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

Second reading (Senate), as of Dec. 3, 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

Dec. 3, 2018 Passed 3rd reading and adoption 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
Nov. 20, 2018 Passed Concurrence at report stage 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
Nov. 20, 2018 Failed 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 (report stage amendment)
Nov. 20, 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
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

November 20th, 2018 / 3:35 p.m.
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Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Lib.

Marco Mendicino

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my hon. colleague that we cannot solve all of the social issues in the context of Bill C-75. If she had listened carefully to my remarks, I made that concession at the very outset.

However, I would point out that the experts we have listened to very carefully, including the Criminal Lawyers' Association, while they do not agree with every aspect of Bill C-75, they do support many of the measures as they relate to bail reform and to reducing the systemic barriers that have plagued our system for far too long when it comes to addressing the indigenous, marginalized and vulnerable individuals who come before the courts at both the bail and the sentencing phases.

Inasmuch as my hon. colleague is concerned about this government's commitment to addressing the social issues that our country faces, I would point out that we have introduced a national housing strategy. It will invest $40 billion over the next 12 years and it will reduce homelessness significantly. Under this government, we have introduced the Canada child benefit plan, which has put more money into the pockets of nine out of 10 families and has lifted hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty. By doing that, we will see fewer of those youth, with whom I worked very closely, caught up in the criminal justice system.

That is a result of both Bill C-75 before the House, as well as the social investments we are making and of which we should all be very proud.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 3:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a real honour to be in the House to speak to this important justice bill.

Bill C-75, sadly, is a deeply flawed, 302-page omnibus bill introduced by the government. Are there some positive aspects? Yes. However, the way it has been done, rammed through, not properly dialogued, not properly considered and ignoring the opposition members at committee, is a very serious and concerning process.

The previous speaker, when asked about the bill, said that the Conservative comments were regrettable rhetoric. It is that attitude, where the Liberals have a majority in the House, they can ram things through and get their way every time. It appears to be an arrogant attitude with the government dismissing any critique.

The Prime Minister continues to show that he does not take the safety and security of Canadians seriously. He is not listening to positive critique. He is watering down serious offences, such as impaired driving causing bodily harm, using date rape drugs and human trafficking. These are all serious crimes.

There are 136 offences included in Bill C-75, offences like participating in the activities of a terrorist group. One of two amendments, coming from the Conservative Party, were made at the justice committee. The government then permitted its members in committee to accept an amendment on that one, and that was withdrawn. Another is advocating genocide.

How did the Liberals come up with this list of 136 offences? Why did it only accept to remove two, advocating genocide and participating in a terrorist group? What about the other 134 offences?

The Liberals have taken any offence that is a serious indictable offence, with a maximum sentence of 10 years, and they have grouped them into one group, and we have Bill C-75 in front of us. It is offences like prison breach, municipal corruption, influencing municipal official, influencing or negotiating appointments or deals in offices, violence against a clergy person, keeping a common bawdy house, punishment for infanticide and concealing body of child.

There are 134 offences. Do some of them need to be updated? Yes, but it needs to be done in a constructive, proper way.

The Criminal Code of Canada did not come into play a year ago. It has come through the judicial system, through the legal system, through the legislative system for years and years. Last year, Canada celebrated its 150th birthday. Over the years, we have learned from other countries what the laws should be and what is the appropriate sentencing. We have also learned about respecting the courts and giving the courts discretion.

Over the years, we have come up with appropriate sentencing. To review this is a good practice. It should be done. One of the things I am quite concerned about is that in the last Parliament we had a major focus on victims in Canada. The Victims Bill of Rights came out of that, and that was a huge accomplishment. Part of that was a system where there would be a victim surcharge, where an offender would pay into a victims fund to take care of victims. This is being repealed in Bill C-75. It will be gone, again taking away opportunities to take care of victims.

In the little time I have to speak, I would like to focus on impaired driving. Impaired driving causing bodily harm, causing death, is the number one criminal offence in Canada. It is a very serious offence. I have received tens of thousands of petitions. There is not usually a week that goes by where I am not honoured to present a petition on behalf of Families For Justice. Every member of Families For Justice has lost a loved one.

Markita Kaulius lives in my riding. She is the president of Families For Justice. She and Victor lost their beautiful daughter to a drunk driver. She was 22 years old when she was killed.

In these petitions, the petitioners are asking that the charge of impaired driving causing death be called “vehicular homicide”, and that if a person is arrested and convicted of impaired driving, there should be an automatic one-year driving prohibition. It sounds reasonable. Also, if a person is convicted of causing bodily harm while impaired, by being under the influence of either drugs or alcohol, there should be a minimum mandatory sentence of two years imprisonment. If a person is convicted of causing a collision while being impaired and a person is killed, they are asking for a mandatory minimum sentence of five years imprisonment.

