.

I would suggest that the proposed changes to the Department of Justice Act and Criminal Code reflect the government's unwavering commitment to promote respect for the charter and the rule of law. I made reference to the years we sat in opposition and how important it was that when government brought forward legislation that we in the opposition ensured there was a charter test applied to it. This legislation does just that.

Repealing provisions that are very similar to those found unconstitutional by the courts will help avoid expensive and time-consuming litigation. Avoiding unnecessary litigation will also help to prevent court delays and backlogs, which is so critically important.

We can see that the members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights did an outstanding job in reviewing the bill, and making the amendments I have made reference to, which were of the utmost importance.

The government is committed to ensuring that our criminal justice system protects Canadians, and holds offenders to account for their actions, that it upholds the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and shows compassion to victims. We have to ensure that the confidentiality and privacy of victims are protected as much as humanly possible. It is critically important. This includes the unwavering commitment to ensuring that victims of sexual assault are treated with the utmost dignity and level of respect.

During the study, we heard from many individuals who came before the committee on the importance of clarity of what sexual assault laws are. The feedback provided was most welcomed for us to have a better understanding of how a person has given consent, and the need to recognize that if someone is unconscious that person is not capable of giving consent. Therefore, it provides more definition and clarity in that area.

Based on what I am hearing from the members opposite, I believe there is fairly good support for the legislation. With respect to those areas that were repealed, for the most part, with one or possibly two exceptions, the House seems to be fairly supportive. The one greatest exception, section 176, has been dealt with in an appropriate fashion. I know I was quite grateful that it was repealed.

I see that my time has expired. I appreciate the opportunity to share a few thoughts on this piece of legislation.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2017 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, that is one of the reasons why I started the speech in the manner in which I did, focusing specifically on section 176. There have been a number of my colleagues, members across the way, who have talked about Bill C-51 and the many different advantages of the passage of this piece of legislation, especially when it comes to sexual assault. There is no way I can articulate in the same manner in which some of our colleagues have in terms of the actual benefits in that whole area, so that is why I focused a good part of my comments on talking about the issue of process.

I looked at the section 176 as a fairly positive experience. What we saw was not just one member of the House because I believe this thing was being driven, in most part, by Canadians to say, “Let us just wait a minute here.” I know I have had calls on it, and people felt that this was an important aspect of the Criminal Code. Whether or not it was being used very rarely, it definitely provided a disincentive for individuals to go into a mosque, a gurdwara, a Christian church, or whatever it might be, in an attempt to disrupt. It was a positive aspect to the Criminal Code.

How it ultimately came into being and appearing in Bill C-51, I suspect had a lot more to do with reviews that were being conducted. As I indicated, some of the stuff that is within Bill C-51 is because of court decisions; others are because of bureaucratic decisions; others would be because of other stakeholders' decisions. Which category that one falls under, I'm going to choose to believe, was the bureaucratic review in terms of how many times possibly it was being utilized in our courts and as a result it appeared there.

However, the good news is that we have a process in place, we have individuals who were listening to the constituents, and we were able not only to get rid of the repeal but we also amended it in the Criminal Code so that it went to include faith and spiritual leaders. I think that would make the Criminal Code that much better.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2017 / 4:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in this place once again to speak in the debate around another Liberal omnibus bill, which this time happens to be a justice bill. I will be splitting my time with the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan

It has been mentioned already today that in the past election campaign, the Liberals promised there would be no more omnibus bills. They also campaigned against the use of time allocation, and yet time after time the government has used time allocation to move legislation forward.

I am pleased to speak to a bill that received so much input from my constituents over the summer, especially those with strong religious beliefs. The bill does not pick and choose one religion; it will affect all religions.

Bill C-51 was originally introduced by a Liberal government with a section containing what many people thought was an assault on religious freedom and beliefs. As we have heard today, the Liberal government planned to repeal section 176 of the Criminal Code pertaining to the protection of religious officials and the freedom to worship peacefully without disturbance.

Canadians know that Conservative members have always supported religious freedom, and the protection of those freedoms. It was the Conservative government that brought forward the office of religious freedom. That office promoted religious freedom around the world. Andrew Bennett served as ambassador after a long period of time with Foreign Affairs, and he did amazing work for our country and for the whole concept of religious freedom.

In Bill C-51, the Liberal government proposes to repeal section 176 of the Criminal Code pertaining to the protection of religious officials. There was a response in my constituency office and across the country, and pastors and others involved in religious freedom expressed their deepest concerns.

I am very pleased with the work of Conservative members of Parliament who sat on justice committee during the hearings on Bill C-51, including the member for St. Albert—Edmonton and the member for Niagara Falls. Many other Conservative colleagues put considerable effort into the issue of protection of all religious officials and the freedom to worship peacefully without fear of disturbance during religious services. The member of Parliament for Cypress Hills—Grasslands does great work on the whole religious freedom file. I want to thank the many witnesses who testified before committee and provided submissions. I want to thank them for standing up and defending religious freedom in Canada. Their voices were heard.

I commend the Liberal government for backing down on its attempt to repeal section 176. The government realized where amendments should be brought forward and accepted them, so we commend it for that.

It was disconcerting to note that the current government included in Bill C-51 a dismissal of the importance of religious freedom in Canada. The Liberals announced their belief that the disruption of a religious service was not serious enough that it should be protected in this legislation. Consequently, people responded again. At committee, the government tried to ignore it and said it was not going to happen. By November of this year, Liberal members on the justice committee agreed to allow section 176 of the Criminal Code to remain operable.

This was a victory for all faith communities in Canada. It was an important victory, because hate crimes with respect to religious communities happen all around the world.

Hate crimes are on the increase and, unfortunately it is the same here in Canada, whether it is the Jewish faith, Judaism, attacks on synagogues, the Christian faith, or the Muslim faith.

Bill C-51 was introduced by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada just days before the parliamentary recess, on June 6, 2017. Clause 14 of Bill C-51 proposed to repeal section 176 of the Criminal Code of Canada, which makes it a crime to unlawfully obstruct, threaten, or harm a religious official, before, during, or after performing a religious service. Again, we heard about it all summer. Later, I will read what section 176 did.

Why is this important? I want to go back to a quote from former Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker. It is a quote that all of us should take note of and appreciate. He stated:

I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.

His pledge was to stand up, not just for direct assaults on religious freedom, but against the erosion of religious freedom. This is the way that Canadians have lived for decades.

The Liberal government has been very selective of its new sunny ways in who it respects. Worse, the Liberal government tried to reduce the security of religious Canadians by burying its repeal of section 176 deep in an omnibus justice bill. More than 65 interfaith fellowships or leaders, including the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, one of the 65, sent a joint letter to the Minister of Justice on October 31, 2017. It very much brought forward the concerns it had.

I will very quickly read part of section 176 in the act, because it is important for Canadians to get the perspective of it. It states:

Every one who

(a) by threats or force, unlawfully obstructs or prevents or endeavours to obstruct or prevent a clergyman or minister from celebrating divine service or performing any other function in connection with his calling, or

(b) knowing that a clergyman or minister is about to perform, is on his way to perform or is returning from the performance of any of the duties or functions mentioned in paragraph (a)

(i) assaults or offers any violence to him, or

(ii) arrests him on a civil process, or under the pretence of executing a civil process

is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.

Disturbing religious worship or certain meetings

(2) Every one who wilfully disturbs or interrupts an assemblage of persons met for religious worship or for a moral, social or benevolent purpose is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

This provision protects the pastor, the clergyman, the rabbi, the imam in leading, and it protects the individuals who participate in such services. It is important to note, again, that Liberals felt this was unacceptable. In unison, members from all faiths came together.

Bill C-51 has other points. First, it deals with sexual assault provisions. It would clarify and strengthen certain aspects of sexual assault related to consent, admissibility of evidence, and legal representation for the complainant. It would repeal or amend a number of provisions in the Criminal Code that have been found unconstitutional by appellate courts. It is a housekeeping measure. As the previous member suggested, it is good to see that there is support in this place for some of those measures.

I will close by saying that this is the way it should end up. It should end up where Canadians first of all stand up for what they believe is an assault on their way of life, where we take it to committee, make those amendments, and where governments are then willing to allow those amendments to come forward.

I thank the Conservatives for bringing forward the amendments, and all other parties for accepting them. Although the bill may not be perfect, we hope that the measures that have been amended and are coming forward will pass.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to have the opportunity today to join the debate on Bill C-51. It is quite clearly an omnibus bill dealing with a wide range of different provisions with respect to justice. I am going to comment on some of those provisions, but at the outset let me quickly comment on the fact that what we have before the House is an omnibus bill.

I am not one of those people who says that any omnibus bill represents the end of the world, but there are some people on the other side of the House who took at least something close to that position in the last Parliament. I remember being asked about this during election forums in my riding. I said very clearly that there is an appropriate use of bills containing a number of different kinds of provisions, but also an inappropriate use of them, and that, ultimately, we cannot necessarily codify exactly what these will look like in every case. It is the kind of thing that reasonable people should look at it and judge.

The principle is that as many opportunities as possible should be created for debate and votes that are particular to specific individual issues. We should not have a situation in which we have a whole bunch of different, contrary, unrelated things in the same bill that are not in any way part of an overall plan moving in the same direction.

When the government does that it creates a situation in which there may be some aspects of the bill that are positive and some not, which creates a particular challenge for members of Parliament who are trying to decide how to express their support for certain provisions in the bill they may like, and their opposition to things they may have concerns about. However, it also creates an opportunity for the government to bury things in the legislation that actually deserve particular scrutiny.

I am going to talk about the changes to section 176 of the Criminal Code that were proposed. That provision was an example of one that would have had a very substantial impact, but was buried within a larger bill. It did not figure prominently in the government's communications about the bill. It was only because of the activism of the opposition raising awareness about this section that we were able to have it discussed at committee and, ultimately, see what seems like the willingness of the House to remove that proposed provision. However, regardless of one's views on the principle of omnibus legislation, we should hold the government accountable for the fact it has failed to live up to the standard it set for itself with respect omnibus legislation.

One of the provisions we see in the bill, I understand, removes the sections from the Criminal Code dealing with witchcraft. It makes sense for the government to do this. Witchcraft may be its only chance at balancing the budget in the near term. Some members may think this is uncontroversial. I actually discussed it with Mackenzie King this morning, and he has some concerns about this section of the bill. Ultimately, we decided it would only have a medium impact going forward, so I think we will just leave it there.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Do not worry, because I intend to be here a long time.

The particular focus of public debate on the legislation concerned section 176 of the Criminal Code, which presently still exists. Section 176 specifically made it illegal to disrupt a worship service, or attack a “clergyman or minister”. The original version of Bill C-51 sought to remove that section. That would have removed the only section in the Criminal Code that provided specific protection by criminalizing attacks on religious services or religious leaders. We heard a number of arguments in the course of the debate. Of course, the general thrust of the legislation, from the government's communications about it, was that the bill removes redundant or unnecessary sections of the Criminal Code. Some argue that these specific protections for religious officials and religious services were not necessary, because any of the things that are identified within that section in particular are already illegal. Disrupting a worship service might have been captured under trespassing provisions. Vandalism, obviously, is illegal anyway. Assaulting someone, whether a religious figure or not, is illegal anyway. Therefore, the argument was that section 176 of the Criminal Code is redundant.

Why do we disagree with that on this side of the House? We recognize in law that even things that are already illegal may need extra legal recognition to ensure that they are treated by the law in a proportionate way. That is, after all, why we have laws with respect to hate crimes. Anything that is not permitted under hate crimes legislation is probably something that is in fact already illegal, but I think all members of the House agree that it is still important to have hate crimes legislation recognize the proportionality of an offence, recognize that there is something much more serious, that should be treated more seriously, when individuals are targeted because of their background or identity.

There is something more serious about that than a purely random act of vandalism or violence. That is not to downplay the seriousness with which the law should treat a random act, but when individuals, institutions, or groups are targeted specifically because of their identity, that has a different and arguably much greater social effect, because it seeks to impede the practice of that faith, impede the living-out of that identity, and to create a climate of fear for people who are part of that identity. Therefore, when we have specific sections that deal with crimes that target specific groups, they help us to ensure that the law is treating crimes in a proportionate way that reflects the social effects of those actions. We can see on that basis that section 176 is not redundant at all but reflects an important social purpose of the law, which is to ensure proportionality.

Another reason why section 176 was not redundant is the that fact of this being in the Criminal Code sends a clear message that the law not only has practical effects but also pedagogic effects in demonstrating our commitment to religious freedom and to the protection of the practice of faith in Canada.

We also had people objecting to the section on the basis that the language implied that the section might only apply to certain faith communities. The section uses the language “clergyman” or “minister”, which obviously is gender specific but also implies that it only refers to a particular faith. Those who raised this objection were being somewhat disingenuous, because the reality is that this section is clearly interpreted as applying to men and women and to people of all faiths. Certainly, it probably makes sense to update and clarify the language with respect to that, to change the wording to ensure that there is no misunderstanding, but in reality there never really was a misunderstanding the way in which the law applies. Therefore, those objections were incorrect.

Many people over the course of the summer and early fall were actively engaged on this issue, signing petitions, and lobbying their MPs. I was involved in Edmonton in organizing a round table for our leader to meet with religious leaders from different faith communities. It was a great opportunity to get leaders from different faith communities together as part of a common round table talking about the issues in Bill C-51.

Of course, we were glad to see the government's backing down on this. However, it is important to ask the question, why was the removal of section 176 in this bill in the first place? Whose idea was it to put it in there, buried in a long list of provisions with respect to all kinds of other issues? The government, in certain instances, maybe talks the talk about protecting certain minority communities, at least, and certain faith communities, but when it comes to walking the walk, in the initial draft of the legislation, the Liberals tried to remove this critical protection for faith communities. When they were caught and communities became engaged, the government eventually backed down.

This speaks to the importance of vigilance. The government talks the talk on the one hand, but when it thinks people are not looking, and the changes involve small provisions within large omnibus bills, it tries to get away with things that most Canadians would see as unacceptable. This is then a call for continuing vigilance on the part of members of Parliament and Canadians to hold the Liberal government accountable.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2017 / 4:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Niagara Centre.

Bill C-51 deals with certain revisions to our Criminal Code that would impact our charter. These are two extraordinarily important laws in our country that have a direct impact on the lives of Canadians. Like anything worth keeping, they require maintenance over time, so to speak. Bill C-51 would perform some of that much-needed maintenance.

The bill attempts to do three main categories of things. First and most important, in my opinion, it would provide much-needed clarity on the concept of consent when it comes to the criminal law with respect to sexual assault. It would also address certain zombie laws, as I have heard them referred to previously, that have been deemed unconstitutional by our nation's highest court or have become obsolete because of the social context in which we find our country today. Finally, it would require the justice minister to introduce a charter statement to declare compliance with our charter of any government bills introduced through that portfolio.

I will first go to the crux of the matter, in my opinion. Bill C-51 would provide desperately needed clarity on the criminal law on sexual assault. Before I deal with the specifics, I would like to share with the House that this is a social problem that is endemic in Canadian society. It impacts every community. I have had the good fortune of sitting on the Standing Committee on the Status of Women and have heard directly from witnesses who have been impacted by and survived sexual assault what it has done to them personally. To the extent we in the House can help stamp it out, that is the very least we owe Canadians.

There are a number of measures the government has taken outside of the bill to help fight gender-based violence once and for all, including over $100 million introduced for a gender-based violence strategy. What the committee heard during its study on ending gender-based violence against young women and girls is that it is not simply about supporting victims. It is also about legislative reform, particularly in the criminal context.

We have a criminal law system that discriminates against complainants at every turn. We are so ill-equipped to deal with these kinds of cases that a vast majority of complainants choose not to report incidents of sexual assault at all, and those who do muster the courage do so knowing that the rate of conviction, the rate at which justice is granted, is small. It is hard to imagine why they would put themselves in the position of being questioned and re-victimized in the first place.

We have an opportunity to better our system, encourage more people to come forward, and ensure that justice is indeed granted in circumstances where that is possible. One way this may be achieved is through proposed section 273.1. It confirms the Regina v. J.A. decision, which explains quite simply that consent is required on an ongoing basis. Essentially, someone who is unconscious is not able to provide consent. The simplest message to anyone who might be listening at home is that if someone is having sexual relations with a person who is too drunk to consent or who is unconscious, that is not sex. That is rape, and we need to acknowledge it for what it is.

Proposed section 273.2 of this legislation would provide additional protections, reflecting the Supreme Court decision in Regina v. Ewanchuk in 1999, by making it absolutely clear in our criminal law that mistaken belief of the law cannot constitute consent. It is not okay to assume that a person has consented because someone else gave consent for the person. There needs to be a positive affirmation. One cannot assume that because a person consented in advance, the consent is ongoing. One cannot assume that a failure to resist a sexual advance constitutes consent. If those are the only lines of defence in a sexual assault case, a person should be found guilty under our law.

Importantly, Bill C-51 also deals with our well-established rape shield provisions. The twin myths I have heard discussed by different members in the House today explain that we cannot rely on the sexual history of a complainant to make findings as to his or her credibility or whether he or she has given consent in a given instance. Bill C-51 would expand this protection to ensure that communications sent with sexual content or for a sexual purpose were not used to perpetuate those same myths.

