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 5th, 2018 / 10:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Madam Speaker, I will share my time with the hon. member for Ottawa South.

One of the joys of being the chairman of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights is the collegial way that we work together, which is the way we should work together when it comes to the justice system, because whether we are Liberals, Conservatives, New Democrats, or Green, we all want the same things: We want a system that moves quickly; we want a system under which the accused has the right to a fair trial and is presumed innocent; we want a system that protects the rights of victims and treats victims with respect; and we want a system that ensures that we are not soft on crime but that allows for rehabilitation of an offender.

These are all elements that we need to consider as we deal with Bill C-75, a very important bill that deals with not only the Jordan decision but a number of elements that need to be enhanced and improved within the justice system.

I want to talk about some of the elements of the bill, ones that we will need to study at the justice committee. I will start with the issue of preliminary inquiries.

Parliament was invited to look at the issue of preliminary inquiries by the Supreme Court in the Jordan case itself. Due to the vast disclosure requirements now required in preliminary inquiries, the court mentioned in Regina v. Jordan that Parliament may wish to revisit the issue of preliminary inquiries, and the bill would do away with preliminary inquiries for all those offences that do not carry life sentences.

In general, I do agree with the proposal to drastically reduce the number of preliminary inquiries. It is clear that there is no constitutional right to a preliminary inquiry. That does not mean, of course, that we do not need to consider arguments that may be made by defence counsel and those there to defend the rights of the accused, so one of the issues the justice committee will need to study is whether the list of offences for which there could be a preliminary inquiry should be expanded or should be left as it is in the bill.

Another issue that we will need to study is the issue of hybrid offences. I have heard the arguments made by my colleague from St. Albert—Edmonton on hybrid offences and on the possibility that sending offences to a provincial court with a shorter time frame under Jordan will clog up the justice system even more. I do not think it will. Doing away with certain administrative offences and reducing the volume for the court in that sense will not be problematic, but I hear that argument, and we will have to look at the list of offences that are now only indictable but that would become available for summary conviction as well, and we will need to determine whether any offences that are currently on the list to be hybridized should not be hybridized.

One of the issues that is very important for all Canadians is the over-incarceration of certain populations in this country. My colleague from Victoria, the NDP justice critic, today raised at our committee the fact that 25% of jailed people in Canada are indigenous, and among women in prison it is 33%. Since this community makes up approximately 5% of Canada's population, this is a shocking situation and it needs to be fixed. As for the other vulnerable populations that are overrepresented in the prison population, we need to diagnose why that is.

The hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands raised the issue of mandatory minimums. That is certainly an issue that we will need to look at in depth at some point in time, because clearly mandatory minimums are one of the reasons for overrepresentation. Another reason, though, that I do believe is dealt with by the bill in a way that I totally support is the issue of creating a new judicial referral hearing that allows people who miss a condition not to automatically be charged and sent before a court, which creates a vicious cycle in which people who, for example, miss a hearing because they do not have transportation to get to the bail hearing are then incarcerated again because they have breached a condition, and it happens over and over. I totally approve of the issue of modernizing and streamlining the bail system and legislating a principle of restraint.

Another issue we need to look at is reverse onus. I do support the presumption that those people who have already been convicted of intimate-partner violence should have a more difficult time making bail. However, I understand that there are charter issues to be raised in terms of any reverse onus of proof that we create, and that is another item that our justice committee will have to study when this bill comes before us after second reading and a vote by Parliament.

Another issue I want to talk about is amending the Youth Criminal Justice Act to reduce the rates at which youth are charged for administration of justice offences.

One of the things that has worked really well in Canada since the Young Offenders Act was revised in the early 2000s is the fact that we have drastically reduced the number of youth incarcerated in Canada. This is something we need to look at, not only for young offenders but for all offenders. We need to find a way to keep people out of the vicious cycle of prisons. We need to find a way to make sure people can stay in their communities and be rehabilitated, as much as possible.

While I have a minute, I also want to turn my attention to the sections that will be repealed in the Criminal Code.

Section 230 of the Criminal Code, which was originally dealt with in Bill C-39, is now present in Bill C-75. This is a very unfortunate section that the courts have struck down, and in the case of the McCanns, which my hon. colleague, the member for St. Albert—Edmonton, has raised on multiple occasions, the judge erroneously referenced this section, causing even more pain for the family. One of the items that we need to make sure of is that those provisions of the Criminal Code that are struck down by our courts are repealed from the Criminal Code so that nobody else could ever make that type of mistake.

I also want to draw attention to section 159 of the Criminal Code, which desperately needs to be removed. The stigmatization of the gay community through section 159, the distinction between anal sex and other types of sex, and the stigmatization of gay men by a different age of consent is totally unacceptable, totally out of date, and needs to be repealed.

One of the things that I am very proud of is that the government, in bringing forward Bill C-75, has talked to all of its provincial counterparts, has held round tables throughout the country, and has not come back with its own ideas but has come back with lots of good principles that were worked on by multiple parties.

Now it is up to us as a Parliament to further enhance the bill, and for the committee to do its good work in terms of carefully looking at each of the provisions. I am very gratified that my colleagues in the other parties have agreed that we will sit extra hours when needed to deal with these provisions and to hear all the witnesses. I want to encourage those witnesses across Canada who have comments on Bill C-75 to come forward, send their briefs to committee, and ask to appear before our committee should they have a reason to do so. The more people we hear from on these important issues, the better the law will be. The goal for all of us is to get this bill as right as possible.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 10:50 p.m.
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Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to stand this evening to speak to Bill C-75, which would amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts to address delays in the criminal justice system and increase criminal justice system efficiencies.

Delays in the criminal justice system significantly impact all of those involved. Under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, accused persons have the right to be tried within a reasonable time. Should an accused not be tried in a reasonable time, it could result in a stay of proceedings in accordance with new timelines imposed by the Supreme Court in 2017 in its landmark Jordan decision.

Stays of proceedings due to delays undermine public confidence in the criminal justice system. These stays are unacceptable and as parliamentarians, we must step up to address this problem, which is why we have introduced Bill C-75.

The challenge of delays is particularly acute for indigenous persons and individuals from vulnerable populations, such as those suffering from mental health or addiction issues, who are overrepresented in the criminal justice system.

While the volume and severity of crime have decreased over the years, criminal court cases are becoming more complex and trials are taking longer to complete. Data from Statistics Canada shows that the median case completion time in adult courts has increased from 120 days in 2010-11 to 127 days in 2015-16, a full week.

Another important challenge is the number of individuals in provincial detention facilities awaiting trial, which currently exceeds the number of individuals found guilty of criminal offences in serving their sentence.

Statistics Canada recently reported that the remand population had exceeded the sentence population, with adults in remand accounting for 60% of the custodial, that is federal, provincial, and territorial, population in 2015-16.

Bill C-75 includes amendments that would streamline and modernize the bail process, while maintaining public confidence in the criminal justice system. This would reduce the high population in remand, while ensuring our communities would be kept safe.

The bill would expand bail conditions that police would be able to impose on an accused, which would enable their release at an earlier stage and would reduce time spent in custody before their trial. These conditions, however, would be guided by a principle of restraint for police and prosecutors. A principle of restraint means that release at the earliest opportunity will be favoured over detention and that only reasonable and necessary bail conditions are to be imposed on the accused.

As well, Canadian criminal courts process a high number of administration of justice offences, such as breach of bail conditions and failures to appear in court. This volume of cases is bringing increased pressure on the entire system. These less serious offences often involve minor matters that do not compromise public safety or cause economic harm, for example, breach of curfew, but catch the offenders within the criminal justice system if they are charged for their breach.