In the last Parliament, the government introduced a bill to toughen up laws on mandatory minimum sentences, which is what Families For Justice is asking for. It did not include calling it vehicular homicide. It was dealing with the mandatory minimums, getting tough on crime.

At the end of the last Parliament, Families For Justice contacted each of the leaders. The current Prime Minister wrote a letter to Families For Justice and said that he would support getting tough on crime. Sadly, Bill C-75 would remove impaired driving causing bodily harm, failing to provide a bodily sample and blood alcohol over the limit from indictable offences and make them hybrid offences. In actuality, this would take these offences, at the choice of the prosecution, out of federal court. Because they could be summary convictions, they would be put into provincial court. The federal government would be downloading onto provincial courts.

In British Columbia, I have been regularly shocked to see cases being thrown out of court by judges because they have gone on too long. We then end up with the federal government downloading all these indictable cases onto the provincial court. The Criminal Code being enforced will exasperate provincial justice, by making serious offences like kidnapping, abducting a person under the age of 14 summary convictions. Why should people who would abduct a child, who could be charged with a serious indictable offence, with a 10-year maximum, now have a summary conviction available to them? This would be two years less a day and put into the provincial courts.

The government says one thing and does something totally different. It promised Markita Kaulius, Families For Justice and other Canadians that it was going to get tough on crime. We hear regularly that it is getting tough on impaired driving, but in fact it does nothing like that. What it says and what it does are two totally different things.

It brings to mind the proverb, “A tree is known by its fruit”. If there are apples on the branches of that tree, it is an apple tree. If there are pears on it, it is a pear tree. If it is a tree of deceit, the country groans. Canadians want justice. They want a government that spends the time to do it right when it makes legislative changes, not ram it through because it has the ability to do it.

Therefore, I hope the government will ask some good questions, some important questions. With the way it is handling Bill C-75, I have received a lot of phone calls, emails and regular input from my constituents. I am sure every one of us is getting the same kinds of phone calls with respect to Bill C-75, saying to vote against Bill C-75. Therefore, that is what I plan to do.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 3:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Mr. Speaker, consultation is listening, taking into consideration, and learning from one another. Just having meetings with people within our provincial directorate is not proper consultation.

I was not part of those consultations. However, I strongly believe that the provinces in this great country of Canada did not ask to make softer impaired driving laws. Just like they have told Canadians and told us, I believe they told the provincial bodies that they were going to toughen up impaired driving laws. However, with Bill C-75 they are making them weaker. Those provincial consultations did not say it was okay to bypass abducting a child or to participate in criminal organizations. Therefore, the government has blown it on Bill C-75.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 3:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member brings up a very good point. When the justice minister had the responsibility of appointing judges, six months went by before there were any appointments, and this created a backlog. Now with Bill C-75 and offences being downloaded onto the provincial government, there will be an additional backlog. The Liberals are creating a judicial and legislative mess. They have accomplished very little in the House and now they want to ram Bill C-75 through because they have the most bodies in the House.

These important issues need to be handled properly and they are not being handled properly by the current government.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 3:55 p.m.
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Kamal Khera Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to speak on Bill C-75. Through this bill, our government is fulfilling its promise to move forward with comprehensive criminal justice reform. Once passed, this legislation would have a real effect on court delays and help reduce the overrepresentation of indigenous people and other marginalized groups in the criminal justice system, including those with mental health and addiction issues. It would also help to make juries more representative of the communities they serve.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the Minister of Justice and all members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for all the hard work they have done to make sure we get this bill right.

I will focus my remarks on amendments to the Criminal Code that would remove provisions declared unconstitutional, primarily by the Supreme Court of Canada, and that already have no force or effect, but continue to appear in the code.

Bill C-75 would repeal the offences of anal intercourse, vagrancy, spreading false news, procuring a miscarriage and bawdy house offences. This bill would also remove provisions relating to the offence of murder, as well as provisions that prevented judges from giving enhanced credit for time served in custody prior to sentencing.

Bill C-75 proposes to repeal section 230 of the Criminal Code, which was struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Martineau in 1990 because it infringed on section 7, which is the right of life, liberty and security of persons, and subsection 11(d), which is the presumption of innocence in the charter. Section 230 could result in a murder conviction if the accused caused the death of a person while committing another offence, like robbery, even if the person did not intend to kill the victim. The court made clear that the label of murderer and the mandatory life sentence was reserved for those who had the intent to kill or injure so severely that they know the victim could die.

The Martineau decision also found part of subsection 229(c) unconstitutional because it allowed a conviction for murder where a person, in pursuing an illegal activity, causes someone's death when the individual should have known, but did not, that death was a likely outcome of his or her actions. Bill C-75 proposes to remove this unconstitutional provision.