This is an added layer of protection that reflects the world we live in. In the 21st century, if consenting adults wish to send each other communications of a sexual nature or for a sexual purpose, that is their decision. However, the fact that someone has demonstrated that he or she was interested in sexual activity before cannot be used by a court to make a finding that he or she has given consent.

If I transposed this logic to any other social circumstance, I feel that just about everyone would get it. Without being flippant about an extraordinarily serious issue, after work I may join a colleague for a beer or have a glass of wine or two over dinner. However, if I am asked to go out for a drink on a given night and I say no, my friends understand that. I do not know why the same logic cannot be applied to sexual assault. Particularly for young men, again, if they are listening, just because a person has demonstrated a willingness to engage in sexual relations in the past, they should not assume that it is consent forever thereafter.

Some of the other themes touched on that I would like to address while I have the floor include these zombie laws. These laws create uncertainty and unnecessary expense in litigation and should be removed from the books. They largely reflect decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada. Cases of defamatory libel and cases involving evidentiary burdens and the reverse onus that have been dealt with by the Supreme Court will be reflected in law. I think, although I do not want to speak for everyone, that those provisions are unanimously supported by members of this House.

There are other matters that are completely obsolete in this day and age. I notice the provisions on challenging a person to a duel, which has a very interesting backstory in Nova Scotia involving our third premier, Joseph Howe, if anyone wants to take the time to read it. There is the crime of publishing crime comics. There is fraudulently pretending to practise witchcraft. I think we will leave the discussion on people who are actually practising witchcraft for another day. I think members get the point. There are many laws that exist in our Criminal Code that really should be removed from the books.

The government has a responsibility to ensure that its laws comply with the charter. That brings me to the last theme addressed by Bill C-51. That is the obligation of the Minister of Justice to introduce a compliance statement, a charter statement, with new pieces of government legislation that impact that portfolio. This is a very positive exercise, in my opinion, and it is one that will enhance openness and transparency. It will allow Canadians to see that the government is stating, for the record, why it believes its laws are in compliance with the charter.

We sometimes fall into the trap, in different governments, in different parts of our nation's history, of putting forward laws that may seem popular to a voter base but may be contrary to the rights that are included, constitutionally, in Canadian law. This practice of introducing a statement on compliance with the charter is going to ensure that our government is subject to Canadian laws and that people are protected by it, not the other way around.

This proposed legislation has my full support, whether it is for making clear the provisions on consent in cases of sexual assault, whether it is removing from our charter specific provisions that should not be there, either because they are unconstitutional or obsolete, or whether it is the introduction of a charter statement. These are positive developments that are going to help make our criminal system more efficient and will help protect the charter rights of Canadians.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2017 / 5:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Vance Badawey Liberal Niagara Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today 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. This legislation proposes to make various changes to the Criminal Code that seek to make the criminal law modern, relevant, and consistent with the applicable charter case law. It would also make important clarifications to the law of sexual assault.

The justice and human rights committee has now concluded its study of the bill. The committee heard from a number of important witnesses and stakeholders representing diverse viewpoints. In particular, witnesses were most interested in sharing their perspectives and recommendations with committee members on issues relating to the proposed sexual assault reforms.

The committee considered a number of amendments to those proposed reforms and adopted two that responded to what they heard from the many witnesses and that seek to bring even greater clarity to the law.

The committee also heard from witnesses in relation to the proposed repeal of an offence that targets disrupting religious officiants and ceremonies. The bill proposes to repeal this offence because, to the degree that it prohibits conduct that merits a criminal sanction, it is in fact a duplication of other more general offences.

During the study of Bill C-51 at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, committee members also heard from witnesses and constituents who were concerned about the proposed repeal of section 176, as mentioned earlier by one of my colleagues.

Our government listened to these concerns. The Liberal MP and committee member from West Nova put forward an amendment to retain and modernize the section to ensure it is in fact gender-neutral and make clear that the section applies to all religions and spiritual faiths. The government supports this amendment. We believe that all Canadians, regardless of which religious or spiritual faith they adhere to, must be able to practise that faith without fear of violence or disturbance.

There are other proposed amendments contained in Bill C-51 that may not garner as much attention but that are nonetheless very important for the proper functioning of our criminal law and to the overall coherence of the Criminal Code.

For instance, Bill C-51 proposes to amend a large number of offences by removing what is called a reverse onus. A reverse onus is a rule of law that places the burden on the accused to prove that something is more likely than not to be true. This is contrary to a long-standing and fundamental principle of criminal law, namely, that the prosecution bears the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. It is also contrary to the presumption of innocence as enshrined in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Under these normal rules of criminal law, the fact that the prosecution has to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt means that the accused, to be acquitted, needs only to raise a reasonable doubt about his or her guilt.

A reverse onus, by contrast, says that the accused must do more than raise a reasonable doubt. He or she must convince the judge or jury that it is more likely than not that he or she is innocent.

There are special circumstances in which the burden can be reversed, such as when an accused raises the special defence of mental disorder. This burden is reversed because mental disorder is really a question of what was happening inside the mind of the accused, information to which he or she has the best access, and it is also a defence that can be easily feigned.

Absent compelling reasons, the burden must always be with the prosecution. Yet it seems that in the 1953-54 consolidation of the Criminal Code, a reverse onus was introduced into numerous offences, defences, and evidentiary presumptions.

These have remained in law until the present time, with the exception of a number that have been challenged under the charter as violating the presumption of innocence. Most such challenges have resulted in the courts finding the reverse onuses to be unconstitutional.

Bill C-51 would remove the reverse onuses that have been struck down and it would remove all the others that, while they have not yet been subject to challenge, do not appear to have any meaningful justification.

These changes would not have a negative effect on public safety, would better reflect long-standing principles of criminal law, would eliminate the potential for new charter challenges, and would thereby avoid the need for accused persons, prosecution services, and courts to waste precious time and resources examining these provisions. The consensus view among legal professionals and associations is that these amendments form part of the kinds of reforms that our criminal justice system needs to work more effectively and efficiently.

Other types of amendments that may not generate a lot of attention, but are still important include the proposed repeal of a number of offences in the Criminal Code that were enacted long ago, in many cases more than 100 years ago. Many of these offences reflect forms of conduct or values that are no longer relevant to our society. For example, Bill C-51 would repeal offences such as alarming Her Majesty, in section 49; challenging someone to a duel, in section 71; and blasphemous libel, in section 296. Another example of an offence to be repealed is one related to making or publishing what are called “crime comics”, which are exactly what they sound like, namely graphic depictions of criminal activity and violence. While there once was a time of great public concern for the potential for these materials to corrupt children, those days are long past. While not everyone will support this type of material or entertainment, we no longer believe as a society that people should be labelled as criminals for making it.

There are also offences in our Criminal Code that are overly specific, and duplicate other offences that are more general in nature. A number of these would be repealed as well. A good example is the proposed repeal of section 365, pretending to practise witchcraft, as was mentioned earlier by my colleague across the floor. Section 365 makes it an offence to fraudulently pretend to exercise or use any sort of conjurations, tell fortunes, or pretend to use one's skill or knowledge of an occult or crafty science to find lost or stolen goods. This conduct is really just a small subset of fraud. Fraud involves some kind of deception or dishonesty, combined with a risk of economic loss to another person. Fraud can occur in an infinite variety of circumstances. There is mortgage fraud, home renovation fraud, health insurance fraud, and securities fraud. Basically, any other situation in which a person voluntarily gives over money in response to something deceptive or dishonest also amounts to fraud. There is no good reason to have offences in the Criminal Code that spell out what fraud looks like in each of these circumstances. One offence of fraud gets the job done and is in fact defined within Bill C-51.

Archaic offences, such as those with overly specific duplicative offences, take up many pages in the Criminal Code. I know some commentators might consider these reforms, the parts of Bill C-51 that do not get headlines or generate passionate presentations before committee, of little importance. In fact, I take a different view. We should not underestimate the importance of this kind of reform. The Criminal Code is a reflection of Canadian values and what we as a society deem to be blameworthy conduct deserving of punishment and denunciation. It is, to be clear, the moral code of our society. It is our job, as legislators in the House, to ensure this code reflects our current values and priorities, that it does not overreach, and that it be rational and orderly.

I support the minister and our government in undertaking this routine but vitally important maintenance and updating of our Criminal Code to make it clearer and more accessible to Canadians, more relevant and modern, and more consistent with our human rights and freedoms.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2017 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Vance Badawey Liberal Niagara Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, it seems the Conservatives are putting a lot of emphasis on the omnibus bills of this government when in fact they did the same when they were in government.

I have to say that our government is committed to ensuring that our criminal justice system protects all Canadians, holds offenders to account, upholds the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and shows compassion for victims. This includes an unwavering commitment to ensuring that victims of sexual assault, as contained within Bill C-51, are treated with the utmost dignity and respect.

Bill C-51, although defined as “omnibus” by the members across the way, deals with the issues that I have highlighted were to be dealt with in the bill. Sexual assault and ensuring that victims are treated with the utmost dignity and respect is a priority for this government. What the Conservatives are calling “omnibus”, we call a responsibility that deals with our values as Canadians.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2017 / 5:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to rise today to speak to Bill C-51. The very words of Bill C-51 hearkens back to the last election. As I recall, the opposition at the time, which is now the government party, had made a lot of noise about a particular Bill C-51 in the last Parliament. I know the Liberals also made a lot of noise about omnibus bills. I heard a lot about that one thing.

It is ironic today that two things, which are forever burned in my memory, are now coming up again today, as we discuss the current Bill C-51 and this omnibus bill.

Before I go any further, Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member from Provencher.

Getting back to the omnibus bill, as far as I am aware, the Conservative party used omnibus bills when in power. They were a tool that was available to the governing party at the time. We made no apologies for it. I was not here at the time, but I know that was a practice and it was loudly protested by the Liberals in particular. I heard about that in the faraway place of the promised land, up in northern Alberta where I am from. I heard about it repeatedly on the campaign trail, that the Conservatives used omnibus legislation.

I had to do some research as to what omnibus legislation was. It turns out that it is legislation that affects more than one bill or one act of the Parliament of Canada. It seemed logical to me, but for some reason the Liberals seem to make this out to be evil and wrong. To their credit, “omnibus” sounds kind of ominous. That is what the Liberals were going after with that whole line of attack.

It is kind of ironic that we are here today discussing an omnibus bill with much ado about some of the bill, while we are in vast agreement on many parts of it.

Over and over members have stood and have said that it is ridiculous, that the party over here is asking about omnibus bills, that it had no problem using them. However, that is precisely the point. The Conservatives did not promise not use omnibus legislation. The Liberals were accusing us of doing all kinds of things with omnibus legislation, saying that there was something inherently wrong with it.

Now the Liberals are the ones using omnibus legislation to roll out their agenda, which is perfectly within their right. However, the fact that they ran on the platform of not using omnibus legislation proves to me how the Liberals were willing to say whatever it took to get elected. It never had to be anything of substance. It was just omnibus legislation sounded terrible so it must be terrible, and they ran on the fact they would not use omnibus legislation. It was absolutely ridiculous.

It just goes to show that the Liberals can make a promise about something during an election and then they say that we did it too. This is what elections are won and fought over. If people say they will do something, then they have to live up to that. The consequences will be borne out over what was said.

The Conservatives understand that sometimes omnibus legislation is needed to change several different acts when trying to implement a particular idea. While that seems to make sense, the Liberals ran on the promise in the last election not to introduce omnibus legislation.

That brings me to the substance of the bill. I am pleased to say that section 176 was removed from the bill at committee. I am quite perturbed that this section was in the bill in the first place. It indicates to me that the Liberals are completely out of touch with Canadian culture and Canadian society when every day the media shows that crimes against religious institutions or people are on the uptick around the world. Section 176 was put in the bill as a cleanup measure, that it was obsolete legislation that we no longer needed in Canadian society.

This calls into question a number of the Liberal priorities. Why are Liberals saying this is not needed? Why is the protection of clergy or religious institutions not needed in modern-day society? They said that it was only one particular religion. We checked if imams claimed some of the tax credits available to the clergy, and they did. We asked if rabbis were classified as clergy under Canadian law, and they were. This seemed to be completely unrelated to reality.

We also checked as to whether there had been changes in crimes being perpetrated across the country. We discovered that religion accounted for 35% of targeted hate crimes in 2015. Introducing section 176 in this so-called cleanup bill is completely out of touch, when the reality is quite the opposite.

I received a significant amount of mail and emails from 176 constituents across my riding concerned about this section being removed. Even committee members mentioned that this section of the bill seemed to spark a significant amount of feedback. I am happy the Conservative members at committee were able to convince other members that this was not necessary, that it should remain in the Criminal Code, and it will remain in the code.

Once again, we need to ensure that religious communities across the country are not prevented from worshipping. One of the pieces to be removed from the Criminal Code was preventing clergy from getting to their places of worship to hold services. It is very important that clergy can fulfill their duties and do their jobs without harassment or worry of being detained along the roadway. I am not sure how often this section of the law has been used in the past or if the clergy were even aware they had this protection in criminal law. After this bill was introduced, there was a dramatic uptick in education on this and the realization that these protections existed in law.

I have a graph of all the hate crimes in the country. Religion is one of the highest motivations for hate crimes across the country. It ranks between race and ethnicity. It is a significant part of motivation and we need to ensure religious communities feel safe and are protected by the Criminal Code.

I had more to say about sexual assault, but I have concerns with the way the bill is going. The duty for evidence needs to come from the accused. We need to ensure that all evidence, regardless of when or where it is acquired, can been seen and heard at trial. I have some concerns with that, but at this point I am supportive of the bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2017 / 5:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the member for Peace River—Westlock, who I think did a great job of expanding on this bill. It is indeed a real privilege for me to stand and speak about Bill C-51.

I think the last time I spoke about Bill C-51 was about two years ago when the Minister of Public Safety introduced it as an anti-terrorism measure. I was very happy to work on the public safety committee at that time and to be part of the committee work that brought that bill forward. It was indeed a wonderful piece of legislation, which I may remind the Liberals they wholeheartedly supported.

Today, Bill C-51 is an omnibus bill, as was previously mentioned. I Googled it just for the sake of understanding maybe what an omnibus is. It could be a four-wheeled bus. That is not the case here. It says “items previously published separately” is what constitutes a bill as being omnibus. Certainly this is an omnibus piece of legislation, something that the Liberals railed against during their time as the third party in this House.

From that perspective, we are going to talk about it a little more. It means that we are going to have to cover a bunch of unrelated items, but they are all stuck in this bill. The first part of the bill I would like to speak about is found in clause 14 of Bill C-51. It was introduced to remove section 176 of the Criminal Code.

For the benefit of the folks watching these proceedings, I would like to read the section as it is being presented. Subsection 176 (1) of the Criminal Code says:

(a) by threats or force, unlawfully obstructs or prevents or endeavours to obstruct or prevent a clergyman or minister from celebrating divine service or performing any other function in connection with his calling, or

(b) knowing that a clergyman or minister is about to perform, is on his way to perform or is returning from the performance of any of the duties or functions mentioned in paragraph (a)

(i) assaults or offers any violence to him, or

(ii) arrests him on a civil process, or under the pretence of executing a civil process,

Section 176 provides explicit protection in the Criminal Code. It makes it a crime to unlawfully obstruct, threaten, or harm a religious official, before, during, or after they perform a religious service. It also makes interrupting or disturbing a religious service a crime.

In a time when there is an increasing amount of violence directed against religious groups and religious gatherings, removing this section made little sense. Yet, for some reason, the Liberal government wanted to get rid of the only protection for Canadians performing and participating in a religious service.

The Liberals said that attending a religious service was no different than attending a lecture. However, the many and varied religious groups which exist in Canada came forward in one collective voice, speaking one collective message. The message was simple: religious services and members of the clergy require protection under the law because they are different in kind from other sorts of public gatherings.

Removing section 176 would treat the disruption of a religious service as a mere mischief charge. To religious Canadians, a religious service is more than just an event to attend; it is a formative experience to their individual and community identities. Disrupting such a ceremony is not a small matter, but an act which offends their most fundamental right to gather in a peaceful assembly while sharing their most cherished beliefs.

A mere mischief charge in a time of growing intolerance would not have been sufficient. Indeed, repealing section 176 seems to show an intellectual disconnect on the part of the Liberals.

I am wondering what they were thinking by removing section 176, at a time when we see religious persecution all over our globe. We have seen attacks on religious institutions here in Canada, and the Liberals want to remove the only explicit protection that members of faith institutions have while they are conducting a worship service.

I want to talk a little about my own personal experience, because I grew up as the son of a clergyman. I have a pretty good idea, at least in the Christian faith, of what a clergyman does, and what part of his duties are. I am sure it is similar in all faiths.

That is the beauty of section 176. It is not explicit to the Christian faith. This is protection for clergy and for worship services that applies to all faiths. Whether they are Christian, Jewish, Sikh or Hindu or Muslim, this provides protection for members of the clergy. It provides protection in the Criminal Code for all forms of worship services.

I remember clearly as a young person, growing up and into my early adulthood, the time when my father was a pastor. My father died at the age of 51 from the same rare throat cancer that one of our colleagues passed away from earlier this year. He too had a son by the name of Theodore, as did my father. My father passed away at an early age, but I do remember the work that my father was engaged in and some of the things he did. One of the things he was obviously called upon to do as a pastor was to conduct worship services on a Sunday morning for his congregation, and that is something that section 176 of the Criminal Code clearly identifies will be protected.