Statistics Canada again reported that in 2013-14, 39% of all cases in adult criminal courts included at least one administration of justice offence. That is almost 40%. For many offenders, being unnecessarily charged and convicted of administration of justice offences is a fast track to the revolving door of the criminal justice system. This is costly in both economic and human terms and it is avoidable.

With a view to decrease the number of these charges taking up so much court time, Bill C-75 proposes to increase police and prosecutorial discretion for administration of justice offences involving both adults and our youth. The bill would give police and prosecutors a new tool called a judicial referral hearing, which serves as an alternative to a formal criminal charge.

For example, after being stopped by police after curfew, the police could decide to charge the accused with breach of conditions, or decide not to charge and do no more, or could use the new tool and refer the accused to a judicial referral hearing. However, the judicial referral hearing would only be available if the breach had not caused harm to a victim, and would take into account circumstances of the accused.

At a judicial referral hearing, a judge or justice could decide, for example, to take no action and release the accused on the same conditions, or release the accused after varying bail conditions, or, yet again, order that the accused be detained in custody. It does provide additional flexibility.

This new process seeks to reduce the high number of administration of justice offences that are clogging our system, which represent 40% of cases, while maintaining public safety.

As I mentioned, the overrepresentation of indigenous persons and individuals from vulnerable populations, such as those suffering from mental health issues or addiction issues, is a serious issue in our criminal justice, and it has been for decades.

When I began my career as a young criminal lawyer, it became clear to me very quickly the extent to which mental health and addiction problems were the lion's share of the client base in the firm at which I was practising.

In 2015-16, Statistics Canada reported that indigenous adults represented 28% of admissions to federal custody and 27% of admissions to provincial or territorial custody, while representing only 4.1% of the Canadian adult population. That represents a proportion of about seven to eight times higher than their proportion in the general population.

The overrepresentation is even more pronounced among indigenous women and youth. Similarly overrepresented are individuals suffering from mental health issues or substance abuse problems. Again, Statistics Canada reported that in 2012, of the 2.8 million Canadians aged 15 and older that reported at least one mental or substance use disorder, such as depression, anxiety, alcohol or drug abuse, or drug or alcohol dependence, one in three, which is 34%, reported coming into contact with police for at least one reason in the 12 months preceding the survey. That is an extraordinarily high number. Those Canadians who reported a mental or substance use disorder were about four times more likely than those without a disorder to report being arrested by the police.

Currently, in the bail process, the conditions imposed on the accused should be the least onerous and only what is necessary and reasonable. The principle of restraint in Bill C-75 would limit the circumstances in which conditions prohibiting the consumption of drugs or alcohol would be imposed.

This is an important measure because it will help alleviate the disproportionate impact of the criminal justice system on those living with addiction. Police or courts will impose a condition only if the condition is reasonable, considering the offence that they are alleged to have committed, if the condition is necessary to ensure the safety and security of any victim, and if the officer feels they will be able to comply with this condition.

In short, there are many other reforms in Bill C-75 that would help transform our criminal justice system. It is important for hon. members here tonight to consider the bill as a whole and not to view any component in isolation, and to remember that these questions can and must be taken to the Standing Committee on Justice to review, poke, prod, and explore probatively so as to improve the bill. These changes would ensure that the rights of both victim and accused would be protected, while maintaining public safety as a paramount principle.

Overall the bill aims to establish a criminal justice system that will best serve the Canadian public. I urge all members on all sides of the House to support the proposed legislation.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 11:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Madam Speaker, it has been known now for perhaps a decade or more that for every dollar we spend on criminal prevention in getting to what they call now the new squeeze age of 10 to 12-years-old with homework clubs, with sports activities, dealing with mental health challenges, addictions, and substance abuse, we save $40 at the back end in the administration of justice costs, incarceration, parole, and beyond.

The question of mental health arriving in the criminal justice system has arrived with a vengeance. We know this is a fundamental part of the challenge we have now moving forward. Therefore, we need to make room to deal with the reality of mental health challenges. We need to work with our police forces.

Most police officers I meet and deal with on the front line, who are community police officers, will tell me they spend now 60% to 70% of their time effectively working as psychologists and as social workers. They are asking for more training and more capacity to deal with mental health challenges.

This has arrived. I know the member has been working on this. It permeates Bill C-75. I know it is part and parcel of the Minister of Justice's understanding of the justice system in its entirely, even when it applies, for example, to the employment of justices. She understands the importance of ensuring those judges understand the role of mental health in the whole system.

We are making progress. Collectively, the House can make some great advances at committee to get better legislation and a justice system that reflects the reality of those challenges.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 11:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Calgary Shepard.

Bill C-75 is an enormous 302-page omnibus bill that includes major reforms to our criminal justice system. This is the second large bill that has been proposed by the Liberals. Under the proposed changes, many serious offences may be prosecuted by summary conviction and thus will result in lighter sentences.

I would like to spend much of my time talking about human trafficking and what it looks like in Canada.

First, I would like to talk a little about the government's record. The human trafficking offences are being changed a bit by this bill. I have addressed this issue many times in this place already. Modern-day slavery and human trafficking are a horrific form of injustice. They are extremely profitable. They are growing in Canada and around the world, and are probably taking place within 10 blocks of where we live.

We know the vast majority of human victims in Canada are female and young. While those most at risk include indigenous women and youth, teenage runaways, and children who are in protection, we know anyone can become a victim of human trafficking.

Sadly, the government has been in power for 30 months, and never has a government done anything so little to fight human trafficking in so much time. Every time I have asked the government what it is doing, its only response is that it is reviewing the Criminal Code. We know that fighting complex and clandestine crimes, like human trafficking and modern-day slavery, require more than just changes to the Criminal Code. They require vigorous development and application of policy.

Since coming to power, the Liberals have done little to fight against human trafficking, and they have allowed the fight to languish. The Liberals allowed the national action plan to combat human trafficking to expire and they made no effort to replace it. It is not that they did not have the time or were not prepared, they could have announced an extension or launched a new one. However, they let it lapse, becoming one of the few developed countries that no longer has a comprehensive plan to eliminate human trafficking.

The Liberals ended federal funding to NGOs that provided support and options for victims of human trafficking. They blocked important tools that were adopted in the House over five years ago. Then the Liberals introduced legislation in Bill C-38 to lighten sentences for sex traffickers. The contents of Bill C-38 are now in Bill C-75.

It was not until budget 2018 that the Liberals finally addressed human trafficking and committed to funding the national hotline and a referral mechanism. While I applaud this, and it is important, it is long overdue.

I also want to recognize the fact that the announcement came after the Canadian Centre To End Human Trafficking, which is a great Canadian NGO, partnered with an American NGO, the Polaris project, to launch the official Canadian hotline. After it was public that Canada's national hotline was supported and funded by the United States, the government stepped in to offer support to it.

In 2011, the Conservative government became the first and only party to include a campaign promise in its platform to end human trafficking. Specifically, the Conservative Party committed to developing and launching the Canadian national action plan to combat human trafficking.

On June 6, 2012, only 13 months after the election, the Conservative Party launched its four-year national action plan to combat human trafficking. The primary goals of the national action plan were focused around the four Ps, prevention, prosecution, protection and partnerships, and included launching Canada's first integrated law enforcement team dedicated to combatting human trafficking; increasing front-line training to identify and respond to human trafficking and enhance prevention in vulnerable communities; providing more support for victims of this crime, both Canadians and newcomers; and strengthening coordination with domestic and international partners that contributed to Canada's efforts to combat human trafficking.

It is also worth noting that the Conservative Party was the only party in 2015 committed to fighting human trafficking, with its promise to establish new RCMP human trafficking teams in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg, at an annual cost of $8 million for five years, and to renew the national plan to combat human trafficking for five years at a cost of $20 million.