The continued presence of these invalid provisions in the Criminal Code can cause delays, inefficiencies and injustice to the accused. Bill C-75's proposed amendments would make it clear that those convicted of murder must have foreseen the death of the victim.

Bill C-75 would also repeal the prohibition against anal intercourse. It has been declared unconstitutional by several courts because it discriminates on the basis of age, marital status and sexual orientation.

Bill C-75 would also repeal section 181, which prohibits the spreading of false news. This offence dates back to 13th century England and targeted conduct meant to sow discord between the population and the king. The Supreme Court struck down this provision in R. v. Zundel in 1992 because it unjustifiably violates freedom of expression and lacks a clear and important societal objective that could justify its broad scope.

As Bill C-75 proposes to appeal this unenforceable offence, some might wonder whether this leaves a gap in criminal law, including the ability to target false news in some way. These questions are quite relevant today in the light of fake news discourse and the concerns of such fake news to promote hate against particular groups. In this respect, it is worth noting that the Criminal Code already contains a robust set of hate propaganda offences and other hate crime-related provisions, including, for example, the public incitement of hatred offences found in section 319.

Bill C-75 would also repeal the abortion offence in section 287 of the Criminal Code, which prohibits the procurement of a miscarriage and was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court 30 years ago in the Morgentaler case. The Supreme Court's guidance was clear. It said forcing a woman, by threat of criminal sanction, to carry a fetus to term, unless she meets certain criteria unrelated to her own priorities and aspirations, is a profound interference with a woman's body and thus a violation of security of the person. It is long overdue that this invalid provision be removed from our Criminal Code.

Additional amendments to modernize the criminal law were adopted by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and I want to take this opportunity to thank the committee for its work and I would like to take a moment to discuss this as well.

As tabled, Bill C-75 repealed part of the vagrancy offence. The provision against loitering near a school ground, playground or public park for persons convicted of certain offences, paragraph 179(1)(b), was struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada in R v. Haywood in 1994 because it was overly broad in applying to “too many places, to too many people, for an indefinite period with no possibility of review.” The justice committee went further and adopted a motion to repeal the vagrancy offence committed by supporting oneself by gaming or crime and having no lawful provision or calling, found in paragraph 179(1)(a).

Modern Canadian criminal law is not concerned with the status of an individual such as unemployed, but rather and rightly focuses on morally blameworthy conduct. The justice committee also heard that this offence was used in a historically discriminatory fashion to target members of a particular community. I am pleased that the committee agreed to remove this offence in its entirety and I am confident that it leaves no gap in the law.

The justice committee also unanimously adopted an amendment that repeals bawdy house offences at sections 210 and 211 of the Criminal Code. This amendment responds to the concerns that these provisions are antiquated and also have been used as discriminatory against the LGBTQ2 community and no longer serve a legitimate criminal law purpose. Their net effect is to criminalize anyone who has any kind of association with a bawdy house. This is inconsistent with modern criminal law, which criminalizes blameworthy conduct not location in which certain activities take place, nor a person's status in respect to such location. The repeal of the bawdy house offences would also leave no gap in the law as discussed by the committee during its consideration of this issue.

We have a responsibility as parliamentarians to ensure that our laws are as clear as possible to all Canadians, not just criminal law experts who can weave the Criminal Code together with the jurisprudence to better understand the true state of the law. Clarity contributes to accessibility. This is particularly important to criminal law given its significant impact on an individual's liberty and on public safety. Lack of clarity with the law also results in costs aside from tangible costs on the justice system such as wasted police, prosecution and court resources. They are at risk of injustice to the accused and intangible costs to victims.

Moreover, the reliance on unconstitutional laws has a negative impact on the reputation of the criminal justice system and affects Canadians' confidence in that system. These amendments promote clarity in the law and respect for the charter and should be without any controversy. These changes are consistent with the objectives of other amendments contained in Bill C-75 in the way they will make our system more efficient and more accessible.

I urge all members of the House to vote in favour of the motion and once again I want to take this opportunity to thank the minister for all the consultations that she has done with many members of our society as well as the justice committee for all the work it does.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 4:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 4:05 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the passion of my colleague opposite. I would want to believe that too, if I were her. I would want to believe what my colleagues told me, what my ministerial colleague told me.

Can she tell me whether she will at least have a chance to look into how little progress the current government has made on its legislative agenda compared with the previous government at the same point in time?

When a bill is suddenly introduced, it is only natural to say that we are going to examine it, but ultimately, many witnesses and experts in the field believe that Bill C-75 does not come close to doing what needs to be done.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 4:05 p.m.
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Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development, Lib.

