An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

Sponsor

Status

In committee (House), as of June 11, 2018

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Summary

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

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to, among other things,

(a) modernize and clarify interim release provisions to simplify the forms of release that may be imposed on an accused, incorporate a principle of restraint and require that particular attention be given to the circumstances of Aboriginal accused and accused from vulnerable populations when making interim release decisions, and provide more onerous interim release requirements for offences involving violence against an intimate partner;

(b) provide for a judicial referral hearing to deal with administration of justice offences involving a failure to comply with conditions of release or failure to appear as required;

(c) abolish peremptory challenges of jurors, modify the process of challenging a juror for cause so that a judge makes the determination of whether a ground of challenge is true, and allow a judge to direct that a juror stand by for reasons of maintaining public confidence in the administration of justice;

(d) increase the maximum term of imprisonment for repeat offences involving intimate partner violence and provide that abuse of an intimate partner is an aggravating factor on sentencing;

(e) restrict the availability of a preliminary inquiry to offences punishable by imprisonment for life and strengthen the justice’s powers to limit the issues explored and witnesses to be heard at the inquiry;

(f) hybridize most indictable offences punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years or less, increase the default maximum penalty to two years less a day of imprisonment for summary conviction offences and extend the limitation period for summary conviction offences to 12 months;

(g) remove the requirement for judicial endorsement for the execution of certain out-of-province warrants and authorizations, expand judicial case management powers, allow receiving routine police evidence in writing, consolidate provisions relating to the powers of the Attorney General and allow increased use of technology to facilitate remote attendance by any person in a proceeding;

(h) allow the court to exempt an offender from the requirement to pay a victim surcharge if the offender satisfies the court that the payment would cause the offender undue hardship, provide the court with guidance as to what constitutes undue hardship, provide that a victim surcharge is to be paid for each offence, with an exception for certain administration of justice offences if the total amount of surcharges imposed on an offender for those types of offences would be disproportionate in the circumstances, require courts to provide reasons for granting any exception for certain administration of justice offences or any exemption from the requirement to pay a victim surcharge and clarify that the amendments described in this paragraph apply to any offender who is sentenced after the day on which they come into force, regardless of whether or not the offence was committed before that day; and 

(i) remove passages and repeal provisions that have been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada, repeal section 159 of the Act and provide that no person shall be convicted of any historical offence of a sexual nature unless the act that constitutes the offence would constitute an offence under the Criminal Code if it were committed on the day on which the charge was laid.

The enactment also amends the Youth Criminal Justice Act in order to reduce delays within the youth criminal justice system and enhance the effectiveness of that system with respect to administration of justice offences. For those purposes, the enactment amends that Act to, among other things,

(a) set out principles intended to encourage the use of extrajudicial measures and judicial reviews as alternatives to the laying of charges for administration of justice offences;

(b) set out requirements for imposing conditions on a young person’s release order or as part of a sentence;

(c) limit the circumstances in which a custodial sentence may be imposed for an administration of justice offence;

(d) remove the requirement for the Attorney General to determine whether to seek an adult sentence in certain circumstances; and

(e) remove the power of a youth justice court to make an order to lift the ban on publication in the case of a young person who receives a youth sentence for a violent offence, as well as the requirement to determine whether to make such an order.

Finally, the enactment amends among other Acts An Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons) so that certain sections of that Act can come into force on different days and also makes consequential amendments to other Acts.

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.

Votes

June 11, 2018 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
June 11, 2018 Failed 2nd reading of Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts (reasoned amendment)
June 11, 2018 Failed 2nd reading of Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts (subamendment)
May 29, 2018 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2018 / 10:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Mr. Speaker, I represent the riding of Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook on the outskirts of Halifax and Dartmouth. It is a very nice community, with a great fishing industry. There are lots of beaches and lakes, of course. It is a nice community to visit. Last week was Tourism Week. I invite those who did not get a chance to get out to that week to come to my community.

It gives me great pleasure to speak today to Bill C-75 at second reading. This legislation seeks to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, and other acts that touch on delays in our criminal justice system.

The bill includes much needed amendments and modernizes our criminal justice system to make it more efficient. It proposes changes in six key areas that I would like to address in my speech tonight.

The first changes would modernize and streamline the bail regime. The second would provide an enhanced approach to the administration of justice offences, including for youth. The third would restrict the availability of preliminary inquiries for offences carrying life imprisonment. The fourth would group offences and create more flexibility. The fifth would improve jury composition and the selection of jurors. Finally, the sixth would strengthen the judicial case management measures and processes for making rules for the courts.

These reforms would reduce delays within our criminal justice system and make criminal law and procedure clearer and much more efficient. For example, these reforms would support victims by strengthening responses to intimate partner violence and facilitating remorse appearances.

The issue of delays in the criminal justice system has been the subject of significant and sustained attention in recent years, including calls for action by the Supreme Court of Canada, as well as the provinces, territories, key stakeholders, parliamentarians, and victims.

This legislation is a priority for our government. We need to move forward quickly, and that is why we are debating the legislation tonight. We want to send the bill to committee as soon as possible so that we can hear from witnesses and improve the bill as we move forward with amendments. That is why our government, with Bill C-75, is taking critical steps in co-operation with the provinces, territories, and stakeholders.

The Supreme Court of Canada in the Jordan decision in 2016 established a new framework for determining unreasonable delays. We need to deal with those delays as soon as possible. As well, in the Cody decision in 2017, the court re-emphasized the responsibility of all criminal justice system participants, including judges and defence counsel, to move cases forward as soon as possible without delays.

As members well know, the criminal justice system is a shared responsibility between the federal, provincial, and territorial governments. Ensuring the efficiency and effectiveness of a system is therefore also a shared responsibility with our government. This is why the Minister of Justice and her provincial and territorial counterparts have worked collaboratively and have held productive discussions on strategic and broad-based reforms to the criminal justice system.

In recent meetings, following the Jordan decision, ministers agreed on the need to have urgent and bold reforms to reduce those delays. All ministers understand the importance of collaboration and making sure that we move forward as soon as possible.

Bill C-75 responds to priority areas identified by the federal, provincial, and territorial ministers, including reforms in several key areas, such as bail, administration of justice offences, reclassification of criminal offences, preliminary inquiries, and judicial case management.

