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

This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.

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 a term of 14 years or more 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) re-enact the victim surcharge regime and provide the court with the discretion to waive a victim surcharge if the court is satisfied that the victim surcharge would cause the offender undue hardship or would be disproportionate to the gravity of the offence or the degree of responsibility of the offender; 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 19, 2019 Passed Motion respecting Senate amendments 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
June 19, 2019 Passed Motion for closure
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 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak at third reading to Bill C-75. I had the opportunity recently to speak on another bill that also sought to amend the Criminal Code, Bill C-375. In that speech, I drew attention to the Liberals' alarming track record on criminal justice. I would like to continue with these thoughts today in the context of the bill before us.

Bill C-75 continues a disturbing pattern from the Liberal government. Where previous governments of all stripes sought to protect victims of crime, the Liberal government seems to favour the protection of criminals instead. From their first days in government, the Liberals have used the levers of power to shield and protect criminals while leaving victims and their families in the cold.

We have seen this time and time again, with the Liberals' $10.5-million payout to Omar Khadr and their subsequent snubbing of Tabitha Speer, their shocking response to Terri-Lynne McClintic's transfer from a secure prison to a healing lodge, their abysmal response to gang crimes through Bill C-71, along with countless other examples.

When Canadians dared to raise their concerns, the Prime Minister labelled them ambulance chasers. Perhaps the most tangible examples of the government's disordered protection of criminals have come in this bill. When Bill C-75 was introduced, it reduced the penalties for advocating genocide and participation in terrorist activities to possibly as little as a fine. It was only at the insistence of my Conservative colleagues at committee that these clauses were removed.

I am glad the Liberal members on that committee saw the folly of the original text, but it begs the question: how could the government have thought those clauses were in any way appropriate in the first place? Unfortunately, I believe that this is not a one-time occurrence, but as I said, a disturbing pattern regarding terrorists from the government.

As I already mentioned, take the case of Omar Khadr which resulted in a convicted terrorist becoming a millionaire at the expense of Canadian taxpayers, and this is just one example. Recall that long before the Liberals tried to use Bill C-75 to lower the penalties for engaging in terrorist activities, one of the first items on the Prime Minister's agenda was to pull our air force out of the fight against ISIS. This was a backward decision at the time and in retrospect, almost indefensible.

Just days ago, a mass grave holding the remains of more Yazidi victims of ISIS was discovered in Kar Azir town. This is the 71st mass grave found in the area. The men, women and children in these graves were slaughtered by members of ISIS, some of whom are from this country. These ISIS terrorists stoned women to death for the crime of being raped. They killed families for believing in their own God or being the wrong ethnicity. They burned men alive for refusing to join their evil cause or threw them off buildings for being gay.

As I previously pointed out in this place, the Minister of Foreign Affairs could not even bring herself to call these monsters terrorists--

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 5:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate that.

For his part, the Prime Minister has doled out taxpayer dollars for so-called de-radicalization programs for returning ISIS terrorists. In the meantime, he has told veterans they are asking for more than the government can give. Would it not be more appropriate to say that to returning ISIS terrorists instead of to the brave men and women who have defended our nation?

However, perhaps we should not be surprised. Indeed, after the Boston Marathon bombing, the now Prime Minister said of the terrorists responsible, “there is no question that this happened because of someone who feels completely excluded, someone who feels completely at war with innocence, at war with society.”

I believe it is this kind of foolish gentleness toward terrorists that caused the Liberals to propose weakening the penalties in Bill C-75. They spent months arguing for and defending the inclusion of that clause before finally backing down and supporting the Conservatives in removing it. It took months of pressure and hard work to make this one obvious change, but even with that change the bill remains deeply flawed.

Bill C-75 would still weaken the penalties to as little as a fine for many other serious crimes. Among those are serious sexual crimes, such as using the date rape drug, forced marriage, marriage under the age of 16, polygamy and acting as a pimp. I wonder how the Prime Minister can claim to be a feminist while simultaneously weakening the punishment for such terrible crimes.

In addition to the sexual crimes I mentioned, the Liberals are also weakening the punishment for corruption and fraud. A lighter penalty would be possible for those convicted of bribing municipal officials, insider trading, forging currency, using libel for extortion, fraud through the use of arson, or even illegally influencing political appointments.

Perhaps most shocking is the list of violent and gang-related crimes that would be eligible for a summary conviction: infanticide, hiding the body of a child, obstructing or assaulting an officiating clergyman, abduction of children under the ages of 16 and 14, conspiracy and participating in criminal gang activities.

While I know my time is nearly up, I would be remiss if I did not take the time to point out that this is the Liberals' second attempt to remove or amend section 176 of the Criminal Code after abandoning their changes to Bill C-51. Assault of officiants during a religious service is very serious and should remain an indictable offence, yet here the Liberals are breaking yet another promise despite the fact they committed to keeping full protections in place for religious officials.

There are many more serious crimes that we see a weakened response to. In fact, I find myself wondering if this is not the intent of the bill. The previous Conservative government passed the Victims Bill of Rights and this is the Liberals' response. Again and again, we see examples of the Liberals' obsession with making criminals lives easier.

As one final example, the Liberals recently introduced a plan to provide needles to prisoners who use drugs, despite a zero-tolerance policy on drugs in prisons. It would take a Liberal to square that circle. This ridiculous plan puts correctional officers in the line of danger, for no other reason than to assuage Liberal guilt. Jason Godin, president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, said the following about this ridiculous idea: “It’s pretty obvious the policy changes the government is making are making it more dangerous for us, more dangerous for inmates and obviously more dangerous for the general public.”

Why does the government insist on placing the rights of criminals above the rights of victims, police, guards and of citizens overall? As I have said before, Canadians deserve better than a government that treats victims like criminals and criminals like family.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 20th, 2018 / 7:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this Senate public bill, Bill S-240, which proposes amendments that seek to tackle an issue that is of concern internationally and to Canadians, and that is the illicit trafficking of human organs.

Before I discuss the substance of this relatively small but important piece of proposed legislation, I would like to spend a few minutes discussing the issue on which it focuses. As I mentioned, this issue has affected many other countries around the world, yet as my hon. colleague for Winnipeg North has said, it is important to note that, to our knowledge, no known cases have yet occurred in Canada, nor would we want them to.