Kamal Khera

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member's question, but this is a very comprehensive piece of legislation that was done in consultation with many key stakeholders. As we have said all along, there is no simple solution for addressing the issue of court delays. We are already doing so as part of our collaboration with our provincial and territorial partners. However, this legislation and all of the actions taken to date are aimed at addressing the root causes of the delays. This bill intends to bring more cultural shift within the criminal justice system, something that the Supreme Court in its Jordan decision stressed is required.

Once again, I thank the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for its extensive study of Bill C-75 and the amendments it has proposed. We believe these amendments help strengthen Bill C-75. I hope that all members of the House—

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 4:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal Humber River—Black Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate today on Bill C-75, introduced on March 29, 2018. The bill has now been studied by the justice and human rights committee and returned to the House. I am optimistic that we can move this important piece of legislation forward today. Bill C-75 includes important amendments that reflect the government's unwavering commitment to tackling gender-based violence.

Last June, the government launched a federal strategy to prevent and address gender-based violence across Canada. The 2017 budget included $100.9 million over five years and an additional $20.7 million per year thereafter to fund this important strategy, which would ensure there is more support for vulnerable populations, such as women and girls, indigenous people, LGBTQ2 community members, gender non-binary individuals, those living in rural and remote communities, and people with disabilities, among many others.

Budget 2018 announced a further $86 million over five years and $20 million per year in ongoing funding to enhance this strategy. The three pillars of the strategy—prevention, support for survivors and their families, and promotion of a responsive legal and justice system—will better align these and existing resources to ensure that current gaps in support are filled.

Bill C-75 complements these initiatives and further supports the third pillar of the federal gender-based violence strategy by promoting a more responsive legal and justice system. It specifically targets intimate partner violence, which is one of the most common forms of gender-based violence. Intimate partner violence includes things like sexual, physical and psychological abuse, as well as controlling behaviours. Bill C-75 proposes to define “intimate partner” throughout the Criminal Code to clarify that it includes a current or former spouse, common-law partner and a dating partner.

This clarification is sorely needed to reflect the current reality, which is that so many of the individuals accused of violence against women before the courts are in fact dating partners, as opposed to spouses. According to data from Statistics Canada, victimization by an intimate partner was the most common form of police-reported violent crime against women in 2016. Based on police-reported data from 2016, we also know that violence within dating relationships was more common than violence within spousal relationships.

The new definition of intimate partner violence would apply in the sentencing context, where judges would have to consider any evidence of abuse against a former or current spouse, common-law partner and dating partner as an aggravating factor. Higher maximum penalties for repeat intimate violence offenders would also be available to sentencing judges under this legislation.

In addition to the reverse onus on bail, Bill C-75 would add two new factors that a judge would have to consider before making an order to release or detain an accused. Bail courts would have to consider an accused's criminal record, something that already routinely occurs but is not mandated, as well as whether an accused has ever been charged with an offence that involved violence against an intimate partner. These factors would ensure that judges have a more complete picture and are fully informed of any prior history of violence that could threaten the safety of a victim or the public at large.

In 2016, Statistics Canada reported that the type of violence most often experienced by victims of intimate partner violence was physical force, which includes more serious harm, such as choking. The reforms proposed in Bill C-75 would further enhance victim safety by clarifying that strangulation, choking and suffocation constitute a more serious form of assault under section 267 of the Criminal Code, punishable by a maximum of 10 years' imprisonment, instead of a simple assault, which carries a maximum penalty of five years. It would also ensure that sexual offences involving strangulation, choking or suffocation are treated as the more serious form of sexual assault, which imposes a maximum penalty of 14 years' imprisonment if the victim is an adult, and life if the victim is a child, under section 272 of the Criminal Code. This would depart from the existing penalty for simple sexual assault, which is a maximum of 10 years' imprisonment under section 271, or 14 years when the victim is under 16.

Unfortunately, under existing law, courts do not always recognize the seriousness of these types of assaults, which often occur in the context of intimate partner violence. These aggressive acts cannot be underappreciated or dismissed as simply reflecting a perpetrator's anger management problem. Strangulation and choking pose a much higher risk to safety than other forms of assault, because they deprive a person of oxygen, with potentially fatal consequences, despite the fact the person might not have any visible injuries. The proposed amendment would better reflect the gravity of the harm inflicted.

While strong laws are a necessary part of tackling gender-based violence, it is important to understand how this legislation complements existing programs and initiatives that, together, ensure that the justice system is working at its full potential.

Over the past couple of years, the government has been working closely with the provinces and territories to improve the criminal justice system's response to gender-based violence. For example, since 2016, the government has provided funding for projects designed to improve responses to sexual assaults against adults. This funding has been made available through the federal victims fund to provinces and territories, municipal governments, first nations, and criminal justice and non-governmental organizations.

The funding is supporting pilot projects in Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador to provide independent legal advice to victims of sexual assault, and the Government of Ontario to further enhance its existing project. Alberta has developed a similar program that is being administered and funded through the provincial ministry of the status of women.