Some of the other things were that when he had parishioners or members in the community who had experienced tragedy in their lives, who maybe had encountered some personal difficulties, found themselves in the hospital with a debilitating or life-threatening disease or facing death, often the clergy are called to administer comfort to those individuals. In my father's case, he was able to share the saving grace and power of the knowledge of knowing Jesus Christ with the individuals who were facing imminent death. It gave them reassurance and comfort to know they could put their faith in Jesus and have security and eternal life. These were functions that my father performed on a regular basis. I remember hospital visitation was very important to my father. Section 176 is something that would provide protection for clergy as they go to visit their parishioners, or members in their community who may be suffering from illness, or the illness of a family member.

Something else my father did was to conduct marriage ceremonies. It is an important part of everyday life when a man and woman decide they are in love and want to commit to spend the rest of their lives with each other. They call a member of their clergy and say that they would like to get married.

It is an exciting part of life, a new part of life, so the clergy are called upon to perform marriage counselling, which is part of the work that clergy do. They give marriage counselling, and it is a very important part of the work of the clergy. In the coming and going of their particular duties in performing marriage counselling, but also in performing the actual ceremony, the Criminal Code, through section 176, would provide protection.

One could ask how often that protection is required. People have been successfully prosecuted under section 176 for interfering in a religious or worship service, or also interfering with or obstructing clergymen in the dispatch of their duties. It is kind of like an insurance policy. The comfort of knowing it is there to provide protection for people and their loved ones is very reassuring, even though they obviously hope they do not need it. Certainly our hope, as Conservatives, would be that we would never have to experience a situation where section 176 of the Criminal Code is used. However, it certainly provides a deterrent for individuals from seeking to disrupt clergymen in the dispatch of their duties, disrupting a worship service, or disrupting worshippers and parishioners as they are in a gathering where they are encouraging one another and expressing their deeply held faith convictions, and worshipping the creator they serve.

There are lots of good reasons to support Bill C-51. Through many efforts of Canadians right across our country, who made their voices heard and their opinions known to the committee, to the justice minister, and to the Prime Minister, the Liberals listened. and they amended the bill. They are going to keep section 176 in Bill C-51. I am happy, as a Conservative, to support that bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2017 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member, who is the chair of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I was very pleased to serve with him as the vice-chair for two years, and I respect his leadership and his chairmanship of that committee. He does an awesome job, and he takes a balanced approach. He is willing to listen, so I commend him on his role there.

I was happy to participate in the debate on Bill C-51 at his committee. He gave me the opportunity to ask questions to the witnesses in regard to leaving in section 176 of the Criminal Code.

I am disappointed that the justice minister even presented the bill with the removal of section 176. I do not know what in the world she was thinking, but it was a disappointment. When Canadians recognized that it was in there, when we as politicians brought it to their attention, they overwhelmingly responded to the justice committee, to the justice minister, to the Prime Minister. The committee listened and realized it is hugely important to Canadians that protection for religious services, for clergy, for religious officiants be enshrined in the Criminal Code. We need that protection. It is important to all Canadians that we have that freedom, and we want to protect that.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2017 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the great honour of serving as one of the vice-chairs on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I have been on a few committees, but I have to honestly say that I have never had a better experience than being on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in this Parliament. Everyone who serves on the committee approaches their job with a lot of care, compassion, and responsibility, and it is because of the nature of the subject matter that comes before committee.

My experience, whether dealing with various studies on access to justice or criminal justice bills, has always been a positive one and I feel there are always good conversations in that respect. We made some good amendments that reflected the popular will of the people, notably with section 176. I received an avalanche of correspondence from people all across the country, for whom section 176 had deep, symbolic value. I am glad that all parties could come to an agreement on leaving that section in.

The Minister of Justice has stated many times that criminal justice reform is very important to the Liberal government. As we are about to send Bill C-51 off to the other place, I wonder if the parliamentary secretary could comment on the status of Bill C-39, because that has some incredibly important provisions that need to be amended in the Criminal Code. We have heard reference to the Vader case, in which an incorrect verdict was rendered because of an obsolete section of the Criminal Code. It also deals with a section that still criminalizes abortion.

If criminal justice reform is so important to the government and we are now past the two-year mark, can he offer any insight as to when we will see further steps in the government's agenda on criminal justice reform?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2017 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a great honour to be the last speaker today on this particular bill. I want to start by thanking several of my colleagues who had to cover for me in the earlier part of the session when, due to a family situation, I was unable to be here for the first sitting weeks of Parliament and unable to participate in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. That was during the time when Bill C-51 came before the committee, and I just want to signify my appreciation for the colleagues who did that important work on my behalf.

I have heard comments in this House referring to Bill C-51 as an omnibus bill. With respect, I would have to disagree with those comments. The true sense of omnibus legislation refers to a bill that amends multiple different federal statutes, whereas with Bill C-51, we see all the amendments grouped thematically and really centred on cleaning up the Criminal Code, those redundant and obsolete sections, clarifying the language, and also providing direction to the Minister of Justice in providing a charter statement. Of course, there are consequential amendments to other acts and transitional provisions, but on the face of it, Bill C-51 is an appropriate bill. Some may balk at the length of the bill, but I would say to those members that just underlines the state our Criminal Code is in.

The Criminal Code is a very massive federal statute. It has been added to over the decades, and is a law that needs a lot of cleanup. In fact, legal scholars have been calling for us to act on these provisions for decades now. They have resulted in some real problems in case law. Unless Parliament provides for the amendments, the Criminal Code gets faithfully reproduced with all of its mistakes year after year.

It is heartening to see the charter statement contained in the bill. I will commend the government on starting that process, where the government at least puts forward its arguments with respect to why it thinks a particular piece of legislation infringes on the charter and why it thinks it is going to be okay. That is a starting place for us to have a fulsome debate in this place. As to whether we will always agree with it, that of course remains another question.

We are encouraged that the sections that help clarify Canada's sexual assault laws are in there. When we talk about our sexual assault laws, the big topic of conversation in Canadian political and public discourse is on consent. We need a lot of education among our youth and all members of society on what consent actually means. It is one thing to codify it in the Criminal Code, but not many people outside this chamber and the court system have the opportunity to read the Criminal Code. We also need to have that robust public education campaign to make sure everyone in society knows exactly what consent means and what the ramifications are of it.

On the sexual assault provisions, I will go over a few of the things the legislation is aiming to do. It is aiming to clarify specifically section 273.1, which is going to reflect the Supreme Court's decision in R. v. J.A. It is amending section 273.2, which clarifies the defence of a mistaken belief of consent. It is not available if the mistake is based on a mistake of law, for example, if an accused believed that the complainant's failure to resist or protest meant that the complainant consented.

This was a pretty heavy part of the committee's study. This part of the bill is quite complex, where a slight turn of the phrase or a different word used can certainly have some big ramifications. When I was on that committee, a lot of that testimony really informed some of the amendments the NDP made at that committee. Of course, thanks to my colleagues who took my place during some of the important testimony we heard.

We moved three main amendments that, unfortunately, were not passed at committee. While I respect my Liberal colleagues' arguments against those provisions, I think the law is an organic thing. We do our best to write the law in this place, but of course it will have to withstand the test of time within our courts, and those ultimately will be the judge of who was right and who was wrong in this case.

At committee, we tried to amend clause 10 to clean up the language to include the reason that a complainant would not have the capacity to understand the nature of the activity or would not be aware that she or he was obliged to consent to the activity. Therefore, we were concerned that the definition of incapacity might not have been entirely clear. There were some questions over whether the law was relying too heavily on a person's being unconscious and not looking at other forms of incapacity such as being drugged or something like that. Someone may not necessarily be unconscious, but could still be incapable of consenting to the activity that is going on.

We also heard of a complainant's expectation of privacy. We moved an amendment that reflected the need to clarify the admissibility of a complainant's private records at trial that would be in the hands of the accused. We heard some really great testimony from Professor Emma Cunliffe from the Peter A. Allard School of Law at UBC.

I was proud to move those amendments and argued as forcefully as I could, ultimately to no avail, but I still respect the work we did at committee and that we are finally at a stage now where Bill C-51 is on the launching pad and ready to go to the other place.

This bill also seeks to clarify and amend a number of sections of the Criminal Code that are redundant and obsolete. Some of those sections, I can go over. It would repeal section 71, provoking a person to fight in a duel or accepting such a challenge. Of course, in modern Canadian society that is no longer going on. It would repeal advertising a reward for the return of stolen property no questions asked, under section 43; and, of course, it would repeal the section on the possession of crime comics, from another age in Canada when people thought these would corrupt our youth. Of course, we know that to be a bit outdated in this day and age. One of my favourite clauses repeals the section on people fraudulently pretending to practise witchcraft. These sections serve to show how out of date many sections of our Criminal Code are and, of course, why we need this particular clause.

I will end on one of the most positive parts of our study of this bill, and that had to do with section 176. When members first read the bill at second reading, the proposed repeal of section 176 was simply a line item. It became obvious over the summer months that this particular section had deep symbolic value to many religious communities across Canada. I know that many of my colleagues and I received a lot of correspondence from people who felt that the section should be kept in the Criminal Code because of today's climate of religious intolerance. I believe that repealing it would have sent the wrong message. I am very pleased that we as a committee, indeed all parties, came together to keep that section and the fact that we reached consensus to modernize the language and so on and so forth.

With that, I will end on the fact that the bill is an important first step. We in the NDP are eagerly awaiting news from the Liberal government on when it will move ahead with Bill C-39, because that bill includes some very important provisions of the Criminal Code that need to be dealt with. I hope that the current government, with its emphasis on criminal justice reform, heeds those requests and moves forward with that particular bill.

With that, I will conclude my speech. I appreciate this opportunity to speak to this bill.

National Security Act, 2017Government Orders

November 20th, 2017 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-59 and to express my concerns about this bill being passed in its current form. I have read through the bill carefully and tried to understand the intentions of the Liberals, who seem to want to accommodate terrorists.

In the Liberals' speeches, they try to convince us that they are looking out for Canadians and working to keep them safe. However, if we look at their actions, such as the ones proposed in Bill C-59, it is obvious that either the Liberals are getting bad advice, or they are more concerned about the rights of criminals than those of law-abiding Canadians.

Let me explain. The most significant and most contentious change that Bill C-59 would make to the Criminal Code is the amendment of the offence set out in section 83.221, which applies to “Every person who...knowingly advocates or promotes the commission of terrorism offences in general”. Bill C-59 would introduce a much more stringent test by changing the wording to “Every person who counsels another person to commit a terrorism offence”.

The same goes for the definition of “terrorist propaganda” in subsection 83.222(8), which will significantly reduce the ability of law enforcement officials to use the tool for dismantling terrorist propaganda with judicial authorization as set out in Bill C-51. One could argue that using the expression “another person” means that the offence must target someone specifically rather than the broader target of domestic terrorism and the offence that Bill C-51 is supposed to prevent.

Madam Speaker, I know you understand the importance of what I just said. If Bill C-59 passes in its current form, terrorists will be free to spread all kinds of propaganda using social media, without any fear of being arrested or prosecuted.

The vast majority of terrorist activities are generated from propaganda that is spread in a general way, rather than directed at a specific person. Imagine how this measure will affect the work of our police officers and how we combat terrorism. This proposal is absurd, because it protects criminals and those who want to engage in violence in our country. The government has some explaining to do, and I mean today.

Bill C-59 limits what the Canadian Security Intelligence Service can do to help us protect ourselves. When Bill C-51 was tabled by our government, it gave CSIS the power to engage in threat disruption activities. This meant CSIS could contact the parents of a radicalized youth and urge them to prevent their child from travelling to a war zone or committing an attack here in Canada.

However, if the Liberals' Bill C-59 passes, CSIS will lose that power and will not be able to do anything on the spot to protect us. All of its activities will require a warrant, which is not exactly convenient when the goal is to stop someone from committing an act of terror. Currently, a CSIS agent can pretend to be a local resident to influence someone who is preparing to commit a terrorist act. Bill C-59 will put a stop to that. Agents will just have to watch the threat develop and will have to get a warrant from a judge before they can take action. By the time the warrant is issued, it could be too late. Why are the Liberals putting so many obstacles in the way of law enforcement, who are just trying to protect us Canadians?

The Conservative Party has always taken Canadians' safety seriously, as demonstrated by the introduction and passage of Bill C-51. We must not forget that this bill was passed by the Conservative government with the support of the Liberals, who were then the second opposition party. A couple of years ago, in 2015, the Liberals were in agreement. There was a slight change during the election campaign and now they have introduced Bill C-59, but let us not forget that Bill C-51 was approved by the Liberals.

Now it seems that the Liberals are trying to make things more difficult for the officers tasked with fighting these criminals. In 2015, during the campaign, our Liberal colleagues clearly stated that, if they were elected, they would amend this legislation. It is important to highlight that the bill was only introduced in Parliament at the end of June of this year. It took them 18 months.

The Liberals took their sweet time in keeping their election promise. Perhaps they realized that the original legislation was not as flawed as they thought. They now want to make amendments to show that they are keeping another promise.

The Conservative Party knows how important it is to have measures regarding national security institutions and the responsibility that comes with that. For us, there is no question that the safety of Canadians comes before the comfort of terrorists and criminals. Canadians who love their country come before those who are seeking to destroy it. Unlike the Liberals, we are committed to protecting Canadians. That is not just an idea that we came up with during the election campaign. We have always been committed to that goal because the threat still exists and has not diminished. The threat posed by these criminals is becoming increasingly sophisticated.

We have also heard that these thugs are wandering the streets of our communities after fighting with ISIS. They fought against our own soldiers. We know that they fought alongside ISIS and that many of them came back to Canada. The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness is now saying that he is looking for evidence to arrest them. That is all well and good, but in the meantime, Canadians need clearer information about the situation.

Where is the transparency that the Liberals promised Canadians? Why is the Minister of Public Safety not saying anything about these criminals? Why is he being so silent on this?

As it now stands, Bill C-59 will greatly hinder the efforts of our peace officers and compromise the safety of Canadians, while facilitating the work of terrorists.

National Security Act, 2017Government Orders

November 20th, 2017 / 1:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Madam Speaker, I have full confidence in the intelligence-gathering processes in Bill C-51, which we passed in a previous Parliament, in 2015. That piece of legislation allowed for information-sharing between CBSA, the RCMP, CSIS, CSE, and the Department of Foreign Affairs. I think most Canadians just assumed this had already been taking place. With government, everything always operates in silence. When we can level things off and allow information-sharing to percolate through all departments, we do a much better job of protecting Canadians, whether it is at the border, at the ports, or on our own turf.

I have a concern about returning ISIS fighters and the whole policy of reintegration rather than incarceration for these people. I think all of us are concerned about that. That is why Bill C-59 has to be studied in great detail, with expertise, so amendments can be made to the bill so that this legislation does not actually become reality.

National Security Act, 2017Government Orders

November 20th, 2017 / 1:10 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I was here when the previous government brought in Bill C-51, and there was a great deal of resistance to it from every region of our country. The Liberals ended up supporting that piece of legislation, recognizing that it would become part of our election platform in terms of the need to make changes. This legislation would enable some of those changes.

I would ask the member across the way why the Conservative Party does not seem to understand or appreciate the need to have a parliamentary oversight group, when the other countries in the Five Eyes already have them? That is one of the fundamental flaws of Bill C-51. The Conservatives are out of touch with what the other countries are doing, such as Australia and the U.S.A, and recognizing the importance of having an interparliamentary oversight committee, which would guarantee the rights of Canadians. Why do the Conservatives continuously oppose that?

National Security Act, 2017Government Orders

November 20th, 2017 / 1:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Madam Speaker, it is unbelievable. The member for Winnipeg North always stands up and puts politics ahead of sound policy and politics ahead of public safety. Here he has proven it again, saying they only voted for Bill C-51 because it was going to be a wedge issue in the last campaign. That is why the Liberals should never have won the last election, because that is the type of mentality they have.

The member talked about parliamentary oversight. If we are going to have parliamentary oversight, let us do it right. Let us do it like they do in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia, where they swear them in to Privy Council, where they have access to everything.

The Liberals put on a facade of so-called taking an oath, yet everything is still censored by the Minister of Public Safety, the Minister of Justice, and the Prime Minister himself.

National Security Act, 2017Government Orders

November 20th, 2017 / 1:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to talk about this important bill.

Earlier today, the Minister of Public Safety said that a government has no greater responsibility than keeping its people safe. These people live in our ridings. They are our colleagues, our neighbours, family friends, even our own children. The public safety minister is absolutely right. All governments around the world are responsible for keeping their people safe. That is a weighty and fundamental responsibility that must be taken seriously.

However, the minister was unable to add that the government's responsibility to protect people's freedoms is just as important. It has been obvious from the get-go that the government's approach is skewed toward security and policing and that it is much less interested in talking about the importance of protecting our freedoms.

As citizens who are privileged to live in a democratic society where we can vote and say what we want and enjoy freedom of expression and freedom of association, we must never forget what a long, hard road it has been to get here. We must resist any attempt to undo our progress by taking away any of our rights and freedoms. Bill C-59 is shocking in several ways, considering it comes from the party that authored the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This worries us, as progressive New Democrats and as democrats.