Organ trafficking is a lucrative and dangerous form of transnational organized crime. According to a 2015 study by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, this activity purports to net in excess of $1 billion U.S. annually in illegal profits. What this illicit revenue is used for can be far-reaching, but one can well imagine that some of it is funnelled into other criminal ventures, which can undermine public safety, fuel corruption and negatively impact the rule of law.

It is also important for members to understand what it is we are talking about when we say “organ trafficking”. According to the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs, the only international treaty on this issue, trafficking in human organs includes the removal of organs from a person who has not provided free, informed and specific consent or who has received a financial benefit in exchange for the removal of organs.

We know that organ trafficking puts lives at risk. Medical procedures that might be performed in substandard and unregulated environments can impact those whose organs are being removed or those who are seeking organs themselves. Quite simply, this is an appalling and dangerous business, and it requires a strong legislative and operational response. It is against this backdrop that I would like to turn my attention to the substance of Bill S-240.

As I said earlier, this legislation is short and proposes amendments to both the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. However, despite the protests of my colleague across the way, there are still some questions we must address.

I will start with the Criminal Code proposals, the most significant of which relate to the creation of new criminal offences punishable by considerable periods of imprisonment. Bill S-240 would enact four new offences targeting organ trafficking and related conduct.

The first offence, in proposed paragraph 240.1(1)(a), would prohibit obtaining an organ in order for it to be transplanted into one's body and in a situation where the person who has received the organ knew or was reckless as to whether or not the person who provided the organ gave informed consent. This particular proposed offence appears to be focused on the beneficiary of the organ and not on anyone else who may be involved in organ trafficking generally.

The second offence, in proposed paragraph 240.1(1)(b), would more squarely address the facilitators. This offence would target those who carry out, participate in or facilitate the removal of an organ in cases where they know or are reckless as to whether or not a person provided informed consent to have the organ removed.

The third offence, in proposed paragraph 240.1(1)(c), would address those who enable illegal organ removals by prohibiting acting on behalf of or at the direction of or in association with a person who has removed an organ and where the accused knows that the organ was removed from someone who has not provided informed consent or was reckless as to that fact.

Finally, Bill S-240 proposes an offence at proposed subsection 240.1(3) to target those who are involved in obtaining an organ for consideration. In essence, this offence would make it illegal to obtain an organ for money, even in cases where the organ was provided by someone who provided free and informed consent.

As I mentioned, these proposed offences would be subject to a significant maximum penalty, imprisonment for 14 years. As with other indictable offences, a sentencing court would also have discretion to impose a fine of any amount.

I am interested in our discussion of these proposed new offences, and I say this because I have a number of questions on these proposed new offences. While I will not be able to raise all of them here this evening, I wonder, for example, whether it is the role of Parliament to use criminal law to target someone who has purchased an organ, perhaps in another country where it may be legal to do so, in a situation where the individual who provided the organ did so freely, in a safe manner and under circumstances that were closely regulated. This type of action would be captured by the bill, because the bill also proposes to allow the prosecution in Canada of Canadians who go abroad to purchase organs.

These are extremely difficult and complicated situations. I can well understand why some who are faced with the prospect of serious health consequences or even death and who cannot otherwise obtain a necessary organ might look to other options for saving themselves or someone they love.

On the other hand, I also recognize the motivation behind the proposal and the need to ensure that individuals, often from developing countries, who may be vulnerable to abuse given their own economic situation, are protected from potentially exploitative practices.

Bill S-240 proposes a definition of informed consent that would be a key feature of the new offences. I would note that, as introduced, the bill did not propose to define this term but that a definition was added by the Senate out of concern for the need to be clear in the law, particularly given that we are talking about criminal offences.

From my own perspective, I welcome the changes by the Senate in this regard, in that they try to make the law clear and clearly understood. At the same time, the Senate committee did not appear to consider the impact of this change in any significant detail. I wonder, for example, whether this definition of informed consent is consistent with the approach that is taken in the medical assistance in dying regime or whether defining it in the Criminal Code in the manner that has been done is consistent with how that term is understood in the health law context.

I look forward to hearing more and considering these points further. I would also like to comment briefly on the changes proposed to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which would result in someone who has engaged in conduct captured by three of the four proposed offences being inadmissible to Canada. In thinking about this proposed change, I wonder whether it is, strictly speaking, essential given that the current laws on inadmissibility already address criminality and organized criminality. I am curious as to why the offence prohibiting the receipt of an organ for money would not provide a basis for excluding someone from Canada when the other newly proposed offences would.

There can be no doubt that Bill S-240 is targeting an important issue and this issue is deserving of our attention. However, as we are talking about criminal law, which is one of the most blunt and powerful instruments available to a government, I think it is critically important that we do our due diligence and fully examine the proposals contained in this bill and the full range of consequences that flow from its changes.

I worked on Bill C-75, which has several hundred clauses, and being in the cut and thrust of such legislation is hard work. We need to do the homework and take the time to make to make sure that the laws to be passed in the country are fair and balanced for all concerned.

Motions in amendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2018 / 10:25 a.m.
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Arif Virani Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in the report stage debate 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 thereto.

As a lawyer, I am all too familiar with the effect of delays on all Canadians, particularly those involved in the criminal justice system. I am proud to be a member of a government that is taking a meaningful and significant approach to promoting efficiency in our criminal justice system, reducing case completion times and contributing to increased public confidence while respecting the rights of those involved and ensuring that public safety is maintained.

I believe that, together, all of the elements of Bill C-75 will help create the necessary change in culture and strengthen the criminal justice system's capacity to complete cases within the time frame prescribed by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Jordan decision and recommended by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in its report entitled “Delaying Justice is denying justice”.

I am grateful to the House Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for its hard work in studying Bill C-75.

Although there are many important aspects of this bill that I believe will contribute to a more efficient criminal justice system, I would like to focus my remarks this morning on preliminary inquiry reform, enhancing judicial case management, and facilitating remote appearances. I would also like briefly to touch on the amendments brought forward by the committee and consequential technical amendments thereto.

As the minister pointed out in her speech, Bill C-75 includes two proposals for preliminary inquiries.