Strong criminal justice responses to gender-based violence, including measures that aim to enhance access to justice for victims, as well as the proposals in Bill C-75, are especially significant right now in the wake of the #MeToo movement, as so many sexual assault survivors are coming forward to acknowledge and share their experiences of sexual violence. Indeed, a November 9, 2018 report by Statistics Canada indicates that the number of police-reported sexual assaults sharply increased by 25% following the beginning of the #MeToo movement in October 2017. The harrowing accounts shared by survivors have shed light on the many social and economic barriers that sexual assault victims have faced and continue to face, with devastating consequences for individuals, their families, and their communities. As more stories of sexual assault are told, we must ensure that the victims and survivors are treated with compassion and respect and that the criminal justice system responds appropriately.

I firmly believe that the proposals to enhance the safety of victims of intimate partner violence in Bill C-75 are a necessary response to this horrific societal problem. I am proud to be part of a government that takes violence against women seriously, as I know all of us in the House do, and one that remains unwavering in its commitment to ensuring that the victims of gender-based violence and their loved ones are treated with the utmost respect and dignity. I hope members will all join me in supporting this bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 4:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal Humber River—Black Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think we all share this major concern that Bill C-75 would improve the safety of women and others throughout this country. Much of the new Department of the Status of Women will have additional funding in that category so that we can support initiatives that will help women get out of difficult relationships.

Part of this, as we go forward, I think, is that the # MeToo movement has had a huge impact. The fact is that no one will get away with abusing anyone, whether a man, woman or child. Society, for far too long, has stayed too quiet on many of these fronts. I think we have to really push on the whole issue of education. I know that our government will continue to invest significantly so that education becomes a big part of this. No one should be allowed to raise a hand against anyone, man, woman or child.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 4:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am going to parlay a little off what my hon. colleague before me had to say. It was very interesting that she very much went around the concept of standing up for violence against women.

This bill is, again, one of these things where the Liberals say they are trying to do one particular thing, and then they go off and do something completely different. When this bill was introduced, the minister said that this was going to improve efficiency in the criminal justice system and reduce court delays. The Liberals then just seemed to water down a whole bunch of sentences to reduce backlogs in the courts. They also wanted to improve and streamline bail hearings.

The goals they stated off the top were laudable. I think everyone in this place has the goal to make the justice system work better. That is something I think everyone who comes to this place can agree on. How we get there is where we disagree. If Bill C-75 actually accomplishes some of these things, we would definitely be on the right track.

Conservatives always look at the justice system from the point of view of the victim. It seems to me that the Liberals always want to look at it from the point of view of the perpetrator.

My first concern about this bill is that it is an omnibus bill. It is a mashup of various other policies. We have seen, over the time I have been here, that bills are introduced, and they keep being added to. I think Bill C-36 has been put in here, and a number of other bills have been lumped in with this bill. We have seen the progression of that. Now it is this monstrosity of a bill that is fairly unmanageable. As my colleague from St. Albert—Edmonton pointed out earlier, we had the opportunity to fix a number of these things earlier on, but the government has dithered on some of them.

A lot of people say that I am always criticizing the government, so could I just point out every now when it does something good. There are some good pieces in here. Bill C-75 would increase the maximum term for repeat offenders involved in intimate partner violence, and it would provide that the abuse of an intimate partner would be an aggravating factor in sentencing. I am totally supportive of that.

I am also supportive of the reverse onus for bail in the case of domestic assault. Indeed, I have written letters to the justice minister on that as well. Women who have been violently assaulted by their spouses should have confidence that the justice system will protect their interests and put their safety first.

Another important element of Bill C-75 is that the act of strangulation would be made a more serious level of assault. I am totally fine with that as well.

There are a number of areas I have concerns about in this bill, particularly the way it treats human trafficking. With such significant changes, we would have expected the government to consult widely. Over the last number of years, I have been working with a lot of groups that are concerned about the human trafficking happening right here in Canada. We suggested that these folks contact the justice committee to try to become witnesses at the committee.

The justice committee heard from 95 witnesses on Bill C-75. Over 70% of the witnesses at the justice committee were justice system lawyers, which would totally make sense if this bill was about streamlining the justice system. We would want lawyers to show up. However, this bill is not predominantly about that. It is predominantly about lowering sentences for a whole raft of different offences.

When we are dealing with a bill that would lower sentences, or hybridize these offences, which I think is the term that is used, certainly we should hear from some of the groups that represent the victims of some of these offences. However, we did not hear much from them at all. Just over 10% of those groups came to committee.

With respect to law enforcement, we would think that because they are the people who have to enforce these laws and use the Criminal Code to charge people that perhaps we should hear from them as well. Do members know how many police officers were heard at this committee? Out of 95 witnesses, one police officer showed up or was asked to come. That was also kind of disturbing.