Bill C-59 continues the Liberal Party's two-faced tradition of saying one thing and doing the opposite. The Liberals can advocate one thing and then make decisions that oppose it. The member for Winnipeg North has just demonstrated this perfectly by reminding us that Bill C-51 was strongly opposed by civil society organizations, experts, and defenders of civil liberties, and yet the Liberal Party, with an eye on the upcoming election, voted in favour of Bill C-51 because it would help the party on the campaign trail. It is hard to follow the Liberals' logic at any given point in time. They are not consistent.

It is too bad that we are dealing with a government that plays politics, waffles, contradicts itself, and is sometimes incredibly hypocritical. We can blame the previous Conservative government for a lot of things, but a lack of consistency is not one of them, even though we were often strongly opposed to its decisions.

The Liberals' habit of talking out of both sides of their mouths is not just affecting our security intelligence agencies and police forces. It is as though we have been listening to a broken record for the past two years. The Liberals have been saying that Canada is back on the world stage and that they are going to take tougher action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, we can see that this is all a sham. The Liberals have adopted the same plan as the Harper Conservatives and are approving pipelines left and right, which is obviously going to increase our greenhouse gas emissions. The Liberals are saying one thing and doing another.

The Liberals talk about an open and transparent government, but the changes they are making to the Access to Information Act will make it more difficult and complicated to follow that approach. The Liberals are saying that they want to restore people's confidence in public institutions, but then ministers are hosting cash-for-access fundraisers at $1,500 a ticket.

What is happening today is therefore just another example of the Liberals playing politics at the expense of Canadians' safety and security. They are merely tinkering with Bill C-51, when the NDP and others believe it should be repealed. We need to start from square one and draft a good bill that makes Canadians safer, since that is absolutely essential.

We want to do everything we can to prevent terrorists and other ill-intentioned people from coming here and plotting or preparing attacks or violence against Canadians. We also want to give our democratic institutions and watchdogs the tools needed to watch the watchers. If this is not done properly, we could see a shift towards a police state that infringes on our privacy and digs through our personal lives to gather a bunch of information, even when there is no reason to suspect someone of wanting or attempting to do anything wrong.

We believe that Bill C-51 jeopardized our privacy, our freedom of expression, and our freedom of association. Unfortunately, Bill C-59 does not do what it takes to correct that. The Liberals have missed the mark. A few of these measures might be worthwhile, but overall, the Liberals are continuing the dangerous trend we saw under the previous Conservative government.

The new oversight and review mechanisms are limited and do not offset the exchange and sharing of information and almost unlimited powers within our security agencies. This is a major concern.

There is something rather ironic about what I am going to say, but it must be said as it is of great concern to us. In November 2016, or last year, the Federal Court handed down a ruling with respect to the massive collection of data by CSIS. It had illegally kept personal electronic data for more than 10 years. In its rather scathing and very clear ruling, Justice Simon Noël stated that CSIS breached its duty to inform the court of this data collection since the information was gathered using judicial warrants.

CSIS should not have retained the information since it was not directly related to threats to the security of Canada. That is important. That is a very real example that highlights all the concerns of people who wonder what type of information will be collected about them, who will have access to this information, and to whom this information will be communicated and transferred. In November 2016, the Federal Court pointed out that there can be exaggerations. This is not a figment of the imagination. It happened here.

The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness quickly reacted and said that the government took note of this and would not appeal this decision. Oh, okay. That is a good sign. Perhaps it is a step in the right direction. Oh, wait. Surprise! In Bill C-59, the Liberal government responds to the Federal Court decision in a strange way when it comes to our privacy protections. The new law will allow CSIS to collect huge amounts of metadata containing confidential information about Canadians that is not relevant to its investigations.

The November 2016 Federal Court ruling stated that CSIS did not have the right to do so, and that it was illegal. Bill C-59 makes it legal. People need to understand that if Bill C-59 is passed, CSIS will be able to collect huge amounts of metadata containing confidential information about Canadians that is not relevant to its investigations. These are the kinds of things that make it impossible for us to fall in line with the Liberal government. Yes, we are happy that we can study Bill C-59 more closely, but we are sounding a warning bell.

We are telling Quebecers and Canadians in general to be careful, because there are elements in this bill that will increase police surveillance. We are going to be spied on more, and we do not know who is going to end up with the information.

National Security Act, 2017Government Orders

November 20th, 2017 / 1:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Madam Speaker, if anything was clear in the last Parliament with respect to Bill C-51, it was that the New Democrats opposed it for their own reasons of principle, and yet we find out today from the parliamentary secretary that the Liberals only opposed it for political purposes, so they could use it as a wedge issue in the last election.

I want to speak to the issue of committees. The hon. member knows this bill will go to committee and that there will be some proposed amendments from this side of the House, both the official opposition and the third party. Not to be cynical, we know that the government controls committees. How confident is the member that any proposed amendment will be taken up by the government, and perhaps used to change this legislation?

National Security Act, 2017Government Orders

November 20th, 2017 / 1:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Madam Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to speak in support of the national security act, 2017, Bill C-59. Two years ago, our government came to Ottawa with the promise that it would address the numerous problematic elements of Bill C-51, which was enacted by the previous government. Canadians agreed that in attempting to safeguard the security of Canada, Bill C-51 failed to strike a balance between security and freedom.

Today I am proud to be able to rise in this House and say that we have wholeheartedly delivered our commitment to addressing those problem areas. Our government began its commitment to achieving this goal by first reaching out to Canadians in an unprecedented consultation process, where all agreed that accountability, transparency, and effectiveness are needed from their security agencies.

Secondly, Bill C-22 was passed earlier this year, which created the multi-party National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. It is tasked with reviewing national security and intelligence activities through unprecedented access, with the goal of promoting government-wide accountability. On November 6, our Prime Minister followed through on this commitment by announcing the members of the committee. Today we are debating the national security act, 2017, Bill C-59, the last step in achieving our commitment to improving those problematic elements of Bill C-51. This package consists of three acts, five sets of amendments, and a comprehensive review process.

In creating the national security and intelligence review agency, the office of the intelligence commissioner, and the Communications Security Establishment, we have created the robust and effective national security establishment that Canadians have asked for. In addition, we are amending the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act, and the Secure Air Travel Act to strengthen the role of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, limit the collection of personal information, safeguard Canadian rights to peaceful assembly, and fix problems with the no-fly list.

Finally, our amendments to the Youth Criminal Justice Act would ensure young persons would be provided with all appropriate child protection, mental health, and other social measures needed when faced with a terrorism-related offence. Through my work on the mental health caucus, I know how important it is for all Canadians, especially those of marginalized groups, to have access to all available safeguards, services, and measures when navigating the criminal justice system. Therefore, I am pleased to speak today specifically about these proposed amendments to the Youth Criminal Justice Act included in part 8 of the national security act, 2017.

My riding of Richmond Hill is an incredibly diverse and vibrant riding, where over half of my constituents are Canadians from an immigrant background. Of these, the majority are youths and young families under the age of 30. For this reason, I am proud to say that through this set of amendments, our government is taking action to ensure that all youth involved in the criminal justice system are afforded the enhanced protections provided by Canada's Youth Criminal Justice Act, while also holding them accountable for their actions.

The Youth Criminal Justice Act, or YCJA, is the federal law that governs Canada's youth aged 12 to 17 who commit criminal offences, including terrorism offences. The YCJA recognizes that the youth justice system should be separate from the adult system, and based on the principle of diminished moral blameworthiness of youth. It emphasizes rehabilitation and reintegration, just and proportionate responses to offending, and enhanced procedural protections for youth. The act also recognizes the importance of involving families, victims, and communities in the youth criminal justice system. The YCJA contains a number of significant legal safeguards to ensure that young people are treated fairly and that their rights are fully protected, for example, the identity publication ban, and significant restrictions on access to youth records.

Young people also have enhanced right to counsel, including state-provided counsel, and the right to have parents or other guardians present throughout key stages of the investigation and judicial processes. If a young person is charged, all proceedings take place in youth court. In addition, the YCJA would establish clear restrictions on access to youth records, setting out who may access youth records, the purpose for which youth records may be used, and the time periods during which access to records is permitted. Generally speaking, although the offences set out in the Criminal Code apply to youth, the sentences do not. Instead, the YCJA sets out specific youth sentencing principles, options, and durations. There is a broad range of community-based youth sentencing options, and clear restrictions on the use of custodial sentences.

Turning now to Bill C-59, it is important to recognize that there have been very few cases in Canada in which a young person has been involved in the youth criminal justice system due to terrorism offences. In total, we have had six young people charged since 2002. Two were found guilty, three were put under a peace bond, and one had the charges dropped. Nonetheless, it is important to ensure that when this occurs, the young people are held to account, but also that they are afforded all of the enhanced protection under the YCJA. It is perhaps even more important in terrorism-related offences that we do everything in our power to reform young offenders so that future harm is prevented.

Part 8 of Bill C-59 would amend the provision of the YCJA to ensure that youth protections apply in relation to anti-terrorism and other recognizance orders. It also provides for access to youth records for the purpose of administering the Canadian Passport Order, subject to the special privacy protections set out in the YCJA. The bill would also make important clarifications with respect to recognizance orders. Although the YCJA already provides youth justice courts with the authority to impose these orders, several sections of the YCJA would be amended to state more clearly that youth justice courts have exclusive jurisdiction to impose recognizance on youth. This would eliminate any uncertainty about the applicability of certain rights of protection, including the youths' right to counsel. In addition, there is currently no access period identified for records relating to recognizance. Therefore, the YCJA would be amended to provide that the access period for these records would be six months after the order expires.

With respect to the Canadian Passport Order, Bill C-59 would amend the YCJA to specifically permit access to youth records for the purpose of administering Canada's passport program. The Canadian Passport Order contemplates that passports can be denied or revoked as a result of certain criminal acts, or in relation to national security concerns. For example, section 10.1 of the Canadian Passport Order stipulates that the minister of public safety may decide to deny or revoke a passport if there are reasonable grounds, including that revocation is necessary to prevent the commission of a terrorism offence, or for the national security of Canada or a foreign country or state.

The current YCJA provisions governing access to youth records do not speak to access for passport matters. As noted, Bill C-59 would allow access in appropriate circumstances. However, it is important to note that the sharing of youth information on this provision would still be subject to the special privacy protection of the YCJA. Canadians can be assured that our government is addressing the national security threat while continuing to protect democratic values, rights, and freedoms for Canadians. Those two goals must be pursued with equal dedication.

I encourage all my colleagues to vote in support of the bill.

National Security Act, 2017Government Orders

November 20th, 2017 / 3:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is not always a pleasure, but it is definitely an honour for me to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-59, an act respecting national security matters .

This is a strange second reading debate. To provide some context for the people listening at home, we are supposed to be at second reading. We would normally debate the bill at second reading and eventually vote to refer it to committee if we agreed with the general principles of the bill. What is happening here, which is highly unusual, is that we are not at second reading; rather we are debating whether to refer it to committee before second reading. What this means, essentially, is that the Liberals brought forward a bill but have since realized that they are not satisfied with their own bill. They want to send it to committee so it can be fixed up a bit before sending it back to the House for second reading. I have never seen this before. It is highly unusual to proceed in this manner, and it is inappropriate. This government appears to be improvising and making things up as it goes along.

If the bill is no good, the government should scrap it and come back with a better bill. What is happening here today is ridiculous. We are talking about sending a bill directly to committee rather than debating it at second reading. This is absolutely unbelievable.

Where did this Bill C-59 come from? Members will recall that its predecessor was the Conservatives' infamous Bill C-51. This is a despicable bill that utterly fails to protect human rights. I will spend the next few minutes examining the bill in greater detail.

First of all, during the election campaign, the Liberals said they would repeal Bill C-51, which, as I said, was Mr. Harper's atrocious security bill. The government made us wait two years before coming up with something, and what it finally came up with does not even come close to solving the problem. In fact, this bill will allow the government to continue violating Canadians' privacy and will criminalize dissent, just as the Harper government's Bill C-51 did. This is an important issue I would like to take a closer look at.

There are some serious problems in the bill with respect to protecting privacy, especially in terms of sharing out-of-control information. The amendments to the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act are mostly superficial. In no way does this fulfill the promise we expected the Liberals to keep.

This is an omnibus bill that seeks to provide a legal framework allowing the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, CSIS, to store sensitive metadata on totally innocent Canadians, a practice that the Federal Court ruled to be illegal. This bill does not really solve any problems. It creates new ones. There is currently a crisis of confidence in our national security agencies, especially CSIS, not because of the agencies, but because of the existing legislation. These agencies push the boundaries of the the law and they are not transparent about it, unfortunately. As far as security and intelligence are concerned, Canadians have to be sure that every Government of Canada department and agency is working effectively to ensure Canadians' safety, but also to preserve our rights and freedoms. That is the problem with Bill C-51. The government wanted to make Canadians safer, but there was nothing in that bill that provided greater safety or security.

However, a lot of the bill's provisions took away some of the rights enjoyed by Canadians. They actively undermined the privacy of Canadians and could potentially result in the criminalization of vulnerable groups, for example, environmentalists or advocates of other causes. I will explain later why I am mentioning this.

First, Bill C-51, known as the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015, was passed with little debate. It was not really necessary. That is why we stated several times that this law weakened our security and diminished our right to the protection of privacy, freedom of expression and freedom of association.

This clearly shows that Bill C-51 was ill-conceived. For that reason, we did not support it. We believe that Bill C-51 must be repealed in full and that we must start over; it was Stephen Harper's bill, it did not work, and we have to scrap it right quick.

I would remind the House that, in 2016, the Federal Court ruled on the Canadian Security Intelligence Service's mass data collection. It found that CSIS illegally kept sensitive, personal electronic information for over 10 years. In this landmark ruling, Justice Simon Noël said that the CSIS had failed in its duty to inform the court of its data collection program and ruled that what it had done was illegal. What did the Liberals do in response? They decided that since such activity was illegal, they would draft a bill to make it legal.

Come on. The Federal Court said that what CSIS was doing did not make any sense, that it was illegal, and that it violated privacy rights, and so the Liberal government decided to make those illegal activities legal. That does not make any sense. I can see why the Liberals would want to send this to committee to make amendments and gut this bill. That is shameful.

The other problem that is not mentioned in this bill but that is important to talk about is all of the ministerial directives related to torture. That is very serious. It is something that I care a lot about, and I am convinced that everyone in the greater Drummond area sent me here to talk about this. It is extremely important.

We are calling on the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to repeal and replace the 2010 ministerial directive on torture to ensure that Canada stands for an absolute prohibition on torture. Specifically, we want to ensure that in no circumstances will Canada use information from foreign countries that could have been obtained using torture or share information that is likely to result in torture.

Canada says that it will not torture, but other countries will torture for us. The government would then take this information and impose sanctions.

This makes no sense. Torture must be denounced everywhere. We must never use information obtained under torture. Everyone knows that people will say anything when they are being tortured. Torture does not work and is immoral.

I hope that this government will wake up, because this goes back a long time. The Liberals have been in power for two years and they still have not improved the situation. We must show integrity, we must be strong, and we must say no to torture everywhere in the world. We must not use information obtained through torture or that may lead to torture.

In closing, since the government itself does not think that this is a good bill and wants to send it directly to committee, without going through second reading, I propose that, instead, the government withdraw the bill and introduce new, common sense legislation with the help of the other parties.

National Security Act, 2017Government Orders

November 20th, 2017 / 4:20 p.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is clear to me that Bill C-59 is spotty in addressing some issues that were found in Bill C-51 extremely well. Here I refer to part 3 at the time and its “thought chill” provisions, including the bizarre notion of terrorism in general on the Internet being an offence that could land someone in jail if that person could not understand what it is. This bill fails quite seriously.

On the information section, Professor Craig Forcese has made the point that we need to know that any legislation in Canada will not allow information about Canadian citizens to be shared with foreign governments in a way that imperils their safety. A lot of the bill appears to come from the decisions on the Maher Arar inquiry and on the Air India inquiry.

Regarding my hon. colleague's reference to torture, my disappointment is that no one seems to have focused on part 5 of Bill C-51, which amended the immigration act. Professor Donald Galloway of the University of Victoria was the only one to fully understand that section and to ask what Bill C-52, part 5, was trying to do in amending the immigration act. The conclusion was that it aimed to give information to judges for security certificates without having to inform them that the information was obtained by torture. I wonder if the member for Victoria has any insights as to where that section has gone, because no one is fixing it in Bill C-59.

National Security Act, 2017Government Orders

November 20th, 2017 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Cheryl Hardcastle NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for her comments on how important it is for us to have responsible legislation that moves forward in the best interests of Canadians' civil liberties and their security.

As we know, we are asking for a piece-by-piece repeal of Bill C-51. We have pointed out that there are certain measures the Liberals would like to keep. We would invite them to make their case and work with us to defend the rights of Canadians.

Having said that and in light of the earlier question, does the member think it is important for us to be concerned with new legislation in ensuring transparency and real-time oversight?

Public SafetyOral Questions

June 15th, 2017 / 2:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, the only action we have seen from these Liberals on Bill C-51 is when they supported the Conservative bill in the last Parliament. It is not very reassuring when they decide to table legislation in the dying days of a sitting of Parliament. It gets worse. We are also looking at warrantless access to the private information of Canadian Internet users, something the Supreme Court has judged is unconstitutional. When we see the minister's office saying that it is “developing proposals for what legislation could look like”, that is concerning.