Bill C-75 also responds to the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of Canada's mandate letter from our Prime Minister, in which she was instructed to conduct a review of the changes to the criminal justice system over the past decade, because as we know, there has been very little change in the last 35 years. She was asked to assess these changes and to address these gaps to ensure that our communities are safer and that we are getting good value for our money, and to make efforts to modernize the criminal justice system so that it is more efficient and more effective, and to do so in co-operation with all levels of government. This is a very important task, but one we view as an opportunity.

The criminal justice system review is an opportunity to create a criminal justice system that is compassionate and timely. The conversation began two years ago in round tables with lots of consultation. Our government is taking that information and those steps and using that to implement this important bill.

Furthermore, the bill also responds to a number of recommendations from the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs on the delays in the justice system. The committee's final report contained 50 recommendations, 13 of which were identified as priorities. The committee recommended that steps be taken to eliminate preliminary inquiries or limit their use. Bill C-75 proposes to restrict the availability of preliminary inquiries to offences liable to life imprisonment, such as murder, kidnapping, or arson. By limiting the availability of preliminary inquiries to the most serious offences, it will limit the impact on many witnesses and victims from having to testify twice.

The committee also recommended that court time spent dealing with the administration of justice offences be reduced, as well as ensuring that conditions of release for the accused serve to protect the public.

Bill C-75 responds to the Senate committee report with respect to the administration of justice offences. Under the bill, both the police and crown attorneys will have the discretion to refer certain administration of justice offences, in other words, failure to comply with conditions of release and failures to appear in court or as required, to a judicial referral hearing as an alternative to laying or pursuing new charges. This would not apply, however, to situations where the conduct has caused physical, emotional, or economic harm, or property damage to a victim. At the judicial referral hearing, the judge or justice could take no action and have the accused released; could vary their bail conditions; or could detain them in custody. This reform will provide a new practical and efficient tool to allow bail conditions to be appropriately tailored while ensuring public safety.

The amendments proposed in Bill C-75 are substantive and urgently needed. Our government has the responsibility to act, and that is exactly what we are doing. All components of Bill C-75 will play a cumulative role in reducing delays in the areas where recommendations have been made. This is why I urge all members to support the bill and to send it to committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2018 / 10:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I assume I am down to seven minutes now, but it is appropriate because I have a speech about rendering the justice system more efficient, which is really a key part of the bill.

As I mentioned during some of the back and forth earlier, I had the absolute privilege of practising law as a commercial litigator for a number of years. I witnessed first-hand the injustices that result when dealing with administrative delays over the course of the court system on a particular piece of litigation. Transposed into the criminal context, many of the issues remain the same.

Bill C-75 purports to fix some of the very serious problems that are causing more and more people across Canada to experience administrative delays that lead to injustice.

In tabling this important legislation, our government is fulfilling its promise to move forward with comprehensive criminal justice reform. The bill makes amendments in six key areas: modernizing and streamlining bail; supporting victims of intimate partner violence; enhancing the approach to administration of justice offences, including and in particular for youth; restricting the availability of preliminary inquiries; reclassifying offences; strengthening case management powers; and improving the jury selection process.

Additionally, Bill C-75 makes legislative amendments that build on key areas of reform to promote efficiencies in the criminal justice system. Today, I am going to be outlining some important efficiency measures proposed in the bill, which may not be too headline-grabbing for the public, but are very important because they will enhance access to justice.

These measures would do a number of things, including facilitating remote appearances by way of the use of technology; enhancing the current plea inquiry process; clarifying the signing authority of clerks of the court; amending time frames for an accused to re-elect a mode of trial; streamlining the bail process to ensure swifter access to justice that would help reduce court backlogs; removing the endorsement requirements for out-of-province search warrants; and consolidating and clarifying the prosecutorial authority of the attorney general of Canada.

Bill C-75 responds to the Supreme Court of Canada's 2016 decision in Jordan, and it supports the Minister of Justice's mandate letter commitment to reform the criminal justice system. I will begin by discussing the amendments to remote appearances.

In her mandate letter from the Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice received a mandate to undertake modernization efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system, including the improved use of information technology. The amendments in Bill C-75 relating to remote appearances would assist in achieving this important priority.

Currently, the Criminal Code allows parties and witnesses to appear by audio conference or video conference in specified circumstances and where it is either satisfactory to the court or where the court considers it appropriate in the circumstances. Bill C-75 would expand the use of remote appearances by allowing all those involved in criminal cases, including an accused, witnesses, counsel, judges or justices, interpreters, and sureties, to appear through the use of technology. These measures would increase access to justice, including in remote locations, which is particularly important for northern and rural Canada, and would streamline processes to reduce system costs, for example, by not requiring an accused to be transported to court or a witness to travel and attend in-person in all circumstances.

I will discuss briefly the plea inquiry process as well. At present, the Criminal Code sets out the conditions in which a guilty plea may be accepted by a court, for example, if it is satisfied that the plea is entered into voluntarily. The amendments in Bill C-75 would enhance the current plea inquiry process by adding a requirement that the court also be satisfied that the facts support the charge before accepting an accused's guilty plea.

False guilty pleas are a very real concern, particularly with respect to indigenous accused and accused persons from marginalized groups. I heard this testimony when we recently completed a study on indigenous women in the federal corrections system on the status of women committee, of which I am a proud member. However, the amendment in Bill C-75 would provide additional safeguards to ensure that the court has considered and is satisfied that the facts support the charge before accepting a guilty plea.

Oftentimes an accused person believes it is just easier to get through with the trial process and enter a guilty plea than it is to actually have the trial heard. This procedural safeguard would help prevent those false guilty pleas to ensure people, predominantly from disadvantage backgrounds, do not as a matter of course, for social and cultural reasons, potentially enter a false guilty plea. Resolving cases early by way of a guilty plea would spare victims from testifying and would also save court time.

The amendment would complement initiatives to encourage early case resolution and would avoid concerns surrounding false guilty pleas by ensuring the facts support a guilty plea. This would enhance the integrity of the administration of justice, while making the system more efficient.

This bill also includes amendments that would clarify the existing signing authority of clerks of the court who record judicial pronouncements made from the bench. The act of preparing and signing a court document is a completely administrative task that is often delegated to a clerk of the court. However, only a few Criminal Code provisions expressly provide that a clerk of the court can actually prepare and sign these documents.