From my limited experience travelling across the country, I know that the issues people face in northern Alberta and in Peace River country are quite a bit different from the issues people face in downtown Toronto, Halifax, Vancouver and across the territories. To hear from one police officer how the bill would affect his job seems to me to be limited, particularly when it deals with a whole bunch of different areas the police work in.

The police work every day to keep us safe, and they rely on Parliament to make sure that they have laws they can use. It seems to me that we should have heard particularly from victims and police officers. To have only one police officer, out of 95 witnesses, seems a little interesting.

As I mentioned earlier, Bill C-75 would make significant changes to some of our human trafficking offences, changing them from indictable to these hybrid offences. As legislators, we are about to vote on these changes. It is important that we make informed decisions. Are these amendments going to be useful for police officers fighting human trafficking? We do not know, because again, we heard from only one police officer, and he was not able to address specifically the human trafficking aspect.

What we know is that at committee, not a single organization that works to fight human trafficking across the country was consulted on these changes. In fact, many of these human trafficking units across the country have no idea that these changes could even be coming into effect, which could be a problem, given that the police are investigating crimes as we speak but would now have pieces of the Criminal Code disappear or be reduced. It may be a problem for them.

I would also urge my colleagues in the Senate to ensure that there is better representation of victims and law enforcement during the Senate hearings on Bill C-75. As we know, the bill will be going to the Senate quickly, as just this morning, we were voting on the closure motion for this particular bill.

Clause 106 of the bill would change the material benefit from trafficking offence and the destroying documents trafficking offence. These offences would be changed from indictable to hybrid offences.

The chair of the justice committee was here. I have debated him before on this. He said that we need to ensure that there is leeway within the law, and I agree with him. He used the example of assault and said that there is a great variance in assault, from minor fisticuffs in the parking lot to someone being left for dead. He said that we need to be able to have variance in the law for that, from being able to issue a fine. My point to him on this particular section is that there should be a minimum for material benefit from human trafficking. Could he give me an example of a fairly minor human trafficking occasion? That seems to me to be ridiculous.

Modern-day slavery is an affront to humanity, and there ought to be a minimum sentence of more than just a fine. I think all of us standing in this place would agree. I do not care if one is the nicest slave-owner on the planet, it is still slavery, and there ought to be a minimum sentence for that and not merely a fine. I was very frustrated by that. The other thing is that this will be downloaded to the provincial courts.

We know that the vast majority of human trafficking victims in this country are female. The vast majority are very young, and about half of them are indigenous. We need to ensure that the risk of being caught for human trafficking outweighs the ability to make money from it.

The justice committee in the past, in a different study, heard that human traffickers make between $1,500 and $2,000 a day from a trafficked individual. Under Bill C-75, the trafficker would face a maximum $5,000 fine. A trafficker who is trafficking a young person in this country can make up to $300,000 a year. A $5,000 fine is ridiculous. That is just be the cost of doing business for that individual.

The other thing is that this would take away consecutive sentencing for human trafficking. Victims of human trafficking are afraid to come forward because they fear that it would then just be a short time before their pimp would be back out on the street hunting them down.

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November 20th, 2018 / 4:35 p.m.
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Arif Virani Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Peace River—Westlock for his contribution to today's debate, and for his ongoing concerns about human trafficking. It is an incredibly serious issue, and I thank him for raising it in this chamber repeatedly.

I have one comment and one question. The comment is that human trafficking was studied extensively by the standing committee prior to receiving Bill C-75. In order to address some of the very important witnesses and stakeholders the member has highlighted, the committee travelled right across the country to hear from them. The committee has yet to table its report, but when it does, I hope we will study its recommendations carefully.

The member and a number of his colleagues have consistently underscored the need to being tough on victims' rights and tough on sentencing to address those rights. We agree, and I am glad he agrees with the intimate partner violence provisions.

Is it a step in the right direction to be taking the standard sentence for summary conviction offences from six months to two years less a day? Does that address the needs of the victims he represents in Peace River—Westlock?

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November 20th, 2018 / 4:40 p.m.
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Liberal

MaryAnn Mihychuk Liberal Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand here today in this honourable House to talk about Bill C-75.

This is a long overdue change to the legal system, which has been bogged down, in many cases to such an extent that cases have been found to have lost their meaning and been adjourned. People whom we suspected were guilty got away without going through due process at all. Those circumstances cannot happen. It is not justice. It is not fair.

This is one step towards making a fairer, more efficient and effective judicial system. Bill C-75 is a meaningful and significant approach to promoting efficiency, and I would assume that all members of the House would like to see that happen. Efficiency and effectiveness are what every member would like to see in our systems, because we would not want to waste one penny of taxpayer money on something that could be done better. It is always our goal to do better. That is exactly what this bill does.