Here we are today. It has been two years since the national action plan has expired under the current government and, interestingly, in December, the government's own Department of Public Safety quietly released a report called “The 2016-17 Horizontal Evaluation of the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking”. I want to share with the House what the report said. It stated:

There is a continuing need to have a National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking in order to consolidate federal initiatives, for federal organizations to partner together, and to strengthen accountability:

Prior to the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, each federal organization conducted its own anti-human trafficking initiatives. The National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking consolidated federal initiatives to combat human trafficking under one plan;

The National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking is required to meet Canada’s ongoing international commitments to combat human trafficking:

That means without one, we are not even fighting human trafficking at the same level as other countries. It further states, “There are opportunities for the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking to evolve.” The department was preparing to help the government develop and advance further action items to combat human trafficking.

Human trafficking is an extremely profitable crime that preys on young and vulnerable Canadians, especially in indigenous communities. Police officers and NGOs across Canada work incredibly hard to end human trafficking and help victims, but their resources are strained. Many hours go into this, and a lot of their own time. They are asking for federal support and leadership. As I mentioned earlier, the Conservative government committed $25 million over four years to build on and strengthen Canada's significant work to date to prevent, detect, and prosecute human traffickers. The Liberal government allowed that plan to expire in 2016 and, with it, critical funding for victims of human trafficking and law enforcement. Many organizations appeared at the justice committee's study on human trafficking and urged the government to renew its national action plan.

When the Minister of Justice introduced Bill C-38 in February, she misled Canadians and the House by claiming that it had tools for police and prosecutors to combat human trafficking. Bill C-38 was only one paragraph and it is now included within Bill C-75. Let me be clear that the changes proposed by the minister, first in Bill C-38 and now in Bill C-75, have no provisions whatsoever to give police and prosecutors new tools to investigate human trafficking. However, the tools that Liberals pretend are in Bill C-38 and Bill C-75 were, in fact, unanimously adopted by the House over five years ago in an NDP private member's bill, Bill C-452.

Bill C-452 was supported by a Conservative government and voted for by the current Prime Minister. It was Bill C-452 that contained provisions to provide tools to police and prosecutors. It created a presumption with respect to the exploitation of one person by another, added the offence of trafficking in persons to the list of offences to which the reverse onus forfeiture of proceeds of crime provisions applied, and it corrected a technical discrepancy and included a provision that human trafficking sentences be served consecutively.

Bill C-452 received royal assent in June 2015 and when the Liberal government came to power, it blocked that bill from coming into force. Why? It is because the Liberals do not like the idea that sex traffickers might face consecutive sentences. They feel it is too harsh to expect that a child trafficker could serve a long sentence for exploiting a minor in sex slavery. The only thing the proposed amendments would do in Bill C-75 is prevent sex traffickers from receiving consecutive sentences. That is it. It does nothing more. This certainly does not help the police.

Eighty per cent of the victims of human trafficking never come forward out of fear. All of the human trafficking investigators who testified on Bill C-452 welcomed the consecutive sentences and highlighted that long sentences gave victims the confidence to come forward and testify. They also pointed out that without consecutive sentences, a pimp who trafficks one minor would receive the same sentence as a pimp who trafficks five or 10 minors. Consecutive sentences allow for punishments that better reflect the gravity of the offence.

When will the government stop misleading the public about its intentions with this bill, when will it stop blocking important tools for the police, and when will the Liberals stand up for victims of sex trafficking rather than blocking tough sentences for those who enslave them?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 11:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be joining this debate at this late hour on behalf of my constituents of Calgary Shepard, and I want to thank the member for Peace River—Westlock for the intervention he made and for his exposition on the problem of human trafficking in Canada. It is usually a crime and an activity that we think about in the context of international human trafficking.

I know that oftentimes when looking at the International Justice Mission and other not-for-profit organizations that are trying to fight against international human trafficking, it is easy to forget that it happens right here in Canada as well, and it is a problem in our communities. I know that there was a former member of this House, Joy Smith, who did quite a bit of work on the subject. She will be putting out a book on it very soon.

It is a problem here, and we should think of it in the domestic context. Whenever we make changes to the criminal justice system, we should be ensuring that issues like human trafficking are not reduced and that we do not send a signal to individuals in our communities that they will possibly face a lighter sentence at the end of the day for this type of activity if they are convicted of it.

I asked a previous question about Bill C-75. I listened attentively to many interventions and speeches in the House, and I listened to the member for Mount Royal when he went through a list of potential issues that the justice committee could look at, if and when this particular piece of legislation is sent there. I thought he did a very good job of presenting some of the issues that different members of the House had brought forward.

I listened attentively to the member for Eglinton—Lawrence as well when he gave the government's position and presented what the government believes is the upside of the bill. Obviously his role here is to present the best possible case on this particular piece of legislation, and not to present the potential defects or downsides of the bill. That is all right, because that is really the job of opposition members and those individuals who have differences with the content of the bill.

It has been said that some of the portions of the bill are specific to how offences will be treated in the lower courts. What I am talking about is how some offences will be hybridized and how most hybridized indictable offences will be punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years or less. It will increase the default maximum penalty for two years less a day of imprisonment for summary conviction offences and extend the limitation period for summary conviction offences to 12 months. Several members of the opposition, members of the Conservative Party, have discussed how this hybridization, this transferring to offences that would carry a lower sentence that a person could face if convicted, is the wrong way to go.

I believe deeply that the list of offences, 27 of them, that could be reduced in terms of the maximum time a person could face in jail is the wrong way to go. I have a few of them that I am going to mention. I will not read the whole list. They include obstructing or violence to or arrest of officiating clergyman; concealing the body of a child; infanticide; impaired driving offences causing bodily harm, including impaired driving causing bodily harm; blood alcohol over legal limit—bodily harm; failure or refusal to provide sample—bodily harm; and abduction of a person under the age of 16 and 14.

The list goes on, but this gives a feel for the types of offences that are being modified or are proposed to be modified in this piece of legislation by the government.

Thus, I have a difference of opinion. I think the House should be setting a pretty high bar on what prosecutors and judges can consider in punishing those individuals that they convict of the offence. I do not think two years less a day or two years and under is the right way to go.

We have heard from others, and I address these issues as a layperson. Of course, as I said, I am not a lawyer. I say this often at committees. I am neither a lawyer nor an accountant. I am not bothered by considerations of 20 years. I just look at it as most Canadians would look at it. If individuals are alleged to have committed a certain crime, what is it that they are going to be facing? I look at it as an outsider looking in on the judicial system.

When I look at an offence like concealing the body of a child, I think that is quite serious. I think a person convicted of such an offence should face many, many years in jail as a deterrent, as a form of punishment, and also as an opportunity, I think, for rehabilitation in jail. I have said it before in this House, and I said again just a few days ago that I believe our prison system should be focused more on rehabilitation. There is a patchwork of success in the United States. Every single state there has a different system when it comes to rehabilitating their prisoners, and that is the case in the European model as well. I do not know if we have struck the right balance in Canada, but it is something that absolutely is worth looking at.

It has been said in the House that prosecutors and judges will be able to decide what type of offence they will go after, whether they will go for an indictable offence or a summary conviction in these types of cases.

I believe the House should indicate what the minimum sentence should be for these types of offences, and I do not mean the minimum sentence on these cases. I simply mean the up to 10 years in jail should be the upper bar. It would be our direction to prosecutors and judges on the seriousness of the offence being considered by them instead of this hybrid model.

This legislation is over 300 pages long. I just want to go back to that for a moment as well. Those of us who are not practised in law, who do not have a deep background of many years of service on justice committee, will obviously struggle to consider the finer points of what will happen.

We set the Criminal Code. We in the House determine the contents of the Criminal Code, but provincial governments operate the provincial courts. They appoint a lot of judges themselves. They operate the court houses. They have quite a large role to play in that administration.

Police officers enforce the law, but they do not run the judicial system in the courts. Those two are separate. One sets policy and one is the administrative arm of the activity.