Could the minister assure the House that we are not going to be giving police and spy agencies the powers to take Canadians' private Internet information?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 3:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow the House will debate Bill C-49, on transportation modernization, at second reading.

On Monday we will debate our changes to the Standing Orders. Following that debate, we will resume second reading debate on Bill C-51.

Tuesday the House will debate Bill S-3, on Indian registration, at report stage and third reading.

Following that debate, we hope to make progress on the following bills: Bill S-2, the bill respecting motor vehicle recalls, at second reading; Bill C-17, respecting the environmental assessment process in Yukon, at second reading; Bill C-25, on encouraging gender parity on the boards of federally regulated organizations; Bill C-36, the bill to give Statistics Canada greater independence; Bill C-48, the bill to impose a moratorium on oil tankers off the B.C. coast; and Bill C-34, the bill to reinstate sensible conditions for public service employment.

Bill C-49—Time Allocation MotionTransportation Modernization ActGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 3:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are very proud of the hon. minister's service in Parliament and his service in space, but it is time for him to come back down to Earth. He was deriding the opposition for not bringing substantive debate to this place. The government, in almost two years, has passed only 19 bills. That is it. It has had over 30 time allocation motions limiting debate on a very small record.

In the last few weeks, the Liberals are limiting time on a substantive bill, but they put forward motions on Paris and had a speech by the Minister of Foreign Affairs that really did not amount to anything. They also have Bill C-51 and Bill C-39, which are not substantive legislation either.

I agree with the minister that there are some serious issues addressed in the bill. He is limiting debate on the serious issues affecting Canadians, affecting rail safety, and affecting our transportation system, while having nothing before Parliament to justify limiting debate in the House. I would like to ask the member why they have only passed a small number of bills, and then when bills have an important element, like this one, they are not allowing debate in the chamber.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.
See context

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Liberal

Marco Mendicino LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I take the floor to discuss Bill C-51, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Department of Justice Act and to make consequential amendments to another act. This legislation reflects our government's deep commitment to ensuring that our criminal justice system protects Canadians, holds offenders to account, upholds the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and shows the utmost compassion for victims.

By amending the Criminal Code and related legislation, we can contribute to a fairer, clearer, and more accessible criminal justice system. We are committed to changes that will have a positive and lasting impact on victims' experiences in the criminal justice system and that affirm the charter rights of all Canadians. This bill would do just that. These changes reflect our government's deep respect for the charter. The bill also represents another deliverable flowing from the ongoing review of the criminal justice system that the Minister of Justice has been mandated by the Prime Minister to carry out.

Broadly speaking, the bill's proposals fall into four categories, the majority of which involve amendments to the Criminal Code. First, there are amendments to clarify and strengthen the law of sexual assault. Second, there are amendments to remove or amend provisions that have been found unconstitutional by the courts, building on the amendments set out in Bill C-39, which the Minister of Justice introduced on March 8. Third, a number of obsolete or duplicative offences would be removed. Finally, the bill would amend the Department of Justice Act to create a new statutory duty for the minister of justice to table a charter statement for every government bill, setting out any potential effects a bill may have on the rights and freedoms of Canadians.

Let me begin by addressing the proposed sexual assault amendments. As is well known, in the past few years we have seen a dramatic increase in public interest in and concerns about sexual assault and how the criminal justice system responds to it. The Minister of Justice and her department continue to collaborate with partners and stakeholders to learn, share, and discuss a broad range of issues and ideas for improving how we, as a society, address the ongoing problem of sexual assault. One of the most important roles of the federal government is to ensure that we have the best possible legal framework in place to ensure our communities are protected and victims are treated with respect.

The measures proposed in this legislation today are one step in this process. They seek to ensure that the law is as clear as it can be, in order to minimize the possibility of the law being misunderstood or applied improperly. The bill seeks to amend the Criminal Code to clarify certain circumstances where consent is not obtained and where the defence of mistaken belief in consent is not available to the accused. It would also introduce stricter rules for the admissibility of complainants' prior sexual history, as well as their private records. In addition, the bill would provide that the complainant has standing and is entitled to be represented by legal counsel during rape shield proceedings.

The Criminal Code already clearly defines consent as voluntary agreement to the sexual activity in question. It also sets out a list of circumstances when consent has not been obtained as a matter of law. For example, the Criminal Code currently states that no consent is obtained where the complainant is incapable of consenting. One of the proposed amendments to the bill would make it clear that there is no consent when the complainant is unconscious, as set out by the Supreme Court of Canada decision in J.A. As the court reminded us there, consent must be contemporaneous or received at the time of the sexual activity in question. To most of us, it seems obvious that an unconscious person cannot consent to sexual activity. Nevertheless, providing for this additional clarity in the Criminal Code promises greater protection for victims of sexual assault.

While many have welcomed these amendments, some have also expressed concern. Specifically, some have noted that this amendment may pose a risk of being interpreted in a way that would disadvantage victims. They argue that codifying the rule that consent cannot be obtained from an unconscious person could lead to defence counsel arguing in court that the law no longer recognizes incapacity to consent short of full unconsciousness, such as when a complainant is extremely intoxicated or only semi-conscious. While our government shares the viewpoint of these critics—that consent must be ongoing and affirmatively given—respectfully, the government does not believe that this is a legitimate concern. Our government agrees entirely that the law should remain clear on this point. Consent cannot be obtained from an unconscious person, and the law also remains that consent cannot be obtained from a person who is conscious but incapable of consenting, for other reasons.

However, this is already clearly reflected in the bill. Unconsciousness is set out in a different subsection from the one that refers to incapacity generally, and new language is proposed to make it abundantly clear that incapacity to consent can be for reasons other than unconsciousness. This demonstrates that the unconsciousness provision is not intended to preclude or replace the many other situations that may be captured by the incapacity provision. Simply put, unconsciousness does not subsume all of the existing circumstances of incapacity to consent. Both would be reflected in the text of the Criminal Code.

The legislation would also amend the defence of mistaken belief in consent. This defence operates where it has been proved as a matter of fact that there was no consent, but the accused asserts that he genuinely, albeit mistakenly, believed that the complainant consented. The law already sets out restrictions on the accused's ability to use this defence. The accused cannot raise the defence if the accused's belief was due to the accused own recklessness, willful blindness, intoxication, or failure to take reasonable steps to confirm consent.

Bill C-51 would amend the law to clarify, in accordance with the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Ewanchuk, that this defence is also not available if the accused's belief is based on a mistake of law. For example, if the accused believed that the complainant consented, even though she was unconscious, or if the accused believed that the complainant's silence or passivity meant that she consented, there would be mistakes of law, and the defence, therefore, would not be available. I believe these changes would help to minimize errors by making the code clearer, more accessible, and easier to apply.

Another amendment concerns the rape shield provisions, which regulate the admissibility of evidence of a complainant's past sexual activity in a manner that balances the complainant's dignity and privacy interests with the fair trial rights of the accused. These provisions were introduced by then minister of justice the Right Hon. Kim Campbell in the early 1990s in order to guard against courts relying on what are known as the twin myths, those being that a complainant's past sexual activity is evidence that she is more likely to have consented to the activity in question, or that she is less worthy of belief.

Bill C-51 would amend the rape shield provisions to clarify that they apply not only to past sexual activity but also to communications made by the complainant that are of a sexual nature or are made for a sexual purpose. Just as it would be inappropriate to infer complainants were more likely to have consented based on their past sexual activities, it is equally inappropriate to find that they are more likely to have consented because of the sexual nature of their past communications. Some courts are already applying the rape shield process to such communications. Bill C-51 would standardize this procedure.

The bill would also fill a gap in the law by introducing a specific procedure for determining the admissibility of private records relating to the complainant, such as private journals or therapeutic records, which are in the possession of the accused. Specifically, if those accused seek to adduce complainants' private records, they must bring an application under the new provisions. As is the case under the existing rape shield provisions, such records would be admissible if the judge determines that they are relevant to an issue at trial and have significant probative value that is not outweighed by the danger of prejudice to the proper administration of justice.

It is worth noting that these changes would implement a recommendation of the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs from its 2012 report on the third party records regime.

Other changes to the sexual assault regime include expressly clarifying that complainants must be informed of their right to be represented by a lawyer in the course of rape shield proceedings, as well as an extension of the notice period associated with such proceedings, to ensure that all parties have adequate time to prepare.

I would like to briefly address some comments that have been made regarding these last two proposals and their impact on charter rights. Our government respects the charter rights of all Canadians, including those accused of crimes. This holds no less true in the context of sexual assault proceedings. We believe that these amendments maintain the fair trial rights of the accused, and at the same time, they recognize the privacy rights of victims. Indeed, the amendments' objectives are largely the same as those that underpin the rape shield provisions, which were found to be charter compliant by the Supreme Court.

More information on the charter compliance of these changes can be seen in the charter statement, which was tabled in this House on June 6.

Ultimately, these important amendments to the law of sexual assault would help ensure that victims are treated with the utmost respect and the compassion they deserve, and that offenders are held to account.

I would now like to address the other Criminal Code amendments proposed in this bill. In keeping with the Minister of Justice's mandate, this diverse set of changes would make the law more relevant, more modern, and more consistent with the charter.

One cluster of amendments involves the repeal of Criminal Code provisions that have been found unconstitutional by appellate courts. For instance, the bill proposes to remove the restriction that prevents sentencing courts from giving enhanced credit to those detained prior to trial because they had breached a condition of bail. This part of the provision was found unconstitutional by the Manitoba Court of Appeal last year in Regina v. Bittern. This amendment would complement the change proposed in Bill C-39 that would remove the restriction on giving enhanced credit to those who were detained due to a previous conviction. This was found unconstitutional last year by the Supreme Court of Canada.

The bill also proposes to remove a variety of evidentiary presumptions that have been found unconstitutional by appellate courts, including presumptions related to gambling offences. Presumptions are shortcuts designed to help the prosecution prove an element of the offence by instead proving a different but related fact. These provisions may sometimes violate the presumption of innocence, which is a fundamental precept of our criminal justice system and one we are committed to upholding.

Another set of amendments would repeal what is known as a “reverse onus”, which refers to placing a burden on the accused to prove a fact. Normally the presumption of innocence places the burden of proof on the crown throughout the trial, and any transfer of that burden of proof to the accused may unjustifiably violate the presumption of innocence. Some reversals can be upheld constitutionally; an example is the reversal of the burden of proof associated with the defence of mental disorder. However, numerous other reverse onuses are likely to violate the rights of Canadians and should therefore be removed from the Criminal Code.

This bill would amend 32 offences that contain the phrase “without lawful excuse, the proof of which lies on him”. The second part of this phrase, “the proof of which lies on him”, is generally interpreted to create a reverse onus such that any time the accused wanted to raise a lawful excuse in defence against a charge, the accused would need to prove it on a balance of probabilities rather than just raise a reasonable doubt.

Our government does not believe that accused persons charged with these offences should be put to the task of challenging the constitutionality of these clauses, which present avoidable charter risks. Forcing people to challenge unconstitutional laws or laws that are likely unconstitutional delays criminal trials and burdens the justice system. This is not in the interests of victims, accused persons, or justice. Instead, our government is committed to continued leadership on proactive criminal justice reform while defending the rule of law.

I want to be clear that these amendments will not negatively impact public safety. These provisions being removed are either already found to be unconstitutional or likely to be found so, and as such they would not be operative in any case.

The bill also proposes to repeal offences that are outdated or otherwise redundant. It would repeal 20 such offences. Many Canadians may not know that the criminal law currently prohibits conduct such as challenging someone to a duel, posting a reward for the return of a stolen item with no questions asked, possessing crime comics, advertising a drug to enhance sexual virility, publishing a blasphemous libel, and fraudulently practising witchcraft.

Canadians are far better served by a Criminal Code that is focused on conduct that actually causes harms or risks causing harms to Canadians and our fundamental values.

Finally, the bill would amend the Department of Justice Act to create a new statutory duty for the Minister of Justice. This duty would require the minister, and future ministers, to table a charter statement for every government bill that is introduced. That statement will set out any potential effects a bill may have on the charter rights and freedoms of Canadians.

The Minister of Justice has already been tabling these statements in relation to bills that she has introduced. The proposed amendment to the Department of Justice Act would formalize this practice and extend it to all government bills. This would complement the existing duty on the Minister of Justice to examine every government bill for inconsistency with the charter.

Going forward, charter statements will identify and highlight key charter rights and freedoms that are engaged by any government bill tabled after this legislation comes in force. They will also set out considerations that support the justification of any limits that a bill may have on a charter right or freedom.

That said, charter statements are not the same as the legal advice provided by a minister of justice or his or her officials during the course of a bill's development. That advice will remain confidential and protected by solicitor-client privilege.

Rather, charter statements are intended to provide Parliament and the public with legal information about the charter implications of proposed legislation. They are meant to flag key charter issues and to be a resource to Parliament and the public for the purposes of enriching debate.

This initiative is motivated by the Minister of Justice's commitment to openness and transparency and is intended to further the commitment in relation to one of our government's core responsibilities: enacting legislation that respects the Constitution, including the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the charter.

This amendment is particularly timely, as 2017 marks the 35th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This initiative recognizes the essential role the charter plays in our free and democratic society, and our government is very proud to propose it.

I urge all members to support this important legislation, which represents one more step in the minister's review of the criminal justice system, one more step in our government's commitment to the charter, and one more step toward ensuring that our laws are relevant, fair, and accessible to all Canadians.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 5 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to this latest bill introduced by the Minister of Justice, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Department of Justice Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act. Our colleagues are right when they call this the justice omnibus bill, and this is one of the discussions I have had with my colleague, the member for St. Albert—Edmonton, on all the different areas that are covered by this bill.

One of the things I have notice in question period is that any time Liberal cabinet ministers get up, they always thank the members of the Liberal Party for all their hard work and support. I wanted to use that precedent to thank the hon. member for St. Albert—Edmonton for all the work he has done in the justice area.

He is correct, and my colleagues are correct when they call this an omnibus bill. I believe it was in March of this year, the government House leader introduced a paper on the whole subject of omnibus bills, and stated:

Omnibus bills can be defined as a bill that contains separate and unrelated themes packaged into one bill. Members are then forced to vote for or against a bill that could have elements that Members would support or oppose. The only recourse for Members has been to seek to divide omnibus bills in committee, but these motions rarely come to a vote or are agreed to by way of unanimous consent.

Bill C-51 fits that description, because rather than dealing with one issue, the bill proposes to tackle at least four different matters at once. First, the bill sets out to clarify and strengthen certain aspects of sexual assault, relating to consent, admissibility of evidence, and legal representation for the complainant; second, the bill repeals a number of provisions in the Criminal Code that have been found unconstitutional by appellate courts, and other provisions that, in their opinion, might likely be found unconstitutional; third, the bill repeals several obsolete or redundant criminal offences; and fourth, it introduces a requirement of a charter statement to go along with any new government bill proposed by the Minister of Justice in the future.

In addition, as the government House leader's paper reads, “Members are then forced to vote for or against a bill that could have elements that Members would support or oppose.”

The bill has elements that we support, but there are some elements that we oppose. First, let me be very clear. We strongly support what Bill C-51 does in terms of clarifying and strengthening the sexual assault provisions. I appreciate the comments from the parliamentary secretary when he said that Kim Campbell introduced these in the early nineties, when I had the privilege of being her parliamentary secretary. It was great to work with her. There were so many different elements that we had to move on in the Criminal Code, and of course, this had the support of the Right Hon. Brian Mulroney throughout, and our efforts to stand up for victims and to protect law-abiding Canadians.

We support the provisions that the government has put in, among other things: to clarify that an unconscious person is incapable of consenting; to clarify that the defence of mistaken belief in consent is not available if the mistake is based on a mistake of law; to expand the rape shield provisions to include communications of a sexual nature or sexual purpose; to provide that a complainant has a right to legal representation in rape shield proceedings, that is an excellent idea; to ensure that an individual's previous sexual history has no bearing on questions of consent; and to create a regime to determine whether an accused can introduce a complainant's private records at trial that are in their possession. These are all very important. I believe they are all changes that we as Conservatives support.

In addition, we are supportive of Bill C-51 where it repeals and amends a number of provisions of the Criminal Code that have been found unconstitutional by appellate courts . We have seen before the risks and hurt that can be caused when sections of the Criminal Code have been ruled unconstitutional and are not removed.

One does not have to look any further than the Travis Vader murder in Alberta, during which the judge convicted the accused under an unconstitutional provision. Consequently, and unfortunately, the case had to be re-tried, causing difficult hardship, and unnecessary pain for the victims' families. Removing provisions that had been ruled unconstitutional by the courts is an important measure to take.

With that said, we take issue with some parts of this legislation. For one, we disagree the government needs to introduce a charter statement for every new piece of government legislation that is introduced by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. Although the required charter statement sounds like it might be a good idea, Canadians know that many safeguards already exist. First and foremost is the Charter of Rights and Freedoms itself. Coming into effect 35 years ago, the charter's objective is laid out in section 1:

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

The Canadian governments, both Liberal and Conservative, have been introducing justice legislation since 1982, after the charter came into effect. It has never been a requirement that the government create a charter statement for every justice legislation. It is simply not necessary.