This bill would, in a significant way, promote efficiency in our criminal justice system, reduce case completion times, as I mentioned earlier, and contribute to increased public confidence while respecting the rights of those involved and ensuring that public safety is maintained.

In terms of preliminary inquiries, this bill would restrict preliminary inquires to adults accused of the 63 most serious offences in the Criminal Code, which carry a sentence of life imprisonment, like murder; and would reinforce a judge's power to limit the questions to be examined, as well as the number of witnesses who will appear.

The Supreme Court of Canada in its Jordan decision, and the Senate legal affairs committee in its final report on delays in the justice system, recommended that preliminary inquiry reform be considered. We should be proud to support a bill that takes into account not only the recommendations of this House but also of the upper house and of the provinces and territories that have been working on this issue for many years. It has been discussed for decades.

Some say that restricting preliminary inquiries might have little impact on the delays. Even though it concerns only 3% of the cases, it would still have a significant impact on those provinces where this procedure is used more often, such as Ontario and Quebec. We know, because of the population base involved, that this would have a significant impact on the whole judicial system.

Also, we cannot overlook the cumulative effect of all of Bill C-75's proposals that seek to streamline the criminal justice system process.

It is of course for the betterment of both the accused and victims to have the system move fairly and efficiently in a timely manner. The proposed preliminary inquiry amendments are the culmination of years of study and consideration in federal-provincial-territorial and other meetings.

We know that it is not easy to negotiate a framework when we have many divergent views and jurisdictions involved, but this is going to be good for Canadians. It will be good for the indigenous population of our country, who have unfortunately been the victim of a system that many have called racist. If we look at the number of indigenous people in our jails, it is extremely high. One must ask why the system seems to incarcerate so many more indigenous people than their population warrants. These changes will be more effective and fairer for our indigenous population, and that is a commitment of our Prime Minister.

This is a balanced approach. We often see that in this House, in particular, where we have the left and the right, the positions can be quite separated, with the Liberals coming in the middle and providing a balanced approach and centre to both.

I think most Canadians are reasonable centralists and, as we have seen in the past, this type of negotiated solution means compromises on both sides. As we look at the balanced approach between opposing views put forward by both committees and those expressed by the House, they are considered and put forward in this bill.

This bill would make this procedure more efficient and expedient. Of course, that is the goal of all of our programs for Canadians, as well as being meaningful, respectful and available to all Canadians. It is important to respect the accused person's right to a fair trial. This would also help witnesses and victims by preventing some of them from having to testify twice. That is just not reasonable for the system. It is hard on victims, very hard on witnesses, so to eliminate this would be of benefit to all.

Let us look at the issue of case management. Bill C-75 would allow for the earlier appointment of case management judges. This recognizes their unique and vital role in ensuring the momentum of cases is maintained, and that they are completed in an efficient, effective, just and timely manner. This was also recommended by the Senate report on delays in the criminal justice system.

It is important to discuss, even if briefly, the use of technology and how it would provide fairness, particularly to the indigenous population of Canada. I come from Manitoba, which has the highest per capita number of indigenous people of any province. In many cases, they are in fairly remote and isolated communities where participating in a full process is extremely difficult because there are no roads, access is limited and broadband connections are poor. These are all issues that make justice much more difficult for indigenous people in those circumstances.

In terms of technology, the bill proposes to allow remote appearances by audio or video conference for accused, witnesses, lawyers, judges, justices of the peace and interpreters, under certain circumstances. This would obviously assist many people, although it is not always appropriate. Canada has allowed remote appearances for many years, and these amendments seek to broaden the existing framework.

These optional tools in Bill C-75 aim to increase access to justice, streamline processes and reduce system costs, such as the transport of the accused and witness attendance costs, without impacting existing resources such as those through the indigenous court worker program. The changes we are proposing also respond to the Senate committee recommendations, which called for an increase to the use of remote appearances for accused persons.

In conclusion, the proposals in Bill C-75 in relation to preliminary inquiries, judicial case management and remote appearances, together with all of the other reforms, would ensure that our criminal justice system is efficient, just and in line with the values of our communities and all Canadians.

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November 20th, 2018 / 4:55 p.m.
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Gary Anandasangaree Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism (Multiculturalism), Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I am very glad to speak here in support 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.

I will start off by acknowledging that we are gathered here on the traditional lands of the Algonquin people.

To give members a sense of my involvement with the criminal justice system, I was a youth worker and ran a youth service agency several years ago. In fact, I came across a number of young people who had interactions with the criminal justice system. I found it quite frustrating that the young people were often looked at in silos with respect to the charges that were in front of them in their involvement with the criminal justice system.