First, the bill would restrict the availability of this procedure to accused adults charged with 63 of the most serious Criminal Code offences that are punishable by life imprisonment, such as kidnapping and murder.

Second, it would strengthen the powers of judges at the preliminary inquiry and limit the issues explored and the number of witnesses to be heard.

The Supreme Court of Canada, in Jordan, and the Senate legal affairs committee, in its final report on delays, recommended that preliminary inquiry reform be considered.

We acknowledge that the issue of preliminary inquiry reform has been the subject of lively debate for literally decades. Some have said that restricting preliminary inquiries would have little impact on delays, given that they are held in only 3% of cases. However, it is important to underscore that this impact would be greater in those provinces where the preliminary inquiry procedure is widely used, such as in Ontario and in the province of Quebec.

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

Lawyers Laurelly Dale and Michael Spratt testified before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights that limiting preliminary inquiries, as the bill proposes, could result in delays and undermine the accused's right to a fair trial. In contrast, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police indicated in its written submissions that it supported the reforms.

In addition, Daisy Kler from the Vancouver Rape Relief & Women's Shelter and Elizabeth Sheehy said that these reforms were a step in the right direction and that requiring victims to testify twice, once at the preliminary inquiry and again at the trial, increases the risk of revictimization.

As stated by the Minister of Justice at the second reading of Bill C-75, the proposed preliminary inquiry amendments are the culmination of years of study and consideration in various fora, such as federal-provincial-territorial meetings. These reforms represent a balanced approach between the opposing views put forward before both committees and expressed before this very chamber. They would make this procedure more efficient and more expedient while respecting the rights of the accused to a fair trial and preventing some witnesses and victims from having to testify twice, which can have a very important impact, as I just mentioned, on women litigants in the criminal justice system.

Bill C-75 would also allow for the earlier appointment of case management judges, recognizing their unique and vital role in ensuring that the momentum of cases is maintained and that they are completed in an efficient, effective, just and timely manner.

Bill C-75 also proposes to expand the use of remote appearances provided for in the Criminal Code by enabling anyone participating in criminal cases to appear by audioconference or video conference throughout the trial, as long as the applicable criteria are met. This would include the accused, the witnesses, the lawyers, the judges or justices of the peace, the interpreters and the sureties.

Canada has allowed remote appearances for many years. These amendments seek to broaden the existing framework, with the possibility of using technology to promote access to justice where the infrastructure exists and as permitted by the rules of court.

These optional tools in Bill C-75 aim to increase access to justice, streamline processes and reduce system costs, such as the cost of the accused's transport and the cost of witness attendance, without impacting existing resources such as those through the indigenous court worker program. They also respond to the Senate committee's recommendation to increase the use of remote appearances for accused persons.

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

As a product of the extensive study of this bill and the compelling testimony from witnesses, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights amended the bill with regard to routine police evidence and some reclassification of offences. As a result of these amendments, four technical and consequential amendments must be moved to ensure coherence in the legislation. These amendments follow from the proper amendments made by the committee.

The first of the technical amendments involves the consequential amendment to clause 294 of Bill C-75. This clause deals with the admission of police officer transcripts as evidence and currently references the definition of “a police officer” in proposed section 657.01 of the Criminal Code. As proposed section 657.01 was amended and deleted at committee, an amendment is now required to clause 294 to remove the reference to that previously proposed section.

The second and third amendments being put forward today respond to the committee's intention to keep the offences of advocating or promoting the commission of terrorism, under section 83.221 of the Code, as a straight indictable offence. Accordingly, the second amendment today would delete clause 22, and the third amendment would delete subclause 407(5), which is a coordinating clause in accordance with Bill C-59. Again, these are consequential technical amendments that follow from the important and extensive study by the committee of this bill.

The fourth amendment presented to the House today would correct a drafting error resulting from an amendment to clause 389, which includes a mistake in the French version of the title of Bill C-75 and describes Bill C-75 as “Loi modifiant le Code criminel, la Loi sur le système de justice pénale pour les adolescents et d'autres lois et apportant des modifications corrélatives à certaines lois”. This is again a technical amendment that follows from the important amendments made at the committee stage.

To conclude, I want to highlight what we are doing in this law. We have a situation where access to justice is critical. We have a situation where court delays are preventing justice from being rendered. We also have the Jordan decision that was presented by the Supreme Court of Canada. Following the results of the Jordan decision, the minister and the parliamentary secretary went around the country and heard from stakeholders. They heard from people in the system. They heard from federal, provincial and territorial partners. As a result of that collaboration with provincial and territorial partners, we put forward Bill C-75 in this House. The bill was then studied at committee stage and the committee, after hearing robust testimony from a number of stakeholders from around the country who were involved in the criminal justice system, properly and rightfully took the initiative to amend the bill in the right direction with respect to the key areas I have mentioned. That is the way our system is meant to work. It is meant to work collaboratively, and that is what we did with this bill.

Bill C-75 would ensure that women were not revictimized through the preliminary inquiry process. The bill would ensure that we would no longer have the overrepresentation of indigenous and other marginalized communities in our justice system by changing the way we select jurors and changing the tools judges have to ensure more diverse and representative juries in communities. Very importantly, Bill C-75 would ensure access to justice. It would treat administration of justice offences through a separate model, a different model, that would allow things to be dealt with in a more general manner, in a manner that would speed up the proceedings and would not overly criminalize people who are interacting with the justice system.

These are important initiatives. This is an important bill. It is in the right direction, and that is why I urge all members of this House to support it.

Motions in amendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2018 / 10:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice noted that at the justice committee the Liberal members did the right thing in supporting our Conservative amendments to amend Bill C-75.

Thus, serious indictable offences, namely terrorism and genocide-related offences, would not be reclassified as hybrid offences. In doing so, they listened to the testimony of, among others, Shimon Fogel from the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, who said that reclassifying such offences would send “a clear and unacceptable signal diminishing the inherently grave, even heinous, nature of these crimes.” Similarly, the member for Edmonton Centre said, “Let's be serious.... We're talking about very serious offences.”

Unfortunately, the government decided to double down on the reclassification of events such as impaired driving causing bodily harm and kidnapping a minor under the age of 14. What kind of message does that send?

Motions in amendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2018 / 10:35 a.m.
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Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.