Any legislation that is controversial can be challenged by citizens or groups in court. This will always happen regardless of this new charter statement. I have no problem with the idea of charter statements in general. In fact, if this minister so desires, I would welcome her attaching this to all the legislation that she puts forward. However, to require these as statements by law is another matter. I think it is unnecessary.

If she wants to put out a statement that she believes it complies with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, she should also include that it complies with the Canadian Bill of Rights that has been in place in this country since 1960, since John Diefenbaker was prime minister. She could do that, but it is unnecessary to bind all future governments and justice ministers by putting that in.

Lastly and most importantly, the Conservatives disagree with some of the sections that the government claims are obsolete. In particular, I want to bring to the attention of the House our opposition to clauses 1 and 14 in Bill C-51.

First of all, in clause 1 of Bill C-51, the government is proposing to repeal section 49 of the Criminal Code. This is what that section currently says:

Every one who wilfully, in the presence of Her Majesty,

(a) does an act with intent to alarm Her Majesty or to break the public peace, or

(b) does an act that is intended or is likely to cause bodily harm to Her Majesty, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.

I do not really get why the Liberals are doing this. I was thinking about this on Sunday. I was in Niagara-on-the-Lake for the 225th anniversary of St. Mark's Church. The sermon was given by Bishop David Ralph Spence, who said there were three themes he wanted to talk about. One was the 225th anniversary of St. Mark's Church, and all the good that that church has done, and all the good that has come from the people who attend that church, and what an asset that has been. That church goes right back to when Governor Simcoe was the governor of Upper Canada, back in 1792. That was one of the themes he wanted to talk about.

Then he said he wanted to talk about the 150th anniversary of Canada, and what an asset our country has been since Confederation in 1867. Then he also made a very interesting point. He said that this year is also the 65th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth's accession to the throne. He talked about, and I was thinking about it at the same time, what a wonderful individual she has been in terms of public service to this country as our head of state. Why would the Liberals decide in her 65th anniversary on the throne that it is a good idea to get rid of the section that specifically protects our head of state against anyone threatening or attacking her? It makes no sense to me.

I am also disappointed about the proposed clause 14 in Bill C-51, which would repeal a number of sections and replaces them with something entitled “Trespassing at night”. In short, that clause would get rid of section 176. One of my colleagues raised this matter with the parliamentary secretary.

This section does nothing other than protect the safety and well-being of religious clergy and ministers against dangers and threats. This section also deters someone from disturbing or interfering with a religious worship and ceremony. By repealing this section, the government would be removing the only provision in the Criminal Code that directly protects the rights of individuals to freely conduct the practice of their religion, whatever that religion may be. At a time when news stories are increasingly reporting attacks on religious communities, this concerns me. I have to stand up for the rights of my constituents and all Canadians to practise their religion without fear, recrimination, violence, or disturbance.

The irony of this is that we had a number of debates in the House when the Liberals were telling us how concerned they were about people's right to practise their religion without fear, intimidation, hatred, or prejudice. That is what they said. I did not get into the debate with the parliamentary secretary. This is not obsolete, it is not unconstitutional, it is very important. It is important enough, I can tell the House, that just this year a woman was charged under this offence for allegedly breaking the statue of Jesus at Saint Patrick's Basilica in downtown Ottawa. That section is being used right now, so I cannot imagine why the Liberals would want to repeal it.

I suggest to the Liberals that when they go home this summer, they should tell members of their clergy and people in their ridings that they are removing the section that protects people's right to conduct religious ceremonies, and getting rid of the section that specifically outlaws people who disrupt a religious service. I would be very interested in the feedback they will get on this.

I will be talking to my constituents about this, because they have a right to know that this is the proposal from the Liberal Party. In September, I am going to ask my colleagues what their constituents said and whether they thought it was something they have to get rid of, that anybody who causes a disturbance or threatens somebody is the same thing as a fight in a bar somewhere. I am willing to bet that their constituents will say that it is very serious for anybody to threaten a member of the religious community, or in any way disturb a religious service.

I am hoping the Liberals will reconsider both of those provisions. They are both important to continue. In keeping with the comments I made earlier with respect to this omnibus legislation about how we support some sections and do not support others, I move that notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, when Bill C-51, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Department of Justice Act and to make consequential amendments to another act, is referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, it be an instruction to the committee that during its consideration of the bill, the committee be granted the power to divide the bill into three pieces of legislation, one bill containing clauses 1 and 14, one bill containing sexual assault provisions, and one bill containing the remaining provisions of Bill C-51.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 6:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today.

We just decided to see the clock as 6:30 p.m. As a member of Parliament I always find it fascinating and somewhat magical to see how this place works.

That segues nicely into the bill before us. There are several parts to this bill, but one part seeks to remove outdated provisions from the Criminal Code, including a provision on magic. I find that especially interesting as a matter of discussion.

One example of an outdated section of the Criminal Code is the provision under which it is prohibited to fraudulently pretend to practise witchcraft. It is not hard to see that these measures are no longer of any real use. Over the past few years, only one case of fraudulent practice of witchcraft was prosecuted under section 375. When the person being prosecuted agreed to reimburse their clients, the charges were dropped.

Another example of an outdated measure that will be removed through this bill is the ban on challenging another person to a duel. It will therefore now be permissible to challenge someone to a duel.

As a former fencer, a sabre fighter, I find it particularly interesting to know that I could now challenge someone to a duel. That is interesting. All kidding aside, those types of provisions in the Criminal Code have not been used in a very long time and are no longer really relevant. It makes complete sense to remove them from the law and it is something that could have been done quite quickly.

Before we move on to private members' business, I just want to mention that the former Conservative justice minister proposed that the bill be divided so that we could study the different measures separately. This would have enabled us to get through these outdated Criminal Code provisions very quickly.

For the sake of the debate, I will list a few other sections that will be withdrawn. Many of us have probably done this without knowing it was against the law, but it is prohibited to offer a reward without questions for the return of a stolen item. We see this occasionally, especially for items with sentimental value. For example, it might be a camera containing all our vacation photos and the birth of our children, so photos that are very important and meaningful. It is the photos that give value to the device. Many people who really wanted their photos back often said that they would not ask questions if the camera was returned because all they wanted was to get their pictures. Most people did not know that under the Criminal Code it was illegal to do that. I think it is appropriate to remove those measures.

Possessing a crime comic is also a criminal offence. It was believed that reading a comic showing a crime could lead young people to criminal behaviour. We have moved well past that, in any case. Young people still read comics, but society has moved on to more advanced technologies like video.

It is a good thing to remove these outdated measures. Unfortunately, eliminating all these provisions from the Criminal Code will not solve the problem set out in Jordan, namely that our courts are bogged down and that proceedings must move more quickly if we want to provide better justice. Neither will it prevent the release of criminals due to overly long delays.

This situation will not be fixed because unused sections are being removed. Even if they are taken out of the Criminal Code, there will not be fewer cases before the courts, because these sections were not being used anyway.

The bill will ensure that, with respect to government bills, the Minister of Justice will table a notice of compliance with the charter of rights. That is fine, because it is important to have access to that information.

The rest of my speech will focus on one of the other provisions of the bill, a particularly interesting one. It will clarify the notion of consent with respect to sexual assault. This is particularly important, and I believe that when the bill is examined in committee it would be worthwhile to seriously think about further clarifying some of the other aspects.

As for sexual assault, the bill clarifies the fact that someone who is unconscious is unable to give consent. I know that this seems like common sense for most people, but this will be explicitly clarified. Consider what happened recently when a taxi driver was caught with his pants down with an unconscious victim in his taxi. Unfortunately, he managed to win in court because he said that when the act began, the individual was conscious and then lost unconsciousness afterward. By explicitly setting out that an unconscious individual is unable to give consent, this avoids having victims not being recognized as such, and it prevents perpetrators from getting away with assault through what, for goodness’ sake, is some offensive legal trickery. To any reasonable person, it is patently clear that someone who is unconscious cannot give consent and that, by extension, someone who becomes unconscious withdraws consent.

So the defence of mistaken belief will no longer be available. The bill clarifies that a person must have confirmation of consent and cannot simply say that they were certain of having obtained it; that line of defence will no longer be sufficient. That is also important, because it specifies that you cannot simply say that you are sure to have obtained consent, and that is it. The bill goes much further in the notion of consent. It says that you must be really sure and that you cannot simply rely on your own judgment to deem that a person is consenting.

That broadens the scope of the rape shield provisions. For instance, it prevents the use of communications of a sexual nature. The courts have already demonstrated that it is not possible to use a victim's sexual history to undermine her credibility. What is being added is the electronic version of all that. For instance, you cannot use text messages, messages sent by the victim to her Messenger contacts or by email to suggest that she is promiscuous. The prohibition on using a victim's prior sexual history is being updated with the addition of new technologies. That is a useful aspect.

Right now, I would like to talk about another concept, which is all too often ignored and truly deserves serious consideration. When we do the study in committee, I would very much like to see this concept corrected as well. Much like in the bill, this revolves around consent.

What I will be talking about also revolves around consent. I am talking about stealthing, the act of deliberately and secretly removing a condom during sex without consent from the other person. Often people do not realize that it is a crime, but it is. According to some articles I read, this practice is on the rise. It is important to state clearly in the bill that this is a criminal offence.

When someone consents to having protected sex with another person, then removing the condom without discussing it first amounts to withdrawing consent. It is sexual assault. Victims find that they are not taken seriously when they report this assault to the police. They are told that if they are not pregnant and did not catch an STD, then they have no reason to complain because they consented to the act in the first place. The victims feel extremely bad, dirty, and very misunderstood. They are often told that it is not a crime.

Police officers need to be better educated, but we also have to amend the bill in committee to clarify the concept of sexual consent. We must make it clear that when someone consents to having sexual relations under certain conditions, using a condom for example, and another person secretly removes the condom, that constitutes sexual assault. This would help make the victims feel better understood and would avoid minimizing what they went through. That clarifies consent.

Moreover, just because someone consents to sexual relations that does not mean they have consented to anything and everything. Partners have the right to set their limits. There are some things that people do not want to do. Just because someone consents to having sexual relations with another person that does not mean that they are agreeing to engage in sodomy. If a person does that against their will, even though they may have consented at the beginning to the sexual relations, any action that goes beyond that consent becomes sexual assault.

Unfortunately, this is poorly interpreted. When victims complain to the police, they are told that it is partly their fault because they consented at the outset, that nothing can be proven, and it will be their word against their partner's. Therefore, people do not complain and, since there are no complaints, there are no convictions. As a result, in people's minds, this may or may not be a criminal act.

On the subject of stealthing, in January, a French man was convicted of rape in Switzerland, because he had removed the condom during sex. I have not found any case law on the subject here, but this might apply to some cases.

For example, there is the case where the male partner intentionally put holes in the condoms so that his partner would become pregnant. He was afraid of a breakup and believed that his spouse would not leave him if he made her pregnant. The court eventually recognized that this was sexual assault, because she had not consented to unprotected or unsafe sex. She had consented to sexual relations with a condom.

With regard to consent, we must take the opportunity afforded to us by Bill C-51 to broaden the scope and add amendments to really clarify this concept. That way, there will no longer be any doubt when the courts have to interpret consent in sexual assault cases.

If all of the amendments are passed, the concept of sexual consent will eventually be clarified. I think it is a good idea to ensure that this information is passed on to police officers. We also need to ensure that the police have more training so that they have a better understanding of what constitutes sexual assault, because in some cases they may think that a person has not been sexually assaulted when in fact he or she has and they should be investigating. Crown prosecutors who analyze these cases and police investigations must also receive training, obviously.

Another important thing to point out about sexual consent and sexual assault is that, although legal measures can be taken to clarify these concepts, funding is also necessary to help victims. We need to ensure that they are properly represented and have the help they need to cope with this ordeal. We need to be logical about this. If we really want to help victims of sexual assault, we cannot just look at this issue from a legal perspective. We also need to look at it from a financial one. Victims need access to legal programs and support programs.

Sexual assault has an enormous impact on victims and their ability to contribute to society. I think we would be wise to invest in better support for them so they can recover more easily. Recently, there has been a lot of talk about post-traumatic stress disorder. However, we need to bear in mind that many people suffering from it are victims of sexual assault. Too often they stay silent or avoid talking about it much. We must be able to support victims and provide them with the necessary care. When looking at compensating victims of crime, we need to avoid subjecting them to a never-ending administrative process. They have already gone through enough psychological trauma. They do not have the energy to fight to be recognized as victims. For many of them, just saying that they are victims of rape or assault is very difficult.

We still have a lot of work to do. I sincerely hope that the committee will study this bill carefully. I also hope that we will accept amendments to explicitly clarify consent by including “stealthing” and by clearly explaining that consent can be withdrawn at any time during sex. Even during the act, a person can withdraw consent if things are not happening the way they should. If the individual withdraws consent but the partner does not respect this decision, this is sexual assault.

I hope we will do the work required for the sake of victims. The concept of consent must be clarified to avoid such cases in court. In some cases, if we had used common sense, we would have clearly seen that this did not make sense, that the individual could not have given consent. I believe that, if we clarify this concept, we will be able to avoid traumatizing victims going through the legal process and having them come out of it in worse shape than they were at the beginning.

I look forward to answering my colleague’s questions.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 6:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Yorkton—Melville.

I am pleased to speak in support of Bill C-51, and will focus my remarks on proposed amendments to the Criminal Code that pertain to sexual assault.

In light of testimony we heard at our status of women committee during our recent work on violence against women, this is extremely welcome legislation. I am pleased to see the work of our committee reflected in Bill C-51.

At the heart of the legislation, there is better protection for survivors of sexual assault. These proposed reforms flow from the complex legislative history in this area and must be understood in that context.

Major reform of the criminal law's approach to sexual violence began in 1983 and continued throughout the 1990s. These reforms were in response to concerns expressed by women and survivors groups, and to certain court decisions that were viewed as failing to adequately protect survivors of sexual assault, who were disproportionately women and girls. These legal reforms were intended to encourage reporting, improve the criminal justice system's response to reports, and change discriminatory views of complainants that resulted from myths and stereotypes about survivors of sexual violence and how a “true victim” was meant to behave.

The 1983 reforms introduced new gender-neutral sexual offences that captured a broader range of conduct, which focused on the level of violence used by the assailant, rather than the type of sexual act committed. Specifically, these reforms brought into force the three general sexual offences that we have in the Criminal Code today.

The 1983 legal reforms also brought into force Canada's first “rape shield” law that was designed to prevent the admission of evidence of a complainant's sexual history for an improper purpose.

Prior to 1983, evidence of the complainant's prior sexual activity was admissible in court to show that she was more likely to have consented to sexual activity or that she was less worthy of belief. Additionally, an accused was permitted to interpret a complainant's passivity as consent. These inferences, which were being applied in the courts, were based on harmful and discriminatory stereotypes about how women and survivors of sexual assault were meant to behave.

In 1991, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the 1983 version of our rape shield law. In 1992, Parliament responded to the court by enacted the charter-compliant rape shield law that we have today. Specifically, then minister of justice, the Right Hon. Kim Campbell, amended the rape shield provisions to create two distinct rules. One categorically excluded evidence of a complainant's sexual history when it was introduced to infer one of the rape myths. The other presumptively excluded evidence of a complainant's sexual history when introduced for other purposes, unless specific criteria were met.

The 1992 amendments also included a clear and affirmative definition of consent as the “voluntary agreement of the complainant to engage in the sexual activity in question”, as well as the non-exhaustive list of circumstances in which no consent could be obtained in law, for example, where the complainant was incapable of consenting, or where she expressed a lack of agreement.

The 1992 amendments also limited the accused's ability to advance the defence known as “mistaken belief in consent”. The law is now clear that the defence is not available where the accused's belief in consent arose from self-induced intoxication, recklessness or wilful blindness. Nor is the defence available where the accused failed to take reasonable steps to ascertain that the complainant was consenting.

In 1997, the Criminal Code was again amended to prevent the accused from engaging in so-called fishing expeditions by seeking production of complainants' private records in order to undermine their credibility. The third party records regime was enacted as a specific response to the Supreme Court of Canada's 1995 O'Connor decision, which did not require consideration of sexual assault complainants' privacy rights in determining whether their private records that were in the possession of third parties should be produced in a sexual assault trial.

This “third party records regime” enacted by Parliament limits the accused's access to the complainant's private records. Consideration of the complainant's right to privacy must be considered when determining whether her private records should be produced to the accused, in addition to the accused's right to make full answer and defence.

Crucially, the Supreme Court upheld the third party records regime as constitutional in its 1999 Mills decision. The Supreme Court also clarified our existing sexual assault provisions in its 1999 Ewanchuk decision. In that case, the survivor was a 17-year-old woman who was sexually assaulted in a van by a man purporting to interview her for a job. The accused was acquitted at trial, and his acquittal was upheld by the Alberta Court of Appeal in an infamous decision involving a finding that consent was implied because the complainant failed to resist, she was sexually experienced, and she did not present herself to the accused, as one of the judges called it, in a bonnet and crinolines. Both the lower and upper courts acquitted the accused of sexual assault, despite the fact that the trial court found that the survivor clearly expressed her lack of consent a number of times.