Our provincial governments are stressed. They are stressed with respect to the public treasury. They have a difficult time financing public services, but they also have a difficult time finding new judges. The federal government has struggled with this as well.

There have been federal judiciary vacancies. Forgive me for using an older statistic, but as of April 1, there were 59 vacancies. Appointing more federal judges, appointing more provincial judges, and ensuring courthouse space is available will allow for faster prosecution of criminals and alleged criminals. Those who will be proven innocent will be let go.

As right as that is, we need to ensure people have appropriate access to our judicial system. It is not just about judges, it is not just about having the right laws; it is also important to have the necessary court space for cases to be heard.

I mentioned yesterday in the House that Calgary had a gang problem, not just the FOB gang but many others. The FOB gang leader was let go just a few weeks ago, partly because of the Jordan decision, partly because he could not get his hearing on time, and partly because he could not appear before a judge. Delays were built in by his lawyer, who did his job in defending his client, but he could not get his client in front of a judge to be prosecuted for his alleged crimes. He was out on bail as well, and this is another issue.

We have a revolving door for career criminals. This is a serious issue in our communities. These people commit new crimes, especially organized crime.

One charge that will be modified under the proposed legislation is participation in a criminal organization. I have serious problems with this. We should be doing more to ensure career criminals are put away. Part of that involves ensuring they face up to 10 years in jail. It is the multiplicity, the series of criminal acts, that sends them back to jail.

The arresting officer in the case of the FOB gang leader arrested him on a lower charge. There were litany of other offences for which he was going to be charged. The issue was finding him, stopping him, and arresting him so he could face justice. That is the problem.

I do not see the right focus in Bill C-75 at this time. I just do not see us going after the right things. The government claims that this legislation would give us better access to the judicial system, that it would improve things, that it would speed things up.

I love Yiddish proverbs. I always use them in the House. Here is another one “Better an honest slap in the face than an insincere kiss.” It is an older Yiddish proverb but it is quite a good one. I would rather the Government of Canada just come clean. I know it is an unusual Yiddish proverb, but the government should just come clean. If the goal of the legislation is to give lighter offences for certain types of criminals, then the government should just say so, and do so. If the goal of the legislation is to download to the provincial courts, then it should just say so, and do so.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 11:35 p.m.
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Charlottetown P.E.I.

Liberal

Sean Casey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Madam Speaker, I wish to advise you that I will be sharing my time with the outstanding member for Niagara Centre.

I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-75. This legislation seeks, among other things, the streamline the criminal justice system and reduce case completion time.

Today I want to talk about Bill C-75's provisions on preliminary inquiries.

Currently, after an accused is charged with an indictable offence and they elect to be tried before a superior court, the accused or the crown can request a preliminary inquiry before a justice of the provincial court.

During the preliminary inquiry, the crown submits evidence and the accused may as well. The crown and the defence may cross-examine witnesses.

The purpose of the hearing is to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to commit an accused to trial. Preliminary inquiries have become a forum where the accused can discover the case against them, providing a candid forum for negotiation discussions and generating transcripts available at trial should a witness be unable to attend.

At the conclusion of the inquiry, there is no guilty or not guilty decision. Rather, the accused is either sent to trial or discharged, meaning no further action is taken. Under existing law, preliminary inquiry is not available in all circumstances. For example, it is not available for indictable offences under the absolute jurisdiction of the provincial court.

In light of the stringent crown disclosure obligations, the Supreme Court of Canada in a 2009 case, R. v. S.J.L., ruled that there is no constitutional right to a preliminary inquiry.

This process is not used the same way in all provinces and territories. Some jurisdictions, like New Brunswick, hold very few preliminary inquiries, while other jurisdictions, like Ontario, hold many. Furthermore, some jurisdictions, like Ontario and Quebec, have developed preliminary out-of-court examination procedures that complement, or, in some cases, replace, preliminary inquiries.

Under Bill C-75, the availability of preliminary inquiries would be restricted to the most serious offences punishable by life imprisonment, such as murder. Currently, preliminary inquiries consume significant time and resources due to scheduling issues, the complexity of the evidence, the number of witnesses to be heard, and/or issues to be resolved.

In its Jordan decision, the Supreme Court of Canada established strict time frames within which criminal cases must be completed, beyond which the delay would be presumptively unreasonable and cases would be stayed. The court also noted that Parliament should consider the value of preliminary inquires in light of expanded disclosure obligations.

Also, in its 2017 final report on delays, the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs took a similar view as the Supreme Court of Canada in Jordan by recommending that preliminary inquiries be restricted or eliminated.

On a number of occasions over the course of many years, reform of preliminary inquiries has been the topic of discussion and consultation, for example, at federal-provincial-territorial meetings.

Most recently, at their meeting in September 2017, the ministers pointed out that reforms were needed to limit the use of preliminary inquiries in the criminal justice system, since these inquiries can cause legal delays, and there are now other mechanisms that serve the same purpose.

Though these proposals clearly represent a significant change in how cases would be conducted, provincial and territorial justice ministers demanded bold reforms to bring about the transformation of the criminal justice system required to respond to the reality adopted in the Jordan decision, and our government took action. These bold reforms respond to calls not only from provincial and territorial justice ministers, but also from the Supreme Court of Canada and the Senate, acknowledging that transformative changes are required to bring about the change to the culture of complacency in regard to delays.

Bill C-75 would fulfill our mandate to improve the efficiency of the Canadian criminal justice system by limiting preliminary inquiries to the most serious offences. This move would reduce court backlogs and ensure that victims would receive the justice they deserve in a timely manner. As noted by the Minister of Justice, restricting the availability of this procedure to offences punishable by life imprisonment would reduce their number by 87%, according to the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. Restricting preliminary inquiries, as proposed in Bill C-75, would reduce demands on provincial court resources and would have more serious cases heard more expediently in superior court.

This bill would also give the justice of the peace presiding over the preliminary inquiry more powers to limit the questions to be examined and to reduce the number of witnesses heard as part of the inquiry.

As such, Bill C-75 would streamline the conduct of preliminary inquiries and would reduce the number of cases in which some witnesses would have to testify twice. These changes would reduce the re-victimization of vulnerable victims and witnesses, such as children, and would protect them from long-drawn-out proceedings.

Bill C-75 recognizes diverse views, from those who oppose any changes to the existing procedure to those who would completely eliminate this procedure. It would introduce a significant and bold response. Our balanced approach would maintain the preliminary-inquiry process for more complex and serious offences, where the jeopardy for the accused is the greatest.

These reforms would not impact trial fairness. Furthermore, the flexibility for existing processes, such as out-of-court discovery, implemented in Ontario and Quebec, would not be impacted and would remain a practical option.

These reforms would make the courts' use of time more efficient by getting rid of procedural steps that are unnecessary for less serious offences. The proposed restriction would not fundamentally change the nature of criminal trials in Canada or evidence requirements for a guilty verdict against someone with outstanding charges, nor would it change the crown's responsibility to prove all the necessary elements of an offence beyond a reasonable doubt.

Canadians expect our criminal justice process to be just, equitable, and expedient, to protect victims, and to hold offenders to account. These reforms, together with the other measures in Bill C-75, would help achieve these expectations. Bill C-75 would ensure that the accused's charter right to be tried within a reasonable time was respected and that those involved in criminal justice proceedings were not subject to protracted criminal proceedings. I urge all members to support Bill C-75.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 11:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage who previously served as the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Justice, and who I think was justice critic in the opposition.

I want to ask him about the issue of delay and the Jordan decision. In that respect, the Supreme Court of Canada determined that delay is deemed presumptively unreasonable between the laying of charges and the conclusion of trial after 30 months versus 18 months at provincial court.