Arif Virani

Madam Speaker, the member opposite raises an important point and referenced the mandate given to the Minister of Justice. That mandate was to do a comprehensive review of the court and criminal justice systems and to propose methods of reform to speed up the processes and make them more efficient. That is exactly what we are doing with Bill C-75.

With Bill C-75, we are creating an administration of justice regime that will speed things up. Reducing the reliance on preliminary inquiries to a more circumscribed set of the most serious offences will speed things up in the criminal justice system.

The issue of mandatory minimums was raised at committee. It is an issue the government is seized with. It is an issue that requires broad, sweeping analysis and study. That is something the departmental officials indicated requires further consultation and study to get it right. A piecemeal approach to something in the nature of mandatory minimums would not be appropriate in this bill or otherwise.

Motions in amendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2018 / 10:40 a.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-75, the legislation the government has introduced that purportedly is aimed at dealing with the backlog and delays in Canada's courts.

The only problem with Bill C-75 is that it would do next to nothing to deal with the backlog and delays in our courts. Indeed, it is more than likely that Bill C-75 would do the opposite and actually increase delays in our courts.

This legislation was studied at the justice committee. I attended all of the justice committee meetings, where we heard from a wide array of witnesses. In the three years I have been a member of Parliament, I have never been at a committee where virtually all aspects of a bill have been as exhaustively and comprehensively panned as Bill C-75, a massive 300-page omnibus bill.

This legislation would do nothing to deal with delay.

The government came up with the brilliant idea that so-called routine police evidence could go in by way of affidavit. The only problem with that is it would require a whole new application process that defence counsel would inevitably use, resulting in more delay, not less. It is good that the government has backtracked from that aspect of Bill C-75.

The government then came up with the other idea that preliminary inquiries should be limited to only those cases for which the maximum sentence is life behind bars. When I asked justice department officials whether they had any data, any empirical evidence, to back up the assertion that preliminary inquiries were resulting in delay, they had no answer. I can point to empirical data that demonstrates that preliminary inquiries do speed up the process and do reduce delay. Eighty-six per cent of cases are resolved following a preliminary inquiry. That is what the statistical data show. The government has none to demonstrate the contrary.

Preliminary inquiries do provide an opportunity for counsel to clarify issues, to narrow issues, to test evidence. There is also an important discovery aspect to a preliminary inquiry.

Moreover, it is unclear how the government decided to arbitrarily create two streams of cases, one where the sentence would be life and the accused would be entitled to a preliminary inquiry, and another stream that would apply to all other cases, notwithstanding the fact that in many instances the sentencing ranges would be similar. In certain cases the accused would be entitled to a preliminary inquiry, in other instances he or she would not. It speaks to the very sloppy and haphazard way Bill C-75 was drafted.

The biggest problem with Bill C-75 is that under the guise of creating efficiencies in Canada's justice system, it would water down sentences for among the most serious indictable offences.

What sort of offences is Bill C-75 proposing to water down by reclassifying them from indictable to hybrid? We are talking, among other things, about impaired driving causing bodily harm. Impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death in Canada. We are talking about administering date rape drugs, kidnapping a minor under the age of 16, kidnapping a minor under the age of 14, human trafficking and arson for a fraudulent purpose. The government is moving ahead with reclassifying those offences. What would be the effect of reclassification? Instead of a maximum sentence of up to 10 years, the maximum would be two years less a day if the accused were prosecuted by way of summary conviction.

The Minister of Justice has repeatedly said that we should not to worry, that it has nothing to do with sentencing and that, after all, the sentencing principles are the same. Well, of course the sentencing principles are the same, but when we are reducing sentences and taking away the discretion of a judge to fashion a sentence from up to 10 years to two years less a day, that has everything to do with sentencing.

Apparently, the Liberal members on the justice committee agree, because among the packages of offences that Bill C-75 would reclassify are terrorism-related offences, as well as the offence of inciting genocide. It is shocking to think that those types of offences would be lumped into a class of offence such as a minor property offence, but that is Bill C-75. It is a terribly crafted bill. However, in the end, fortunately they listened to the evidence that it would send the wrong message. Shimon Fogel from the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said that it would send “a clear and unacceptable signal, diminishing the inherently grave, even heinous, nature of these crimes.” The member for Edmonton Centre was quoted in the National Post as saying, “Let's be serious.... We're talking about very serious offences.”

So much for the minister's assertion that reclassification would not have anything to do with sentencing or diminishing the seriousness of the offence. It absolutely does, and the member for Edmonton Centre acknowledged as much. Liberal MPs on the justice committee agreed when they voted in support of our amendments to remove the reclassification of terrorism and genocide-related offences.

What kind of a message, then, does it send when we are talking about reducing and watering down impaired driving offences, or administering a date rape drug, or kidnapping a minor? It sends exactly the wrong message. It diminishes the seriousness of those offences and it makes it possible that individuals who are charged with such offences could walk away with literally a slap on the wrist. Such offences have no business being reclassified. They have no business being left to a prosecutor somewhere in some office to make the call without any level of transparency and consistency. It is absolutely the wrong way to go.

It would also do nothing to reduce delays, because 99.6% of cases are already before provincial courts. We know that summary offences are before provincial courts. That means more downloading onto overstretched and overburdened provincial courts. It would not reduce delays, but it would water down sentences, undermining victims and public safety. Bill C-75 needs to be defeated out of hand.

Motions in amendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2018 / 10:50 a.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, I do support the parts of Bill C-75 related to intimate partner violence. We supported that at committee. Unfortunately, much of the rest of the bill is a mess.

The member spoke about AOJ offences, administration of justice offences. The bill seeks to do something about those, but the administration of justice offences take up very little court time. Why? Because in almost all instances, for example, if someone breaches bail, there is a substantive charge underlying that. Typically someone is not brought back into court until the main charge, the substantive charge, is dealt with.

While there was a lot of talk about administration of justice offences, very little court time is specifically devoted to them. That evidence was clear before the committee.

Motions in amendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2018 / 10:50 a.m.
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NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-75. This is a very large, very complex bill that touches on many important issues related to our justice system.

Obviously, I will not have enough time today to cover every element of the bill, so I will just focus on the aspects that interest me the most. However, I want to start by giving some background on the events that led to this bill and how it concerns my constituents.