To facilitate the administration of justice and enhance efficiencies in criminal court case processing, this bill would expressly provide that clerks of the court can sign documents that reflect judicial pronouncements made from the bench, unless otherwise provided by the Criminal Code or decided by the court. Related amendments to Criminal Code forms will also be made, to add uniformity and clarity surrounding the authority of clerks of the court to sign forms that record such judicial pronouncements.

To sum up this piece of the puzzle, we are going to push the work down to where it can be done most effectively and efficiently, at a lower cost, and in a faster way, so that more Canadians will experience greater access to justice than in fact do today.

The Criminal Code also sets out two time frames and circumstances in which accused persons may change their election or re-elect their mode of trial: 15 days after the completion of the preliminary inquiry, and 14 days before the first day appointed for the trial. Bill C-75 would change both timelines to 60 days. This change would ensure that the accused have sufficient time to appreciate the case against them before re-electing, and it would eliminate additional unnecessary steps required to prepare for trial. This change would also allow valuable court time and resources to be reallocated to other matters.

I will conclude by saying that this bill is really directed at curing certain injustices that exist within our system. In particular, some of the ones that I am most concerned with and have lived first-hand as a litigator in the court system are the administrative delays, which not only make it more difficult for a person to access justice, but contribute to the systemic inefficiencies that slow down the time to trial, add to the cost of systems, and do not serve the interests of Canadians.

This bill takes great steps to cure many of those defects in our system. I am proud to be supporting it, and I hope all members of the House do the same.

JusticeAdjournment Proceedings

June 8th, 2018 / 12:05 a.m.
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West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country B.C.

Liberal

Pam Goldsmith-Jones LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise on the serious matter of judicial appointments. Since elected, our government has taken significant steps to ensure that the process for appointing judges is transparent and accountable to Canadians and promotes greater diversity on the bench. At the same time, we recognize the challenges courts face with respect to court delays, which have come under heightened scrutiny since the Supreme Court of Canada's Jordan decision.

We have demonstrated that we are committed to responding to these challenges by introducing Bill C-75. This bill promises substantive reform that will fundamentally address delays, and modernize our justice system.

Let me assure the member opposite that the minister is very mindful of the effect judicial vacancies can have on the effective operation of a court. The minister is absolutely committed to ensuring that the most meritorious candidates are appointed to the bench to meet the needs of all Canadians.

Since elected, our government has appointed or elevated 183 judges to superior courts across the country, including five in Saskatchewan, and today, the diversity of our appointments is unprecedented. Under our government, 57% of appointed or elevated judges are women, compared to just 32% under the previous government.

Our government is committed to continuing to strengthen our judiciary. Budget 2017 created funding for 28 new federally appointed judges. Using this funding, the minister has appointed judges to new judicial positions in Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador, with more such appointments to come.

Through budget 2018, we are creating 46 new judicial positions, including a judge for the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal. This new position would respond directly and positively to a request from Saskatchewan. This additional judge would assist that court, the highest court in the province, to address a growing number of civil and criminal appeals as well as increasingly complex matters. The amendment to add this position to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal is currently before Parliament in Bill C-74.

Fundamental to the judicial appointments process are the judicial advisory committees. They evaluate the applications of those who have put their names forward for judicial appointment and provide lists of highly recommended candidates to the Minister of Justice. As a result of the changes we introduced, the JACs are now more balanced and inclusive. We also made changes to help achieve a more representative bench, with a broader diversity of backgrounds and experience, allowing candidates to speak to their own understanding and experience of Canada's diverse makeup. We also increased our ability to validate candidates' bilingual capacity.

JusticeStatements By Members

June 5th, 2018 / 1:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice claims that Bill C-75 has nothing to do with sentencing. Bill C-75 makes serious indictable offences prosecutable by way of summary conviction. Therefore, instead of a sentence of up to 10 years if prosecuted by way of summary conviction, the maximum sentence would be two years less a day or as little as a mere fine. That is right. Under Bill C-75, a maximum sentence could go from 10 years to two years less a day.

Contrary to the minister's claims, Bill C-75 has everything to do with sentencing and everything to do with watering down sentences for the most serious of offences.

Bill C-75 is a terrible bill for victims, it is a terrible bill for public safety, and it is why Conservatives will work to defeat Bill C-75.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 9:25 p.m.
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Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise tonight to provide an overview of some of the key areas of criminal justice reform our government is tackling in Bill C-75.

In broad terms, the amendments in this legislation seek to promote efficiency in the criminal justice system, reduce case completion times, and speed up trials; reduce overrepresentation of indigenous peoples and marginalized peoples in our jails; and reduce systemic barriers that for far too long have prevented victims from coming forward, telling their stories, being heard, and being believed. All of these things are wrapped in our core objectives in Bill C-75, which will ensure that we are holding offenders to account, that we are ensuring that victims have their justice, and that we are keeping Canadians safe.

Before moving into the substance of my remarks, I would like to outline the origins and context that gave rise to the bill.

Before our government took office, there were delays and injustices in our criminal justice system. The opposition Conservatives would know something about that. In fact, they contributed to those delays.

It was for this reason that at the very outset of our mandate the Prime Minister gave the mandate to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada to undertake responsive and comprehensive reforms to improve our criminal justice system to enhance access to justice.

In undertaking this bold task, the minister has been listening. She has been listening to stakeholders. She has been listening to actors who intersect with the criminal justice system every day, right across the continuum. In fact, much of the bold legislative reform is the result of consultations with her federal, provincial, and territorial counterparts and responds directly to the concerns they have voiced.

Portions of the bill also address issues that were identified by the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in its June 27 report “Delaying Justice is Denying Justice: An Urgent Need to Address Lengthy Court Delays in Canada”.

Of course, another primary impetus for these bold reforms is the Supreme Court of Canada decision in 2016 called Jordan, in which the court stressed the need for efforts by all those involved in the criminal justice system to reduce delays and increase efficiencies.

My observations today will be on five key aspects of the bill: modernization and streamlining of the bail system; improving the approach to administration of justice offences for adults and youths; restricting the use of preliminary inquiries to offences carrying a life sentence; reclassifying certain Criminal Code offences; and improving the composition of juries and the jury selection process.

Now let me elaborate on these five key areas.

First, the bill proposes to modernize the bail provisions of the Criminal Code, which have many outdated and unnecessarily complex or redundant provisions.