The Supreme Court's decision in Ewanchuk overturned these findings and continues to state the law on sexual assault to this day. Specifically, the court held that there is no defence of implied consent to sexual assault. An accused is not entitled to interpret passivity as “yes”. Consent requires an affirmative communication of “yes” through either words or conduct, and “no” can never mean “yes”. The Ewanchuk standard of consent is often expressed as “only yes means yes”. In other words, there is no consent unless it is voluntary and clear and given without coercion, and it can be withdrawn at any time.

In clarifying the law in this regard, the Supreme Court found that the lower courts had improperly relied upon myths and stereotypes about sexual assault complainants that are not valid in Canadian law.

Finally, in the 2011 J.A. decision, the Supreme Court held that consent “requires the complainant to provide actual active consent through every phase of the sexual activity”, and that therefore it is not possible for an unconscious person to satisfy this requirement.

Unfortunately, we know that some of these myths and stereotypes have persisted despite these Supreme Court decisions. The proposed amendments in this bill are therefore aimed at clarifying the law to assist in avoiding its misapplication.

Consistent with previous Supreme Court decisions, they would clarify that no consent is obtained if the complainant is unconscious; that the accused cannot advance the defence of mistaken belief in consent where that belief is based on a mistake of law—for example, because the accused believed that valid consent can be obtained even when the complainant expresses lack of consent; that the rape shield provisions never allow an accused to adduce evidence of a complainant's prior sexual activity to support any of the rape myths; and that for the purposes of the rape shield provisions, prior sexual activity includes communications made for a sexual purpose or whose content is of a sexual nature, which would include emails or text messages that involve sexualized texts or images, often referred to as “sexting”.

The proposed amendments in this bill would also clarify that a complainant has a standing and a right to counsel in rape shield proceedings, just as the complainant already has a right in the context of third party records proceedings, and the amendments would create a new regime that would apply to the admissibility of the complainant's private records that are in the possession of the accused, just as the current rape shield provisions apply to the admissibility of evidence of the complainant's sexual history.

These proposed amendments strengthen our already robust sexual assault provisions by clarifying and bolstering the law and facilitating its proper application. This is just one response to a complex issue that has raised significant concern over the past decades. Complainants continue to lack confidence in the criminal justice system, as reflected in the fact that the vast majority of sexual assaults go unreported, and when they are reported to the police, the vast majority never make it to trial.

Recent media reports have brought this critical issue to the forefront, and I urge all members to join me in supporting this important step toward ensuring that the criminal justice system responds effectively and appropriately to this gendered crime by giving survivors of sexual assault the respect and dignity they deserve.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 7:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, on June 5 the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada introduced Bill C-51, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Department of Justice Act and to make consequential amendments to another act.

Bill C-51 seeks to make changes to a number of matters within the context of this one bill. This justice omnibus bill seeks to amend or remove or repeal passages and provisions that have been ruled unconstitutional or that raise risks with respect to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as passages and provisions that are obsolete or redundant or no longer have a place in the Criminal Code. I would suggest that this seems fairly subjective to the government's agenda when we are saying “no longer have a place in the Criminal Code” at this point in time.

It would also modify certain provisions of the Criminal Code relating to sexual assault in order to clarify their application and provide a procedure applicable to the admissibility and use of the complainant's or a witness's record when in the possession of the accused.

It would also require, for any bill tabled in either the House of Commons or the Senate, a charter statement outlining each bill's potential effects on the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The government House leader has called for major reforms on the introduction of omnibus bills by government, yet here we have the justice minister introducing just that.

The portion that clarifies and strengthens the sexual assault provisions in the Criminal Code, helping to support victims of horrific sexual assault crimes, is certainly the right thing to do. I am very pleased with that portion of this bill. Unfortunately, it puts many of us in an angst situation, because although we support that portion of the bill, other sections make it very difficult to support the rest.

This provision is victim-centric. That portion of the bill is good. It is sensible and reasonable, and it is certainly appropriate.

It is unfortunate that Bill C-51 is attempting to require a charter statement for all future government justice legislation. This would be a redundant process that is not necessary.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been in force for 35 years now. Many governments, both Liberal and Conservative, have introduced justice legislation without a charter statement. To require charter statements on all new bills would not, nor should it, pre-empt controversial legislation from being challenged in our courts by groups and everyday citizens. After all, it is the responsibility of legislators to create law, the courts to interpret law, and the right of Canadians to challenge that law.

The Liberals were very supportive of Motion No. 103, which protects Muslims from an undefined term, “Islamophobia”, yet Bill C-51 proposes to remove the only provision in the Criminal Code that protects all religious communities and all religious officials. I am very concerned that the government has decided to remove section 176, which specifically states:

(1) Every one who

(a) by threats or force, unlawfully obstructs or prevents or endeavours to obstruct or prevent a clergyman or minister from celebrating divine service or performing any other function in connection with this calling, or

(b) knowing that a clergyman or minister is about to perform, is on his way to perform or is returning from the performance of any of the duties or functions mentioned in paragraph (a)

(i) assaults or offers any violence to him, or

(ii) arrests him on a civil process, or under the pretence of executing a civil process

is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.

(2) Every one who wilfully disturbs or interrupts an assemblage of persons met for religious worship or for a moral, social or benevolent purpose is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

(3) Every one who, at or near a meeting referred to in subsection (2), wilfully does anything that disturbs the order or solemnity of the meeting is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

This section protects the rights of religious clergy and their members to practise their faith at an event or ceremony in safety without interference or disruption.

Last evening, I attended the sixth annual Iftar dinner at Ottawa City Hall, hosted by the Progressive Muslims of Canada. President Mobeen, whom I met at an Embassy Connections Canada event earlier on, kindly invited me, and I was really pleased to attend.

I am a Christian, not a Muslim. My faith does not celebrate Ramadan or Iftar dinners. However, we do fast and pray, gather together for mutual encouragement, teaching, worshipping, prayer, and meeting the needs of those who are marginalized or hurting in our midst, our communities, and the world.

My question is this. Why would the government want to remove a piece of legislation that speaks to all faiths' right to the freedom to worship and to gather without fear of reprisal? Why would the Minister of Justice want to take away legislation that affirms the safety of all clergy and protects from the disturbance those who gather in mosques, gurdwaras, synagogues, sweat lodges, churches, schools, homes, camps, cemeteries, prayer rooms, and chapels in hospitals, and in public spaces, like Ottawa City Hall, and want to replace it with a singularly focused no trespassing at night law?

I cannot fathom the rationale behind this decision. It makes no sense to me. Have the Liberals consulted their constituents, the faith communities in their ridings, to hear what their feelings are on removing section 176 from the Canadian Criminal Code?

I am very confident that this is not what Canadians or landed immigrants in our country expect from the government. This should not be part of Bill C-51. It should be removed. That being said, to make sure that I am not just expressing my own views, I will be sharing this with faith leaders in my communities and through social media, and I will make them aware of what this section says and what the government is expecting to do. I will ensure that they have every opportunity to express their concerns over what I see as a dangerous and dismissive decision to remove section 176 through Bill C-51. I will be encouraging them to contact directly the Minister of Justice.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 7:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Madam Speaker, earlier this session, and I think it was just a month ago, this Parliament passed Bill C-305, which actually increased penalties for vandalism motivated by hate of sacred property and property used by religious institutions. We already had provisions that covered it, but we felt that even more protection, a special protection, was needed from that particular crime.

I think that is the same point my colleague, the member for Yorkton—Melville was trying to make, that section 176 offers an extra protection for members of the clergy and spiritual leaders. I would just like the member to expand on that. Could the member give us a further explanation on the comparison of Bill C-305 and the provision of Bill C-51 on—

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 7:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to commend my colleague for the eloquence of his speech, his knowledge of Canada’s history and, more specifically, the spirited way in which he made his case. Honestly, he managed to persuade me a little more. I completely agree with him on several points, particularly on the questions he raised about eliminating duels. He managed to show that there is no real reason to act on this subject.

I am here to speak to Bill C-51, an omnibus bill with four key parts. It amends, adds, or repeals many things. It includes provisions that we support and others that we oppose. Once again, as has been the case since the beginning of this Parliament, when the government wants to change things, it always arranges it so that the opposition cannot support what it does. It purposely includes provisions in its omnibus bills that will not be supported by an opposition party.

There are some good things in this bill and others that are less so. I will have the opportunity to talk a little bit about them. My justice critic colleague moved a motion that would have reached reasonable agreements with the government by splitting the bill. This would have allowed us to discuss certain components separately. We would have been able to show our support for the government’s proposed modernization of legislation, with respect to the parts that we have reasons to support.

As for the provisions concerning sexual assault, the bill clarifies certain aspects of the law pertaining to sexual assault involving consent, the admissibility of evidence and the representation of complainants by counsel. It is a good measure and we will support it. Sincerely, there is no problem in this regard.

The second part of the bill deals with provisions that have been deemed unconstitutional or that are similar to other provisions that were. In this respect, the bill repeals or amends certain Criminal Code provisions. These are administrative measures to ensure that the wording of the Criminal Code reflects current law. Here too there are good and bad aspects.

The third part is about obsolete or needless provisions and repeals several offences that are no longer relevant or required. My colleague did a good job of illustrating the kind of provisions that will be repealed.

The fourth part is about charter statements. I find this part a bit odd. It requires the Minister of Justice to table a charter statement identifying potential effects that each new government bill may have on rights and freedoms guaranteed by the charter.

As I understand it, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies, and the courts apply it, so I do not see why this measure is in here, unless it is a way of promoting the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is in force and is already doing the job that Parliament drafted and passed it to do.

The Conservative Party will always stand up for victims of crime. We will always support reducing undue delays in our justice system. Bill C-51 contains some very reasonable measures that we can support, such as repealing provisions that courts have found unconstitutional. However, we need to be careful when it comes to repealing provisions similar to those found unconstitutional because the courts have not yet ruled on them, and this could by a sneaky way for the government to advance its own political agenda. That is why we cannot blindly agree to all of the measures in Bill C-51.

We can also support most of the measures in the bill about repealing obsolete and redundant offences. This does make us question the Liberals' priorities, though. What is more important to them: repealing a provision that prohibits sorcery or filling empty seats on benches in superior courts and advisory committees across Canada?

We can amend all the sections of the Criminal Code and make all the improvements we want, but if there are no judges to hear cases, all these amendments will go for naught.

I had the opportunity to read part of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs’ final report, “An Urgent Need to Address Lengthy Court Delays in Canada”. This report was tabled by the Senate, and my colleague, the hon. Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, provided me with a copy. There are certain aspects I would like to speak to tonight, particularly the delays in judicial appointments.

In its recommendation no. 17, the committee believes that the failure to appoint superior court judges in Canada in a timely manner is contributing to unreasonable delays. It does not see anything to prevent implementing a systematic recruitment process instead of waiting for judges to retire before starting to consider candidates to replace them.

This needs to be considered so that there are no delays, no vacancies in superior courts and no more cases like that of Dannick Lessard. The individual charged with attempted murder for riddling him with bullets saw the charges against him dropped because of the Jordan decision and long court delays. Dannick Lessard felt betrayed and abandoned by the justice system. This is what the government should give priority to. It needs to proceed quickly with appointing the missing judges.

The report includes a quote from the Ontario Crown Attorneys' Association, which describes a sexual assault trial:

It was a sexual assault trial, and the delay was actually the victim's fault. She had a significant heart condition that required her to have open heart surgery twice post-arrest....Ultimately, it was well over four years by the time we got to a trial where she was well enough to testify. She was a very sympathetic person. She didn't have an axe to grind. She wasn't doing anything nefarious or wrong, but we lost it on the 11(b), and it was a strange one because it actually happened to be her “fault” that we lost it....

That is the sort of unacceptable situation that the Minister of Justice should rectify as soon as possible to ensure that it does not happen again.

In this report, there are plenty of other recommendations that I would like to talk about, but, instead, I would invite my colleagues to take a few minutes to read it, because it contains a lot of good recommendations. I hope that we will be able to use its best parts in order to improve access to the justice system, and, above all, to make the system fairer for all victims.

However, I really must mention the Liberals' doublespeak about the freedom to practise one's religion. The Liberals, who were very much in favour of motion No. 103, are, with this bill, going to eliminate the only provision in the Criminal Code that protects religious celebrations and the clergy or ministers who celebrate them.

In a world that is increasingly hostile to religion and where intolerance is becoming increasingly prevalent, I do not understand the signal that the Liberal government wants to send by wanting to abolish these provisions that criminalize the people who attack religious ceremonies of any faith.

As we saw in Quebec City, attacks can happen everywhere. It is absolutely essential to continue to preserve people's right to practise their faith where they want and how they want. We have to demonstrate that it is still fine in our society to practise one's religion and to have faith, and that everyone has the right to go to church without fear of being harassed or attacked.

As I mentioned before, this is an omnibus bill containing a number of provisions that should be amended.

I would have liked members to listen to my colleague the justice critic and to divide the bill into several parts. That would have allowed us to express our opinions clearly on each of the four parts I have just mentioned.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 7:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the additional information the hon. member provided.

I would also like to focus on other aspects of the bill. As other Conservative and NDP members have said, several parts of the bill provide extra protection to victims of sexual assault. Many changes are being proposed to clarify the legislation. We appreciate that.

The Conservative justice critic tried to spilt off the parts that we agree on so that they could be studied by the committee as soon as possible.

I would like the hon. member's opinion on the fact that we did not get the unanimous consent of the House on that. Also, we cannot study the parts of Bill C-51 that we agree on, although they are good and ready to be put into law. What does the member think of that?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 7:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to be joining the debate on Bill C-51, this late in the night.

Before I go too far, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Durham, whom I am very pleased to be hearing from again today.

I was so pleased today to hear you, Mr. Speaker, mention in the House Yiddish for Pirates by Gary Barwin, who is one of my favourite authors.

Everybody in the House knows I am a big lover of Yiddish proverbs, and I have one also for this legislation. It speaks to our pinch points. Everyone knows where his or her shoes pinch. I will explain the pinch points I have in this legislation.

Many members on the Conservative side, including New Democratic members as well, have mentioned that they agree with the majority of the provisions in the bill having to do with increasing protection for victims of sexual assault. Nobody disagrees with it. It is a great idea. Clarifying the law is way overdue, but we do have pinch points.

There are proposed Criminal Code provisions that will be eliminated, and we simply disagree with that. Either we disagree or we think it is not in the right method. Abolishing laws in general, getting rid of Criminal Code statutes, and less government regulation is typically something I am all for. The less of it we have, the better. Not adding new laws to the statute books is a sign of restraint on the part of parliamentarians, and we would show greater restraint if we tabled more laws calling for the abolition of sections of different laws and reductions to the Criminal Code. That type of behaviour is laudable and it should be congratulated when it is practised in the House. Let us admit another thing too. This is an omnibus justice bill, and I have concerns about certain parts of it.

Why would we remove certain sections of the Criminal Code, like section 49? Why remove that part in the sesquicentennial of our country? That is Confederation, specifically, because Canada existed much before that. Is that not an odd provision to be eliminating during the 150th year of Confederation? The Crown is just as much a part of the history of Canada as the red ensign, the maple leaf, the Bill of Rights, Vimy, and countless other images and symbols we have in Canada. Section 49 only affects an incredibly small group of people, people who are intent on committing a malicious act against the Crown, in Her Majesty's presence of course.

As I said before, I completely support the amendments proposed in Bill C-51 to strengthen and protect the victims of sexual assault. They are timely and needed. As members heard from the Conservatives' justice critic, we are more than willing to expedite those portions to committee so they can be considered fully.

On removing the Criminal Code section on duelling, I have mixed feelings, not because I think duelling is right but simply because there is a long history in Canada of it being used as a deterrence tool. The last fatal duel in Canada was June 13, 1833, in Perth, between John Wilson and Robert Lyon, both law students. One was the son of a Scottish officer in the British army, the gentleman who passed away in this duel. John Wilson, who was acquitted of the crime, later was elected to the legislative assembly of the Province of Canada, became a Queen's Counsel, a QC, and was elected three times to that assembly. He was, of course, a Conservative.

There are also other provisions that covered those types of crimes, such as bodily harm, but it was also that extra prohibition on duelling and it was a big problem at the time. Nowadays, it is not so much. One of the members from Simcoe mentioned his views on duelling.

I understand the removal of section 143 of the Criminal Code, and I am surprised it is illegal. I see these types of ads all the time in my community, such as “Stolen bike, no questions asked, could you just return it to me”, or an open question about a lost cat, lost dog, or an RV is stolen. I have never known that this was an illegal act, that there was a prohibition on advertising the fact that someone would give a reward. Therefore, ending the prohibition on the use of such words in public advertising and offering a reward is probably very wise. It is eminently reasonable and wise for the House to do so.

The one I want to focus on, which has been the source of many questions I have asked in the House, is clause 14 on Criminal Code section 176, the prohibition against disrupting a religious service or interfering with a minister of a cult, a person who is in the service of others during a religious assembly of any sort.

I have serious concerns with removing this section. I have heard other members say we have other Criminal Code provisions that cover this. The difference is, section 176 gives extra protection. I will make a comparison in a bit between that and Bill C-305 because they are very much comparable.