As we know, Bill C-75 is a response to the Jordan decision, in which the courts ruled that there were unacceptable trial delays and that proceedings would now be terminated after a certain time frame. This was concerning to my constituents and to all MPs, especially those from Quebec, because we have seen several troubling cases in Quebec. In some cases, people charged with horrific crimes have been freed because of Jordan. These have been sordid and disturbing cases for the affected communities.

The Jordan decision seeks to address major issues, particularly with respect to services to indigenous peoples and the administration of justice. This is essential for maintaining public confidence in the justice system, especially the confidence of people who have asked me about many disturbing, high-profile cases. It is essential because the justice system cannot function properly without maintaining public confidence.

If I can wear my public safety critic hat for a moment, I would say the same is true in many situations involving public safety. This is not just about the justice system, but also the correctional system and police forces or national security agencies, which also play a role here.

Given the importance of maintaining public confidence, this bill had to be thoroughly reviewed. On that I want to commend my seat mate, the hon. member for Victoria, who was one of the finalists in the hardest working category of the Parliamentarians of the Year Awards, and rightly so. It is not difficult to understand why when we read a bill like this one, because these are extremely complicated matters that require rigorous review.

We must also exercise caution in political debate. To prevent undermining public confidence, we do not want the procedures and the implementation of these measures to be tainted by partisanship. This cannot be repeated often enough.

In this context, the objective of the bill in question is primarily to reduce legal delays. There are several positive elements, but some flaws as well, and although my time is limited, I would like to address some of them.

The first element, mandatory minimum sentencing, is the most important. This type of sentencing became singularly common during the last Parliament under the majority Conservative government. However, this policy failed, not just in Canada, but in the United States as well, where even very right-wing Republican legislators realized that it did nothing for public safety.

Mandatory minimum sentencing is imposed on judges by law to punish all sorts of crimes, which are often horrible. This creates a number of problems. The first obvious problem is that it eliminates judicial discretion, which weakens our judicial system. Also, mandatory minimum sentences are often intended to punish crimes that are driven by other social factors. We are therefore exacerbating troubling social phenomena, such as the overrepresentation of members of racialized populations or indigenous people in the prison and legal systems.

Some crimes, like drug possession and use, are public health issues and not law and order issues. We cannot minimize how important these issues are.

The facts, from Canada and elsewhere, show three things. First is obviously the social impact, as I just explained. Second is that, on several occasions, the courts struck down some of the legislation that was passed during the previous Parliament. For example, they threw out the Conservative provisions around mandatory minimums. Third, the mandatory minimums did not achieve the goals of increasing public safety, putting dangerous criminals behind bars and reducing recidivism rates.

I brought up this issue in reference to the previous government. What does this have to do with this bill introduced by the current Liberal government? During the previous Parliament, a number of Liberal members spoke out against such policies. At the time, the Minister of Justice and other members of the current government said loud and clear that this was an issue that needed to be fixed quickly. Now, we see that Bill C-75, which they already took far too long to introduce, does nothing to address this issue, even though the Liberals have been in government for three years.

My colleague from Edmonton Strathcona raised the issue with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice earlier today. The parliamentary secretary responded that it was an issue the government was seized with. The time for considering this issue is long past, which has become a trend with this government. This policy was doomed to fail even before the Liberals were elected, because it penalizes the people we want to help out of poverty so that they can contribute to their communities and our society. The Liberals missed an opportunity to fix this very important issue that has been around for a long time.

Certain U.S. states that lean heavily Republican, commonly known as red states, have observed over the course of many years that this policy is doomed to failure. If they have been able to see this, I think a supposedly progressive government should be able to see it too. These judicial reforms have been too long in the making, and I hoped this bill would take care of the problem, but sadly not. As has happened far too often since this government was elected, we will have to look to the Senate for a solution. An excellent bill has been proposed by Senator Kim Pate to address the issue of mandatory minimum sentences. That bill is one to keep an eye on. All in all, the government has missed an opportunity.

I want to talk about another element of the bill, namely hybrid offences. This is a very important part of the bill because it should help speed up the administration of justice. However, we have learned that this measure could increase the burden on the provinces. It is important to remember that the provinces are responsible for the administration of justice.

Representatives of the Quebec bar told the committee that it is not so concerning for them, because Quebec already has a very robust justice system that gives the prosecutor significant discretion. The Crown works hard to assess cases appropriately in order to prevent a backlog and minimize delays in the justice system.

When we are placing an additional burden on the provinces and have to rely on the provincial governments' goodwill, it is a sign that the federal government has a lot of work to do to make all this easier. Obviously, Bill C-75 does not really achieve that objective.

Unfortunately, it looks like my time is up. There were other elements I would have liked to address. This is, of course, a very large and complicated bill. The Liberals missed an opportunity to carry out the necessary administrative reforms to our justice system.

Motions in amendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2018 / 11:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-75, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

I would like to begin today by acknowledging the contributions of all members of the House, particularly the members of the committee, for their hard work, engagement and debate on Bill C-75. It is clear that members of all parties learned a great deal from the testimony that was heard, and the country as a whole benefited from the committee's in-depth consideration of this transformative bill.

The committee heard from roughly 95 groups and individuals covering a broad range of issues, in addition to reviewing 58 briefs. I would like to take a moment to share some of the different perspectives that members heard and read on Bill C-75 in relation to its potential impacts on indigenous peoples and persons from vulnerable populations.

The committee heard significant praise of Bill C-75's proposal to codify a principle of restraint that would guide police and courts in making bail decisions. The principle dictates that police and courts would be required to give primary consideration to releasing an accused at the earliest opportunity and apply the least onerous conditions that are appropriate in the circumstances. Police and courts would be required to ask if the conditions are responsibly practical for the accused to comply with and necessary for public safety to ensure the accused's attendance in court. The proposed principle of restraint aims to remove unnecessary strain on the criminal justice system and reflects the principles set out by the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Bar Association, the Society of United Professionals, the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform, Aboriginal Legal Services and the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres are just some of the witness groups that came forward and expressed support for these measures. The sheer diversity of support that this proposal has received speaks volumes about the significance of these reforms, which are long overdue. The Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres in particular noted that the principle of restraint would benefit indigenous persons who often have to travel away from their communities to get to court, far from their family and social support systems.