The bill would do this by consolidating the various police and judicial pre-trial forms of release currently in the code and simplifying the release processes; increasing the scope of the conditions police can impose, while providing guidance in regard to reasonable and relevant conditions to be imposed in light of the circumstances surrounding the offence and other factors, such as public safety; and imposing, consistent with the Supreme Court of Canada's 2017 decision in Antic, a “principle of restraint” so that police and judges are required to consider the least restrictive and alternative means of responding to a breach, rather than automatically detaining an accused, including limiting the use of “sureties”, which are persons who supervise an accused while on bail, ensuring that the release of an accused at the earliest opportunity is favoured over detention.

Once the bill is passed, police would also be required to impose the least onerous conditions necessary if an accused is released.

The changes made to the bail system would help modernize and streamline the provisions and save time and resources. They also seek to contribute to mitigating the disproportionate repercussions to accused who are indigenous or those who belong to vulnerable populations by ensuring that courts processing the bail applications and police officers take their specific situation into account when determining whether to detain them and impose conditions and, if so, the type of conditions.

Bill C-75 also includes reforms related to intimate partner violence, or IPV, and in doing so, follows through with our government's 2015 electoral commitments. It creates a definition of “intimate partner” that would apply to the entire Criminal Code, which includes a current or former spouse, common-law partner, and dating partner. A reverse onus will be imposed at bail for repeat IPV offenders.

This responds directly to the feedback that we have received from victims at round tables across the country. It will mean that an accused, rather than the crown, will have the responsibility to show why he or she should be released pending trial. These measures are necessary to take meaningful steps in ending intimate partner violence.

Finally, the bill would require the courts to consider whether an accused would be charged with an IPV offence when determining whether to release the accused on bail. These reforms target repeat offenders who have prior convictions or have been charged with an IPV. These reforms send a signal that our government is committed to meaningful and lasting reform, which protects women by focusing on deterrence.

I will now turn to the enhanced approach with regard to administration of justice offences. Administration of justice offences are offences committed against the criminal justice system after the commission of an initial offence. The most common of these offences is a failure to comply with a set of bail conditions, for example, disobeying a curfew or a failure to appear in court when required to do so.

Often offenders who have committed an offence and are released on bail are subject to conditions that can be challenging or impossible to comply with due to their life circumstances, for example, people who use public transit to get to work and due to the bus schedules would not make it home from work until after their curfew. Then, when these people breach their condition, they are recharged with a breach offence. This generates a cycle of breaching and charging which can result in an increased burden on systemic resources, without necessarily contributing to public safety, and capturing conduct that we do not want to penalize.

Bill C-75 would provide for a new judicial referral hearings process rather than the existing criminal justice process to deal with a charge for breach, to deal more effectively with certain minor administration of justice offences, for example, a breach of drinking alcohol contrary to the bail conditions. However, this could only occur if there were no harm to a victim, for example, physical, emotional, or financial, and it would also mean that rather than charging a person who breaches conditions or fails to appear in court, the police or prosecutor could refer the breach to a court that could in turn either dismiss the matter, vary the bail conditions, or revoke bail.

This new tool would also assist in reducing the overrepresentation of indigenous accused and marginalized groups by allowing for particular circumstances of those accused persons, for example, mental illness, addictions, and homelessness, to be considered in determining how best to address a breach. I submit to the House that those are precisely the types of policy prescriptions which will reduce overrepresentation of indigenous peoples in our jails right at the very outset of the criminal process system at bail.

I will now discuss how Bill C-75 is changing the way we approach preliminary inquiries.

Preliminary inquiries are optional hearings to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to commit an accused to trial. There is no constitutional right to a preliminary inquiry, as the Supreme Court of Canada has held in prior cases, and their uses vary across the country. In some instances, it is either complemented or even replaced by an out-of-court discovery process, pursuant to provincial rules of court or policy directives.

Bill C-75 would restrict the availability of preliminary inquiries to offences punishable by imprisonment for life. The bill would also allow the justice presiding at the preliminary inquiry to limit the scope of the inquiry to specific issues and to limit the witnesses to be heard on these issues.

Restricting preliminary inquiries in this manner will reduce demands on court resources, have more serious cases heard more expeditiously, and aim to reduce what is often called re-victimization, requiring victims or witnesses to testify more than once, both at the preliminary inquiry and then again, potentially, at a contested trial.

Again, consistent with other submissions I have made thus far, this is what we have heard from victims and communities across the country.

Let me turn to streamlining the classification of offences. I know this is something on which my colleagues across the aisle have commented frequently.

The Criminal Code categorizes offences as summary conviction, indictable or hybrid. Those are three general categories under which one offence will fall. This classification tends to indicate the degree of seriousness of the conduct covered by an offence, the available sentence range, and determines the mode of trial, for example, the level of court and whether a preliminary inquiry and/or a jury trial are available. However, some of these classifications are outdated and not always reflective of our societal values.

For example, only in exceptionally rare circumstances will the offence of damaging documents warrant a prison sentence greater than two years. Therefore, it makes sense for the prosecutor to be able to choose a more efficient procedure if the facts do not warrant a longer-term sentence. In other words, it will make sense to trust the independence of the crown to exercise its judgment in the best tradition of the crown so we save our scarce judicial resources and can get to the more serious trials, like murder and those tragic cases we hear about so often in the chamber. I urge my Conservative colleagues in particular to give reflection to this measure, which will indeed help access to justice.

Bill C-75 proposes to hybridize indictable offences punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years or less. It would increase the default maximum penalty for summary conviction offences to two years less a day. It would also extend the limitation period for summary conviction offences to 12 months from the current 6 months.

These reforms provide increased flexibility to the crown to select the most appropriate procedural route in light of all of the circumstances of the case and are expected to result in cases being heard more quickly, thereby reducing delays.

I will now speak to how our government is improving the jury process.

Under section 11 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, accused persons charged with an indictable offence carrying a maximum penalty of five years or more are guaranteed a right to a trial before an impartial jury of their peers. This does not extend to a jury of a particular composition nor to one that proportionately represents all the diverse groups in Canadian society, as the Supreme Court of Canada found in the R. v. Kokopenace case.

To improve the efficiency of the jury selection process and enhance public confidence in the process by promoting the empanelling of more impartial, more representative juries, Bill C-75 would be achieving several aims. First, it would abolish peremptory challenges of jurors by the crown and the defence. Second, it would allow the judge to direct that a juror stand by for reasons of maintaining public confidence in the administration of justice. Third, it would update the grounds for challenging a juror for cause. Lastly, it would allow the judge to determine whether a ground of challenge is true.