Bill C-75 hybridizes a lot of offences, potentially downloading a lot of cases to provincial courts, wherein the timeline is not 30 months, but 18 months. How does that deal with the issue of delay and minimize cases being thrown out of court?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 11:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Vance Badawey Liberal Niagara Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to participate in today's debate on Bill C-75 and to address more specifically those reforms that deal with juries. Hopefully, the comments I will make will answer some of the questions by the members opposite that my colleagues have been answering for the last little.

Juries are a cornerstone of our criminal justice system and are guaranteed as a right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms for offences carrying a maximum penalty of five years or more under section 11(f). For some offences, such as murder and terrorism, there is a presumption that the accused will be tried by a judge and jury, and for other offences, such as robbery and sexual assault, an accused can elect to be tried by a judge alone or judge and jury.

Canada is a diverse country, underlined by a core value of respect. We should not expect anything less of our juries. The Supreme Court of Canada has noted that the jury acts as the conscience of the community and must in fact be a representative cross-section of society, and be honestly and fairly chosen.

The Supreme Court of Canada has also made it clear that a process that promotes a diverse jury furthers the confidence of the community, including the accused, victims, and the public at large, in the administration of justice. We know there is discrimination in our criminal justice system and, as a result, certain communities have different experiences in the system.

We know that we have to do better to address the problems that plague our system and have contributed to high rates of incarceration among indigenous persons and those suffering from mental health challenges or battling addictions. We also know that if the challenges are left unaddressed, confidence in the system will continue to be eroded. That is why the proposed jury reforms included in Bill C-75 are so important.

Canada's jury selection process has long been the subject of concern. Several reports have documented discrimination in the use of peremptory challenges. There is also a clear record of under-representation of indigenous persons and other minority groups on Canadian juries. Bill C-75 seeks to address these concerns through reforms to the in-court jury selection process, recognizing that laws governing jury selection exist at both the federal and provincial-territorial levels.

For example, Parliament has jurisdiction over the criminal law, including the rules in the Criminal Code governing jury trials and in-court jury selection, whereas the provinces and territories are responsible for legislation that governs matters such as the criteria of who may serve as a juror and the process by which the jury roll is prepared and compiled.

Bill C-75 respects the division of powers over juries and proposes to abolish peremptory challenges and give judges a greater role in the jury selection process. As many are likely aware, peremptory challenges give both the crown and defence counsel the ability to exclude potential jurors from participating in jury duty without having to provide a reason. Senator Murray Sinclair, in his earlier work on the 1991 report on the Manitoba aboriginal justice inquiry, documented the discriminatory use of peremptory challenges and recommended that they be abolished.

More recently, retired Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci, in his 2013 report on first nation representation on Ontario juries, recommended that consideration be given to amending the Criminal Code to prohibit the discriminatory use of peremptory challenges. Similar calls for reform have been made by legal experts and advocacy groups, such as Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto.

Abolishing peremptory challenges would settle the concern that this aspect of the jury selection process may be used to discriminate unfairly against potential jurors and would strengthen public confidence in the jury selection process.

The proposed amendments will signal that discrimination of any kind, including through the use of peremptory challenges based on a hunch or based the way a potential juror looks at an accused, has no meaningful role in promoting fairness and impartiality in the criminal justice process.

I strongly support this proposed change and note that Canada will join countries like England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, which have also abolished peremptory challenges.

This bill would also amend the “stand aside” provision, which currently permits a judge to stand aside jurors for reasons of personal hardship or any other reasonable cause. This tool helps to ensure that potential jurors are impartial and capable of performing their duties if they are selected. Amendments will clarify that a judge can stand aside a juror to maintain public confidence in the administration of justice, a concept that is already used in other parts of the Criminal Code, and has been interpreted by the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. St-Cloud, 2015, in the context of bail.

The use of this power would be context-specific, approached from the perspective of a properly informed public that understands the legislative provisions of the code, charter values, and the circumstances of any given case, and recognizes the important role judges can play in promoting a jury that is impartial, representative, and competent.

Bill C-75 would also modernize and streamline the challenge for cause process, including by empowering judges to decide all challenges for cause. The challenge for cause process is frequently used in jury trials as an important aspect of jury selection because it seeks to ensure that only eligible and impartial jurors are selected to try a case.

The proposed reforms address some long-standing concerns with the jury selection process in Canada and will help to increase the diversity of juries, while respecting the rights of the accused, maintaining public safety, and creating a criminal justice system that is fair, efficient, and equitable for all Canadians. I urge all members to support this legislation.

JusticeStatements By Members

May 24th, 2018 / 2:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals' tabling of Bill C-75 is an indication that they do not seem to believe either that crime is a serious issue or that victims' rights should be a priority. The bill contains elements that will permit crimes that are indictable offences to now be treated as summary offences. Perpetrators who commit offences such as participating in the activity of a terrorist group, forced marriage, polygamy, and impaired driving causing bodily harm will now be able to escape the consequences of their actions by simply paying a fine.

To add insult to injury, the Liberals are breaking yet another promise. They committed to protect religious officials by upholding section 176 of the Criminal Code, which says that the assault of religious officials is an indictable offence. In an era when religious officials are vulnerable to acts of hatred, it is puzzling that the Liberal government is once again trying to minimize the fundamental importance of religious freedom in Canada.

Conservatives believe that Canada's fundamental charter rights and the safety of Canadians should be the number one priority of any government.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

May 24th, 2018 / 3:05 p.m.
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Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon, we will begin debate on Bill C-75, the justice modernization act. This evening the House will consider, in committee of the whole, the votes in the main estimates for the Department of Citizenship and Immigration.

Tomorrow morning, we will debate the motion to extend the sitting hours. After question period, we will begin debate at report stage and third reading of Bill C-47 on the Arms Trade Treaty. We will resume that debate on Monday.

On Tuesday, we will resume debate at second reading of Bill C-75, the justice modernization act. On Wednesday, we will begin debate at report stage and third reading of Bill C-64, the abandoned vessels act.

Finally, should Bill C-74, the budget bill, or Bill C-69, the environmental assessment act, be reported back to the House, they shall take priority in the calendar.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 24th, 2018 / 3:15 p.m.
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Vancouver Granville B.C.

Liberal

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

moved that 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, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today to speak to Bill C-75, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts. The legislation represents a key milestone in our government's commitment to modernize the criminal justice system, reduce delays, and ensure the safety of Canadians.

For more than a decade, the criminal justice system has been under significant strain. Although the crime rate in Canada has been declining, court cases are more complex, trials are getting longer, and the impacts on victims are compounded. In addition, indigenous people and marginalized Canadians, including those suffering from mental illness and addictions, continue to be overrepresented in the criminal justice system. For these reasons, I was mandated by the Prime Minister to reform the criminal justice system, and it is why I was proud to introduce this legislation as part of our government's response to those fundamental challenges.

Bill C-75 also responds to the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in 2016 in R. v. Jordan. The decision established strict timelines beyond which delays would be presumptively unreasonable and cases would be stayed. In such cases, the accused will not stand trial. This is unacceptable, and it jeopardizes public confidence in the justice system.

The bill also addresses issues raised in the June 2017 report of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, which called on the government to address court delays, and it reflects our government's commitment to bring about urgent and bold reforms, many of which were identified as priorities by all provincial and territorial justice ministers in April and September of last year.

The bill proposes reforms in seven key areas. First, the bill would modernize and streamline the bail system. Second, it would enhance our approach to addressing administration of justice offences, including for youth. Third, it would bolster our response to intimate partner violence. Fourth, the bill would restrict the availability of preliminary inquiries to offences with penalties of life imprisonment. Fifth, it would reclassify offences to allow the crown to elect the most efficient procedure appropriate in the circumstances. Sixth, it would improve the jury selection process. Seventh, it would strengthen the case management powers of judges. The bill includes a number of additional reforms related to efficiencies, which I will touch on briefly later.