Bill C-75's proposal to codify the principle of restraint further requires police and courts to give particular attention to the circumstances of indigenous and vulnerable accused, who are overrepresented in the criminal justice system and disadvantaged in seeking bail. According to 2016-17 data from Statistics Canada, the proportion of indigenous adults admitted into a provincial or territorial correctional institution is roughly seven times higher than the rest of the Canadian population, and this figure has been steadily increasing since 2007. For indigenous women in federal correctional institutions, the proportion is eight times higher than for non-indigenous women. In 2012, Statistics Canada reported that individuals suffering from mental health disorders were four times more likely than those without a disorder to report being arrested by the police.

Moreover, indigenous people and vulnerable persons tend to be disproportionately impacted by onerous and unnecessary bail conditions, more likely to be charged with breaching minor conditions, and more likely to be caught in the revolving door of the criminal justice system. These facts are indicative of a systemic problem in need of comprehensive reform.

While some witnesses, such as Professor Marie-Eve Sylvestre from the University of Ottawa, suggested that the law should define vulnerable persons, we are confident that the current, broad approach will allow for its meaning to evolve over time by being interpreted on a case-by-case basis, and avoid excluding certain groups. I would also note that the existing provision gives direction in terms of which types of vulnerability are relevant, by specifically targeting groups that are overrepresented in the criminal justice system and disadvantaged in obtaining bail.

The proposals relating to administration of justice offences also received broad support from witnesses during the committee's review of Bill C-75. These proposals would involve an alternative process called a judicial referral hearing, which is essentially an off-ramp for minor breaches that do not involve harm to a victim or witness. These breaches would not result in criminal charges, but would instead be referred to a bail court so that a judge can review and reassess the bail status and conditions of the accused.

The committee heard moving testimony from Dr. Rebecca Bromwich from Carleton University. She reminded us of the tragic case of Ashley Smith, who was just a teenager when she died on suicide watch at Grand Valley Prison in 2007. According to Dr. Bromwich, Ashley was in custody as a youth and had over 150 convictions for administration of justice offences, many of which did not involve harm to the public and would not have been offences had she not previously been involved with the criminal justice system. This is precisely the type of situation that the administration of justice reforms proposed in Bill C-75 seek to address.

The judicial referral hearing is a new tool that police and courts may use, in addition to the principle of restraint, to streamline minor breaches out of the court system and free up resources for more serious cases. This proposal drew strong support from organizations such as the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres, Legal Aid Ontario, Aboriginal Legal Services and the Canadian Bar Association, as well as academics and private practitioners.

Last, I would like to speak to a proposal that did not get as much attention, but which some organizations and individuals acknowledged would have a positive impact for indigenous people and persons from vulnerable groups. Specifically, Bill C-75 would amend the plea provisions of the Criminal Code to require that courts be satisfied that the facts support the charge as a precondition for accepting a guilty plea. Legal Aid Ontario noted that the new process for guilty pleas would help to streamline these pleas and reduce subsequent challenges on appeal, thus contributing to reducing delays. I am confident that this proposal would provide an important mechanism for ensuring that guilty pleas are not used to further marginalize already vulnerable accused.

I believe the committee's review of this bill and the vast testimony heard strengthen an already robust piece of legislation and clarify how it responds to systemic issues. I am proud to say that we now have an even more comprehensive bill aimed at reducing delays.

I strongly support this bill. I believe it will make the criminal justice system a more efficient and effective tool for all Canadians, including indigenous people, persons from vulnerable populations, accused and victims. I urge all members of the House to support this bill.

Motions in amendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2018 / 11:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to share a quick quote. With respect to the current government's dealing with first nations indigenous programs, our Auditor General described it as an “incomprehensible failure of the federal government to influence better conditions for Indigenous people in Canada.” He went on to talk about a number of programs.

The member opposite stood and said that he likes Bill C-75 because it incorporates a principle of restraint as it relates to the circumstances of aboriginal accused or other accused from vulnerable populations when interim release decisions are made. In other words, if a police officer sees that indigenous individuals have a long record, they can bring a lesser charge or a quicker and maybe in some regard more compromised response to it. Then he cited all the different groups that supported that, which were typically indigenous groups. None of them were victims organizations or victims groups that have real concerns about this part.

Does the member believe this is another indictment on the government, in that it is looking for ways to deal with the high indigenous populations in prisons at a cost to the victims?

Motions in amendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2018 / 11:15 a.m.
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NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Speaker, the status of women committee did a study last year about the experience of indigenous women in the justice system and in incarceration. We really hoped that Bill C-75 would bring in some of that advice. The government calls it a bold bill. I am afraid it is not.

I want to read something for my colleague. At committee, in December of last year, Jonathan Rudin, program director for Aboriginal Legal Services, said:

...mandatory minimum sentence prevents a conditional sentence from being put in....What happens then is that the person goes to jail, and if they don't have someone to look after their kids....they will lose their kids.... Even if the person gets their children back, they will have been removed from their families....that experience of being taken from your family and put into foster care....is incredibly damaging.

He also said:

The first thing we urge the committee to recommend and to at least try to do is to have the current government bring in the legislation they have promised to bring in to restore to judges their discretion to sentence people without the burden of mandatory minimum sentences and the restrictions on conditional sentences.

Why is that not in this bold bill?

Motions in amendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2018 / 11:20 a.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a real pleasure 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.

I have real concerns about the legislation, as do many stakeholders, including the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.

First, this is another omnibus bill, containing 302 pages of major reforms to our criminal justice system. For our constituents, that means we need to study 302 pages of legalized legislation. Similar to many other Liberal promises, this is another broken promise, as the Liberals promised not to bring forward omnibus legislation.

It also signals very clearly, the Liberals' reluctance to allow for a thorough review and debate on the modernization of the criminal justice system, including reducing court delays and judicial proceedings, an extremely important debate given the current congestion within our courts, which is resulting in serious offenders having their cases thrown out.

Second, the bill would somehow undo the mandatory victim surcharge that our Conservative government imposed in 2013 under the Increasing Offenders’ Accountability for Victims Act.