Also, as a lawyer, I practised in this area very briefly. Over the years I have worked with a number of organizations that work with youth, especially those involved with the criminal justice system. Just last Christmas, along with the Toronto breakfast clubs and the Second Chance Scholarship Foundation, I was at the Roy McMurtry Youth Centre for young offenders and had a really good afternoon meeting with a number of young people who were involved in the criminal justice system and serving time.

As well, since my election as an MP, I have visited a number of institutions across Ontario, including detention centres and penitentiaries.

It is clear to me from my engagement with the criminal justice system that it is not fully working. There is a lot that we need to do to change it and to improve it. I believe Bill C-75 addresses a number of important issues. First and foremost are the issues of delay, safety in terms of our communities and, of course, the massive overrepresentation of certain groups within the system.

The reports of the Office of the Correctional Investigator are quite insightful, offering some drastic numbers that reflect what I believe are structural issues within our system. These issues often cause particular groups to be overly represented within the criminal justice system. For example, 40% of women in penitentiaries are indigenous, which is a gross overrepresentation in relation to the indigenous population in Canada.

Similarly, young black men represent roughly 8% of those serving time in penitentiaries, and indigenous men hover around 30%. We know that this representation is pronounced and disproportionate in relation to their overall numbers.

We can ask ourselves why this is so. In my current role as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, in undertaking some discussions and engagements on anti-racism, it is very clear that there are underlying structural and systemic issues within our criminal justice system that have some very specific outcomes. Coupled with issues of poverty, disenfranchisement, a lack of housing and a whole host of other social determinants is a system that in many ways is deeply problematic in terms of the manner in which it treats certain groups of people.

However, Bill C-75 goes to some length to address these issues. It is probably not to the full extent that may be required, but it certainly goes a distance in addressing some of these structural issues, and I will talk about a few of them this afternoon.

Bill C-75 would change the way our system deals with the administration of justice offences. I cannot say the number of times I have worked with young people who have been charged with an offence, where oftentimes the evidence against the individuals is quite weak, but unfortunately, because of the terms of bail and the terms of release they often find themselves back in jail facing additional charges. It is deeply frustrating when we see that.

One of the immigration cases that came to my office involved a young man, 40 years old, who came to Canada when he was eight. He was involved with the child welfare system. I believe his first charge was when he was about 13, as a young offender. He was found not guilty of those charges, but within a year, he was charged and convicted of an offence of breach of condition, namely, that he did not appear in court. We are talking about a 14-year-old young man who, by all measure, had many obstacles in his life including the fact that he was separated from his parents and was growing up in the child welfare system. This young man ended up missing court and was convicted for the first time. Then I saw his record, and over and over again it was not the issues of the actual crime, but administration of justice offences that he was convicted of.

This really tells us that our system is not working. We can look across the country at many young men and women who are serving time because the way we have set up our system is one which is very punitive and restrictive. While it is essential to ensure public safety, I do think we can do this by making sure that the terms of release are proportionate and reasonable and are acceptable to all the parties. That is something which I see very often.

When I worked with young people, one of the standard terms of release that I saw in bail was non-attendance. If an incident took place at school or near a school, oftentimes a condition is that the young person does not attend that school or go near the school. How is it fair that a 15-year-old in grade 10 who is having some difficulties in life is restricted from going to that school? A change of school, a change of circumstance, would obviously extenuate the challenges a young person has in life and often will lead to a greater involvement with the criminal justice system.

I thought I would have time to speak to this in more detail. However, I will say that this bill is very important. It goes part of the way in addressing some of the systemic issues that we see in the criminal justice system and particularly with respect to the racialization of incarceration in Canada and many parts of the world, but particularly in Canada as documented by the Office of the Correctional Investigator and others who have pointed to highly polarizing numbers that speak to systemic issues within our criminal justice system.

In summary, the issues addressed in this bill are important, namely, the delay aspect and making sure the delays are limited by eliminating undue processes, as well as the overrepresentation that I discussed, and making sure that issues such as intimate partner violence are addressed. I believe that this is a very important bill that warrants the support of all of our colleagues here and across the aisle as well.

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November 20th, 2018 / 5:05 p.m.
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NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are well aware that the government had to respond to the Jordan decision and that that is the purpose of Bill C-75. However, the government failed to do one thing: ensure that delays will no longer be a problem. We need to make sure criminals actually get convicted and serve their time in jail.

Sadly, there is a case going on in Calgary that is very well known. Nick Chan is a notorious gang leader who was accused of murder and other crimes, but he has been released because his right to be tried within a reasonable time, as laid out in Jordan, was violated due to the shortage of judges.

The bill is a first step toward addressing the problem, but it has its flaws, which I mentioned earlier in my speech.

What is the government doing right now to fill those vacant seats and put more judges on the bench?