Section 176 of the Criminal Code protects the clergy, and all those responsible for leading members of their faith in a service. Removing this particular provision is my pinch point in Bill C-51. It adds extra protection for individuals, serves as a deterrent, and protects religious services from disruption, including funerals. I am concerned what it could mean without this for those who are in the business of providing funeral services to others and the incentives therein.

I do not think anyone feels incented to disrupt a funeral. This type of provision serves as an additional deterrent. Subsections 176(1) and 176(2) also protect religious assemblies from wilful disturbance and interruptions. It does not talk about something accidental, it talks about something purposeful and wilful, when one is aiming to do something for the sole reason of disrupting a religious service. Most importantly, surprise.

As I mentioned before in a previous question, we went through the trouble in the House of passing a mischief improvement provision in Bill C-305, where we actually gave greater protection to property and communal spaces against vandalism motivated by hate. It was a very reasonable proposal as a private member's bill that was passed in this House. In that situation, we already had provisions to disincentivize and deter people from vandalising property. This was an additional charge on top of that which would be separate from it because we said communal spaces and crimes motivated by hate are special and deserve extra attention paid to them, and further punishment should one be found guilty of them.

We already have all those provisions on protecting property. The same idea in principle applies to section 176 of the Criminal Code that clause 14 proposes to eliminate; my pinch point in this piece of legislation.

We know there are other Criminal Code assault provisions to protect the person in the bill. There are provisions against interfering with persons and provisions preventing people from going into a sports match and disrupting it for the sole purpose of committing some type of mischief. I believe that clergy, Imams, leaders of any faith, deserve special protection. Why does the government not believe that as well?

Disrupting a sports match, an assembly for charity purposes, or a bingo game is mischief, most definitely. However, it is not the same as interfering with a religious service, not the same thing as interfering with persons who are leaders of a faith, and trying to look after members of their congregation, temple, mosque, or synagogue.

Just this week, Statistics Canada reported that there has been an uptick in certain hate crimes and crimes motivated against religions. Why would we then, two days later, consider Bill C-51, clause 14, which would eliminate that additional protection for leaders of a certain faith or religion who lead rituals, give services, and conduct funerals on behalf of community members?

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, section 2 just lays it out. Fundamental freedoms include: freedom of conscience, freedom of belief, freedom of religion, freedom of association, and freedom of peaceful assembly.

Does section 176 not actually grant that extra protection for these freedoms to be practised in Canada? Why can we not have section 176 to assure ourselves that there will be an extra provision in the code to punish those who wilfully interfere with a leader of a faith conducting a service or a funeral?

I want to bring up one or two additional points. It was just this past May that an arsonist in Hamilton, who targeted a mosque, received 25 months in prison. Had the same person targeted the mosque during a service or had wilfully blocked assembly, section 176 could have been used in that particular case.

The last example is from my home province of Alberta. Father Gilbert Dasna was a Catholic priest who was murdered at his residence in St. Paul on May 11, 2014. Had Father Dasna survived and had there been an assembly at the local cathedral that had been disrupted by the gunman who murdered him, that person would have been eligible for an extra charge under section 176. Why is it so wrong to give individuals like Father Dansa extra protection from criminals?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 8 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, that is one of our main questions. When the parliamentary secretary first spoke on Bill C-51, he said this section was obsolete, not necessary or useful anymore, that it was not being used. In fact, it is being used.

There was a case just this month, on June 9, where a charge was laid in a case right in Ottawa. My hope is that we do not have to use Criminal Code provisions, but that certain provisions remain in the code to serve as a deterrent against those types of activities.

In all the door knocking I have done in the past, whether for my nomination, during the election, and since then, I have never heard anyone say that section 176, that extra protection provided to clergymen, imams, members of all faiths, and funerals, should be removed, should not be there. Individuals have talked to me about the blasphemy laws in Canada, but not on this section.

It is interesting that the Liberals want to remove it, but they are removing it from a point that they simply have not done their homework.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 8 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, in my remarks earlier this evening, I shared my fears and concerns about the many superior court judicial vacancies and the many repercussions that those vacancies can have on victims of crime.

I gave the example of some clauses in Bill C-51 that repeal some truly outdated provisions. Right now, the focus is more on eliminating provisions that prohibit witchcraft, say, rather than working on setting up an appointment system that will eventually lead to the appointment of judges.

Why not work now on appointing judges who will be able to really protect victims of crime?

In terms of the sexual assault cases, I mentioned that we agree with the new measures put in place to support and help victims. In addition, they will make it even harder for aggressors to act, and the ones that get caught will actually be punished for what they did. If there are no judges to apply those new measures, however, it will all have been for nothing. I would like to hear what my colleague has to say about this.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 8:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to follow my colleague's remarks on Bill C-51 and join the debate today. I am going to be expressing my concerns with respect to the bill. Once again, I cannot resist dwelling on the lack of priority to our public policy of the government, specifically justice policies. The lack of ambition in some areas is striking.

The Liberals' use of time allocation motions is equally striking, and we have before us a bill that is much ado about nothing in many ways. It is an omnibus bill on which they are using closure. They are time-allocating, ending debate, on a very large justice bill that contains one very important area that is critical for us to discuss in this Parliament. It is also critical for us as parliamentarians to discuss the elements contained in this specific part of the bill outside of this chamber in our communities, in consultations with victims groups, with law enforcement, and with students, and that is the zero tolerance toward sexual assault in our society. There are clear rules on consent and that consent cannot be given when someone is intoxicated, an approach that most of us think would be common sense but has been confirmed in this legislation, but it has already been confirmed by our common law and the outrage that occasionally happens when some judges have not followed that approach to our common law.

There are various provisions in Bill C-51 related to the important work on consent, on evidence in sexual assault trials. I would like to commend the MP for Sturgeon River—Parkland, our former interim leader of the Conservative Party, for her exceptional work on judicial training. I am highlighting that because it shows that, while the bill is well intentioned on this provision with respect to sexual assault consent and evidence at trial, our common law should actually take care of this. While it is good for Parliament to clearly weigh in and amend the code with respect to this, our judges are on the front lines and they should be approaching this with zero tolerance with respect to sexual assault cases in which the victim has been intoxicated, in some cases by the person who then perpetrated the attack.

All members here have no patience for that type of conduct in our society. I am certainly very proud that our government passed the Victims Bill of Rights and, for a time in Canada, put victims at the core of our justice system. That one part of this omnibus bill is important for us to talk about, even though the common law is addressing the issues that this bill purports to address.

The other aspects of this are unnecessary. With respect to the charter statement to be attached to all bills, there are already opinions given on the charter application, with respect to legislation, by justice lawyers as part of the legislative process. Other groups outside Parliament can weigh in with their thoughts with respect to the charter. However, there is no need for this sort of charter stamp to come with each bill, because Parliament is supreme. If the court determines down the road that there is a provision that needs clarification as a result of the charter, it is up to this Parliament then to provide that clarity.

As you know better than most, Mr. Speaker, because you are someone who is a champion of our parliamentary democracy, no Parliament is held to the laws of a previous Parliament. That provision with respect to charter opinions or the charter statements in the bill is unnecessary and is being done for political posturing.

Finally, the last part of this omnibus bill is the so-called removal or amending of no-longer relevant Criminal Code provisions or seldom-used Criminal Code provisions. Some would call this a clean-up part of the omnibus bill. Is that so pressing that we are here using closure on debate to ram this through?

I am not sure when the last time was that there was a duel in Canada. I know there is two sword lengths separating the government from the opposition, but I do not suspect they are planning on us calling for a duel.

As for witchcraft, these are provisions that are historical curiosities. What is outrageous is that the government, and I am glad the government House leader is here, has passed 19 bills in its time in this Parliament. Nineteen have achieved royal assent, yet the government is hitting around the 30th time that it has limited debate in this chamber on such a low record.

I tried to highlight this in a previous speech last week. It is startling, the hypocrisy of the government. The government House leader who is mildly heckling me now, her deputy was the one who would feign outrage in the previous Parliament if time allocation was used or if omnibus legislation was used. In fact, the member for Winnipeg North, who has now joined in her heckling, called it “an assault on democracy”. That is how he referred to omnibus legislation.

The last week in the House, all I have seen is omnibus legislation, shepherded by the MP for Winnipeg North. The hypocrisy is stunning. The government House leader is using closure more times than the government has passed bills. The denominator is not matching up to show that the government is actually being productive. It is limiting parliamentary debate and really getting nothing done. It is startling.

I will remind my friend from Winnipeg North, because he is so verbose in this place, that he just gives me a wealth of information to draw on. When it comes to time allocation, what did he say? In November 2012, he said:

...never before have I ever experienced a government that is so persistent in using time allocation, a form of closure, using it as frequently as this particular Government House Leader does.

His government House leader is using it far more than the Conservative House leader did. I hope that at least behind closed doors he is expressing to her the same amount of outrage and indignation that we used to hear regularly in the last Parliament. Between the assaults on democracy and the limitation of debate, it is stunning that he can stand in this place and speak without a smile. It really is startling.

I will use the remainder of the time I have to show why this is hurting public policy development in Canada. We have an omnibus bill that is full of removing critical parts of our Criminal Code, like witchcraft, yet the government is not passing Bill S-3, in response to the Descheneaux decision of the Quebec Superior Court. The Liberal government's indigenous affairs minister did not even call Mr. Descheneaux to the Parliament to consult on the bill. It had until July 3 to pass legislation with respect to that court.

However, this government House leader puts froward omnibus bills full of witchcraft and other historical curiosities, a motion on Paris that was meaningless, and other motions, but it is not getting its own work done. If it wants to do an omnibus bill on justice, how about addressing the Jordan decision. Victims have seen accused murderers and accused sexual assault criminals being released as a result of judicial delays. That is the reform we need to see to justice. We have been asking, for a year and a half, for the minister to appoint judges. We have been pushing to get delays down.

The government is allowing accused criminals to be released because of its inaction, and its so-called justice omnibus bill is addressing duelling and witchcraft but not the Jordan decision. That speaks to the priorities of the Liberal government, a lot of talk on victims while it is not funding a registry for dangerous sexual offenders, while it is not addressing the Jordan decision. It talks about nation-to-nation dialogue with our first nations, yet does not even call Mr. Descheneaux to help pass important legislation.

I hope that, when we all go back to our ridings in the summer, the government House leader and her deputy reflect on the decline of our parliamentary democracy under their watch and that we come back in the fall to a full apology from them.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2017 / 8:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to start by clarifying for the people of Kootenay—Columbia and those watching across Canada that this Bill C-51 is not Bill C-51 from the 41st Parliament, which was called the anti-terrorism bill. That bill led to widespread protests across my riding of Kootenay—Columbia. People were concerned about the potential to make peaceful protests illegal and the potential impact on their personal privacy rights. Because the NDP is going to support this Bill C-51, in the 42nd Parliament, I did not want there to be any confusion back home.

Regarding the bill before us, we are pleased to support this legislation. We believe that it would provide many overdue protections, particularly for victims of sexual assault. One of the most important provisions in this legislation would clarify the definition of consent. Some of this should be obvious. It should be common sense. In fact, I am appalled that we need to entrench this in law, but here it is. With this amendment, an unconscious person could not be considered to have given consent. There it would be now, spelled out in black and white in the Criminal Code of Canada: someone who was passed out from intoxication, from a blow to the head, or for whatever reason would not be able to consent to sexual activity. Good. While it is outrageous that any other interpretation was ever understood, at least we, as lawmakers, are now making it perfectly clear.

The bill also takes another important step on the issue of consent. A person who is passive during sexual assault, that is, does not scream, “no”, or fight or otherwise resist, cannot be considered to be automatically giving consent. This is necessary and it is overdue. Too often, an individual, unduly pressured or even physically overcome during a sexual assault, will feel fear, confusion, or even peer pressure and will be unable to enunciate his or her refusal. This amendment shifts the burden to the other person to get clear and active consent. To quote University of Ottawa associate professor of law Carissima Mathen, “Passivity is not consent. Consent has to be communicated to you in some meaningful way, not from being quiet.”

That statement is borne out by statistics in a Global News/Ipsos Reid poll. The most recent common reason women gave for not reporting a sexual assault to the police was feeling young and powerless; 56% of victims said so. Forty per cent of respondents said they stayed silent because of the shame they felt, and 29% said they blamed themselves for the assault. Others worried that reporting would bring dishonour to their families, feared retaliation from their attacker, or said they did not have faith in the criminal justice system. New definitions will help clarify the term for the courts, but they do not do enough.

Too often, victims of sexual assault find themselves isolated by the courts. They have no one to protect them from aggressive questioning by a defence attorney and no one to be their advocate. Sometimes there are poorly trained judges, as we learned last year when a judge demanded of a victim why she could not just keep her knees together while she was sexually assaulted. That horrific and shocking statement led to condemnation across the country and the resignation, rightfully, of the judge who made that statement.

Rather than treating victims with care and compassion, our justice system sometimes victimizes them all over again. The solution would be to ensure that victims have access to legal aid as they go through the court process. The current Liberal government must not choose to ignore that essential element in protecting victims.

This legislation also includes the removal of some so-called zombie laws. Those laws, which have become redundant because of other laws that cover the same subject or because they have been overturned by the courts, are an interesting collection. As a former mayor, I know that there are many municipalities with zombie bylaws that need cleaning up as well. Federally, we now no longer have to worry about the detrimental effect of crime comics on our youth. We have many other negative influences to worry about. Similarly, a law banning Canadians from offering a reward for the return of stolen property, no questions asked, seems unnecessary and even detrimental in its own right. I know I personally used that approach to get back my son's stolen mountain bike once, without even knowing it was against the law, as is the case, I am sure, for many Canadians.

One must wonder about the existing laws regarding the practice of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment, or conjuration. In addition to the fact that it impinges on the rights of some religions, and would confuse the U.S. President who is certain that he is the target of a witch hunt, this might also hurt Harry Potter cosplayers; Dungeons and Dragons "larpers", which I do not know much about but which my staff assure me is a thing; and others for whom sorcery is an entertainment. This is a good law to be rid of.

My favourite among this group of zombie laws is the prohibition on duelling. After all, we stand in a place where the two sides of the House are separated by two sword lengths to ensure we fence only with words and not with rapiers. Still, the last public duelling in Canada took place not far from here in Perth, Ontario, in June 1833, when 23-year-old law student John Wilson shot and killed his friend Robert Lyon, age 20, during a duel over the honour of Elizabeth Hughes, a young school teacher.

Wilson successfully pleaded his case in court, had a lengthy law career, married Miss Hughes, and eventually became a member of the legislative assembly of the Province Of Canada, the precursor of the House of Commons. In case some members of the House or the public believe that duelling will now be legal, it is worth noting that our homicide laws still apply.

The bill offers some good amendments to the Criminal Code. My biggest concern with the bill is not with its content, but with what is missing.

Across Canada, the Supreme Court decision known as the Jordan ruling has allowed many indicted suspects to go free because of the length of time it has taken to bring them to trial.

Just this week, a judge in Quebec City freed a man accused of sexually assaulting his adolescent stepdaughter. Last November, an Ottawa judge freed a murder suspect under the same terms. In fact, across Canada dozens of suspects, people who have been charged with crimes ranging from first degree homicide to sexual assault, have been freed because our courts do not have the capacity or the will to ensure a speedy trial.

While eliminating zombie laws is important, the government's first priority should be to ensure that our existing criminal laws are upheld by the courts. This means more federal and provincial resources and it may mean new laws to reverse the Jordan ruling.

Another item missing from the bill is a long-promised review of damaging and disingenuous amendments introduced by the previous government. The Conservatives' belief that mandatory minimum sentences will somehow reduce crime has been ridiculed by members of the justice system, from lawyers to judges. We have seen over and over the mandatory minimums getting tossed by judges as unworkable and unconstitutional, just as the New Democratic Party's justice critic warned them would happen during debates over those amendments.

Let us look at recent news.

In 2013, a Manitoba judge heard the case of a young man who lashed out at his bullies. The judge refused to apply the mandatory minimum sentence, saying:

A four-year term would clearly place the accused in the heart of the federal penitentiary system normally reserved for hardened criminals. To say that the conditions of a federal penitentiary would be harsh for someone of the accused’s background is an understatement.

(Court of Queen's Bench, Justice John Menzies, October 2013)

In 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada threw out mandatory sentences for repeat drug dealers, concerned that the harsh penalties applied to:

the addict who is charged for sharing a small amount of drugs with a friend or spouse, and finds herself sentenced to a year in prison because of a single conviction for sharing marihuana in a social occasion nine years before.

Just this week, in British Columbia, a judge refused to apply mandatory minimum sentences in the case of a young man who was found employed at a small marijuana farm.

All these decisions took the view that judges must have the flexibility to apply their experience, their knowledge, and, their judgment on a case-by-case basis.

We are glad the government intends to review these unconstitutional sentences, and we look forward to the day that the justice minister keeps her promise. If only the Liberal justice minister would, at the same time, expunge the criminal records of those who had been convicted of carrying small amounts of marijuana in the past, we could see true justice done.

I mentioned the other Bill C-51 when I began speaking. As soon as the election was over, the Prime Minister became silent on Bill C-51 after saying his government would make changes to it. Canadians truly hope the Liberal government keeps its word and does revoke sections of that act soon. Thousands of Canadians, including many of my constituents in Kootenay—Columbia, demanded change and they expect this promised on the former Bill C-51 to be kept.