The federal victim surcharge is a monetary penalty that is automatically imposed on offenders at the time of their sentencing. Money collected from offenders is intended to help fund programs and services for victims of crime.

We made this surcharge mandatory, recognizing that many judges were routinely deciding not to impose it. While we did recognize that they were doing so with some offenders who lacked the ability to pay, we believed it should be imposed in principle to signify debt owing to a victim.

Like any penalty, fine or surcharge, if people do not have the means to pay, they do not pay. However, it is the principle of the matter, and many times the guilty party does have the ability to pay some retribution to the victim.

The Conservatives strongly believe that the protection of society and the rights of victims should be the central focus in the Canadian criminal justice system rather than special allowances and treatment for criminals. This is why we introduced the Victims Bill of Rights and created the office of the victims ombudsman.

On that note, I would like to thank Sue O'Sullivan for her tremendous efforts on behalf of victims. Ms. O'Sullivan, who retired as the victims ombudsman in November 2017, had a very distinguished career in policing before being appointed to this extremely important position in 2010.

We created the ombudsman's office in 2007 to act as an independent resource for victims to help them navigate through the system and voice concerns about federal policy or legislation.

While we placed such high regard and importance on this office, the prolonged vacancy in fulfilling the position after Ms. O'Sullivan retired demonstrates very clearly what the Liberals think of the office.

In April of this year, more than four months after Ms. O'Sullivan retired, the CBC revealed the frustrations of many victims and victims advocates, including that of Heidi Illingworth, former executive director of the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime.

Ms. Illingworth said:

...the community across Canada feels like they aren't being represented, their issues aren't being put forward to the government of the day...Victims feel that they're missing a voice. The people we work with keep saying, why isn't somebody there? Isn't this office important? Who's speaking for victims... who's bringing their perspectives to the minister?

I would like to congratulate Ms. Illingworth for those sentiments, which I think may influence the government, and also for her appointment on September 24 as the third victims ombudsman for Canada.

Third, Bill C-75 would effectively reduce penalties for a number of what we on this side of the House, and many Canadians, deem serious offences. The Liberals are proposing to make a number of serious offences that are currently punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years or less hybrid offences.

Making these hybrid offences means they can be proceeded in court by other indictment or summarily. Summary offences are tried by a judge only, are usually less serious offences and have a maximum of two years imprisonment. These hybrid offences will now include: causing bodily harm by criminal negligence, bodily harm, impaired driving causing bodily harm, participation in activities of criminal organizations, abduction of persons under the age of 14 and abduction of persons under the age of 16.

As pointed out in their testimony before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police expressed significant concern about the proposal to hybridize the indictable offences. It said:

These 85 indictable offences are classified as “secondary offences” under the Criminal Code. If the Crown proceeds by indictment and the offender is convicted of one of these 85 offences, the Crown can request that the offender provide a DNA sample for submission to the National DNA Data Bank (NDDB).

If these 85 offences are hybridized...and the Crown elects to proceed by summary conviction, the offence will no longer be deemed a “secondary offence” and a DNA Order cannot be obtained. The consequence of this will be fewer submissions being made to the NDDB. The submission of DNA samples to the NDDB is used by law enforcement to link crime scenes and to match offenders to crime scenes. Removing these 85 indictable offences from potential inclusion into the NDDB will have a direct and negative impact on police investigations.

I realize that due to the pressure exerted by the Conservatives, last night I believe, two offences, primarily the terrorism offences, have been taken out of this and it is now 83 offences with the two terrorism-related offences being removed. However, according to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the uploading of DNA taken from 52 indictable or secondary offences, which are among those initial 85 to be made hybrid offences, resulted in 221 matches to primary offences, including 19 homicides and 24 sexual assaults. At the very least, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police is recommending that this significant unintended consequence of Bill C-75 on hybridization be rectified by listing these 85 indictable offences as secondary or primary offences so DNA orders can be made regardless of how the Crown proceeds.

We watch CSI and other programs and we see the importance of this new type of science and technology. However, now the Liberals are saying that these 85 offences are no longer important for the DNA database.

Last, I would like to talk about the intent of Bill C-75 to incorporate a principle of restraint as it relates to circumstances of aboriginal accused and other accused from vulnerable populations when interim release decisions are made.

Section 493.2 places an unreasonable onus on police officers at time of arrest to make a determination on whether an offender falls within this classification. Furthermore, and more important, it wrongly uses the criminal justice system to address the problem of overrepresentation of indigenous peoples within the criminal justice system. Instead, the government should be dealing with the socio-economic and historical generational factors that are contributing to this problem.

I, unfortunately, do not believe that the Liberal government has any intenion of redressing the plight of our indigenous people in any meaningful way and will continue to fail in this regard despite its promise of reconciliation and renewed relationship.

As chair of the public accounts committee, our Auditor General came with two reports this spring. The objective of one audit was to determine whether Employment and Social Development Canada managed the aboriginal skills and employment training strategy in the skills partnership. To make a long story short, the Auditor General said that when the government was dealing with many of these programs for indigenous people, it was an incomprehensible failure.

It is unfortunate that the government is using this one part of Bill C-75 to address the overrepresentation of indigenous people in our penitentiaries.

Motions in amendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2018 / 11:35 a.m.
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Liberal

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleagues.

As chair of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I am very pleased to rise to talk about our work on Bill C-75. I want to thank the members of the committee for their hard work. I also want to thank the more than 60 witnesses who appeared before our committee to share their opinion on the bill.

I also want to thank the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, who proposed some very constructive amendments in committee, which we debated.

Overall, Bill C-75 is a good bill, and it is a bill the committee made better through its study. I want to talk a little about the amendments made by the committee.

The first amendment I am very pleased the committee made was to delete from the Criminal Code the provisions related to keeping a common bawdy house and vagrancy. We heard about these provisions from witnesses from the LGBTQ2+ community who came before us. My friend Robert Leckey, who was the dean at McGill, Tom Hooper and others told us that they had been disproportionately used in the 1970s and 1980s to charge, send to prison, and fine members of the gay community. For these convictions to be expunged under previous legislation the House and the Senate had adopted, we would need to have the offence under which they were charged repealed from the Criminal Code.

