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.