As noted, the first area of reform would modernize and streamline the bail regime. Under the charter, an accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. If charged with an offence, that person has the right not to be denied bail without just cause. The Supreme Court of Canada has repeatedly stated that bail, including the types of release and conditions imposed, must be reasonable, yet we know that police and courts routinely impose conditions that are too numerous, too restrictive, and at times directed toward improper objectives, such as behaviour and punishment. These objectives do not protect public safety.

We also know that there are more individuals in remand than those convicted of a crime. In other words, our correctional facilities are more than half-filled with people who have not been convicted of an offence.

In addition, the current approach to bail uses a disproportionate amount of resources, taking away from more serious cases. It perpetuates a cycle of incarceration.

Consistent with the 2017 Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. v. Antic, the proposed bail reforms would codify a principle of restraint. This would direct police and judges to consider the least restrictive and most appropriate means of responding to criminal charges at the bail stage rather than automatically detaining an accused. The individual circumstances of an indigenous accused and a vulnerable accused, such as a homeless person or one with mental illness and addiction issues, would become required considerations when making bail decisions. This means that an accused's circumstances would have to be considered prior to placing conditions upon them that were difficult or impossible to follow.

The principle of restraint would make bail courts more efficient by encouraging release at the earliest possible opportunity, without the need for a bail hearing in every case, and would take significant steps to reduce costs associated with the growing remand population currently detained in custody awaiting trial.

The bill would also strengthen the way our bail system responds to intimate partner violence by providing better protection for victims. If an accused has a history of violence against an intimate partner and is charged with similar conduct, the amendments would impose a reverse onus at the bail hearing, shifting the responsibility to the accused to show why the accused should not be detained pending trial.

I will now turn to the second area of reform proposed in Bill C-75, which is to enhance the way our justice system responds to administration of justice offences. These are offences that are committed by a person against the justice system itself after another offence has already been committed or alleged. Common examples are failure to comply with bail conditions, such as to abstain from consuming alcohol; failure to appear in court; or breaching a curfew.

Across Canada, accused people are routinely burdened with complex and unnecessary bail conditions that are unrelated to public safety and that may even be impossible to follow, such as when a curfew is broken by an accused because he or she missed the bus in a remote area. In other words, accused people are being placed in circumstances in which a breach is virtually inevitable. We are setting them up to fail.

Indigenous people and marginalized Canadians are disproportionately impacted by breach charges, often because of their personal circumstances, such as a lack of family and community supports. As a result, indigenous people and marginalized Canadians are more likely to be charged, more likely to be denied bail, and if released, more likely to be subject to stricter conditions.

In addition, administration of justice offences impose an enormous burden on the criminal justice system, as nearly 40% of all adult cases involve at least one of these administrative charges. To respond to these challenges, Bill C-75 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. This would be an entirely new tool that would serve as an alternative to an unnecessary criminal charge and that would substantially increase court efficiencies without impacting public safety.

In the youth context, these proposals would encourage police to first consider the use of informal measures, as already directed by the Youth Criminal Justice Act, such as warnings, cautions, and referrals, and would require that conditions imposed on young persons be reasonable and necessary. This aligns with the overall philosophy of the act, which is to prevent our youth from entering a life of crime, in part by providing alternatives to formal criminal charges and custody.

At the judicial referral hearing, a court would hear the bail conditions and have three options: release the accused on the same conditions, impose new conditions to better address the specific circumstances of the accused, or detain the accused. This approach would allow for alternative and early resolution of minor breaches and would ensure that only reasonable and necessary conditions were imposed. This is a more efficient alternative to laying a new criminal charge and would help prevent indigenous persons and marginalized Canadians from entering the revolving door of the criminal justice system.

The third area of reform in Bill C-75 is with respect to intimate partner violence. In 2015, Canadians elected our government 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. I am proud to follow through on this commitment within this bill.

As I already noted, those accused of repeat offences involving violence against an intimate partner would be subject to a reverse onus at the bail stage. In addition, the bill does the following: (1) proposes a higher sentencing range for repeat offences involving intimate partner violence; (2) broadens the definition of “intimate partner” to include dating partners and former partners; (3) provides that strangulation is an elevated form of assault; and (4) explicitly specifies that evidence of intimate partner abuse is an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes.

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 for experiencing violence due to systemic barriers and failures. The personal and often lifelong consequences of violence against women are enormous.

The fourth area of reforms is to increase court efficiencies by limiting the availability of preliminary inquiries. Preliminary inquiries are an optional process used to determine whether there is enough evidence to send an accused to trial. Bill C-75 would limit their availability to accused adults charged with very serious offences punishable by life imprisonment, such as murder and kidnapping.

I recognize this represents a significant change. It is not a change we propose lightly. It is the product of an in-depth consultation process with my counterparts in the provinces and territories and with the courts, and it is based on the best available evidence. For instance, we know in 2015-2016, provincial court cases involving preliminary inquiries took more than four times longer to reach a decision than cases with no preliminary inquiry.

It is important to note that there is no constitutional right to a preliminary inquiry, and one is not necessary for a fair trial so long as the crown satisfies its disclosure requirements. In the Jordan decision, the Supreme Court of Canada asked Parliament to take a fresh look at current processes and reconsider the value of preliminary inquiries in light of the broad disclosure rules that exist today. The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs also recommended that they be restricted or eliminated.

The proposed measures would reduce the number preliminary of inquiries by approximately 87%, ensure they are still available for the more complex and serious offences, help unclog the courts, and reduce burdens on witnesses and victims from having to testify twice, once at a preliminary inquiry and once at trial. For example, this measure would eliminate the need for a vulnerable witness in a sexual assault or child sexual assault trial from having to testify twice.

I am confident these reforms would not reduce trial fairness, that prosecutors would continue to take their disclosure obligations seriously, that our courts would continue to uphold the right to make full answer and defence, and that there would remain flexibility in existing processes, such as out-of-court discoveries, that have been implemented in some provinces already—for example, in Quebec and Ontario.

I will now turn to the fifth major area of reform proposed in Bill C-75, which is the reclassification of offences. The Criminal Code classifies offences as summary conviction, indictable, or hybrid. Hybrid offences may proceed as either a summary conviction or as an indictable offence. That choice is made by the prosecutor after considering the facts and circumstances of the case. The bill would hybridize 136 indictable offences and standardize the default maximum penalty for summary conviction offences in the Criminal Code to two years less a day.

These proposals would neither interfere with the court's ability to impose proportionate sentences nor change the existing maximum penalties for indictable offences. What Bill C-75 proposes is to provide more flexibility to prosecutors to proceed summarily in provincial court for less serious cases. This would allow for matters to proceed more quickly and for superior courts to focus on the most serious matters, resulting in an overall boost in efficiency in the system.

Let me clear: this reform is in no way intended to send a message that offences being hybridized are less serious or should be subjected to lower sentences. Rather, it is about granting greater discretion to our prosecutors to choose the most efficient and appropriate procedure, having regard to the unique circumstances before them. Serious offences would continue to be treated seriously and milder offences would take up less court time, while still carrying the gravity of a criminal charge.

A sixth area of proposed reforms in Bill C-75 is with respect to jury selection.

Discrimination in the selection of juries has been well documented for many years. Concerns about discrimination in peremptory challenges and its impact on indigenous peoples being represented on juries was raised back in 1991 by Senator Murray Sinclair, then a judge, in the Manitoba aboriginal justice inquiry report. That report, now over 25 years old, explicitly called for the repeal of peremptory challenges. More recently, retired Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci addressed these issues in his 2013 report on first nations representation on Ontario juries.