I salute all members of all parties, who listened to these witnesses and determined that it was only right, while these people are still alive and with us, to take action and restore a sense of fairness, a sense that they were charged with something they never should have been charged with in the first place. The members of the committee amended the bill to delete these provisions. I am very grateful, and I hope if the bill is adopted, which I imagine it will be, we will move forward quickly to adopt an order in council to allow these men to have their records expunged.

Second, we deleted the provisions in the bill related to routine police evidence and allowing police testimony to be entered by affidavit, as opposed to the police officer showing up in court. We heard from virtually all sides that this provision in the bill could easily be misunderstood and could harm those people who were trying to represent themselves in court and did not understand how to challenge the submission of routine police evidence by affidavit. We found that since any lawyer in almost any circumstance would challenge the idea that police officers did not need to show up to be cross-examined on their testimony in all matters, other than the most simple ones, this should be removed from the bill, and we have proposed to the House, in this reading, that it be removed from the bill.

We also listened carefully to those people who said that we should not hybridize the offences related to terrorism and genocide. I want to correct the record of what my colleague previously said. This was not done because the NDP and Liberal members of the committee were pushed into it by a Conservative amendment.

Motions in amendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2018 / 11:50 a.m.
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Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Madam Speaker, I enjoyed my work on the justice committee for these past three years. It was very rewarding and very insightful.

With respect to Bill C-75, there are sections of the bill that we, on this side, are in favour of.

One of those is the reform of intimate partner violence cases, which will basically reverse the notice of bail on someone who has been convicted of assaulting or other crimes against their partner. I like the idea because it does give better protection. There are a number of procedural changes with respect to preliminary hearings and jury selection. Again, we will continue to review those changes here and get input from people.

As we heard from my colleagues on this side, we continue to be quite concerned about the hybridization of some very serious crimes.

I think most Canadians would agree with us in the Conservative Party that there are serious crimes that are currently listed as indictable offences with a maximum of up to 10 years and that it does reflect the seriousness of those crimes. Some of those offences include, but are not limited to: participation in a riot, or concealment of identity; breach of trust by a public officer; municipal corruption; selling or purchasing offices; influencing or negotiating appointments or dealing in offices; prison breach; assisting prisoner of war to escape; obstructing or violence to or arrest of officiating clergyman; keeping a common bawdy house; causing bodily harm by criminal negligence; bodily harm; impaired driving causing bodily harm; failure to provide sample and blood alcohol level over legal limit; material benefit from trafficking; withholding or destroying documents; and abduction of person under age of 14 or under the age of 16.

I think most Canadians would agree with us that these are very serious offences. Some others are marriage to someone under the age of 16, arson for fraudulent purpose and participation in the activities of a criminal organization.

The government has backed down on a couple of those issues. They are the ones related to terrorism and genocide. The problem I have with the government is that we told them a long time ago that Canadians are not going to agree with hybridizing and reducing the possible penalties for criminal activities like genocide and terrorism. We were very clear that it is a mistake to go forward with this. It took the government a long time, approximately a year, before it would back down on this.

A piece of advice I would give to the government is that just because an idea comes from the opposition does not mean that it is a bad idea. Some time ago we started pointing out that a person who is convicted of murdering, torturing and raping a child should not be then transferred to a healing lodge. We told the government that it was a huge mistake. All we got was pushback from the government and the minister saying no.

However, I found out a few minutes ago that Terri-Lynne McClintic has been transferred out of a healing lodge and placed back in prison where she should be. All I can say to the government is that this idea is no better than it was when we told the Liberals a long time ago about these things. I had said it was a mistake to put genocide and terrorism in as hybrid offences, and again, we were right.

I remember, in June 2017, the government came forward with another omnibus justice bill, and part of it was to remove the protection of members of the clergy and the protection of people disrupted during a religious service. We told the government it was a mistake. I remember standing here, telling some of my colleagues to please go home this summer and ask constituents, even if they do not go to a religious service, if they think it is a good idea that we would repeal this section.

It took about a year, but then finally the government did agree with us. Unfortunately, I see that threat against a member of the clergy is now part of the hybridization, so the government has reduced the penalty for this. Again, I believe this is inconsistent.

We hear the Prime Minister and others saying we have to protect religious institutions, synagogues, churches, temples and mosques. However, at the same time, the government's record, now on two occasions, is to reduce or, in a sense, eliminate the specific penalty dealing with that. It is completely inconsistent, and I think it is a mistake.

I was going to ask my colleague a question, since he gets overwhelming support at elections and is very in tune with what his constituents say. I was going to ask, “Are any of your constituents saying that we should open up the possibility of a lower sentence for people who traffic in children under the age of 14? Did anybody say that to you, or say that we have to go easier on these people?” The hon. member says that nobody came forward to ask for that.

We talk about the challenges with respect to impaired driving. Now the government's priority this year has been to legalize marijuana. Everyone in this chamber knows that this is going to make it more complicated, with respect to impaired driving and the associated challenges. Yet, at the very same time, the government has legislation that says that if people are driving impaired and they cause bodily harm, they now have the possibility of facing a summary conviction offence, which would result in something even as low as fine. I would say that nobody wants something like that.

On the section on trafficking in persons, the justice committee is doing a study right now on human trafficking. We heard from Canadians across this country, different groups and individuals saying what a terrible problem this is and that it has to be addressed. However, at the same time, the government is reducing the penalties.

One of the things I heard from the government over a year ago, when it introduced this, was that it would speed up the criminal justice system. I say, “Sure, if you are a terrorist.” If somebody says they have the possibility of getting a fine of $1,000, they will ask where they can sign up for that. That is great news for them. Let us not hold up the justice system.

My point is these are very serious crimes. They were treated as such when Conservatives were in government. As my colleagues have said, we always stood up for victims of crime to better protect victims and to increase people's confidence in the criminal justice system. When somebody who has committed a horrific crime is let off, when they get the minimum possible sentence, it does not increase people's confidence in the criminal justice system. It has the exact opposite effect.

We had a very good run at this. We stood up for law-abiding Canadians. We stood up for victims. We wanted the system to work. I am very proud of all that we have done. My advice to the government is, when the Conservatives have good ideas that the Liberal members can run by their own constituents and they agree with them, the government should adopt those, and it should not have to wait to change its mind.