Bill C-75 seeks to ensure that our criminal justice system is more efficient, more effective, more fair, and more accessible. The bill demonstrates that our government is following through with platform commitments and it is following through on those platform commitments on the basis of a bedrock of consultation that has been exercised across the continuum. We have listened to victims. We have listened to stakeholders. We have listened to those individuals on the judiciary with whom we work very closely. This has contributed to a very constructive dialogue. More important, for the benefit of all Canadians, it is legislation that is principled, that is based in evidence, and that will improve the quality of the criminal justice system for all Canadians.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 9:40 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, while there is much in Bill C-75 that I support, particularly getting rid of peremptory challenges in choosing juries, I am very disturbed by the changes being proposed to section 657 of the Criminal Code. I cannot imagine how this came so far. I hope the hon. member knows I am referring to changes that will mean police officers need not be on the witness stand, available to a defence attorney who sent word to cross-examine those police officers. They could submit an affidavit or previously submitted evidence.

The credibility of a police officer on the stand very often is the difference between an innocent person going to jail or not. This has been universally condemned by the criminal laws. Was there any consultation on this? Is it a mistake? Could it be changed at committee? I hope the answer is that this was a mistake.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 9:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for all of her work in this area. I know she was a member of the legal profession prior to her taking office. I always invite and welcome her thoughts and her input on this. However, perhaps one of the most important things she has mentioned is the notion that the problem about the chronic under-representation of indigenous peoples and marginalized peoples on our juries far predate our time in office.

There have been reports that go back as far as when Senator Sinclair was a judge in Manitoba. More recent, retired Supreme Court of Canada Justice Frank Iacobucci submitted a report in 2013 to the Attorney General of Ontario in which it was well-documented that much work needed to be done, including taking a close look at the use of peremptory challenge.

Bill C-75 would enhance the accountability and transparency around the methods by which the parties would contribute to the selection of juries. It would require them to provide a reason. In other words, it would open up that box of thinking that currently is able to be exercised without any review, without any comment from the courts.

We are confident that by doing this, we will see more individuals step forward and contribute to juries that are composed of and are reflective of the diversity of our communities, and that is a very positive thing.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 9:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the question, if for no other reason than it allows us to take a step back from Bill C-75, and take a look at one of the many other areas that we are approaching reform of our justice system. Of course, in addition to Bill C-75, we have a judicial appointments process, which I am quite proud to say the Minister of Justice has completely renewed, in consultation with her colleagues. By renewing it, I mean that it is now open, merit based, and reflective of the diversity and tremendous talent and experience that we see across the continuum of the country.

In direct response to my hon. colleague's question, I am quite proud to say that we now have, since taking office, appointed over 170 federal judges across the country. My hon. colleagues from the Conservative benches often take the opportunity to criticize this government wrongly and unjustifiably about our lack of progress in the province of Alberta. I would simply point out that there are now five more judges in Alberta than at any point under the Harper Conservatives. That is something we should all celebrate.

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June 5th, 2018 / 9:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I did have the great privilege of visiting my hon. colleague's riding to conduct one of the over 20 round tables across the country, in partnership with the Minister of Justice, as part of the criminal justice review. I also want to take the opportunity to thank him in this chamber for his very deft and agile driving to get me back to the airport on time so that I could catch my flight back home. It was quite an adventure and with all the daylight, certainly it helped our navigation through the busy streets of Whitehorse.

However, to his question, in particular when it comes to administration of justice offences, this may be an area that much of the public does not have a lay understanding of. If a person gets charged with an offence and they are on bail, the person is asked to abide by certain conditions. In my remarks, I refer to a curfew, which is one of the more routinely imposed conditions. There may be good reasons why a curfew is needed in some cases to protect the public, but in many other cases it is not required.

There are far too many of these administration of justice offences in the courts. In Ontario, they take up nearly 40% of all judicial resources. We need to reduce those offences so that we can get to the serious cases. Bill C-75 helps us achieve that.

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June 5th, 2018 / 9:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my hon. colleague's speech. He is very learned and comes from a profession that understands things well. I did pass through law school at one time, but decided that another profession was of more interest to me, so my speech will probably be a little more the layman's type, and will probably have some rhetoric in it that I am sure he will rather enjoy.

I will be speaking on Bill C-75, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts. That is quite the title, and it probably should come as no surprise that it is an omnibus bill. It makes massive reforms to our criminal justice system, and in fact, it re-tables three bills already on the Order Paper: Bill C-28, on the victim surcharge; Bill C-38, on consecutive sentencing for human trafficking; and Bill C-39, which repeals unconstitutional provisions.

The government simply cannot seem to manage its legislative agenda. It waited until late in its mandate, and now Parliament is expected to rush through debate on these important matters.

What is apparent is that Bill C-75 is a big, complicated bill that is supposed to fix the issues facing our justice system. It does contain provisions that I could support. Repealing unconstitutional provisions in the Criminal Code is a positive proposal. Increasing the maximum term for repeat offenders involved in domestic violence also makes a lot of sense.

However, the bill also introduces a host of other issues. This legislation should have been split so we could have debated and voted on some of its parts, rather than as an omnibus bill. There is far too much here to be considered in such a short time. The Liberals promised they would not introduce an omnibus bill, but here we are.

We have known for a long time that our justice system is dangerously backlogged. A primary stated objective of Bill C-75 is to reduce delays in our justice system. The R. v. Jordan ruling, now known as the Jordan rule or principle, imposes strict timelines on criminal trials: 30 months for the criminals, and 18 months for the indictable.

This objective is very important. Thousands of criminal trials across Canada have been stayed, including murder trials, for going over the imposed time limits. We have seen the stories of individuals accused of horrendous crimes being let off because of massive delays in the court system. The problem is only getting worse, but this bill is finally supposed to do something about this serious problem.

Before I get into the details of this bill, I have to ask: Why has this government not taken steps to appoint more judges? It has been pointed out that the government has appointed many, but we still have 59 vacancies. Let us get them all filled so that we can improve the justice system. Appointing judges may have been a faster way to address the delays in our justice system, rather than forcing an omnibus bill through Parliament. I know that the Liberals have left appointments unfilled in other government agencies, but the judicial ones are critical. At the very least, they need to fill those. I am sure that is something they will do quickly, right?