Reforms in this area are long overdue. Peremptory challenges give the accused and the crown the ability to exclude jurors without providing a reason. In practice, this can and has led to their use in a discriminatory manner to ensure a jury of a particular composition. This bill proposes that Canada join countries like England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland in abolishing them.

To bring more fairness and transparency to the process, the legislation would also empower a judge to decide whether to exclude jurors challenged for cause by either the defence or prosecution. The legislation will strengthen the power of judges to stand aside some jurors in order to make room for a more diverse jury that will in turn promote confidence in the administration of justice. Courts are already familiar with the concept of exercising their powers for this purpose.

I am confident that the reforms will make the jury selection process more transparent, promote fairness and impartiality, improve the overall efficiency of our jury trials, and foster public confidence in the criminal justice system.

The seventh area of reforms will strengthen judicial case management. As the Supreme Court of Canada noted in its 2017 decision in Cody, judges are uniquely positioned to encourage and foster culture change. I completely agree. Judges are already engaged in managing cases and ensuring that they proceed promptly and fairly through the existing authorities in the Criminal Code, as well as provincial court rules. These reforms would bolster these powers—for instance, by allowing case management judges to be appointed at the earliest point in the proceeding.

In addition to the major reforms I have noted thus far, Bill C-75 will make technical amendments to further support efficiencies, such as by facilitating remote technology and consolidating and clarifying the Attorney General of Canada's power to prosecute.

Finally, the bill will make better use of limited parliamentary time by including three justice bills currently before Parliament: Bill C-28, Bill C-38, and Bill C-39.

In closing, Bill C-75 proposes meaningful reforms that will speed up criminal court proceedings and improve the safety of our communities while also taking steps to address the overrepresentation of indigenous peoples and marginalized Canadians in the criminal justice system.

Our criminal justice system must be fair, equitable, and just. Victims, families, accused, and all participants in the justice system deserve no less. I urge all members of this House to support this important piece of legislation.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 24th, 2018 / 3:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, Bill C-75 is an absolute train wreck of a bill. Instead of reducing delays in our court system, it is actually going to increase delays.

I want to ask the minister specifically about the hybridization of offences. The purported objective of this bill is to reduce delays in response to the Jordan decision. By hybridizing offences, the government is taking a whole series of indictable offences that must be prosecuted in a superior court and making them prosecutable in a provincial court. Under Jordan, a delay is deemed to be presumptively unreasonable when 30 months pass between the laying of charges and the conclusion of the trial in a superior court, whereas it is only 18 months for matters in a provincial court, so how does downloading cases onto provincial courts actually deal with the Jordan decision?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 24th, 2018 / 3:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the question and the focus on the “What we heard” report. We have done extensive consultations across the country on how we can collectively reform the criminal justice system. I take very seriously within my mandate letter the overrepresentation of indigenous peoples in the criminal justice system and recognize that it is not just indigenous peoples but other marginalized people as well, such as those suffering from mental illness and addictions.

In terms of how Bill C-75 addresses bail reform and administration of justice offences, conditions placed on marginalized individuals and indigenous persons are more predominantly featured for these individuals. Inappropriate conditions placed on these individuals bring indigenous people or other marginalized individuals back into the criminal justice system. We are providing law enforcement and the courts with discretion to take into account those factors with respect to these populations.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 24th, 2018 / 3:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today in the House to address some grave concerns that the Conservatives have with regard to Bill C-75,, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

However, we agree with at least one of the sections of bill, the intimate partner violence reforms. I liked the idea of reversing the onus on someone looking for bail if they have already been convicted of assaulting their spouse. The reverse onus on bail, I think, is a good idea.

I like the idea that we are looking into the possibility of restricting the number of preliminary hearings, but we have serious reservations about other things. Again, this is with respect to the intention of the government to reduce penalties by adding summary conviction as a prosecutorial option, which can result in a penalty as minor as a fine.

Let me be clear. These offences are for some very serious crimes, and currently they are listed as indictable offences with a maximum penalty of up to 10 years. I will touch on some of these offences today to make Canadians aware of the massive changes the government is planning to implement and how adversely these changes will impact the health and welfare of all Canadians.

Some of the offences included, but not limited to, are participation in the activity of a terrorist group, leaving Canada to participate in the activity of a terrorist group, punishment of a rioter, concealment of identity, breach of trust, municipal corruption, selling or purchasing office, influencing or negotiating appointments or dealing in offices, prison breach, assisting prisoners of war to escape, obstructing or violence to or arrest of officiating clergyman, causing bodily harm by criminal negligence, impaired driving causing bodily harm, failure or refusal to provide blood samples, trafficking, withholding or destroying documents, abduction of a person under the age of 16 as well as abduction of a person under the age of 14, forced marriage, marriage under 16 years of age, advocating genocide, arson for fraudulent purposes, and participation in the activities of a criminal organization.

Just reading this list is mind-boggling. Offering a judge of the courts the option of lighter sentences or even fines will inevitably result in lenient sentences for some very dangerous crimes.

The Liberals say they have introduced this legislation as their response to the crisis in the judicial system, which they, in large part, have created by not appointing the necessary number of judges to the bench. I should know. In my six and a half years as justice minister, not once did I ever encounter a shortage of qualified candidates to fill vacant positions on the bench anywhere, and in Alberta in particular. At the beginning of this month, there were 11 vacancies on the Queen's Bench and three on the Court of Appeal. What is the problem? There are qualified people in the Province of Alberta who can and should be appointed to the bench. Now, they have started to get some in May, but this is something that has to be ongoing all the time.

Getting back to the bill, Canadians know that watering down some very serious criminal offences by offering the prosecutorial option of summary offence is not an adequate deterrent, and that the perpetrators of major felonies will not have paid the full price for their offence.

Another Canadian who knows only too well the harm this proposed legislation could cause is Sheri Arsenault, Alberta director of Families For Justice. Sheri lost her son to an impaired driver in 2011. Last fall, she testified before the justice committee with a heart-wrenching account of how her son's life was cut all too short after he and two other friends were struck and killed by an impaired driver. The three boys had just graduated from high school and, of course, had a very promising life in front of them.

In a recent letter to the government she wrote in part the following:

As a victim, a mother that lost my 18 year old son, I have since been working very hard in advocating for all victims of serious offences. All my work seems to have fallen on deaf ears and is all in vain when I thoroughly read the contents of Bill C-75. I cannot understand why our current Government does not consider impaired driving a serious crime when it is the #1 cause of criminal deaths in Canada. It is also the cause of an enormous number of injuries and devastates thousands of families every year.

The public safety of all Canadians should be a priority for all levels of Government regardless of their political stripe or ideology. The safety of all Canadians should be your priority and all Canadians should expect a punishment that is fitting to the seriousness of certain crimes to not only to deter others from committing the same crime but to also deter offenders from recommitting and some sense of justice to the victims and our communities. Summary convictions neither deter nor hold offenders accountable, they also re-victimize the victims again. Victims are being ignored in this Bill. Our justice system should be strengthened rather than weakened and the “rights” of victims and communities should have precedence over the treatment of offenders and criminals.

That is the letter that she wrote to the government with her analysis of Bill C-75, and she has it right.

I am quite sure that we are going to hear from people who have been gravely concerned about impaired driving and all the consequences of that. I am going to welcome them. I hope they come before the justice committee and let the government know how they feel about this. The statement by that victim could not have been put more succinctly.

Bill C-75 in its present form would not protect Canadians. It would put them at greater risk, as dangerous offenders can be set free without rehabilitation and without having paid the full price for their offence.

Ms. Arsenault made the point that lenient sentences often lead to re-offences being committed, with terrible consequences. She cited for instance the tragic impaired driving case from 2010 that illustrates this point very well.