The biggest red flag in this legislation is the hybridization of many indictable-only offences, done by adding summary convictions as a sentencing option. Simply put, serious crimes deserve serious penalties, but some of the offences listed in the bill are undoubtedly, to me and many of my constituents, serious crimes. These include participating in a terrorist group; impaired driving causing bodily harm; kidnapping a minor; possessing stolen property over $5,000, which is a huge concern in my rural riding; participating in activities of a criminal organization; municipal corruption or influencing a municipal official; committing infanticide; extortion by libel; advocating genocide; arson for fraudulent purpose; advertising and dealing in counterfeit money; and many more. There are a lot of serious crimes in here that are going to change. Many of these crimes are classified as indictment-only for a reason. They should not be punishable under a summary conviction, with a possible mere fine. That option has been included, and it should not be there.

The bill would also delay consecutive sentencing for human traffickers. Human trafficking is a severe crime. There is a cross-party committee dealing with this crime. It is a severe problem and deserves severe punishment. We know it is taking place in Canada. It is an international issue that needs to be combatted with all the tools at our disposal. Why would the government weaken our criminal justice system with these changes? We all need to address the backlogs in our courts system, but some of these measures just do not make sense.

In my riding of Bow River, we have been dealing with serious issues involving rural crime. I am happy that motion by the member for Lakeland, Motion No. 167, was passed last week in this House. I believe it will be an important step toward actually doing something about rural crime. The statistics show that crime in rural areas has increased significantly in all three prairie provinces. However, right on the heels of adopting this important motion, we have this bill taking two steps backwards. This is going to be hard to explain to the constituents in my riding who are dealing with constant rural crime. Residents across the country are going to be shaking their heads in disbelief at this one. I have heard from many constituents who have suffered break-ins, property theft, and threats to person. We have held round tables in locations in ridings across Alberta and heard from many people who are living in fear. They do not have confidence that the criminal acts taking place around their homes will be addressed. In many cases, the RCMP is simply stretched too thinly across the vast rural areas to respond promptly.

I am particularly concerned that this bill would relax sentences for crimes like possession of stolen property and participating in criminal gangs. It is hard enough to catch criminals engaged in rural crimes. In many cases, the criminals are long gone before anyone can show up to deal with them. When it takes police officers hours or until the next day to get to the scene, there is plenty of time to disappear. This is not like crime in a city where people reasonably expect police to show up on their doorstep in minutes. When criminals are caught, there is a reasonable expectation that they will face serious consequences for their actions. It is hard enough to convince people to report crimes when they occur. We encourage them to do so because it is very important for the statistics of the police services. The police need to know what is actually happening in communities, but people are afraid to report crimes, or they say it is a waste of time. The police need the statistics to make decisions related to how to best enforce the law, but my constituents do not always believe they will make any difference in the justice system anymore. It is going to be that much harder to encourage people to report rural crimes if this bill receives royal assent. At a bare minimum, people need to know that if they report a crime and the criminal responsible is actually apprehended, there will be serious consequences for that individual. We need real deterrents, not slaps on the wrist, to keep Canadians' faith in the justice system.

They talk about Alberta judges, and yes, we are short of judges, but here is the other side of it. I have spoken with legal people and they say that the number of crown prosecutors is drastically short. There are few crown prosecutors willing to do it. As the number of crown prosecutors has decreased, there are fewer of them who will work on this huge workload. The average caseload that crown prosecutors have is twice what it used to be years ago. Legal aid lawyers are quitting. The pay they are getting has decreased, or they are not being paid at all. If they are moving to summary convictions, two years less a day, the jails are full. I have seen downloading from governments before; this is a huge download from the federal government to the provincial governments. They are going to download into the provinces' judicial systems by changing convictions from indictable to summary convictions. As the prosecutors have told me, they have been told to clear the docket and keep only the very serious cases and kick all the rest of the cases out, not to take them to court but to get the charges dropped, to kick them out.

There is a joke around the provincial jail system that if there is an arrest for car theft, the officers should make sure their car is locked when the criminal goes out the door, because the criminal is likely to steal their car to go home. With the shortage of prosecutors, the time that is available to put people in jail for two years less a day is a huge download to the provincial system.

It is especially wrong that this bill is being introduced at the same time we are considering Bill C-71. That bill would do nothing to address rural crime and gang violence. Nothing in it would make a difference to the criminals using illegal firearms. All the bill does is target law-abiding firearms owners with new, poorly designed, heavy-handed regulations.

Farmers in my riding make use of all kinds of firearms on their property. Firearms are basic to rural life in many cases. I have heard from many constituents who are very concerned about Bill C-71. Why would the government treat farmers like criminals, while reducing sentences for rural criminals at the same time? Summary convictions and fines are just kicking the cases out, because there is no time to deal with them.

Again, it makes no sense. The government's agenda is looking increasingly incoherent, especially from the perspective of rural residents. Will these measures do anything to reduce the backlog? No. They are just downloading the problem on the provinces. Just as Chrétien did with the transfer payments, the current government is going to do it with the judicial system to download to the provinces.

Our legal institutions are overwhelmed by the number of cases that need to be addressed. The bill could stretch them to a breaking point, as the crown prosecutors in Alberta told me. We could have many more cases thrown out for taking too long. Jordan's principle is going to come in and many people will walk the street because of it. In other words, criminals will walk. That is not a result anyone wants to see, especially when rural crime is involved. It is deeply painful for victims of crime and it is dangerous for the Canadian public at large to lose faith in the justice system, like the rural residents in my constituency.

The government seems to be dumping more problems on provinces and municipalities. It leaves them to clean up the mess. We have already seen how the government has done this with cannabis legislation. Its approach has left provinces and municipalities scrambling to accommodate the new laws and pay for their implementation.

I have heard from town councillors across my constituency how concerned they are about the cannabis legalization and how they are going to pay for it. They do not know how the small towns and villages will handle all the issues that are coming down the pipe, just like the carbon tax. The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association has expressed grave doubts about how its members are going to get ready for legalization. It has been conveying these concerns to the government for a long time, but the Liberals are not listening.

The federal government simply punts its problems on to subnational governments and claims to have taken action. That is exactly what it did with the cannabis legalization, and that trend is continuing with Bill C-75. We need real leadership, not just passing the buck to the provinces.

The legislation would weaken our criminal justice system by relaxing the sentences for many serious crimes. That list was not even the extent of it. It is a very broad bill. It downloads the delays in our court system onto the provinces. It also changes the victim surcharge, which is a deeply disappointing departure from our former government's priority of putting victims first. It would remove the requirement of the attorney general to determine whether to seek an adult sentence in certain circumstances. It would remove the power of a youth justice court to make an order to lift the ban on publication in the case of a young person who receives a youth sentence for a violent offence. It would delay consecutive sentencing for human traffickers, and that is wrong. It would make our justice system more like a revolving door than it is now. It would make rural crime in my riding and across Canada even harder to deal with, and it would make people not trust the justice system.

We need to deal with the problems in our justice system, but this is not the way to do it. This is simply a huge, poorly designed bill. It would make many changes that I simply cannot support.

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June 5th, 2018 / 10 p.m.
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Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, where to begin? There is just so much that is fundamentally wrong in my learned colleague's remarks.

Let us start with the Conservative record on judicial appointments: based on partisanship, and at a slow rate that prevented individuals from getting access to justice. Let us then continue to the member's comments on what this bill would do when it comes to the hybridization of offences. When it comes to Conservative commentary, there is scarcely another area that is more misrepresented and more misleading to the public than the hybridization of offences.

The hybridization of offences is informed by the independent, properly exercised discretion of the crown, the prosecutor. One of the things the prosecutor is required to take into consideration is the seriousness of the offence, whether or not somebody has been hurt. That will determine where the offence goes, whether it goes to superior court or whether it stays in summary court. However, in no way does it detract from the fitness of a sentence, which will be imposed by a judge.

Lastly, my friend touched on a number of other bills besides Bill C-75, one of which is Bill C-46. This is perhaps the most perplexing of all his comments. I hear my hon. colleagues heckling. He wants to keep the roads safe, but his Conservative colleague in the Senate is now opposed to mandatory alcohol screening, the number one deterrent that would keep our roads safer. How does the member explain that?

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June 5th, 2018 / 10:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Gagan Sikand Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Surrey—Newton.

I am pleased to rise today to lend my support to Bill C-75, introduced by our government on March 29, 2018. Today my remarks will address how the bill would contribute to eliminating intimate partner violence. Intimate partner violence is one of the most common forms of gender-based violence. The term includes physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and controlling behaviours by an intimate partner.

I would like to reiterate some very shocking statistics the Minister of Justice shared when she spoke to Bill C-75 at second reading.

In 2016, according to police-reported data from Statistics Canada, over 93,000 people in Canada experienced intimate partner violence. Sadly, intimate partner violence is a reality for at least one in two women in Canada. Women who are indigenous, trans, elderly, new to Canada, or living with a disability are at increased risk of experiencing violence due to systemic barriers and failures. The personal and often lifelong consequences of violence against women are enormous.

This data also shows that in 2016, violence within dating relationships was more common than violence within spousal relationships. These statistics are devastating. I believe that we, as a government, must work to continue to strengthen our responses to this complex social problem that so disproportionately impacts women, particularly those who are in certain types of relationships.

During the 2015 election, our government campaigned on a promise to give more support to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and sexual harassment and to ensure that more perpetrators were brought to justice. As well, the minister's mandate letter included implementing our platform commitment to toughen criminal laws and bail conditions in cases of domestic assault, in consultation with stakeholders, with the goal of keeping survivors and children safe.

In Bill C-75, we are fulfilling these commitments. This bill would standardize the meaning of “intimate partner” for all Criminal Code purposes by defining the term. The new definition would specify that an intimate partner would include a current or former spouse, a common-law partner, and a dating partner.

These changes are long overdue. As I just noted, the data demonstrates that a substantial number of violent incidents are committed in the context of a dating rather than a cohabiting relationship. Since violence against a dating partner has long been recognized in Canadian courts as a form of intimate partner or domestic violence, the reforms would codify what is already standard practice in many jurisdictions, thereby clarifying the law. Specifying that “intimate partner” includes a person's current or former spouse, common-law partner, and dating partner would reflect sentencing decisions that have considered abuse of both current and former intimate partners as an aggravating factor, even though the existing provision does not specify that abuse of current or former intimate partners should be taken into account. Specifying that sentencing judges must consider any evidence of abuse of current or former spouses, common-law partners, or dating partners as an aggravating factor would not only clarify the law, but as previously mentioned, would support one of our government's platform commitments to ensure that all forms of intimate partner violence were considered an aggravating factor at sentencing.

Bill C-75 would also clarify that strangling, choking, or suffocating another person would constitute the more serious form of assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm, which is punishable by a maximum of 10 years' imprisonment. These types of assaults, which often occur in the intimate partner violence context, have serious and even deadly consequences for victims. However, under existing law, courts do not always recognize this greater harm. The proposed amendment would ensure that this type of assaultive conduct was treated more seriously.

Further, in support of our government's electoral platform commitments, Bill C-75 would also allow for the imposition of a higher maximum penalty where offenders have been repeatedly violent toward an intimate partner. In such cases, the crown would be able to give notice that a higher maximum penalty would be sought. Allowing courts to impose a term of imprisonment that was higher than the applicable maximum penalty in repeat intimate partner violence cases would better reflect the severity of the conduct and assist in better protecting victims. For example, in some cases, the higher maximum penalty would ensure that sanctions other than imprisonment, such as conditional sentence orders, were not available.

The bill would strengthen the bail provisions of the Criminal Code by imposing a reverse onus at bail for an accused charged with an offence involving violence against an intimate partner if the accused had a criminal record with at least one prior conviction involving intimate partner violence. In the context of bail, a reverse onus means that the accused, rather than the crown, would have to justify why he or she should not be detained in custody until the start of the trial, having regard for the safety of the victim and public confidence in the administration of justice. This would ensure that an accused's history of intimate partner violence would be brought to the attention of the bail court at the outset of the hearing, regardless of whether the current charge involved the same victim or a different one. The reverse onus would also signal to the bail court the seriousness of the alleged offence as well as the increased risk of recidivism in this context.

Bill C-75 would require all bail courts to consider, in making any order relating to bail, whether an accused was charged with an offence where violence was used, threatened, or attempted against an intimate partner. Bail courts would be required to take this factor into account when making a number of possible bail-related determinations, including the decision to impose an order not to communicate with a particular victim, witness, or other person; a detention order; or an order to release the accused on bail.