Surrey resident Allan Simpson Wood was driving at nearly twice the speed limit when he crashed head-on into Bryan McCron's car on Colebrook Road in Surrey in July of 2010, killing Mr. McCron and injuring his 17-year-old son Connor. He then assaulted the teenage boy who was calling 911 in an attempt to save his dying father. Mr. Wood previously had an impaired driving charge in 2002.

If Bill C-75 is allowed to become legislation in its present form, more tragedies such as this will occur, as the possible sentence under Bill C-75 will not serve, in my opinion, and I am sure in the opinion of many Canadians and all of my colleagues here, as an adequate deterrent to the crime.

Future stories like this need not be the case if the Liberal government would listen to reason and not go forward with the reckless clauses in this legislation.

Another issue with regards to impaired driving is that as of last fall, there were only 800 trained drug recognition experts across the nation. With the onset of marijuana being legalized in Canada, police services from across Canada anticipate a spike in the number of impaired driving charges. Indeed, just last fall, the justice committee heard that we would need 2,000 trained drug recognition experts. Ontario police sounded the alarm bell last week, stating that the lack of funding for the impaired marijuana legislation is worrying. It is evident that the government has not been giving this serious issue proper consideration. T

There are so many troubling offences that Bill C-75 would deem as a possible summary infraction, it is difficult to know exactly which ones to highlight.

Breach of prison is one of such infractions and brings to mind the case of Benjamin Hudon-Barbeau, a former Hell's Angel associate convicted of two murders, two attempted murders, and a series of crimes in 2012 related to a drug turf war in the Laurentians. He once escaped from a Quebec prison in a helicopter and is currently serving 35 years.

However, under Bill C-75, not only would this present breach be a possible summary conviction, but so would his involvement in a criminal organization. He has been labelled as a dangerous offender, but had he committed these crimes under this new legislation, the sentence could be much shorter. The thought that these are not serious enough to be taken and prosecuted as indictable offences is completely unacceptable. A fine is not appropriate for this. It is not appropriate for these types of offences.

It is unconscionable for us to think that the government could put the health and safety of Canadians at risk for a quick fix to a problem that it has helped create.

The justice committee recently travelled across Canada, studying the horrific effects of human trafficking. Material benefit from trafficking is another terrible crime. Should Bill C-75 pass in its present form, it would include the trafficking of persons in Canada for material benefit, making it a possible summary conviction. Imagine someone being in the business of making money trafficking human beings, knowing he or she might get off with a fine. People in the business of making money in this would happily hand over $1,000.

The Liberals have also slipped in getting rid of consecutive sentences for human trafficking. The idea that a crime does not get worse if someone is continuously trafficking human beings is completely unconscionable. I truly believe Canadians agree with us in the Conservative Party that it is absolutely wrong.

As I have stated before in the House, thousands of Canadian children are being trafficked between the ages of nine and 14. Although, unfortunately, many of these crimes go unreported, non-governmental organizations inform us that this is taking place. Our most precious resource, our children, are being violated, and at an alarming rate. This abhorrent form of modern-day slavery is very real and knows no social or economic boundaries.

As I mentioned previously, the target age now for the sex industry is getting younger. As the demand for paid sex increases, supply increases, and our children and the vulnerable are even greater targets for sexual consumption.

During the justice committee hearings on human trafficking, we heard from former human trafficker Donald. He testified that if the government were to be lenient on the sentencing of convicted human traffickers, it would be like a carte blanche for traffickers to expand this despicable industry and further harm Canadian children.

Our former colleague and member of Parliament, Joy Smith, testified that 23,000 children were trafficked in our country every year, with many of them ending up dead. This is a grievous epidemic and the government is not helping at all when it offers more lenient sentences for those who make money off of these despicable crimes. The duty of lawmakers is to protect the vulnerable, not make it easier for them to be targeted. It is our moral obligation. The government is failing the citizens of Canada by not keeping the present safeguards in place in the Criminal Code and by lessening the protection of our children.

Clearly, the government has not thought this thoroughly through. By offering the option of lenient sentences, it is encouraging the exploitation of our children. How can it rationalize light sentences for some of the most appalling crimes? Human trafficking is not, and should never, be considered a minor offence. The hybridization of these serious offences is simply an ill-thought-out idea and it is unfathomable that the government does not see the damage that the passage of Bill C-75 could do to the welfare and security of all Canadians.

Clearing up the backlog in the criminal justice system should never done at the expense of victims. Nor should it compromise the safety and well-being of our children. I will reiterate that this is a crisis that the Liberals have helped create.

On the eve of the Easter long weekend, the Liberals introduced this 302-page omnibus legislation. I bet they hoped Canadians and the public would not take the time to read it in its entirety, but that was a mistake. Canadians across the country are hearing about this and voicing their concerns about the legislation. I recently did a Facebook video on this. Canadians need to be aware of the severe implications the legislation could have on families and their communities.

The Conservatives have always strongly believed that the rights of victims should be the central focus of our justice system, along with the protection of Canadians. This is why we introduced the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights while we were in government.

Among the four principle rights provided in the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights is the right for protection of victims of crime. I would argue that Bill C-75 in its present form does not provide protection of victims of crime. In fact, it would do the opposite. Instead of providing reassurance and the right to live in a society that is safe, secure, and stable, the bill could create a society that would be under the threat and harm of offenders who would not have had the opportunity, quite frankly, to be rehabilitated by serving a sentence that adequately would fit the crime they committed.

Another one of the many offences in the bill is that it encompasses participation in a terrorist group or leaving Canada to participate in terrorist activity. I have to ask this question. What is it about this that there should be a minor offence when a person is leaving Canada for the purposes of participating in terrorism? The Liberals read the papers too. Have they not noticed that this has become more and more of a problem in the world? Their idea to solve that is to make this a summary conviction offence, that these guys will get the message if they get a fine, that if they get a very small penalty, they will not to do this again.

I do not buy that. The price that Canadians could pay with this legislation is incalculable. I call upon the Liberal government to stop this and keep the current provisions of the Criminal Code that helps Canadians from being further re-victimized. Under Bill C-75, this would not happen.

I ask all members to stand with me to ensure Canadians are and remain fully protected within the Criminal Code. We will not stand for a crime that gets off with the lightest of possible sentences. This bill is bad legislation.

Therefore, I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after “That” and substituting the following:

“the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, since the bill fails to support victims of crime by, among other things: (a) changing the victim surcharge; (b) removing the requirement of the Attorney General to determine whether to seek an adult sentence in certain circumstances; (c) removing 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 sentence; and (d) delaying consecutive sentencing for human traffickers.“

I hope this gets the support of all members of the House.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 24th, 2018 / 4:05 p.m.
See context

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, it will come as no surprise to my hon. colleague that the government will not be supporting his amendment. There is a very simple reason for that. His commentary is full of inaccuracies, exaggerations, and stale rhetoric. It will come as no surprise to Canadians that the Harper Conservatives keep coming back to the same kind of tough talk on crime. On this side of the House, we believe in principled, evidence-based legislation, like Bill C-75. As the former minister of justice, he should show some fidelity to the facts.

What are the facts? On judicial appointments, 100 appointments were made in 2017. That was a record number of appointments in over two decades. In Alberta, there are now 80 federal judges, five more than at any point in time under the Harper Conservatives.

I empathize with the victim who wrote the former minister of justice, my hon. colleague. However, as he admitted in his introductory remarks, Bill C-75 would do remarkable things for victims. We have reversed the onus at bail hearings to prevent repeated abusers from getting out of jail if they need to be put there pending their trial. We have raised the maximum sentences for those repeat offenders who fall into the category of sexually violent crimes and intimate partner violence.

Regarding Bill C-46, I was astonished by the comments made by my colleague. It was just yesterday that a member of his caucus stood against mandatory alcohol screening, the number one deterrent for impaired driving. He should tell that to MADD, or he should tell that to the victim in his riding or to every victim who has suffered as a result of impaired driving.