In particular, if the accused was to be released into the community pending trial, the bail judge would have to consider the fact that the alleged offence was against an intimate partner in determining whether bail conditions were necessary, and if so, what types of conditions would be appropriate. Requiring bail courts to consider the safety of the accused's intimate partner before releasing an accused on bail would afford increased protection to victims of intimate partner violence.

Bill C-75's intimate partner violence amendments would provide the courts with the means to denounce intimate partner violence to better protect victims, including prior to trial, and to ensure that the sentences imposed were proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender.

Concisely put, Bill C-75 would make marked improvements to the treatment of intimate partner violence in our criminal laws. It would establish a higher maximum sentence and reverse onus at bail for repeat offenders, recognize strangulation as an elevated form of assault, and broaden the parameters of intimate partner violence, which would now include current or former spouses, common-law partners, and dating partners.

These reforms are sorely needed. I hope that all my colleagues will join me in seeking to end intimate partner violence and will support Bill C-75.

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June 5th, 2018 / 10:20 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have touched on a few other aspects of Bill C-75, and I certainly agree with my hon. colleague that doing more to deal with intimate partner violence is critical.

I am troubled that the bill would eliminate preliminary inquiries. A preliminary inquiry is typically a time when the defence gets to test the evidence. It is something of a dry run or dress rehearsal for what is going to come at trial, and it allows the defence to properly prepare and may even lead to deciding not to proceed to trial because the evidence is too weak.

I do not understand the rationale for eliminating preliminary inquiries, all for efficiency. It is trampling the rights of the accused, who may be innocent, in the interest of efficiency. At least that is how I see it right now, standing here tonight.

I would love to know what the defence and rationale is for getting rid of preliminary inquiries.

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June 5th, 2018 / 10:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Surrey—Newton, BC

Mr. Speaker, I first want to thank the hon. member for Mississauga—Streetsville for sharing his time with me and for his eloquent speech, particularly on the topic of intimate partner violence, which is a reality in the part of the country I come from. He covered it very well.

I am very proud to rise today to speak on Bill C-75. This legislation builds on our commitment to build safer and stronger neighbourhoods by making necessary investments in our police forces, reforming our criminal justice system, and supporting victims of addiction. As the member of Parliament for Surrey—Newton, I have listened to the priorities of my constituents about being tough on guns and gangs and making sure those deserving of full weight of the justice system receive it, and those needing our support and assistance receive it as well.

We have taken many great steps to accomplish this. For instance, in budget 2018, we announced over $300 million to be spent in the next five years and $100 million per year after that to support the RCMP, the CBSA, and other public safety agencies in cracking down on illegal trafficking of guns and drugs. We have invested over $180 million to help the RCMP recruit and train more cadets that it can continue to keep our growing cities safe. We have also taken action to support victims of substance abuse with the development of supervised injection sites across Canada, a model that began in Vancouver and that shows that with a compassionate and pragmatic approach, we can make a real difference in people's lives and keep our streets safe.

With this bill, we recognize that action must be taken to ensure that our court system moves quickly to hold offenders to account and to protect victims. In the past decade, Canada's court system has been burdened with administrative offences, as well as longer and more complex cases. These delays were cited by the Supreme Court as unacceptable and, therefore, it has established strict timelines that cases have to adhere to or risk being stayed. This is unacceptable to victims, and that is why our government, the Prime Minister, and the minister responsible have brought this bill forward.

This bill would make several key changes to the culture in our court system, beginning with limiting the use of of preliminary inquiries to more serious offences to ensure that criminal cases can proceed more quickly to trial; strengthening our response to intimate partner violence; streamlining the bail process to ensure swift access to justice; providing judges with the more robust tools they need to manage the cases before them; improving the jury selection process to ensure that juries are more representative of the Canadian population; providing more discretion on administration of justice offences; and reclassifying offences to allow courts to deal more efficiently with less serious matters, freeing up limited resources for more serious offences.

I want to touch on some of the key reforms in this bill, beginning with the changes to the administration of justice offences. These are acts such as failing to comply with bail conditions or failing to appear in court. These offences are unrelated to public safety, but, nevertheless, burden individuals with unnecessary and significant delays.

Nearly 40% of all adult cases involve at least one of these administrative charges. Therefore, this bill proposes a new approach. Police would retain the option to lay a new charge for the breach or failure to appear where appropriate. However, if the offence did not involve physical or emotional harm to a victim, property damage, or economic loss, the police would have an additional option of referring the accused to a judicial referral hearing.

We are also making changes to protect victims of domestic violence by ensuring that more offenders are brought to justice. Bill C-75 proposes a higher sentencing range for repeat offences involving intimate partner violence. It would broaden the definition of “intimate partner” to include dating partners and former partners, and clearly specifies that evidence of intimate partner abuse is an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes.

The last area of reform I want to speak about is selection. The defining value of our country is our respect for equality and commitment to promoting multiculturalism, but we continually need to do more to make sure that this value remains in place, and one of those areas that has long gone unchanged is our justice system.

It is a fact that we have lower levels of representation of indigenous and minority communities in juries, and that needs to change to ensure the integrity of the justice system. That is why we are bringing in this reform. Abolishing challenges and reinforcing the power of judges to “stand aside” certain jurors in order to increase diversity and giving judges the power to decide challenges for cause will bring more fairness and transparency to the system and encourage juries that are more representative of our communities.

In closing, there are few things more important than making sure that our neighbourhoods are safe for families and our children. Whether it is making sure that we have more police officers on the ground, laws that target guns on our streets, or supporting victims of addiction, we need to keep finding new solutions for the safety of our nation. I believe this bill does that.

With a court system that is more efficient, transparent, and fair, we will uphold its integrity, hold offenders to account, and protect victims. For these reasons, I look forward to seeing all members support this bill.

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June 5th, 2018 / 10:35 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, the bill is very disappointing for those of us on the opposition benches who sat through the 41st Parliament. We saw a radical overhaul of the criminal justice system by the previous government in ways that undermined our criminal justice system, overloaded our jails, and passed the cost on to the provinces, and here I speak of the mandatory minimums.

Mandatory minimums were added to many things. I opposed them at the time, and I really did expect that the current Minister of Justice would take on this issue of mandatory minimums head-on. Now we have Bill C-75, which is fairly voluminous, but it ignores this substantial issue that is crying out for reform.

I wonder if my hon. colleague has any idea why we do not see the removal of the mandatory minimum sentences that are sprinkled throughout our criminal system. Many of them have now been struck down by the Supreme Court. Surely we should be acting to remove them.